Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Words Have Meaning!!

Have you ever thought about how a single line of dialog can change a movie? It's true. A single line of dialog can convey enough information to completely change a character, a plot point or even a theme. Indeed, think about the infamous "Noooooooooo!" from George Lucas and how that completely changed the nature of Darth Vader.

This idea has long fascinated me and frustrated me. It fascinates me because of the vast amount of power that just a few words can have to change a meaning. Think about it. You can take a movie of any length, say two hours, and with the right word or sentence... only a few seconds long, you can completely the change movie. That is amazing. And it's a real testament to the power of words and of language. It's also the basis of "the twist."

What frustrates me is that this should be obvious to anyone who writes. Yet, so few scriptwriters pay attention to the importance of the details. They look for big themes, cool moments and symbols of whatever point it is they want to make, but they completely overlook the little things that trip up films. How many times have I seen a film that makes no sense, but which could be saved by the hero uttering one single line... one single line to explain why they did something inexplicable or couldn't do something obvious. How many characters could be given depth with a single additional line of dialog? How many could be kept from being ruined by avoiding that stupid line you never needed to say. As a lover of words, and an understander of the power of words, I find this very frustrating that people who make a living writing can't see these things... or won't bother.

Anyway, let's make a game out of this. And for this, I need to credit tryanmax. He mentioned a couple weeks back how you could completely change the meaning of Planes, Trains and Automobiles by adding this one line: "Marie is in the trunk!" Wow. LOL! Yeah, that would totally change the movie!

So lay it on us. Tell us how you could totally change a movie with one little line.

42 comments:

tryanmax said...

LOL! Thanks for the hat-tip. That joke has crossed my mind a couple of times since I told you it. Each time, I'm more convinced that PT&A needs a psycho-horror remake.

AndrewPrice said...

Thanks for sharing the joke, which I thought was pretty brilliant. :)

Backthrow said...

"Look, Daddy! Teacher says, every time a bell rings, an angel falls from Grace!"

What do you think, sirs?

AndrewPrice said...

Interesting call.

Gideon7 said...

Bill on the phone: "Kiddo, I'm so sorry. I quit the biz and I love you. Will please forgive me and help raise our daughter together as a real family?"

Patriot said...

Ilsa: "Play it, Sam. Play "Wagners 'Ride of the Valkyries'."

"Rosencrantz and Guildenstern"

"You can't handle the Corps"

"I'm your Stepfather Luke"

"So....aaah yeah. I'll need those Dodd-Frank reports on my desk....yeah."

"We're gonna need a faster boat."

In space, no one can hear you cough.

"Get to the Pave Low"

"I'll be returning soon"

John Jameson said...

"Thanks for asking, Dave - I confirm I can do that,"

shawn said...

Charles Foster Kane on deathbed: "I miss my sled and lost youth".

Woman sitting in both across from Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal, "Waiter, what are today's specials?"

Dave Olson said...

From Star Wars:

"There goes another one."

"Damned rebels; Fire!"

Anthony said...

It would have been nice if Kenobi had told Luke that Leia was his sister. For the life of me I've never been able to figure out why Kenobi kept that from Luke.

Ben: We're off to rescue the hot princess who is your age! You guys are going to spending a lot of time together. Let's see if anything develops!

The lying about the father thing is kind of strange as well, but not quite the same level of horrifying.

PikeBishop said...

Raiders: "Nazis! I dislike the cause but I have to respect the root causes of their anger and it is not my role to take a position on telling any people how to organize their government to fulfil their social contract."

Kit said...

"Rosencrantz and Guildenstern"

Patriot, don't you mean "Guildenstern and Rosencrantz"? ;)

Anthony, the reason he did not tell Luke about Leia is likely because Lucas had not thought of it yet. Besides, from a "certain point of view" it could be argued that Leia is not Luke's sister so Obi Wan was not hiding anything. :)
Robot Chicken explains this concept rather well: LINK

:)

BevfromNYC said...

Okay...
GWTW:
Scarlett: Rhett, if you go, where shall I go? What shall I do?
Rhett: Frankly, Scarlett, I don't give a damn. But I love you, so I'll stay.

shawn said...

Anthony. Lucas will never convince me he had it all planned out from the start. If this is true, then why is there footage of him writing the prequels in the 90s? As to Leia and Luke, I think it was his way of solving the love triangle with no hard feelings between Han and Luke. It certainly isn't how I would have written it.

ScottDS said...

shawn -

Lucas may have had the original outlines for the prequels done in the 70s but I don't believe he actually sat down to write full-length scripts until the early 90s.

But I agree... it's clear a lot was made up as they went along. :-)

ScottDS said...

Andrew -

Your question brings to mind a problem I (and presumably others) had with Lost... if only the characters would answer each others' questions and not be so damn cryptic, the whole show could've been wrapped up in two seasons!!

EricP said...

>> it's clear a lot was made up as they went along.>>

I thought that was Indy in Raiders. ;-)

Koshcat said...

David Mills: "What's in the box?!?
William Somerset: "Just some old clothes."

BevfromNYC said...

Dark Victory -
Judith confronts her doctor/fiance when she reads medical reports that she may be dying of a malignant brain tumor.
Dr. Frederick Steele: Oh, those old reports? Here, Judith, read these newer reports. You were cured. No, really, maybe that darkness you are experiencing are those sunglasses that you never take off.

