The weirdest villains in film

November 14, 2007

In a recent review for the film American Gangster, the LA Times included a fun little photo gallery of what they considered “more unusual choices for organized crime bosses.” Their picks include Jabba the Hut (can’t argue with them there…) and Don Lino (aka, the voice of Robert DeNiro) in the animated Shark Tale.

And while that’s fun and all, what about those other outcasts from the population of ne’er-do-wells whose chosen occupations sadly don’t fall into the realm of organized crime? Shouldn’t they get their say as well?

Here, then, are some of my favorite villainous oddballs:

WARNING: some contain SPOILERS (read with care…)

Bowler Hat Guy (Meet the Robinsons) – Something about those spindly legs just really creeps me out and to top it all off, the true villain is the mechanical bowler hat itself (uh huh, a bowler hat) that’s telling him what to do. Ick.

Yzma and Kronk (Emperor’s New Groove) – The first looks like some sort of waspish spider and has a weird thing for llamas. The second is a sidekick who hums his own theme song and happily cooks spinach puffs right in the middle of an evil plot. And when Yzma cackles evilly as a cute little kitten? Priceless.

The Penguin (Batman Returns) – Okay, true, in Batman, Jack Nicholson’s The Joker is mighty odd and, yes, totally insane. But he’s got a kind of sense of humor (in a creepy way) and, well… it’s Jack Nicholson. He’s his own kind of weird. In any case, unlike the Penguin in the original comics who was rather cool-headed, refined and quite intelligent, the Penguin in Batman Returns is, as the Wikipedia entry puts it, “a physically deformed, sadistic, megalomaniacal monster.” Plus, he hangs around with penguins all the time. Literally. I think that qualifies him.

The Wicked Witch of the West (Wizard of Oz) – She melts and her henchmen are flying monkeys. Enough said.

The Claw (Toy Story) – Who knew the fun selector of children’s stuffed animals could be such a bizarre nightmarish creature? Not forgetting of course that The Claw is also a completely emotionless cult leader who gets his brainwashed followers to chant “The Claw is our master. The claw chooses who will go and who will stay.” And leads them to believe that being “chosen” will take them to “a better place.” Scary, scary stuff.

HAL 9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey) – As an artificial intelligence, this decidedly creepy villain is nothing but a voice and an oddly pulsating red glow. And really, there isn’t much that is scarier and more goosebumpily bizarre than a villain who never, ever raises his voice.

The Emperor (Star Wars) – Why is it that the names of many evil villains begin with a definite article? I suppose we’ll never really know, but I think it’s clear that this villain at least certainly deserves to have a name that begins with an emphatic “the.” With his ghoulish voice and eerie cackle, not to mention that blue lightning thing he can do with his hands, the Emperor is both evil and just plain strange. Darth Vader has got that cool strong man / deep voice in black metal vibe going on, but the Emperor has an omnipresent cowl and cooky sense of humor. He wins.

Assorted Amélie villains (Amélie / Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain) – Perhaps not villains per se, if you want to get technical, but they are all weird and/or mysteriously odd people. So I think they should get their chance too. First, there’s the almost (okay, total) stalker guy from the café who records everything his ex-girlfriend says or does. Then, there’s the obnoxious and cruel grocer who delights in tormenting the boy who works for him and always calls Amélie “Amélie-melo.” And finally, there’s the ghost / possible obsessive picture taker whose eerie mystery haunts the film. Quite the goldmine of weird scoundrels, n’est-ce pas?

No Face (Spirited Away) – Half leprechaun, half “The Blob,” this gold-giving masked spirit vies (successfully, in my opinion) with the witch Yubaba for the title of baddest, largest, most complex, and just downright crazy villain in this spooky Japanese fairy tale.

The Cat King (The Cat Returns) – Pretty much demented, yet still a powerful ruler over, uh, cats, this rotund monarch has “I am CRAZY” eyes, static-style hair and calls the heroine “babe.” And he throws unfortunate palace performers out the window when they can’t make his guest smile. Weird and psychopathic – a winning combination for this list.

Lord Voldemort (pretty much any Harry Potter film) – Let’s recap, shall we? In the first film, he was a face on the back of someone’s head. In the second film, he was a ghost from a diary. In the third film, um… Okay, well, in the fourth film, he was a seriously creepy baby-like creature who transformed out of a boiling cauldron into a noseless man. In the fifth film and (I’m assuming) on, he’s that same snakelike, pasty-faced, noseless man. Yep, I think I’ve made my point…

Dr. Evil (Austin Powers) – This is a bit of a given. And with a medical degree in Evil, he’s earned it.

Honorable mentions: Stay Puft (Ghostbusters), the Black Knight and the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog (Monty Python and the Holy Grail), coat hanger aficionado Toht (Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark), and potentially Grendel’s mother (the animated Angelina Jolie) in the upcoming Beowulf.


Movie quotes in everyday conversation

November 13, 2007

A British website recently came out with a survey asking people which quotes they most commonly use in everyday conversation. Probably not surprisingly, “I’ll be back” (I don’t need to say where it’s from do I?) came in first. Of course, this begs the question, do people actually say the Schwarzeneggerian version (you know, more like “Ah’ll be bahck”) or just the phrase itself, which, let’s admit, is quite a common expression that doesn’t always have Terminator connotations?

Personally, I prefer “I’ll be right back” (said ominously, naturally), it gives the moment more of a Scream-esque feeling and really, makes those you’re speaking to a lot more interested in seeing you come back.

