"The Most Sensuous & Luxurious Macho Bath Complex...On The Jersey Shore" (Homo Heritage Fridays)

from Blueboy: The International Magazine for Men, July 1979, page 77.
Click image for larger view.


The Movies Lulu's Seen The Most...

Since reading a little featurette on Slate the other day, StinkyLulu's sorta been stewing. In the piece -- The Movie I've Seen the Most: Films that Spike Lee, Peter Farrelly, and Paul Schrader watch obsessively -- a pile of movie types are asked: "What movie have you seen the most?" Fair enough. And an interesting enough list of fascinating films...

But what's got Lulu stewing is that most of these people -- when not saying things like "I am not much for re-watching movies I have already seen" (feh!) -- boasted of having watched their "most watched" movies 8 or 9 or maybe 10 times... Which worries StinkyLulu a little. See, there are a handful of films that StinkyLulu has easily seen more than 50 times, a few more than 100x. Only a handful Slate's cineastes profess to having seen certain films 10s of times, let alone more than that...

So, it only seemed right to check in with you, lovely reader.
Is StinkyLulu an especially wierd movie freak? Does your film obsession have you sampling the whole buffet, rather than gorging on a favorite dish? Or are there movies that you too have -- by choice -- seen twenty? or fifty? or eighty times?

To kick things off, StinkyLulu's offering the SIX titles that Lulu's seen the most. Theatrical screenings are weighted, but even partial screenings on cable count too. (Excluding -- of course -- "seasonal" titles, movies that are either unavoidable during certain times of year (ie. It's a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story) OR features of certain seasons of life (ie. the summer of 1978 when Lulu watched Star Wars 3 times a day, every day, all summer long...) Here goes:

The Movies StinkyLulu's Seen The Most

West Side Story
The movie that Lulu's most loved and most loathed (with an equal passion) for more than 25 years. Some of the best -- and worst -- performances ever captured on film. Robert Wise's banality combines with Jerry Robbins' genius in ways both gorgeous and garish. And then there's "Cool"...

Always the challenger in the battle with West Side to determine which movie is StinkyLulu's true favorite. DePalma's ridiculously tricksy imagery combines with a decadent load of great actresses (in lead, supporting and bit roles) and a perfectly blended (just enough magic/gore/camp/genuine fright) horror narrative. All that and what is possibly StinkyLulu's favorite screen performance ever (Sissy Spacek as Carrie White) to boot.

The 1st movie lil Lulu screened -- by choice, often alone -- more than 100 times. The first movie to fold into StinkyLulu's dreams. The characters and the actors who played them still have a strange, mysterious & enduring place in Lulu's heart... (Sometimes Lulu actually has the thought: "Wonder if Coco ever got that career going..." Tragically, that's no lie.)

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
StinkyLulu's first experience with "appointment television" -- way back before the VCR, Lulu would clear the afternoon & evening for the annual broadcast of this film. A much more important annual ritual than the one about the Kansas girl. As the years have passed, Lulu's come to adore the wacky kooky first half of the film (which lil Lulu loathed) almost more than the second half. And, really, who has ever heard of a snozberry?

Gourmet Cheese Platters
Including The Women, Fried Green Tomatoes, SoapDish, Steel Magnolias, Terms of Endearment, The Joy Luck Club, Ya-Ya Sisterhood, The Color Purple, The Turning Point, etcetera...
Behold - The Power of Cheese. And, yes, this is almost cheating. But StinkyLulu's easily sniffled and giggled through each of these films upwards of 10x - EACH. And after a while, it's tough to tell them apart, let alone keep score. But through it all, the Oscar-baiting genius of the women in these flicks causes Lulu's clicker to screech to a halt & just watch: again and again and again and again. It's a sickness. But a tasty one.

X2: X-Men United
The only film from the '00s to make this list. Mostly because Lulu saw it 7 times in the theatre. And dozens of times since via dvd or cable. The queerish allegory stirs something deep but really it's simply the giddy pleasures of the film's basic narrative -- finding and using one's special powers -- that keeps Lulu just happy to visit and revisit this film. (Plus everyone's real pretty & they have cute outfits.)

Coal Miner's Daughter, School Daze, Selena, The Wizard of Oz, Cabaret, Sixteen Candles, Do The Right Thing, All That Jazz, Suddenly Last Summer, Sweet Charity, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Girl6, Xanadu, Grease (I and II), Cruising...oh well, you get the idea...

