Wednesday, April 22, 2009

10 Characters I Love, Understand, Fear and Feel Sorry For

Rick at the oh-so wonderful Coosa Creek Cinema has tagged me with the 10 Characters Meme which originated with the I really need to stop by and visit more often FilmSquish.

Laura of
High Fidelity Rob Gordon is about as self-centered and aimless as it gets. Fortunately, he has one hell of a woman in his life, Laura. She is understanding enough to put up with all the bullshit, and strong enough to help Rob pull himself out of it. And she does it not with a bang, but an elegant whisper. It's wrong to think of Nick Hornby's books as male-centered, because it's always the woman who saves them from being incredible pricks. Stephen Frears does this material proud and we've got a female character for the ages.

Royal Tenenbaum of The Royal Tenenbaums To hell with comfort. With routines. Royal Tenenbaum is like one giant rock placed inconveniently among the many cogs, constantly stopping it from going along its merry way. And that's what I love about him. He's a bastard for sure, but a bastard I would love to mix things up from time to time.

Willy Wonka of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory Beneath the steely stare and the wry asides of Willy lies the heart of a child. He has taught me that we can grow up, but we don't have to ever grow old.

Paul Cicero of Goodfellas "Paulie may have moved slow, but it was only because Paulie didn't have to move for anybody." That's the life I want.

Hank Kingsley of The Larry Sanders Show I have often argued that Hank Kingsley might be the most complex character ever to hit the little screen. One moment as insecure as a teenager at a dance, the next as arrogant as an A-lister trying to get a table in a packed restaurant. Just when you think you've pegged "Hey Now" Hank, he changes it up and keeps things interesting.

Antonio Salieri of Amadeus I have many passions in life and yet I know that no matter how much I study them or work at them, there will be someone better than me. There is an admiration for those people, but also a child-like resentment. Salieri is the culmination of every jealous feeling I've ever had.

Cowboy of Mulholland Dr. Who is the cowboy? What does he do in his down-time? Where does he live? How did he become the "Cowboy"? These are the questions that haunt me. May I never cross his path.

Rupert Pupkin of The King Of Comedy Whenever I have genuine intentions that go horribly wrong, I think of Rupert Pupkin.

Golda Meir of Munich There are those hulking figures who instantly read menace with their furrowed brows and bulging muscles. And then there are the grandmotherly types who will serve you tea and send you on a suicide mission. The latter scares me much more because you don't see them coming. I admire Golda's modesty, but know that beneath that simple dress she wears there's one hell of a bat and she knows how to use it.

Jefferson Smith of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington Jefferson Smith is too trusting. He's too nice. He's too optimistic. And I'll take that over the other any day of the week and six times on Sunday. Jefferson Smith is not only the character I wish I were, it's what I wish everyone were.

My belief is that I have been so late in putting this together that everyone has already done this meme. But if you have not and feel so moved to do you own post, consider yourself tagged.


Megan said...

A very interesting and revealing list, Piper. Yes, I have done this one already, but I've been re-thinking it ever since. Something I don't think you will need to do...

Alex said...

Cool list, though I haven't seen all of the films you mentioned.

I think there's been someone from The Royal Tenenbaums (or another Wes Anderson film) on almost every one of these lists I've seen so far, which is awesome. It's always a different one though. Royal is an interesting choice, but I think I get it.

Greg said...

Hey now! Remember when Hank was in the hotel room depressed and Artie gave him a gun to kill himself? Or when Hank guest hosted and got laughs being nervous but then he got over confident by the end of the week and called the guy in the audience a "ree-tard" and got booed?

Oh shit, Hank was a million bucks wrapped up in Cheap Wow Gold. I love that guy too. But also Artie. Artie is one of the best gruff characters ever created for television. Rip Torn was never on my radar really until that show and then he was suddenly the guy I never wanted to mess with.

PIPER said...


Perhaps I have revealed too much about myself?


I think it's a testament to how great The Royal Tenenbaums is that so many people have selected characters from it. They are strange yes, but people relate to them.

PIPER said...


Or remember when Artie brought in those Cubans and Hank took a puff of one and it was so strong that he passed out on his couch and set the office on fire?

I love Artie too. Who did he have a very strange love affair with. Like when the two got together, it was complete danger. Can't remember that. It was like Dyan Cannon or something like that. He was ready to leave the country with her.

That still remains one of the great shows.

Greg said...

Are you thinking of the Angie Dickinson episodes?

That was a great show. I hadn't thought about it for a while but now thanks to this post I may have to get a hold of the DVDs and watch it again.

Patricia Perry said...

Piper - What a great list!

I'm with you and Greg - Hank Kingsley is the best. As Greg already mentioned, the episode where he gets to host and turns from the lovable, insecure guy to the arrogant prick overnight is just genius.

