Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Greatest Movie Character of 1990-1999 004: Round 1, Heat 3

Vote. It's Easy.

Up and to the right. Up and to the right. Up and to the right.

Mia Wallace Division:  Heat 2 Results
"The" Jesus Quntana 29, Jesus Shuttleworth 14

The Terminator 39, Bernie LaPlante 8

Annie Wilkes 24, Mona Lisa Vito 22

Colonel Nathan R. Jessup 25, Jack Skellington 23



Clarice Starling Division - Round 1, Heat 3


Jules Winfield, Pulp Fiction

Well this is change - I have the top seed with Jules from Pulp Fiction. Granted, Red is no push-over, but a mild-mannered Morgan Freeman versus Samuel L. Jackson's defining role? The edge has to go with Jules.

I'm going to make an assumption here: no matter who you are, you are at least familiar with Pulp Fiction. It can be argued it was THE movie of the 90's. Even if you haven't seen the movie, you know some key moments -- Marcellus Wallace about to go medieval; The Wolf fixing the problem of the dead... guy... in the back seat; what will happen to every motherfucking last one of ya if any of you fucking pricks move; and just about everything that came out of Jules Winnfield's mouth. He quotes bible verse when bringing retribution, he is amused by the names for hamburgers in France's McDonald's, he enjoys a Big Kahuna Burger, you know which wallet is his, and he is more than capable of breaking your concentration.

Jules, like so many great characters is not only complex, but grows as we watch him. Our first real experience with him is discussing the eroticism of foot massages, immediately followed by him becoming the baddest motherfucker you've ever seen blowing away a group of minor-league thieves. The pontification that comes from him prior to the massacre is some of the most casually intimidating bad-assery ever captured on film. Then to cap it off, he dodges bullets without moving. This moment causes a spiritual awakening in the most feared hit man in Los Angeles. As the day progresses, we see that he is more than a cold-blooded assassin. He knows who his friends are, and when to contain his fury. Jimmie epically chews him out for bringing the car to his house, and Jules knows he deserves it, and takes it, when he could just tell Jimmie to sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up. He debates the merits of pork with his partner. He knows what the Wolf says goes without question. By the end, he's not only realized that he has had the meaning of his favorite quote turned around this entire time, but that he could still be the biggest bad-ass motherfucker you know while helping people, instead of limiting himself to crime. His juxtaposition with the nearly as erudite, yet blank-faced Vincent drives home the depth of possibly the most iconic characters of the 90's.

- Astin

, The Shawshank Redemption

Best film character? Well, now, let me see. You know, I don’t have any idea what that means. I know what you think it means, sonny. To me, it’s just a made up term. A hit man’s word, sonny. Young fellas like yourself can wear a black suit and a tie and kill some folks, and think you have a job. So now you come in and quote at me. Bible? You can save it, sonny. Old difference between you and me is I'm sitting below you. And you know it.

What do you really want to know? Am I sorry that the heart and soul of one of the decade's best movies went in the sixteenth round? The very last pick? There’s not a day goes by I don’t feel regret. Not because I gotta face your silly jerri curled ass. Because you think I should. I look back on the way I was picked. Four young, stupid kids who couldn't see true quality until the very end. I want to talk to them. I want to try to talk some sense to them. Tell them the way things are. But I can’t. The draft's long gone and this old man’s all that’s left. Do you know my buddy Andy went first pick?  First? I got to live with that. Best film character?  Best? That’s just a bullshit word. So you go on and walk the earth, and let the people vote in the poll, sonny, and stop wasting my time. Because, to tell you the truth, I don’t give a shit.

- Julius_Goat


Dignan, Bottle Rocket

Back in 1994, Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson were making their first film. From the Jacques-Cousteau caps to the red jumpsuits to the retro casio keyboard music, all of Anderson's movies make audio and visual references to his childhood, which took place in America in the late 80s. Anderson is known for his careful storyboarding of scripts, so it's no accident that his films look like something else that would be familiar to a child of the 80s: comic books.

In his first film, Anderson had not yet completely developed his unique visual aesthetic, but his desire to capture things from his childhood was obvious. The film opens with Dignan (Owen Wilson) "rescuing" his friend Anthony (Luke Wilson) from a voluntary mental hospital. Anthony: Ah, whew. Well, see my friend Dignan didn’t realize that this was a voluntary hospital, and he got this whole escape thing worked out. And he just got so excited about the thing, I didn’t have the heart to tell him “no”…that uh…Look how excited he is. I gotta do it this way, Dr. Nichols. I gotta climb out. It’s only one floor down.

Throughout the movie, Anderson shows us a twenty-something boy who is struggling to adapt to the world of adult responsibility. Dignan refuses to give up on his childhood dreams, and you get the feeling that he was once reigned his neighborhood as king of fort-building and the game of cops and robbers. Here is a guy with grand plans, a guy whose meager landscaping job is only cover for his budding career as a master thief.

Growing up in the 80s in suburban America taught us how to be ambitious. Everybody wanted to grow up to be president, and if that wasn't your thing, then you wanted to be a professional athlete, a doctor, or a lawyer. As we grew up, these ambitions died or changed into something more pragmatic, and we lost sight of our childhood dreams.

Dignan didn't. Stuck in a suburb filled with characters who represent a life without passion, Dignan lives his dream of orchestrating a great robbery, even if that robbery takes place at "Hinckley Cold Storage." Dignan is the dreamer, the idealist, someone who follows his ridiculous dream despite the many pragmatic reasons that indicate he shouldn't.

Because he follows his passion and attempts to realize his dream, Dignan ends up in prison. But in the final  scene, Dignan mocks himself for his failed ambition, suggesting that a passionate life ending in a jail sentence is better than a comfortable existence without dreams. Better to burn out than to fade away.

