A Very Fabulous Birthday To You, ModFab!!!

Today marks ModFab's 2nd Birthday -- which is quite a reason to celebrate.

Fabulous modern birthday graphic via Set For A Year

If you, lovely reader, don't click through ModernFabulousity daily -- you really should. Depending on the day, ModFab'll:
  1. give ya great gab on all matters cultural, high & low brow (few reality teevee commentators are so pithy in their precision);
  2. give ya great glimpes of very pretty sights (beyond the bodacious bods that are de riguer, look here for the best in contemporary photography);
  3. give ya greater gossip on the freshest dish (& hottest dishes) on the NY theatre scene; & (best of all)
  4. give ya good link to some of the friendliest and smartest fabulons in the blogosphere.
Indeed, StinkyLulu owes ModFab a great debt for looping little Lulu into the circuit (via the ModFab6) & instigating the momentum that has opened StinkyLulu to a wide wide world of delightful new blog friends.

So, thanks, ModFab, for all the generalized fabulousness.
Here's to another half million visitors!

And the Supporting Actresses for JUNE are...

It's official:
Supporting Actress Sundays in June will be devoted to (the envelope please) 1996. (The voting -- which closed at the stroke of midnight -- was quite close. Thanks to one & all who pitched in.) But by a single vote, the nominees for 1996 are:
  • Joan Allen, "The Crucible"
  • Lauren Bacall, "The Mirror Has Two Faces"
  • Juliette Binoche, "The English Patient"
  • Barbara Hershey, "The Portrait of a Lady"
  • Marianne Jean-Baptiste, "Secrets & Lies"
And as for the three CouldaShouldaWoulda Wednesdays in June?
Well, StinkyLulu's agonna try an experiment....

StinkyLulu's Taking Requests!
Below, lovely reader, you'll find a by-no-means-comprehensive list of worthy contenders among 1996's crop of eligible nominees, each of whom got snubbed when it came time for Oscar's nominations. Your task, lovely reader: Peruse the Snubbettes, Class of '96. Contemplate them. Revel in their wonder. And when you're all done with that (& whatever else tickles that fancy of your'n), decide which Snubbette's performance YOU think StinkyLulu should revisit/review -- then shoot Lu an email making your case. (O'course, please feel free to make a case for any performance not on, or overlooked by, the list as well.) Whichever performances get the most compelling support will get a CouldaShouldaWoulda review on one of June's 3 CouldaShouldaWoulda Wednesdays.

1996's Notable Snubbettes
  • Rosanna Arquette, Crash.
  • Drew Barrymore, Scream.
  • Katrin Cartlidge, Breaking the Waves.
  • Julie Christie, Hamlet.
  • Miriam Colón, Lone Star.
  • Joan Cusack, Mr. Wrong.
  • Nandita Das, Fire.
  • Kimberly Elise, Set It Off.
  • Frances Fisher, Female Perversions.
  • Bridget Fonda, Grace of My Heart.
  • Goldie Hawn, Everyone Says I Love You.
  • Angelina Jolie, Foxfire.
  • Lisa Kudrow, Mother.
  • Queen Latifah, Set It Off.
  • Jenifer Lewis, Girl 6.
  • Courtney Love, The People vs. Larry Flynt.
  • Mary Tyler Moore, Flirting with Disaster.
  • Assita Ouedraogo, La Promesse.
  • Elizabeth Peña, Lone Star.
  • Mary Kay Place, Citizen Ruth.
  • Miranda Richardson, Kansas City.
  • Marion Ross, Evening Star.
  • Sylvia Sidney, Mars Attacks!
  • Juliet Stevenson, Emma.
  • Lili Taylor, Girls Town.
  • Kristin Scott Thomas, Angels and Insects.
  • Marisa Tomei, Unhook the Stars.
  • Deborah Kara Unger, Crash.
  • Gwen Verdon, Marvin's Room.
  • Renée Zellwegger, Jerry Maguire.
Remember, lovely reader, email StinkyLulu with your pitch...for any of the above performances or any 1996 Supporting Actress performance near & dear to your heart. (Opinions expressed in comments will be considered, but emails will get priority.)

June's calendar allows room for 3 Snubbettes to be considered on CouldaShouldaWoulda Wednesdays, with the first Snubbette review appearing next Wednesday (June 7).

So, do drop Lulu a line -- 'tain't no fun without'cha!


For Your Consideration: Seema Biswas in WATER (2006 Supporting Actress Contender)

2006 is nearly halfway gone. And, while StinkyLulu has admittedly not been the most diligent filmgoer this year, few performances have really asserted themselves as contenders, especially in the only category that matters: Supporting Actress. (Frances McDormand in Friends with Money notwithstanding. See, in the '00s, Franny's on the verge of becoming like Joan Allen in the '90s or Thelma Ritter in the '50s -- when in doubt, toss a nom.)

