Michelle Pfeiffer. An actress I have admired pretty much my whole movie-loving life. In an attempt to hail further praise on her, as well as hurtling into the awards season, how about finding some of those great roles that went without mention come the Oscars charge? Spoilt for choice, too. I know, I know, there’s no Dangerous Minds or The Witches of Eastwick or Tequila Sunrise or Grease 2. Look, I had seven slots to fill, so the limitation was painful. In the meantime, inflict some pleasure on yourself with these great Michelle Pfeiffer performances that I feel warranted much harder Academy recognition.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role – Scarface, 1983
ACTUAL NOMINEES: Linda Hunt (The Yearof Living Dangerously); Cher (Silkwood); Glenn Close (The Big Chill); Amy Irving (Yentl); Alfre Woodard (Cross Creek)
FOR: Classic breakthrough role, which some of the nominees were. Introduced to the unique vixen side of Pfeiffer, only she could exude. Bit chunks out of the scenery, even opposite a larger than life Al Pacino.
AGAINST: Film not well received, and Pfeiffer was pretty much unknown at the time. You’d think if Pacino doesn’t get nominated, then nobody does. Even in a weak year like ’83.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role – Married to the Mob, 1988
ACTUAL NOMINEES: Jodie Foster (The Accused); Glenn Close (Dangerous Liaisons); Melanie Griffith (Working Girl); Meryl Streep (A Cry in the Dark); Sigourney Weaver (Gorillas in the Mist)
FOR: Pfeiffer shows her varied range yet again. Film was clearly seen and liked by the Academy – Dean Stockwell made the Supporting Actor list. Popular director in Jonathan Demme, though his day would very soon come. Fun fact, the song “Goodbye Horses” by Q Lazarus also features here as well as more famously in The Silence of the Lambs.
AGAINST: Let’s face it, comedies hardly ever get a look in, especially when it comes to the Lead category. Plus, the Academy, and maybe filmgoers, where a morbid lot, with mostly gloomy, ill-fated roles making the cut.
Best Performance by a an Actress in a Leading Role – Batman Returns, 1992
ACTUAL NOMINEES: Emma Thompson (Howards End); Catherine Deneuve (Indochine); Mary McDonnell (Passion Fish); Michelle Pfeiffer (Love Field); Susan Sarandon (Lorenzo’s Oil)
FOR: Perhaps the strongest performance in the film, and the character of Catwoman dominates the narrative. Pfeiffer was utterly purrfect for the role. A late-comer too, when the initial casting choice, Annette Bening, fell pregnant. A career-defining, iconic turn from the actress, at her peak.
AGAINST: Those darn super hero films just don’t cut the mustard with voters. Would be competing with herself essentially – nominated for Love Field – though today she’d be heavily campaigned for Supporting Actress for Batman Returns no doubt.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role – The Age of Innocence, 1993
ACTUAL NOMINEES: Holly Hunter (The Piano); Angela Bassett (What’s Love Got to Do with It); Stockard Channing (Six Degrees of Separation); Emma Thompson (The Remains of the Day); Debra Winger (Shadowlands)
FOR: Lavish costume drama, check. Martin Scorsese, check. Big name cast, check. Awards season buzz, check. Nominated in other categories, check. Michelle Pfeiffer entering “overdue” status, check.
AGAINST: As it turns out, the Academy couldn’t quite cross the line from ‘like a lot’ to ‘love’. Perhaps Scorsese’s change of genre startled them. Some tech nods, and Winona Ryder (who was the favorite to win Supporting Actress). A couple of semi-expected Lead Actress nominees clearly showed love elsewhere.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role – What Lies Beneath, 2000
ACTUAL NOMINEES: Julia Roberts (Erin Brockovich); Joan Allen (The Contender); Juliette Binoche (Chocolat); Ellen Burstyn (Requiem for a Dream); Laura Linney (You Can Count On Me)
FOR: Kind of a bounce back role for Pfeiffer. Still way overdue. Robert Zmeckis was on a role with Cast Away the same year. The bathtub scene would have made a terrific nomination clip.
AGAINST: Film had a fanbase, but not enough with voters. High quality performances, heavy campaigning, and a long queue of popular actresses still without an Oscar.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role – White Oleander, 2002
ACTUAL NOMINEES: Catherine Zeta-Jones (Chicago); Kathy Bates (About Schmidt); Queen Latifah (Chicago); Julianne Moore (The Hours); Meryl Streep (Adaptation)
FOR: Well loved film in the circles that’s actually saw it. Pfeiffer once again showed a different aspect of her acting capabilities. An age-apprioriate role. Genuinely dark, memorable character.
AGAINST: Just look at the nominees, bold, brash, overwhelming. There was something in the water that year. And Chicago. White Oleander was a little too, well, small, and obscure to make an impact.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role – Mother!, 2017
ACTUAL NOMINEES: Allison Janney (I, Tonya); Mary J. Blige (Mudbound); Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread); Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird); Octavia Spencer (The Shape of Water)
FOR: Unforgettable performance, such a huge impact in so little screen time. Classic Supporting material. Another comeback. A further demonstration of her ability. It’s Michelle Pfeiffer for God’s sake!
AGAINST: The frontrunners hardly changed all awards season, in what is now a more written on the wall process than ever. The film was polarizing, heavy-handed, out of the Academy comfort zone – too many people hated it, basically. Shame.