Tuesday, June 3, 2003

Our critic picks her heroes, villains

By Margaret A. McGurk
The Cincinnati Enquirer

It's movie-list time again. The American Film Institute tonight unveils the results of its latest "100 Years" poll, the sixth since the original 100 Best American Movies in 1998.

This year's topic is heroes and villains; 50 of each were chosen from a ballot of 400 nominees sent to 1,500 filmmakers, critics and historians. Results of the vote will be revealed at 8 p.m. on CBS (Channels 12, 7). Arnold Schwarzenegger is the host.

As always, the choices are intriguing, amusing and impossible. Heroes are supposed to "dramatize a sense of morality, courage and purpose," according to AFI, "even though they may be ambiguous or flawed." Bad guys may be "horrifically evil, merely sleazy or grandiosely funny," but at the same time "are usually complex, moving and tragic."

With that in mind, here are my picks of the 400 nominees for Good Guys I Love and Bad Guys I Love To Hate:

Best of the Best

• George Bailey (James Stewart), It's A Wonderful Life (1946) - Hs journey back to life from bitterness and despair still moves me to tears, almost 60 years after the film was made.

• Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), The Terminator (1984) - An ordinary woman fighting for her life, she turned millions of women into action fans.

• Inspector Jacques Clouseau (Peter Sellers), The Pink Panther (1964) - Step back, James Bond, a good, solid belly laugh beats a martini every time.

• Will Kane (Gary Cooper), High Noon (1952) - A tragic moral icon, he faces death to do the right thing, though it earns him nothing but disillusion.

• Lee (Bruce Lee), Enter the Dragon (1973) - The godfather, the progenitor, the patron saint. Without him, no Jackie Chan, no Chow Yun-Fat, no Jet Li, no Crow, no Karate Kid, no Power Rangers, no Ninjas. And no Neo.

Best of the Worst

• The Alien, Alien (1979) - This is not a complex villain, just the scariest imaginary critter of all time.

• Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham), Amadeus (1984) - With a soul eaten alive by jealousy, he is the epitome of a tragic, self-made villain.

• Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), The Godfather (1972) - Murderer, extortionist, thief, and yet we loved him. You felt like weeping when he died, didn't you?

• Dr. Strangelove (Peter Sellers), Dr. Strangelove or How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb (1964) - A madman, a maniac, a laugh riot, he is Sellers' most unforgettable character.

• Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton), The Wizard of Oz (1939) - One of the great evil creations, so well imagined that generations of children have shivered at the mere sound of her voice.

This list would not be complete without an honorable mention to two nominated villains so heinous they spread terror without ever appearing on screen: Man from Bambi, and the Blair Witch.

E-mail mmcgurk@enquirer.com

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