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Showing posts from December, 2017

All I Want for Christmas: Top Five Christmas Films

Subversive Christmas films are the best kind of Christmas films. I appreciate when films offer commentary and insight on the season's often-nauseating cheer and crass commercialism, revealing the darker side of it all, the stuff most of us want to ignore this time of year. So in the spirit of the season, here's my top five Christmas films, each of which resides a little left of center. And it should surprise absolutely no one that my top yuletide season flick stars—drum roll, please—Michelle Pfeiffer. As always, this list is subject to change slightly, annually. Please, share your lists below, and we can argue about movies as if we were drunk relatives at the Christmas table screaming about politics. Hey, can you pass the eggnog?
1. Batman Returns (1992)

Michelle Pfeiffer. ‘nuff said, but I’ll say more. As Selina Kyle/Catwoman, she has the film’s most complete character arc, a personal growth journey that begins with Selina as a meek, put-upon, frightened little mouse, only to…

All I Want for Christmas: Joan Collins in Tales from the Crypt

Tales from the Crypt (1972) is a delightful little horror anthology, the sort of film that was quite popular in the 1970s but isn't made nearly as often today. Each segment, based on the old EC Comics series, is true to the original's spirit, capturing that magnificently English sense of the macabre to perfection. For me though, one segment stands out above the rest, the first one, "...And All Through the House".

Out of all the segments in the film, this one makes best use of its short running time, small cast, and limited setting—all of the action takes place in one house on Christmas Eve. Yet even more than it being the epitome of the perfect short horror story—an art form unto itself, and one that few have ever mastered—it also features one of the most fabulous actresses to ever sashay across the screen: Joan Collins.

Every holiday season, I'm fascinated with images like the one above, which juxtapose the merry trappings of the season with powerful, bloody mom…

It Came From the '90s: "Silver and Bold!" Silver Sable & the Wild Pack

I’ve recently come into possession of the first twenty issues of Silver Sable & the Wild Pack (1992, Marvel Comics), a mostly forgotten '90s spinoff series (Sable first appeared in a Spider-Man story). Silver is currently starring in a one-shot that picks up the numbering of this series, so it seems like the right time to look back at her '90s output.

I knew nearly nothing about the character, beyond that she shared a first name and hair color with one of my favorite Batman love interests, Silver St. Cloud (look her up, kids, she was the bomb back in the day—she figured out Bruce was Batman!). After one issue of Silver Sable, though, I knew the important stuff: Silver's a fierce and highly skilled mercenary for hire, a shrewd businesswoman running an international empire, and a serious Type A personality who has no time for your sentimental bullshit. The oft-overused term “badass” (I'm as guilty as the next) doesn’t do her justice. She’s Adrienne Barbeau and Pam G…

Barely Making a Dent: December 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.

Earlier this year, I noted the preponderance of pictures of Marilyn Monroe reading. They probably have their own subreddit devoted to them. She loved books, and photographers loved to shoot her reading them. And if you're writing a regular column about the books you're reading, then slapping a photo of Marilyn up top certainly can't hurt. In fact, like a carefully curated home library, Marilyn reading will always help class up the joint. True fact.

This got me thinking: what's the best Marilyn book out there? I'd like to read one, but a good one, which means avoiding anything sordid or trashy. I want a thoughtful overview of her life and career. I'm not even that interested in a straight bio, but instead want a book by a writer who can place her within her appropriate cultural context, offering insights into what made her…

Cinematic Yearning, or, a seasonal lament for the films I won't be seeing in theaters

The trailer for I, Tonya is absolutely bonkers, both heartbreaking and hilarious, and I want to give Margot Robbie all the awards based on this small sampling of her work in the film.

To me, and again based on these few minutes of scenes, it has a similar vibe to Gus Van Sant's To Die For, which featured a jaw-dropping Nicole Kidman performance. Both films seem to be about mentally unstable women obsessed with fame or fortune who resort to some form of illegality—murder in To Die For, clubbing Nancy Kerrigan in the knees in I, Tonya—to further their careers.

Kidman's work in To Die For is, pardon the pun, to die for. I may be reading too much into a trailer, but it's looking like Robbie could turn in a similarly exceptional performance in a similarly challenging role.
For that and other reasons, I'm chomping at the bit to see this movie. It opens Friday.
Unfortunately, I'll probably have to wait several months to see it on-demand, or via streaming or Blu-ray/DVD. …

Michelle Pfeiffer, the Early Years: Delta House

Revisiting—or in a few cases, watching for the first time—and celebrating the work of Michelle Pfeiffer, the best actress of my lifetime.
We all have to start somewhere, right?
Thank your lucky stars you didn’t start with Delta House like Michelle Pfeiffer did. In 1979, her first major screen work (after a brief appearance on an episode of Fantasy Island the previous year) was on this atrociously bad and unsurprisingly short-lived sitcom/cash-grab—remember, it was spun out of the previous year's mega-hit film Animal House. In a cast of painfully juvenile and misogynist frat boys, she played a character named, and I kid you not, “Bombshell.” Is it any wonder she went on to spend her career resisting attempts at pigeonholing her based on her looks.
Yes, I’ve seen several episodes of this series. And yes, it’s as awful as I’m describing it. I actually watched it a bit in reruns back in the 1980s, and let me tell you, it’s as bad now as it was then. The fact that I’ve rewatched a few …