Tuesday, April 07, 2009


Ten People I Know is a magnificent exploration of character itself, and a frankly impossible act to attempt to follow, and yet it's also the post in which I've been tagged to do exactly that.

My 10 favorite movie characters.

Mind you, I'm also struggling because Character also manages to give about half of my answers, or things I'd seriously consider answering. This list is still missing a ton of great characters, especially some that tie on some level. Tuco from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly or Harmonica from Once Upon a Time in the West? I have no idea, so, I guess, they both lose.

1. Most people have been trying to "hide" their cheat somewhere in their list. I'll start right off with mine. Both of these are on Bill R.'s list, so I'm merging them. Tom Doniphan from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and Bennie from Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. Two characters could hardly be more different, on most levels, and I can't put my finger on why I feel comfortable with them together here, on top of using them as stolen from another list. I'll leave that as an enigma for all to ponder.

2. Ghost Dog from Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai. There's something inordinately beautiful about this character. He's struggling to find a place in one world by becoming something entirely outside its understanding.

3. Renfield from Dracula by Tod Browning. This could have been a general choice of the character from novel and film, through the ages, and not been inappropriate, but it was the performance by Dwight Frye that I fell for so many years ago, and that is the one that remains. As Kimberly Lindbergs recently wrote to me, "Frye's Renfield owns Lugosi's Dracula." Indeed.

4. Lila Lee from Lemora: A Child's Tale of the Supernatural.

5. Daigoro from Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart in Peril (the literally translated title is "The Heart of a Parent, the Heart of a Child"). Yes, you could choose any of the series for this character. I choose this one.

6. Lt. John Brent from Beneath the Planet of the Apes. No, I really don't mean Col. George Taylor.

7. Charlie Allnut from The African Queen.

8. The Scorpio Killer from Dirty Harry. Great heroes work best with great villains.

9. Brigitte Fitzgerald from Ginger Snaps.

10. Guy from Once. This shouldn't need any explanation, but as director John Carney explains on the commentary, the title refers to the excuses one makes not to make something of themselves. The fact that being there for a father, in his case, who would rather see him making something of himself, only adds to meaning for me.

It's funny. I don't suppose it overall looks as personal, and my comments, on the occasions I made them, are nowhere near revealing, but if you read between the lines, find the patterns, etc...


Greg said...

Neil, first off, thanks for such high praise. Second, what a great list you have provided.

I love Dwight Frye's Renfield, it's simply magical in my book. The one Universal horror character that almost made my list, just barely losing out to my last selection of Howard Beale, is Frankenstein's Monster so beautifully and sympathetically portrayed by Boris Karloff. There are many times the weight of the world feels a lot like being him.

I also love that you gave Brent his proper due (I really do like the second one but then I'm a POTA geek... uh, I mean dork... uh, I mean nerd... uh, ah whatever) and I really loved Once. Guy is a great character, one I can relate to very much.

Thanks for not only responding to the tag but coming up with such a great list so quickly.

Neil Sarver said...

Well, gosh. Thanks.

It's funny, I think I've had an easier time with these lists since I've given up any hope that any one of them would be definitive. Would I write the same list next week? Probably not. Good for next week. I bet that list would be cool, too.

I love Brent. I think James Franciscus does a fantastic job on that. I know not everyone thinks so, but his thoughtful and relatively quiet performance is a brilliant counter-balance to Charlton Heston's larger-than-life presence.

And I'm a huge dork for Beneath the Planet of the Apes. It's my series favorite... I mean, the first is the best movie, I know, but Beneath... is the super awesome Apes-a-riffic one! And I'm more than a little big of an Apes Geek.



Ok. I also considered Larry Talbot very seriously, and probably would have in that other week, but this time, one Universal horror and one werewolf movie seemed to be enough.

Frankenstein's monster, as portrayed by Boris Karloff, is another excellent choice. Man, those two movies are so, so brilliant, and so much of that is his performance.

Anonymous said...

Neil, there is no such thing as a definitive list.

But I am in awe of your choice of Ghost Dog.

Neil Sarver said...

No, there certainly isn't, and I'm glad to have given up the pretense of attempting them. It has made my life much more relaxing.