And what about you, lovely reader?
Post in comments or on your own site, but...do tell.


Barbara Hershey in THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY (1996) - Supporting Actress Sundays

At long last, the final entry for the Suppporting Actresses of 1996. And, yes, StinkyLulu's well aware that today's not Sunday. But it's almost the same thing. (See, in one of his earliest comments on StinkyLulu's Supporting Actress Sundays project, Nick likened the Sunday morning entries to a kind of worship, church-going for the movie enthralled...Amen. Truer words ha' ne'er been spoke. And it only follows that, since true evangelicals tend to also get serviced on Wednesday as well, Wednesday's almost the same as Sunday...)

But, really, who needs an excuse to exult in the divine radiance of...

Jane Campion's brooding adaptation of the beloved Henry James novel is an admirably bold venture. Discerning critics have observed that Campion's directorial take is almost a "reading of" the James original, more than a straight-up adaptation, & that seems to describe just how Campion-ish this film is. It's got all the hallmarks of Campion's idiosyncratic genius: a melancholy, at once lugubrious and exultant; a visual acuity of uncommon intelligence (at least in popular film); unparalleled investment in cinematically exploring the complicated lives, desires and experiences of women; a thematic fearlessness; and -- StinkyLulu's favorite -- a genius for casting. (Shelley Duvall and John Malkovich as siblings? Viggo Mortenson as a character named Caspar Goodwood? Nicole Kidman in a mercenary marriage to a controlling man of intense but limited charisma, the marriage itself in service to a crackpot aesthetic/spiritual ideal?)

And perhaps the most satisfying stroke of Campion's genius for casting can be seen in Barbara Hershey's resplendent, luxurious, malevolent, desperate performance as Madame Merle.

Campion's film explores the terrifying erotics of intimacy -- not just sexuality, mind you, but the thrill of knowing another and the terror of being known... And so far as such things go, Barbara Hershey's Madame Merle is a worldly woman. Her first glance to Kidman's Isabel so envelops the younger woman with the promise of such knowing that Isabel's fluttering excitement is nearly palpable. Of course, as Campion reveals the soul-buckling power of Gilbert Osmond's (Malkovich) delicate tyranny, Hershey's Madame Merle also embodies the ravages of that heady intimacy, a barely living example of its potential toxicity. And through it all, it's Hershey's voice -- not her exceptional beauty -- that captivates. Hershey's vocality is like few others in American film: a textured womanly sound, breathy yet full, with little frippery or actressy tricks. And it's with this voice that Hershey breaks StinkyLulu's heart in The Portrait of a Lady.

It's one very simple scene that gets Lulu good: A chance encounter between Merle and Isabel, not long after Isabel has been told of the depth of Merle's deception. Isabel turns her back to Merle. Merle, the exhausted but expert social strategist, fills the heavy air with social banalities when -- all at once -- her breath seems to be forcibly sucked from her belly as she realizes that Isabel knows. Her voice strangles itself as she gasps for the words to complete her sentence and, as the camera leaves her, she struggles to remain standing.

"You not only dried up my tears. You've dried up my soul."

Hershey's is an extraordinary performance -- a magnetic menace for the ages -- because the actress invests an exceptional humanity into this damaged, beautiful villain (an investment supported at every turn by Campion's singular form). Truly great work from an almost iconoclastic actress. Indeed, the kind of work the category's made for...

Even more, Hershey's Madame Merle is perhaps StinkyLulu's ideal kind of Supporting Actress role: a fully actualized character who serves the narrative in instrumental but unqualifiedly secondary ways. Unlike other 1996 nominees (Binoche & Jean-Baptiste), there's never a thought that A Portrait of a Lady's gonna turn out to really be about Hershey's character. Nonetheless, her work is so fully realized that it permits the giddy fantasy that Barbara Hershey's Madame Merle could be the star of some other, imaginary, possibly more thrilling movie -- if only the camera would just follow her instead of Nicole/Isabel.

Two tickets for Madame Merle - The Untold Story, please...

Just a day or so before the Supporting Actress roster for July is announced!
It's turning out to be quite the horse race, so be sure to...


Old Theatres Never Die...

...They Just Become Bridal Shops!

Check out Criticlasm's excellent & spooky account of
the Los Angeles Historic Theatre District Walking Tour
(sponsored by the Los Angeles Conservancy).