See, yesterday, fresh from the 1942 Smackdown, MrStinky & Lulu ventured to the cinema -- where "lo & behold" StinkyLulu spied the first supporting performance of the year to cause Lu to sit up & say: "Now, there's a Supporting Actress who deserves to be remembered come nomination season!":

Seema Biswas in Deepa Mehta's Water.
(Yeah yeah, the film's dated '05 but its official US release is '06. And even though Dismas was nominated for Best Actress in Canada's Genies -- StinkyLulu's convinced it's a perfectly Supporting performance.)

Deepa Mehta's Water (the 3rd in her "elemental trilogy") is an imperfect treasure -- a haltingly plotted romantic tragedy with a shockingly dramatic premise & at least one transcendant performance. See, it's India in 1939. Ghandi's still imprisoned for speaking out against British colonial rule. And widows, in accordance with a mandate from 2000 year old holy texts, are sequestered in ashrams, living lives of scorn, humiliation and self-abnegation until they join their dead husbands (of whom they are believed to be a component part) in death. Against the historical backdrop of India's liberation from British colonial rule, the film contemplates these widows whose lives yet inhabit the intransigent injustice of religious tradition.

The story follows the arrival of two characters unfettered by the religious traditions that bind these widows: Chuyia (a recently widowed child bride who now must live her entire life in the widow's ashram) and Narayana (scion of a Brahmin family living adjacent to the widow's ashram & idealistic follower of Ghandi). These two become unlikely collaborators in resisting the traditions of the ashram -- instigating all kinds of spiritual, emotional and social havoc -- as both become devoted to the beautiful widow Kalyani (and as Kalyani & Naranaya discover love).

Within this narrative of exultant/doomed romance, however, it is Seema Biswas as Shakuntala who grounds the narrative in emotional substance. Educated, kind & deeply religious, Biswas' Shakuntala is as a spiritual guide for the widows, quietly helping them to find spiritual peace within their religious plight. Yet as injustice & tragedy beset the widows' ashram, Shakuntala's crisis of faith becomes a crisis of conscience and -- in a series of nearly wordless scenes of heartrending intensity -- Biswas' Shakuntala liberates Chuyia from the widows' ashram and delivers her to Narayana (and to a new life in Ghandi's India).

Biswas' performance is electrifying: profound, poignant, precise. Hers is a performance of little bits -- ritual gestures, quiet words, alert glances -- that clarify Shakuntala's integrity and spiritual fortitude. We know next to nothing about this woman (her history, her caste, her family) but, through every moment, we come to know Shakuntala. And Biswas' work here elevates a sometimes clumsy film. It's a remarkable, redemptive performance. And worth consideration come nomination season...

So, lovely reader, here begins yet another feature of StinkyLulu's Supporting Actress obsession. Basically, Lu's agonna start accumulating a list of worthy Supporting Actress nominees from this year's releases. (There'll prolly be a special pre-Oscar nomination Smackdown on the subject in January.) So, do tell StinkyLulu -- in comments or via email -- anytime you see a Supporting Actress performance that deserves attention. Films of all pedigrees (indy, trashy, arty) are welcome. Sometimes Lulu just needs that extra kick in the pants to make it to the googaplex...


Supporting Actress Smackdown - 1942

For this 2nd Smackdown, StinkyLulu's just giddy to be joined again by the prodigiously productive Nick (of Nick's Flick Picks) AND the indefagitably industrious Nathaniel (of The Film Experience). And puddle jumping to join the stateside obsessives, StinkyLu's thrilled to welcome to Tim of Mainly Movies to this merry troupe of Smackdowners.

The Year is 1942...
Do yourself the pleasure of consulting Nathaniel's fantabulous clipreel of 1942's Supporting Performances. Once again, Nathaniel has endeavored to construct this edifying montage for the benefit of the Smackdown. Pause to be in appropriately reverent awe. (And while there, consider casting yourself as the wealthy patron and Nathaniel as the gorgeous & talented starving artist...by offering your bits to TheFilmExperience endowment drive.)

And 1942's Supporting Actresses are...
(An aside about format: Each Smackdowners comments are listed according to ascending love levels -- StinkyLulu is all about love, after all -- & a wrap-up from each of the Smackdowners arrives at the end. Clicking on the nominee's name/film will link to StinkyLulu's previously posted Supporting Actress Sunday review.)

Tim Sez
"I prefer my monster mothers Lansbury-esque, but Cooper has the sense to be more flatly obstructive than showily formidable. Without grandstanding, she’s a memorable obstacle, even if the character’s lack of self-knowledge keeps limiting her attempts at subtlety."
Nathaniel Sez
"Old Hollywood's favorite tyrannical bitch. Her fury hardly goes unexpressed here but she implies that it's just the tip of her iceberg. Love the discombobulation and shades of self-pity when she can't figure a way around her daughter's new life force."
StinkyLulu Sez
"Embodiment of acid-tongued evil. She can bully a whole room of people -- while bed-ridden & in another room. Cooper's routine is at full-force here & it remains a thrill to behold. Just love the giddiness of that moment when she alights on the idea to throw herself down the stair."
Nick Sez
"Perennially cast as a brittle old bone, Cooper plows that terrain to nimble perfection here, finding the fire and the fear underneath her monstrous controlling mama. Not exactly a revelatory character, but in perfect service to the film."

