Movies and Cultural Literacy

 

Young people don’t need another excuse to watch movies, but I do think we need to acknowledge the role of films in a well-rounded education. What movies do kids have to see in order to fully participate in the national discourse, without which they would misinterpret phrases that are meaningful shorthand for those of us who have not been deprived of classic flicks? Here are a few of my ideas:

1.) Wizard of Oz: This movie has been mined for colorful analogies maybe more than any other. Recently I was nonplussed to find out from my daughters that many, perhaps most, earphones come with a microphone. For weeks I’d been wanting to alleviate the crick in my neck from doing hands-free the old way. My girls knew what I meant when I said, “You mean I had the ruby slippers all along??” And just last week a counselor I’ve been seeing brought up ruby slippers, yellow brick road, and strange characters on a journey. Opinion pieces bring us We’re not in Kansas anymore, The witch is dead, Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, and so on. Wizard of Oz the movie should be required watching as soon as children outgrow the tendency to have nightmares over bizarre winged monkeys, malevolent forests, cackling witches, and a tornado carrying one far away from home and family.

2.) The Matrix: At least for the valuable red pill/blue pill scene.

3.) The Princess Bride: Valued as a source of funny quotes for years– “Inconceivable!” “Mostly dead”– lines from this movie more recently entered political discourse with Inigo Montoya in a meme saying, “You keep using that word. I don’t think it means what you think it means.”

Surprise your child next week by announcing “educational movie night,” popping some corn, and streaming Raiders of the Lost Ark. What would you add to the list of these cheap and entertaining learning experiences?

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  1. The Great Adventure! Inactive
    The Great Adventure!
    @TheGreatAdventure

    Monty Python and The Holy Grail.  Provides the context for such phrases as “Bring out yer dead!”, “She’s a witch!”, and of course “Oh, but you can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just because some watery tart threw a sword at you!”

    • #1
  2. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeeka
    @sawatdeeka

    The Great Adventure! (View Comment):

    Monty Python and The Holy Grail. Provides the context for such phrases as “Bring out yer dead!”, “She’s a witch!”, and of course “Oh, but you can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just because some watery tart threw a sword at you!”

    I guess there’s a great hole in my education, and it may remain so.  ;-) 

    • #2
  3. RightAngles Member
    RightAngles
    @RightAngles

    Well, some of these aren’t suitable for younger kids, but:

    -Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in – Godfather III

    -Go ahead, make my day – Dirty Harry

    -I wish I knew how to quit you – Brokeback Mountain

    -Hasta la vista, Baby – Terminator 2

    -If you build it, they will come – Field of Dreams

    • #3
  4. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeeka
    @sawatdeeka

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    -If you build it, they will come – Field of Dreams

    That quote from Field of Dreams appears often in our national conversation.  And where would we be if we didn’t have “Go ahead, make my day”? 

    • #4
  5. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    So many movie quotes have entered my vocabulary, and I’ve often forgotten where they originated. Then I’ll be watching an old movie, and one of those lines will show up, and I’ll suddenly remember: OH! So that’s why I say that!

     

    • #5
  6. sawatdeeka Member
    sawatdeeka
    @sawatdeeka

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):

    So many movie quotes have entered my vocabulary, and I’ve often forgotten where they originated. Then I’ll be watching an old movie, and one of those lines will show up, and I’ll suddenly remember: OH! So that’s why I say that!

    You made an intriguing opening statement without including specific examples.  I’m docking you several points. 

     

    • #6
  7. She Member
    She
    @She

    Casablanca.

    • #7
  8. The Great Adventure! Inactive
    The Great Adventure!
    @TheGreatAdventure

    sawatdeeka (View Comment):

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):

    So many movie quotes have entered my vocabulary, and I’ve often forgotten where they originated. Then I’ll be watching an old movie, and one of those lines will show up, and I’ll suddenly remember: OH! So that’s why I say that!

    You made an intriguing opening statement without including specific examples. I’m docking you several points.

     

    Oh!  So we’re being scored on this?

    I completely fail to understand how anyone could have made it to adulthood without seeing The Holy Grail.  An additional piece of dialogue:

    King of Swamp Castle: We live in a bloody swamp! We need all the land we can get.
    Prince Herbert: But I don’t like her.
    King of Swamp Castle: Don’t like her? What’s wrong with her? She’s beautiful, she’s rich, she’s got huge … tracts of land.

     

    • #8
  9. Addiction Is A Choice Member
    Addiction Is A Choice
    @AddictionIsAChoice

    I’m paraphrasing, but “You’re gonna need a bigger OP”

    • #9
  10. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    RightAngles (View Comment):
    -Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in – Godfather III

    The Godfather movies are the ones I find myself quoting the most (but then, I live in Jersey so . . . )

    “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse.”

    “. . . sleeps with the fishes”

    “Revenge is a dish that tastes best when served cold.”

    ” . . . keep your friends close, but your enemies closer”

    “Leave the gun, take the cannoli”

    Fredo saying “I’m smart”

    And this one that we use at church whenever one of the men get a little whiny . . .

    • #10
  11. Guruforhire Inactive
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    I am making my wife watch Cowboy Bebop

    • #11
  12. Gary Robbins Member
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    She (View Comment):

    Casablanca.

    You beat me to it!  There was a survey of the most famous quotes in movies.  A few movies got a couple of quotes.  If memory serves, Casablanca got 7 of the top 100 quotes.  

