Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Top (cough) Ten Movie Characters

A very cruel, consuming meme was just tagged to me called The Top 10 Movie Characters. The person who started this must be a sick individual with an undying love for cinema to equal his loathing of fellow cinephile bloggers. Well I accept his masochistic challenge, although with my usual hearty stipulation. The ten characters I've chosen -- in no particular order -- should not be considered comprehensive even for the next 24 hours. These characters do, however, seem to always pop into my psyche with reckless abandon. But trust that I'm not certifiable, just a bit "eccentric"...Which is also why I've only listed eight. It's not that I'm out of my mind, I just break with the norm.

In the revelatory hands of Gena Rowlands, we know Mabel's a bit off-balance, but we can't be sure what exactly is to blame for this potential madness. Her obvious adoration for her husband and children somehow seem stifled by the weight of her responsibilities and too much time alone, but so much remains raw in the backstory of Mabel's maternal breakdown. Her descent into emotional hell, and eventual return home, remains one of the most aching, devastating and wholly-formed portraits of domestic drama ever captured. Go ahead and try not to think of Mabel whenever you see a mother picking up her kids from school. Then try not to cry and have yourself committed.

Betty Elms / Diane Selwyn
(Mulholland Dr.)

Is it fair to include a woman with a split dream persona as a single character? Otherwise it would pretty much be Diane hanging out in her bathrobe and crying... But combine her personalities and this is definitely the girl. Naomi Watts and David Lynch meld forces to form a wide-eyed optimist as mysterious as a locked blue box. She arrives in the city of dreams an amateur actress and jitterbug champ from Deep River, Ontario, and leaves with a hit on her bisexual lover's deceitful head.

For her sweet to smoldering audition, her melancholy masturbation frenzy, her romance drowned in bad espresso, and her guilt-ridden final rest; Betty/Diane is a fractured, funneled bit of innovation that somehow resonates more in all its abstraction. With her purity and innocence drained, Betty/Diane becomes another starlet lost to the Hollywood hills of obscurity; her dreams dashed against the wall behind a Winkies on Sunset Boulevard.

Millie Lammoreaux
(3 Women)

Millie's aim to be thoroughly modern seems to distance everyone around her. She prattles on aimlessly to anyone listening (or not) about magazine articles, recipes, home decor, and her ideas on how to sway a man in the go-go seventies. She's hyper-opinionated and just plain hyper. Shelley Duvall creates so perfectly every little nuance and nitpick of Millie's often-solitary self. As her identity eventually starts to meld/dissolve with her superfan Pinky Rose, Millie's prideful personality gives way to something dark, eerie and ambiguous. So much for her trademark "pigs in a blanket and chocolate puddin' tarts!"

Chow Mo-wan
(In the Mood for Love / 2046)

It's as if all of Chow's lust, longing and loss can be channeled through a millisecond of Tony Leung's affected gaze. His emotions hover over these films like the wafting fog of a chain-smoking binge. In the Mood for Love sees his passions for neighbor Su Li-zhen utterly ignite, just as quickly as they drift into being the sad memories of a divine love lost to the past. Chow's transformation into a closed-off playboy in 2046 only accentuates and echoes his still empty desires, and refusal to commit to another love that would only dissipate with time. So much beautiful and unspoken emotion for a male character, and so much beauty in Tony Leung.

Cuddles Kovinsky

"How au courant!" Realistically any of Edith Massey's unhinged characters could merit a spot, but her turn as maid/socialite/best friend Cuddles Kovinsky might just be her most quotable and comically outstanding creation. Cuddles is at the top of the world with her debutante ball coming up, but she still finds time for her friend's AA meetings during her introduction into high society. So hysterical, I can only direct you to this post made in my endless adoration. Hurry, Heintz! Hurry!

Corky St. Clair
(Waiting for Guffman)

Because no man does regional theatre with quite the same passion and flair as Corky St. Clair and still finds the time to buy all his wife's clothes.

Amber Waves
(Boogie Nights)

Julianne Moore has her share of characters I'd happily mention (Carol White in Safe, Cathy Whitaker in Far from Heaven), but as Nat put so eloquently in his Top 10 Characters, Amber Waves is the foxiest bitch in the whole world. This was the role where Julianne Moore became something more. To steal from her own loving ode to Dirk Diggler: Amber is a woman of passion and mystery. She is a woman of lust.

What she does for the word "cock" is more than most actresses do with entire monologues. A porn legend and flailing mother whose passions and pathos are channeled by her soft voice and veiled tears behind the courthouse -- Amber makes such sensual waves as she tries to keep her head above water.

Patrick Bateman

Patrick's got a body to die for, and unfortunately for many hookers and models in the eighties, such was the case. If you were to take unquestioningly from his subtly off-white business card, you'd think Patrick was the ideal yuppie man. He loves Phil Collins and Whitney Houston, enjoys a night in with The Texas Chain Saw Massacre or Inside Lydia's Ass, and he takes note of real world issues like apartheid and the homeless. The whole serial murder thing still casts a pall perhaps, but the comforting thing is that it might just be all in his head. Comforting like a kitten... being fed to an ATM.

Quite the quality characters, those eight. Sorry to cut the Top Ten so short...

I'm meeting Cliff Huxtable at the Four Seasons and then I have to return some videotapes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love your list!