Friday, August 31, 2012

10 Film Characters Who Deserved More Screen Time

Don't you hate it when an interesting character is introduced in a movie, but you only see them for no more than 20 minutes? This post goes out to those characters who have stolen the show from the protagonists, or who have at least been thoroughly compelling in such a short space of time. This is not a definitive list. I'm just picking the first 10 who spring to mind! These are in no particular order.

1. The Cowboy (Mulholland Dr., 2001) 

What a mysterious character! Then again, do we expect anything different from David Lynch? Played by Monty Montgomery, the Cowboy communicates with very little emotion, and I was fearing for Adam (Justin Theroux) throughout this whole scene. It's the Cowboy's interrogative questions that creep me out the most.

2. Nick Nightingale (Eyes Wide Shut, 1999)

Nightingale introduces Bill to an underground cult that revels in sexual rituals and orgies, and this not only gives Bill a new lease on life, but also launches us—the audience—in a different trajectory to what the film was getting at. We can never really trust Nightingale. He seems nice, but we don't know where his loyalties lie. Todd Field shows he is as good in front of the camera as he is behind it.

3. Arthur Jensen (Network, 1976)

This scene seemed to come from nowhere. Jensen (Ned Beatty) berates Howard Beale (Peter Finch) for urging the public to protest a deal between his TV network and a larger media conglomerate. Beale has been dubbed "the mad prophet of the airwaves," and Jensen wants to remind him that this title doesn't give him free rein to do whatever he likes. What a powerful monologue!

4. Mystery Man (Lost Highway, 1997)

For me, Mystery Man (Robert Blake) ranks among the most terrifying film characters of all time. He's fairly important in the context of the film, yet I still feel we don't see enough of him. One can't help but draw a comparison between Mystery Man and Death from Bergman's The Seventh Seal, insofar as they look eerily similar.

5. Vi (Storytelling, 2001)

Todd Solondz's Storytelling is divided into two parts: 'Fiction' and 'Non-Fiction'. Unfortunately, Solondz only gives us around 20 minutes of Fiction, which is where we see Vi (Selma Blair). We see her go through so much emotional turmoil, and we want things to get better for her. We never find out if they do.

6. Sam #2 (Happythankyoumoreplease, 2010)

First of all, allow me to say that this film is underrated. Now, if you're not watching any of the video clips in this post and are just looking at the default frame, the woman you see above is not Sam #2. Sam #2 is a male played by Tony Hale. Sam #2 is a stereotypically dorky dude and at times seems suspiciously nice. Hale has a charming screen presence and it's great to see that he gets the girl in the end (excuse the spoiler; it's not a big one). Of course, the story arc between Malin Akerman and Tony Hale is secondary to the one between Josh Radnor and Kate Mara, but I wouldn't hesitate to see it the other way around.

7. Duane Hall (Annie Hall, 1977)

Everyone forgets that Christopher Walken is in Annie Hall, and I don't blame them—he gets very little screen time. I'll be honest and say there's not much that can be done with his character. Still, Walken is so subtly hilarious in this scene that I just wanted to see him somewhere later on. On a side note, I think Woody Allen deserves credit for how he plays along with Walken in this scene. 

8. Barbara Fitts (American Beauty, 1999)


I'm not sure whether I wanted to see more of Mrs Fitts, or whether I just wanted her to say more. It's never revealed why Barbara is so silent, apathetic and almost catatonic. Maybe her husband has abused her. Maybe she suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. Maybe she's just been lulled into a dreary existence by the quiet of American suburbia. It could be anything, really. Allison Janney gives a convincing performance which sometimes looks like an effective non-performance.  

9. Frederick (Hannah and Her Sisters, 1986)

Max von Sydow is an outstanding actor, and is always a pleasure to watch no matter how much screen time he gets. Now, I thought Woody Allen gave the character of Frederick a reasonable amount of attention, but it's just weird seeing a film where von Sydow isn't even one of the five most important characters. Thus is the power of Woody Allen to attract amazing talent. He wanted to work with von Sydow as he admired his performances in Ingmar Bergman's films.

10. Dean Trumbell (Punch-Drunk Love, 2002)

I like to think of Punch-Drunk Love as "the most normal strange film ever made." It's somewhat surreal and dreamlike, but it's not like we get close to crossing over into Lynchian territory. I like it, but I feel it's not consistently engaging (many will disagree). That's why I enjoy this performance by Philip Seymour Hoffman so much. He pours so much emotion into the character of Dean Trumbell—owner of a mattress store and supervisor of a phone sex hotline.


  1. Enjoyed going through these movie countdowns. Ever do one on deaths that we didn't see coming? May be a good one.

  2. I wouldn't want to spoil any movies for anyone who hasn't seen them. :)