Tuesday, October 11, 2011

PiT Master Movie Character Countdown, Part the Third

I just wanted to let everyone know I haven't forgotten about this little project of mine. I put a lot of work into that list and I'm going to finish this come hell or high water. Truth is, I'm just having an absolute blast making those video movie reviews so I've been putting this off for a while. In fact, I reviewed two more movies while you weren't looking because I wanted it to be a surprise for all of us. Because I like you a lot (Editor's note: certain statements made by the author of this article are untrue). The two movies I reviewed are Miller's Crossing and National Treasure. I was a lot more comfortable with the software I was using for these reviews so they're a little better than the Horror of Dracula review I did a few weeks ago. The biggest bonus of these new reviews is the addition of Nic Cage, who makes everything better.

Is this the face of a man who would buy a T-Rex head? I believe the answer is a big fat "Yes"

 I know, I know: Get to the damn list already, right? Well, in case you missed it here are the last updates I did on the Master Movie Character Countdown so you can catch up if you have to: Part 1, Part 2. Just as a little housekeeping note I think I'm going to take a little more time on this and do twenty through eleven here for the female list and then get to those same numbers for the men sometime soon. Maybe I'll try something special for entries ten to one, I dunno. So, please enjoy entries twenty through eleven in the Presented in Technicolor: Master Movie Character Countdown!

20) Princess Leia Organa - Star Wars: A New Hope (1977) - Carrie Fisher

"Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope"

-Princess Leia was probably the first female character I considered one of my 'favorites'. There was just something about her toughness combined with her soft side, plus her ability to trade verbal barbs with Han Solo (coolest man in the universe) that made her incredibly easy to like. It also helped that she was pretty much the only female character in the Star Wars Universe that wasn't a slutty dancing slave girl, some random alien, or Mon Mothma, who was not interesting in the slightest.

Princess Leia's finest moment in the film was when, having been freshly rescued, she proceeds to berate Han and Luke for not having a better plan than "shoot everything and hope it works out." Her frustration in this scene leads to one of her best lines, the always famous "Will someone get this walking carpet out of my way?"

19) Evelyn Mulwray - Chinatown (1974) - Faye Dunaway

"Well, I'm judging only on the basis of one afternoon and an evening, but if this is how you go about your work, I'd say you'd be lucky to get through a whole day." 

-This character makes the list because she is entirely defined by the secret she has, and we, the audience, go through the whole film trying to figure out what it is. When it is finally revealed we're all left reeling, but slowly our brains start working and that secret puts everything she does in a certain light. And I mean everything: the way she speaks, the words she chooses, the men she chooses, the way she lights up a smoke, everything that is her is shaped by this secret. But that's not all she is, as we can see through the brief time she opens up to a character that has appeared on this list before, J.J. Gittes. Enigmatic and glamorous, Faye Dunaway did a superb job bringing this character to the silver screen.

I'm trying to keep this list as spoiler free as I can, so let's just say her character's greatest moment is the finale of the movie. Okay?

18) Annie Wilkes - Misery (1990) - Kathy Bates

"WHAT'S THE MATTER? I will tell you 'what's the matter!' I go out of my way for you! I do everything to try and make you happy. I feed you, I clean you, I dress you, and what thanks do I get? 'Oh, you bought the wrong paper, Annie, I can't write on this paper, Annie!' Well, I'll get your stupid paper but you just better start showing me a little appreciation around here, Mr. MAN!"

-I like to consider myself a writer (Editor's note: not a very good one), so the idea of a superfan of someone's writing going bonkers and forcing the author to finish the story in a way that they want it to finish strikes a chord with me (Editor's note: Dear readers, this may be what you have to do to get this movie character countdown finished, so start taking notes). Kathy Bates won an Oscar for this role, and deservedly so. She is simultaneously matronly and terrifying, nurturing and sadistic. She fits so flawlessly into this role that I wonder how much of James Caan's terror on screen is acting and how much is genuine horror. Not to say that she doesn't show a vulnerable side. She moves through depression and anger at the drop of a hat.

Annie Wilke's greatest moment is doing a little something with that hammer in the picture up there.

17) Cruella de Vil - One Hundred and One Dalmations (1961) - Betty Lou Gerson

"My only true love, darling. I live for furs. I worship furs! After all, is there a woman in all this wretched world who doesn't?"

-Cruella is one of the baddest, meanest, most selfish Disney villains of all time, and, if you'd believe it, she's also the highest ranked Disney character on this list. Just as a weird thing I noticed, one of my earliest memories was watching this movie and wondering what in the world was she smoking to give off that putrid yellow smoke. I don't know, I just thought about it when I was younger. Anyways, Cruella is cooly detached from everything around her and only cares about herself and what makes her look good. When she finds out that her old schoolmate Anita's dogs, Pongo and Perdita, had puppies she offers to buy the litter to make into furs. This is one of my favorite parts of the movie because Anita's husband Roger tries to stand up to Cruella and is so clearly intimidated he can barely get his words out. I don't blame him, as Cruella bursts into a manic anger, screaming and spitting and barely holding onto any sliver of the glamor that she desperately tries to embody. Her spurts of venomous anger are truly something to behold. I am constantly amazed at how simple her motivation is for her villainy: all she wants in the world is fur coats.

Her entrance into the film is probably her defining moment. It sums her up rather well, and includes her theme song, one of Disney's best.

16) M - Casino Royale (2006) - Dame Judi Dench

"In the old days if an agent did something that embarrassing he'd have a good sense to defect. Christ, I miss the Cold War."

