Villains of 2012

I’m still hanging out at home, busy being horribly ill, so I’m going to keep churning these entries out. It’s one of those things, though, where I really don’t know what I’ll make of them later on when the huge doses of cold medication wear off.

Anyway, I thought it would be cool to do an AFI-stye list of the best heroes and villains of the movies in 2012 — so I’ll start with the villains.

#5 — Ravenna (the evil queen from “Snow White and the Huntsman”)

Back to this again. This movie wasn’t good, but I loved the evil queen, or at least what she could have been. Charlize Theron was very scary in an interesting way; she never seemed completely in control, instead she seemed constantly desperate, just hanging on by the skin of her teeth and trying to figure out a way to keep on going. This made her very scary in that you got the sense she was unpredictable, and ready to do just about anything. She’s running scared through the while movie, since the point she finds out that her whole “the fairest” deal isn’t going to last forever. And again, it seems like there’s a much more interesting movie that could have been –that we just get hints of through the brief appearances of this character. Basically since the only way a woman can exercise power — or even stay alive — in the  world of the film is to be beautiful, she decides that she’s willing to do anything that’s required to remain beautiful forever, because the alternative terrifies her.

django-jackson#4 — Stephen (from “Django Unchained”)

Another character I liked from a movie I didn’t. It’s the same deal; I thought Samuel L. Jackson as the house slave Stephen was by far the most interesting part of the movie. He’s a nightmare version of Uncle Tom or Pork in “Gone With the Wind.” He’s the archetypical loyal old male slave who loves his master more than life itself  — and that the master shows a kind of creepy mock deference to. This kind of character is always unsettling to look at through modern eyes anyway, so I like that “Django Unchained” calls it out and makes him the primary antagonist. He’s sort of semi-comic relief, but also has real teeth — he’s the one who figures out what the heroes are up to and stops their plan. And tellingly, when Django ends up slaughtering everybody, he’s the last to die. It makes it seem as though, at least in crazy Tarantino world, Django isn’t just killing the bad guy, he’s killing a symbol of this nasty malingering stereotype. Of course, the more you think about this, the less sense it makes — has Django defeated racism? — but I think that’s true of this movie in general.

8024346983#3 — President Snow (from “The Hunger Games”)

Part of this is because President Snow is a pretty good character anyway, but a big part of it is the brilliant casting of Donald Sutherland and of Donald Sutherland’s beard, which makes him look like an evil Canadian Santa Claus. As the primary antagonist of the whole Hunger Games series, Snow doesn’t even get all that much screen time in the movie, but none of it is wasted. He’s shown as affable, charismatic, and completely cold and ruthless. The books make a lot of hay out of descriptions of Snow’s eyes — “snake eyes” — and Donald Sutherland can do that. He can make his eyes look totally without emotion or sympathy; it’s very creepy. And I mentioned the beard as a joke, but it actually really enhances the character. Snow wants to be seen as this benevolent, paternal figure, so he has this big friendly Walt Whitman beard to cover up how cold and calculating he is.

#2 — The Director (from “The Cabin in the Woods”)

No picture here, because the actor who plays the Director is a fun uncredited reveal and it would be a shame to ruin the surprise for those who haven’t seen the movie. The Director is one of those villains you don’t hate, and to some extent you can’t even fault. He/she is in charge of torturing and killing the heroes of the movie, but you find out it’s all for a pretty good reason: namely to stop the world from being destroyed and every living person from dying in agony. (Why exactly this is is explained in the movie.) So that’s a bummer, but can you really fault him/her for his/her actions, ruthless as they are? The Director is also a fun, “The Third Man” style antagonist who only shows up at the very end of the film after being repeatedly referred to in hushed tones throughout, so it’s a treat when you finally get the reveal, even though he/she isn’t onscreen for very long before things wrap up. And the actor packs a lot of character into those last few minutes.

#1 — Old Georgie (from “Cloud Atlas”)

So Old Georgie — played by Hugo Weaving — is a possibly imaginary devil figure who appears to Tom Hanks in a post-apocalyptic future and tries to push him towards doing the wrong thing. In this guise he gets an awesome Baron-Samedi-type outfit, a warty zombie face and creepy yellow eyes. The cool thing, though, is that in the other time periods the movie covers, Hugo Weaving plays a bunch of other nasty characters, including a vicious assassin, a corporate thug, an 19th-century slaver, and a dictatorial female nurse at a nursing home (seriously). So all these characters and the qualities they exhibit can be see as echoes throughout time of one protean embodiment of evil, hatred, and selfishness. So Old Georgie may or may not actually exist, or may be an archetype of all of humanity’s worst qualities that exists beyond time.

UPDATE: Can we get some more comments up in here? What do you think of my choices?

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