Here’s a story: Two weeks ago, I procrastinated studying for a midterm by taking quizzes. And not just any quizzes. Sporcle quizzes.
While I pride myself on my excellent procrastination abilities, I’ve tended to avoid Sporcle. It always seemed way too easy. If I were going to procrastinate, I’d rather watch my roommate build a skateboard ramp on the corner of East University Avenue and Hill Street (yes, my roommate builds skateboard ramps. And yes, they’re awesome) or engage in a lively game of Penny Can (for those who don’t know Penny Can, see ABC’s “Cougar Town” for more information on this extraordinary time-killer). But after learning about the vast array of film quizzes available — from movie quotes to actors’ last names — my interest was sparked.
Myself and two other people from our study group took a quiz called 100 Tiny Movie Scenes, which consisted of identifying a title based off of a still image the size of a fingerprint from that movie. Within seconds, I was losing. My competitors quickly soared ahead, naming movie after movie as though all they needed to identify films such as “The Shining” or “Up in the Air” was a split-second glance at a very, very tiny image. Something had to be wrong. How had their movie knowledge so effortlessly surpassed mine?
I requested another quiz: Movie Quotes. I was determined to prove that my movie-trivia skills were up to par with everyone else’s. Once again, we collectively clicked start. Once again, the timer began to count down. And once again, I was falling behind my two friends whom I generally consider to know about the same as me about movies.
After my back-to-back humiliating defeats, I finally inquired as to how in the world they’d suddenly acquired such a wealth of obscure tidbits about movie history. The answer was simple: It turned out these two study partners “Sporcle” on something of a regular basis, giving them ample opportunity to learn which images and quotes match up with their respective movies.
I said to them, “Yeah, but that doesn’t mean you actually know anything about the movie.” To which one of them replied, “Does too. Those are the most famous scenes and quotes from the movies. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t actually seen the movie.”
Those last few words were rolling around in my mind over the past few days as I played Sporcle quiz after Sporcle quiz, missing countless answers and racking my head as to why it seemed as if I knew nothing about some of my all-time favorite movies. But then I thought about it a bit more. One individual quote can’t stand in for the experience of watching an entire movie. Factors such as context and story can alter the way one interprets mere words uttered by an actor onscreen.
My bone to pick is with the notion that a quote can be considered a suitable substitute for the actual film. I don’t want to come across as some sort of snob who walks about and turns his nose up at audiences around him, saying things like, “If you haven’t seen that movie, then you don’t know what you’re talking about.” What I mean is that allowing yourself to judge a movie by a sound bite means it is no longer your own individual viewing experience, but someone else’s. It’s true that watching screen legend Marlon Brando as Don Corleone utter the unforgettable words “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse” resonates with us years after they were first captured on film. The dialogue stands on its own, transcending the confines of the silver screen and imprinting itself on the pop-culture zeitgeist.
Yet, if a movie as powerful as “The Godfather” does become simply a string of quotes, then we risk missing the forest for the trees, so to speak. In fact, it’s only one tree that gets forced into the public eye until it loses any meaning it may have once had. We forget Connie’s screams of excitement when the famous singer Johnny Fontane attends her wedding. Or the conversation shared between Brando and Al Pacino — father and son — toward the movie’s end about reading the newspaper’s funny pages.
While these are some of my favorite parts, they might not be your favorites. You’re the only one who gets to decide which aspects you hold on to and remember down the road. Now, is this a good plan for dominating every Sporcle quote that comes your way? Absolutely not. What it is, my friends, is a way to make the classics come to life once more, to make them stay fresh even after they’ve been branded and packaged in a thousand different ways. So watch “The Graduate” or “Forrest Gump” or “Rocky” as though you’ve never encountered them before. And when those famous lines come along, just remember, these movies weren’t made for trivia. That’s something I know for sure, even after failing all those quizzes.