    • #12
  13. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher
    Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo…
    @GumbyMark

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    Well, some of these aren’t suitable for younger kids, but:

    -Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in – Godfather III

    -Go ahead, make my day – Dirty Harry

    -I wish I knew how to quit you – Brokeback Mountain

    -Hasta la vista, Baby – Terminator 2

    -If you build it, they will come – Field of Dreams

    • #13
  14. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.  It smells like victory.”

    • #14
  15. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Kung Pow will be required educational watching for our family thanks to my husband and his brothers.

    Jurassic Park for “Life WILL find a way” and it’s useful shorthand for hubris.

    Original Star Wars is likely a necessary, though I can’t think of any.

    Sound of Music for Do Re Me and Favorite Things.

    • #15
  16. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Singing in the Rain!

    • #16
  17. TGR9898 Inactive
    TGR9898
    @TedRudolph

    Addiction Is A Choice (View Comment):

    I’m paraphrasing, but “You’re gonna need a bigger OP”

    Which was actually a running gag among the film crew (regarding the awful filming conditions) that was ad-libbed into the movie by Roy Scheider….. 

    • #17
  18. Aaron Miller Member
    Aaron Miller
    @AaronMiller

    I don’t know which films to include. But after a century of film making, movies really should be a part of liberal arts curriculum. 

    • #18
  19. Dave of Barsham Member
    Dave of Barsham
    @LesserSonofBarsham

    Stina (View Comment):
    Original Star Wars is likely a necessary, though I can’t think of any.

    “I’ve got a bad feeling about this…”

    “That’s no moon…”

     

    • #19
  20. TGR9898 Inactive
    TGR9898
    @TedRudolph

    But yeah, Jaws should definitely be on that list…. but only if the “Making Of” feature is also watched. The story of that movie’s (unintentional) quality was a happy accident that exemplifies the saying “luck is when preparation meets opportunity”

    • #20
  21. Guruforhire Inactive
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    Diamonds are a girls best friend

    white Christmas

     

    • #21
  22. JimGoneWild Coolidge
    JimGoneWild
    @JimGoneWild

    She (View Comment):

    Casablanca.

    Yes. We grabbed a couple of new hires and interns at work and had a Casablanca viewing party (with beer and wings). Each time a cultural reference was said, we stopped the movie and played it again. They were catching on to the phrases like “I’m shocked, shocked that …”, “Round up the usual suspects!” and “Play it again Sam.” OK, he didn’t really say that, but that’s the (false) quote. Do kids know what their missing or do they have their own cultural references?

    • #22
  23. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    “Because no matter where you go, there you are.”

    • #23
  24. Gary Robbins Member
    Gary Robbins
    @GaryRobbins

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    “Because no matter where you go, there you are.”

    Where is that from?

    • #24
  25. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    JimGoneWild (View Comment):
    Do kids know what their missing or do they have their own cultural references?

    Every generation has some of their own…

    Rocky Horror, Dogma, Snakes on a Plane, Aladdin, Lion King, Space Balls, Blazing Saddles all have references in my age bracket. Its hard I’m sure when my kids are teens, they’ll add their own to the culture. The question is, what outlives the generation that propagated it to become part of our DNA on a widescale?

    Casablanca probably won’t. Sound of Music likely will.

    • #25
  26. Suspira Member
    Suspira
    @Suspira

    Dave of Barsham (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):
    Original Star Wars is likely a necessary, though I can’t think of any.

    “I’ve got a bad feeling about this…”

    “That’s no moon…”

     

    • #26
  27. JosePluma Thatcher
    JosePluma
    @JosePluma

    I think we’ve had this discussion before.

    Here’s some others:

    Casablanca:  “We’ll always have Paris.”  “I am shocked, shocked . . .” “This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” “Round up the usual suspects.”

    Monty Python and the Holy Grail:  “‘Tis but a flesh wound.” “I’ve had worse.” “I’m not dead yet.” “Run away.”

    This is Spinal Tap:  If only for “Turn it up to eleven.”

    • #27
  28. JosePluma Thatcher
    JosePluma
    @JosePluma

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    “I love the smell of napalm in the morning. It smells like {sniff} victory.”

    FIFY

    • #28
  29. Randy Webster Member
    Randy Webster
    @RandyWebster

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    Randy Webster (View Comment):

    “Because no matter where you go, there you are.”

    Where is that from?

    Buckaroo Banzai.  As James Lileks will agree, possibly the next to the greatest movie of all time.

    • #29
  30. Mark Camp Member
    Mark Camp
    @MarkCamp

    Time out.

    This post reminds me of the famous Fezzick Equilibrium.  For those of you who aren’t versed in Equilibrium Theory, the Fezzick Equilibrium (posited, but never yet observed in nature) occurs when a family or other linguistic community have watched “The Princess Bride” so many times that

    • Every thought is expressed with a quote from “The Princess Bride”
    • Every line of “The Princess Bride” is an essential element of language

    [Point of Order.  During time out, no points may be docked for bringing up a movie that was already brought up, nor for not bringing up any examples.  Now, if your family has watched the film enough times, I am sure you will agree that I might be wrong about this rule.  It’s possible, Pig.  I might be bluffing.

    The Camp Family aren’t at the Equilibrium but at times I do have to consciously stop myself from using a quote in ordinary conversation, and find an alternative however clumsy.]

    Time in.

     

    • #30
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