#6. Tom Hanks' Character From The Terminal
The Ridiculous Premise
Some of you probably know this one only from the ads, which means you know it only as "that movie where Tom Hanks has to live in an airport for some reason."
Probably because of something offbeat and heartwarming.
The premise is that Hanks is a lovable and simple-minded foreigner whose home country's government collapses while he's in the air. Thus the papers he has are no longer valid. Unable to return home or to enter the United States, he's trapped at the airport ... for months. If you've seen the movie, you know it only gets sillier from there, with Hanks playing the stranded foreigner as almost a Forrest Gump-style man-child whose simple, folksy wisdom and rosy outlook on life change everyone he meets for the better.
"Life is like a box of chocolates ... except when it's an abandoned suitcase in baggage collection,
in which case you should get the hell out."
Critics were quick to jump on how silly the whole thing was, saying it "plays like the first few episodes of an expensive, gimmicky sitcom about a guy forced to live in an airport" and that it is a film where "real-life logic and believable people don't exist." Though one review did congratulate the movie on its "quirkily original premise."
It was based on a real guy, with one major difference: The real guy was stuck at the airport for much, much longer. To the tune of 18 years.
"Man, I hope my travel insurance covers this."
Mehran Karimi Nasseri was exiled from Iran in 1977 and settled in Belgium. In 1988, he decided to move to England, but his papers were stolen during a layover in Paris. Without his papers, he was unable to enter England and was sent back to France. Unable to return to Belgium without papers, he was stuck in the international terminal of the Paris airport, because he couldn't pass customs.
And there he stayed. He paid for food with donations from other passengers, which he turned into a small business. As his fame grew, he started charging reporters to listen to his story.
The French government finally gave the guy a visa to enter the country, but Nasseri refused, saying, "There are soldiers there who shoot you dead." Some people think he grew comfortable with the airport; others think he was crazy. One of the airport workers thinks he just didn't want to pay rent.
He was paid $250,000 for the movie rights to his story, making him the richest homeless man in Europe. In 2006, he got his freedom in a roundabout way when he was taken to a hospital in Paris. The reason for his hospitalization is unknown, but we're going to take a wild guess and say it had something to do with eating airport McDonald's twice a day for 18 years. He was released and was last reported living in a homeless shelter in Paris. That's right -- he's still not paying rent.
Via Wikimedia Commons
Sadly, he has never seen The Terminal, but that's OK, as none of us have either.
#5. Jules From Pulp Fiction
The Ridiculous Premise
Whatever you may love about Quentin Tarantino, "gritty realism" probably isn't high on the list. His characters are quirky, verbose, larger-than-life criminals. No one demonstrates that better than this guy:
Pulp Fiction begins with Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson, duh) as a gangster, hit man and stone-cold badass who quotes made-up Bible verses at his victims before putting bullets in them.
"So verily the Lord sayeth, 'Thou is about to get rolled on.'"
But after surviving a gunfight, he sees the error of his ways and finds God for real. Then, in a twist that's pure Tarantino, Jules winds up in a Mexican standoff with some low-level thugs. Instead of murdering them both, he lets them go, encouraging them to leave their own life of crime in the process. His story ends with him leaving his possessions behind and devoting his life to God.
Meet St. Moses the Black.
Via mosesthe black.org
Not the Ten Commandments Moses, but this one did beat someone to death with a stone tablet once.
No, really. That's how he's depicted. Check out the look on his face!
Moses the Black, born in the year 330 as a slave in Egypt, was fired for stealing and being suspected of murder. That's right, fired from being a slave. Somehow managing to avoid capture, he led a group of bandits who terrorized the Nile Valley. He wasn't a Robin Hood-style thief or any other kind of heroic criminal. He was a straight murderer. One day a barking dog ruined a robbery, so he decided to kill the shepherd who owned the dog. Fair? Probably not, but when you're Moses the Black, fair's got nothing to do with it. He swam the Nile with a knife in his teeth to kill the guy, presumably running some killer one-liners about learning to keep that bitch on a leash in his head. Fortunately, the shepherd heard him coming and hid. Unable to find him, Moses said, "Screw it" and killed his sheep.