StinkyLulu Sez
"Moorehead's a genius & force of nature besides. Indisputably. But something about this performance just seems off-key. The actorly grace that glimmers here&there seems to be eviscerated by the editing crimes &/or trampled under the bootheels of Welles' rampant auteurism. A brilliant failure."
Tim Sez
"Moorehead’s is one of the few perfs ever nominated in this category that both properly supports her movie and owns it. There’s a well of marginalised sadness in Fanny that she fills in every scene, however shrill her defensive façade."
Nick Sez
"Bravely, floridly ingenious at limning jealousy, officiousness, ritual good cheer, and almost total despair. So potent, in fact, she supplies an id to the entire cast: a rattling cage of longing that is both heartbreaking and genuinely scary."
Nathaniel Sez
"On chewing scenery: Usually I want actors to spit the damn stuff out. But there's something so shadowy and twisted in her hysterics that I feel like she's a part of the gothic mansion itself. It's not scenery-chewing...it's cannibalism."

Tim Sez
"One good scene – her exit – and it’s handled with winning modesty, but the character is a chirpy sideshow otherwise, seeming to exist purely so that Ronald Colman can not marry her. Lively and sympathetic, but that’s it."
StinkyLulu Sez
"Auspicious work that transcends the idiocy of the role. But -- even with a gulpingly human final scene -- the part remains merely a device."
Nathaniel Sez
"She first appears as a flighty teenager with an inappropriately forceful crush. Hated her. But she transforms into a levelheaded good soul even as the crush crushes her. Too bad her career was over before it began."
Nick Sez
"The part is limited, but Peters still does a credible job playing Kitty's ardent desire both for Ronald Colman's character and for the whole idea of being married, and she manages her key moments with confidence and subtle, creative detail."

Tim Sez
"In a movie full of typecast stars doing solid jobs, Whitty’s Denchian grande dame has the hokiest arc to follow and knows it. Perfectly professional, but lacks real shading and surprise for my money."
Nick Sez
"Like fellow Dames Cooper, Smith, and Dench, she often got hired to reprise a very familiar persona: in her case, a carping, dusty, dry-witted aristocrat. I liked her big scene at the flower-contest, but this is a boring nod."
Nathaniel Sez
"The B plot is all about her flower show. I wanted the camera on Greer Garson for all 134 minutes! But I ended up relishing Whitty. When she's called upon to reveal the woman underneath the social status she's deliciously funny/moving"
StinkyLulu Sez
"Dame May's is a broad performance, to be sure. Yet, in its execution, Whitty's subtle dexterity -- hitting notes both comic and poignant -- makes this an uncommonly affecting performance. "

Nathaniel Sez
"How many actresses have been honored for playing ideal girlfriends or wives? Probably too many. She does glow, it's true and she's not a bad actress but the film seems to coast on her youthful beauty as characterization."
StinkyLulu Sez
"What's not to love about Teresa Wright, in this role or any other. And, here, she reaches beyond the role with welcome intelligence, deftly dodging preciosity, sentimentality & maudlin mopiness in a role rife with such pitfalls. If only the narrative respected her character as much as Wright did."
Tim Sez
"Wright’s saintly war bride isn’t much more of a role than Whitty’s, but she graces it with an evangelical sweetness that does the trick. The speeches are rigged, the close-ups milked, but her anxious silences speak louder than Garson’s."
Nick Sez
"Wright, to me, is as immediately likable as Irene Dunne or top-flight Meg Ryan; I enjoy and respect the intelligence, modulation, and quiet ardor she always infuses in her nice gals. Finds a real person in a plot-device character."

Oscar awarded Teresa Wright...

But the SMACKDOWN gives it to:
Agnes Moorehead!

Oh give a smile, Nessie. The Smackdowners love you...

And now some "Final Thoughts" from our intrepid SMACKDOWNERS:
Nathaniel Sez: "In keeping with Oscar's tradition, they gave the prize to the performance I found least impressive (Teresa's). It's almost like they check with me first and then vote in the opposite direction. Yes, it's all about me. Even before I was alive."

StinkyLulu Sez: "It's a curious field. A pair of disapproving dowagers. A twin set of ingenious ingenues. With the one-of-these-things-is-not-like-the-others -- an alternately spineless & spirited spinster -- off to the side by herself. And though I loved (or loved hating) this collection of really good performances, this is one contest where I really don't have a strong preference. Each actress maneuvers the limitations of the role with intelligence, skill and charisma. And because LaMoorehead brings out the contrarian in me, I might just cast my vote for Dame May. Just to mix things up."
Nick Sez: "A good vintage, this. I'm the first to fess up I'm grading on a steep curve: a three-heart rating doesn't denote average work, but a basic standard of quality that an Oscar-nominated performance should hit. Which is to say, I think Peters and Wright are solid nominees, and Cooper's even better. But Moorehead's work, to me, is one of the best, most interesting performances ever logged in this category. Even in a relatively quiet scene like the one where she combs her nephew for gossip while scolding him for eating like a pig -- revealing both her fragile and impossible romantic hopes and her frustration with The Whole Damn Thing -- Moorehead distinguishes herself, she fruitfully pushes her fellow actor, and she immeasurably deepens the whole film."