Finally, something interesting to do next time The Stinkys hit LaLa Land!
(Though StinkyLu's long wanted to do the "Dearly Departed" Hollywood tour...)


Supporting Actress Smackdown - 1996

The Year is 1996...
And the Supporting Actress Smackdowners for June are NICK of Nick's Pick Flicks and TIM of mainly movies. To acquaint yourself with the nominations for 1996, StinkyLulu's worked up the animated flimlet below in homage to 1996's Supporting Performances (an admittedly pale proxy for Nathaniel's already legendary clipreels).

For best results, let the entire video load (press pause or sumpin') before viewing...

And 1996's Supporting Actresses are...

(An aside about format: Each Smackdowner's comments are listed in ascending levels of love. A summary comment from each Smackdowner arrives at the end. Click on the nominee's name/film to see StinkyLulu's Supporting Actress Sunday review.)
Joan Allen in The Crucible
StinkyLulu Sez
"There's so much to admire here. Allen's characteristically strong in Oscar's favorite kind of role (devoted helpmeet). Yet it's strange that there's so little left to love... A much-warranted nomination but not too too interesting a performance."
Tim Sez
"It's a mark of the film's failings that Elizabeth Proctor's even considered a supporting role; thank goodness Allen's here to dignify it so impeccably, bringing a fierce and harrowed conviction to her two crucial scenes."
Nick Sez
"Allen's combination of steeliness, reticence, and luminescence both anchors and elevates this weirdly undisciplined film. Her attentive, generous responses enable Day-Lewis' equally impassioned performance, but she also fashions a stalwart, subtly devastated woman of her own."

Lauren Bacall in The Mirror Has Two Faces
Nick Sez
"Give me a damn break. Bacall was inexplicably overrated for her entire career, though never by Oscar, 'til 1996. Her just desserts were to be nominated, sentimentally, for a mechanic performance in a lame part, and then, mercifully, to lose."
StinkyLulu Sez
"It's not that Bacall's awful. It's just that the performance coasts on Bacall's charisma and persona, inadvertently highlighting the limitations of both."
Tim Sez
"Imperious hauteur is basically what's asked of Bacall in The Mirror Has Two Faces, along with a past-it flirtiness and one tiny moment of introspection. She ticks all the boxes but they're not challenging ones, and if ever a nomination screamed 'Sorry!', this one does."

Juliette Binoche in The English Patient
StinkyLulu Sez
"Binoche displays her actorly intelligence astutely here, anchoring the film's epic sentiment & romantic grandiosity within an emotionally plausible reality. Yet, while her performance is the vehicle for The English Patient's emotional impact, the particulars of her Hana tend to get lost amidst the film's overwrought imagery."
Nick Sez
"As usual with Binoche, her talents are largely limited to beatific close-ups and limpid outpouring of sympathetic emotion. She achieves both of these gloriously, in a part tailor-made for her, but she's just not as crafty as her competition."
Tim Sez
"A lovely lissom perf in an essentially reactive part. Binoche's face is a sounding-board for the movie's tones -- anxious, enchanted, desperately moved -- and she's never seemed looser or more versatile. I still think the character's a little wispy, though."

Barbara Hershey in The Portrait of a Lady
StinkyLulu Sez
"A resplendent, luxurious performance -- Hershey's Madame Merle's a magnetic menace for the ages, voracious and vulnerable, bedazzled but bereft...yet always palpably human."
Nick Sez
"So often a godsend to nervy directors trying to cast difficult parts, Hershey plumbs deeply and yields both the naked, highly wrought emotional states that are Campion's expertise and the opaque mysteries required by James. A master class."
Tim Sez
"Before our eyes, Hershey simultaneously ties up and untangles the knot of bitter contradictions in Madame Merle, who is both benefactress and sadist, friend and foe. Letting us into a lifetime's terrible regrets, she becomes one of the saddest villains in movies."

Marianne Jean-Baptiste in Secrets and Lies
Tim Sez
"Smashing, vicacious work in what could have been a thin, functional role. I love how set Hortense is: she's one of the few Leigh characters who isn't just the sum of her bundled tics and problems, and Jean-Baptiste crafts her with equally rare tact."
Nick Sez
"Jean-Baptiste is most instrumental to the beginnings of this story, consummately etching out her character before receding to her third-act positioning as the watchful, uncomfortable bystander. It remains a pitch-perfect performance, but less key to the film."
StinkyLulu Sez
"Hortense is possibly the hardest of parts to play: an intrinsically decent person. Jean-Baptiste maneuvers the pitfalls of cliche to craft one of the most honestly human 'good guys' in cinema, who -- by the by -- instigates an entire family's redemption. A marvel of muted hope & true feeling."

