Episode 713: Great Character Introductions

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6 Responses

  1. Beth says:

    I tried to think of a few female character entrances, since you guys said you were short. I came up with:
    – Ramona (JLo) in Hustlers. I mean…
    – Penny Lane in Almost Famous? It’s not very flashy but in terms of communicating who she is & why William likes her I think it’s pretty good
    – Brooke in Mistress America – walking awkwardly down those Times Square steps to make a grand impression on Tracy
    – Lady Bird – sure there is that brief scene in the hotel first but the car scene that ends with her jumping out is pretty efficient

    Plus, some male scenes:
    John Wayne in Stagecoach, just for the camera move alone
    Joe Buck in Midnight Cowboy – doesn’t quite say soo much about the character but the intercutting and overlapping shouts of “where is that joe buck?!” really gets us interested in this dope.

  2. Beth says:

    Oh my gosh, and Maria from the Sound of Music! And a thousand others I’m sure!

  3. I think you were rightly dubious regarding Kane in ALIEN.  It’s a moment that is not about him, or any character, but the environment and the situation.  Compare it with the same scene in ALIENS, where, by the end of it, we know almost every marine the film.   Cameron used to be unusually good at quickly introducing the characters in his ensembles.  

    A difference from ALIEN’s hypersleep scene makes Carrie Ann Moss a very good entry.  Kane is in, and affected by, his environment, where, for a while, she IS The Matrix.  Think about what David said regarding not knowing what the movie is about, and how slowly it reveals its backdrop.  That scene is all about her, and who and what she is.  Likewise Alec Baldwin in Glengarry.  He’s the setup, the environment, maybe the conflict of the movie.  He’s the mountain the boulders are trying to roll up.  Intro, exit, one scene: amazing; definitely counts.  

    I say Willy Wonka has TWO character introductions.  One is the mentioned one, when he walks out, post build-up, faux enfeebled, then surprises the stunned to silence crowd with a forward roll, presenting himself in full joy to people who’ve never seen him before.  It’s “Here’s the worst you hoped I wouldn’t be, now here’s who I am, Mr. Tricky Playful.”   But I contend that he gets a second introduction when we finally see who he really is, as he goes from playfully kicking balloons to stepping up into to that star-making shot, singing the lines starting with, “If you want to view paradise…” and we meet the man in his depth and his real world.  That camera is saying, “Here you go; THIS is the man.”    www.youtube.com/watch?v=LIYNk4ARUR8&t=2m33s

    On style, I must confess one intro that is over the top in a way completely appropriate to the character, Dr. Frankenfurter descending in the elevator, stomping his one high heel to beat before emerging in song, eventually breaking the fourth wall, singing at us with that amazing mouth that seems to have more articulation than everyone else’s.  I don’t like much else about Rocky Horror as a movie, but I confess that is intro downright …cool.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bc80tFJpTuo

    Hannibal Lecter is also perfectly, sylistically introduced, I think in two films, the much talked about, even at the time of its release, stone hallway walk in Silence of the Lambs, but I also like the near opposite, white building with white walls and floors, leading to a white cell with white bars, where a white clad Lecter lies expectantly, in Manhunter.  

    There is a set of great ones as each of the titular Good, Bad and Ugly are introduced in the film they share.  It’s a half hour of 100% character intro, then our story starts.  One with a different kind of length is Sundance, in the Butch & Sundance picture (the real one). At the time, Redford wasn’t much more than a toss a stick on the beach and you’ll hit 20 guys like him blonde, good looking, decent enough actor.  George Roy Hill wanted people to get a good bead on this guy’s intelligence, so we get, what, 90 seconds held on an extreme close-up as he plays cards?  We’re watching him think.  Here’s only some of it, some of the beginning of that shot is missing:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UcqFzVtEcNM

    Raiders has a few good character introductions beyond just Indy: Marion, Belloq, even the sword guy and the by-the-plane-punching guy; we know everything we need within just a few seconds.  If we didn’t, Indy’s Harrison Has Dysentery Today gunshot wouldn’t have been funny.  Spielberg seems to be consistently good at these:  Hooper in Jaws, we get him straight away, E.T. in E.T., Celie in The Color Purple, walking out of the high grass a pregnant girl, and Sophia, later, John Anderton in Minority Report; how much do we need to know quickly about him?  We get it all in his first scene.  How about the truck in Duel?

    Likewise, the martians are well introduced through their war machines, also well introduced, in The War of the Worlds.  What are they like?  Methodical, patient, immediately and irresistibly destructive.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iIN4jGELyLs

    How quickly do we understand The Thing, in John Carpenter’s The Thing?  Whether you count the surprisingly good performance by wolfdog Jed, which reveals its quiet, waiting, watching character, or later, when its face peels open like a banana, and all the rest of the goo happens; we immediately know its nature in a way the rest of the cast have to have Wilfred Brimley explain to them.
    There are a couple that I think may only work due to some meta stuff.  In Notorious, how great is introducing Devlin, sitting, back to the camera, in full silhouette, all but imobile, while a party goes on in front of him?  It’s a telling lead into Cary Grant for a movie whose suspense hangs on, basically, when is he finally going to be Cary Grant, and do his Cary Grant thing where he takes over the room and dispenses with all the unpleasantries?  It relies on our already knowing Cary Grant.

    Similarly dependent is Tootsie.  The character Dorothy Michaels may be the most meta-reliantly introduced character in any movie.  Absolutely nothing in the movie leads us to “Ahh, finally, now he’ll cross-dress and everything will change!”  Nothing.  Out of the clear blue, we cut from him arguing to some lady walking down the street, with music inviting us to laugh with the audacity, as if we know that’s him.  There is not only no point where the movie makes sure we, the audience, realize that’s Michael, despite the widely accepted opinion that Hoffman completely disappears into that character, but right from this first scene with Dorothy, the movie knows that we all come to it already knowing what it’s about.  It’s the only reason why we don’t say, “Wait, I think I’m supposed to chuckle now (certainly the music says so), but… oh wait, is that him?  I’m not sure.  … yyyyeah, I think that’s him!  Okay, I get it now.”

  4. Scott Milliken says:

    Great job on this episode, but I was bitterly disappointed that David didn’t mentioned Jep Gambardella’s introduction in The Great Beauty. Brings a smile to my face every single time I play it (which I do, frequently).

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