1980's Supporting Actresses

1980's Smackdown is up over at The Film Experience, where late last week I shared my preliminary reflections on Oscar's choices, along with some memories of how pivotal 1980 was for my emerging obsession with actressing at the edges.

And for extra giggles, click check out my Culturalist of my top 10 Supporting Actresses of 1980.


TheFilmExperience presents "Supporting Actress Smackown: 1952"

It's baaack! 
And I caaan' staaan' it!

click image or here to get to all the fun


StinkyLulu's Preliminary Thoughts on Supporting Actressing in '52

This post was first published at The Film Experience tease this weekend's 1952 Supporting Actress Smackdown. Don't miss Nathaniel's excellent feature on "Introducing" 1952's nominees...

It has been a while since I dropped into a random year’s field of Supporting Actress nominees. Still, as I have re/screened the relevant films in preparation for this weekend’s Supporting Actress Smackdown, it’s startling how familiar 1952 feels. Remember that, in 1952, the category of “Best Supporting Actress” was only in its 15th year or so (having been introduced in 1936, almost ten years after the Oscar game got started) but, already by 1952, the category seemed to have established some of its most enduring quirks.

1952’s nominated roles are definitely cut from Oscar’s favorite cloth: the hooker with a heart; the hale helpmeet; the full force of youth; the (briefly) suffering wife; and the shrewish “ex.” And the 1952 field definitely reminds us that, by the early 1950s, Supporting Actress had emerged as one of Oscar’s favored ways to anoint the newcomer/s with one hand, while taking care to honor the time-tested trouper/s with the other. As example, 1952's nominations honor not only breakout performances by “new stars” Jean Hagen and Terry Moore (not to mention the screen debut of Colette Marchand) but also familiar support work by previously favored nominees Gloria Grahame and Thelma Ritter. And, yes, Oscar’s habit of nodding to certain troupers also stirs the faint whiff that a Supporting Actress nomination might sometimes be an apology bouquet of sorts — Oscar’s way to say “please forgive my neglecting to nominate (or award) that other performance…but do accept this as a token of the Academy’s esteem.” (Might Grace Kelly’s 1953 nomination for Mogambo and Katy Jurado’s 1954 nomination for Broken Lance been made possible, at least in part, by Oscar’s neglect of their High Noon turns in 1952?) And in a field full of what I have called “coasters” (efficient supporting actressness buoyed by being part of a heavily nominated film), Jean Hagen’s nomination looms especially large as that “single nominated performance from an ignored-in-other-major-categories picture” (a particularly burdensome last bit of support not infrequently borne by Supporting Actress nominees).

All told, 1952 stands as nearly exemplary of the idiosyncrasies of the Best Supporting Actress category, and is thus perhaps the ideal one to revive the peculiar pleasures of the Supporting Actress Smackdown. And while I might wonder what this roster might have felt like if, say, High Noon’s Katy Jurado or Member of the Wedding’s Ethel Waters (or even Viva Zapata’s Mildred Dunnock) had “coastered” into the field, the Smackdown challenges us to look closely at the work of the women who were actually nominated in 1952, for it is in such “actressing at the edges” that the category’s true pleasures shine.


StinkyLulu's Supporting Actress Smackdown: THE RETURN

Dear reader,
You may have encountered this rumor on the wild and wondrous interwebs...

...and I am here to confirm that this rumor is TRUE

TheFilmExperience will be hosting new Supporting Actress Smackdowns in the coming months, with StinkyLulu serving as emcee (and as smackdowner).

About the other whispers, I can't confirm anything right now but I would not be surprised to also see a return of the Supporting Actress Blogathon in January 2014 (platform TBA). And it remains entirely plausible that StinkyLulu's signature performance profiles might their own return (possibly using a different format/platform/routine). We shall see...

Thanks to you all for your generosity in remembering Smackdown so persistently. Such remembrances convinced Nathaniel that there would be an audience for its return and I'm thrilled to be a part of its relaunch and reinvention at TheFilmExperience.