Tim Sez: "Moorehead towers over this otherwise middling contest for her career-best work, and because it's impossible to imagine Ambersons without her; her co-nominees are fairly effective in severely constricted roles. AMPAS picked the better of their home-front ingenues, I think, but still only the third-best performance; and Wright is much more interesting in Shadow of a Doubt the following year. Haven't seen Pride of the Yankees so I can't assess whether this was a Jessica-Lange-in-Tootsie-ish consolation prize; if so, there have been worse, and at least the unstretched Whitty didn't walk off with it. As for snubs, I rate Dolores Costello in Amberson at least as much as Cooper and Wright, but really, who's touching Moorehead here, ever? A mere nomination in this company seems like insult by faint praise."

So, lovely reader, what do you think of the Supporting Actresses of 1942? Are the Smackdowners on the ball? Or off the beam? Be sure to vote (see poll at right). And please do continue the Smackdown in comments.

Look for the next Smackdown on June 25.
And don't forget to cast your vote here to decide which year of nominees the June Smackdown will assess. (Voting will close when the winner is announced on Wednesday, May 31.) If you would like to join the fun/insanity/obsessiveness of a future smack down, just email StinkyLulu...

EDITED TO ADD (May 31, 2006):

Agnes Moorehead in THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS (1942) - Supporting Actress Sundays

There's something about StinkyLulu that you might not yet know, lovely reader. (Deep breath.) StinkyLulu doesn't really enjoy going against the grain -- proposing dissenting perspectives when consensus seems near at hand. (Especially when that emerging collective sensibility includes voices for which Lulu has much admiration & affection.) Truly, Lulu would much rather be part of a big happy family of filmfreaks & not make a stink. And yet, right there is the rub. Lulu can be a Stinky sometimes. (Especially when called to express a sincere & considered opinion -- indeed, Lulu could so totally be that one holdout juror that makes a mistrial.) It's not necessarily arrogance or egotism -- it's just who StinkyLulu is. In a different situation, Lulu might bite that Stinky little tongue, but as it's Supporting Actress Sundays... Anyway. With little further ado, it's time to make the announcement that Lulu's been vamping all this time:

StinkyLulu sorta hated Agnes Moorehead's performance in The Magnificent Ambersons.

G'head. Boo. Throw fruit. Click away. Do what you need to do. Lu wont' take it personal.

Ambersons itself is legendary, even notorious for its fractured brilliance. Ostensibly the tale of a neo-aristocratic family's decline amidst the social/economic upheavals of the industrial revolution, Welles' film becomes nearly Greek in its tragic scale, with the hubris of the story's putative protagonist instigating not only his own but his entire family's decline. A chorus of townspeople narrate the exposition & an omniscient narrator (Welles' own lugubrious baritone) intones: "Everyone waited for the day that George Amberson Minafer would get his comeuppance."

Agnes Moorehead plays Fanny Minafer, the unmarried aunt/sister/daughter/friend in the constellation of characters that inhabits the narrative of Georgie's comeuppance. Moorehead's Fanny (!) embodies the monstrosity of Victorian spinsterhood, the delicacy of girlishness ossified into a horror of unrealized womanhood. It's a shocking, brave & bold performance -- yet, also, nearly incoherent as it appears in the versions of the film that survive today. This incoherence in Moorehead's performance tracks two clumsy paths, one abundantly clear & one hidden between the scenes.

First, the palpably formidable Moorehead seems curiously cast as the flibbertigibbet here. Just listen to the voice. The power of Moorehead's sonorous gong of voice annoyingly channeled into affected chirps & breathless, lilting cascades. (Yes, that's the character, but.) And while Welles clearly loved filming Moorehead's improbably angled face (its beauty & severity stunning in abrupt turns), Welles' camera & lights swoop & circle & buzz even Moorehead's simplest scenes. So much technical tapdancing -- vocally & cinematically -- happens around & during Fanny. (Think of that stupidly overdone scene with her & George, the one where Fanny chatters manically in George's face, while they both rush through 3 or so rooms, all in close-up & in profile & in a single take.) Through it all, the clarity and coherence of Moorehead's performance gets lost amidst the apparatus of so many bells and whistles.

"It's nobody but old Fanny so I'll kick her."

