Thursday, March 25, 2010

TTT: Top Ten Characters of the Aughts

Tuesday Thursday Top Ten

Remember almost exactly a year ago when I did that impossible list of Favorite Film Characters of All Time? At the time I excluded anybody from the Aughts on account of they were still so new and we'd get to them later. Well, it's later. Here's a quick rundown which I may expand for another project later. These are the newish characters from the last decade in film that are (arguably) the ones I think about the most. I cherish them... it's not a list of best written or best performances or best whatever. It's a list of characters that frequently hop into my brain. They've bought condos in my brain real estate. Though obviously if you asked me on a different day...

Not that you asked me today.

10 Favorite(ish) Movie Characters of the Aughts
  • Ennis Del Mar in Brokeback Mountain "Jack, I swear"
  • Lalit Verma in Monsoon Wedding (Loving dads in cinema really get to me. I'm sure armchair therapists will love that)
  • Clementine in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind "I'm just a fucked up girl trying to find some peace of mind"
  • Eleanor Fine in Far From Heaven "Cathy... I'm your best friend"
  • Tom Stall in A History of Violence (I've brought pompoms to this post...just in case)
  • Satine in Moulin Rouge! "wilting flower, bright and bubbly or smoldering temptress?"


  • Poppy in Happy-Go-Lucky (my hero!)
  • Sara Goldfarb in Requiem for a Dream (At least once a week I find myself thinking about Sara thinking about that red dress. And that's no exaggeration)
  • Vivian and Brad Markowski in I ♥ Huckabees "Have you ever transcended space and time?"
  • Elle Driver (aka California Mountain Snake) in Kill Bill, Vol. I and Kill Bill, Vol. 2
  • Mr Chow in In the Mood For Love and 2046 (who leaves behind a cloud of cigarette smoke to punctuate this list)
Oops. That's 12.

Tony Leung Chiu Wai in In the Mood For Love

Did these characters sink way down deep into your soul? Or are the newish fictional men/women/creatures that are never far from your thoughts quite a different dozen?
*

42 comments:

John Mario said...

Sometimes i think about Celine from Before Sunset (more than before sunrise) and Laura Brown (but more from the book)

JUan JOse said...

se que este sera un post demasiado comentado, pero realmente que buena eleccion de personajes.

los mios son:
1-walle (aunque sea animado sigue siendo el personaje de la decada para mi) WALLE
2-satine MOULIN ROUGE!
3- sara REQUIEM FOR A DREAM
4- the joker THE DARK NIGHT
5- Clementine ETERNAL...
6- Hanna THE READER (empty shell... i always remember your comment)
7- HAns Landa INGLORIOUS BASTERDS
8- briony ATONEMENT ( i love sarsoise ronan)
9- JAck BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN
10- summer 500 DAYS ( i blame my ex jaja)

Derreck said...

gah, i can never do things like these. i love way too much people/movies to do a top ten. i love your list though. Everytime i think about Sara Goldfarb, i get a little depressed though, so i try not to.

For me, i'd have Heath Ledger's Joker and Emperor Palpatine from Revenge of the Sith. God, i loved Ian McDiarmid's performance of gleefully-delightful-over the-top evil. I could watch him go on and on. Famke Janssen's Jean Grey would make it on too. At this point, i think i could make a top 10 with just villains.

And then there's Eva Green's Vesper Lynd. It's easy to see how Bond fell in love with her. She never took any of his shit. Daniel Craig's James Bond too. I thought he looked like a Bond villain when they first casted him, but he proved me wrong. I'm glad he did.

and Nicole would get Satine and Mrs. Coulter on my list. I'm always a little saddened that The Golden Compass didn't do better because she was nothing less than perfect for the role.

John Mario said...

How could i forget as a Kidmaniac i am, Suzanne Stone Mareto, it's to soon for me to make a top 10 it's like Sophie's Choice

cal roth said...

I HATE POPPY, but I'll try to be positive now.

I don't want to sound arthouse, but I absolutely love Catherine Deneuve's Junon in A Christmas Tale.

I mean, she's got cancer and she's THAT acid? She sounds so painfully real that I can't even look at her without feeling disturbed. You know, she forgets her cancer and isn't even a diva to make her journey more unreal and palatable? So disturbing.

Volvagia said...

