Monday, May 16, 2011

Taking On Empire Online's '100 Greatest Movie Characters'

Great villain. Best all-time and No. 2 overall
when you include good guys? Debatable.

I love lists like this, because they're entirely subjective. Movies mean infinitely different things to different people. While most of us could agree that Darth Vader is handily among the top 10 movie villains of all time, a random fanboy could make a persuasive argument that some even-more-random creature at the Mos Eisley saloon is the greatest of all time based on his personal life experience.

Okay, it wouldn't persuade me. To the nitpicking! And special thanks to the way Empire Online structured the list so you can easily move from No. 22 to No. 87 in one click. None of that "Previous/Next" bullsh*t:

No. 100 — Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson), Lethal Weapon — Looking back on it now, the only thing the wild-eyed, impulsive Riggs was missing is the anti-Semitism. Throw that in, and Riggs is less of a comedic foil and more of a prophet.

No. 95 — Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund), Nightmare on Elm Street — I'm not a big fan of the Freddy or Jason movies, but he should be higher than 95 on this list.

No. 93 — Martin Blank (John Cusack), Grosse Pointe Blank — See, again, I would put him much higher on this list. Then again, I don't have a great knowledge of films made prior to 1970. That's the other thing that makes these lists so subjective. The art-school film-buff's list is going to be vastly different from the average working-class 30-something's list. From Grosse Pointe on, Cusack has sort of played this character over and over again — the stammering, under-his-breath-hilarious, nervous guy — but his casual approach to murder and his chemistry with everyone else in the cast keeps this flick in my top ten all-time comedies list. My favorite meme? "Pop-pop-pop-pop-pop! Popcorn!"

No. 90 — Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton), Wizard of Oz — Notable mainly for this article, in which the writer correctly asserts that the supposedly-'Wicked' Witch was really just trying to get justice for her sister's savage house-bludgeoning at the hands of some dumb hick from Kansas, who then proceeded to rob the corpse.

No. 88 — Jessica Rabbit, Who Framed Roger Rabbit — Would you like to find something out that will forever change your opinion of this character, as well as compound your masturbatory guilt? She was voiced by Kathleen Turner. That screaming sound you hear is your penis ("WE WERE TRIIIIIIIIIIICKED!").

No. 69 — Keyser Soze (f*ck the people who ruin this movie for first-timers, The Usual Suspects) — One of the best movie endings ever. Great crime movie, great cast. Great. But again, I'd put this higher on my list.

No. 68 — Napoleon Dynamite (Jon Heder, Napoleon Dynamite) — F*ck this movie. For real.

No. 63 — Wall-E (Wall-E) — If he wasn't a complete rip-off of Johnny 5 from Short Circuit, he might make my top 100. Not at No. 63, though.

No. 60 — Ace Ventura (Jim Carrey, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective) — I can recite this whole movie. "Somethin' ain't stirrin' the Kool-Aid, Ace..." Tone Loc deserved a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for that sh*t.

No. 55 — Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen, The Naked Gun) — Lenny Briscoe wishes he was half as cool as Lt. Frank Motherf*ckin' Drebin. And Lenny Briscoe was pretty damned cool.

No. 50 — Captain Quint (Robert Shaw, Jaws) — The book is better than the movie, but even Peter Benchley can't match the creeping horror when Quint tells his story of surviving the USS Indianapolis disaster. With a smile on his face.

No. 35 — Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russell Crowe, Gladiator) — My wife makes fun of me because on rare occasions, a movie will cause me to tear up a little. I'm man enough to admit that this is one of them.

No. 21 — Michael Corleone (Al Pacino, Godfather movies) — While my stereotypical idea of the Mafia has been shattered by the excellent movie and even-better book, Gomorrah, Michael Corleone remains one of the towering figures of movie crime. Watching Michael go from mildly tolerant of the family business to head of the family business (and the family) is something to behold. I would disagree with Empire on his "Finest Hour." For me, it's in Cuba at the Superman porn show, where Michael discovers what his brother Fredo has been up to.

No. 19 — Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction) — What makes Jules Winnfield so great is that he's absurdly profound. When some dumbass comes around the corner, guns blazing, and doesn't hit either of them, he takes it as a sign from God. He waxes Biblical and philosophical with a gun pointed in Tim Roth's grill. My father says there's "no one to root for" in Pulp Fiction. I root for Jules.

No. 16 — Neo (Keanu Reeves, The Matrix trilogy) — The greatness of the Matrix movies (well, the first one at least) is their mythology, not Keanu Reeves. His delivery is dead lead weight, the action is CGI... I mean really, you can probably think of a half-dozen people to play that role who would have done just as well. I think Harold Perrineau would have done great as Neo, but no... Morpheus is the only brother who even managed to get himself off the ship. In the immortal words of Deadspin, "DAS RAYCESS!!"

No. 12 — John McClane (Bruce Willis, Die Hard movies) — "Welcome to the party, pal!" Indeed. No one wants to go actor-for-actor with Alan Rickman, especially not a young actor making his transition from TV to the movies. Bruce Willis was a household name after the first Die Hard. Kudos.

No. 11 — James Bond (Sean Connery, James Bond movies) — James Bond is for my grandma. I'm firmly in the Jason Bourne camp when it comes to international spy/assassin intrigue.

No. 8 — Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean movies) — Nos. 2 and 3 are a little bloated, but the deft, daft'n'dandy Cap'n Jack might surpass Hunter S. Thompson as my favorite Depp character.

No. 7 — The Dude (Jeff Bridges, The Big Lebowski) — This is my No. 1. I could watch this movie every single day and never get tired of it. It's great that John Goodman's epic Walter Sobchak also made the Empire list — I might even put "The Jesus" near the bottom of my Top 100, being as it's probably the greatest John Turturro character of all time — but The Dude will always abide.

No. 1 — Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt, Fight Club) — This is the rare movie that can go toe-to-toe with the book, and Pitt did a sick job bringing the male id to frenetic, chaotic life, but I wouldn't have it in my top spot. You could make a pretty good argument that Edward Norton is just as good or better than Pitt in the film.

The most notable snub, for me, is Edward Norton as reformed skinhead Derek in American History X. The film gets some criticism for taking shortcuts and there was also the controversy where director Tony Kaye wanted his name removed, alleging that Norton did too much post-production (a rumor that would surface again when Norton starred in the way-too-soon Hulk remake), but it's still a solid film and a fantastic performance.