To Actressing at the Edges!


75 Supporting Actresses

An actressexual after StinkyLulu's own heart...


Supporting Actress Blogathon - Class of 2010

Here at StinkyLulu, we observe an annual tradition wherein we extol the many supporting actresses who captured our imaginations, our hearts, and our fancies in the cinematic year of 2010. Some are already serious contenders for this year's trophy; some aren't even on the radar; all deserve another look.

StinkyLulu's Tribute to
Actressing at the Edges in 2010

The 5th Annual
Supporting Actress Blogathon!

Scroll down for appreciations of all kinds of actressing.
29 performances honored in 32 posts from 25 blogs!

click back throughout the day for updates as entries arrive

The Class of 2010
Your Supporting Actresses of 2010 are...
(click blog name for link to post)

Maricela Álvarez in Biutiful (Seasondays-El Fanatico)
Yisela Álvarez in El Vuelco Del Cangrejo (Seasondays-El Fanatico)
Tammy Blanchard in Rabbit Hole (Encore Entertainment)
Blanquita in Alamar (CineLatinoNY)
Helena Bonham Carter in Alice in Wonderland (Encore Entertainment)
Patricia Clarkson in Easy A (Low Resolution)
Patricia Clarkson in Shutter Island (Coffee for Two)
Anne Hathaway in Valentine's Day (Rants of a Diva)
Dale Dickey in Winter's Bone (Strange Culture)
Ann Guilbert in Please Give (Seasondays-El Fanatico)
Barbara Hershey in Black Swan (Movies and Other Things)
Mailes Kanapi in Ang Paglilitis ni Andres Bonifacio (Whatever Carl, Whatever)
Keira Knightley in Never Let Me Go (My New Plaid Pants)
Mila Kunis in Black Swan (MovieMania, Reese Review, Movies and Other Things, Popcorn and Cigarettes, All About My Movies)
Melissa Leo in The Fighter (For Your Speculation)
Blake Lively in The Town (Reese Review)
Rooney Mara in The Social Network (For Feisty Feminists)
Donna Murphy in Tangled (The Film Experience)
Maria Paiato in I Am Love (The Silver Screening Room, My Last Oscar)
Amanda Peet in Please Give (Seasondays-El Fanatico, Awkward Is What We Aim For, My New Plaid Pants)
Charlotte Rampling in Life During Wartime (My New Plaid Pants)
Anika Noni Rose in For Colored Girls (Ultimate Addict)
Winona Ryder in Black Swan (Awkward is What We Aim For)
Uma Thurman in Percy Jackson and The Lightning Thief (The Jaded Armchair Reviewer)
Kierston Wareing in Fish Tank (My New Plaid Pants)
Naomi Watts in Mother and Child (Alex in Movieland)
Mae Whitman in Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World (My New Plaid Pants)
Dianne Wiest in Rabbit Hole (The Critical Condition)
Ellen Wong in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (His Eyes Were Watching Movies)

Be sure to check back throughout the day for updates as they arrive.
And if you notice that someone's been left out of this tribute to The Class of 2010,
just whip up a profile on your own blog and send it on in!

The Class of 2009
The Class of 2008
The Class of 2007
The Class of 2006


Where Did StinkyLulu go?

Something about tonight feels quite familiar. It's Saturday night, not quite late, but MrStinky's already gone to bed. I'm sitting in my big chair in my study, facing the television as I am wont to do, and I've got my computer in my lap. I feel ready to get on with something.

But what's different about tonight is I'm feeling no pressure. I'm not behind on either watching or timing or screencapping this or that performance. I have no idea whether this is the first or third Saturday of the month, whether this is a long month of Sundays, or whether or not I'm confident in this month's roster of Smackdowners to be on top of things. It's just a Saturday night. No deadline, no pressure...

Because tomorrow's not going to be a Supporting Actress Sunday.

Yet, even though there hasn't been a Supporting Actress Sunday for months, I still feel -- in my bones almost -- that there should be a post in preparation for tomorrow. It's a funny kind of muscle memory. I actually feel it, physically. I should be working on a post. But I'm not.

Because tomorrow's not going to be a Supporting Actress Sunday.

And that fact does make me sad.

It's not that I really miss it. I certainly don't miss the (at minimum) eight hours of work that went into each post. I don't miss the often grinding routine – week upon week upon week plus the smackdown to wrangle – I don't miss that at all. I don't even miss the supporting actressness. Other writing obligations are pulling me all kinds of exciting ways these days and the Supporting Actress Project does in fact continue (albeit on a very different schedule and far away from "public" view).

No, I am sad because I feel like StinkyLulu's Supporting Actress Sundays deserved a better finish than they got. It's like a favorite television program that gets canceled without the courtesy of a final episode. The series was chugging along (although maybe not with sparkle of early episodes) but it seemed like there was more to come and then, poof, all of a sudden “the powers that be” pulled the plug. No group hugs, no retrospective montages, no loose ends tied at last, no slow fade – just gone.

And that fact does make me sad.

Because StinkyLulu's Supporting Actress Sundays deserved better.

Which puts me in a strange position. I am perhaps the series's most diehard fan. Yet I am also "the powers that be" who so abruptly pulled the plug. And it's because I'm caught in the space between that I sometimes get so sad about this. It's not right, and I don't know how to make it right.

See, even if StinkyLulu’s Supporting Actress Sundays mattered to no one else, they did matter to me. Indeed, I have not infrequently proclaimed: "StinkyLulu saved my life." And as over the top as such a statement might sound, it is absolutely true.

Today, I am a writer – a thriving writer who treasures the opportunity to sit and to write. But in the months and years before StinkyLulu's Supporting Actress Sundays began, I was stuck in a soul-crushing writer's block. A big writing project (with big consequences) needed finishing and I found myself incapable of writing a word. And as each blocked day passed, I believed ever more wholeheartedly that I was simply not cut out to be a writer. So, not that long ago, I was a writer who had very nearly stopped writing altogether. A writer who was as frozen and as still as this blog has been these last eight months. A writer who might have remained stuck forever had StinkyLulu's Supporting Actress Sundays not jolted me out of my panic/block/funk and into writing again.

Indeed, StinkyLulu schooled me as a writer in a way no teacher ever did. The weekly routine of composing a performance profile disciplined my process, stripped me of my perfectionist paralysis, and forced me share my work with readers on a regular, ongoing basis. And I had generous readers – smart, funny, inquisitive readers who challenged me each week to do my best to deserve their attention. What’s more, with each week's profile, I developed a sense of technique, even as I simultaneously cultivated an exacting ear for my own writerly voice. And, for the first time, I came to appreciate the sustaining power of writing in community. I loved the dialogue among posts on different blogs and the conversations that would simmer in comments. Plus the sense of community that manifested around the monthly Supporting Actress Smackdowns was an always astonishing thing to be a part of.

So why – if I valued StinkyLulu’s Supporting Actress Sundays so – why did I stop?

In a word? Smackdowns. The very thing that built my sense of purpose and cultivated a broad (though never vast) readership was the thing that killed my passion for the project. See, the Smackdowns were always work – extra formatting and editing with the additional variable of collaborating with an ever-shifting array of contributors. At first it was fun to play hostess. The guests were a hoot and always full of surprises and you never knew who would stop by. (I will forever be grateful for the real world friends I made through the Smackdowns.) Somewhere along the way, though, The Smackdowns stopped being fun for me. I felt compelled to keep them going, because everyone seemed to be having a good time and it seemed like the Smackdowns were what StinkyLulu was best known for. But then, over the period of about half a year, some intermittent “behind the scenes” incidents – in which invited (and uninvited) guests got a little rough with the hostess – started happening with greater frequency (and viciousness). To be sure, I was tired of doing the Smackdown anyway, but dealing with “the haters” (as I came to call them) just took that last bit of wind out of my sails. I felt it coming, and fretted over how I might bring things to an appropriate finish, but then, one day, I just stopped. And couldn't bring myself start again.

And so it came to pass that StinkyLulu – my name for the sense of writerly inspiration that had once rescued me from my darkest writer's block – StinkyLulu was blocked.

In the intervening months, I’ve become often quite sad about the loss of StinkyLulu’s Supporting Actress Sundays in my life. I felt pretty terrible about just letting the blog sit abandoned – with not a word to those readers who might care about what was going on. But then – tonight – something happened that finally stirred me from my maudlin silence.

What happened?

Tonight, I stumbled upon another blog doing the Supporting Actress Smackdown. Doing a year not yet done on StinkyLulu. And doing profiles and inviting people to sign up as Smackdowners. Basically, doing my shtick.

I figured it might happen. Over the last few years, I’ve observed the genre/style of performance profiling I had developed on Supporting Actress Sundays pop up here and there. And with regard to the Supporting Actress Smackdown, I hadn’t done much to preserve my claim to “the property” so I suspected someone might see an opportunity in my neglect and lay claim to the format. (That said, I didn’t expect them to literally lift my hearts – the little heart graphics I created – from my old Smackdowns for use in their knockoff. As a metaphor, it’s just too painful and too obvious.)

But imagining someone else running a Supporting Actress Smackdown and seeing someone actually do it are two totally different things. All this time, I’ve wondered if Supporting Actress Sundays might come back, if one day I might awake with passion renewed and spirit restored. Now, seeing those hearts on someone else’s blog, I suspect I have my final confirmation. To be absolutely clear, I’m not all that concerned that I’ve been ripped off, because – well – it’s the internet and that’s what happens. The other blogger's actions, however, did confirm that the moment has passed. I’ve moved on. You’ve moved on. Even the hearts of the Smackdown have moved on.

So, it’s only right, then, that I let StinkyLulu move on too…

This, then, is the last post you’ll see on this blog.

I have no idea what collaborations StinkyLulu and I will come up with next, nor can I promise you when you’ll see the Supporting Actress Project in its next form, but you can know that I’ll be writing. Something I wager I could not say without the gift of StinkyLulu's Supporting Actress Sundays -- and the generosity of your attention, lovely reader.


It's been quite the journey.

With affection and an undying devotion to actressing at the edges,
StinkyLulu (aka Brian Herrera)


Supporting Actress Smackdown - 2009

The Year is...

And the Smackdowners for the 82nd Annual Academy Awards are...
of Alex in Movieland/My Latest Oscar Film
ANDREW of Encore Entertainment
BRAD of Criticlasm
SAM of Brooks For Media
WALTER of The Silver Screening Room
NATHANIEL of The Film Experience
yours truly, STINKYLULU.

2009's Supporting Actresses are...
(Each Smackdowner's comments are arranged according to ascending levels of love. Click on the nominee's name/film to see StinkyLulu's Supporting Actress Sunday review.)

Penélope Cruz in Nine
STINKYLULUA staggering blast of clarity in a hopelessly muddled movie. Cruz is sexy, raw and tragic (while also delivering the only genuine laughs in entire the movie). A pungent reminder of just how much potential greatness Nine squandered.
This schtick probably would have gone over better with me if she hadn’t just done it (and better) in Vicky Cristina Barcelona. I also think she blew “Call From the Vatican,” which is a shame.
Let’s face it, she was almost counting her dance steps, but it still was a sexy moment. Penélope does something with Carla that you don’t notice at first: with a surprising sensibility, she beautifully shapes the real victim of the story!
All traces of the bad actress we once knew are gone. Arrivederci! Now she can even sell deadpan comedy and heartbreaking lusty emptiness at the same time! What can't she do? Both those things while singing in her second tongue, unfortunately.
I did love her in this, and I wish she had more. Sadly, it was like she kept lobbing great serves that weren't hit back. She's really become a great, assured screen presence. Not sure I'd nominate it, but love her.
Manages to be sexy, funny, and tragic. She’s like the girl who just lost her virginity to the football hero, always needing to be reminded of her desirability, demanding a commitment while avoiding her own. Cruz gets the balance between child and vixen.
Cruz is the fireblood in this often pallid film, she grounds her outrageous and somewhat stereotypical character in a dark sadness that her film desperately needs. And an able dancer and belter to boot.
Her Carla is a tentative and petulant woman below the initial hilarity she precipitates: not the confident Marie Elena from last year. Her reaction at the hotel is priceless and that dejected walk down the lane changes the tone of the performance for the better.
TOTAL: 25s

Vera Farmiga in Up in the Air
KEVINTo date, this performance still grates on me. It seemed to be a giant cliché of what a “mysterious” woman should be like. It all seemed too perfect, and not in a good way.
To her credit, she makes it look so easy. Simple is not for me and as much as I respect her presence in the film, the sudden change in the storyline affects my perspective on the performance. She did ok, but the screenplay not enough.
She is the anomaly of the nominees; not consistently bad or consistently excellent. She tries hard to make some scenes work, yet sometimes it’s just too glib to be authentic. Oftentimes, though, she succeeds in turning a hollow thing into a real person.
Wins and breaks your heart without ever once coming off as phony or contrived. She sells that sexy confidence, and the one time it’s shaken is truly a thing to behold: her eyes tell it all, even as she maintains her poise.
To match Clooney's charm is no easy feat, and they had great chemistry. She managed the end twist well, illuminating her earlier choices when it could have been tacked on. She's a joy to watch, and that's the best part.
Alex is a cad – gorgeous and glib, gliding though her myriad deceptions and casual betrayals with blithe effervescence. Yet, Farmiga’s deceptive simplicity neither judges nor punishes Alex for playing the same games that the boys play and thus permits the character’s flawed humanness to show too.
So self-assured, adult and funny she seems every bit Clooney's kindred charmer..."only with a vagina." But it's her addition of a slyly masked coldness (open with body, not heart) that makes this a compelling turn, and one untarnished but completed by the "twist".
In a film that actively seems to be working against her by the third act, Farmiga delivers a smart and sharp performance that hovers lightly over a sadness without beating the audience over the head with it.
TOTAL: 27s

Maggie Gyllenhaal in Crazy Heart
ALEXI love surprise nominees, but only when they’re good. Truth be told, Maggie does too little for Crazy Heart; her overplayed modesty just adds to the boringness of the film, creating a flat interpretation of a dull character.
Woefully miscast. Unable to find the balance between the characters she’s used to playing and the illogic of this character, Maggie herself looks uncertain as to why she’s here. That last scene is awful, too, but that’s not really her fault.
Even as Gyllenhaal’s distinctive charisma imbues this performance, her actual work in the role lacks a necessary touch. (Clarifying wit perhaps? Or maybe idiosyncratic insight?) The result is a generic stock performance that goes down easy – and is easily forgotten.
Her best work is often electrified by highly specific eroticism and intelligence. This role requires neither, or at best, a barely functioning bit of the former. Robbed of her best assets, she bores...and forgets to sell the backstory.
Her early ambivalence toward him was great. Gyllenhaal's intelligence and caginess worked well. Not sure of nom-worthy, certainly strong, but the least interesting in this field. But in true supporting tradition, made better than what she was given.
This usually inspired actress turns in a nothing of a performance. She’s never bad in the role, but even worse than that, she’s never interesting. And when playing off such a talented co-star, this performance really should have been better.
For an actress who’s usually so charismatic this performance was bland and artificial. Certainly the script doesn’t give her much help, but it could have worked. She goes through it all on autopilot and I couldn’t care less about the character.
This wasn’t a supporting role. Maggie did well with it: even if she was overacting at times, the mall security scene was a great one for her. But it’s a lead role.
TOTAL: 13s

Anna Kendrick in Up in the Air
ANDREWAt first I think perhaps she has the look of the character down, because as superficial as it feels – perhaps that’s the point. However her poor line delivery and cringe worthy line readings give me nothing to applaud despite the ostensible attempts at character development.
Her true gift is comedy, not drama. Chunks of this performance work (the uptight gait, the shaky superiority complex) and while you can excuse how hard she's pushing (so does her character) she often misses the dramedic tone in this uneven breakthrough.
She shines in some moments, like her chats with Clooney, or when she actually has to use her own system to fire somebody. But I can’t quite make out the savvy Cornell grad Craig Gregory hired.
Hated it at first, then I learned to appreciate the small elements of generosity! Noticed when she tones it down and lets us see the real good nature of Natalie? It’s a sweet breakthrough performance, but I see why many find it annoying.
She held her own with Clooney, and was great at being a girl who thought she was much stronger in some ways than she actually was. It's a bravado debut. Great, emotionally rich work.
Acquitting herself well to a pretty staid role, Kendrick proves herself to be a talented comic actress. Sadly, she’s not doing anything new here and she definitely seems out of depth with her more experienced co-stars.
Steady verve and ready wit anchor Kendrick’s work here, but it’s her handling of Natalie’s nascent empathy that keeps this character from thinning to become Tracy Glick 2.0. A memorable breakthrough performance.
We’ll look back in five years and realize how great Anna made this movie. She was perfect as the corporate chipmunk, upstaging her veteran co-stars. Her charm and wit were flawlessly engrossing.
TOTAL: 20s

Mo'Nique in Precious
ANDREWShe is loud and uncouth, garish and scary as demanded. The thing is that sometimes the script seems to be working against her as she tries to make Mary real but she comes out on top in the end – for the most part.
Not since Carrie has a mother's "love" been so voracious, so vicious, so contradictory, so monstrous – yet, somehow, so real. Might not be the most artfully executed performance (the seams really do show, especially early on) but there’s something extraordinary – even iconic – about Mo’nique’s Mary.
It’s incredible how effortless it looks. We see she knows what kindness looks like, but despises it as a weakness. And that last scene, of course, where she tries every tactic she knows to turn the situation in her favor, is sad and scary.
I don't know how to speak of this without cliched superlatives. I don't know that I'll ever forget the horror of that last speech - and her discovering her own terror of who she is while it's happening is masterful. She's riveting.
The comic does more than offer up the demon the film seems to want, she embodies more difficult and complex character: A pathetic being who skates across the title of monster to embody a truly human darkness.
Mary's confession is one of the greatest acting monologues ever recorded. But that same slipperiness of persona and its attendant (and frankly amazing) vocal dexterity are present from the first scene. Her multiple selves just haven't been piggybacked quite so rapidly before.
Not just the best supporting actress of the year, the best film performance outright in YEARS. Mo’Nique stares you in the face and spits at you, then dares you to fight back. She’s a titan onscreen.
ALEXThis is how you do it, BABY! (read it Mo’Nique style) The math of it: fabulously written character + solid direction + a touch of brilliance = one of the best Oscar’s ever seen! Who-who-who is gonna love you, Mo’Nique? I will!
TOTAL: 39s

We'll have to wait one week
to find out who Oscar chooses...

just can't wait &
is compelled to announce that

MO'NIQUE is our
Best Supporting Actress of 2009!
But no need to look so glum, Mo'nique...
you don't have to show up to accept this one.
We'll celebrate on your behalf!

BUT, lovely reader, do tell US.
What do YOU think?

Please share your thoughts in comments.