April 10, 2009

10 Favorite Characters (but not really) Meme

Another meme, another mad dash to think about all the movies I've enjoyed over the years, this time courtesy of Jason (The Cooler) and Miranda (Cinematic Passions). It's a bit of a tricky one because you have to separate character from actor from quality of performance.

Since memes have pretty flexible rules, I'm going to take a different spin on this one: five of my favorite movie characters, and three movie characters I hate to love. The second group may be despicable or possibly deranged, but there's something about them that makes me want to get to know them better.
Five random favorites...

Ellis Boyd 'Red' Redding - The wisest man in Shawshank State Prison was a quiet leader who knew the ways of the world without having lived in it for decades. He also had a fascinating outlook on life ("Hope is a dangerous thing.") and could read other people extremely well. Red was never one to stand out in the crowd, but if you got to know him, you can be sure you'd never forget him.

Andy Dufresne - The smartest man in Shawshank State Prison was a quiet leader who knew the ways of prison life without ever having set foot in one. He also had a fascinating outlook on life ("Get busy living, or get busy dying. ") and could read other people extremely well. Andy was never one to stand out in the crowd, but if you got to know him, you can be sure you'd never forget him.

Celine - She's worldly and brilliant, yet humble and curious, open to new ideas and the spontaneity of deep conversations. I also love her keen sense of self-awareness: "Each time I wear black, or like, lose my temper, or say anything about anything, you know, they always go, 'Oh it's so French. It's so cute.' Ugh! I hate that!"

Amélie Poulain - Hmm, something about French female characters, I guess, though Amélie is in many ways the complete opposite of Celine. She likes "to look for things no one else catches." She's innocent yet mischievous, ditzy yet deceptively smart, vulnerable yet confident, charming, curious, and I guess above all else, just plain cute.

Jason Bourne - All he ever wanted to do was serve his country. When it betrayed him, he didn't seek revenge but justice, wanting only to clear his name. I find some nobility in that. Plus, he can do a lot of awesome things I can't do, like jump across balconies and blow things up using items like toasters.

Three random favorites I hate to love (and would love to know better)...

Biff Tannen - Kind of an amalgamation of characters in three different centuries, Biff was always one of the most magnetic characters on the screen, a dopey, mostly harmless villain whose quirky lines and oafish mannerisms always made for great entertainment.

Tyler Durden - When he's not drinking, smoking, lying, stealing, fighting, or generally wreaking havoc, he's waxing philosophic about the ills of society. And I love it:

"We're consumers. We are by-products of a lifestyle obsession. Murder, crime, poverty, these things don't concern me. What concerns me are celebrity magazines, television with 500 channels, some guy's name on my underwear. Rogaine, Viagra, Olestra.

Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need. We're the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War's a spiritual war... our Great Depression is our lives. We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won't. And we're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off.

In the world I see - you are stalking elk through the damp canyon forests around the ruins of Rockefeller Center. You'll wear leather clothes that will last you the rest of your life. You'll climb the wrist-thick kudzu vines that wrap the Sears Tower. And when you look down, you'll see tiny figures pounding corn, laying strips of venison on the empty car pool lane of some abandoned superhighway."

Hans Gruber - The most dastardly of this group, Hans always got me with a line that showed he wasn't just in it for himself:

Hans: "The following people are to be released from their captors: In Northern Ireland, the seven members of the New Provo Front. In Canada, the five imprisoned leaders of Liberte de Quebec. In Sri Lanka, the nine members of the Asian Dawn movement..."
Karl: [mouthing silently] Asian Dawn?
Hans: [covers the radio] "I read about them in Time magazine."

So that was a quick, somewhat thoughtless go at it. Your turn, Fletch (Blog Cabins), Craig (Living in Cinema), Scott (He Shot Cyrus), Alexander (Coleman's Corner in Cinema), and Ibetolis (Film for the Soul). And of course anybody else.