I can also certainly understand “You talking to me?” (Number 4, from Taxi Driver) and “Life is like a box of chocolates” (Number 5, Forrest Gump). Not hard to fit a simple response and life metaphor into our daily lives.

But “Nobody puts Baby in a corner”? (Number 10) I have to ask, does that really come up in everyday conversation? Perhaps my life is just very unexciting (and that’s not so unlikely), but I can’t say I’ve come across many, or really any, scenarios where that quote is appropriate. Not that I haven’t heard that phrase quoted before, but usually in a what’s-that-quote-again or let’s-share-fond-chick-flick-memories context.

Of course, this is coming from someone who probably most often quotes Jafar from Aladdin (Patience, Iago, patience), with a dose of Albert from The Birdcage (How do you think I feel? Betrayed, bewildered…) and Mystery Science Theater 3000 (Leaves only the fresh scent of pine), so who am I to talk?

Oh, and “Bewaaare the groooove…” That’s applicable to so many life situations, really. I also like “only mostly dead” but (well, fortunately) that doesn’t come up that often in conversation.


Quotes – The Emperor’s New Groove

November 9, 2007

This much underappreciated film is an animated comedy classic that, in my opinion, deserves to rank among Disney’s best. Yes, it doesn’t have princesses, lions, songs, or even a love interest (although isn’t the lack of that nice from time to time?), but it does have a murderous witch queen, an evil curse and jaguars! Close enough, I think. Plus, it includes that ever more popular “child + adult” humor mix – in a film released before that became really overdone.

Understandably, David Spade as the voice of an “Incan” emperor named Kuzco who has been transformed into a llama – yes, a llama – probably doesn’t sound like a winner, but the dryly sarcastic comedian does a pitch-perfect job. And in any case, the real stars here are Eartha Kitt as the evil queen Yzma (okay, she’s actually an empress) and the hilarious, as always, Patrick Warburton (aka, David Puddy) as her – how to put this delicately? – dim sidekick / arm candy Kronk. Just goes to show that playing the villain in an animated film really is a seriously fun job.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from The Emperor’s New Groove:

Yzma

I’ll turn him into a flea. A harmless little flea. And I’ll put that flea in a box. And then I’ll put that box in another box. Then I’ll mail that box to myself, and when it arrives, [evil laughter] I’ll smash it with a hammer! It’s brilliant, brilliant, brilliant, I tell you! Genius, I say! [a potion is knocked over onto a plant, plant dies] Or, to save on postage, I’ll just poison him with this!

Loooking for thisss? [holds up potion, then realizes she’s turned into a cute little cat with a small, squeaky voice] Is that my voice? Is that my voice?… Ah well.

[said angrily, as she’s smashing Kuzco-shaped stone heads placed in front of her by Kronk]
Who does that ungrateful little worm think he is? Does he… a little to the left… have any idea who he’s dealing with?

YZMA: It is no concern of mine whether your family has – what was it again?
PEASANT: Um, food?
YZMA: Ha! You should have really thought of that before you became peasants!

KUZCO: Okay, I admit it. Maybe I wasn’t as nice as I should have been. But, Yzma, do you really want to kill me?
YZMA: Just think of it as you’re being let go, that your life’s going in a different direction, that your body’s part of a permanent outplacement.

YZMA: And do you want to know something else? I’ve never liked your spinach puffs. Never!
[gasps from Kronk and his shoulder devil and angel]
SHOULDER DEVIL: That’s it. She’s goin’ down. [“cocks” pitchfork]

Kronk

Oh, they’re so easy to make. I’ll get you the recipe.

Said I was sorry. Can’t just let it go, not even on your birthday.

KRONK: Oh, right. The poison. The poison for Kuzco, the poison chosen especially to kill Kuzco, Kuzco’s poison. That poison?
YZMA: Yes! That poison!
KRONK: Got you covered.
YZMA: Excellent. A few drops in his drink, and then I’ll propose a toast, and he will be dead before dessert.
KRONK: Which is a real shame, because it’s gonna be delicious.

Kuzco

[about Yzma] Whoa! Look at those wrinkles. What is holding this woman together? What the… [shot of spinach in Yzma’s teeth] How long has that been there?

He’s doing his own theme music?
[as Kronk hums a Mission: Impossible-esque tune, badly, while sneaking around the city]

KUZCO: [sing-songy] Soooo… whoooo’s in my chaaaair?
KRONK: Oh, oh! I know! Yzma! Yzma’s in your chair, right?!
KUZKO: [as if to a child] Very good, Kronk! Here. Get the snack!
[Kronk dives after snack, and falls off platform]

Spunky old man

GUARD: [coolly] I’m sorry, but you’ve thrown off the emperor’s groove.
[old man who destroyed groove thrown out palace window]
OLD MAN: Soooorrrry!!! [as he falls]

[in spooky voice] Bewaaare the groooove.

Oh, it’s not the first time I was tossed out of a window, and it won’t be the last. What can I say? I’m a rebel.

Other

KRONK’S SHOULDER DEVIL: [to angel] Look at that guy! He’s got that sissy, stringy, music thing.
KRONK’S SHOULDER ANGEL: We’ve been through this. It’s a harp, and you know it.
DEVIL: Oh, right. That’s a harp, and that’s a dress.
ANGEL: Robe!

KID: You know, I don’t believe that you’re really my great aunt. You’re more like my great-great-great-great-great…
[it goes on for quite a while – or, according to IMDB, 23 “greats”]
YZMA: Are you through?
KID: … great aunt.

For more, see IMDB or Wikiquotes.

Click here for the New York Times review. And here for lots of pictures of the characters.