' Cinema Romantico: My Christmas List (Part 3)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

My Christmas List (Part 3)

And so our holiday celebration comes to a rousing close with the unveiling of my All Time Top 10 Favorite Movie Characters. It is important to note these are not necessarily THE 10 greatest characters of all time. These are MY 10 favorite characters of all time. Hence, the likes of Vito Corleone, and Scarlett O'Hara, and Rick Blaine, and Bonnie Parker didn’t make the cut. These are not just actors giving good performances, these are actors embodying their characters. They are ingenious creations of the writer (for all characters come first and foremost from the writer, and don’t you forget it), as well as the actor and director.

Of course, there are far more than 10 great characters and I was forced to leave off many of my personal favorites - unforgettable characters like Alma Burke, and Alicia Hueberman, and Clementine Kruczynski, and Peter Venkman, and Rob Gordon, and -of course - Hawkeye (who was probably #11 if only because I didn't want two characters from the same movie on the list). But as great as all of them are, my ten go above and beyond them and into the realm of legendary.

The first four on my list make me nod, smile, and say, “Yup. I know where those characters are coming from. I FEEL them.” Oddly, they all meet ends that are tragic in one way or another. Is there something to that? Quite possibly, but let’s pretend there’s not. The remaining six are all characters I love with a passion deep and true – they are the essence of why we go to the movies. Three of them are the funniest characters I’ve ever seen - one is a movie character I’m deeply in love with – one hijacks a film he only appears in for 20 minutes - and one is The Big Man's Wife.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Holidays, and Seasons Greetings (just to ensure all my bases are covered).

1. Alice Munroe, “Last of the Mohicans. Definitive Moment: Every moment is definitive. The plight of Alice Munroe is - to these eyes - a summation of the entire human existence.

2. Jake Gittes, “Chinatown”. Definitive Moment: My goodness, take your pick. I’ll go with the look on his face when Elevyn Mulwray makes her most stunning revelation yet. A guy who always thinks he's a step ahead is sent to the back of the line with authority. It wrecks me every single time.

3. Maggie Fitzgerald, “Million Dollar Baby”. Definitive Moment: Maggie’s impassioned speech to Frankie Dunn, convincing him to train her (“Truth is, this is the only thing I ever felt good doin’”). The most pure, the most perfect piece of cinema I've seen in years.

4. Robert E. Lee Prewitt, “From Here to Eternity”. Definitive Moment: When he returns to find another solider chatting up Donna Reed ("We may seem all alike. We ain't all alike.") It's an anguish I can understand.

5. Harry Lime, “The Third Man”. Definitive Moment: Well, you could go with arguably the finest entrance in movie history. Or you could go with arguably the finest speech (concerning cuckoo clocks, amongst other details) in movie history. But I’ll cheat and go with both of them.

6. Captain Jack Sparrow, “Pirates of the Caribbean”. Definitive Moment: As our rogueish hero and his new partner in crime attempt to take over a British warship, the snobby redcoat captain advises his vessel cannot be commandeered by a mere two men. To this Sparrow shoves his pistol into the captain's face and declares in his buccaneer drawl, "Son, I'm Captain Jack Sparrow. Savvy?"

7. General Buck Turgidson, “Dr. Strangelove”. Definitive Moment: As it becomes clear the United States is about to inadvertantly start a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, General Turgidson suggests rather than allowing the Soviets time to launch a counter-strike the U.S. begin an all-out assault to catch the Soviets with their "pants-down". (President Muffley: "You're talking about mass murder! Not war!" General Turgidson: "Mr. President, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed.")

8. Mia Wallace, "Pulp Fiction". The smile she shoots herself in the bathroom after "powdering her nose". A character summed up in a single expression.

9. Celine, “Before Sunrise/Before Sunset”. Definitive Moment: In the first one, when she lays in the park with Jesse and declares: “Why do I have to make everything so complicated?” Who couldn’t love a woman like that?

10. Otto, “A Fish Called Wanda”. Definitive Moment: His terrible impression of CIA agent "Harvey Manfrengensenten" dissolving into a diatribe about Britain’s supposed superiority complex.

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