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Showing posts from 2018

Michelle Pfeiffer: White Oleander

Revisiting and celebrating the work of Michelle Pfeiffer, the best actress of my lifetime.

Ingrid Magnussen resides in a unique corner of Michelle Pfeiffer's filmography. Rarely has Pfeiffer been asked to play a character this unlikable, this sociopathic, or this narcissistic. Which is, frankly, a shame, because she's an absolulte revelation in White Oleander (2002).
Pfeiffer's performance is so starkly rendered, so devastatingly powerful, that it’s almost uncomfortable to watch. Ingrid is an artist, a free spirit, yet also resembles a coiled snake, ready to strike at any moment. It's that ability to ignite Ingrid's inner fury with such sudden force that makes Pfeiffer's work here so astonishing.

Early scenes establish Ingrid's free spirit, yet also expose her bluntly caustic worldview ("Love humiliates you."), and much of why these moments work are due to Pfeiffer's excellent acting. Over the course of the film—much of which Ingrid spends in …

Michelle Pfeiffer: White Gold at the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival

On April 19, Michelle Pfeiffer joined Al Pacino, director Brian De Palma, and a few others at the Tribeca Film Festival for the thirty-fifth anniversary screening of Scarface, followed by an incredibly awkward question and answer session.

The Q&A's moderator, Jesse Kornbluth, asked Pfeiffer a stunningly stupid and disturbingly sexist question. There, on stage, sat the world's most fabulous actress, a true artist who's crafted an extraordinary career, ostensibly ready to discuss her breakout role as Elvira Hancock in the seminal 1983 film. I mean, this is Elvira Hancock we're talking about! White Gold! Did he ask her about her method, her preparation, or her ideas then and know about the role? No. Instead, he asked how much she weighed during filming.

Alright, I've already rambled more than I wanted to about that and I can feel my blood boiling. Thankfully, this is Michelle Pfeiffer we're talking about. In true, White Gold Queen style, she gracefully deflec…

The Future Is Now: Logan's Run

It's interesting just how many future-set science fiction films of the 1970s didn't look anything like the future would look. Instead, they looked like the 1970s.

Logan's Run (1976) is a fabulous example of this. Set in the twenty-third century—where society's remaining humans live under geodisic domes that resemble shopping malls, before having their lives terminated in the "Carrousel" when they turn thirty—the fashion and hairstyles, not to mention the dated special effects, of the 1970s still shine through.

This is not a criticism. I genuinely love that about the film. One of the great pleasures in watching comes from this tension between the film's futurism and its undeniably groovy seventies clothes and feathered hair styles.

The film is a science fiction cult classic, and much of the appeal for fans lies in the nostalgia it engenders. I was born in the seventies. I'm obsessed with the decade's culture, fashion, and media, largely because it&…

Diminishing Returns: Legion

Watching Legion is a lot like the image above: I sit with the same perplexed look on my face as Sid (Rachel Keller) and that goat.

Last season's series premiere was, hands down, one of the most unique and game-changing series openers in television history. I raved to everyone who would listen about the show early in season one. Yet, once it entered the back stretch, I noticed I'd been losing interest, slowly, episode after episode.
Now, I love weird. I don't need to understand every layer of a series or film to appreciate it. I'm okay with being confused watching Legion—hell, I (mostly) happily sat through eighteen hours of Twin Peaks: The Return. It's just that, at this point, early in season two, I'm beginning to wonder if all the exceptional aesthetic and tonal aspects of the show are just masking a series that has very little to actually say. About anything.

I'm not giving up on the series. First of all, my wife enjoys it, so I'm going to be sittin…

It Came From the '90s: Ads That Make You Go Hmmm...

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

There was no other choice than to start this post with a vintage Teen Spirit ad.

This post came to be because I needed a break from the usual bloviating about the 1990s that goes on in this series. So this will be light frothy, a quick read, with lots of amazingly dated pictures to look at. So sit back, relax, and bask in the warm glow of a few of the decade's cheesiest advertisements. After all, Generation X was the first generation of children that advertisers targeted specifically with ads designed to send kids running to mom and dad to buy, buy, buy them stuff, all the stuff. This started in the 1970s and 1980s, meaning most of us didn't know a world where companies weren't relentlessly vying for our parents to spend more of their income on crap for us.

I remember a few of these ads. I bet you do too. The brief commentary under each is intended to make y…

Barely Making a Dent: April 2018 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.
There she is again, the unofficial patron saint of this column.
Who am I kidding with "unofficial"? It's official: she's the patron saint of this column.
While I've long been fascinated with Marilyn Monroe's celebrity, it's really how that celebrity negatively affected her sense of self that interests me most. She was always the mythical unicorn, the long-gone starlet from decades past whose impact has only grown in popular culture since her death in 1962. When Madonna went platinum blonde in the 1980s even adolescent me could feel Marilyn's influence, or at least a commentary on her influence, at play.
Yet, until recently, and beyond various magazine articles, I hadn't read many sustained works about her. Then serendipity struck and, within a few short months, I found myself the owner of three books on Mari…

Reading (and Watching) It, Part 4: Coda

It's been almost a year since I wrote about reading Stephen King's It, which had been one of the biggest omissions in my decades-long love affair with King's work. It always loomed large in the background of my life because, well, it's a big book. Last month, I finally saw the recent film version, directed by Andy Muschietti and released last fall. Thinking about the book and the film, I realized I still have more to say about It, so here we are, with a coda of sorts.

Watching the film reinforced something I felt while reading the novel: had I read It (or paid closer attention to the 1990 television miniseries) as an adolescent, there's no doubt the Losers' Club would have strongly resonated with me. Even today, as a so-called adult (I have my doubts), it's still all too easy for me to identify with these kids. Although my parents were wonderful, as an only child I understood loneliness and isolation better than most. Now I can see I yearned for some sort …

It Came From the ‘90s: Mazzy Star, “Blue Flower”

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

Mazzy Star's "Blue Flower" has always sounded exactly like the early 1990s felt to me.

Ah, back in the day. The halcyon years of modern rock, alternative rock, whatever you want to call it—those final, peak years, before it all drifted off into the ether, to be replaced in the public consciousness by Britney and the Back Street Boys. Many of us aging Gen Xers believe that it was the last, truly great era of rock music (Get off my lawn). Music played such an enormous part in our lives back then, in the way that it only can when you're a teenager. It seemed to soundtrack every waking moment.

Hearing those '90s songs today floods my head with memories of friends, girlfriends, school, work, play, dreams, anxieties, everything and everyone that influenced who I was and who I was growing up to be. Mazzy Star's sublime, dream-pop masterpiece, "Bl…