April 9, 2009

Meme: Top 10 Favorite Film Characters

SEEMS I'VE BEEN roped in by KeegsMom at Kids’ Flix to participate in a meme. The topic? My 10 favorite film characters. Not actors…characters. I’m supposed to name them, briefly explain why they’re on my list, then tag 5 unsuspecting bloggers to do the exercise as well.

So without much ado or further adieu, I present my list in no particular order…

1. Major Calloway, The Third Man (1949)
Most people know The Third Man as “an Orson Welles movie” featuring his famous cuckoo-clock speech. Truth is, Welles didn’t direct it (Carol Reed did) and he doesn’t appear until the last 30 minutes. The true glue of The Third Man is Trevor Howard’s Major Calloway – a British officer overseeing the English-ruled section of post-WWII Vienna who is glad that Welles’ black marketer Harry Lime is dead (or is he?) following a car accident. Calloway’s dialogue is crisp, clever, and occasionally hilarious. Why Howard didn’t get an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor is beyond me.

2. Jonathan Mardukas, Midnight Run (1988)
Older fans know Charles Grodin from his string of ‘70s hits (The Heartbreak Kid, Heaven Can Wait, Seem Like Old Times), and younger ones probably only know him as the curmudgeonly host of his self-titled ‘90s CNBC talk show. But wedged in between was this pitch-perfect performance as a mob accountant dragged cross-country by bounty hunter Robert DeNiro. The hysterical (and largely ad-libbed) exchanges between DeNiro and Grodin are priceless and infectiously repeatable. I’ve been saying them for 20 years.

3. Jason Bourne, The Bourne Trilogy (2002-2007)
The action films that required others to smarten up or look glaringly stupid. Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne, an amnesia-stricken agent trying to find out who he is, has us pulling for him at every turn. These films, and his actions, stay on the safe side of preposterous, so viewers can say, “Wow, that was smart. I wouldn’t have thought of doing that.” If pressured, I’d pick The Bourne Supremacy as the best of the three, for its intelligent script, the riveting climactic car chase, and Bourne’s great last line of dialogue.

4. Clarence Boddicker, Robocop (1987)
They say appearances can be deceiving. Look no further than diminutive, bespectacled, balding Clarence Boddicker. Watch Robocop, and those descriptors turn to sleazy, ruthless, unpredictable…and highly entertaining. Kurtwood Smith’s Boddicker is one of the most underrated bad-asses of all time, and doubters should move past Robocop’s goofy title and get a glimpse of a truly villainous scumbag whom you can’t wait to see get his comeuppance. (My favorite scene is when Robocop loses his sh*t and reads Boddicker his rights while hurling him through multiple windows.) [Audio NSFW]

5. Quint, Jaws (1975)
There are too many reasons to list here, but Robert Shaw’s Quint is an essential primer on how to act in a supporting role (another Oscar travesty – Shaw didn’t even get a nomination). Quint’s Captain Ahab to the great white’s Moby Dick, his great dialogue (including the famous “USS Indianapolis” speech), and a screen presence you simply can’t ignore. It’s not all in his eyes, but they sure as hell play a large part.

6. Ed Wood, Ed Wood (1994)
This is the film that made me officially recognize Johnny Depp as the amazingly talented actor he is. Wood’s unbridled enthusiasm and confidence in anything he does is inspiring, endearing, and tragic. And in true Depp fashion, he immerses himself in Wood to the point that you forget you’re watching an actor at work and become wholly involved in the character. A better compliment probably can’t be paid.

7. Michael Corleone, The Godfather (1972)
Some people may say this is a lazy or obvious choice. Those people are invited to bite it. Watching Al Pacino’s slow, calculated transformation from the little kid brother (and non-mobster) of the Corleone family to its all-powerful don is something to behold.

8. Travis Bickle, Taxi Driver (1976)
I’ve never gone insane, but I’d guess this is pretty much what it would be like. Robert DeNiro’s portrayal of an alienated, cab-driving Vietnam vet in 1970s New York is a character study like no other. Bickle is disturbingly unforgettable for several reasons, one of which is his unpredictability: He’s a walking powder keg with an ever-shortening fuse – but since he doesn’t explode for most of the film, we’re forced to deal with the tension surrounding his spiral into madness. [Audio NSFW]

9. Jim Malone, The Untouchables (1987)
Another supporting role with highly quotable dialogue. Sean Connery was perfectly cast as Irish cop Jim Malone in Prohibition-era Chicago, hand-picked by Elliot Ness to help bring down Al Capone’s lucrative and popular illegal booze racket. Pick any of Malone’s scenes from David Mamet’s brilliant script: Malone telling Ness, in church, how to get Capone; Malone verbally testing rookie George Stone at the police academy; Malone “interrogating” a dead mobster to get a live one to talk. I’ll stop there. And unlike the aforementioned travesties of Howard and Shaw, Connery was nominated – and deservedly won – a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for this role.

10. The Stranger, High Plains Drifter (1973)
A nameless stranger rides into the small western town of Lago, and in the first 15 minutes he’s killed three men and raped the town tramp. Amazingly, the townsfolk then hire him to protect them from a returning trio of outlaws who have a score to settle with the town. Eastwood’s Stranger is an antihero for the ages, and High Plains Drifter is a dark morality tale that just happens to be a western. Once you begin to see the allegory unfold as to what (and where) Lago really is, it becomes all too clear who The Stranger embodies – an “avenging devil” who’s come to collect on the sins of the town’s past.

And now, I hereby tag the following blogmeisters to name their 10 favorite film characters:
The 21st Century Man
The B-Movie Film Vault BLOG!
Dinner with Max Jenke
Luke, I Am Your Father
The Moviezzz Blog

Release the hounds!


KeegsMom said...

Doh! You're fast. Nice list. And I LOVED Jonathan Mardukas in "Midnight Run." I need to see that again, what a funny little movie it was.

James said...

Excellent List Film Father. I will have to do some thinking on this one though. Might not be right away, but I will get this one done.

Vincetastic said...

Hi Filmfather, This is a really great top ten list. The Michael Corleone pick seemed natural being your picture and all and I thought that choosing Jason Bourne was also a good choice, as well as Ed Wood, that is an underrated movie. You can post this to our site http://www.toptentopten.com/ and then link back to your site. We are looking for top ten lists and our users can track back to your site. The coolest feature is you can let other people vote on the rankings of your list.

joe said...

I think of all the Jaws victims I'll miss the most, it would be Charlie's wife's holiday roast. That looks like it would have been so good..

James said...

Mine is done and up. I found this to be a lot of fun. Thanks FF.

Keith said...

Wow! Great list. I really like your choices very much. I hope you had a great holiday weekend. Cheers!

Jeff Allard said...

Took some time but I finally got mine done - thanks for the invite! Great list of your own, by the way - Grodin was awesome in Midnight Run!

Jim @ CoolStuffForDads.com said...

This is a good list, but let's not forget Carl Spackler from "Caddyshack".


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