Only in the famous "boiler scene" (above) is Moorehead/Fanny truly allowed to hold the screen. (And this scene alone warrants the Oscar nod, even the prize perhaps.) But it also suggests how the film's Studio-mandated edits (nearly one-third of the movie was cut at the behest of Studio execs) mangled Moorehead's performance. Between the frames of this film, it seems that Welles might well have staged Fanny as Lady to Georgie's Macbeth. Together, their misguided aspirations stunt and deform them both with strange synergy. Many of the known missing scenes (as below) feature Fanny centrally. But where Robert Wise's edits retained as protagonist contract-player Tim Holt's constipated Georgie, the changes to Moorehead's performance effectively relegate her to 3rd female when there's plenty to suggest Fanny might/well/should have been the dramatic female lead.

Production still capturing a crucial lost Fanny scene -- via Ambersons.com.

The biggest loss, it seems, among the storied tragedies of Welles' production is perhaps Agnes Moorehead's performance. Hers is clearly a great performance edited to shreds. Sadly, though, the tatters that remain of Moorehead's work -- garish incoherence, overwrought technique, filmic miscasting -- overwhelm the glimpses of genuine genius buried beneath. Certainly, and for decades, film freaks especially have correctly caught the whiff of greatness here. But. (And, golly, it hurts Lulu's heart to say this -- it's wierd how much.) But such greatness is glimpsed and not contained within the performance actually conveyed by the surviving prints of this film. Lulu can sense the amazingness, feel it, almost taste it -- but it's just not there to StinkyLulu's simple eyes. Sorry. (But Lulu'll keep coming back to see if the beloved greatness of Moorehead's Fanny appears in future viewings -- that's a promise.)


6 Thoughts About X3

In homage to the always brilliant 6 Things, StinkyLulu offers the following...

StinkyLulu's Six Thoughts About X3:
1. Should just call him Plastic Stewart.
2. Whether Siryn was a real girl or not, 'twas nice to have a kickass tranny on the scene.
3. Hugh's rubber action pants make him look a little hippy. Hot. But hippy.
4. Couldn't be happier 'bout the handling of the James Marsden character.
5. Lulu could prolly watch a whole movie of Mystique shapeshifting while trash-talking.
6. Famke (AKA JeanGrey AKA Phoenix) doing the Carrie White -- levitating while surveying the flaming carnage with crazy eyes -- makes the whole thing worth it.

ps: don't fergit to vote


"Sign of a Natural Man" (Homo Heritage Fridays)

from Drummer Sources, circa 1981, page 18.

For guys who "have it all" indeed.


The SMACKDOWN is nigh upon us!

It's looking to be a big weekend for StinkyLulu.
Ok, first, X3 opens. (The mere thought gives Lu the vapors.)
1942's Supporting Actress Smackdown is this Sunday.

As you may recall, lovely reader, Supporting Actress Sundays is project for the long haul. Each Sunday for a month of Sundays, StinkyLulu (re)screens all of -- and offers an extended commentary on -- the nominees (plus some of those snubbed) from a given year's roster of Oscar hopefuls. Toward the end of that month, Supporting Actress Sundays culminate when StinkyLulu joins with fellow movie obsessives to create a virtual roundtable -- or Supporting Actress Smackdown -- for the year in question.

This Sunday's Smackdown features the scintillating insights of Smackdown veterans Nick of Nick's Flick Picks & Nathaniel of The Film Experience while also initiating Tim of Mainly Movies to the strangely exhilarating thrill of the Smackdown.

So. Be there. The 1942 Smackdown's looking to be a goody...

(And in the meantime, be sure to cast your vote for the June roster of Supporting Actress Sundays. StinkyLulu can't be trusted to make such decisions alone. Really. Not to be trusted.)


The Stairway to Stardom -- Or there but for the grace of the goddess goes StinkyLulu

There's somethin about that show -- you know, lovely reader, the one with the finals starting tonight -- well, there's something about that show that always makes Lulu a little nervous, especially during the parade of humiliations/auditions.

See, StinkyLulu loves to sing.
Just. Loves. To. Sing.
And yet -- alas -- Lulu really shouldn't do so in public.

Tragically, however, when Lulu was a wee little Lu -- or, more precisely, when Lulu was beset with early-onset, adolescence-induced insanity -- that didn't stop Lulu from singing, whenever & wherever the opportunity presented itself. (A particularly mortifying incident comes to mind. Involving an 8th or 9th grade school dance for which Lulu served double-duty as planning committe chair AND DJ. Where Lulu seized the opportunity/microphone & sang "The Best of Times" as a special intermission treat. Thankfully, aforementioned horror occurred in a remote desert kingdom & no known documentation has been excavated. Yet.)

But -- had the opportunity presented itself back in the early 80s -- Lulu would have so totally "tried out" for that show. And it would have just been...sad. Not so remarkably sad that it would have been featured on national teevee. But sad, nonethe. So something about that show always brings up conflicting feelings for StinkyLulu. The misguided sincerity just cracks Lu's heart. Cuz -- really, truly, deeply -- that couldawouldashoulda been Lulu had that show been in the mix, circa 1984.

