Dec 28, 2010

25 Favorite Characters

It's funny that even though I stated that 2010 was a lame year for movies, I am currently having trouble making a Top 10 that includes the best. Oddly, my top 20 doesn't even hold them all.

However, the one thing that comes into factoring positions is the characters. They're the reason I watch the movies over and over. I root for them and intrigued by their history, their background. There was an abundance of them this year. Even terrible movies like Cop Out had memorable parts that would make me watch it again with some form of optimism.

So, characters are not branded to good or bad movies. They're the roles I look at and pray those actors get their own movies (sometimes even the characters). Will they get them? If I sign enough petitions.

Until then, I thought I would give recognition to 25 roles that stood out for me.

Chloe Moretz
Mindy Macready aka Hit Girl

For the people that didn't hop on the Moretz wagon during (500) Days of Summer, this is easily the breakout role: a crime fighter with a mouth of a sailor and the ways of a ninja. However, she's so adorable that you'd never expect her to knock out an entire drug ring in five minutes. While the other characters had niches and preconceived characteristics, the bizarre, anarchic history of Hit Girl puts her above the others as she has no sympathy for romance, family, or social networking. Mark Millar has began work on Kick-Ass 2: Balls to the Wall, and by that comic alone, I kind of hope we get to see more Hit Girl in the near future.

James Franco
Aron Ralston
(127 Hours)

I suppose it's unfair that I already admire Franco for being a college student and Daniel Desario on Freaks and Geeks. I always believed he was charismatic and funny, making Pineapple Express one of those odd favorites. However, I have never seen him this tight before. With his arm stuck in a rock, he manages to make everything funny and sympathetic simultaneously without once coming across as an annoyance. His rant midway through on calling into work is reason enough that I believe he deserves an Academy Award. I hope this is the start of everyone realizing how virtuosic and actor he is and giving him higher caliber roles.

Kieran Culkin
Wallace Wells
(Scott Pilgrim vs. the World)

It's impossible to believe that Edgar Wright managed to do such a flawless transfer of the characters from Bryan Lee O'Malley's comics to the screen. However, none stood out more for me than Culkin as the gay roommate. His sage advice delivered with deadpan brilliance may have not gotten the big colorful fight scenes, but it did get the biggest laughs for me. He's honest and sincere, feeling 100% real without being over the top. If anything, it got me interested in a Culkin, something I have long been disinterested in.

Christian Bale
Dicky Eklund
(The Fighter)

It's amazing how much love Johnny Depp gets for being so versatile (i.e. make-up and voice change). However, after discovering the range (and weight) of Bale, it's a shame that he's not more respected. He has become one of my favorites for efforts like American Psycho, and while he may be boring sometimes (Public Enemies), he's still really impressive. Take the Fighter for instance. If the movie hadn't centralized around Mark Wahlberg, this could easily be in my Top 5. The opening scene alone (arguably my favorite for the year) got me pumped for Bale to just give a great, drug addicted performance. And for his screen time, I am in that zone. Also, I could put him jumping into trash cans on loop and watch that forever. I loved this character and felt sympathy for him through the whole thing. Bale deserves more credit for roles other than the Dark Knight. This is proof.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

I'm going to go ahead and argue that this is my Matrix (minus shit sequels). Everything was beautifully complex about this movie and made me rethink how a movie could be filmed. Those scenes you thought would be groundbreaking literally were. My jaw drops still. It was so tough to pick a character that I loved the most. However, Levitt easily wins because he gets the best scenes. The hallway battle? The kick demonstration? The stair paradox? All were brilliant, and those were thanks to him. The way he introduces us into the world is done so professional and cool that it almost overpowers how awesome that suit looks on him. I loved Levitt's contributions and while they may not be Academy Award worthy, I'm sure I'll remember it more than those nominees.

Andrew Garfield
Eduardo Severin
(The Social Network)

While I will argue that this movie is not as great as they say, I will agree on one thing: Garfield. Sure, Jesse Eisenberg is good (better in Adventureland, though), but it's the supporting cast (hell, even Justin Timberlake was good) that makes this movie better. Garfield manages to make more emotion arguing about chickens than anyone else about legal mumbo jumbo. Even during the closing scenes when the odds are against him, I was there hoping that Garfield would win based on passion alone. I look forward to seeing him in more movies and I believe that he is one of the actors that will reign in the new greats of cinema.

Danny Trejo

Before we get started, let me note that I am usually against the idea of sequels. Most of them are dull comparisons to iconic originals. However, there was something about the closing credits promising more Machete in the near future that got me excited. While we can argue about how great the political commentary is, I personally believe that Machete will become an iconic vigilante in cinema. Trejo has been on the scene for a long time and he's just now getting a movie, taking every second to shine his skill. With the hand of director Robert Rodriguez, the movie is bloody and fun without making me sick. I hope they give Machete (or at least Trejo) more leading roles because if he's this good now, imagine when he gets better.

