Saturday, March 21, 2009

Can I Interest You in a Meme?


Thanks to Edward Copeland over at Edward Copeland on Film, I've been tagged for a meme. So beware. Some of you may be next. The idea is simple....kind of: list your ten favorite film characters. Not actors, but characters. This is hard because a lot of my favorite characters come from the same films, but in the interest of not having a list full of characters from a total of three movies, I decided to try and mix it up a little. In no way is this a definitive list; however, it's a pretty good idea of what characters have stuck with me over the years. Some are recent, some old....at the end of the list I will complete the rules of this meme, which is to tag five more people to continue the meme. So, let's get on with it...

In no particular order:

1.) Nathan Arizona - Raising Arizona

Not the conventional pick from this classic Coen Brothers comedy, but really it's the one character that stands out the most to me. I almost did go with the conventional pick, Nicolas Cage as H.I. McDunnough, but the late Trey Wilson's performance as Nathan Arizona is the performance that still resonates with me. He epitomizes everything that is great about supporting characters in Coen Bros. movie, and his speech at the end of the film is a beautiful mixture of Coenisms and authoritative advice. Plus who could forget this exchange:

Policeman in Arizona house: What did the pyjamas look like?
Nathan Arizona Sr.: I don't know - they were jammies! They had Yodas 'n' shit on 'em!

One of the all time great supporting performances and one of my favorite Coen Bros. characters (my favorite is coming up later). It's sad that Wilson, a gifted character actor, died fairly early into his acting career at the age of 41. He was one of the best. Or my name aint Nathan Arizona!


2.) Ellen Ripley - Aliens

The ultimate bad ass in all of sci-fi is one of the most memorable characters in all of film. Sigourney Weaver made the role her own, proving that a female could open an action movie (or a big budget movie) without the help of a male lead. It's the one film in the series where we see Ripley's maternal instincts as she cares for the waif like Newt. It's some of the best acting Weaver has done as she portrays one of the strongest female characters in all of film. Also, she gets one of the most memorable and cheer-inducing last lines when she screams "get away from her you bitch!"



3.) Frank T.J. Mackey - Magnolia

Tom Cruise this caricature of a character into something deeper and more profound. Yes, the entire film goes for big operatic moments, and no actor is more up to the task than Cruise. His character, a sex guru who specializes in the 'art' of not just being able to get women in bed, but how to to do it while being unattached. Mackey is one of those characters that you know exists in the real world, thinking that women are always out to get him. What's so memorable are the completely hilarious conferences he holds for his product called "Seduce and Destroy". It's one of the cinemas most bizarrely funny moments, because really we're looking at an individual who is so obviously empty and has issues from his past with women (or the way they were treated by people he loved) that director Paul Thomas Anderson is able to evoke both empathy and laughs out of Mackey's speeches. When it's all said and done (the film that is), the reason why this character stands out for me is that even in the most 'disgusting' people, there is hope for redemption. Cruises' Mackey is one of the actors greatest creations.


4.) Shelley Levene - Glengarry Glen Ross

Shelly 'the machine' Levine is one of the all time memorable characters. So pathetic in his attempts to try and make it in the modern day sales world, that he can't see that the times have passed him by. Once a great salesman, the truly pathetic thing about Levine is that he spends more time selling his bosses on the fact that he still can cut it, instead of going out an making sales. There are moments in the film that prove why Shelly is one of my favorite characters, none more obvious than the ending, when we see a man broken and beaten, committing an act he will have to pay the price for all because he loves his daughter and feels lost, confused, and misused in the modern day sales world. Jack Lemmon played Levine to perfection, and what makes the character memorable for me is that every time I watch the film (which is often) I always wish he would not to do what he does at the end, and that his phantom sale actually does mean redemption for the character. When you're still that emotionally involved with a character after more than 20 viewings of a film, then that's how you know you have a special actor creating a special character. The character lives on in the form of Gil Gunderson, the pathetic do-anything salesman on The Simpson's


5.) Clarence Boddicker - Robocop

One of my favorite villains from any movie, Kurtwood Smith created the perfect nihilistic monster in a futuristic Detroit devoid of any police presence. "Can you fly, Bobby!" and "Are you a good cop, hot shot", are memorable lines that come to mind, not mention the maniacal way he sizes up Peter Weller's cop (pre-robo) before he shoots his hand off. It's a great performance, filled with beautiful over the top moments (dipping his finger in wine and then snorting it) that really, for me, epitomizes what the 1980's action villain was all about.


