WGTC Weekly Throwdown: Which Is The Most Memorable Phone Call In Film?

the call WGTC Weekly Throwdown: Which Is The Most Memorable Phone Call In Film?

Arguments – they’re part of life. We’re all competitive beasts, never wanting to admit fault or defeat, and will go to great lengths when defending our honor when challenged or threatened. Arguments have started wars, shattered relationships, broken families, declared victors, but have also awarded respect. A win will always be a win, but longstanding respect and admitted defeat are far greater trophies than another tally mark on a record sheet somewhere. That’s where our story begins for this group of alcohol swigging, loud mouthed master-debaters (had to make that joke once, c’mon!), connected by our love of whiskey, which is only overpowered by our love for all things pop culture – cinema, music, television, gaming, you name it. Inebriation and verbal assaulting, how could this go wrong?!

Needless to say, all we do now is argue about pop culture and hot topics of the day. Despite sounding like the grunts and groans of a pack of psychopaths, we decided to translate our debates into a readable affair. This means that every few weeks or so, we will be posting our thoughts on upcoming releases and pop culture in general. Since agreeing is for peace-loving hippies, our arguments will be broken up into two sides, and the winner is decided by the readers. Yes, our fates are in your hands!

Before we begin though, allow us to introduce ourselves.

Christian: A nearly retired cop with nothing left to lose, Christian turned to bath salts and cat urine to deal with losing three wives and up to seven stepchildren (they were gingers though, does that even count?). Although it is true that he is extremely opinionated, Christian only pushes his opinions on those he loves most (especially you, dear reader). Famous for his last stand at the Alamo and ability to produce children with a single look, this is a man who should by no means be considered harmless. Aside from devilish good looks and cologne that doesn’t come in an aluminum can, his knowledge of everything pop-culture will leave wives crying for divorce and daughters breaking the locks their fathers rightfully installed on their chastity belts. Debating isn’t exactly his strong suit, but he did once defeat a whole debate team using only the power of a flamethrower, so maybe that counts.

Gem:  Gem has lived the secluded life of an academic, dedicated to a better understanding of critical analysis. Emerging from five years struggling to insert page numbers into Word, Gem indulged in the world of film to satiate her creative side – from which burst the need to obliterate those who do not agree with her inane, profane ranting. Her most critically acclaimed debate was executed at this year’s Comic Con when she swayed a crowd of riotous nerds into agreeing that yes, a coat rack could defeat Wolverine. The opposition doesn’t stand a chance.

Nato: Traveling back in time from a dystopian universe where pop culture debates are a game of life and death, Nato (formerly Natobombious Kick-Assious) continues to extend his unbeaten streak against the competition he now sees in three (barely) functioning alcoholics who devour useless entertainment factoids like the bottles of Jack taped to their hands. Matt can make a case for anything, but enjoys the new challenge of debate through writing, disabling his hypnotically enchanting “hair-flip” closing visual, typically bringing competition to their knees with one swiftly punctuated “swoosh.” Who needs a closing argument when you have great hair? You’re about to witness the great lengths he’s willing to go and mighty stretches he’s willing to make, abandoning all notions of self-respect just to deliver the most convincing arguments conceivable. A pop-culture chameleon, Nato can do it all. We promise we’ll do our best to contain him, but it might be too late already…

Alex: Formed from the recovered DNA of Stephen A. Douglas, Ben Franklin, and Socrates, Alex is an unstoppable force in an argument. Basically every epic speech in every courtroom movie/TV show ever was copied verbatim from arguments Alex has made. If the world listened to his points on abortion, gay marriage, or America’s healthcare system, all people would finally be in agreement. But why waste his talents on such minutia? It’s the world of the media that sparks the fiercest debates, and thus his fiercest opinions. But just because he’s such an eloquent debater in person doesn’t mean that doesn’t translate into his writing. Some argue the pen is mightier than the sword. Well Alex doesn’t write with a pen, he uses a sword to slice paper into the words that crush those who disagree. Whoever opposes him ought to fear for not only their dignity, but their safety as well.

