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The Monday Movies with No Name

Monday Movies saw no movies this week. We did, by an odd coincidence, take in two entertainments on the same day that featured heavy use of Fleetwood Mac songs — a live show of Fleetwood Macbeth followed by the Glee episode “Rumours” — and the overarching lesson was that no matter how far out of context you wrench a Fleetwood Mac song, it’s still glorious heartbreak on a stick.  Somewhere in the middle of the witches’ brew, as sexy witches alternated “fire burn and cauldron bubble” with the hot lick instrumental of The Chain, I thought it was as if more songs hadn’t needed to be written.

Here’s a question, inspired by last week’s movie. What movie characters’ names can you recall? I don’t have a very good memory for character names, and I find it instructive to think of which ones are strong enough to stick. Leave aside title characters, although it’s a fair bet that John Rambo or Rocky Balboa would make the cut even if they didn’t name their franchises. Also leave aside characters whose names you know from an earlier property, e.g. Peter Parker or Captain Kirk.

The gold standard here is the original Star Wars trilogy. Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, and Han Solo are all perfectly named characters. You only have to change a couple of letters to get to hilariously literal character descriptions, and yet they don’t sound awkward or on-the-nose. Rooster Cogburn comes to mind (though technically preceded by a book), as does the similar-sounding but completely different Rupert Pupkin.  J.J. Hunsecker from The Sweet Smell of Success and Rufus T. Firefly of Duck Soup are both memorable. General Jack T. Ripper comes easily to mind.

People don’t often say each other’s names in natural conversation, and I usually need to do a pass with my own writing to edit out where characters address each other by name. Also, we often discuss movies with reference to actors rather than there characters–a tendency less pronounced in television.

Who are the movie characters whose names you can’t forget? And what did you see, and how did you like it?

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July 18, 2011 - Posted by | Monday Movies

16 Comments

  1. Charles Foster Kane.

    Vizzini.

    Jake and Elwood Blues.

    Comment by Josh Malbin | July 18, 2011

  2. Kathy and Jeff. Ole Yeller. Rodan.

    7/11/11 – Tropical Malady – Apichatpong Weerasethakul 2004 8/10
    7/13/11 – Enjo – Ichikawa 1958 6/10
    7/14/11 – All About Lily Chou-Chou – Iwai 2001 9/10
    7/15/11 – The Angry Street – Naruse 1950 5/10
    7/16/11 – The Cranes Are Flying – Kalatozov 1957 9/10
    7/17/11 – Profound Desires of the Gods – Imamura 1968 7/10

    Comment by bob mcmanus | July 18, 2011

  3. This weekend, The Girlfriend really, really wanted to see the last Harry Potter, so I went with her, despite being largely indifferent to the series. She gave me a good primer to catch me up on everything, and I’d seen the first movie and so vaguely knew who the main characters were. I found it pretty entertaining and well-done, though I wondered if maybe the goblin bankers were a pinch anti-Semitic.

    Comment by Adam Kotsko | July 18, 2011

  4. Names from musicals are relatively easy, especially when they feature in the lyrics. Only counting those musicals where I’m primarily familiar with the movie, rather than the stage production:

    – Tony, Maria, Anita, Bernardo, Officer Krupke
    – Don Lockwood, Lina Lamont, Kathy Selden
    – Sandra Dee, Danny Zukko, Rizzo, Kenickie
    – Henry Higgins, Eliza Doolittle
    – Dorothy Gale, Aunt Em
    – Maria, Captain Von Trapp, Liesl, Friedrich, Louisa, Brigitta, Kurt, Gretel (I’ve forgotten one!)
    – Sally Bowles

    To 1.b: Also, Fezzik, Inigo Montoya, Buttercup, Wesley/the Dread Pirate Roberts, Prince Humperdink, Miracle Max.

    Comment by jms | July 18, 2011

  5. The Princess Bride ones are good, and Vizzini reminds me of The Godfather: Vito, Michael, Fredo Corleone. Luca Brazzi.

    HAL 9000.

    4.d is a little insulting seeing as I played Henry Higgins senior year of high school, so I don’t see how, after that, you can be “primarily familiar with the movie rather than the stage production.” The director specifically chose the play based on his evaluation of my singing abilities.

    On HP7p2, I didn’t go, but Mrs. K-sky did and reported that their party of eleven sat with one stranger in a row of 12, who when the Gringotts goblins appeared, shouted, “Jews!”

    Who are Kathy and Jeff?

    Comment by Josh K-sky | July 18, 2011

  6. 5.c: I read someplace that the Professor Higgins songs were written for sprechgesang to accommodate Rex Harrison’s vocal range, so you’re in good (or at least exceedingly handsome) company.

