The Curator’s Eye

Say Anything…

selected by Robert Horton, Curator, Magic Lantern: Talks on Film and Art at Frye Art Museum

Film still from Say Anything…, 1989, Gracie Films/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

If you can measure a film’s status in the cultural firmament by how many catchphrases it contributes to the world, Say Anything . . . has a secure place. Think of the gems: “I gave her my heart, she gave me a pen.” “Get ready for greatness, Lloyd!” “The world is full of guys. Be a man. Don’t be a guy.” And, of course, “I don’t want to sell anything, buy anything or process anything.”

At least, I think these are catchphrases. They certainly get spoken a lot in my household.

Say Anything . . . turns twenty in 2009, as good a reason as any to wonder whether this is the most representative Seattle movie ever made. Yes, natives still snicker at the hero driving through Wallingford and pulling up in front of Bellevue Square, but that’s trivia; the movie catches the look and mood of mid-eighties Seattle, when those of us who grew up here had become accustomed to nothing ever really happening.

I once asked writer-director Cameron Crowe, a part-time Seattle-area resident himself, whether the film’s hero (teenager Lloyd Dobler, played by John Cusack) somehow embodied characteristics of Seattle — an unassuming, in-the-shadow quality, a basic niceness. Crowe went along with the idea, shrewdly adding that some anger lurked there, too.

Twenty years on, the movie remains a collection of privileged moments, a beautifully observed world in which a young guy — man — might pause in the middle of an empty street after a successful date and take a bow, for no one. Say Anything . . . , a sweet-natured picture with a touch of rue, earns that bow.

—Robert Horton

Robert Horton is film critic for The Herald, Seattle Channel and KUOW, and curator of the Frye Art Museum series Magic Lantern: Talks on Film and Art. The next Frye series is Caligari’s Children: The Great Age of German Cinema (more info: