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Showing posts from August, 2017

Michelle Pfeiffer: Wolf

Revisiting—or in a few cases, watching for the first time—and celebrating the work of Michelle Pfeiffer, the best actress of my lifetime.

Mike Nichols' Wolf (1994) utilizes classic werewolf tropes to segue into a smart and slyly funny exploration of the crisis of masculinity. Jack Nicholson's character Will, in the midst of a midlife crisis, begins to feel like a much younger man again after he's bitten by a wolf. Plus he meets a much younger woman played by Michelle Pfeiffer, who becomes the symbol of all that's missing from his life, and so of course he must have her. The film flummoxed audiences and critics in '94, yet it holds up magnificently today. It's beautifully filmed, with a memorably vivid Ennio Morricone score, and terrific performances by all involved, especially from Pfeiffer.

Pfeiffer has a lot of fun being the object of Nicholson's affection here. She makes acting choices that help reinforce the film's harsh critique of the male ego. Thr…

Writing Roundup: Summer Edition

Summer is almost over, and I'm ready for fall. I'm not ready for winter though, and I will miss summer, but fall is my favorite time of year, for many reasons. We're having unusually comfortable weather in the Northeast for this time of year, with temps in the 70s and nice cool overnight lows this week. All of which makes it feel even more like fall is already here. How about a nice pumpkin ale? Yes, please.

Still, I have no doubt we'll see a return to hot and humid weather before summer's officially done. But those days will become fewer and farther between as we move into September. So, get outside, enjoy the last days of summer while you can.

Speaking of summer, I contributed some articles, reviews, and interviews at other sites this summer. Here are some links, for your perusal and enjoyment. Feel free to comment here with your thoughts on any and all of these pieces.

Tim Hanley on The Many Lives of Catwoman

"What I do is not up to you": Respect and Ag…

Barely Making a Dent: August 2017 Books

In which our narrator tries to read his way through the endless stacks of books that are slowly overtaking both his bookshelves and his life.
Did you know that Christy Turlington is not your average supermodel? She has run marathons, is an avid practitioner of yoga, and used to be a vegetarian? Well, that's what Wikipedia tells me, at least. Good for her. For a split second, when I first saw this photo on a random Pinterest board, I remembered her as the supermodel trapped in an ATM vestibule with Chandler Bing in that memorable early episode of Friends, but then Chandler's line instantly popped into my head, "I'm trapped in an ATM vestibule with Jill Goodacre!!" Silly me, confusing my '90s supermodels. I bet Goodacre doesn't hunt down rare books with the same sort of dogged determination as Turlington. Plus, Turlington was in George Michaels' "Freedom '90" video, so she straight up wins for that reason alone.

How did this turn into a ba…

Michelle Pfeiffer: Married to the Mob

Revisiting—or in a few cases, watching for the first time—and celebrating the work of Michelle Pfeiffer, the best actress of my lifetime.

Jonathan Demme's satirical tale of one woman's quest to free herself from her husband's mafia connections, Married to the Mob (1988) is an underrated gem, an absolute joy to watch, and at times riotously funny. Everything about it is subversive and smart, nothing more so than the tremendous lead performance by Michelle Pfeiffer.

Pfeiffer is electric as Angela de Marco, a recently widowed mob wife trying to restart her life and make a clean break from her husband's mobster ties. She uses her best physical asset as an actress—those big, expressive blue eyes, as deep and as mysterious as an ocean—to expose Angela's vulnerabilities early and often. It's in the way she looks sad and adrift in a room full of (crazy) people, or in how a longing glance reveals her interest in a sweet FBI agent, played wonderfully by Matthew Modine. Pa…

It Came From the '90s: Essential Films of 1997

This series looks back at the 1990s and its influence on the generation of people who came of age during the decade.

I love lists. Anyone who really knows me knows this. When I feel inspired by something, I'll drop a top five or ten list on you at any time, without warning, like that time I ranked all of the X-Men films (before Logan came out, so today that film would top the list). So I'm a sucker for lists like the one The AV Club compiled for the best movies of 1997. It reaffirmed something I felt twenty years ago, which is that 1997 was an exceptional year at the movies.