    Comment by jms | July 18, 2011

  7. “Jules Winwood, our man in Inglewood!
    Vincent Vega, our man in Amsterdam!” – Pulp Fiction

    Comment by Matt in Toledo | July 18, 2011

  8. I saw a great pair of Jules and Vinny lookalikes outside Grauman’s Chinese Saturday night. Jules was absurdly dead-on.

    Comment by Josh K-sky | July 18, 2011

  9. 6: After working with me for a couple of weeks, the chorus director glared at me and said, “People will pay to listen to Rex Harrison talk his way through a musical for two hours, but you’re going to have to learn to sing a little better.”

    Comment by Josh K-sky | July 18, 2011

  10. We watched an episode of “Agatha Christie’s Poirot.” Normally I’d leave this to Thursday, but it was an adaptation of “Mrs. Ginty’s Dead” and, so, qualifies as a made-for-tv movie. We felt some “deja vu” for the first quarter to third of the movie thinking that we had seen it before, but we weren’t sure–after awhile, all the character in Christie’s Poirot stories start to look and sound the same. We felt we recognized Mrs. McGinty–but only because there is a moderately unnotable political family of that name based in Ottawa. Turns out we had, in fact, seen the movie. I was certain that it ended with Poirot going to Australia to uncover the missing woman. Guess I confused it with another virtually identical cast and plot. We liked the one a couple weeks ago on “Masterpiece Mystery,” although we absolutely loathe the “host,” called “Hallowe’en Party.” But, all things said, we prefer the episodes produced as “Agatha Christie’s Poirot” to those produced as “Masterpiece Mystery.” And, let’s be honest: Ariadne Oliver just fucking sucks. Sure, the roles of Hastings, Japp, and Ms. Lemon are expanded in “Agatha Christie’s Poirot,” but at least those characters don’t suck. I just don’t get why Poirot remains such friends with Ariadne–she doesn’t provide him with anything: Hastings has tenuous connections to the ruling classes, Japp is influential in Scotland Yard, and Ms. Lemon has her remarkable filing system. Ariadne? All she has is a throat that’s smoked too many cigarettes and a flair for the dramatic that Poirot finds tiresome in nearly everyone else.

    Comment by Craig McFarlane | July 18, 2011

  11. 5:Out of the Past My #1 all time favorite. But I can’t remember there last names.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | July 18, 2011

  12. I suppose I could say more about my movies in comment 2

    Iwai’s Lily Chou-Chou is a brilliant account of high-school bullying, more brutal and violent and general than Clarke’s Bully. But in contrast to the fantasy disconnect of Clarke’s leads Renfro and Miner, which made them dysfunctional and incompetent, Iwai adds elements of a) anonymous internet community, and b) an obsession with a sappy and insipid pop singer, shared by all the characters, that demonstrates a disassociated sentimentality and psuedo-spirituality. The soundtrack contains original music, but the tone and much of the background music is Debussy and Satie piano. Iwai, I think, is showing ourselves to ourselves, in our functional psychopathology of the 21st century and how we got here.

    I was 5 minutes into Cranes when I started laughing with joy and thought:”This is ultimate in late 50s art-film cinematography, dialed up to 11.” Astonishingly beautiful and imaginative expressionist B&W direction and camerawork, like someone wanted to show Sven Nyquist and Bergman how it could be done. Also perhaps the best Soviet actress ever.

    Comment by bob mcmanus | July 18, 2011

  13. I can remember St. John Lord Merridew, but not the name of his author, in Sleuth.

    Comment by ben | July 18, 2011

  14. Jason, Michael Myers, Freddy Kruger. With the middle one, it’s the cultural reach rather than the perfection of the name that makes it easily remembered. The others, hard to say.

    I remember the quartet from Kicking and Screaming, but that may be personal investment: Grover, Skippy, Max and Otis. They are perfectly named, though. Parker Posey plays Miami, Olivia d’Abo was Jane, I don’t remember Dr. Faye Miller’s character name.

    Comment by Josh K-sky | July 18, 2011

  15. Kate. I had to look it up because I don’t watch Mad Men and didn’t get that reference, but if you’d said “Max’s jailbait girlfriend” I’d have had it instantly.

    Comment by Josh Malbin | July 20, 2011

  16. Hannibal Lecter. Clarice. Buffalo Bill.

    Clarice’s last name is Starling but I doubt I’d know that if I hadn’t read about the movie. Also “Clarice” is memorable for the same reason “Cameron” is — I can remember the exact moment of Lecter pronouncing her name, or of Bueller singing “let my Cameron go.”

    Comment by Josh K-sky | July 20, 2011


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