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While Votes Are Counted, Discover What Movie Characters Count


Vote counts are stressing out a lot of people, including critic Bob Mondello, who says he's distracting himself from election-related counting with cinematic counting.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: Hans Gruber didn't have to raise his voice to be scary in "Die Hard." All he had to do was count.


ALAN RICKMAN: (As Hans Gruber) I'm going to count to three. There will not be a four.

MONDELLO: He was a man of his word. Movie villains often are. So our movie heroes, say, Deadpool calculating his odds as he faces a whole lot of bad guys.


RYAN REYNOLDS: (As Deadpool) I only have 12 bullets, so you're going to have to share. Let's count them down.

MONDELLO: This counting bullets thing comes up more often than you might expect - in whodunnits, especially - though, as "Clue" established, characters can overthink.


TIM CURRY: (As Wadsworth) There was one shot at Mr. Boddy in the study, two for the chandelier, two at the lounge door and one for the singing telegram.

LESLEY ANN WARREN: (As Miss Scarlet) That's not six.

CURRY: (As Wadsworth) One plus two plus two plus one.

WARREN: (As Miss Scarlet) Uh-uh. There was only one shot that got the chandelier. That's one plus two plus one plus one.

CURRY: (As Wadsworth) Even if you are right, that would be one plus one plus two plus one, not one but two plus one plus one.

WARREN: (As Miss Scarlet) OK, fine. One plus two plus one - shut up.

MONDELLO: When people are counting in movies, they're either adding things up or building suspense. Either way, there probably isn't a lot going on on screen. But then there doesn't have to be if there's, say, a bomb with a digital clock ticking down to zero, or in the case of the Russian sub in "The Hunt For Red October," a torpedo coming that gets counted down and then up to - well, hard to say to what exactly, but Sean Connery gets it right.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Torpedo impact now 15 seconds.

SEAN CONNERY: (As Marko Ramius) Sound collision.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character) Sound collision.

MONDELLO: People count in movies for all kinds of less consequential reasons - to keep the band in musicals like "Chicago"...


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character) Five, six, seven, eight.


MONDELLO: ...To make sure everyone's lined up for a field trip in "Home Alone," to launch rockets in lots of movies. Films count cards in Vegas, seconds in prize fights, and sometimes filmmakers find a plot-driven reason to count - in "Rain Man," for instance, to give Tom Cruise a peek at these special talents of his autistic brother played by Dustin Hoffman. A waitress has dropped a box of toothpicks, and Hoffman, barely glancing at the floor, sees a pattern.


DUSTIN HOFFMAN: (As Raymond Babbitt) Eighty-two, 82, 82.

TOM CRUISE: (As Charlie Babbitt) Eighty-two what, Ray?

HOFFMAN: (As Raymond Babbitt) Toothpicks.

CRUISE: (As Charlie Babbitt) There's a lot more than 82 toothpicks, Ray.

HOFFMAN: (As Raymond Babbitt) Two-hundred forty-six total.

CRUISE: (As Charlie Babbitt) Change.

MONDELLO: Cruise and the waitress look at the box cover.


CRUISE: (As Charlie Babbitt) How many toothpicks are in there?

BONNIE HUNT: (As Sally Dibbs) Two-fifty.

CRUISE: (As Charlie Babbitt) Pretty close. Come on. Let's go, Ray.

HOFFMAN: (As Raymond Babbitt) Two-hundred forty-six.

HUNT: (As Sally Dibbs) There's four left in the box.

MONDELLO: Hoffman took home an Oscar for that role. And J.K. Simmons got one years later playing a tyrannical music teacher in "Whiplash," where the most memorable scene was about counting beats mixed with slaps.


JK SIMMONS: (As Fletcher) Why do you suppose I just hurled a chair at your head, Neiman?

MILES TELLER: (As Andrew Neiman) I don't know.

SIMMONS: (As Fletcher) Sure you do.

TELLER: (As Andrew Neiman) The tempo?

SIMMONS: (As Fletcher) Were you rushing, or were you dragging?

TELLER: (As Andrew Neiman) I don't know.

SIMMONS: (As Fletcher) Start counting.

TELLER: (As Andrew Neiman) Five, six...

SIMMONS: (As Fletcher) In four, dammit. Look at me.

TELLER: (As Andrew Neiman) One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four.

SIMMONS: (As Fletcher) Now, was I rushing, or was I dragging?

TELLER: (As Andrew Neiman) I don't know.

SIMMONS: (As Fletcher) Count again.

TELLER: (As Andrew Neiman) One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four. One, two, three, four.

SIMMONS: (As Fletcher) Rushing or dragging?

TELLER: (As Andrew Neiman) Rushing.

SIMMONS: (As Fletcher) So you do know the difference.

MONDELLO: OK, I've gone down a dark hole looking for distraction. Rest assured, there's plenty of comic counting, from "Monty Python's Holy Grail" hand grenade sequence...


ERIC IDLE: (As Brother Maynard) First shalt thou take out the holy pin. Then shalt thou count to three. Four shalt thou not count, nor either count thou two...

MONDELLO: ...To Roger Rabbit's haunting love poem that did not win over Jessica Rabbit.


CHARLES FLEISCHER: (As Roger Rabbit) How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand...

MONDELLO: There is no accounting for taste. I'm Bob Mondello.


RONEE BLAKELY AND HENRY GIBSON: (Singing) One, I love you. Two, I'm thinking of you. Three, I'll never let you go. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.