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Feline Oscar Twins: Anne & Michelle?

In the hall of fame of superhero/villain catchphrases “oops” (Anne Hathaway, The Dark Knight Rises) never stood much of a prayer against “me-ow” (Michelle Pfeiffer, Batman Returns), nor could the dark side self importance of 2012’s “there’s a storm coming Mr Wayne” ever best the sexier playful 1992 ‘dark side?’ retort “no darker than yours Bruce”  But catch phrases aren’t everything...even when you've got zingy ones like "life's a bitch now so am I" In the great Catwoman wars of popular culture, it’s always in some ways a draw. Every generation and every aesthetic gets their own James Bond and so it goes with all enduring characters which win several iterations. Michelle Pfeiffer’s Selina Kyle may never claim the easy universally agreed upon “Best Catwoman Evah!” victory you’d expect given Pfeiffer’s mammoth performance (give or take Heath Ledger, the most psychologically precise, overachieving & seismically inspired in superhero cinema) but what can you do? Before The Dark Knight Rises premiered I braced myself for the onslaught of “best catwoman ever” pieces which I knew would proliferate. In truth they would have even for a  performer less dazzling than Anne Hathaway’s.  Out with the old and in with the new is, generally speaking, the law that governs pop culture. It’s just How Things Work.

Catwoman watching Catwoman. Feline staring contest in 1...2...

With the recent news that Anne Hathaway would be campaigned as Best (Leading) Actress for the role, a strategic move which has been taken more seriously than I was expecting given that she has no prayer in hell of a nomination for everyone’s favorite good/bad girl in spandex, this Hathaway/Pfeiffer story wouldn’t leave me.

Twenty years back when Michelle Pfeiffer lept into the feline role vacated by Annette Bening she nailed the role winning “best in show” reviews, winning a massive new army of fans, achieving her biggest box office hit, and sailing on to an Oscar nomination for the year (albeit not as Catwoman). Leap forward a couple of decades and history repeats itself four times over…. Well three times over for now but we all know Anne Hathaway will make it four-for-four once Les Miz hits.

It's worth thinking about Hathaway and Oscar through the prism of Pfeiffer. It's not a perfect identical twin situation but the similarities don't end with "what happened with Catwoman." At the time of Batman Returns/Love Field Michelle was a 34 year old previous Oscar nominee who had been famous for 10 years and had already co-starred in one very major also-ran Best Picture nominee (Dangerous Liaisons). At the time of The Dark Knight Rises/Les Miserables Anne is a 30 year old previous Oscar nominee who has been famous for 11 years and has already co-starred in one extremely major also-ran Best Picture nominee (Brokeback Mountain). Both actresses played Catwoman in the summer and followed it up at Christmas time by starring in something more typically Oscar-friendly, Pfeiffer in a civil rights drama and Hathaway in an epic musical. 

On top of all of Fantine's problems... she never return her DVDs to the video store

But here's where the similarities end and Hathaway's Oscar story may have a much happier ending. For one, Anne Hathaway's Catwoman arrived in a culture that has moved past viewing superhero films as "fluff" and is therefore less shy about recognizing acting achievements inside of them. For another, the eventually nominated performance by Hathaway is likely to be "the right one of the two" whereas Michelle was chosen for the wrong performance -- not that she isn't very good in Love Field, but it's not the inspired no one else could do this work that her Selina Kyle was. Finally and most obviously Les Miserables will be no Love Field, a film that was barely released and was largely only acknowledged -- if it was acknowledged as all -- as a vehicle for a Michelle Pfeiffer nomination. If you want to stick to the Pfeiffer narrative Les Miserables is far more likely to be Hathaway's own Fabulous Baker Boys... only this time there's no Jessica Tandy in sight to steal the statue away from a glorious actress in the full bloom of her star power.

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Reader Comments (34)

There is buzz starting for Judi Dench in Skyfall, will she pip Hathaway to the post? I myself doubt it.

October 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoe U.K.

Anne Hathaway better than Pfeiffer? Huh? Taken on her own terms and the terms of Burton's Batman universe, Pfeiffer is perfect. Taken on her own terms and the terms of Nolan's Batman universe, Hathaway isn't bad, but isn't dead on perfect.

October 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

I think they're both great as two different Cat Women in two different style movies.

Off-topic, but isn't Anne Hathaway Amanda Seyfried's mother in Les Mis? I'm sorry, but how is that believable for a second? She looks MAYBE a few years older than her, definitely not enough to be her mother.

October 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

Joe U.K.: Agree on Dench. She's already won, so all that buzz will likely only cause a change of nom bid from Best Exotic. Bardem has also won, so if he gets a nom, that's it. If Ralph Fiennes manages Best in Show reviews, however? Even with the disreputable source of a James Bond film, expect him to become a HUGE threat for the supporting actor win, a prize he should have easily snatched 19 years ago.

October 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

If Hathaway indeed campaigns as lead this will be a crime against humanity.

If it were the case of a fascinating supporting role campaigned as lead, I understand.

But this is not the case with Anne's work in The Dark Knight Rises.

October 25, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterYavor

Hathaway could still lose for some unforeseen reason. Speaking of Jessica's—can my precious Chastain benefit from the kind of luck Tandy and Lange had?

October 25, 2012 | Unregistered Commenter4rtful

@Philip: isn't Anne Hathaway Amanda Seyfried's mother in Les Mis? I'm sorry, but how is that believable for a second?

The little girl on the poster plays Cossette (the daughter) as well; there's a nine year gap between the scenes with Anne and the scenes with Amanda.

October 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpar3182

huh. i flat out LOVE Anne in TDKR but Best Actress? Warner Bros, please have a seat. Better yet, take ALL the seats, sit back and relax. She doesn't even need it. From the trailer alone with Les Miz, Anne already has a good chance of snagging some sort of nom.

and with the Anne vs. Michelle, i think that's a non-existent battle. Both of them handed in great performances in vastly different worlds. If they switched worlds, both of them would be disastrous. maybe they can present an award together at the Oscars?

Plus, i would really like to see an actress totally kill it as Poison Ivy.

October 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterDerreck

par3182 - thanks for the clarification! I thought about that literally right after I posted that haha. I figured there was some sort of time difference. I'm admittedly not familiar with Les Mis aside from I Dreamed A Dream.

October 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

Surely Hathaway is being campaigned as Lead for The Dark Knight Rises so she doesn't cancel herself out in the Supporting category for Les Miserables. The studio knows she's a shoo-in for Supporting with Les Miz and doesn't want to distract voters by putting her up for Supporting with TDKR.

Re Hathaway vs Pfeiffer, Hathaway was very, very fine as Catwoman, but she didn't have the star power, cool factor, outright beauty possessed by Pfeiffer at the time (and now)!

October 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRichard

@ Volvagia
Wouldn't it be hilarious if Tommy Lee Jones, Leonardo DiCarprio, and Ralph Fiennes all got into Best Supporting Actor? 1993 all over again!

October 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

The Dark Knight Rises' Oscar prospects are pretty much non-existant at this point, technical awards excluded, which makes Warner Bros.' decision to seriously campaign (surely this is what they're doing otherwise why else avoid the Les Mis vote-splitting?) this reasonably entertaining performance of a totally skimpy character all the more ridiculous. It's kind of laughable to even think about Anne Hathaway's Catwoman being seriously considered amongst the likes of Quvenzhane Wallis and Emmanuelle Riva this year. Anne's Supporting Actress Oscar is looking more and more inevitable so maybe it'd just be better to acknowledge her DKR performance for what it is (a charismatic if not somewhat limited respite from Nolan's obese, sluggish seriousness) and stop treating it as if it's a performance even remotely deserving of Oscar attention, if only for Anne's sake. She's every bit the amazing talent we're told she is but let's not forget that girlfriend can work a nerve like no other. I'm sure there are a select few still recovering from 83rd Academy Awards-related fatigue, just as I'm sure there are also a select few who won't forgive her for it.

October 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew

@ Derreck I
I really want to see Christina Hendricks as Poison Ivy. i ca't see anyone else who can play several emotions and still be sexy.

October 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commentertom

There are two reasons for doing this ...

1) They don't want her to cancel herself out in supporting

So clearly they could just ignore TDKR altogether, but after Heather Ledger winning an Oscar for the last film...

2) They probably feel they need to put in some sort of campaign and she pretty much got the best in show reviews.

October 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

I have my fingers crossed for Hathaway, but I need to see the film first. Adams didn't prove to be much of a threat, but Hunt is no joke. I'm starting to get the Swank nominated-twice-win-twice vibe from her.

October 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

volvagia & joe -- i'll believe acting noms for a James Bond film when I see them. That seems quite a stretch since it's never happened in 50 years. why start now?

tom -- ooh, good call.

Joe -- LOL. it hadn't occurred to me but what a reunion that would be given that they were the three main combatants back then.

October 26, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

NATHANIEL R -- I'm just feeling the buzz, I'm not that convinced myself BUT - Batman 1943 The Dark Knight 2008 that was a long wait!

October 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoe U.K.

Nat: I understand that it hasn't happened for 50 years, and I don't think Bardem and Dench are that likely for noms, even with Best in Show reviews. But Ralph Fiennes getting Best in Show reviews? They can at least pretend, in that case, that it's also a makeup win for the Schindler's List gaffe, which I think would be, for actors, the much bigger bird of the two they're killing with one stone.

October 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

two actors that would KILL as Poison Ivy are Emily Blunt and Cate Blanchett, Kidman too, though she's played cold, dangerous, withdrawn bitches far too often.

I just saw Skyfall and the film was unnecessarily dramatic for me.

Dench puts in very solid work, but I can't see it happening.

October 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterYavor

Like Nat said-I'll believe the James Bond buzz when I see it for an acting nomination. James Bond is a franchise the Academy hasn't been too fond of, period. The last time Bond was nominated for even a music award was 1981 and it hasn't won since the 1960's, and it's not like there's a strong lack of Academy-friendly talent that has been in the films in the past: Judi Dench, Sean Connery, Christopher Walken, and Halle Berry are all Oscar winners who have starred in the franchise, and twice as many nominees have shown up at some point. The film can't even get in on the Sound, Visual Effects, and Song categories anymore, for some inexplicable reason. I'm not saying it couldn't happen, but to compare it to Batman is unfair, as Batman, with a third of the eligible films, has more Oscar nominations than Bond does.

October 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn T

Off topic, Nathaniel, I read the reviews and tweets for Anne Hathaway's Wednesday night " Cabaret " benefit performance at Joe's Pub ( with Eddie Redmayne, the brilliant Audra McDonald, and the very gifted Raul Esparaza, etc..) . All the reports stated Hathaway wowed and killed it ( in a tough room with Harvey Weinstein, Tony Kushner, and "Cabaret” composer John Kander ). She easily pulled-off Sally Bowles ( and she portrayed other characters in the classic musical) . Reportedly, not only did Hathaway sing, but she also acted the part (s) . And, you mentioned ,repeatedly, only Anne could do a remake of Cabaret. I completely believe you. Even though, they should never do a remake of a classic.

Hathaway has proven to be one of the most talented & versatile young A-list actresses in Hollywood. Think about it , can we see Michelle Williams, or Emma Stone, or Amy Adams, or Natalie Portman, or Emily Blunt , or Carey Mulligan ,or Keira Knightley, or Jennifer Lawrence pulling -off Sally Bowles- especially in a live setting ? Heck no !

October 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersplendor

I cannot see ANY acting nominations from TDKR happening. I can't even see why they're considering doing a push. The only person who has even an outside chance would be Michael Caine. Annie might have had a chance IF Les Mis wasn't happening, but she's the closest thing to a lock Supporting Actress has, and Catwoman wasn't such a massive scene-stealer as to justify the promotion to Lead. It makes little sense, if any at all.

Regarding the Cabaret night. I was flat-out BLOWN AWAY. She will be headlining some big Broadway revival within five years. Mark my words. And they could do another film version of Cabaret, perfect as the Fosse film is: There were pretty significant changes made for the film, and the Sam Mendes-directed revival was different enough from both the original Broadway production and the film that they could film a version of that and have it stand on its own. If they did, and cast Hathaway in it, it could very well be the first time two different actresses win an Oscar for the same role. She was THAT GOOD.

October 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

Supporting Actor might be the most crowded field this year. So many acclaimed performances so far by veteran actors, and we're yet to see DiCaprio, Crowe, or any of the guys in Zero Dark Thirty. I think Fiennes is an extreme longshot.

October 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

When I first heard about Anne Hathaway being cast as Catwoman, my testicles dropped to the floor. But she made a believer out of me. Still, La Pfeiffer is and always will be the definitive version (and I adore Lee Meriwether LOL). The scene with the cats crawling all over her when she begins her metamorphosis. MEOW

October 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I can't wait until Hathaway fades into oblivion. She has given exactly one good performance ('Rachel Getting Married') and many terrible ones ('Passengers', 'Alice in Wonderland', 'Bride Wars', 'Get Smart', etc). She's incredibly annoying and was miscast as Catwoman.

October 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLynn

Re: Derreck

You are entitled to your opinion but this is mine (and please don't be offended bc I'm just a little crazy). I thought MP's performance was far superior to Anne's, no matter how different the movies are. And as you mentioned, if they reversed it, Anne would not nearly be as good as MP was in Returns. MP made that role iconic and filled it with so much power, attention to detail, and just bits of herself that made it resonate with critics and audiences. Anne's role in Nolan's Batman was mediocre at best. Better than Sienna as Baroness but somewhat on par with Scarlett's Black Widow (I know she was not a villain, but neither is Anne's Catwoman). She wasn't even as good as Lucy Liu or Darryl Hannah in Kill Bill (actresses who portrayed comic-y screen villains well). Basically, I think Anne did a good job. Not a great job. And if the roles were reversed, Michelle Pfeiffer could play Anne's Catwoman in her sleep. Anne's Catwoman is much easier to play than Michelle's. There is no way Anne has the ability to do what MP did in Returns.

October 26, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTim

Lynn, you might want to find yourself a nice cabin in the woods, then. She's not going anywhere. Honestly, my appreciation for Hathaway is full-blown at this point. She has *everything* an actress could wish for -- the public appeal, the talent for pulpy charisma that many of her talented peers lack, the versatility. I can't say that I've always loved her, but she's managed to become one of the most popular actresses of her age without the help of sex appeal, which in my mind will only bolster her long-term shelf life as an actress. She's a fashionista. She's smart. She's funny, is considered "classy," and doesn't take herself too seriously. And everyone just KNOWS who she is, which is actually important when you consider that many actresses with formidable acting chops don't have the household name to match -- Michelle Williams, Carey Mulligan, Emily Blunt, Rebecca Hall, etc. And my friends like Hathaway a hell of a lot better than the actually-famous ones in same age range -- Keira Knightley, Amanda Seyfried, the Jessicas, and Ellen Page, among others. I don't know. I really feel that Hathaway really has the best shot at being the It actress for my generation;. We grew up with her on The Princess Diaries. We've seen in her in powerhouses of nearly every genre; comedy (The Devil Wears Prada), action (TDKR), and drama (Les Mis, inevitably). She's done so well, and it's clear that like Streep, she's mapped out her career brilliantly. Anne Hathaway's obviously here to stay.

October 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercaroline

And she's managed to do everything while stay maintaining a very defined persona. I forgot to mention that. The only thing I'm worried about is her mojo. So many actresses seem to phone out and relegate themselves to self-satisfied mediocrity after they finally knock it out of the park (Reese Witherspoon, cough cough) and I don't want to see her in endless dumb rom-coms after this. I hope she won't.

October 26, 2012 | Unregistered Commentercaroline

Pfeiffer is and always will be the preeminent Catwoman, although Hathaway acquitted herself nicely.

Nobody really mentions Love and Other Drugs, but Hathaway managed to fuse her comedic gifts, dramatic talents and sex appeal to burn in a superb, Oscar-worthy performance just two years ago. While the movie itself was undisciplined, she herself wasn't and won me over as a true fan with a healthy interest in her future success.