Today’s Argument: Which Is The Most Memorable Phone Call In Film?

We all make ‘em. Whether it’s to Domino’s for another large with extra funghi, or to our Mothers to ask if our laundry’s ready. Dialing up and making a phone call is an social activity which, as a method for communication has remained steadfast, despite advances in technology. If anything, we make more calls now we can *gasp* take our phones with us everywhere! (except the vets, they won’t let you.) Needless to say, cinema has relayed many a chunk of exposition and set up plenty of heists via the ole dog and bone.

With this week’s release of the Halle Berry flick, The Call, in which a 911 operator gets an unforgettable call from a person in distress, we saw it fit to debate which phone calls in cinema we deem the most memorable. Read on!

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Gem: Ghostface calls Drew Barrymore in Scream

scream WGTC Weekly Throwdown: Which Is The Most Memorable Phone Call In Film?

It’s not often you answer the phone in an evening to discover a black-hearted sadist with a penchant for movie trivia and disembowelling on the other end (unless you’ve got a bastard cinephile fishmonger for a boyfriend.) Fortunately for the gasping slasher genre yet unfortunately for Drew Barrymore, that is precisely the call she receives during the opening sequence of Scream.

What makes this phone call any better than the chilling opening to When A Stranger Calls (and its stellar sequel, When A Stranger Calls Back)? As Scream re-launched the genre, fans cried out that its homages were mere copies of superior original efforts. Scream decimates such obvious reactions by subverting traditional horror tropes. As the film fades in on a counter top phone and a hand grabs it, bringing it up to the cheek of Ms. Barrymore the audience immediately sighs with relief. With full knowledge that they’re about to embark on a trip down terror lane, every spectator knows there’s no way Drew Barrymore is going to die. She’s a star.

As she engages with her mystery caller, you find yourself screaming at the screen, “Hang up, you daft cow!” or as Jada Pinkett’s character in Scream 2 puts it: “Bitch, hang up the phone and Star 69 his ass!” (That would be “Do be a dear and hang up then dial 1471” in the U.K.) We do as we are bid, we indulge in suspending our disbelief and listen in as Casey and Ghostface banter back and forth. Sure, it’s tantamount to idiocy to carry on a conversation with a total stranger, but we continue to eavesdrop on the dialogue to her demise. We ourselves become the voyeurs; peeping through the glass doors, hearing every exhalation of breath and urging her to outsmart him. The experience might push us to the limits of our disbelief, but we’re on her side.

What makes the phone call so damn memorable is its merging of boundaries between the film and the audience. Marking one of the first occasions in cinema where the diegetic film world is self-aware. It knows the horror genre. With every dropped reference to Freddy and Jason it smiles cocksure and calm that it will outwit even you, dear cinemagoer. Usual exploits in film have demolished the fourth wall in making a statement that the film and its characters know they are in a film (Ferris Bueller?) Scream’s phone call announces that yes, it is aware, but it still has the capacity to utterly terrify you.

The turning point emerges as the caller pushes for Casey to tell him her name. Still playing along, she refuses while still flirting. As she finally asks him, “Why do you want to know my name?” his response, “’Cause I wanna know who I’m looking at” cuts through any of the good-natured banter which came before. The score lurches as her eyes swim with panic. It is here that the phone call escalates from a simple wrong number to a cat-and-mouse trap. Casey, mere moments from finally hanging up from him for good is stopped as he rasps out, razor-tongued and full of malice; “Listen to me you little bitch! You hang up on me again and I’ll gut you like a fish!”

And why are we so afraid as the call turns into a life or death film trivia quiz? Because we’re fighting in Casey’s corner, and when her boyfriend is centre stage, tied up and bloody under the porch lights, we too, are equally as stunned. We like this girl. For a scene which for the most part features Barrymore and a phone, the nuances and exposition-through-dialogue reveal her personality to superb effect. That is what pummels this scene as the most memorable phone call in cinema. In a short 12 minutes we’re in essence delivered a short film. An introduction, a middle and a sad tragic ending complete with humour, thrills and sadness. Barrymore’s skill in embodying a fully-fleshed out character with only a phone for company in such a short space of time possibly cements this as her best performance. And one which will lead to our hearts being broken.