Dignan: Pause. Uh, we did it though, didn’t we?

Anthony: Yeah. All laugh. Yeah we did it all right.

Scene cuts to jail entrance. Anthony and Bob are walking with Dignan in a prison line. A fence separates Dignan and the prisoners from Anthony and Bob.

Dignan: Well, thank you for coming.

Anthony: It’s good seeing you.

Dignan: Looking around. Did you bring that grappling hook?

Bob: Grappling hook?

Dignan: Don’t worry about it. I think I may have found a way out of here.

Anthony: You’re kidding

Dignan: No, I’m not.

Anthony: How?

Dignan: Shhh! Wait for my instructions. When we go through the next gate, you will have 30 seconds to take out the tower guard.

Anthony: What?

Dignan: 30 seconds. Have the car running at the North West checkpoint. Bob and I are going to scale the barricade.

Bob: No, we’re not.

Dignan: And then we’re going to cut through to no man’s land, and Bob, remember, shield me from the  bullets. They won’t shoot civilians. Are you ready?

Bob: Hold on, man.

Anthony: Wait a second, Dignan.

Dignan: Let’s go! Let’s go! Now! Now! Now! Changes tone to playful. Isn’t funny how you used to be in the nuthouse and now I’m in jail.

They all laugh. Dignan walks away into the distance.

Besides the movie's sophisticated intellectual message, Dignan is one of the funniest, most quotable movie characters of all time.


Anthony: Maybe we should've robbed your house. You ever think of that?

Dignan: You know there's nothing to steal from my mom and Craig!


Bob: Wha - why is there tape on your nose?

Dignan: Exactly!


Dignan: Why are you here right now? You're always at lunch at this time!

Workers: Not always.

Dignan: Yes! Always!


Kumar: Man, I blew it. I blew it, man.

Anthony: Kumar, what were you doing in the freezer?

Kumar: I don't know, man, I lose my touch, man.

Dignan: Did you ever have a touch to lose, man?


Dignan was the first in a series of Anderson's unique characters that resonate long after the movie has ended. Without Dignan, we wouldn't have been able to fly kites with Max Fischer, roam the seas with Steve Zissou, or ride go-carts with Royal Tanenbaum. The existentialists insist that a life without passion isn't worth living, and Dignan is the prototype of the passionate-yet-misguided hero who is doomed to failure, but makes the lives of those surrounding him more exciting and fulfilling. Living with passion, on the edge, trying to achieve a goal that is seemingly impossible -- these are the characters that make for great heroes:

Dignan: Here are just a few of the key ingredients: dynamite, pole vaulting, laughing gas, choppers - can you see how incredible this is going to be? - hang gliding, come on!

So, come on! Listen to the voice of your inner dreamer and vote for Dignan.

PS. Derek Vinyard is a Nazi.


Derek Vinyard, American History X

Obviously, this isn't about likability. This may be (at least before the rather unbelievable turnaround) one of the five most despicable people in the tourney. But character?  One of the most fascinating.

So come on, Dignan. Put your mouth on the curb.

- Julius_Goat


Little Bill Daggett, Unforgiven

This was an odd pick for me.  Unforgiven is one of my favorite movies (and Clint Eastwood is one of my favorite actors), but I picked Little Bill over William Munny deliberately because Gene Hackman puts on such a fabulous performance really showing the depth of this character.  Which turns out is pretty shallow. 

Little Bill is a lawman who proactively dispenses justice by force.  His strategy is to beat down anyone who doesn't follow his rule.  NO FIREARMS within city limits, and don't dare jaywalk either because Little Bill has a propensity for violence when deterring, well, violence.  His methods are beautiful, and if he even thinks that you're a bad guy, before doing anything to prove your criminality, you're getting a beat down.  It's also coming in front of as many people as possible because he wants to prove a point.

An ill-tempered man, "maybe you should hang the carpenter" may just be the line that gets you killed.  However he does show restraint against the weak and stupid.  He also shows zero hesitation or regret when meeting his own demise.

Little Bill is a man's man, living the way he does among the harsh western life where anyone can turn criminal in a blink of an eye.  He controls his town, and as harsh as his methods are, the town accepts it to ensure their safety from outsiders.

Duck I says!


Truman Burbank, The Truman Show

my teacher was a television
taught me how to talk and who to be
everything's an exhibition
everyone just acts like they're on tv

everyone is always pretending
acting like our lives are scripted
everyone wants a happy ending
paranoia conspiracy

today the spotlight hit me
voices on the radio 
maybe i'm just going crazy
but I swear there's something I don't know

everyone is looking for money
their smiles look almost real
whatever makes you happy
but this lifestyle's not for me

and now I'm stuck in this movie
all money and product placement
who am I supposed to be
when something's not right you taste it

had enough of all of it
so I sit here in my basement
savor this isolation 
find my way to my reality

why don't you all find your own way
I'm done playing the fool
make your own entertainment
I'm going and never coming back

In case I don't see you
good afternoon good evening and good night



William Wallace, Braveheart

Here is my first round write up for Braveheart as I see it...  It doesn't need much...

He's a bad ass who takes revenge on the death of his wife and then fights the good fight rallying an entire people to gain freedom.

He does it without regret or hesitation willing to do it by himself.  He truly is a leader by example.

Jules (from Pulp Fiction) stole his wallet.

Deal with it...


Dirk Diggler, Boogie Nights

Your choice is pretty clear. You can go with the guy with the face makeup and the kilt, or you can go with the guy who can't wear a kilt without breaking most indecency laws.  Poor Braveheart, he felt so inadequate he had them take out a few feet of intestine to try to compensate.

Dirk Diggler is a major star.  William Wallace? Hell, even Rob Roy managed to get a drink named after him.

- Julius_Goat


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