Artie was great, too. Always just a little off kilter/dangerous. You never knew quite was he was going to do or say next; his line readings always took me by surprise but in a really great way.

I miss "Larry Sanders." I think I need to get the DVD set.

Also glad to see Rupert Pupkin here. I watched "The King of Comedy" over and over on cable bakc in the 80s - it's a very underrated film.

PIPER said...


Yeah, it's Angie Dickinson. I loved the complexities of his lust/addiction for her.


Thanks for the comments.

I also loved how Artie kept on saying how much everyone loved the episode where Larry gets hit in the balls by the monkey.

I have to look into this on DVD. I do know that there's a really ugly legal battle going on between Shandling and someone about the rights or compensation of something. iTunes doesn't offer much in the way of episodes. A best of, that's not really the best.

Regarding King of Comedy - I think it's funny that some of Scorsese's best films get overlooked. The King of Comedy and After Hours being two of his biggest. Scorsese is known for being a violent director, but he actually has an incredible sense of humor.

Patricia Perry said...

Oh yeah, "After Hours" is great, too. That's another film I watched over and over in the 80s. No one much mentions it anymore, but it had some terrific comic female performances from Terri Garr, Catherine O'Hara, Linda Fiorentino.

corndogfuneral said...

I like Max Fischer too. Although Royal may be the Finest Bastard to ever grace the screen. Max was such an underdog that you couldn't help feel at once pity and admiration. He was brimming with such talent and gusto about life but seemed to not be able to rise above mediocrity. Until he was at peace with who he was. I'm just sayin...

Is that taken a a hook line?

Anonymous said...

Royal Tennenbaum rocks. Plain and simple, a fantastic choice.

And I know this is supposed to be just about the characters, but Jeffrey Tambor invests everything he plays with the complexity you're talking about.

PIPER said...


Terri Garr especially. She was a bizarre character.


Help me out with that last line you typed. Not sure what it means.


I'm writing about The Royal Tenenbaums for Film For The Souls counting down the zeros. I'm a little nervous to pay it proper respect because it is one of my favorites.

And Tambor is a great actor. Except when he's playing a Who down in Who-ville.

Shannon the Movie Moxie said...

Wow Piper, that is the craziest list I've seen of these so far - and that is a compliment. Awesome.

I still have to get my list up.. sigh..

PIPER said...

Thanks Shannon,

I spent a lot of time with it.

It's not an easy assignment.

Good luck with yours.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for tagging me by association.

It was a cool meme.

bill r. said...

No one is going to see this comment now, but it wasn't Angie Dickinson with whom Hank had the affair, but Elizabeth Ashley.

Tonight, I would like to dine at Hank's Look-Around Cafe, if only it were possible.

Great list, Piper. Very interesting, and I could not agree with you more about Hank. Larry could have gone on there, too, in my opinion.

PIPER said...


Thanks for participating. I'll check out your list.

Bill R.

Whattya mean no one will see it. I'll see it. And I talk. I talk a lot.

As far as the relationships go, we were talking about Arty. He dated Angie Dickinson. She was the Fatal Attraction for him. Not necessarily fatal, but he had a dangerous lust for her.

And yes, Larry could have very easily gone on this list as well. It's a fantastic show loaded with great characters. I even liked Sarah Silverman with her brief stint. One of the best lines "oh my god, you must get laid... like never."

Although, I hear from Marilyn that she's a pig. So you know, she's got that going for her.

Hopefully Marilyn will pick this up with her Google Search Sarah Silverman = Pig.

bill r. said...

Sorry, I meant Artie. Artie was with Elizabeth Ashley. Really! Look it up!

Joel Bocko said...

Well, I'm really glad I didn't take you up on your offer and write this for you. What a great list! Really diverse, entertaining offbeat choices, great descriptions.

On second thought, maybe I will take credit for this. Hey everyone, Piper didn't compose this post! I did. Thank you for your compliments.

PIPER said...


I would say thank you, but you seem to be delirious, thinking that you wrote this, you crazy bastard.

Stacia said...

It's wrong to think of Nick Hornby's books as male-centered, because it's always the woman who saves them from being incredible pricks.I have to disagree with this. The trope of women being "understanding" and "strong" simply for the purpose of improving the asshole man in their life is INCREDIBLY male-centered.

PIPER said...


I guess I disagree with you, but I see where you're coming from.

To me a strong character elevates a person (male or female). I have seen this happen in two of Hornby's books. High Fidelity and About A Boy.

I don't know, maybe those female characters are idiots for sticking around with these men, but I think that's the easy way out. Especially since these men become better people because of these women.

Maybe I'm not being fair in saying it's a female/male thing. Hornby just has a way of quietly surprising you with characters. And both of these characters happen to be women.

Squish said...

Of your list, your reason for Paul Cicero was my favorite :D