We all love movies, but what is it that do you love most about those films? What about them draws you to the movie theater time after time? The actors? the filmmakers? the stories? the photography?
For me, it is all about the characters – fictional, non-fictional, human, animal or object. The ones that stay with you long after the movie is over. The ones that make you think, feel, cry and laugh. And especially the ones that you wish you actually knew.
So in honor of the 81st Annual Academy Awards this weekend, I bring you my Top 10 Most Fascinating and Memorable Film Characters of 2008 (and their Intents!). 2008 was a great year at the movies. There were some great films and some phenomenal characters that will stay with us for a long time. Who are they? What do they want? And what can we learn from them?
10. MARIA ELENA (Penélope Cruz in VICKY CHRISTINA BARCELONA)
“My intent is to work, love and live with pure passion”
María Elena is the fiery ex-wife of painter Juan Antonio in Woody Allen’s delightful and quirky Vicky Christina Barcelona. She is any man (or woman’s) ultimate fantasy and ultimate nightmare. Not only is she a talented painter with a keen eye for art and heartbreakingly gorgeous, she is honest and will tell you how it is. She has strange ways of showing her love, including attempting to kill you if you cross her, but underneath all that fire is pure heart. She is passionate to the brim and lives completely from her heart, which is the way to live.
9. WALL-E (Benn Burt in WALL-E)
“My intent is to find companionship and love in this world”
His full name is Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth and he is a mobile trash compactor, the last of his kind, with the daunting job of cleaning up Planet Earth after it has been absolutely wrecked by humans. He isn’t just any ordinary robot though, his lonely existence and mundane life has sparked emotion and curiosity. Wall-E collects artifacts, enjoys music and falls in love with Extraterrestrial Vegetation Evaluator or EVE, a robotic probe who comes to Earth in search for vegetation and its capacity for inhabitation. Wall-E joins the likes of R2D2 and E.T, as one of the most adorable robots to grace the big screen. He might not say a lot but he manages to capture your heart with his pure intentions. Oh that and he also saves Planet Earth!
8. DAVID FROST (Michael Sheen in FROST/NIXON)
“My intent is uncover the truth, no matter how difficult it might be”
When we first meet David Frost, he is a flamboyant and fun loving host of a variety TV show, leagues away from the recently shamed President Richard Nixon. But as history shows, the two come together in one of the most famous televised interviews, where the former President confesses his guilt to Frost. Frost/Nixon took me by surprise, it wasn’t just a film about a TV interview it was one of those great underdog stories. It starts with an unattainable dream, true dedication, almost defeat and climaxes with glorious victory. David Frost was the perfect example of our 2008 mantra, “Yes We Can!”. He had a dream, a vision and he stopped to no end to get it. He was constantly criticized and undermined but he did not let any of that bring him down. He wanted something and got it, and that was inspiring!
7. BENJAMIN BUTTON (Brad Pitt in THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON)
“My intent is to live my life the only way I know how to”
How can you not fall in love with a character when you spend 3 hours experiencing his entire life. Benjamin Button comes from the pages of one of my favorite authors, F.Scott Fitzerald. He might be born an old wrinkly man, but he is as eager and curious as any young boy. He is ambitious and falls in love just like any of us. The most charming quality about Benjamin that draws us to him is how he embraces life. Nothing in his life is forever and as he grows younger, everything else he loves grows older and withers. He is an outsider every step of the way but none of that deters him from living the best life he can. He is the most unusual man there ever was but also the most normal one.
6. HARVEY MILK (Sean Penn in MILK)
“My intent is to never give up my freedom to love who I want”
American Politician and gay rights activist Harvey Milk, was the first openly gay man to be elected to office. He is an inspiration for all those who ever wanted to give up on a fight because of constant defeat. Harvey Milk ran for office over and over again until he was elected. Death threats, outcry, hate and rejection did not stop his fight for freedom – the freedom to love whomever he wanted. He is polite, cuddly and the nicest man you can ever imagine but at the same time he is a fierce politician who knows how to create an uproar. He uses his charm and we all fall under the spell of Harvey Milk.