It's interesting... I love Ghost Dog as a movie, but acknowledge it as flawed. The character is just flat-out amazing, though. Jarmusch and Whitaker really conspired to bring something wonderful there.

hocus_lopez said...

What, no P. Sellars? I'd have to cheat with both Chance from Being There and Herr Doctor from Dr. Strangelove.

I do like the nod to The Duke, and I too like Tom D. In fact, I've always disliked J. Stewart's character for "knowingly" and "intentionally" capitalizing on Tom's actions.

Neil Sarver said...

I've got to admit, it never occurred to me to include any Peter Sellers characters. Chance is pretty tempting, now that you mention it. Not to say I don't enjoy him at all, but I guess I'm not a fan.

I have to say, I relate pretty well to that profound sense of guilt Rance Stoddard has. I can't say I'm sure why.

Greg said...

Just a quick note although I don't think I need to tell you: I love The Wolfman. That movie is all time favorite.

Neil Sarver said...

You did not, but it's always worth noting an extra time.

bill r. said...

I thought about including Clare Quilty from Lolita, because I think his scene on the veranda (or whatever) is one of the craziest and funniest scenes of all time. But I couldn't find a really good picture of him on-line, so pffft!

Great list, Neil. I love Ghost Dog, too. The movie isn't perfect, but it's the best work I've ever seen from Whitaker.

Keith said...

I was really thrilled to see your choice of Ghost Dog. I've come across very few friends who have seen this film. Heck, many of them have never even heard of it. I love this film. Forest Whitaker was great in it.

Mike said...

...and nobody has managed to mention Bo "Bandit" Darville as embodied by Burt Reynolds in the first "Smokey and the bandit" movie?

I can't think of a better character in any movie, ever... well at least not right now.

Neil Sarver said...

Bill, I'm strangely ambivalent about that performance. Perhaps I'll give that movie another spin one of these days and see what I think.

Keith (and Bill again), Ghost Dog has got a lot of kudos. It seems there's a movie that a lot more people have an affection for than they realize.

Mike, it's definitely a damn fine choice. I admit it hadn't popped into my mind. To the extent I'd hesitate is that I think the character is kind of fucked over by the second movie, in which he becomes and dull and joyless drip.

Arbogast said...

As Kimberly Lindbergs recently wrote to me, "Frye's Renfield owns Lugosi's Dracula." Indeed.

That girl is going places!

Kimberly Lindbergs said...

Great list Neil! Naturally I was especially happy to see Frye's Renfield listed since we were just talking about how amazing he is in that role. But I also liked seeing Brigitte Fitzgerald listed since I love the first Ginger Snaps movie (watched the third one recently and kind of liked elements of that too).

Arbo wrote:
That girl is going places!

Tis true! I'm heading to the bank to deposit my unemployment check...

Neil Sarver said...

Arbogast, well, I'll leave Kimberly's response as her own.

Kimberly, Renfield, as I said everywhere has always been a favorite, and I could basically have chosen any Renfield from any movie... Frankly, he owns almost all of them. I'm also a dorky fan of Tom Waits in the Coppola movie, although I'm certainly not a dorky fan of the Coppola movie as a whole. But Dwight Frye, man.

I honestly, only spent a moment thinking of the Ginger Snaps sequels. I rather enjoyed the second movie. I keep meaning to go back to the third, but didn't care much for it. I think the performance is great, as well as the whole sister dynamic!

Arbogast said...

I love Brent. I think James Franciscus does a fantastic job on that.

Me, too, and his death scene really bothers me, mostly because he goes from thinking, acting do-er to lifeless meat in the blink of an eye. I had to see that go down then I was, like, 8... it changed my life. Heston at least gets to do something with his last puff of life but Brett just goes down - though after taking that prick Ursus out of the game.

At the moment I'm outlining a defense of Escape from the Planet of the Apes that no one will see coming.

Neil Sarver said...

I totally agree, and I'm intrigued to hear of your "defense" of Escape From the Planet of the Apes. I've always thought of it as the Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home of the series. The pleasant one that non-fans are forced to enjoy because of the fish-out-of-water weirdos stuck in modern times quality.

KentAllard said...

Great list, and I'll add my vote that Dwight Frye's Renfield is one of the great characterizations in movie history.

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