After losing in Ghostface’s tricky movie quiz, Casey is chased through her house by a masked killer in a black gown. Charging up the garden, still clutching the phone, Casey can see her parents walking to the front door, mere meters away and barely croaks “Mom!”  (During which many audiences shouted “Throw the phone!”) Too slow for Ghostface, he tackles her to the ground and plunges the knife in while her Mom picks up the extension, listening to the final sounds of her daughter’s brutal murder. A final, grim goodbye….across the telephone.

So, the next time someone calls you asking something trivial and bizarre (“What’s your favourite Olympia Dukakis movie?”), it’s probably best to head into the doomsday bunker you’ve been prepping for the zombie apocalypse. No friggin’ reception down there.

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Alex: Sam calls Donna Reed and James Stewart in It’s A Wonderful Life

wonderful life WGTC Weekly Throwdown: Which Is The Most Memorable Phone Call In Film?

When I’m asked to think of the most iconic anything in cinema, my go to film is It’s A Wonderful Life. After all, if I can’t pick something iconic from one of the most iconic films of all time, where am I going to find anything good? So when it came to picking the best phone call in the history of cinema, it wasn’t even a question that the call from It’s A Wonderful Life was my choice.

For those who haven’t watched the film in the last couple years (shame on you), I’m referring to the scene where George has just stormed out of Mary’s house but is forced to return since he forgot his hat. Mary happens to be on the phone with their friend Sam at this point and Sam wants to talk to George. Sam plays the expert matchmaker without even knowing it. His desire to have both of them on the phone brings the two close together and that’s when it’s game over for Mary and George. It doesn’t even matter what Sam’s talking about. They’re done listening to him the moment they catch the sweet scent of the other and feel the warmth radiating between them. Thank god speakerphone hadn’t been invented yet, or we would’ve been deprived of this immaculate scene.

The way that the lovely Donna Reed stares longingly toward James Stewart is one of the most magical looks ever given in a movie. Ever. It’s phenomenal. The whole scene is acted better than perhaps any I’ve ever seen. It’s nearly flawless. From intense anger to completely and utterly falling for the other, both actors fly through an array of emotions in an unrivaled way. The way the scene lingers and the tension builds to such a peak of passion shows the master direction that Frank Capra provided for the film better than any other moment.

An incredibly romantic film, this call may be the most romantic moment of all. Get this, Stewart was nervous about the scene since it was his first romantic one since he returned to acting from the war. He was worried that he would be out of practice. His worry was completely unwarranted as he did the scene so perfectly that they used the first, unrehearsed take. In fact, it even had to be cut since part of the embrace was too passionate to pass the censors. You go Jimmy!

So take your horror dials and anger on a phone, I want two people on one end of the line, passionately kissing by the end of my calls.

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Matt: Jon Favreau calls Nikki in Swingers

swingers WGTC Weekly Throwdown: Which Is The Most Memorable Phone Call In Film?

Phone calls - there’s a reason no one makes them anymore in a generation where texting and instant messaging are proving  much better methods of conveying information. Who wants to play back some long-winded message left by someone you probably ignored anyway, listening to every insignificant detail instead of skimming through a chunk of text for the important details. I know, we’re becoming robots who are losing all methods of healthy social interaction, but even when we had the opportunity, were we still participating in healthy social interactions?

People are awkward, silly entities who don’t know what to do or say on the phone when put on the spot, and no one exemplifies that more than Jon Favreau playing Mike in the 1996 comedy Swingers.

In the extremely uncomfortable “conversation” Mike has while trying to contact a girl he just met named Nikki, Favreau gets caught in a one-sided game of phone tag, being taunted by an evil answering machine with a traumatizing knack for cutting Favreau off in the most importunate times. Becoming more and more flustered by the situation, Favreau makes one bad decision after the next, as we literally end up screaming “JUST PUT THE F*CKING PHONE DOWN” at the screen.

