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Mathematicians Answer / Live-Action Films

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Mathematician's Answers in live-action movies.

  • Airplane! does this a lot, mostly with "what is it?" questions.
    • "There's been a little problem in the cockpit." "The cockpit? What is it?" "It's a room at the front of the plane where the pilot sits. But that's not important right now."
    • "This woman has to be gotten to a hospital." "The hospital? What is it?" "It's a big building with patients. But that's not important right now."
    • "You got a letter from headquarters this morning." "What is it?" "It's a big building where generals meet. But that's not important right now."
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    • Asked for his name and position, Ted answers, "Ted Stryker. I'm sitting down, facing forward, but that's not important right now."
  • The American President:
    • President Shepherd, concerned his daughter Lucy isn't doing as well in social studies as she should, gives her an old textbook of his:
      President Shepherd: Luce, take a look at this book. This is exciting stuff. It's about who we are and what we want. Read what it says on the first page.
      Lucy Shepherd: "Property of Gilmore Junior High School."
      President Shepherd: The next page, Luce.
    • A variation later in the movie, when Shepherd meets lobbyist Sydney Ellen Wade for the first time, and they're in his office:
      Sydney Ellen Wade: If you don't live up to the deal you just made, come New Hampshire, we're gonna go shopping for a new candidate. (walks toward the door)
      President Shepherd: You can't do that, Sydney.
      Sydney: With all due respect, Mr. President, who's gonna stop me?
      President Shepherd: Well, if you go through that door, the United States Secret Service. That's my private office. You need to go out that way.
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  • From Annie (2014):
    Will Stacks: (after saving Annie from getting hit by a car) Why do you run like that?
    Annie: Gets me places faster.
  • Apocalypse Now:
    Willard: Do you know who's in command here?
    Roach: Yeah. [Walks off]
  • Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, when Vanessa finds out just how Austin got plans from one of Dr. Evil's Femme Fatales.
    Vanessa: Did you use protection?
    Austin: Of course, I have a 9 millimeter automatic.
  • The Avengers gives us this gem: Tony forgets to factor in Steve's Fish out of Temporal Water issues while trying to fix the Helicarrier's busted engine, resulting in some sarcasm from Cap:
    Tony: (from inside rotor) Okay, tell me what you see!
    Steve: (staring at a bewilderingly high-tech panel) It seems to run on some form of electricity.
    Tony: Well, you're not wrong...
  • Big Trouble in Little China:
    Jack Burton: How did you get up there?
    Egg Shen: Wasn't easy!
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  • In Broadway Melody of 1936, a theatrical producer, auditioning chorus girls, asks one how tall she is. She lifts a hand to the top of her head and says "About up to here."
  • One of God's conditions in Bruce Almighty is "You can't mess with free will."
    Bruce: Uh-huh. (beat) Can I ask why?
    God: (gleefully) Yes, you can! That's the beauty of it!
  • In Caddyshack, Ty Webb gives a good one to Judge Smails after explaining that he doesn't play golf competitively:
    Smails: Well, how do you measure yourself against the other golfers?
    Ty: By height.
  • Done twice in a row in The Cat in the Hat.
    Sally: Where did you come from?
    The Cat: Hmm, how do I put this... when a mommy cat and a daddy cat love each other very much, they decide that-
    Conrad: Oh no, no, no, no, no. Where did you come from?
    The Cat: My place, where do you think? *laughs*
  • Citizen Kane:
    Reporter: Mr. Kane, How did you find business conditions in Europe?
    Kane: With great difficulty!
  • From Clonus:
    George: I qualified, I'm going to America!
    Richard: That's great! When are you going?
    George: Later on.
    • Justified in that George is genetically conditioned to be not too bright.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo: A rather dark variation.
    Mondego: How...?
    Cristo: How did I escape? With difficulty. How did I plan this moment? With pleasure.
  • This exchange in Death Proof when Pam finds out Stuntman Mike's name:
    Pam: Stuntman Mike's your name?
    Stuntman Mike: You ask anybody.
    Pam: Hey, Warren, who is this guy?
    Warren: Stuntman Mike.
    Pam: And who the hell is Stuntman Mike?
    • Another example later on in the movie:
      Abernathy: Well, you see, we're making a Hollywood movie in town, and it's a cheerleader movie, and she's one of the cheerleaders.
      Car Salesman: What's a cheerleader movie?
      Abernathy: A movie about cheerleaders.
  • Dumb and Dumber has Lloyd ask the waitress "What is the 'Soup Du jour'?" And she answers "The soup of the day."
  • In Eraser, after John Kruger falls out of a plane and lands in a junkyard, a kid who watched him fall comes up to him.
    Kruger: Where am I?
    Kid: Earth. Welcome.
  • From Dusk Till Dawn:
    Kate: Where are we going?
    Richie: Mexico.
    Kate: What's in Mexico?
    Richie: Mexicans.
  • Invoked in The Front. Howard Prince is eventually brought before HUAC. Not wanting to name names, he instead gives responses that allow him to appear cooperative without actually answering. Unfortunately, they threaten to indict him on his history as a bookie, forcing him into making his brave stand at the climax.
  • During an Obligatory War Crime Scene in Full Metal Jacket:
    Joker: How can you shoot women and children?
    Door Gunner: Easy. You just don't lead 'em so much. (Laughing) Ain't war hell?
  • Ghostbusters (1984): "Where do these stairs go?"... "They go up."
  • While having dinner at The Grand Budapest Hotel, Mr. Moustafa lists what the requirements were for being Monsieur Gustave's "personal guest." They had to be: rich, old, insecure, vain, superficial, blonde, needy.
    Young Author: Why blonde?
    Mr. Moustafa: Because they all were.
  • When asked why he committed the eponymous crime in The Great Train Robbery, Sean Connery's character says "I wanted the money."
  • Grosse Pointe Blank: "I'm doin' a double shift, what's it look like?"
  • A Hard Day's Night: When The Beatles are being interviewed, many of their answers are like this:
    Reporter 1: Tell me, um, how did you find America?
    John Lennon: Turned left at Greenland.

