Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Happy 26th Birthday When Harry Met Sally

Last night, Nick and I watched something he'd set up to record of couple of weeks ago and forgotten, which was an episode of Celebrity Family Feud featuring NFL players. 

As a million times, across a quarter of a century before, I quoted When Harry Met Sally.

This time, it was the first question out of the game, "Name a place where people have sex that's always better in the movies."

My first answer was "the kitchen" at which point I looked over at Nick and said, "Not once. It's this very cold, hard, Mexican ceramic tile."

And today, as it turns out, is the 26th anniversary of its release in theaters in the summer of 1989.

It's possibly up there in the top ten movies I've seen the most times. It's definitely the only comedy of my movie favorites besides Stranger than Fiction, which isn't even a decade old yet. 

So, of course, I pulled it out and watched it yet, again, able to quote practically the entire film, including the "documentary" couples interspersed throughout the film.  

One ridiculously bored night in Austin when Marci and I had nothing to do and we rented the movie from the Blockbuster around the corner, we worked out the timing of all the exchanges, including the discovery that the couple who talks over one another do so on a decipherable pattern.  "Her face was burned on my brain."

I'd gone to see it in theaters some half a dozen times that summer and into the Fall as I ran into friends who admitted not having seen the film.

Marci and I even used a line from the movie on our apartment's answering machine all year when we lived together: The fact that we're not answering should lead you to believe that (a) We're not home, (b) We're home but we don't want to talk to you, or (c) We're home, desperately want to talk to you, but we're trapped under something heavy. If it's either (a) or (c), please leave us a message.

From the outset, from Harry's reading the last page of a book first ("That, my friend, is a dark side...") to the ridiculous conversation that leads them to the diner on the road...

"You'd rather be in a passionless marriage..."

"AND be the first lady of Czechoslovakia!"

(and the fact that years later Sally swears she would never hold that opinion)

the dialogue has woven itself in the very fabric of my conversations across the years. 

When I was in New York visiting the Metropolitan Museum's Egyptian exhibit, I played out the scene from the movie. "But I would be proud to partake of your pee-can pie..." (which isn't in the script and when Crystal ad-libbed it, Meg Ryan actually laughs and looks off screen to director Rob Reiner before she realizes they're going to keep rolling. Reiner left it in the film.)

And how many times have I said, "No, just the pie. But then not heated" ? 

Somehow "days of the week underpants" has come up more than once, too.

I can't hear "Surry with the Fringe on Top", even in the midst of the entire Oklahoma production, without hearing Sally singing the lyrics off-key into the karaoke machine in the Sharper Image store. "HELEN?!"

And I never hear Auld Lang Syne without hearing, "What does this song mean? My whole life, I don't know what this song means. I mean, 'Should old acquaintance be forgot'? Does that mean that we should forget old acquaintances, or does it mean if we happened to forget them, we should remember them, which is not possible because we already forgot?"

Herewith, a completely incomplete but generally chronological list excluding the half dozen I just covered above that crop up again and again:

It's not a matter of opinion. Empirically, you are attractive.

What I'm saying -- and this is not a come-on in any way, shape, or form -- is that men and women can never be friends.

That's the problem. Somewhere between 30 seconds and all night is your problem. 
I don't have a problem.
Yes you do.

An L.M., definitely. 
Which one am I?
You're the worst one. You're high maintenance, but you think you're low maintenance."
 . . . On the side is a very big thing with you.
Well, I just want it the way I want it.
Exactly. High maintenance.

This isn't about you.
Yes it is. You are an affront to all women and I am a woman.

You're right. You're right. I know you're right.

Everyone thinks that they have good taste and  a sense of humor but they couldn't possibly all have good taste! 


Oh, but baby fish mouth is sweeping the nation.

Is one of us supposed to be a DOG in this scenario?!

If either of us had found either of them even REMOTELY attractive, we would not be here today. . . 

And that shot of the Twin Towers at Washington Square? Sigh. The movie has worn surprisingly well for a late 80s film. Okay, so Marie pulls a giant Rolodex out of her purse, but still. The hairstyles and fashions aren't terribly distracting, even 26 years later. Using the then nearly unknown Harry Connick Jr. to cover the big band standards was a stroke of genius.

Favorite trivia of the film -- the full-on romance line of the movie was ad-libbed by Billy Crystal during the take: When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible

In the days of edgy rom-coms like Trainwreck, it just remains such a lovely, simple moment in time.


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