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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Misery Loves Company

Do you ever rent a movie that you saw when it came out but not since, just to refresh yourself? Last evening, The Wave-inatrix and the Mini-W watched MISERY and were (re)blown away. Well, The Mini-W had never seen it, since it was made before she was born, but I was reblown away and the Mini-W, a fan and child of obviously much more current fare, became an unmitigated fan. It is also a source of great pride for me to note that the Mini-W made intelligent observations about the thematic similarities between MISERY and WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE.

MISERY works so perfectly on so many levels. Great character arcs, tight structure, ticking clock(s), simple, terrifying premise and also, I mean really - Annie Wilkes has got to be one of the most memorable movie characters of all time. Her strange, developmentally stunted dialogue: He didn't get out of the COCKADOODIE CAR!

And so it led us to have a conversation - if you had to make a list of the most unforgettable movie characters who would be on it?

Off the top of my head, my (starter) list would be:

Travis Bickle
Annie Wilkes
Hannibal Lecter
Austin Powers
Annie Hall
Dirty Harry
Tyler Durden
Ferris Bueller
Norma Desmond
Claus Von Bulow
Jake Gittes

Notice I didn't say Tim Robbins in THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION - another brilliant movie, good actor and memorable role - but the difference here is the name of the character is what comes to mind, not the actor - because the character was so uniquely memorable that he or she subsumes the actor. Was Marilyn Monroe unforgettable in SOME LIKE IT HOT? Yes. But that's because it was Marilyn, not her character, Sugar Kane. Alec Baldwin was great in THE DEPARTED too (really great) but the difference between those mentions and the ones above, is that the characters in my short list above are so memorable, they stand out from the actor and many of us can quote their particularly memorable lines of dialogue.

What lists would Wavers make? Who are your most memorable movie characters? Can you quote them? Do you quote them from time to time -

You lookin' at me?

You have no idea.

All right Mr. Demille, I'm ready for my close up.

Yeah, baby, yeah!

And more importantly - are you writing characters this memorable? It's not easy, god no - but it's what we should strive for, right? Writing a character so memorable that what your character says will wind up in the lexicon of great movie dialogue.




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8 comments:

PJ McIlvaine said...

Here's looking at you, kid!

Anthony Peterson said...

William Wallace (Braveheart)
"Freedom"

Pontious Pilate (The Passion..)
"What is Truth"?

Homer Simpson (The Simpsons)
"If at first you don't succeed, pretend you never tried"

Anonymous said...

"if only your heart were stronger than you dull fear of God and the world"

Heathcliff

tammy stark said...

Ennis Del Mar (Brokeback Mountain): "Jack fuckin' Twist"

Anonymous said...

I won't be ignored, Dan!

Christian M. Howell said...

Tommy Cotter - Death To Smoochy: "Awww, you like kids, huhn? I guess you know some fairy tales. Ay Danny tell him the one about the worthless prick that gets his head chopped off with an axe." or "Roy have ya got the hammer?"

ElastiGirl The Incredibles: "What do you think the baby's going to doing?" or "We're superheroes what could go wrong?"

Morpheus - The Matrix: Take your pick for some pearls.

Tom Mullen - Ransom: "Give me back my son."

Diane Stredicke said...

Amazing how this character has such relevance today!!

Howard Beale - "Network":

I don't have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It's a depression. Everybody's out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel's work, banks are going bust, shopkeepers keep a gun under the counter. Punks are running wild in the street and there's nobody anywhere who seems to know what to do, and there's no end to it. We know the air is unfit to breathe and our food is unfit to eat, and we sit watching our TV's while some local newscaster tells us that today we had fifteen homicides and sixty-three violent crimes, as if that's the way it's supposed to be. We know things are bad - worse than bad. They're crazy. It's like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don't go out anymore. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we are living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, 'Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials and I won't say anything. Just leave us alone.' Well, I'm not gonna leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don't want you to protest. I don't want you to riot - I don't want you to write to your congressman because I wouldn't know what to tell you to write. I don't know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first you've got to get mad....] You've got to say, 'I'm a HUMAN BEING, Goddamnit! My life has VALUE!' So I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window. Open it, and stick your head out, and yell... 'I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!' I want you to get up right now, sit up, go to your windows, open them and stick your head out and yell - 'I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Things have got to change. But first, you've gotta get mad!... You've got to say, 'I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore!' Then we'll figure out what to do about the depression and the inflation and the oil crisis. But first get up out of your chairs, open the window, stick your head out, and yell, and say it: I'M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I'M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!"

Steve Axelrod said...

A few omissions ...
Michael Corleone:
"If the history of our time proves anything, it's that anyone can be killed."
"You broke my heart."
Vito Corleons:
"I'll make him an offer he can't refuse."
Mike O'Connor ("The Phildelphia Story"):
"Is there any sight more lovely than the priveleged classes enjoying their priveleges?"
Lancey Howard (in The Cincinatti Kid, after cleaning out the rich boy -- the loser says "How did you know I was bluffing?)
"You just paid the looking fee, kid. Lessons are extra."