Over the past weekend, my daughter and I saw The Lego Batman Movie. We both loved it, but for thoroughly different reasons. She enjoyed the sheer lunacy of the story, while I enjoyed the references.
My hats off to the writers of this movie because they managed to throw in a vast number of references to the cinematic history of Batman without going overboard.
There was a callback to the shark repellent from the 1966 movie Batman starring Adam West under the cowl.
There was even a Lego creation of the 1940s serial version of the Caped Crusader.
I love references in movies. The best place to catch those winks-and-a-nod are on movie theater signs within a movie.
In Gremlins (1984), during one of the establishing shots of the town, the local cinema is showing the double feature of A Boy’s Life and Watch the Skies. These were the working titles of Steven Spielberg’s E.T.: The Extra-Terresterial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
In Paul (2011), as the actors Simon Pegg and Nick Frost walk through a town, the local cinema is playing Duel, which was an 1971 television movie directed by Spielberg. Considered that Pegg and Frost made Paul as an homage to Spielberg (who actually has a voice cameo in the movie), it’s not surprising that one of Spielberg’s works would show up on a marquee.
In Fight Club (1999), starring Brad Pitt, actors walk under a cinema marquee featuring Seven Years in Tibet, a film starring Brad Pitt.
My love for reference, according to my parents, started early.
This is my story…as told to me by them.
When I was about six, I first raised their eyebrows when I began to say, in a husky and slightly German accent, “I vant to be alone.”
Now, my parents knew I was imitating a quote attributed to the actress Greta Garbo, but they were in the dark as to how I would be aware of such an utterance. So, they let it go as a one-off.
Later, their eyebrows were raised once again as I began saying (for apparently no good reason), in an accent located somewhere between Brooklyn and southern Jersey, “It’s curtains, for ya. Curtains!”
So my parents asked me where I was copying these phrases from.
I said, “Bugs Bunny.”
The Looney Toons cartoons from the 1940s that I was watching as reruns in the 1970s were full of references to the popular actors of the day. I may not have known who Garbo, Humphrey Bogart, Judy Garland, and Bing Crosby were, but I could certainly laugh at them and mimic their cartoon characteristics.
Funny the things you pick up while watching television.
That’s my story.
P.S. My all-time favorite cinematic reference happens in His Girl Friday (1940). As to why…well, that’s a story for another day.