10 Favorite Movie Characters

Michael May put me up to it. The idea is to name my 10 favorite movie characters, with the added difficulty that they can't come from other sources (comics, novels, plays). Seems like most of mine are in one of two classes: Girls who've stolen my heart and total badasses (sometimes both at the same time).

The Exception
Mike Peters (Swingers)Neither a Charming Girl nor a Total Badass, Jon Favreau's long-suffering movie alter ego is the poster boy for what my inner circle calls the Pathetic. Unable to get the girl? In fact, convinced you can't get the girl so you sabotage yourself from the outset? Yeah. I guess I can relate. To that and to being surrounded by idiots. That scene with the answering machine is an Oscar moment if I ever saw one.

Charming Girls
Clementine Kruczynski (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)
I seem to have something about eccentric, free spirited women in movies, though there's every chance I might look at them funny on the street. Now, I've always thought Kate Winslet was attractive, but I've never wanted to date one of her characters. It's the mark of a truly charming character/performance. And this despite our seeing her ugly as much as her pretty side. And that's probably what's irresistible about her. I love paradox. Here's this exuberant and unapologetic wild child, and at heart, she's driven by insecurity.

Sam (Garden State)
In much the same vein, Natalie Portman's animal-loving, slightly nutso Sam is another keeper, with truly infectious enthusiasm, a perfect counterpoint to Garden State's Largeman. Like Clementine, she has an innocent forwardness I appreciate as a pathetic (see above) introvert, and is upfront about her own dark side. She's a pathological liar, and yet the truest character I've seen Portman play. And what a perfect introduction to her character with that Shins song. Completely charming.

Faye (Chungking Express)
I knew I wanted a character from a Wong Kar-Wai film in the list, and to tell you the truth, there could have been many. I just couldn't choose. So I went with one of the first, but at the same time, the last I met. Faye is yet another free spirit. When she gets her hands on Cop 633's apartment key from his ex-girlfriend, she starts going there during the day and changing the apartment one bit at a time, and changing herself into the ex as well. It's a crazy story, with a crazy, but undeniably lovable character at the center of it.

Dr. Abby (The Truth About Cats and Dogs)
The male version of Mike Peters, Abby is behind my long-standing jones for Janeane Garofalo. I'm also a cat person, I also worked in radio, I've also got a quirky sarcastic sense of humor... They were obviously writing this for me specifically. The movie contends that she is somehow an ugly duckling. I believe none of it.

Total Badasses
El Mariachi (El Mariachi, Desperado, Once Upon a Time in Mexico)
Whether played by fresh-faced Carlos Gallardo or suave Antonio Banderas, the simple idea of a mariachi action hero is a wonderful one. Make him tormented by the death of his love(s), even better. Have him hide a gun in his guitar, genius.

Ghost Dog (Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai)
Speaking of tormented badasses... Ghost Dog is a hitman who lives in a shack next to a pigeon coop and studies the way of the samurai. Forest Whitaker's soulful performance will not be denied. The importance of such a code in the inner city is for Ghost Dog paramount. He is restrained, zen-like, wise. And yet he kills people for a living. A tragic anti-hero characters like Wolverine only aspire to.

Frank T.J. Mackey (Magnolia)
The only villain on this list, and I've picked one of the most irredeemable I could think of. The filth that comes out of this man's mouth. The hatred he is capable of. But he's hilarious, and in the most wrong of ways, he can be a little bit right, and when push comes to shove at the end of the movie, he doesn't give in, but appears to have unplumbed depths. One thing I like about all three badasses on this list is the mystery that clings about them.

The Magic Combo: Both
Yu Shu Lien (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)
Yeah, Li Mu Bai is cool, but for my money, Crouching Tiger is all about Michelle Yeoh's Shu Lien. She kicks some serious ass, son! Certainly, she's involved in the two best fights in the movie. Plus, you gotta respect her undying unconsummated love for Li Mu Bai. She's strong as hell, but she stands by her man. Who says there are no roles for more mature women?

Mothra (Mothra, Godzilla vs. Mothra, etc.)
Come on! She's gorgeous! Every time that giant moth flaps her wings to make a wind that flings Godzilla to the ground, my heart glows. She'd be my favorite giant monster even if she didn't come with a twin pair of singing fairies. FLAP FLAP FLAP

As usual, these are subject to change without warning. Honorable mentions: Blake (the only character not from the play in Glengarry Glen Ross), Ashley Johnsten (Junebug), Alyssa Jones (Chasing Amy), Joshua the lusty preacher (The Ballad of Cable Hogue), Mickey O'Neil the Pikey (Snatch), and others that didn't fit the strict criteria, so...

Next week: 10 favorites who DID start out in other media. Let's talk about interpretation!

Consider yourself tagged folks!


Anonymous said...

I agree with Natalie Portman in Garden State. Such a lovable anxious and innocent character that only wants to be loved and appreciated. The scene in which she improvises a totally unique move stole my heart. The same can be said with Penelope Cruz' character in Vanilla Sky. And what about Tom Cruise in Magnolia..."respect the c***!"

De said...

I thought I was the only guy with a crush on Dr. Abby from The Truth About Cats and Dogs. Janeane Garofalo is adorable in that film.

Sea-of-Green said...

Ha! Only you could have El Mariachi and MOTHRA on the same list! But, yep, think they're both good choices. :-)

Siskoid said...

Technically they are, Sea! She's a total badass... but also melts my heart. Where's that El Mariachi vs. Mothra movie? Hey Rodriguez, I have a project for you after you've done Machete.

De: Hands off.

The Mutt said...

My #1 is "Mad" Max Rockatansky.

rob! said...

Yeah, Natalie Portman in Garden State is pretty much irresistible.

mwb said...

"long-standing jones for Janeane Garofalo"

Strongly seconded. Never got why anyone was paying attention to Uma's character with Dr. Abby around.

Mothra's fine, but I've always been a Rodan man myself. How come he only got one starring movie and Mothra's has a couple? Unfair to Rodan!

Siskoid said...

Maybe because he's an airplane dressed as a pterodactyl?


Actually, his first feature makes you empathize a lot with him.

Bill D. said...

I have yet to meet a single person - or at least a single person worth knowing - who comes out of The Truth About Cats & Dogs thinking that Uma Thurman was more attractive than Janeane Garafalo. The movie just keeps trying to hammer into the audience that Abby's somehow ugly, but anyone with, you know, EYES can see that that's incredibly wrong.

And she's pretty swoon-worthy in The Matchmaker, too.


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