Oscar awarded Juliette Binoche...

But the SMACKDOWN gives it to:
Barbara Hershey!
Oh don't be so surly, Babs. The Smackdowners love you...

And now some "Final Thoughts" from our intrepid SMACKDOWNERS:
StinkyLulu Sez: "It's almost another theme year in the Supporting Actress category: Still Waters Running Deep, Suddenly Rerouted. Each of the Supporting Actress characters is sublimely competent at being who they've always been yet the story presents them with a daunting challenge -- one that both reveals more of themselves to themselves while also threatening to break them to bits. It's -- almost to a one -- a thrilling set of journeys to watch. And while Allen and Binoche anchor their films' respective emotional orbits, and while Hershey's unmooring is both captivating and thrilling, it's Marianne Jean-Baptiste that routes the most profound, uncharted emotional journey. Hers is a marvel of a performance..."

Tim Sez: "A banner year, clearly, as AMPAS recognised by denying Bacall her predicted honourary win. There was too much competition: Hershey's my pick, because the conception of the character, the way she inhabits it, and the way they both fit Campion's dramatic scheme take the breath away. But you can hardly begrudge Binoche, who won for her tremulous way of listening and making a complex narrative emotionally understood. In another year, Allen or Jean-Baptiste might have deservedly taken it for being the best things their movies have to offer, and even Bacall is far from the least enjoyable fifth wheel you could ask for. For such a young vintage, this category's not just instantly impressive; it's aging beautifully too."

Nick Sez: "Bacall notwithstanding, this field remains one of the most substantial and discerning in the category's recent history. Allen, Hershey, and Jean-Baptiste are all so good that I would have loved a three-way tie; I tend to be most impressed with whomever's performance I have seen most recently. Elizabeth Proctor's doomed appearance before the kangaroo court and Madame Merle's confession and near-disintegration in the rain are pivotal, electrifying scenes for two characters who have lurked on the sidelines up to those points, and both actresses summon deep wells of feeling into their movies without simply hijacking them or overplaying their big moments. Hershey, perhaps, has the greatest distances to travel within her characterization, and the fewest connecting scenes in which to lay all the groundwork, so I suppose in those ways her performance strikes me as the most remarkable. (Slam that door, girl! Tell Osmond what's what! Realize what vipers you both are!) But truly, I'd have been ecstatic with any of these three as a victor—and frankly, as winners go, even the lovely but more predictable Binoche is fully acceptable."
So, lovely reader, tell the Smackdowners what YOU think! Join the dialogue in comments. And -- while you're at it -- be sure to...

And if you would like to join the fun/insanity/obsessiveness of a future smack down, just email StinkyLulu...

Marianne Jean-Baptiste in SECRETS AND LIES (1996) - Supporting Actress Sundays

It may come as a shock to some of you, lovely readers, but Secrets and Lies is the single film from the 1996 roster that StinkyLulu saw in its original release. (See, sometimes the googaplex just becomes a bit much & -- it comes in cycles -- but StinkyLulu just falls out of the habit of the cinema. Never out of the habit movie-watching, mind you, just cinema-going.)

But 'twas certainly a treat to revisit...

Mike Leigh's film is astonishingly simple, detailing the damage done by "secrets and lies" in an (surprisingly) extended English family. Yet within Leigh's cinematic universe, the slings and arrows suffered by these utterly typical people becomes the stuff of uncommon profundity. Petty cruelties of daily life. Desparate estrangements in the most intimate relationships. Devastating heartbreak echoing in idle patter. Why can't these characters just connect? Just say what's so clearly in the sound of their voice, the flicker of their face, the pain of their silence... The unspoken injuries accumulate into such a constellation of tension that -- for the audience -- the first 2/3 of the film becomes an unremitting experience of frustrated empathy. But that's part of Leigh's art. When the relief comes -- & it does, thank heavens -- boy howdy does it make some good movie watching... And the instrumental force in the effectiveness of this film comes from Marianne Jean-Baptiste's performance as Hortense.