    Reporter 2: Has success changed your life?
    Reporter 3: Do you think these haircuts have come to stay?
    Ringo Starr: Well this one has, y'know, stuck on good and proper now.

    Reporter 4: What do you call that hairstyle you're wearing?
    George: Arthur.

    Reporter 3: What do you call that collar?
    Ringo: Mmm... A collar.
  • The Highwaymen: After Hamer buys more than a dozen guns and ammunition to spare, the gunstore owner asks him what he needs all the firepower he just purchased for, if he "don't mind him asking". Hamer just retorts "No, I don't mind you asking at all".
  • Hot Fuzz has an example of an underaged drinker being far too clever for his own good.
    Nick Angel: When's your birthday?
    Kid: 22nd of February.
    Angel: What year?
    Kid: Every year.
    Angel: Get out.
  • The Hunger Games:
    Caesar Flickerman: So, Peeta, how are you finding the Capitol? And don't say "with a map".
  • I Shot Andy Warhol: Creator/Warhol does this repeatedly to a journalist asking why he stopped painting and started making films. Every answer is yes/no even though the questions implicitly aren't.
  • In Iron Man 2, when Tony tries to ask Natalie where she's from:
    Tony: I gotta say it. It's hard to get a read on you. Where are you from?
    Natalie: Legal.
  • In It's a Wonderful Life, George asks the pregnant Mary, "Is it a boy or a girl?" Mary just nods enthusiastically.
  • Jaws: The Revenge invokes this trope as a Hand Wave:
    Michael: How did you get away from the shark?
    Hoagie: It wasn't easy!

