Tuesday, April 29, 2008

To Michelle on her 50th Birthday

My personal screen goddess Michelle Pfeiffer turns the big 5-0 today. Though Julianne Moore is more directly responsible for the start of my film writing career and other favored greats like Daniel Day-Lewis and Uma Thurman also share this birthday, Michelle is the patron saint of my cinephilia. She led me to deep movie loving in the late 80s and in many ways I've never been able to let go of her or the cinema since. Two years back I hosted a blog-a-thon in her honor. This year I have to keep it simpler if not small. In lieu of the regularly scheduled "tuesday top ten" I thought I'd share 50 reasons why I love Michelle Pfeiffer and why you should to. How do we love her? Let us count the ways.

50 Reasons To Love Michelle Pfeiffer
Links to movie titles go to their Netflix page for this post. Queue them.
It's my way of saying: see all her damn movies you pfool

okay 53... I lied
53. That amazing accent in Russia House (1990)
52. She's always better than her films. Even when her films are good.
51. The best Pfeiffer website is probably The Face. That that title is not an overstatement is a testament to her legendary beauty. (Plus: I need to give them a shout out since I am away from my home computer and nearly all the pictures in this post are borrowed therefrom)
50. You can tell from her very first movie Falling in Love Again (1979) that she had greatness in her. It's difficult to spot (as it often is first time out) until you get to one completely ravishing eroticized closeup ---the eroticism coming only from her. "The Face", indeed. She was barely 21.
49. She's fierce. No, let's say "ferocious" (see previous article: The Ferocity of Pfeiffer)
48. A good sport: a voice cameo as "Mindy Simmons" in The Simpsons and a surprise cameo on Picket Fences for her husband, TV powerhouse David E Kelley
47. That time she hosted the Muppets Tonight.

46. Queen of the Fairies in A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999). Who else as magical could they have cast, really?
45. Val Kilmer once wrote a poem about her "The Pfeiffer Howls at the Moon" (previous post) and she's the type of woman one writes poems for, surely.
44. That hypnotic circling of the birdcage in Batman Returns (1992)
43. "Huge" Michelle gone blue in The Witches of Eastwick (1987)
42. We know she's perfection in Armani. But it doesn't matter what she wears. She looks great in everything from denim to drag.

Told ya so.

41. So fetching while brushing her teeth, newly aglow in Frankie & Johnny (1991)
40. For all her fame she's often a modest undervalued performer. Watch I Am Sam (2001) if you dare and notice how afterwards her performance is the only one that makes any sense or rings completely true. Naturally then, she's also the only actor among the leads who wasn't recognized for her work.
39. She can parody Hollywood bitch goddesses with the best of them: See Sweet Liberty (1986)
38. "I want a divorce!" -Married to the Mob (1988)
37. Visible nerves as she approaches a date with her estranged husband Bruce Willis in The Story of Us (1999)
36. She reliably adds a touch of reserved movie star glitter to the Emmy Awards, on her husband's arm while they're in his realm. Ocassionally she gifts other red carpets with her divine class.
35. That free range anger in A Thousand Acres (1997) and Scarface (1983) among several other films. It's a Pfeiffer specialty.
34. "So?" that unsophisticated inquiry puncturing the spell cast by her own audition in The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989)

33. Boinked Mel Gibson in a hot tub in Tequila Sunrise (1988). Back when he was worth boinking.
32. Her paralyzed fear in the bathtub in What Lies Beneath (2000). She can act with her whole body but she really only needs her eyes. Bonus points: Gives credit where its due. Cited Drew Barrymore for inspiring her with her palpable terror in Scream (1996)
31. Made Claire Danes cry in To Gillian on her 37th Birthday. Claire Danes used to cry so well, don't you think?
30. Lacerating her family over the holidays in Deep End of the Ocean (1999)
29. She is a celebrity photographer's dream.

28. The way she spits out "Tracy" each time she has to use the name in Hairspray (2007)
27. She introduced Vonda Shephard to David E Kelley making Ally McBeal that much more memorable for having its own signature voice.
26. Her lovely breathy singing voice used to great effect in Fabulous Baker Boys, Hairspray, Grease 2, and The Prince of Egypt. We're not counting Up Close and Personal since it's terrible and because she sang off key on purpose.

