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Showing posts from June, 2018

Michelle Pfeiffer: Sweet Liberty

Revisiting and celebrating the work of Michelle Pfeiffer, the best actress of my lifetime.
Sweet Liberty (1986) is a tough one. I find parts of the film charming—the scenes featuring a certain leading lady, natch—and the rest painfully boring. It's very much in the vein of the melancholy comedy, a genre that was perfected in the 1970s and 1980s. These movies are suffused with a sadness throughout, usually derived from how they portray life and love and aging and grief and everything else we face while desperately trying to avoid growing up.

Sweet Liberty has all of that, but it's also a pretty standard male midlife crisis film. Alan Alda is Michael Burgess, a history professor whose historical novel is being turned into a Hollywood film, and production is taking place in the small North Carolina town where he lives. Michelle Pfeiffer is Faith Healy, a Method actress playing the female lead in the film.

Faith isn't all that well defined, so it's a minor miracle that Pfeif…

Raw Power: Anthony Bourdain, 1956–2018

After hearing the news about Anthony Bourdain's suicide earlier this month, a friend said, simply, "People need to stop dying."

I couldn't agree with her more. The sheer number of important people in the arts that we've lost in recent years is staggering. I'm not going to start listing them all now; you know who they are, because chances are high that many of them meant the world to you also.

Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential was about as punk rock a book as you're ever going to read. I still remember reading it on the bus, circa 2000, with my headphones on, listening to the Stooges' Raw Power. The album was the perfect complement to the book—both full of sound and fury, each forged out of a passionate intensity found only in the very best artists.


That punk rock spirit permeated everything he did. His writing, his interviews, his television series, were all about the man's achingly honest approach to life. He didn't wince words. He didn…

Margot Kidder and the Childhood Crush That Will Never Die

"I dream about sex, flying, and being chased by Nazis."

— Margot Kidder, Rolling Stone, "The Education of Margot Kidder", 1981

*****

File that quote under, "Reasons why I love Margot Kidder."


Last month, Margot hopped a one-way flight with old pal Chris Reeve off into the stars and beyond, where they could reenact their iconic moment from Superman (1978), for all eternity. I wrote a little about Margot, here and here, trying to explain why this particular actress meant so much to me as a kid growing up in the 1980s. I thought that would be enough. It wasn't.*

Those posts were my fumbling attempts to sort out just how large an impact Margot had on my young life, and, to my present-day surprise, how much she still means to me now. Before news of her death, I hadn't thought of her in ages. I assumed the early childhood crush I harbored for my Lois Lane had dwindled and faded. Ha! I was a fool.


My crush on Margot was very much of the innocent, prepub…

An Appreciation: Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert's (1942–2013) Movie Home Companion books were my introduction to film criticism during adolescence. Of course, I also loved watching Ebert and Gene Siskel do their thing At the Moviesespecially when they championed difficult, but important cinema.

I would read and reread Ebert's review essays over and over again, though. Not only were they terrific criticism but they also worked beautifully as standalone prose. In fact, I can still remember small excerpts from some of them! A favorite was from his review of the laughably bad (and outrageously fun) Howling II: Your Sister is a Werewolf(1985):  I have to concede that no one presides over a ritual quite as well as Sybil Danning, especially when she is savagely ripping open the bodice of her dress. She rips the dress so dramatically, in fact, that the shot is repeated twice during the closing credits, providing the movie with its second and third interesting moments. He's right. Danning provides the film with its…

Michelle Pfeiffer: Dark Shadows

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

Dark Shadows (2012) reunited Michelle Pfeiffer with Tim Burton twenty years after their first collaboration in Batman Returns (1992). That film features one of Pfeiffer's most ferocious performance, as Catwoman. She has a smaller role in Dark Shadows, but still turns in an exquisite performance for Burton once again.
As reclusive matriarch Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, Pfeiffer presides over the Collinwood estate with a reserved grace and steely determination. When the Collins' immortal descendant Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) returns, she reluctantly welcomes the vampire back to his ancestral home. Elizabeth can be stern, but she loves her kin, and is as fiercely protective as any mother. She strives to ensure that the Collins family does what it's always done: endure.

In a movie filled with memorable, scenery-chewing performances from Helena Bonham Carter as Dr. Julia and Eva Green a…

A Letter to Angela (Michelle Pfeiffer)

The following post is part of the Reel Infatuation Blogathon, which is organized by the fine folks at Font and Frock, Silver Screenings, and A Small Press Life. It rounds up various bloggers enthusing about characters from film/TV/books that we have crushes on.


As you might imagine, many if not all of my top screen crushes are characters played by the White Gold Queen herself, Michelle Pfeiffer. I chose one for my contribution to the blogathon, and you can read about her below.

Finally, a big thanks to Paul at Pfeiffer Pfilms and Meg Movies, who alerted me to the blogathon. His blog is amazing, as are the three linked above. Please, check them out, follow them, and enjoy.

*****

Dear Angela,

I just want to give you a hug. Is that okay? Because you look like you need a hug. I know I certainly do. I think a hug could do us each some good.


At the start of Married to the Mob, you're stuck in a depressing life as a mafia wife, but it's clear from the very first moment we see you sp…

It Came From the '90s: Bloody Good—Sheryl Lee in Vampires

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

The last entry in my ongoing '90s series revisited Sheryl Lee's heartbreaking, harrowing performance in David Lynch's masterpiece of psychological torment, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992). That reminded me how, for a hot minute in the '90s, Lee seemed poised for big things. Her work in Twin Peaks was astonishing. Her raw, intense portrayal of the doomed Laura Palmer remains one of my favorite performances from the decade. My goodness, I thought, she truly was one of the most brave and committed actresses of that era, and I need to remind everyone just how great she was! So, because it's my mission to remind y'all that Lee was a force to be reckoned with, let's take a look at another of my favorite performances of hers from the '90s.

After Twin Peaks, Lee returned to the theater and over the years has stayed mostly under the radar on …