Monday, March 3, 2008

This is this? No, this is it.

Jason Bellamy at The Cooler has started an interesting project about the phrase “This is it” in movies. Taking his cue from that most beloved of masterpieces, Titanic, he observes:

“'This is it!' is an exclamatory line found in oodles of movies. But the implementation of “This is it!” in Titanic speaks to the phrase’s ubiquity. We’ve grown so accustomed to its presence that we hardly notice it, even though the line is often meant to cue the audience. When Jack yells “This is it!” he isn’t really speaking to Rose. Instead it’s Cameron speaking to us, and what the filmmaker is actually saying is: “This is it! It’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for! The doomed ship has stayed afloat for almost 3 hours, but now it sinks at last! Watch this!”

How long have screenwriters been writing this way? And why do so many movie characters utter that popular line, considering how rarely people seem to use it in real life?”

Of course, “this is it” is just one of those lines that writers use to telegraph the point home. Exposition and narration are two terrible afflictions of mainstream movies, be they verbal or visual. But Jason is not concerned, at least not yet, with an analysis of exposition in general, and the phrase in particular. Instead, he has asked his readers to try to come up with as many instances of its usage as possible. So, without further ado, here’s a list of a few movies, off the top of my head, that tell us what is what:

- Slim Pickens’s Major TJ “King” Kong in Dr Strangelove: “Well, boys, I reckon this is it: Nuclear combat toe to toe with the Ruskies.”
- Faye Dunaway’s Bonnie Parker in Bonnie and Clyde: “You know what? When we started out, I thought we was really going somewhere. This is it. We're just going, huh?
- Rick Moranis’s Louis in Ghostbusters, just after the Ghostbusters building blows up: “This is it!
- Steve Coogan’s Tony Wilson in 24 Hour Party People: “This is it. The birth of rave culture.”
- Reginald Gardiner’s Commander Schultz in The Great Dictator: “Oh, there it goes. We're out of gas. Well, this is it then.”

And even though the circumstances are slightly different, Indiana Jones’s first line in Raiders of the Lost Ark, is also “This is it.” I have a few more but I'll let others have a pick at it. Head on over to The Cooler, and offer your submissions.


Jason Bellamy said...

Ali --

Thanks for the post (and sorry for the delayed reply)! As you come across others, feel free to shoot them my way. I added the "Ghostbusters" reference to the history list as it's the perfect example of "This is it!" as a stand-alone phrase.

There are lots of "This is it!" uses out there. Over time, we'll track them down!