"Well I'll be damned if I came all this way and didn't make full use of my knifing hand."
The government tried to chase him down, so he fled into the desert and took shelter in a monastery. Feeling he needed a lot of that "forgiveness" thing, he converted to Christianity and became a monk.
And then he had his "standoff in the diner" moment.
Presumably over a lamb chop.
One day, the monastery was attacked by four robbers. They attacked Moses and found out they had horrible taste in targets. Moses beat the holy hell out of them with his bare hands, tied them up and dragged them in front of the other monks, presumably screaming, "Bitch be cool!" the whole time. Moses didn't believe it would be Christian to punish the thieves, so he let them go.
He later became a priest and moved to a hermit colony in the desert to "walk the earth like Kung Fu," disconnecting from civilized life just as Jules pledged to do. And he met the fate that you can guess Jules wound up meeting after the credits rolled in Pulp Fiction: Bandits came to attack, but Moses forbade the hermits to use violence. He told them to run while he stayed behind and take what he knew he had coming. He was killed, sticking by his code right to the end.
Via mosesthe black.org
"I shall turn the other cheek -- will you stop stabbing me!"
#4. The Crime-Solving Mathematician From Numb3rs
The Ridiculous Premise
The cop show Numb3rs was the specific point at which mankind realized it had run out of ideas for cop shows. The "people from unrelated professions using their skills to solve crimes" format is well-worn on TV, which has given us crimes being solved by mystery writers, psychics, a guy who pretends to be a psychic and a guy with obsessive-compulsive disorder. But a goddamned mathematician? And they spell it freaking Numb3rs? What is this, the Internet?
I'M IN YR CLASSROOM, SOLVING sin(ax)sin(bx) - k cos(ax)cos(bx) = -1
In the show, Charlie Eppes is a mathematician who works for the FBI and who somehow turns each case into a mathematical formula. For example, in one episode, Eppes turns each of the known factors of the case into a variable and makes the whole thing an equation, then, using the city as a gridline, applies that equation to see where the criminal is going to hit next.
You know, because you can totally predict how psychotic and/or meth-addicted humans will behave based on an equation. What's next, a crime-solving astronomer, who compares every crime to a major constellation? A crime-solving chef, who turns all of the clues into a "recipe"? A crime-solving serial killer, who somehow catches other serial killers with the powers of sociopathy?
In the real world, there are a couple of pioneers in the field of crime-fighting mathematics. Jeffrey Brantingham is a mathematician at UCLA who figured that criminals don't just randomly commit crimes because they think it's funny -- they're fulfilling a need, be it stealing cars, mugging tourists, whatever. And even if you're the Joker, you're going to do your tasks in predictable patterns, just because that's the most convenient way. It's the same as how a mathematician could precisely predict the path you'd take through the grocery store when buying chocolate milk and Grey Goose.
Presumably via the antacids.
In Brantingham's case, he designed a model by watching hunter-gatherers in Tibet. After all, that's the same thing car thieves are doing: hunting and gathering. He figured out how to predict the growth or decline of crime "hot spots" in a city and even how to predict the effect different policing strategies would have on each.
But if you want to use an equation to catch a specific criminal, you want a guy like Kim Rossmo, a Canadian cop with a Ph.D. who worked with Brantingham. He's nailed down an equation that, if you plot the location of multiple serial crimes on a map, can tell you about where the bad guy lives.
In 1998, Rossmo was brought to Lafayette, La., on the case of the South Side Rapist, a masked assailant who had been assaulting women -- and getting away with it -- for more than a decade. Rossmo drew his graph, the cops took DNA from everybody in the "suspect probably lives here" zone, and they eventually got their man -- a sheriff's deputy from a nearby department. Then Kim slowly put on his sunglasses and said something to the effect of, "Guess he found out that crime does not Kimpute."