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Showing posts from March, 2019

Michelle Pfeiffer: Cheri

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

Screenwriter Christopher Hampton has discussed how Michelle Pfeiffer was at the top of his and director Stephen Frears' short wish list for the lead role in Chéri (2009).Pfeiffer loved the script and agreed to team up once more with Hampton and Frears. The threesome had previously collaborated on Dangerous Liaisons (1988). Pfeiffer's performance in that one earned her first Academy Award nomination, for Best Supporting Actress. She was transcendent in that period film, and was again, twenty one years later, in Chéri.

Chéri is an elegant and acerbic mediation on aging, love, and how social etiquette affects both in 1900s Paris. At the center of the film, around which all other aspects rotate, is Pfeiffer, as Léa de Lonva. It's a lovely, nuanced performance as an aging courtesan who finds herself in an unexpected relationship with a much younger man, whom she nicknames Chéri (Rupert Frie…

Misspent Youth: Say It Ain’t So, Aunt Becky

Looking back at the pop culture mainstays of this Gen-Xer's gloriously misspent youth.

Aunt Becky always seemed like the sane one in a house full of loons on Full House. She was also like the hot aunt and she married the hot uncle and together they produced perfect looking little children. She had it all.

By all accounts, the actress who played Aunt Becky eventually had it all in real life too. Lori Loughlin is married to a fashion designer, has two model-esque daughters, and more money than most of the rest of us combined. And now she and her husband have been indicted on fraud charges pertaining to a college admissions cheating scandal. Netflix and the Hallmark Channel have already dumped Loughlin from their shows, so you know things are serious.

As Uncle Jesse (John Stamos) would say, "Have mercy!"

I'm not here to defend Loughlin because of some wistfully nostalgic memories of Full House. Her lawyers will handle her defense, and, frankly, Full House was never very…

Misspent Youth: Superman III

Looking back at the pop culture mainstays of this Gen-Xer's gloriously misspent youth.

Superman III hit theaters June 17, 1983. Because I was a rabid eight year old fan of the first two movies in the franchise—both of which remain all-time favorites as well as two of the best superhero movies ever made—I walked into this one expecting more of the same brilliance. Instead, what I got was something else entirely. With a game Richard Pryor nobly bumbling his way through this mess (all along likely plotting to fire his agent), the brilliance of the first two movies was nowhere to be found. Remember, Lois Lane (my girl Margot Kidder) appears only briefly, as the film's action quickly moves from Metropolis to Smallville for Clark Kent's high school reunion, thus breaking the heart of this young Lois/Margot admirer. It was mostly downhill from there for that eight year old kid.

I won't rehash the plot except to say Clark/Superman (Christopher Reeve) reunites with his first lov…

Michelle Pfeiffer: The Deep End of the Ocean

Revisiting and celebrating the work of Michelle Pfeiffer, the best actress of my lifetime.
The Deep End of the Ocean premiered twenty years ago today. As a Michelle Pfeiffer super pfan, this one's always brought up conflicting emotions in me. The movie, written by Stephen Schiff and directed by Ulu Grosbard is just mediocre, and that might be a kind assessment. It has a decidedly "Forgettable TV Movie of the Week" fee, and there's a gaping disconnect between Pfeiffer's performance and the rest of the film. On the positive side, it serves as the one of the best examples of how, over the course of her career, she's consistently worked wonders when faced with scripts of inconsistent quality (see also: Personal Effects).

Pfeiffer plays Beth Cappadora, a mother of three whose three year old son is kidnapped, only to reappear nine years later. The film explores the immediate trauma of losing a child to abduction, and then imagines how hard it would be to discover you…

Dysfunction Junction: Bates Motel and Gilmore Girls

In this blogger's humble opinion, Bates Motel is one of the best series in recent memory. I'd like to write more about it over time, especially digging deep into Vera Farmiga's truly astonishing performance as Norma Bates. Her performance is astonishing, a true tour-de-force crafted over five seasons as one extraordinary character arc.

The show offers one of the most thoughtful, sustained depictions of a woman in constant turmoil with herself and the world around her, yet who still fights tooth and nail every step of the way to do what she perceives to be right. Appallingly, Farmiga was only nominated once for a Primetime Emmy for her work. That's ridiculous, because I'd go so far as to say it's the best performance by an actress on television in the last decade.

At another end of the television spectrum, Gilmore Girls is also one of my favorite series. My wife and I watched during its initial run back in the day, and watched it several times over since. It's…

I Am Not Avery: Robert Downey Jr. in Zodiac

"Uh, an editorial tête-à-tête. Wanna grab a drink?"

Whenever things go south on the job, I quote that line of dialogue from David Fincher's masterpiece, Zodiac (2007), which dramatizes the infamous, unsolved serial murders in Northern California in the 1970s, attributed to the Zodiac Killer.

The dialogue belongs to Paul Avery, a rogue scamp of sorts, played brilliantly by Robert Downey Jr. in a performance that should be considered one of his career best. Unfortunately, we don't seem to talk enough about just how good he is in the film. So, let's, shall we?

As a sarcastic, cynical, and disgraced reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, Avery starts the film in a professional and personal funk, exacerbated by his being a highly functional alcoholic. Then he finds a new purpose, a path towards redemption, through the paper's political cartoonist Robert Graysmith's (Jake Gyllenhaal) obsession with the Zodiac case. What follows is Downey and Gyllenhaal working …