October 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

Tim, Anne Hathaway didn't do Batman Returns, so you can't pre-judge whether she could pull-off that performance. Hathaway's Selina Kyle role in TDKR was not a well-written role, and she had very little screen time. But, I was very impressed with Anne's performance because she brought so much to the table and she made every moment count. Plus, it was the first time I saw her as a bonafide movie star, because she brought so much star power to her performance.

Lynn , I love how you can't hide your hatred for Anne. To be fair, she was actually good in " Get Smart" , " Love And Other Drugs," " Becoming Jane." and she was one of the highlights of TDKR ( most critics will attest to that ) . Plus, Hathaway is sensational at hosting SNL ( playing so many different characters with the verve and ease of a young Tracey Ullman and Lily Tomlin ) . She is even better at hosting SNL than Nicole Kidman, Kate Winslet, Helen Mirren, Sean Penn, Amy Adams, and Robert De Niro ( they were all forgettable ) . Also, Anne has received great notices for her past stage works ( not including her recent, stellar Sally Bowles' performance). Keep in mind, all the top film directors and film producers want to work with her, because they know how immensely talented she is. And, she accomplished this, without being a huge box-office draw ( she is not on the superstar level of an Angelina Jolie or a Will Smith) .

Hathaway is one of the few A-list actresses that is actually likable and refreshing. She is not a media whore and you never hear stories about her being difficult or being unprofessional. And, you don't see photos of her going in and out of nightclubs.

October 27, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterpenny

You always have to find a way to make it about Michellle Pfeiffer, don't you? I'll admit she was THE Catwoman though. Nothing can top her Catwoman.

October 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKym

Kym -- who me?

October 27, 2012 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I can pre-judge using her prior work as guidance.

Anyway, it is just an opinion of mine. I don't mean it has to be valid for everyone.

But from what I've seen of her, she has limits on her talent. For example, let's take The Devil Wears Prada. Excellent movie. Meryl was just, amazing. Besides all the humor and the way she played such a powerful character (something Julia Roberts copied in Mirror, Mirror), she also performed her breakdown scene extremely well. She had a lot of expository dialogue regarding her divorce, and if you paid attention to the actual lines, they were not very natural on paper. But not only did she make it work, but she made the scene so powerful.

In contrast, look at Anne's juicy scene in the same movie. The scene where her boyfriend leaves her is supposed to be moving, but I thought she showed how mediocre she was in that scene. As an actress, she left a lot to be desired. I did not find her to be believable in that moment. And that scene is written in a very natural way, and is not challenging to perform - in contrast to Meryl's scene, where there was a lot of exposition. When she did her scene, I really felt what her character was going through. When Anne's boyfriend left her, I didn't even care.

That is basically how I felt about her performance as Catwoman. And she wasn't even Catwoman, really. She was like a femme fatale in a Bond movie. If she had to play a REAL Catwoman, as in, Catwoman with the actual "catness" behind her, she probably would've fallen into Halle Berry territory. Maybe not as bad, but close enough. Michelle, on the other hand, played a very difficult role and went beyond anyone's expectations.

Anne had some charisma and was authentic. But any dramatic actress can pull of authentic. What is difficult to do is to take a role like the Catwoman in Batman Returns and make it your own in a way that no one else can. I do not think even Meryl Streep herself could have done what Michelle did with that part. Anne? Please. She will never be on that level.

October 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTim

Tim, I completely disagree. Anne was wonder in The Dark Knight Rises, and she always had my attention whenever she was on the screen. And, yes, she did make it her own-with very little screen time. Now comparing Pfeiffer's Catwoman & Hathaway's Catwoman, is like comparing apples & oranges. They are both different. Michelle had a lot more to work with, because her role was very well-written. Chris Nolan wanted his version of Catwoman to be more realistic and less campy, so that is why her role wasn't very campy ( which is a breath of fresh air for me) . And, you cannot predict Hathaway's performance if it was more " catness."

November 6, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterphil
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