Daniel Plainview is never far from my head, but not because he's a favourite character. What happened to the idea of plausibly sympathetic asexual characters? It's not so much the misanthropy as the hazy psychology. There was no explanation as to even why. Of the decade, my ten would be in order: Malcolm Tucker, Hans Landa, Joel Barrish, Oh Dae-Su, Dug, Dory, Clementine Kruczynski, Dante Remus Lazarescu, Danny Butterman and Sherrif Ed Bell. Favourite asexual character: John Q. McCabe. Rugged, aggressive, romantically interested in Mrs. Miller. "This is the closest I've ever been to anyone." You understand why anyone would fall in love with this seedy figure and break. However, my only real quibble with the McCabe and Mrs. Miller is the very end. Is it suppposed to be am ironic ending or just a sad one? I imagine the drug haze during which Altman dreamed the ending, "Oh, I know, I'll freeze the asexual. Frigidity killed by frigidity. Only makes sense." If it was meant to be an ironic ending then it is truly disgusting, because it betrays a very odd view of sexual politics. Here you have what could be viewed as the best presented asexual character in fiction and you have his death regress into the stereotype of coldness. I'm sorry Altman, but the hypocrisy of this ending compared to the creation boggles the mind.

Victor said...

Great List. Choose only 10 is almost impossible! (no particular order, but Satine beats everyone!)

Satine - Moulin Rouge!
Harold Zidler - Moulin Rouge!
Miranda Priestly - The Devil Wears Prada
Emily - The Devil Wears Prada
Captain Jack Sparrow - Pirates of the Caribbean
Julia - Julia
Ashley - Junebug
Amélie Poulain - Le fabuleux Destin D'Amélie Poulain
Clementine - Eternal Sunshine
Bridget Jones - Bridget Jones's Diary

Robert Hamer said...

Wait a minute, one of your favorite characters of the Aughts was Cathy Whitaker's bigoted "best friend" from Far from Heaven, but not Cathy herself?!? Nathaniel, you've got some s'plainin to do...

troyhopper said...

Miranda Priestly...

That's all...

Paul Outlaw said...

The Joker (The Dark Knight)
Jack Twist (Brokeback Mountain)
Ihe Bob Dylan alter egos (I'm Not There)
Mary Jones (Precious)
Lars Lindstrom (Lars and the Real Girl)
Charlie Kaufman/Donald Kaufman (Adaptation.)
The two leads in The Prestige

George P. said...

I'll always remember "I ♥ Huckabees" for Naomi Watts & her precious bonnet, haha.

NATHANIEL R said...

George P -- "FUCKABEES!"

Paul -- yeah, i assume i'll have to add Mary Jones in the year as the years go by.

Robert -- i just hear that voice "cathy... i'm your best friend in my voice all the time. And for me it's like the epitome of what Patty Clarkson can do for a movie. And besides. Julianne Moore already has one of my fav film characters of all time in Amber Waves. I'm spreading the wealth ;)

Derreck -- well obviously i love many things every single year too. it's somewhat arbitrary ;)

Cal -- junon was a great character. I hope that 50 years from now people appreciate Deneuve more than they do now. I know she's appreciated but she's got SUCH a great filmography and 4 decades of classics now, you know? I feel like she should be worshipped the way Streep is.

Volvagia -- daniel plainview is a great one, yes. Though I'd have to rescreen McCabe and Mrs Miller to see where you're coming from because I *absolutely* love that ending.

Casey said...

i believe it was Vivian and Bernard Jaffe, brad stand, and Albert Markovski in Huckabees. My personal fav is definitely Tommy Corn though.

OtherRobert said...

Are we sticking to live action only? Cause Coraline is awesome.

And I want Fluorescent Beige to be my bff for life.

Lucky said...

Ooh good idea

Right now I'd say:

Both Clem and Joel in Eternal Sunshine
Kym, Rachel Getting Married

Natalie Portman in Garden State and Kirsten Dunst in Elizabethtown - I have to name them together 'cause for me they're both "dream girlfriends" who are annoying but lovely.

Col. Hans Landa of Inglourious Basterds, which I think will age greatly.

Margot of Margot at the wedding

And finally I hate to add this one, but... Juno McGuff. I like the movie less and less the more times I watch it, but Juno is a great character.

I hate to make lists because I always feel like I'm forgetting something big.

Rose said...

The first 3 are ideas that I got from everyone else's wonderful ideas, and the rest in no order:

1. Clementine - Eternal Sunshine
2. Julia - Julia
3. Junon - A Christmas Tale
4. Lenny - The TV Set
5. Dory - Finding Nemo
6. Grandma - Triplets of Belleville
7. Raimunda - Volver
8. Marilyn Hack - For Your Consideration
9. Carla - Read My Lips
10. Fiona Anderson - Away from Her


Five other's who could have easily fit into the top 10 on different day, depending on my mood:

1. Juliette Fontaine - I've Loved You So Long
2. Samantha Prescott - You Can Count on Me
3. Karen Eiffel - Stranger Than Fiction
4. Marjane - Persepolis
5.Alex Goran - Up in the Air


I didn't really mean for the majority to be female performances, but it just ended up that way.

Andrew said...