6.) The Bride - Kill Bill

There was no journey I was more invested in than The Bride's in Quentin Tarantino's masterpieces Kill Bill Vol.1 and 2. It's one of those journeys of revenge that is found in all of the usual Tarantino films he studies and adores, but what made this one more enjoyable was the emotion that Uma Thurman brought to the character of The Bride. This wasn't a simplistic grindhouse revenge picture, Tarantino's film was more than a pastiche of film references from his youth, it was a tremendous story of what a mother will do to get her daughter, and all of that emotion and deeper analysis that comes with the film is due to the seriousness Thurman brings to her role. The Bride kicks a lot of ass, yes, but it's with purpose, and when that final act comes in Volume 2, it's truly heartbreaking....and when we see the final scene of the film, The Bride cradling a stuffed animal on the bathroom floor, tears of joy streaming down her face, and all she can do is let out a noise that is a mix between a sob and laugh, we sob and laugh with her. It's the best acting Thurman's ever done and it's one of those characters that you don't mind revisiting because they are super cool and they get a happy ending.


7.) Dr. David Huxley - Bringing Up Baby

Probably my favorite character that Cary Grant ever played, Huxley is one of those memorable screwball characters who is so uptight, that you love watching their transformation into a more laid back, less self-serving person. It's one of those roles, too , that show why Grant was such a tremendous comedic actor. Howard Hawks' film is one that I never mind revisiting, and a lot of that is due to Huxley, a character that you don't mind spending time with, even if he is uptight, because we know he'll experience things along the way that will help him see the err of his ways. Plus, there are few greater moments in classic comedy than when Huxley is left to wear a female robe and resorts to screaming a response as to why he's wearing those clothes when he says "because I just went gay all of a sudden!"


8.) Del Griffith - Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

John Candy may not have been the funniest guy in the world, but his portrayal of Del Griffith is his zenith as an actor, and it's how I'll always remember him. Griffith is one of those creations made specifically for a John Hughes movie, which means we've all met someone like Del before because Hughes was so great at creating real to life characters. Griffith is one of those characters you tell yourself you'd love to sit and talk with and hear his stories, but then it becomes too much. Neil Page (Steve Martin) discovers this throughout the film as a friendship does indeed grow between the two men, it doesn't come without its rocky parts. Griffith is a guy we constantly feel for because he seems likable enough, but which one of us wouldn't snap at him like Page does in the famous scene in the hotel room. "Here's Del Griffith he's got some amusing anecdotes for you, here's a gun you'll thank me." Those lines sting, and the viewer feels the sting, too, because we care so much about Griffith. He's another in a long line of these kinds of characters where I ask myself, would I like to spend another two hours with him, and the answer is yes.


9.) Marge Gunderson - Fargo

I wish we could all know someone as nice as Margie. Frances McDormand created a brilliant character for the ages with her portrayal as pregnant sheriff Marge Gunderson. The dialect, the mannerisms, the famous lines; they've all been mentioned to death. What makes Margie such a memorable character for me is her warmth. Consider the scene where she meets with an old high school 'friend', the way she is cognizant of what he is trying to do, and how she balances trying to let him know she's married and not interested, and the way she tries to spare his feelings is a tremendous balancing act. Another scene is in the way she assures her husband, an artist who has has one of his paintings of a bird selected for the three cent stamp, that even though it's not the stamp everyone uses, lots of people still use the three cent. Her reasoning for this is so warm and compassionate. McDormand pulls is off perfectly creating one of the warmest characters in all of cinema.


10.) Dean Miller - Nightmare City

Well, last but certainly not least is the man I've named the blog after, Hugo Stiglitz. Dean Miller is the ultimate representation of the male character in every Italian Horror film. Dedicated to the cause, no matter the price he pays or the risk he puts his wife in. He even slaps her around for a bit because she is hysterical, and then they immediately kiss and make up. Really, this selection is just a conglomerate of all the great and memorable characters I've seen over the years in Italian Horror films. And, it was yet another excuse to mention the brilliance of Hugo Stiglitz.


Okay --- five blogs that I'm choosing to participate in the fun (sorry if you've already been asked):

Elusive as Robert Denby
Cerebral Mastication
Coleman's Corner in Cinema
Gateway Cinephiles
The Film Doctor

5 comments

  1. Damn you, Kevin. You're going to make me blog again aren't you...

    I keep meaning to post comments on your Argento post (which I thought was great, by the way), but life always seems to get in the way. Just wanted to make sure you know that I did read it, thus hopefully making it somewhat worth all the time you obviously put into it.

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  2. No, not a meme!!!

    Hmm, I'll give this one a go. But unlike my essays (which I simply hammer out and post without thinking twice), I'll have to actually mull this one over. So it may be a while until I actually do this.

    Nevertheless, thanks for the tag, Kevin.

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  3. Troy, Alexander:

    I usually don't like memes myself, but this one seemed interesting, so I thought I'd give it a go. It's actually really hard to narrow down to ten, and I especially went with some more obscure choices which probably made it a little too hard on myself. Nevertheless, it was a fun little exercise.

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  4. It IS difficult...I've come up with a list of characters I like, but narrowing it down has been difficult. I also think I'm going to need two lists - one with serious choices and one with some choices that fit my MST3K-esque mindset...

    Hope to have the list up sometime next week.

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