But, in the NYC area circa 1984, "The Stairway to Stardom" was there. And so was Mike Weiss (see below). Mike Weiss -- who shared the same hair, the same outfit, the same droopy eyes AND the same slippery grip on pitch as StinkyLulu. (Not to mention the intermittent terror at the fingers of the accompaniest.)

Heard about "The Stairway to Stardom" on NPR this morning. Gotta love that YouTube.


Dame May Whitty & Teresa Wright in MRS. MINIVER (1942) - Supporting Actress Sundays

Welcome, lovely reader, to the first double-whammy edition of Supporting Actress Sundays, wherein Lulu's agonna be looking at two nominated Supporting Actresses from the same film. In tandem -- in the same post -- try not to have your mind blown...

The Supporting Actresses for this Sunday are:

Dame May Whitty and Teresa Wright in 1942's Best Picture Mrs. Miniver.

Mrs. Miniver is one of those movies -- the kind that Lulu's long known should be seen but could never quite get around to actually seeing. And, really, Lulu even knew a little something about the flick: Like -- Mrs. Miniver became the defining role of Greer Garson's career, that it was a beloved touchstone for women on the "home front" in WWII, and that 30-40-50-60 years later it still seemed to exist with a kind of "glow" around it. So, when it came time to hunker down & do Supporting Actress Sunday duty, StinkyLulu wasn't expecting much from this cinematic sacred cow -- just another super sentimental piece of patriotic pablum from the "Buy Your War Bonds" school of Hollywood filmmaking.

But boy sirree bob -- was Lulu in for a surprise.

Mrs. Miniver tells the story of Kay Miniver (Garson), the upwardly mobile British wife and mother whose life (& escalating shopping problem) is transformed when war comes to the British countryside in the early years of World War II. Mrs. Miniver reveals her true mettle as she (a) sees her eldest son to war; (b) sends her husband off to join a makeshift navy; (c) reads British literature to her children in a cozy, well-appointed bomb shelter; (d) captures a fugitive Nazi pilot in her kitchen; and (e) greets guests in a bomb ravaged parlor. Through all of the above, Mrs. Miniver -- via Garson's truly exceptional performance -- becomes the emblem for a new Britain, a kind of domestic war hero. The film makes the significance of this transformation manifest when a rose named for Garson's Mrs. Miniver wins -- in a symbolic upset -- a local flower competition. The rose becomes the film's metaphor for the plucky English spirit shared by all Britons in war-time, a spirit that traverses the social heirarchy (ie. obsession with cultivation and breeding) of English aristocratic society.

But what of the Supporting Actresses?

Well, Dame May Whitty (at right, above) plays the elitist old biddy, Lady Beldon, who just happens to the be the grandmother of the sweet young thing Carol Beldon played by Teresa Wright (at center), who ends up hitching up with Mrs. Miniver's impetuous son/soldier-to-be, Vin (Richard Ney, at left).

In the movie's first half, both Wright and Whitty offer what seem to be brilliantly precise stock characterizations of -- in turn -- the spirited ingenue and the domineering dowager. Indeed, for much of the film, Lulu considered Teresa Wright and Dame May Whitty to be deserving (if safe) nominees in a year with few female supporting performances. Each actress hit the notes -- comic, serious, romantic -- pristinely, channeling their considerable charisma through the characters (not over the top of them). Yet, as director William Wyler expertly winds this movie along its episodic way through the trials and travails besetting these characters, something more substantial starts to happen. Each of these women -- Teresa Wright, Greer Garson, May Whitty -- become archetypes of, respectively, the War Bride, the War Mother, and the War Widow. And, amazingly, rather than flattening the characters, each actress seizes this opportunity to grab the reins of the role, enriching her performance in ways that simply yanked tears from StinkyLulu's dryly cynical eyes.

Teresa Wright turns on this power in a short scene opposite Garson, where -- fresh back from her honeymoon with Garson's son -- the two Mrs. Minivers do an emotional reality check and, with an anguished passion that knocked Lulu back a little, Wright emphatically demands the right to experience joy with her new husband for "there'll be a lifetime for tears." Meanwhile, Dame May Whitty shows the kindly pots of sweetness hiding under the gnarled burls of her crusty dameness, while never sacrificing the humor that crucially informs the role. And in an extraordinary brief sequence atop the dais at the flower show, Whitty offers an emotional quick-change tour-de-force, displaying such a range of emotions -- well, Lulu stopped counting at 12.

In the first acts of Mrs. Miniver, Dame May Whitty and Teresa Wright give very professional, nearly palpable personas to their seemingly stock characters. Yet, as the plot deepens, they each provide an emotional depth and clarity that -- while plotted by the script -- are just that little bit beyond the call of duty. There is, simply, no reason why either actress had to be so good in these cookie cutter roles. But they were. And that's why this double whammy of Supporting Actresses both deserved the trophy. (That Teresa Wright took it home prolly results from her also being nominated in Best Actress that year, as well as Best Supporting the year before. That surplus of Oscar goodwill -- combined with a final act gotcha twist in Mrs. Miniver -- virtually assured Miss Wright of 1942's prize.)