5. ERNESTO “CHE” GUEVARA (Benicio Del Toro in CHE – PART ONE & TWO)
“My intent is to fight for freedom and equal rights for all”
You might love him, hate him or have no idea who he is but you have definitely seen him (his infamous photo has graced many tshirts, mugs and posters). Steven Soderbergh’s epic biopic Che – Part One & Part Two, shows Che how he is. His life is shown without bias; he is neither glorified or bashed. Benicio Del Toro’s performance has to be the most phenomenal unrecognized performance of the year (he did win the Best Actor trophy at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival). Personally I am a big Che-fan. Yes he was a socialist and chose violence to achieve his goals, but above all of that was a man who gave up his career, home and the life he had to fight for every underprivileged man there was. He lived for the people absolutely selflessly. He suffered from asthma, but never let that get in the way of his revolution. I was in awe throughout the movie and left the theater with goosebumps and truly moved.
4. JAMAL MALIK (Dev Patel in SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE)
“My intent is to find my true love, any way I can”
Slumdog Millionaire in every way is an inspiration. It is the little movie that could. Did you know it went almost straight to DVD after Warner Bros. shut down Warner Independent. Thankfully Fox Searchlight saw the gem it was and the rest is history. It echoes again our mantra for 2008 “yes we can!” Jamal Malik, played by three different actors in the film, is the ultimate underdog. Throughout his life every horrible thing possible has happened to him. He lost his mother, begged on the streets, almost got his eyes gouged out and was betrayed by the only family he had. But Jamal is like that bobo doll that you punch and punch but always comes back for more. Jamal has a reason to live and fight for — his true love Latika. Jamal’s whole life has been about finding his way back to her and it is one of the most moving love stories of our times.
3. EDWARD CULLEN (Robert Pattinson in TWILIGHT)
“My intent is to find my soulmate and never let her go”
If every generation has one romantic leading man that all the women go crazy for, Edward Cullen will be the one for this coming generation. Stephenie Meyer’s wildy popular Twilight series, created what I would agree is the perfect man (oh by the way he might also kill you and drink your blood!) He is the most dangerously attractive man. Everything about him will draw you in and yes, that is a line straight from the film. He is looking for his true love and when he finds her he does everything in his power to make her safe and happy. But besides all the perfect-ness, he is also fascinating to no end. He is 108 years old (stopped aging at 17) and has lived through the whole century. Can you imagine the stories he would have to share?
2. THE JOKER (Heath Ledger in THE DARK KNIGHT)
“My intent is to kill your hope and happiness”
The Joker, played to perfection by Heath Ledger, is my #2 most memorable character of 2008 and the absolute reason the Dark Knight was a truly brilliant piece of cinema. Throughout the years we have seen many villains, ones who wanted to create pollution, ones who wants to rule the world, the ones who wanted money and the ones who wanted power but the Joker stands above them all. The Joker doesn’t want anything for himself, he wants to take away the most powerful force within all human beings, hope. He is the ultimate villain. He does not scare from anybody and doesn’t even care if you capture him. He takes the one symbol of a bright future (Harvey Dent) and converts him to evil. If you can just ignore all the moral issues for a second, you will see the pure brilliance.
1. HANNA SCHMITZ (Kate Winslet in THE READER)
“My intent is to learn how to read and write”
And the #1 most fascinating character I found in 2008, was hands down was Kate Winslet’s Hanna Schmitz in The Reader. There was so many layers to her that I found myself constantly thinking about her long after the film ended. Hanna Schmitz’s actions are absolutely despicable. She is a former SS guard at Auschwitz, who once let an entire church fuller of prisoners burn and die. If her actions as a Nazi guard were not bad enough she seduces a teenage boy years younger. But if you ask Hanna what is the one thing she is most ashamed of in her life, she would say being illiterate. Hanna Schmitz did not find anything wrong with being an SS guard or taking advantage of a young boy, but the one aspect of her life that she could not live with (and for which she endures years of life as a prisoner) is the fact that she could not read or write. As you get to know her more, you discover the many decisions in her life that stemmed from that one inability. Hanna Schmitz. Kate Winslet’s portrayal is the cherry on top on a trult memorable character. She is equally ambiguous as she is fascinating.
Hope you all enjoyed my journey through some of the great movies we saw in 2008 and do share what your favorite characters and movies were in 2008.