I'm also pretty shocked that Miranda Priestly didn't make the list.

I am glad to see Poppy and Elle Driver.

Jude said...

Rose- I second Raimunda from Volver! That cleavage shot alone..

Anonymous said...

Margot (Margot at the Wedding)
Tom Edison (Dogville)

cal roth said...

There's a reason why Catherine Deneuve doesn't have this Meryl Streep status. As a French actress, she has a lot of competition. Streep doesn't have a longtime rival: only Jane Fonda could have beat her, but she retired too soon. In America we have seen a lot of great performers but none of them have such a long and enduring career with lots of astonishing performances. Glenn Close, Jodie Foster, Julianne Moore, Jessica Lange... all of them lost the momentum.

In France, since Deneuve started her amazing run, she has seen at least three Meryl Streeps, all of them with three or more Sophie's Choice-level performances or more: in 1975, Isabelle Adjani delivered The Story of Adele H. and, except for 2003-2008 hiatus has been one of the best actress of all time, from Possession to La Journée de la Jupe; Isabelle Huppert won her first Cannes Prize in 78 for an unforgettable performance in Violette Noziere and has since worked with a lot of great directors, delivering, in my opinion, the best performances of the 80's (Story of Women) and the 00's (The Piano Techer); Juliette Binoche is their last Streep, and won awards in Berlin, Venice and even a very deserved Oscar - and she still kicking hard with Summer Hours and Red Balloon...

Deneuve still has the most impressive career (Polanski, Demy, Melville, Truffaut, Buñuel, Oliveira...) but you can't say she the best actress of France the way you can say that about Streep.

I mean, all of them deserve Streep-status, but people still see this thing of acting country by country: you don't imagine a Streep-Huppert competition, you only compare her with other English-speaking actresses.

Craig Bloomfield said...

Aw, Sara Goldfarb. With you totally on this one: "Harold, I'm gonna be on Television!" She'll always be the real Oscar winner that year... in my mind!

Tom Stall & his Eastern Promises character (can't remember his name) - both so good.

The trailer bit in KB v.2 with Elle Driver is one of THE best bits of acting of the '00s. Although she was eeee-vil, having her left Schrödinger's cat-style (but with a snake - Schrödinger's Black Mamba?) in the trailer at the end kinda made me feel sad. That's how good a character Elle was. Also because of this: "How do you like the fishheads you miserable old fool?... I poisoned his fisheads." Nice.

NATHANIEL R said...

cal -- that's a great point. Careers being so much longer in France we don't lost the greats so early.

I'm still pissed at Jane Fonda and Kathleen Turner for going away. And in my imaginary world where i sometimes retreat Dianne Wiest gets lead roles in incredibly complex dramas all the time ;)

i think the other problem in America with longevity is that too many of them go under the knife and it shows. Now, it's not like Deneuve has never had anything done but the French ladies don't go as crazy with it and they let themselves age for the most part.

of course they have the advantage of a society that doesn't hate older women...

rose -- lots of good women on your list.

Dean said...

Too hard!

Selma- Dancer in the Dark
The Plastics- Mean Girls
Andy- The 40 Year-Old Virgin
Donnie Darko- Donnie Darko
Majid- Caché
Borat- Borat
Chieko- Babel
Tenoch and Julio- Y Tu Mama Tambien
Ed Tom Bell- No Country for Old Men
The Bride- Kill Bill

brandz said...

In no particular order:

Miranda Priestly Devil Wears Prada
Tracy Flick Election
Amber Waves Boogie Nights
Scotty J Boogie Nights
Norma Desmond Sunset Boulevard
Marilyn Hack For Your Consideration
Ethel Rosenberg Angels In America
Beth Ordinary People
John Bayley Iris
Ferris Bueller Ferris Bueller's Day Off
James Stevens Remains of the Day

Dylan said...

Briony Tallis-Atonement
The Bride-Kill Bill

I can't think of any others, haha

Peggy Sue said...

Raimunda and Poppy! Wish I had their strength and positiveness.

Nathaniel, may I join you in that world where Dianne Wiest gets leads?

Janice said...

Yeah, Satine is the one character never far from my mind for some reason (God help me I'm a sick puppy) but definitely Ennis as well - the last scene, the last shot of him, pop up in my head at least once a month.

Chris Na Taraja said...

Oh Scarcrow I miss you most of all!!!

Check out this behind the story spoof on R2D2 called beneath the dome...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAIXqiCVetc

Chris Na Taraja said...

If I had to list a top ten off the top of my head....

10. The witches from THE WIZARD OF OZ
9. Michelle Pfieffer Catwoman BATMAN II
8. Norman Bates PSYCHO
7. James Bond
6. Murielle of MURIELLES WEDDING
7. R2D2 STARWARS
5. Indiana Jones
4. Maria SOUND OF MUSIC
3. Dracula
2. Josephine and Daphne SOME LIKE IT HOT
1. Dorothy THE WIZARD OF OZ

Ok, i start and end with THE WIZARD OF OZ...I'm gay! give me a break.