So -- four down & one to go for 1942. Be sure to tune in next Sunday, lovely reader, when StinkyLulu will comment on the final nominee for 1942, Agnes Moorehead in The Magnificent Ambersons.

Then, StinkyLulu will welcome the likes of TheFilmExperience & Nick'sFlickPicks & MainlyMovies for the 1942 Edition of The Supporting Actress Smackdown.
Be there.

(And, please, do be sure to vote for June's Supporting Actress Sunday roster. Lulu really does need your guidance, lovely reader. Without it Lulu'd be inclined to try to do them all & then Lulu's head would explode & that would just be unfortunate.)


"Symbol of a season & representative of a lifestyle" (Homo Heritage Fridays)

from After Dark, March 1977, page 20.

A whole 'nother sort of "message tee."


The Stinkys In The Desert

The Stinkys are on the road this week.
(So, once again, lovely reader, no CouldaShouldaWoulda for this Wednesday -- sorry.)

Indeed, StinkyLulu writes this from atop a desert mesa, overlooking a trickling riverbed. just at the edge of the Gila National Forest. Since Monday, StinkyLulu's been enjoying -- for the first time ever -- the strange convergence of cultures & landscapes that is New Mexico's Southeastern corner & its county seat, Silver City. And, inspired by the photogenerosity of DrS, StinkyLulu thought it a good idea to share just a few shots from the last two days...

View from Lulu's reading chair
Where StinkyLulu's been reading new play manuscripts

How'd this happen?
Well, see, Pablo & SusieLou -- two of MrStinky's oldest & dearest NYC friends -- blew into the Enchanted Land last week to sit as jurors for some fancypantsy photography confab in FantaSe. After that marathon of opinage, Pablo & SusieLou are always ready for some rustic desert fun. (Pablo has a strange fascination for desert reptiles & -- though she'd rather read a magazine or go shopping -- SusieLou's always game for the adventure.) So, MrStinky sniffed & scoured the state for a comfortable yet remote destination, suitable both for holiday retreat & reptile rummaging. Which brought Pablo & SusieLou and The Stinkys to Casitas de Gila late Monday night.

Patio Dining

Where the Stinkys & Friends devoured much well-seared cowflesh

Casitas de Gila is a cute little joint, smack dab in the middle of f'n nowhere. Perched at the deadend of a series of totally narrow, rollercoastery dirt roads that would likely cause the most intrepid llama pause, this handful of free standing little houses (aka casitas) is as an oasis of 21st century hospitality at the desert's edge. Each casita comes complete with kitchen, food, outdoor barbecue, full toilette and precious little names. (Lu's not sure whether The Stinkys are ensconced in "Animal House" or "The Birdcage", or en español Casita de los Pájaros y Casita de los Animalitos.) It's really gorgeous, really remote & really nice. And though the "no TVs" defies Lulu's sense of true hospitality, the free WiFi does assuage some of Lulu's culture-addict anxieties... So, since yesterday, Lulu's been reading -- some new play manuscripts vying for production & a couple academented titles that Lu's been meaning to crack for months -- it's been gorgeous. (Though the owner keeps traipsing by & reprimanding Lulu with the joint's promotional tag-line -- "This is a stress-free zone" -- & it's beginning to stress Lulu out.)

Backyard Stark Desert Beauty

So, even though Lu's skipping the hikes that a place like this seems to mandate, being here's been really nice. Because -- truly -- this is Lulu's sorta ideal retreat. No grading, no office, no caregiving duties, no commute, no students. Just MrStinky, good food/friends/vistas, & nice satisfying work...
Life's good.


Cast Your Vote for JUNE's "Supporting Actress Sunday" Series

June's just around the corner.
Which means it's time for you, lovely reader, to choose StinkyLulu's cinematic poison for June's month of Supporting Actress Sundays. (Just log your vote in comments or via email.)

And the nominee rosters are:
  • 1941: Sara Allgood, "How Green Was My Valley"; Mary Astor, "The Great Lie"; Patricia Collinge, "The Little Foxes"; Teresa Wright, "The Little Foxes"; & Margaret Wycherly, "Sergeant York."
  • 1951: Joan Blondell, "The Blue Veil"; Mildred Dunnock, "Death of a Salesman"; Lee Grant, "Detective Story"; Kim Hunter, "A Streetcar Named Desire"; & Thelma Ritter, "The Mating Season."
  • 1960: Glynis Johns, "The Sundowners"; Shirley Jones, "Elmer Gantry"; Shirley Knight, "Dark at the Top of the Stairs"; Janet Leigh, "Psycho"; & Mary Ure, "Sons and Lovers."
  • 1969: Catherine Burns, "Last Summer"; Dyan Cannon, "Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice"; Goldie Hawn, "Cactus Flower"; Sylvia Miles, "Midnight Cowboy"; & Susannah York, "They Shoot Horses Don't They."
  • 1978: Dyan Cannon, "Heaven Can Wait"; Penelope Milford, "Coming Home"; Maggie Smith, "California Suite"; Maureen Stapleton, "Interiors"; & Meryl Streep, "The Deer Hunter."
  • 1987: Norma Aleandro, "Gaby - A True Story"; Anne Archer, "Fatal Attraction"; Olympia Dukakis, "Moonstruck"; Anne Ramsey, "Throw Momma from the Train"; & Ann Sothern, "The Whales of August"
  • 1996: Joan Allen, "The Crucible"; Lauren Bacall, "The Mirror Has Two Faces"; Juliette Binoche, "The English Patient"; Barbara Hershey, "The Portrait of a Lady"; & Marianne Jean-Baptiste, "Secrets & Lies."