Judith: Oh, yeah, it WAS the sunglasses. This is wonderful! Nothing can hurt us now. What we have can't be destroyed. That's our victory - our victory over the dark. It is a victory because we're not afraid.

Koshcat said...

Captain Renault: I've often speculated why you don't return to America. Did you abscond with the church funds? Run off with a senator's wife? I like to think you killed a man. It's the Romantic in me.

Rick: I refused to pay my taxes.

Critch said...

Klatu Barbeque Nick...??? Darn it, I wish I had written that down...

Rustbelt said...

Anthony, shawn, ScottDS...
According to the book, "The Secret History of Star Wars," Lucas made up the family relations movie by movie. The so-called 'outline' was probably his second or third draft for the first film that would've been mini-series length, but got shelved. It's the book's author's opinion that Lucas simply mined that draft for unused ideas for the later films (a prominent cyborg, the name 'Valorum,' a battle between primitives and a military force, etc.).
The author also contends that the 'other' Yoda talks about in 'Empire' was meant to be another Jedi who would feature heavily in Lucas' never-realized sequel series. (Lucas' early plans seemed to be like the James Bond franchise: he'd be the EP and bring in other writers and directors to create new chapters in the series to make money for his artsy pet projects. However, when 'Empire' ending up costing more than he could stomach- while simultaneously building his beloved Skywalker Ranch- he nixed the idea and started on the dark path of micromanagement.) When George lost interest in the series and went through his nasty divorce from Marcia, he (having written himself into a hole), shoehorned Leia into that 'other' role and made her Luke's missing twin as an eleventh-hour plot solution.

And Andrew...

"Don't bother watching out for snakes."

John Jameson said...

"No ma'am, we're with the IRS, and you owe the government 5000 dollars"

John Jameson said...

Or alternatively...

"No ma'am, we're not with the government, but we have reason to believe you are harboring an unregistered alien life form in this establishment"

Rustbelt said...

I have to head out for a little bit. So, before that, I'd like to add...

"Ah, it's not true."

"Maybe he should've tampered in God's domain."

"Well, can we spend the night or not?"
"The Master....will, uh...approve."
Servo: Oh, what DOESN'T the Master approve of?

"Stay in the Bronx! Don't leave!"
Mike: Apparently, some of you don't want to stay in the Bronx. We encourage you, therefore, to stop thinking outside the Bronx.

"I'm not Cherokee Jack."

"Santa Claus, you are being returned to Earth."
Joel: I mean, when was the last century you washed that suit? Sheesh!

John Jameson said...

A bit too long, this one...

"We've called this press conference to announce that, following scientific peer review, our observation that the 'neutrinos have mutated' has been criticized as somewhat premature. On closer investigation, we discovered a loose electrical connection in our measuring apparatus. Consequently, we withdraw our conclusion that 'the end of the world is nigh', with apologies for any inconvenience, anxiety, or unnecessary investment in Arks to save mankind."

John Jameson said...

"Do you mean the daughter that the stewardess and that nice man took for a ride in the drinks trolley? Yes, I saw her."

Backthrow said...

"Soylent Green is KITTENS!"

wahsatchmo said...

"More like 'Rosebutt, am I right?"

John Jameson said...

Laura: Oh what a relief, it was agonizing, thank you.
Alec: It was just a bit of grit... I say, I couldn't help but notice a hint of sadness in your beautiful eyes, suggesting that you are a woman repressed by the constraints of middle class British society. I venture that you are trapped in a marriage with love but no passion, and that you come here every Thursday in search of adventure, but never find what you are looking for,
Laura: Oh gosh!
Alec: Listen, a friend of mine has a spare room close to the station. We could meet there once a week and explore our sexual limits together. You know, blindfolds, ice cubes, whips, threesomes... things like that. What do you say?
Laura: How lucky for me that you happened to be here! See you next week: I can't wait!

Tennessee Jed said...

I thought about this for much of today. One of the most symbolic and textured movies is Mulholland Drive. Just suppose the director had said "Betty ..... you're hired!" Alternatively, what if there was no "silencio!"

John Jameson said...

"Hey, that confusing plot twist is not in my film."

"It is no longer your film."

tryanmax said...

"Soylent Green is KITTENS!"

WIN!

tryanmax said...

"I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I've watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to back it up to the cloud."

T-Rav said...

"Soylent Green is KITTENS!"

Funny you should suggest that, I've actually been working on a new production line and....eh, now's not really the time for it. But one day. One day.

EricP said...

We're on a mission from Zod.

tryanmax said...

EricP, How about "We're on a mission from the CIA." (Or NSA, IRS, EPA, your choice really.)

tryanmax said...

Incidentally, not long ago I was out with a buddy who insisted upon quoting that line repeatedly throughout the night. I had to point out to him, "Dude, the bartender is too young to know what you're saying. In fact, by all rights we're too young. So stop it."

John Jameson said...

K: There's only one way we can save the earth, J.
J: What's that then K?
K: We're gonna have to re-form the band.

AndrewPrice said...

Wow, I wish I had been around when you all were doing these. These are fantastic! :D

I don't even know where to begin!

El Gordo said...

"Well, Denham. The airplanes got him."
"Yeah. Browning, thirty ought six. When you have to kill a big horny monkey, accept no subsitute."

Individualist said...

"Frankly my dear I don't Give a Damn"

Kind of defines that whole movie at the end.

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