  • Jurassic Park.
    Hammond: Our attractions will drive kids out of their minds.
    Grant: And what are those?
    Sattler: Small versions of adults, honey.
  • Loaded Weapon 1 takes this trope up to eleven.
    Sgt. Luger: "Do you know a woman by the name of Billie York?"
    Clerk: "You got a picture?" (Luger then pulls out a shirt with York's photo on it)
    Clerk: "Is that her?"
    Sgt. Luger: "No, that's her picture."
    • Later in the film:
      Sgt. Jack Colt: So what are you doing here?
      Miss Destiny Demeanor: Waiting for you.
      Sgt. Jack Colt: I mean, what brought you here?
      Miss Destiny Demeanor: A taxi.
      Sgt. Jack Colt: Yeah, but why?
      Miss Destiny Demeanor: My car's in the shop.
      Sgt. Jack Colt: I mean... [Holds up a sign board] Why the hell did you come here?
      Miss Destiny Demeanor: The police station would have made me nervous.
  • A particularly egregious example from Lucky Number Slevin:
    Slevin: I'm gonna say the same thing any man with two penises says when his tailor asks him if he dresses to the right or left.
    Lindsey: What's that?
    [cuts to The Boss's penthouse]
    Slevin: Yes.
  • Marx Brothers:
    • Duck Soup:
      Prosecutor: Chicolini, when were you born?
      Chico: I don't remember. I was only a little baby.
    • Horse Feathers:
      Wagstaff: "In case I never see you again, which would add ten years to my life, what would you fellas want to play football?"
      Baravelli: "Well at first we'd want a football"
      Wagstaff: "Well I don't know if we've got a football, but if I could find one would you be interested? I don't want a hasty answer, just sleep on it."
      Baravelli: "I don't think I can sleep on a football."
  • Later in the movie, when Wagstaff is teaching a class, Harpo puts a picture of a beautiful woman over the blackboard while Wagstaff's back is turned:
    Wagstaff: "Baravelli, who's responsible for this? Is this your picture?"
    Baravelli: I don't think so. It doesn't look like me."
    • A Night at the Opera:
      Henderson: Say, what's that bed doing there?
      Driftwood: I don't see it doing anything.
  • In the original Miracle on 34th Street, Doris Walker takes a look at the employee card Kris Kringle had filled out when he was hired as Macy's Santa Claus. In response to "Age", he wrote, "Just as old as my tongue and a little older than my teeth".
  • In the second The Naked Gun film:
    Frank: I told Jane to meet us at the hotel's rear entrance.
    Ed: Where's that?
    Frank: In the back.
  • At the beginning of Ocean's Eleven, Danny Ocean is at his hearing to determine if he is fit to be released from prison.
    Male Examiner: You have a history of arrests, but you have never been successfully charged. Is there a particular reason you chose to commit this crime, or a reason you simply got caught this time?
    Danny: My wife left me. I fell into a self-destructive pattern.
    Female Examiner: If released, do you think you would fall into a similar pattern?
    Danny: She already left me once. I don't think she'd do it again just for kicks.
  • The Our Gang short "School's Out" features several test answers taken from H.M. Walker's Vaudeville routine, many of which take this form.
    • "Donald Haines, where is Washington?" "First in war, first in peace, and third in the American League."
    • "Douglas Greer, what was Abraham Lincoln's mother's name?" "Mrs. Lincoln."
    • "Buddy O'Donald, on Paul Revere's night ride, what did he say as he stopped his horse in front of colonial homes?" "He said, 'Whoa!'"
    • "Bobby Malon, what was Nero doing while Rome burned?" "I don't know, but I think he should've been hauling water to the fire."
    • "Jackie Cooper, who was The Hunchback of Notre Dame?" "Lon Chaney."
  • The Pink Panther:
    • In the 2006 movie starring Steve Martin, a reporter asks Inspector Clouseau if they (the police) know if the killer is a man or a woman. Clouseau's answer is: "Well of course I know that! What else is there, a kitten?"
      • Also, when he quotes someone about politics, Yvette asks him if he said it, meaning if he is the original author of the quote. Clouseau takes the question literally and, after bemusedly looking around for someone else, answers "Yes."
    • In The Return of the Pink Panther, Clouseau visits a town where he encounters this trope, twice. First he enters a taxi and says to the driver "Follow that car!" The cabbie promptly starts chasing the car... on foot! A minute or two later, Clouseau asks a passer-by for directions.
      Clouseau: Do you know the way to the Palace Hotel?
      Passer-by: Yes. (Continues on without giving an answer.)
    • In The Pink Panther Strikes Again, Clouseau enters an inn, sees a dog, and asks the innkeeper if his dog bites. The answer he gets is technically correct...
      Clouseau: I thought you said he does not bite!
      Innkeeper: That is not my dog.
  • Rambo III:
    Hamid: What's that?
    Rambo: It's a blue light.
    Hamid: What does it do?
    Rambo: It turns blue.
  • In Sexy Beast, the powerful gayngster Teddy Bass attends an orgy and notices another man, Harry, giving him a certain look.
    Teddy: Men or women?
    Harry: Oh... definitely.
  • Sleepy Hollow (1999):
    Ichabod Crane: Katrina, why are you in my room?
    Katrina Van Tassel: Because it is yours.
  • Snatch. had this memorable exchange:
    Customs Agent: Anything to declare?
    Avi: Yeah. Don't go to England.
  • In Sons of the Desert, Stan and Ollie wouldn't get back home until they came up with a cover story for an escapade. When interrogated by cops about their places of residence, Ollie claimed to live at home and Stan said he was Ollie's next door neighbor. Stan, being Stan, told a really useful answer later.
  • Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan: Although in this case Kirk quickly makes it obvious that he's just joking around.
    Saavik: May I ask how you dealt with the test?
    Kirk: You may ask.
  • Star Wars:
  • When Barbara the Little Stowaway is caught hiding in a cabin in Stowaway (1936), the crewmember asks "What are you doing here?" and Barbara answers with "Hiding."
  • La Strada:
    Gelsomina: Where are you from?
    Zampanò: My home town.
    Gelsomina: You don't talk like us. Where were you born?
    Zampanò: My father's house.
  • The Three Stooges were quite fond of this:
    • From "Shivering Sherlocks":
      Police Captain: Have you any visible means of support?
      Larry: Sure. I've got suspenders!
    • From "Don't Throw That Knife", practicing taking census:
      Moe: Where were you born, madam?
      Shemp: In the hospital.
      Moe: Hospital?
      Shemp: Yes, I wanted to be near my mother!
  • There's a fun Dennis Quaid moment in the underrated Undercover Blues, when he and his super-spy wife, Kathleen Turner, are deliberately being obfuscating to the local police:
    Lt. Sawyer: Oh, cute baby! Boy or girl?
    Jeff Blue: Gosh, I hope so!
  • Wild: Given by a smart-ass snowboarder when hiker Cheryl Strayed, who is struggling through the snow-covered Sierras, is trying to figure out if she is still on the Pacific Coast Trail.
    Cheryl: Where am I?
    Snowboarder: California.


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