Top 100 American Movie Quotes of the 21st Century: #66

The actor:Daniel Craig
The character:Benoit Blanc
The film:Knives Out
The quote:“I spoke in the car about the hole at the center of this doughnut. And yes, what you and Harlan did that fateful night seems at first glance to fill that hole perfectly. A doughnut hole in the doughnut’s hole. But we must look a little closer. And when we do, we see that the doughnut hole has a hole in its center. It is not a doughnut hole at all but a smaller doughnut with its own hole, and our doughnut is not whole at all!”

The last story in Centerburg Tales, the second of Robert McCloskey’s Homer Price books, is called “Pie and Punch and You-Know-Whats.” I loved the Homer Price stories when I was younger, and I imagine I could still pick up my collection (one of the books I liberated from my childhood home when I moved out) and enjoy them now. “Pie and Punch and You-Know-Whats,” for example, is less a young adult riff on Mark Twain and more an elegy on how awful it is to have a song stuck in your head. In the end, Mark Twain is what liberates the entire town from the song that Homer and Freddie gullibly play on the new glowing jukebox at the diner. It’s quite a journey to “Punch, brothers, punch with care! Punch in the presence of the passenjare!” The library is practically ransacked in a pre-Google effort to figure out what book with those words, and the relief on these people who had been bewitched into singing everything and replacing words from their speech with lyrics from the song is just breathtaking. And relatable.

I will, as I have great consideration about not putting earworms inside people’s heads, save you from the entirety of the lyrics of that catchy song. I’m excerpting a salient bit:

In a whole doughnut

There’s a nice whole hole.

When you take a big bite,

Hold the whole hole tight.

If a little bit bitten,

Or a great bit bitten,

Any whole hole with a hole bitten in it,

Is a holey whole hole.

I hear this like it’s the Four Aces, but given the context it makes just as much sense in that Kentucky Fried accent that Daniel Craig wears like a shako or a feather boa in Knives Out.

Rian Johnson is going to chase that bit about “It is not a doughnut hole but a smaller doughnut with its own hole” for years. Would-be Rian Johnsons are going to chase that bit even longer. If I watched television, I’m sure there’d be some television show that would be stretching out a doughnut hole joke over six episodes. It’s lot of things at once. An obviously funny joke comparing doughnut holes to the relative mystery of how a famous novelist died. An almost incomprehensible word salad in which a staggering eighteen percent of all words are “doughnut” or “hole.” (Out of the twenty-one common nouns in this monologue, sixteen are either “doughnut” or “hole.”) An excellent summary of what a whodunit is when you’re ninety percent of the way through it. An unmistakable beginning to the big reveal of this mystery that seemed like it was solved long ago, but which all of us have hoped would be solved in Ana de Armas’s favor or, more importantly, against the wacko whitefolks who are in her way. I hope he won’t chase it (he said after Glass Onion happened), and I hope others will not try to chase it. This is an unrepeatable moment, the kind of monologue that is too simple and daffy and precise to simply be remade in slightly different iterations.

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