Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Boat Drinks

We watched Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead (1995) the other night. It took forever to appear on Netflix, but now it's an instant-play. It's a modern-day mob story, quietly similar to one of our all-time favorite films, The Usual Suspects (1995) — strong ensemble acting, with quirky criminal characters who get together for one last job, which goes wrong. It's similar to Fargo (1996) in that regard, and also features Steve Buscemi. The movie must have inspired The Sopranos (1999) to some extent — strong ensemble acting; cracked criminal characters; real-world, boring settings; similarly atmospheric music; graphic violence that suddenly kills off key characters. But the star is the gorgeous Andy Garcia as the noble "Jimmy the Saint" — a far cry from James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano. Christopher Walken plays a quadriplegic mob boss, one of those sardonic, menacing characters no one plays better.

Apparently Scott Rosenberg (High Fidelity, Beautiful Girls) wrote the script in two weeks, which amazes me because the plot is riveting, the characters are mostly well drawn, and the dialogue is so entertaining. I can think of too many big-budget extravaganzas with scripts that are more enjoyable with the sound turned off. It seems that only criminals and their cohorts get great movie dialogue these days, and even that's pretty rare. Think of Fargo: "Is that your friend in the wood chipper?"

Anyway, Things to Do in Denver has messed with our English. Yes, it's a violent, often disgusting story, and it's by no means as brilliant or perfect as The Usual Suspects. But it seems that colorful language makes the strongest impression on us. The movie is full of picturesque language that veers towards Shakespeare in its creativity, including bits of mob slang that are surprisingly adaptable to ordinary Boston life. There are many amazing lines that I won't repeat here, but here are a few of the more useful, often-repeated takeaways: A "piece of work" is a job that involves murder. An "action" is a job that just involves scaring someone. "Give it a name" is a reply along the lines of "Fuggedaboudit." Then there's "Boat drinks," said instead of "goodbye," which means, "May things end well so we'll be partying together on a boat someday."

So, lately, whenever one of us starts complaining about someone — like the guy who parks his motorcycle in front of our windows and spends wayyyy too long revving it up as he comes and goes  — the other one says, "Do you want a piece of work or just an action?" And it goes from there. And when one of us is whining about something — like work or the weather —the other one says, "Give it a name." Eventually we're going to forget and start saying these things in public and friends will think we're nuts.

And when they want to know what we're talking about, we'll say, "Give it a name!"

Let's hope we outgrow this soon. Perhaps watching The Usual Suspects for the 93rd time will help us recover. In which case, we'll go around saying, "Did you bring enough guys?" and "I'm not a rat, Agent Kujan." But we've been doing that for years. If you love mob movies with memorable dialogue, try The Usual Suspects and Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead. It's always fun to sit in the dark with a bunch of crooks — and it's too hot right now to go out to the movies.

Boat drinks.


  1. I won't be encouraging my husband to watch any of the aforementioned movies - he is especially susceptable to 'adopting' key phrases. When he would do Job's chicken dance from Arrested Development it would cause a fight amongst our three dogs every time -he had to give it up for the sake of family harmony. I am glad to hear that we are not the only ones to engage in this, though......

  2. I love it! Banter like this is what makes relationships great!


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