September 6th, 2006

It's a Wicker Wonderland

The commercials for “The Wicker Man” were intriguing: exploding car, anguished Nicolas Cage, the ominous use of the word “wicker” right in the title.


But I had no suspicion that this movie would be one of the highlights of my summer. I had no inkling that viewing it would give me a high that would last for days. I had no idea that I could really make noises that obnoxious while trying to squelch down burst after burst of unruly laughter. (I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to the good people who attended the 3 PM showing of “The Wicker Man” at Orange's lovely Century Stadium 25 on Labor Day.)


I don’t care if it is being marketed as a suspense-thriller-horror-conglomeration. Believe me when I tell you “The Wicker Man” is one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen (and I’m including “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” when I make that mental list). I learned a lot about the art of writing humor just by sitting in that darkened theater. (The fact that the humor was completely unintentional didn't make it any less educational.)


Dubious? Allow me to assuage your doubts with this, a selection of my favorite quotes from the 2006 remake of “The Wicker Man.” (Unfortunately, these are all from memory. I have every confidence that the precise wording would make these quotes even funnier. But you’ll just have to see the movie to find out for yourself.)


Is that some kind of city talk?

This snotty rejoinder popped up very early in the movie, when Nicolas Cage tells the peculiar tavern-keeper he’d like a meal and a room—and asks if she can “swing it.” Evidently such 21st-century slang is beyond her purview. I can tell just by re-reading this explanation that the hilarity is not coming across. (Seriously—you just have to see the movie. Go! Go now!) Here’s something that may help: the next time someone asks you a question (“Are you busy Friday night?” “Where did you get those sunglasses?” “Do you want fries with that?”), try snapping back, “Is that some kind of city talk?” I promise you’ll laugh.


It’s a celebration of death!! …And rebirth.

Sister Rose, the insane schoolteacher, has many of the best quotes in this movie. This is just one of them. She was so enthusiastic about the death. And the rebirth was such an afterthought. And she was wearing the best crow-head mask. 

(If it wouldn't be egregiously unfair to the other horrible, horrible lines and terrible, terrible acting, I would include other of Sister Rose's comments here—especially this beauty: "You're late—and the law won't help you with that.")


The drone must die!

I never looked at Nicolas Cage as a drone before. Now whenever I see him I won’t be able to think of anything else.


I trust you won't have to let your costume out again this year. Soon you'll be a whole family of bears.

(Just let this one sink in for a second.) 
Despite the fact that most of the islanders participating in the harvest/ fertility festival wear only masks along with their regular clothes (and Nicolas Cage’s ex-fiancee only holds a mask in front of her face—it doesn’t even fasten onto her irritating head), the burly tavern-keeper wears a FULL-BODY BEAR COSTUME. Which is amazingly convenient, since Cage is quite a bit larger than most of the residents (read: women) who live on the island. So once he punches the tavern-keeper into oblivion, he can slip into the costume and successfully disguise his Y-chromosomishness. But the best part of this whole segment is the wooden conversation between the tavern-keeper and some other crazy islander about the importance of letting out the costume each year to keep up with the tavern-keeper’s regularly expanding waistline. I kept expecting one of them to turn to the camera and shrug. “It’s a SAG credit, anyway,” they were probably thinking.


“Who can tell me what man represents in his purest form?”

“Phallic symbol, phallic symbol!”

This one doesn’t even need a comment, does it? The hilarity speaks for itself? (The only thing that could possibly make it funnier would be actually watching the movie and gawking at the scary-looking twins who chant the response in unison.) 

Along the same lines, Ellen Burstyn's character later explains that men are certainly not second-class citizens in this bucolic idyll. "Men are a very important part of our little colony," she tells Cage. "Breeding, you know." (Ah, it all makes sense now.)


Another plant!

The disgust in Nicolas Cage’s voice bumped this throwaway complaint way up on my list of favorite quotes. All the women on the island are named for plants—Willow, Rowan, schoolteacher Rose and her taciturn twin Thorn. A fact that dawns on Cage pretty late in the game, and apparently is a little too much for him to handle. Me, I was more bothered by the excessive (and unexplained) number of twins on the island. And the fact that the few male islanders appear to be unable to speak (why? That’s not explained, either). And Leelee Sobieski’s eyeliner. (Is that some kind of city thing?)


Step away from the bike!

Yes, that’s Cage commandeering what appears to be the only form of transportation on the island. Yes, he’s waving a gun when he shrieks it. Yes, it is superfunny.  


I fear that these quotes hardly convey the awesomeness of this movie. How can you fully understand if you haven’t seen Ellen Burstyn with each half of her face painted different colors (and the areas around her eyes and mouth painted contrasting colors? How much time do these islanders have for fixin’ themselves up? Too darn much, if their intricate braids are any indication)?


Or if you haven’t seen the island doctor slam a book shut so that Cage can’t read it—only the cover says in BIG GOLD LETTERS Rituals of the Ancients (not since To Serve Man has there been such an innocuous title so filled with ominous meaning)?


Or if you haven’t watched Nicolas Cage tearing through the woods in his street clothes… and the bear paws leftover from the FULL-BODY BEAR COSTUME?


The answer is obvious: you just can’t. So shut down your computer and head to the nearest movie theater to get your ticket for “The Wicker Man.” But you better move fast—I think it’s not long destined for the silver screen.