Chris Na Taraja said...

Oh crap was this supposed to be the last ten years. I just read your impossible list, and I found it to be wonderful. how did you ever choose?!!

Melanie said...

Great list.

I especially agree with your pick of Heath Ledger as Ennis Del Mar.

I've heard the author of Brokeback Mountain, Annie Proulx, quoted as saying that Heath Ledger WAS Ennis Del Mar. That's high praise.

Timothy Marshall said...

Nathaniel, great call on Chow Mo-Wan.
Here's twelve indelible characters (or pairs) from me (no rankings):

Chow Mo-Wan (In The Mood For Love)
Daniel Plainview & Eli Sunday (There Will Be Blood)
Sara Goldfarb (Requiem For A Dream)
Clementine & Joel (Eternal Sunshine)
Ronnie J. McGorvey (Little Children)
Pai Mei (Kill Bill vol. 2)
Luisa Cortes (Y Tu Mama Tambien)
Ed Tom Bell (No Country For Old Men)
Randy "The Ram" Robinson (The Wrestler)
Frank and Ruth Fowler (In The Bedroom)
Bob Harris (Lost In Translation)
Chieko Wataya (Babel)

One for the new decade:
Hye-ja (Mother)

One for the old decade (just missed):
Agrado (Todo Sobre Mi Madre)

Bryan said...

My list:

Sara Goldfarb-- The RED DRESS!! Never before had I seen an actress smile, yet achieve that kind of sadness at the same time.

Clementine-- I always think of the "fucked-up girl" line. No one could have done this like Winslet.

Cathy Whitaker-- I love the line when she says "I like the feeling it gives" as much as anyone, but the line that sticks with me the most is when Raymond reveals that he's moving away. He's seeing her off, and says something painfully polite, like "Good-bye Mrs. Whitaker." She says "call me Cathy"; her voice is heartbreaking.

Chieko-- A lot of actors think that going nude automatically shows the character's vulnerability, as if they no longer have to work to pull off the scene because their dick or boobs will do the work for them. I've never was more convinced of a character's vulnerability than when Rinko Kikuchi was naked in Babel

Mary Jones-- a character and performance for the ages. If Precious had only consisted of a ten-second clip of Monique's last scene, she still would have won the Oscar, and deservedly.

Anonymous said...

Anna in Birth (Nicole Kidman)

NATHANIEL R said...

Timothy -- e-mail me.

Bryan -- in truth the only reason Cathy Whitaker wasn't here was that when i was making the original list i had amber waves in there and i was only allowing one character per actor. Because every time anybody write anything about cathy whitaker i love it.

Caden said...

Millicent Weems (that name!) in Synecdoche.

Gina in In Treatment (what can I say? I strongly identify with Wiest.)

Snoop, The Wire. Kima too.

Scott Smith and Cleve Jones, Milk.

Jennifer Aniston (hee!), Shortbus.

Gogo, Kill Bill Vol. 1.

Charles Bronson, Bronson. (Just saw this this week. Amazing.)

Celine, Before Sunset.

Diane de Monx, demonlover.

Finbar McBride, Station Agent.

The Jaded Armchair Reviewer said...

Ramona Linscott. But she's dead now. :9

Lucky said...

forgot Regina George from Mean Girls!

Craig said...

Catherine O'Hara as Marilyn Hack in "For Your Consideration".

Anonymous said...

I think about Lily Bart from The House of Mirth all the time. Maybe its from all the secrets that I keep for people, and if I could just tell them, I'd be so far ahead of all of them.

vg21 said...

cal, Nathaniel, I also love Cahterine Deneuve's performance as Junon (and a lot of others, of course), but I think that the reason why she does not get as much publicity as Meryl Streep is because she chose to stay in Europe instead of moving to Hollywood. I think if she had gone to the U.S., there would have been more Indochines.

Also, her later films are not so critically acclaimed as the earlier ones (although I tend to love them all). To me, this seems to be the reason why the French seem to take her for granted or forget that dispite some less well-made films, she always gives a great performance. Another favourite of mine is Cécil in Changing Times.

Janice said...

@anonymous 9:15 -

thank you for reminding me of Birth! Like, how did I ever forget? I can't believe that I forgot to add Sean from that film to my original comment. That second scene in the bathtub (not the one everyone fussed about) is one of the most haunting scenes I've ever watched in a movie - quietly devastating. It's really a duet between those two actors/characters, though, (Sean/Anna) but as I've already got Satine on my list, I'll give Sean the edge here.