25. That dripping wet swimming pool seduction with Jack Nicholson in The Witches of Eastwick (1987) or maybe the way she writhes on the bed in lingerie or eats cherries? So many choices when she's playing Sukie Ridgemont.
24. Her chiaroscuro cool in the video "Gangsta's Paradise" by Coolio. Yes, I prefer it to Dangerous Minds (1995). It's shorter.
23. Martin Scorsese, Jeff Bridges, Emma Thompson and Jonathan Demme all love her. That's good company to be in.
22. One could argue she's the American Deneuve.
21. The way she turns to the camera, her face bathed in moonlight, framed by a black hood in Ladyhawke (1985). Breathtaking.
20. Getting ready for her date with George Clooney in One Fine Day (1996). Yummy.
19. "Cool Rider" in Grease 2 (1982). Sheer guilty bliss. And also: tight tight pants.
18. Lurene Hallet in Love Field (1992). See previous guest post by Nick.
17. We imagine she's a great mom.
16. A recent triple comeback triumph: delicious comic evil in both Hairspray (2007) and Stardust (2007) and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Finally!

15. Her silly abandon on that first date with Matthew Modine in Married to the Mob (1988), her finest comedic performance.
14. Those bookish glasses she favors in real life. Endearing.
13. Reliably great chemistry with co-stars whether they're playing her children, siblings, friends, rivals or romantic interests.
12. "10 cents a dance, that's what they pay me..." Michelle rising from the cabaret floor after collecting herself and her cheat sheet song lyrics in the fabulous The Fabulous Baker Boys
11. Though her Hollywood persona often leans toward the ice goddess she's versatile. Watch those closeups in One Fine Day for a lesson in effortless movie star warmth.

10. "I am sorrow" as expressed in Ladyhawke. And amply prophesying many future roles.
09. Speaking of sorrow... Countess Ellen Olenska in The Age of Innocence (1993)
08. She's the very picture of erotic submission in Dangerous Liaisons (1988): "Her eyes are closing" ... indeed.
07. Making a glamorous entrance, back exposed, in the descending elevator in Scarface (1983)
06. Coke-addled Elvira telling Tony what's what in a swanky restaurant in Scarface (1983)
05. That unblinking predatory stare in White Oleander (2002). Spooky.
04. "Makin' Whoopee" and everything else about Susie Diamond in The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989)
03. Those line readings in Batman Returns (1992) are to die for. Every last one of them. "meow"
02. The promise of new films. Personal Effects (2008) is next to be followed by a reunion with her Dangerous Liaisons director for the period romantic drama Cheri (2009). Cross your fingers and pray for more.
01. She's one of the most beautiful and talented women who ever lived. Still.

I left many things out. I wrote it quickly. The list is too short.


Luke said...

A wonderful tribute to one of the best working actresses.

Top ten performances:

1. “Lurene Hallett” in Love Field
2. “Susie Diamond” in The Fabulous Baker Boys
3. “Catwoman/Selina Kyle” in Batman Returns
4. “Madame Marie de Tourvel” in Dangerous Liaisons
5. “Ingrid Magnussen” in White Oleander
6. “Frankie” in Frankie and Johnny
7. “Velma Von Tussle” in Hairspray
8. “Ellen Olenska” in The Age of Innocence
9. “Angela de Marco” in Married to the Mob
10. “Claire Spencer” in What Lies Beneath

Anonymous said...

I love her because she doesn't play the Hollywood game, she isn't a media whore, she doesn't crave attention.

That's also kinda why I hate her though at times, as a pfan I wish she would put herself out there more, but I respect her for not doing so.

Anonymous said...

I suscribe every line you write about her. As always.

Long live La Pfeiffer!


Anonymous said...