After you've read the AVC's list, come back here and I'll opine on some of the choices, probably argue with the rankings, and finally mention a few films from 1997 that didn't make the cut.

18. Grosse Point Blank. I might rank this one higher, but my love for this film is widely known. I was about to graduate from college when I saw it, and Cusack's portrait of a man faced with an uncertai…

Michelle Pfeiffer: Frankie and Johnny

Revisiting—or in a few cases, watching for the first time—and celebrating the work of Michelle Pfeiffer, the best actress of my lifetime.

And then there was the time my two favorites starred in one of the most starkly honest and mature films about grownup relationships this viewer has ever seen. Frankie and Johnny (1991) is a beautifully melancholic tale, laced through with rich and sincere humor aimed at adults—people who've lived long enough to have loved and lost and felt real longing and despair.
Al Pacino is fantastic as Johnny, the new short-order cook at the diner where Michelle Pfeiffer's Frankie works. Johnny is a good man who truly believes that he and Frankie are meant to be together. Johnny is fully alive now to the realization that life is short, so he's resolved to cherish every minute of it moving forward. Frankie is the cynic, the beaten-down diner waitress who masks the pain of previous relationship failures with biting sarcasm and avoidance. She's the…

It Came From the '90s: The Hope and Heartbreak of Riley's New York Knicks

This series looks back at the 1990s and its influence on the generation of people who came of age during the decade.
Pat Riley's New York Knicks broke our hearts, every single year. Not only did they break them, but they ripped them out of our chests, stomped on them, tore them in half, and then tossed the pieces in the river. And we loved them anyway.

I grew up in the shadow of Schenectady. In the shadow of the men born and raised on its city streets, including Riley, and most importantly, my father. These were men who didn't complain about life's heartache and misery, but instead just lived, motivating those around them by their work ethic and their true and unwavering principles. Certainly, Riley's Knicks (1991–1995) were the perfect team for the tough 'n' gritty New York City of that era. Yet they were also bruisers, uncompromising, relentless. They beat you by out-hustling and out-working you. In other words, like their coach, they were Schenectady.

Patrick E…

Michelle Pfeiffer: The Fabulous Baker Boys

Revisiting—or in a few cases, watching for the first time—and celebrating the work of Michelle Pfeiffer, the best actress of my lifetime.

Here it is, the iconic performance that made Michelle Pfeiffer a breakout star and a household name while also earning her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989) is an intensely intimate film with some terrific insights into what it's like to be lonely and feel unworthy or unloved. I hate to use this cliche, but it's the kind of film we don't see nearly enough these days. It focuses on a lounge act trio—two piano-playing brothers, Frank and Jack Baker (real-life siblings Beau and Jeff Bridges) and the inexperienced yet undeniably charismatic singer who shakes up their humdrum existence, Susie Diamond (Pfeiffer).

It's no surprise Pfeiffer was celebrated when the film opened to glowing reviews—she's pure electricity here, especially on stage where Susie quickly develops into a stunningly confid…

An Appreciation: Nicola Scott

For my money, Nicola Scott is the finest comic book artist working today. Certainly, she's been an excellent artist for a while now, since she first entered the field about fifteen years ago, but recently she's emerged as a truly special artist, with a style all her own. Make no mistake: she's outrageously good now.

Her recent work, especially on DC's Wonder Woman and Image's Black Magick, is astonishingly impressive—seriously, drop everything and pick up the trades for these series right now. These books make it clear that Scott is in the midst of a major moment, and she's grasping those opportunities and making the most of them. Thanks partly to a unique confluence of events, including Wonder Woman's (brief) United Nations Ambassadorship last fall (for which Scott illustrated the jaw-dropping poster), the character's 75th anniversary in 2016, and the new Patty Jenkins film starring Gal Gadot, Scott's work is now reaching a larger audience than ev…