Back in March, Crispian Thurlborn tagged me for this challenge to list my 10 favourite screen characters. Because I was already very busy with the AtoZ Challenge, I couldn’t do it right away, but now here I am ready to oblige. Thanks Crispian for being this patient.
You can check out Crispisn’s list here… and it’s well worth the time.
Here it goes mine.
(Chris Eyre – 1998)
Thomas Builds-the-Fire is a recurring character in Sherman Alexie’s stories and is a strong supporting character in the film Smoke Signals.
I like Thomas in the stories because he’s a weird, but loyal fellow. He’s a very positive character, upholding tradition both as remembrance of the past and foundation for the future (which is something I believe in) and he has this naivety about him than makes him endearing.
In an interview right after the movie was filmed, Alexie said Evan Adams pinned down the character in such an effective way that after that he could no longer think to that character without seeing him as Evans.
The Lord of the Rings – the Two Towers
(Peter Jackson – 2002)
Well, I suppose this is not widely known on this blog, but I’ve been a Tolkien fan for the last twenty years or so. Yes, from before the film trilogy came out.
The episode of the Rohirrim is one of my favourite in the books too. My favourite part is actually Theoden’s struggle for freedom, but in the movies I really liked the way Eomer was portrayed. He got some more room and he appears like the quintessential incarnation of knighthood: loyal, bold, but ready to scarify himself (his life, but also his ego) however it is demanded of him.
Raisin in the Run
(Daniel Petrie – 1961)
This was a tough one! I knew I was going to pick someone from this film because the cast is absolutely brilliant. I debated long and hard whether to choose Wally, because of Sidney Poitier’s outstanding performance (his “we are plain people” monologue gets me every single time), but in the end I decided for Ruth because I love this character so much.
Her quiet courage, her soft strength, her willingness to scarify if need be. This is a strong woman and a strong character and she doesn’t need to do anything spectacular to show it.
The Business of Fancydancing
(Sherman Alexie – 2001)
Ok, fine, Evan Adams is going to be featured twice on this list, and I’m afraid there’s nothing you can do about it.
As much as I like Thomas, I have to admit Saymour is a far more complex, problematic character and I think Adams made a super fantastic job of it. He plays the character, he fakes interviews, he features poetry… this is a complex interpretation and he pulled it out brilliantly. This is a character with so many faces, but Adams managed to turn him into a unique human being.
Il Commissario Montalbano – TV Series
(Alberto Sironi – 1999-)
When Luca Zingaretti was chosen to feature Montalbano when the series was first filmed, Andrea Camilleri, the author of the books, strongly opposed him on the base that Zingaretti doesn’t look like Montalbano in the books at all. Years later, Camilleri admitted that Zingaretti made the character his own character in such a strong and effective way that the screen character as he performs him sipped from the tv series into the books, because the author himself finally accepted some of the characteristics the actor lend to the character.
Montalbano is a police detective in a little Sicilian town. Witty, funny, intuitive, but also stubborn and hard to deal with, he has a very high ideal of justice and law, but he knows real life often doesn’t allow for a neat carrying out of them. He’s a very complex character and I love him.
(Richard Donner – 1985)
When Ladyhawke came out in the mid-1980s there was a tendency (which is still quite popular today, if I may say) to represent female characters, especially in fantasy movies, as warriors kicking arses this way and that.
Isabeau isn’t a warrior, she’s a princess, and you never doubt it when you see her. Still she isn’t afraid to dirty her hands if need be. She can kill, she can hunt, she can deceive even her lover, and she does it without fuss or showing off.
I’ve rarely seen a character with such hardness and softness inside herself. This is how I like my female characters to be.
(Clint Eastwood – 2009)
I know, I know, I’m cheating here, because of course Nelson Mandela isn’t a screen character. But Invictus in one of my favourite films ever and Morgan Freeman is one of my favourite actors and so I’m afraid you’ll have to take it.
Freeman portraits Mandela in a very short period of his life, but he succeeds in giving an all around impression of the men. Especially his kindness, his drive and his devotion to his people and his country. His fairness. The openness of his mind…
Ok, I’ll stop here.
(Curtis Hanson – 1997)
I’ll admit there isn’t a single character I don’t like in this movie, even the small ones, but if I had to choose (which is exactly what I’m supposed to do), it would be Jack.
Come on, how can you not love him? His flamboyant manners, his frivolous lifestyle – and still if you care to scrap the surface, you find a man with strength and even values.
I won’t say this is a very original character, but I will say Kevin Spacey managed to turn him from a stereotype to a (quite endearing) human being.
(Clint Eastwood – 2003)
And fine, Clint Eastwood is going to appear twice as director in this list and there’s equally nothing you can do about it.
Now, let me tell you, with the stellar cast of characters (and actors) in this film, you’d think it would be hard to choose the one I like the most. Not a chance. Jimmy (Sean Penn) all the way. Don’t get me wrong, all the actors are fantastic in this which is all but an easy film, but Penn’s performance simply knocked me out so brilliant it is. Gave me chills down my spine every two minutes. It’s so intense.
And Jimmy isn’t an easy character either. He’s a though, rough, violent outlaw, but still he has such strong feelings for his family in himself. That last scene with his wife at the end of the movie is worth the entire film.
Rage in Harlem
(Bill Duke – 1991)
You know when you read a book and you like it so much (and oh! I’ve just realised most of these characters come from books. Oh, well…). You never know how you’ll react to the film, because most of the times, the film doesn’t live up to the book.
Not in this case. I enjoyed the film as much as the book, and I think this is because of the director and the actors.
Imabell was the biggest surprise. She’s little more than a name in the book, but she becames one of the main characters in the film… and what a character! A beautiful woman, she does what all beautiful women do in gangster film: she’s seductive and deceiving – but, boy, is she tough too! In a world of men, she has to be tougher than them to survive and that’s what she is, in spite of her inner vulnerability.
And so, this is my list. Are you familiar with any of these characters? Do you have others that you love? Do mention them in the comments… though I think I’m supposed to tag someone now. Uhm… Heading over to Twitter.