Sunday, June 11, 2006

SAY, SAY, SAY: TWO OF 2006's BEST LINE READINGS


In lieu of actual content, here are two of my nominees for the best line readings in a movie heard yet in 2006. These are not necessarily the best lines of dialogue, but instead lines of dialogue vaulted unto a level of grandeur simply by the way the actor in question presents them in character on the screen. (Gee, this sounds like the basis for a pretty good question for the next quiz, doesn’t it?) This may end up being a bit of a “guess you had to be there” exercise, in the absence of actual clips that can demonstrate the readings themselves, but in any event, acknowledging that risk, here then are the two most memorable line readings I’ve encountered so far this year.



Amidst the nihilistic grandeur of John Hillcoat’s The Proposition, a pitiless, grimy, blood-soaked and biblically proportioned Australian western made from a spare and brilliant screenplay by Nick Cave, there is the mustachioed dandy played by David Wenham, a British officer who holds power over the constable Her Majesty’s army has placed in charge of rounding up a trio of murderous brothers and their gang. The constable (Ray Winstone) is holding the youngest of the three in a cell as a whimpering poker chip, and has let the another (Guy Pearce) go, promising to spare the younger brother if Pearce finds the oldest brother, their brooding and deadly Kurtzian leader (Danny Huston), and kills him. Wenham’s officer has no idea of this proposition when he first walks into the jail and sees the young man bloodied, bruised and exhausted on the floor of his cell. He slithers up top the bars, makes a quick visual assessment of the prisoner, and dismisses him with a very oily, and not just a little insinuating, bit of class-based condescension as he sniffs, “What an incredible piece of filth!”



And then there is Steve Carell’s voiceover magic in Over the Hedge as the hyperactive Hammy, a squirrel in no need of the extra burst of energy he eventually finds when introduced to the joys of junk food. Hammy loves his chips, and he really digs the burp and the buzz to be had off of a quick blast of carbonated soda. But he has an extra-soft spot for processed baked goods. And when it turns out that he’ll have to be denied his favorite snack, he can only go just slightly slack (for him, that’s still pretty tensile), let his giant eyes go even more saucer-like, and quietly mutter, his lower lip gently quivering, “But I like the cookie.”

The combined running time of these two moments of performance probably don’t total 10 seconds. But they are moments of pleasure that I’ve returned to often in the last month or so, and by themselves they add up to far more good than I received from the whole experience of seeing, say, Mission: Impossible 3. There are many other reasons to do so, but I'd gladly see either Over the Hedge or The Proposition again just to hear those actors deliver those lines.

This will probably end up a question on the next quiz, in some form of another. But even so, what’s your favorite line reading from the movie year so far?

12 comments:

p.saga said...

YES! David Wenham and Ray Winstone in a Nick Cave movie! Oh, please let it come to the Darkside, ohpleaseohplease!

Er, interesting juxtaposition with the talking squirrel there, Dennis. I understand its weakness for baked goods though.

Cheers!

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Ha! I knew I could draw you out with this one, psaga! You owe me an e-mail, but that's all right-- I'll send one to you instead! As for the squirrel and the mustache, there is, now that I think about it, a kind of pinched, reedy similarity to the voices the actors use in these roles. You try to shame me, but I'll not be shamed! Seriously, if Mr. Darkside plays The Proposition, run, don't walk. I think you'll love it.

andyhorbal said...

"Thank you bank robber!"
-Denzel Washington in Inside Man

That Little Round-Headed Boy said...

"Duct tape won't help you one little bit."
— Meryl Streep to Garrison Keillor in A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION.

Jen said...

The "cookie" line reading is SO brilliant, it even caught my attention in the commercial!

DAMN, but Carell is good; it was almost worth watching that nightmare "Bruise Almighty" just for his hilarious schtick...

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Andy: If I'm remembering it correctly, that really is a funny and unexpected moment. For some reason, the incongruity of the response and the tone of Washington's reading of it reminds me of Tommy Lee Jones after Harrison Ford declares his innocence in that storm drain. Ford: "I didn't kill my wife!" Jones: "I don't care!"

TLRHB: (This is the sound of me sizzling with envy.) I haven't seen APHC yet, but I'll take your word for it! I read your Karen Allen piece today too but have had no time to write a comment (I'm at work), though I will. I remember her fondly from Animal House-- she was a very nice person, but my friend Blaaagh and I didn't think she came across as a very good actress on the set. Imagine our surprise when we saw the movie and witnessed how good she did seem-- not to mention how wonderful she was in The Wanderers and, of course, Raiders. That's a great story about Spielberg dropping the snake on her too. I'd never heard that before! Nice work!

Jen: I stand by my love for Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, and one of the reasons is Carell, who is disarmingly hilarious in that movie. If you haven't yet seen, you really must! You'll like all the San Diego references too-- did you know that the name San Diego was given to the city by the Germans who discovered it, and that it means "whale's vagina" in the original language, which is, of course, German? And if you don't buy this account, well, we'll just have to agree to disagree...

Jen said...

*snorts fizzy water onto her keyboard*

Oh, good Christ on a cracker-- "whale's vagina"?

Dennis Cozzalio said...

Go out and rent the movie tomorrow. Your keyboard will not thank you, but you will me, and I will you, and we are all together-- koo-koo-cha-joob!

Jen said...

Dear Dorothy Mantooth:

I didn't need to rent it-- it was on HBO this morning when I should have been sleeping. And all I can say is, Oh, Dennis, there are literally thousands of movies that I should be with instead, but I am 72 percent sure that I love "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy."

Now, let's all go to the pants party!

You stay classy, San Diego,
Tits McGee

P.S. Bark twice if you're in Milwaukee!

Lisa said...

Definitely Hugh Laurie's bit part in "Sense and Sensibility":

Charlotte Palmer: Oh, if only this rain would stop!
Mr. Palmer (Laurie): If only you would stop.

Lisa said...

Whoops...not paying enough attention. For this year, another "Prairie Home Companion" line:

"Thank you Plato." (Lily Tomlin)

Steve said...

I rather like the worn-out feeling of the last line in The Proposition: "So, what're ya gonna do now?" That one line (and the image that follows it) encapsulates the entire movie, it does...

I'll bet there's other good lines I'm forgetting right now (I know there were some amusing ones in The Death of Mr. Lazrescu and Half Nelson)... I have little head for dialogue recall, for whatever reason...