  1. Yes! Some Tom Wilson love. I swear, that guy deserved an honorary Oscar for his work in that trilogy alone. Many times we see actors playing multiple ages within a film or series of films, but I can't think of another where the actor is so believable at each age, from 20 to 80. Big kudos go out to the BTTF makeup team as well, I suppose, but it's hard to over-applaud Wilson's performances. And that video didn't even show him in one of his best parts - the loser, apologetic, car-waxing schlub from the end of the first film.

    I shall get my meme on soon. Thanks for the tag.

  2. See now you're making me feel like I picked Wilson over Tannen and did the meme wrong! They're hard to tell apart, though, aren't they. Every time I see a BTTF movie (and they've been on a lot lately), I always wonder why Wilson never got a lot of love for those performances. The movies would greatly suffer if he wasn't a part of them.

    Yeah I love that car-waxing scene, too, and the Biff in the alterna-1985 from BTTF II. Just a total sleazebag.

  3. Well, you did post a video called "The Many Faces of Tom Wilson," but at least you specifically called out Biff.

  4. But this is only...eight???

    No matter. This is one of the best and coolest lists I've seen thus far.

    Some of these people I adore to the depths of my soul. Considering that I own BEFORE SUNRISE, BEFORE SUNSET, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION and DIE HARD...

    I love RED and ANDY. They form the poetic, lyrical centre of SHAWSHANK. Of the two, though, my affinity for Red goes much deeper. He was the voice of reason. His last few scenes completely broke my heart.

    But that film has a lasting impact if you're a living, breathing member of the human race.

    "Get busy living. Or get busy dying."

    HELL YEAH. One or the other. Get on top of that now.

    Julie Delpy deserves an enormous amount of credit for making CELINE come alive in such a fresh, naturalistic manner. Sure, she's a French woman portraying a French woman. But you don't see many Gallic girls in English language films like Celine.

    HANS GRUBER is one of the most magnificent villains ever committed to celluloid. Still think ALAN RICKMAN should have gotten an OSCAR nod for his performance.

    TYLER DURDEN is quite an amazing character. So unreal he's practically a concept. All things considered, he just might be.

    And only you, my dear, could come up with BIFF. He's quite an original, inspired choice.

    Awesome list, Danny. Seeing as I'm one of the people that tagged you, I have every right to be proud of you.

    Maybe you'll give us the other two some other time...?

  5. Good picks! Especially the two French actresses and Jason Bourne. I need to finally get around to doing this meme on my blog.


  6. Trust me, Fletch, I spent way too much time looking for clips of "Biff", but the pickings were slim and I had to go with the "Wilson" video, which also suffers from that oddly placed music...

    Glad that I hit on some of your favorites, Miranda! The 8 instead of 10 is no slight to the meme, just the ones that came to me most quickly. And when I realized I was thinking of some characters (these last three) that weren't really admirable, I changed it up a little.

    Regarding Julie Delpy, I'm actually curious as to where Delpy ends and Celine (in Before Sunrise and Before Sunset) and Marion (in 2 Days in Paris) begin. Seems like those characters fit her with surprising believability.

    Thanks for visiting and commenting, Karen. I'll keep an eye on Reel Artsy (great blog, btw) for your version of the meme - consider yourself tagged!

  7. I also tackled this recently, with a definite focus on characters you shouldn't love but do. Great, great pick with Biff Tanner (I'll concur with the chorus on this one). As for Tyler Durden, the Fight Club cult has always left me somewhat cold. Its vision of life and society and culture just doesn't relate to my own. Perhaps it is, among other things, too postmodern.

  8. Interesting thought on Fight Club, MovieMan. I didn't read the book and I admit that I fell in line with the pop culture mob in appreciating Durden's refreshing immaterialism, but there was a lot that I didn't connect with, namely the violence. I remember there were murmurs of fight clubs springing up all over the country, but I never would have considered seeking one out.

    And your list of characters we hate to love far exceeds mine in both quantity and quality!


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