Vote freely. Vote often.
Tell your friends.

June's Supporting Actress Sundays

What year's nominees should provide the Roster for June's Month of Supporting Actress Sundays

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Gladys Cooper in NOW, VOYAGER (1942) - Supporting Actress Sundays (Mother's Day Edition)

In homage to Mother's Day, My New Plaid Pants recently gave a quick rundown of the worst mothers in movies. Which got Lulu to thinkin' -- Oscar's Supporting Actress category does seem to hold a special place at the table for truly monstrous mothers. Not just messy mamas like Holly Hunter in Thirteen (2003), Julianne Moore in Boogie Nights (1997), or Eileen Heckart in The Bad Seed (1956). No, truly monstrous mothers whose voracious need for control over their offspring take things to a whole 'nother level of horror. StinkyLulu's thinking of nominated mothers like Anne Ramsey in 1987's Throw Momma From The Train; Piper Laurie in 1976's Carrie; and Angela Lansbury in 1962's The Manchurian Candidate. (Just to name a few of the most brilliantly garish.)

But among the many monstrous mothers to which Oscar has nodded (but never rewarded) in the Supporting Actress category, Gladys Cooper's nominated performance in Now, Voyager is just possibly the grandmama of all Oscar's monstrous mothers.

please note: above pic of Gladys is not from Now, Voyager

"My daughter Charlotte is no more ill than a molting canary."

Gladys Cooper plays Mrs. Henry Windle Vale, the domineering dowager mother of Charlotte Vale, a painfully nervous spinster in desperate need of a good pluck (played with arch genius by Bette Davis). Cooper's performance is simple: she's a steely aristocratic tyrant who wields her acid-tongued dis/approval as a sword. Of course, if you just tipped the bird over, she'd likely shatter into a billion bits but, somehow, her genteelly vicious bullying cows everyone into submission. The thrill of Now, Voyager is watching Charlotte's self-actualization in spite of this maternal tyranny. So, Gladys Cooper's job in the role is fairly forthright: be a bitch on (literally) wheels. Yet, here (as in 1958's Separate Tables in which she played essentially the same role), Gladys Cooper's able to lend a simple, undistracting, humanizing complexity to this monster in Victorian lace. Simply put, Cooper allows us to see that Mrs. Vale is desperately afraid that Charlotte ("My old age child.") will blossom into personhood & leave her. So -- using the swingbat of social convention to beat & bully the "gehrl" -- Gladys Cooper's Mrs. Vale keeps her "devoted daughter" on a short leash, a choke-chain that nearly hobbles Charlotte into neurotic spinsterhood.

Cooper's performance provides an elegant reminder of what great supporting work requires. Cooper gives us the cardboard cutout that the story needs (here, the shrill shreik of a Freudian nightmare mother) yet is also able to color & shadow the performance just enough that it doesn't descend into sheer caricature. Gladys Cooper offers a teensy glimpse into the character's vulnerability but doesn't overplay the hand. No scene-chewing "redeeming moment" here. At this point in her career, Cooper knew she was a contract player contracted only to play well her part. Yet, as she did, Gladys Cooper created a brilliantly brutal monster mother.

A testament to Cooper's performance comes in StinkyLulu's favorite scene in the flick. (No, it's not the giddy thrill of the heart-stopping argument between Charlotte & Mrs. Vale -- though that's a goody.) No it's the scene where Charlotte greets her assembled family -- each of whom is shocked to see the gorgeously transformed Charlotte yet also appalled to see Charlotte's hostessing defy the conventions of her mother's home. It's really Bette Davis' scene, though she plays every moment opposite the absent presence of Gladys Cooper. The very idea of Gladys Cooper's Mrs Vale is enough to be Bette Davis' scene partner. Strangely, the effectiveness of this scene is one of Cooper's greatest contributions to the film -- and she's not even in the scene.

So, lovely reader, even though most of Gladys Cooper's work on film looks, sounds & feels like this performance, don't let that stop you from appreciating the artistry of one of Oscar's greatest monster mothers. (Plus it'll make most of you grateful for the mother/s you got.) And even if you got stuck with a meanie mommy? Just play the Monstrous Mother Smackdown game! Who would win in a grudgematch? Mrs. Vale or Mrs. Voorhees? Charlotte's mother or Carrie's?

It's a whole new era of Mother's Day fun...