Best perf :

- Batman Begins (iconic)
- The Fabulous Baker Boys (best audition scene tied with la Watts)
- Love Field (very underrated)
- The Russia House (that accent !)
- What lies beneath (she carried the whole film so easily and is mesmerizing in it)
- Dangerous Liaisons (both prude and sexy)
- Married to the mob (funny and vulgar)
- White Oleander (that look !)
- The Age of innocence (poor Daniel, how can you not fall for her and her charisma)
- Scarface (now that's a breakthrough)

RU :
- Dangerous Minds (my friends and I loved it when it came ou... we were 12 lol, but seriously, who else could make it work ?)
- Frankie & Johnny (anti-Julia Roberts)
- The Witched of Eastwick or how to steal the show from more experienced co-stars

Happy Birthday

Anonymous said...

her best performances:

1. Stardust - "the burning golden heart of a star at peace is so much better than your frightened little heart, even so, better than no heart at all" sooooo good

2. White Oleander - one of the biggest AMPAS snubs in recent memory. so good, so evil, so restrained, so Oscar worthy!

3. A Thousand Acres - movie was crap, but she nailed the role. You can feel the anger burning inside her, a very underrated performance that more people need to see!

4. Age of Innocence - another ghastly AMPAS snug...for shame!

5. Batman Returns

6. Married to the Mob

7. What lies Beneath

8. One Fine Day

9. Russia House

10. Hairspray

Beau said...

Add to this: the film wasn't particularly memorable, but you have to love her exit at the end of 'Wolf'.

'I can smell it a mile away.'


Anonymous said...

So, she was to blame for introducing Vonda Shepard to the world? Just kidding.

My language distance makes me impossible to put into words fifty reasons to love Pfeiffer. I adore her, so much indeed you even witnessed my defense of I Could never be your Woman, right here in this comments section ;).

I'm trying to think just of three performances that will stay with me.

My choices are:

- Countless Olenska in The Age of Innocence.
I heard at the time that Scorsese had hired because after watching her in Married to the Mob, he believed she was an italo-american.
Is there any other actress who can outshine Day-Lewis so effortlestly?

- Catwoman in Batman Returns/Suzie Diamond in The Faboulous Baker Boys. I just couldn't choose. I think the word that summarizes both is Stardom. That rare quality that joins together incredible acting talent and magic coming out from the screen in unique moments.

- Mme de Tourvel in Dangerous Liaisons. Because it's where I found her for the first time. And because this movie, together with Women on the Verge... and another Spanish movie of the time, made me love movies.

(I'm really eager to see Cheri, nothing even remotely close to bad can come from Frears, Pfeiffer and Hampton together).


Anonymous said...

I'm slightly partial to Wolf myself. Thought it was worth a mention, but then I see that someone else already did.

Anonymous said...

yes she was also amazing in "Wolf"

Pfeiffer and Nicholson made an awesome couple

What an actress

Hayden said...

....more like, Deneuve was the Pfrench Pfeiffer bepfore she even knew it. I'm spelling everything pfantastically today pfor la Pfeiff's pfiftieth.


i like her in WOLF too. I was going to put it in somewhere but i must have forgotten. drat.

the other problem is i haven't seen the movie in like 12 years. barely rememebr it.

RahulB said...

I just saw Batman Returns last night for the 859798th time.

Her conversion into Catwoman scene is unbelievably hypnotic. I couldn't even blink.

Anonymous said...

Nath, have you heard? Angela Basset is going to be part of the last season of E.R.

I know its a little off-topic, but this made me so happy that I decided to make you happy too, since you love her as much as I

Anonymous said...

Wonder what her secret is of looking so young and sexy?

lawyer tony fernando said...

you wrote 52, do you realize that? you did 21 and 20 twice!

Stardust perf was amazing, she´s great in blockbusters, but off course her Love Field, a thousand acres, Baker Boys , white oleander and The Age of Innocence are way better, with meow exception!


hee. it's still not enough :)

Anonymous said...

a thousand acres not a great film but contains one of jessica lange's best peformances and pfeiffer's too the scene where they discuss the incest of them and their father heartbreaking and haunting,langes sheer emotionnal collappse and pfeiffers brute frankness.

Peter said...

You actually did 54, doubling not only 20 and 21, but 47 and 48!

Anonymous said...

I love the "I wanna divorce" line too!

Great list, and interesting point about her being the American Deneuve.

jinny said...

im so amazed with this deep affection of "our goddess" put in words...
an exemplary display of affection to one great performer and person.

i adore every inch of her on whatever movie she's in...

Nathaniel...great Job...

I wish i could have that gift of words and wit...that i could write something for Michelle...

Thanks for sharing your thought...