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Swindlers List 


by Kirsty Walker




Daily life is full of decisions. What shall I have on my sandwiches? Where should I park? Should I download child pornography for the purposes of spurious �research� into the area of childhood as a whole, for a one line appearance in a BBC Three late night comedy drama, or is that a bad idea fraught with pitfalls?


Decisions, decisions, decisions. But in what form of reality could you reasonably be expected to decide whether you prefer a serial killer, a dwarf, or an animated crab? I�ll tell you where, in a land called Listopia, where even the most idiotic of people can claim to be film buffs because they can enthusiastically rate fictional characters depending on their resonance in their pathetic daily lives.


We all know that lists are big money these days. Lists on TV can last for six hours and straddle a whole bank holiday weekend, and will guarantee news coverage and promotion when the Daily Mail gets upset that �Gaz twatting Mozz� is the nation�s best loved street crime on YouTube. Lists in magazines always guarantee big sales, because everybody wants to match their personal outrages with those of their film/music/tv heroes. �Jimmy Page better than Jimi Hendrix by one place! I�ll firebomb the offices of Mojo before I will allow this travesty to stand!�


Total Film magazine have already delivered their Top 100, as voted for by people who find Empire too mentally challenging. Readers placed The Empire Strikes Back at number one, rather predictably, in a list so masculine that it virtually sprouted chest hairs. The gangster, horror and sci-fi genres were so overwhelmingly represented that you get to number 18 in the list before you find a film with no violent deaths. Total Film have now unveiled the voting forms for their newest list, the Top 100 Movie Characters, and the result is a trip to Listopia so surreal and unfathomable that David Lynch must have been the guest editor.


Only in the fields of entertainment are enthusiasts expected, nay encouraged, to rate completely disparate paradigms against one another. In Annie Hall Woody Allen jokes about the pointless awards industry and wonder whether they will crown �Best Fascist Dictator � Adolf Hitler�. But that would at least draw some lines of comparison � Maggie probably wouldn�t make the cut if there was a panel involved  - unlike the idea that a sci-fi film about killer robots can be judged equally against a Swedish language dadaist introspective about fruit trees.


To help those film buffs who don�t actually know or like any films, Total Film has compiled a list of characters to choose a Top 100 from. As well as fictional characters from literature (Atticus Finch from To Kill A Mockingbird, Gandalf) there are real people (Johnny Cash, Bonnie Parker) and all manner of weird inclusions. Nowhere does the magazine attempt to justify or explain its reasons for compiling this list. Is it to measure the skill of actors in taking a script and developing a character, including voice and movement? If so then Johnny Depp�s rendering of Captain Jack Sparrow is certainly a relevant entry. Caspar on the other hand owes very little of his �character� to the voice actor playing him in the children�s movies. There�s  even a clue for the kid in the description �the friendly ghost�. Not rocket science really, just don�t make him a bastard platypus who speaks fluent German.

Elsewhere amongst the prescribed choices is �The Monster� from Frankenstein. Unfortunately the IMDB lists four films called Frankenstein, including a frankly strange method attempt by Robert De Niro and the 1931 version with Boris Karloff. Other multiples occur with Alice In Wonderland  (8 versions), Aladdin (3), and Cinderella (24). This would suggest that it is the character in general that is being celebrated and not the film character at all. If that�s the case, why is there Hightower from Police Academy, but not Dr.Jekyll? Are we voting for Jude Law or Michael Caine as Alfie?

There are so many errors and omissions in the list that it becomes painfully clear that the magazine is putting this out as a money making exercise. Who is Willy Wonker? What the fuck is Toy�s Story? Who is Romeo �Montigue�? Don�t they know that Danny Zucco is in Grease and not �Greece�? Or is this a straight to video version that I haven�t seen? Also, if the Total Film journalists are choosing the list from which to vote, should they not be fired immediately for suggesting that of the millions of characters ever committed to celluloid, the dad from Jumanji and the whale from Free Willy are among them?

In the October issue of Total Film, this feature will probably take up around ten pages. That�s ten pages that could have been used to discuss relevant and important issues in film, such as funding for independent films which haven�t been produced by George Clooney and don�t have Oscar nominees in them, or the state of British film industry, or the fact that cinemas like FACT in Liverpool are forced to screen summer blockbusters instead of foreign language films to keep on the sweet side of the distributors. Instead we have the eternal question � is Sebastian the crab better than Idi Amin? If only we didn�t have to wait til October to find out?.






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