Over the entirety of the scene, Favreau makes about 6 different calls, mentally goes through the entirety of a relationship, makes a complete and total ass of himself, and expertly obliterates any chances he has with this Nikki character. How do we know? He goes against every dating rule, calls too damn soon, freaks her out, talks about his past relationship, and literally breaks up with her all without ever actually talking directly to her – then she picks up. Her simple response? “Don’t ever call me again.” Then she probably went out, put a restraining order on Mike, and feared for her life (or she at least should have) after this crazy lunatic completes one of the most admirably bad self-conversations in movie history.

What we have here is the equivalent of a trainwreck though, so ugly and catastrophic you try your damnedest to look away, but even with all your might, your eye’s cant help but stay glued to the skin-crawling, socially unsettling horrors unfolding before you.  It’s one of those moments that makes you yourself feel all weird inside even though it’s just two characters acting on the screen. I don’t know, maybe we picture ourselves in the situation and react accordingly?

Favreau’s scripting of this scene is all but perfect, and his acting really draws out the horrid nature of dating and early phone conversations. In fact, this specific scene is honestly what sold me on Favreau as a filmmaker, because of the absurd reality of the scenario and the human nature Favreau is able to exploit through grounded scripting. The “conversation” is really a thing of beauty when you think about it, but then you start to remember how hideous the ordeal actually is, and you don’t know whether to pity or scold Mike.

The thing is, I’m sure Mike would have still found a way to mess that exchange up even if he were texting.

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Christian: The Caller calls Colin Farrell in Phone Booth

phone booth WGTC Weekly Throwdown: Which Is The Most Memorable Phone Call In Film?
Phone calls are a sad part of life, making everybody involved sound and look like an idiot. Talking into a hunk of plastic and glass like its a person is just goofy, but without it we would still be sending paper around the world like a bunch of dingbats. But the necessity to talk to those who aren’t in your immediate vicinity is just too overpowering. Hollywood has portrayed these calls in just about every film ever released, so it’s a bit tricky to pick the best one.

However, this is just a trick question, since everybody knows that Joel Schumacher’s Phone Booth is the way to go. Let’s be honest: the whole film itself is just a phone call. There’s maybe five minutes total of action that’s not connected to the phone, and the rest is watching Jack Bauer train a rifle on Colin Farrell in a phone booth.

The call itself is a chance for redemption for Farrell’s character, who has lied and cheated his way to the top at the expense of everybody around him. It’s a common morality tale, with someone getting the chance to better their life or die trying. But the fact that The Caller feels the need to hold Farrell hostage in the last phone booth available in New York is pretty ingenious.

Perhaps even more interesting than the phone call itself are the distractions that occur during the call. Prostitutes try to break into the booth, because prostitutes are a chatty bunch. Then their pimp shows up and starts wailing on Farrell. To make things worse, The Caller kills the pimp in front of Farrell before getting him back on the line.

Despite Schumacher ruining Batman for a whole generation, he makes up for it in Phone Booth simply by making a phone conversation actually interesting. How many movies have successfully made phone calls actually interesting or captivating? Actually, how many have kept someone in exactly one spot at the threat of death? It’s such a static film, but nobody can deny how riveting it is.

My colleagues here will try to convince you that classics such as Scream and It’s A Wonderful Life have better calls because they’re great movies. But friends, don’t be fooled! Could either of those movies contain an hour long phone call and still hold your interest? All it took was a little bit of murder to make this mundanity interesting again.

The arguments have been made! Now it’s your turn, head to the comments section and weigh-in on which phone call you think is the most memorable in film.

And if you liked this Throwdown, maybe you’d like to check out one of our past arguments, such as Which Cinematic Witch Casts The Most Enchanting Spell?

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  • H

    The first call that popped into my head was the “narrator” / Tyler durden call from fight club.