Upon the death of her adoptive parents -- compelled for reasons that seem uncertain even to her -- Hortense finds and makes a palpable connection with Cynthia (Brenda Blethyn in an Oscar-winning performance). That Cynthia's white, while Hortense is black, diminishes in import as the two women encounter starker differences on their way to each other. Hortense embodies genuine competence and sufficiency, emotionally guarded but entirely alive. Meanwhile, Cynthia's a blithering mess of unwelcomed love, loathed by the daughter she raised and pitied/feared by the brother she adores. Hortense speaks carefully; Cynthia's every utterance is a gory shriek of need. Both women, however, are lonely in ways almost emotionally apocalyptic & their discovery of each other becomes an unqualified -- if complicated -- blessing.

Marianne Jean-Baptiste plays Hortense as a young woman of uncommon clarity and integrity who knows enough about disappointment to keep her expectations muted. (And as the only principal black character, Hortense could lapse into the easy righteousness, banal nobility, or soulful inspiration so typical of "the magical negro" school.) But the grace of Marianne Jean-Baptiste's performance comes in the way she plays Hortense's "patience" (a trait that is both tested & displayed throughout the film). As but one example: when a chattery social worker fluffs the air with therapeutic homilies & then unceremoniously dumps into Hortense's lap the overstuffed file containing her pre-adoptive life, Jean-Baptiste -- nearly wordlessly -- conveys the entire experience (the fear, the hope, the fury, the agony, the sadness, the giddiness, etc etc) in half-smiles and indirect glances. The character's a tough one to play & Marianne Jean-Baptiste makes it seem like she's not acting at all...

An effective and affecting performance sublimely worth the re-visit...

Be sure to tune in shortly for the
1996 Supporting Actress Smackdown!

(Should be up not much later than noon eastern.)

In the meantime...


"The Lambda Collection" (Homo Heritage Fridays)

from Blueboy: , July 1979, page 10.

From before PRIDE only came in rainbow colors...


Lulu's Stinky Picks: Big Brother 7 - All Stars

In the summer of 2000, when everyone got all gaga over the first season of Survivor, StinkyLulu fell in love with a different CBS show: the lower-than-lowbrow reality fandango, Big Brother. Ever since -- through dizzying schedule shifts, the evolution of the ChenBot, each cast's ever increasing idiocy -- StinkyLulu has (somewhat inexplicably) remained a devoted fan. And this season -- a purported "All-Star" edition in which past "hamsters" are invited back for one more shot at the $500k -- lowly idiot-boxers like Lulu get to vote on who'll get locked in a house (really a series of conjoined trailers) on a Hollywood backlot somewhere... Well. Suffice it -- Lulu's just gosh-darned excited. (It's summer on the teevee!!!) And after much deliberation, StinkyLulu has settled on...

Lulu's Stinky Picks for Big Brother 7:

Bunky is just the definition of "duh-Rama" (hairiest back ever notwithstanding). Way back when, Lulu termed him "that sobbing sissy"cuz...goodness. Lulu was leaning toward the bunkster as an early sacrificial hamster, and now that StinkyLulu's aware of the reddish68 connection... itsa done deal that Lulu wants the crybaby in the mix.
Danielle -- one of the best BBers ever. Totally smart, naturally beautiful, sneakier than sneaky. Gives good diaryroom. A house with Danielle'll bring on the entertainment.

Janelle -- whose signature "Bye bye, bitches" established her as the only legendary BBer. A bimbo with brains and ability. Among her competitors, Janelle inspires loathing and fear in equal measure -- what's not to love?
Jase -- the only truly awful BBer who was also truly entertaining. His preening macho preciousness remains one of the funniest BB running gags (!) ever...

Nakomis -- if not for the appalling Cowboy "twin twist" Nakomis would've likely never made it on BB at all. Too normal, plus her commonsense quirkiness trips up the skulking of the average famewhore. Plus she -- like Danielle & Janelle -- really gamed the game... Good times.
Will -- arrogant & clever & vain beyond all measure. Sure he won, but -- golly -- it'd be great (a) to watch Janelle/Danielle/Nakomis wipe the floor with his pompousness OR (b) to see him really play the game against equally devious competition. Plus he's pretty in an underwear model kind of way. And it would be fun to see him & Jase in a manscaping competition...
Golly. It's gonna be fun. (Now if only StinkyLulu could figure out how the voting actually works and/or when the dang show's agonna be on...)