Noomi Rapace
Lisbeth Salander
(Girl with the Dragon Tattoo/Girl who Played with Fire/Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest)

This is an example of going in cold turkey. I wanted to see a foreign movie, and ended up a devoted fan of the entire trilogy. While the sequels are pale comparisons, it's not because of Rapace, who is a dynamo every second she's on screen. The moment I knew I was in her power was during a rape scene early on where she manages to carve "I'm a fascist pig" into her sleazy capturer's chest. To say the least, I am having trouble seeing Rooney Mara top this, but if any director could do a dark companion piece, it's David Fincher. Also, meet back with me in a year and do realize Rapace's Sherlock Holmes 2 role will get her a lot of "breakthrough" talk. I am glad she's another one of our foreign success stories.

Joaquin Phoenix
Joaquin Phoenix
(I'm Still Here)

I know this movie is fake. I don't care. This is the movie that got me to recognize Phoenix as an actor. What I'm essentially calling a tribute to Andy Kaufman, Phoenix's reckless abandon is some the most amusing nonsense in a year where everything became cookie cutter and predictable. His rap career may not be great, but his ability to do it for the better part of two years shows some massive dedication that I'm sure the Academy will overlook simply because they hate being fooled. It's an acquired taste joke, but I find it endearing.

Anne Hathaway
Maggie Murdock
(Love and Other Drugs)

There's something about Hathaway that fascinates me. When she's in horrible movies (Bride Wars, anyone?) she fails hard. When she's in great movies, she steals my heart harder than 99% of the actresses. This is a good example of the latter. While the story is nowhere near brilliant, the chemistry is awesome with Jake Gyllenhaal and their passionate sex is so steamy, cheap romance novels finally got some hard competition. While I cannot buy Hathaway as a Parkinson patient, that aspect of the story almost made me fall in love with her all over again. I really hope she continues to do great roles like this and Rachel Getting Married instead of Alice in Wonderland, which clearly was just for the paycheck by everyone involved.

Kayvan Novak
(Four Lions)

This may be at cult status right now, but I hope to God it's this year's Reservoir Dogs where the audience is found eventually. It's very funny in ways you'd never thing jihadists to be. It's a tight script and the story is really strong and I already plan to rewatch it multiple times. While I cannot figure out who is my favorite character yet, I'll stick with Waj, whose opening scene involving a taping of a threat to America is very inspired and makes you reassess almost every terrorist threat you'll see ever again. Also, it features one of the best song cues with "Dancing in the Moon Light", which sums it up in ways you cannot imagine. Please see this movie and tell your friends. It's probably one of the most original stories in comedy this year, yet it only played in 14 theaters... boo!

(Exit Through the Gift Shop)

I have no idea if that's really Banksy, but come on... any chance you get to hear him talk about his art is like a blue moon. The fact he manages to make such an anarchic art movie with some of the most brilliant twists this year makes me wish he was more of a director. However, if you listen to the interviews in the documentary, he's immediately honest, insulting, and funny simultaneously and I don't care if his voice is altered, it's still amazing to watch him speak. Even if you don't like street art... yet... you will love it after seeing this movie that chooses to question the way we perceive it.

Dakota Fanning
Cherie Curie
(The Runaways)

While I can say I saw this movie solely because I like the Runaways, I was more blown away by my continuing respect for Kristen Stewart and the fact she is underselling herself with Twilight. However, it was Fanning as Curie that made me love this movie. Her dive into drugs and rock and roll was amazingly convincing and I was almost saddened to watch her fall from fame as she gets denied alcohol at a grocery store. While I haven't become a Fanning devotee from this material alone, it makes me respect her more and makes me believe she will be one of the few child actors to make a proper transition without the cliche mishaps.

Jeremy Renner
James Coughlin
(The Town)

While I cannot say I was a big fan of the Hurt Locker, I have become a fan of Renner. He may not yet be amazing in my book, but he comes close, notably in his final shoot out in the Town. It's dramatic and sad in a Taxi Driver way without feeling like a Taxi Driver knock-off (Brothers, anyone?). The rest of the movie, his madcap chemistry with Ben Affleck is some of the most heartfelt I've seen this year. I cared if they made it out of the heists alive, only to be back stabbed by friends. I don't know if Renner deserves an Academy Award for this role, but I do know I'm putting him on my roster of actors to watch.

Seann William Scott
(Cop Out)

Where has Scott been? Every time he gets together with Kevin Smith, he easily steals the show. This is the best example, upstaging Bruce Willis for what equals to less than 10 minutes. His literal cameo creates some the most awkward, hilarious moments in this otherwise terrible movie. I almost felt sad to realize he wasn't a main character. All I know is, Scott and Smith need to make a movie together (now that Hit Somebody didn't work out) and he may possibly make his best since Chasing Amy. We can only hope.

