Thus far 2010 has been a lousy year for truly memorable movies, according to some critics, despite healthy ticket sales in the US, Australia and elsewhere. So it's not surprising that the glaring lack of creativity in Hollywood is under serious attack.
The latest salvo comes from The New York Times' Michael Cieply, who declared last week in an article which struck a chord with numerous readers: “The memorable one-liner — a brilliant epigram, a quirky mantra, a moment in a bottle — is in danger of becoming a lost art.” Cieply questioned why movies no longer are producing copious 'zinger' quotes that captured the zeitgeist in past decades, such as “Show me the money!” and “You had me at 'hello''' (Jerry Maguire, 1996), “Stupid is as stupid does” and “My momma always said, 'Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get'" (Forrest Gump, 1994), “Hasta la vista, baby” (Terminator 2: Judgment Day, 1991), and “Greed, for lack of a better word, is good” (Wall Street, 1987).
Indeed, can anyone reel off even a single quote from this year's dross such as The Sorcerers' Apprentice, Knight and Day, Dinner For Schmucks, The Rebound, Dear John and Charlie St Cloud, let alone consider repeating that quote in years to come?
And did anyone walk out of movies which did have their admirers, like Eat Pray Love, Valentine's Day, Grown Ups, Despicable Me, Salt, The Other Guys and Tomorrow, When the War Began, marvelling at the dialogue?
From movies released in the past few years, I'd suggest, just a handful of quotable quotes will still be remembered by future generations, including “Why so serious?” and “Some men just want to watch the world burn” (The Dark Knight); “I drink your milkshake” (There Will Be Blood); “You probably heard we ain't in the prisoner-takin' business; we in the killin' Nazi business. And cousin, business is a-boomin'” (Inglourious Basterds); and “Remember, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. Except for herpes. That shit'll come back with you” (The Hangover).
Trying to explain this creative famine, Cieply theorises, “Maybe it's that filmmaking is more visual, or that other cultural noise is drowning out the zingers.”
Perhaps, or it could be that the risk-averse studios in relying on sequels, remakes and reboots, have subliminally told writers not to get too cute, ambitious or poetic.
How else to explain the fact that among the so-called memorable quotes from Iron Man 2 listed on IMDB.com is this pearler from Tony Stark, “My bond is with the people, and I will serve this great nation at the pleasure of myself. If there's one thing I've proven it's that you can count on me to pleasure myself.”
Or that one of the few lines that resonated from Clash of the Titans is the uninspiring “Release the Kraken!”
My favourite quote of the year comes from Malcolm Tucker in In the Loop: “Within your 'purview'? Where do you think you are, some fucking regency costume drama? This is a government department, not some fucking Jane fucking Austen novel!”
Read some memorable misanthropic put-downs here.