-Judi Dench's M is probably the best character to come out of the new group of Bond movies. She started the role in 1995 with Goldeneye, but I don't think she perfected it until Casino Royale. She is absolutely fascinating, appearing to not get along with Bond, but she is consistently very motherly towards him, albeit in a stern way. I actually wrote a paper on this, how the roles of each female in the movie relate to trust, and I do think it was my best collegiate paper (Editor's note: Who writes about James Bond for college papers? Weirdo). M doesn't like that she has to rely on Bond, but she recognizes that he's the best agent MI6 has. Bond, in turn, doesn't like how M focuses more on facts and statistics rather than his hunches, but consistently comes back to her for guidance and support in and out of the mission. At the end of the movie, when Bond is at his weakest point emotionally that I've ever seen him (except of course the time when his wife was murdered in On Her Majesty's Secret Service) he seems like he will just try and suppress his emotions and dwell in depression forever and M is there to sternly, but lovingly remind him of what's important. This is shown in the next Bond movie, Quantum of Solace, in a little more detail.

M's greatest moment in the film is her confrontation with Bond after he broke into her apartment. She tells him "Utter one more syllable and I'll have you killed" in such a way that you're absolutely certain she will do it, as crazy as it sounds.

15) Marge Gunderson - Fargo (1996) - Frances McDormand

"Say, Lou, didya hear the one about the guy who couldn't afford personalized plates, so he went and changed his name to J3L2404?"

-Every other cop on this list is a tough, street smart, fast talking supercop, but Marge Gunderson breaks that mold that exists in pretty much every other cop movie out there. Fargo gives us Gunderson, a police chief that is so kind and loving that she may be the nicest police officer ever. She's seven months pregnant in the movie, but that doesn't stop her from solving a brutal murder/kidnapping case. She has this down home charm that Sarah Palin seems to try and embody, but she falls way short of the polite and well-meaning Gunderson.

Marge's best moment in the film is when, after apprehending the bad guy, she chastises him for being only concerned with money when its such a beautiful day outside.

14) Phyllis Dietrichson - Double Indemnity (1944) - Barbara Stanwyck

"I think you're rotten."

-Dietrichson is one of those rare movie characters that comes along every so often, the kind that just blows you away and you're left wondering how she can be so diabolically evil and yet so tempting at the same time. Apparently, Stanwyck was reluctant to take the role of this femme fatale which may be part of the reason why she's so wonderful in it. It's like the character of Anton Chigurh from No Country For Old Men, Javier Bardem apparently thought he wouldn't do well in the role because he doesn't drive, he speaks bad English, and he hates violence. There's something about that reluctance to play a role that sometimes makes for a wonderful character portrayal.

Dietrichson's best moment in the film is, in the finale, when she can't take the second shot at Neff.

13) Carrie White - Carrie (1976) - Sissy Spacek

"They're called breasts, and every woman has them."

-I went through high school. I was gangly, uncoordinated, and socially awkward. Not much has changed. But at least I was blessed to have some pretty good people around me that didn't torture me for it. Not the case with Carrie. The poor girl is abused at school by her peers and then has to go home and deal with her crazy religious mother that berates her at every turn. For most of the movie, Carrie has the patience of a saint. The final minutes however, she lets loose with her telekinesis and scares the living bejesus out of the audience, not to mention kill all her classmates. I watch this movie and I know I'm supposed to be horrified at what happens in the finale, but all I can think of is "These terrible people deserve this." Brian De Palma does a good job of setting this conclusion up and even though the audience is as sympathetic as possible to the plight of poor Carrie, you watch in abject terror as she murders the promgoers. Poor, poor Carrie.

The part of the movie when you really want to cheer is when her two main tormenters (the one's that are responsible for dumping the pig's blood on her when she's having the time of her life) try to run her over with their car. She solves this problem with a glance that will be in your nightmares for years to come.
12) Chihiro - Spirited Away (2001) - Rumi Hiiragi

"I just want you to know my real name! It's Chihiro!"

-Chihiro reminds me a lot of myself when I was younger. I was kinda selfish and very nervous about going to school for the first time. Unlike Chihiro, I did not go on a crazy adventure with dragons and other things and my parents didn't get turned into pigs. Chihiro goes on this quest to get her parents back and to get out of this wonderland that her family stumbled into. For her, its all about growing up, going through that transition to adolescence and eventually to adulthood. Wonderfully animated with a wonderful story arc to boot, Chihiro is one of the best animated characters I've ever seen on screen.

Her best moment is the final lines of the film, when her dad mentions that it could be a little scary moving to a new place and she responds simply with "I think I can handle it."

11) Sarah Connor - Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) - Linda Hamilton

"Dyson listened while the Terminator laid it all down: Skynet, Judgment Day, the history of things to come. It's not everyday you find out that you're responsible for 3 billion deaths. He took it pretty well."

-Look at any list of "Best Female Movie Characters" and you will find Linda Hamilton's Sarah Connor somewhere near the top. I tried to not have the stereotypical list and I tried to be different from all those others, but I have to say, Sarah Connor from T2 totally deserves being on all these lists. And not because she's a badass. Most guys put her as one of their favorite female characters because she kicks everyone's ass. This is a very superficial understanding of the character, and I love her because she goes through the most interesting character arc. She starts off as this badass, not caring about anything except her son John's survival. Through the film she softens up, and becomes more of a mother to John than she had ever been. The T-800 helps show her that being a mother is not just about making sure he survives. A surprisingly well written and well thought out character for one of the best action movies of all time. 

Her defining moment is her assassination attempt on Miles Dyson, the inventor of Skynet. She gets in close, ready to kill this man for the atrocities that his future creation will commit, and... she can't do it. She tries to be a Terminator herself in order to save the future but can't bring herself to do it. It's a pretty impressive choice for someone that has done everything possible to prevent Skynet's war against humanity except kill somebody.

Thank you for reading everyone and stay tuned for Part 4 which will feature the male entries twenty through eleven.

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