Jennifer Lawrence
Ree Dolly
(Winter's Bone)

Not much to say other than I'm sold on Lawrence joining the latest string of breakthroughs for the year. I wasn't wild about the movie, but her performance was impressive enough to keep me invested in what happened to her. Who knows if she'll be the next indie darling. However, after inevitable Oscar nominations and probably an acclaimed follow up, she'll probably be.

John Malkovich
Marvin Boggs

This movie kind of sucked, speaking of it's great cast. However, it's one standout was Malkovich, whose paranoid, LSD taking ex-CIA agent was greatly off-kilter and fun. No matter what he was rambling about, I found it funny and kind of wished the rest of the cast weren't taking themselves that seriously.

Nev Schulman

So, Schulman is busted for possibly making a big fake exploitation movie. It doesn't matter. The story is intriguing enough that even when I saw it pre-controversy, it was entertaining and he had this pull about him that made him easily naive and likable. While it's arguable that the payoff wasn't quite as great as the hype, the journey is incredible and some fantastic storytelling as well as investigative journalism. I wouldn't call it a great documentary, but I would say it's a better movie representing Facebook users than the Social Network.

Russell Brand
Aldous Snow
(Get Him to the Greek)

Ever since Forgetting Sarah Marshall, I've kind of been on the Brand wagon. He isn't on the level of impressive yet, but he has made what I consider to be an iconic rock star character along the lines of Dewey Cox. He's ridiculously overblown and warped on drugs, yet he still writes these ridiculously bad songs that are great. Brand owns this character and makes me long for more recordings as well as comedy. I even daresay he's better than Katy Perry, but that's just me.

Mia Wasikoska
(The Kids Are All Right)

Finally! I get to respect Wasikowska. I was really hoping to at least like her in Alice in Wonderland, but she seemed bored and trapped in the role. Here, she manages to have some fun in one of the more bizarre comedies of the year. The casting is great and the story just as solid. However, it seems weird, but I like the troubled teens. Wasikowska did a great job and in those final moments when she left for college... arguably more sad than Toy Story 3 for me (probably because it reminds me of my sister). But now that I know she can act, I demand good performances, post-haste!

Natalie Portman
Nina Sayers
(Black Swan)

I don't know where this great performance came from, but dammit, it's jaw dropping good. I'm going to go as far as call this my favorite film by director Darren Aronofsky. Portman is just so dedicated to self deprecation for a role and I loved every moment of it. I kept hoping they'd push it further, and they did. As someone who had a friend in dance, the movie had an eerie reminiscing touch to it from hearing her complain about muscle pains. However, those final moments are too amazing to spoil. If you believe Portman is a great actress, you better see this and look me in the eyes in agreement. I loved it.

Robert Downey, Jr.
Tony Stark
(Iron Man 2)

Ok, I just love Downey. He embodies cool. This movie quintessentially sucked, but I still was into his alcoholic rantings and hitting on ladies. I don't know that I was a fan of all the advertisement, but giving Downey some time to show his smart-ass dialogue some respect was definitely worth hearing Samuel L. Jackson go on about god-knows-what. Now, if they can just get rid of all the fancy gizmos and put Downey in front of a blank canvas to talk about whatever he wanted, then maybe this would've been a brilliant movie. Still, there's no denying I loved Stark simply because of Downey.

Geoffrey Rush
Lionel Logue
(The King's Speech)

While the movie is nowhere near a thrill a minute, it's still very funny. I think that Rush is the star of the movie as he plays the straight man to Colin Firth's stuttering comedy. While it's more vaudeville than slapstick, their chemistry is some of the best this year and the more intimate they get, the more interesting it becomes. I'd rather spend the entire movie hearing them talk Good Will Hunting style, but I got the next best thing, which thanks to an entertaining script, makes me want more from these two brilliant minds.

Justin Long
Paul Saunders
(Youth in Revolt)

I'll say it now. I love Long. He is practically the best part of the worst movies. While Youth in Revolt is not a terrible movie, it left much to be inspired. However, I am a sucker for Long's deadpan slacker persona that he embodies so well in this movie. One of the best bad influences of the year, Long is proving to be one of the best understated comedians in modern cinema. I just wish he would do more Accepted and less Strange Wilderness.

Bud Luckey
(Toy Story 3)

This was a tough call to round out the 25. I totally forgot to mention anyone in True Grit. However, there is one character that stands out more. True, it's not a main character, but an essential role in advancing the story. Chuckles is the sardonic clown I wish I created. The French aesthetic he uses to tell of Lotso's origin is immediately hilarious and sad without changing tone. In a movie overpowered by emotionally complex toys, it was nice to see one that had a simple task and succeed so brilliantly.

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