Top Ten Movie Characters
The movies are full of franchise characters, but usually I stay picky only getting wrapped up for short bursts of time. Take James Bond. It totally depends on the Bond for me. And though I love vampires in general I prefer them when they're not actually Count Dracula himself or Vlad the Impaler or whatever he's calling himself now. I could definitely swing with some Tarzans but I don't seek out his movies. But Peter Pan? From the silent version in 1924 (starring Betty Bronson) the stage musical (starring whomever... though I always hate that it's a girl playing the impish boy), through the Disney cartoon right up to the underappreciated 2003 incarnation, I'll always watch him fly. Even though I sometimes regret it. Bonus points for Tinkerbell even if Disney is attempting to destroy my love for her [on Tinkerbell and Wendy]
Lucy Warriner in The Awful Truth (1937)
If I could marry Lucy and Jerry Warriner, played by Irene Dunne and Cary Grant, I would. Every time I watch the movie I fall madly in love with Lucy and fall totally in sync with Jerry. He and I become totally discombobulated. She's impossible and hilarious, sexy and maddening, baffling and endearing all at once and often at the same moment. Though to tell the truth, I could just as easily have picked Hazel Flagg in Nothing Sacred (1937), Susan Vance in Bringing Up Baby (1938), Ellie in It Happened One Night (1934) or Sugarpuss O'Shea in Ball of Fire (1941). There is no list of Greatest Anything that is complete without the screwball comedy.
Norma Desmond in Sunset Blvd (1950)
The ur diva actress and arguably the best mirror character for the cinema as a whole, reflecting back on the silents and still projecting forward and resonating today. She's a nightmare avatar of stardom curdled that forever haunts the movies. It doesn't matter how small the pictures get. She's also the unavoidable reminder of the inevitability of aging and death even for the true immortals of the screen.
Clyde Barrow in Bonnie & Clyde (1967)
I should say "Bonnie and..." but that'd be cheating. And though I love Faye Dunaway's fierce style and her eagerly swift descent into criminality, my heart tips ever so slightly to Warren Beatty's Clyde... beautiful, violent, impotent, infamous Clyde shooting and stealing his way through a short life in those dust bowl days.
Sevérine in Belle de Jour (1967)
For her perversity and beauty... but most of all for her unknowability. Few characters in cinema retain their mystique so well once the credits roll. Was Catherine Deneuve ever better? Then again... when isn't she superb? [more Deneuve]
Sally Bowles in Cabaret (1972)
Doesn't her body drive you wild with desire? I realize there's stiff competition out there but she may well be the most quotable character in all of cinema... or at least within the musicals. [on Cabaret]
Roy Batty in Blade Runner (1982)
I never quite understood the deep pathos of the Frankenstein myth until I came face to face with his futuristic descendant, replicant Roy Batty as portrayed by Rutger Hauer. With his white shock hair, adult malice and incongruous little boy pouting he mesmerized. That double emotional arc/climax stunned: the first in which he meets his physical maker and exterminates him, the second in which he himself expires knowing there's no spiritual maker to go home to. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain... [more on Batty]
Freddy Honeychurch in A Room With a View (1986)
When Lucy Honeychurch's uncouth suitor George shouts "Beauty!!!!!" into the open air in this Merchant/Ivory classic, I think not of the landscape he shouts to or of Lucy, but of her little brother Freddy. I think of the young Rupert Graves and his amateur hour musicality, vivid immaturity, impossible bangs (his hair seems as eager to frolic as he is) and uninhibited enthusiasms... "fancy a bath?". What's mo --- okay, okay, it's a sexual fixation. I confess. But it's not like we all don't have them with movie characters. You think Rita Hayworth's Gilda became a classic character strictly for her personality? [previous Freddy Honeychurch]
Suzanne Vale in Postcards From the Edge (1990)
She combines three elements that are utterly amazing on their own, let alone fused: Carrie Fisher's wit, channelled through Meryl Streep's awesomeness in order to illuminate what happens to be my favorite species on earth, the Actress Neurotica. It's not exactly an endangered species but I still think we ought to set up a preservation fund to make sure they never go the way of the dinosaur. And maybe get zoos involved in case things get too dangerous for them in the wild.
Amber Waves in Boogie Nights (1998)
The foxiest bitch in the whole world. In some ways Amber Waves forever cursed Julianne Moore to be seen as "the bad mother" but if you have to get stuck in a typecasting rut, get there by playing one of the most indelible screen creations ever. Bonus points: Good actors spoofing bad acting (see also: Jean Hagen in Singin' in the Rain and Jennifer Tilly in Bullets Over Broadway) is one of the greatest pleasures of the silver screen.
Wither the Aughts? If you're on your movie-loving training wheels --there's no shame in that. We all start with movies of the here and now, whenever our here is now -- and would like this list caged into the past 10 years, well... I decided to save the current decade for a later list. Turns out this wasn't as painful as I thought but fun to create even as it fails on the definitive front. There are just too many characters to embrace.
Who should I tag (i.e. punish)? I really want to see the lists that JA, Dave, Gabriel, Fox and Adam would whip up. And I tag you if you haven't a blog of your own should you like to share in the comments. And tell me what'cha think of my ten ...do we share a few character obsessions?