WOW. It seems that Supporting Actress Sundays will start its second year with a bang with nearly 200 votes to determine the year under scrutiny for April. But 'twas the 75 or clicks behind 1985 that made this year's voting such a rout. Just think: a year ago, when Supporting Actress Sundays started, only eight folks weighed in to decide upon 1958. What a difference a year makes. Thanks for your devotion, lovely reader. StinkyLulu's really looking forward to the next 9 months of actressing at the edges, with y'all in tow o'course. Voting for May's roster will commence in couple weeks (voting typically start on the second Monday of the month). But, for now, whet your whistles for this coming Sunday and the start of April's Month of Supporting Actress Sundays:
Supporting Actresses Smackdown for 1985: Sunday, April 29. save the date!
And even though it is crunch time the Land of Academentia, StinkyLulu's recent "warm-up overlooked" series has gotten all excited about a coupla titles for 1985. So, if at all possible, there'll be at least one or two entries into CouldaShouldaWoulda Wednesdays. (BUT please do feel free to work up your own independent 1985 contribution to the informal "Overlooked" series bravely led by Canadian Ken). Just holler with the details & Lu'll be sure to give good linkage.)
Here's to a New Year of Supporting Actress Sundays!
___ Item 1: IMAGINE the glory of Nathaniel's NY Stage Debut. See reports at The Film Experience and Modern Fabulousity. ___ Item 2: TIME-TRAVEL back to 1927. Rummage through the generosity of the posts at GoatDog's 1927 Blogathon. S'all real good, but Lu 'specially enjoyed Hell on Frisco Bay's riff on categories at the first Oscars. ___ Item 3: RECITE "You make me uncomfortable with your words." Still think college teaching might be fun? Meditate on this missive from a disgruntled student. Alas, StinkyLulu's never gotten such an impassioned complaint... Something to aspire to, perhaps?
MEDITATE on the stark unprettiness of ANTM Cycle 7.
Dionne says it best (visit FourFour, please).... ___ Item 5: SPECULATE on what Kelly Wearstler will wear this week. Truly. The ONLY reason to watch Top Design is to see Ms. Wearstler... Want proof? Exhibit A. (But the Fug girls miss the fact that the t-shirt was SEWN to the prom dress). Exhibit B. (I love that looks like she's lead in an 80s All-Stripper version of Les Mis or Drood. And Exhibit C. (This is the look that just makes StinkyLulu's heart sing...fergit wheres I stole the photo, sorrys.) ___ Item 6: NOMINATE your fave RealityTV competitor for 2007. Lulu is a total whore this season, tracking ANTM7, Survivor, Idol and Top Design. Not to mention Dancing With The Stars, The Amazing Race and Australia's Next Top Model. Did I miss any? Crazy. So... Fess up, fellow freaks. Who do you love/loathe/crush for Spring '07?
Apologies are in order, lovely reader. I had totally planned to hit an overlooked 1994 performance this morning, but the time just slipped away this week. It may still happen, but -- in the meantime -- 'twas necessary to meet a prior commitment and submit a post for the amazing Goatdog & his 1927 Blogathon. So, for this Supporting Actress Sunday, StinkyLulu offers for your 1927 consideration...
Since its rediscovery in the basement detritus of an abandoned Detroit movie house in 1969, The Scar of Shame has emerged as perhaps the emblematic example of "race movies" in the silent era. One of at least three films produced by the Colored Players of Philadelphia, The Scar of Shame's all-black cast improvised their scenes, following the guidelines of their Italian American writer and director. Even as the earlier work of independent black auteur Oscar Micheaux has deservedly garnered the most interest among critics, scholars and audience, The Scar of Shame remains one of the only surviving examples of a commercial black cast film in the 1920s that featured middle-class characters and targeted an African American audience. (note)
The haltingly plotted melodrama stirs "uplift" with social Darwinism and color heirarchies in the black community to mix a story that is at once impossibly complex and soporifically simple. (Silent features of the late '20s are so good at that.) Harry Henderson plays Alvin Hillyard, a well-educated concert pianist and "race man" who rescues Lucia Lynn Moses's Louise from the lascivious clutches of her stepfather. Alvin marries Louise, but keeps the marriage secret from his family. A whole bunch of drama unspools and Alvin ends up in jail for shooting some guy (it's a set up of course). Alvin escapes prison, flees to another city, and -- under an assumed name -- sets up shop as a music teacher, where he meets and falls in love with the daughter of a prominent black politician. (Of course, the wrinkle is that Louise, Alvin's wife has also migrated to this new city, become a night club vamp, and has taken up with that same politician.)
Pearl McCormack plays Alice Hathaway, the young woman who's both Alvin's "social equal" and the subject of his growing affection.
A sometime stage actress (about whom StinkyLulu knows little), McCormack is a smoky eyed, light skinned beauty with wavy hair and aquiline features. As dark and as light and as beautiful as silent superstars like Clara Bow, McCormack animates her scenes with a ready impetuousness, infusing her character's purity with an energetic womanliness that sparks the film to life in its final act. McCormack's Alice has little to do. She is, after all, mostly there as moral counterpoint to Moses's Louise. While Moses gets to gamble, drink, flirt and dance, Alice radiates goodness playing classical piano at home.
McCormack's Alice does get a good hysteria scene, though, after Alvin has revealed his past but before her father reveals Louise's climactic sacrifice. And even then, as the concluding action wheezes through its perfunctory woman-sacrificing plot machinations, McCormack's Alice gives the scenes their only verve. In The Scar of Shame, Pearl McCormack's animated performance emerges as one of the treats in this halting B-movie melodrama. (The other treats are in the excellent club scenes, where unnamed and mostly dark-skinned characters get all vice-y -- good stuff.)
An editorial aside: If you take it upon yourself to watch The Scar of Shame (it's fairly accessible since its Library of Congress restoration/release in the early 1990s) StinkyLulu strongly recommends that you do so with the sound turned down. The piano score by silent movie music legend Philip Carli is shockingly enervating (banal and sleep-inducing, really). The film becomes much more engaging without Carli's track -- not sure why...
Golly. It feels like Lulu's got so much to do today. So, in the event that there's no new post a poppin' from Lu's pooped noggin, here are some things that you might do to entertain yourself...
• Check out the brand new (as of yesterday) StinkyMobile. Ramon -- StinkyLu's beloved wheels for the last decade -- started to fall expensively to pieces in the last few weeks. 'Twas time. Spontaneous huge purchase & loan contract, but necessary. The whole thing just wiped Lulu out... The color? "Storm Silver Metallic."
• Vote for Modern Fabulousity in the Gay Blog Deathmatch. You can vote for the whole roster if you like, but the surveymonkey doesn't block you from only voting for the glory of ModFab. So go vote for Modern Fabulousity. Now.
• Pray that Jordin, Stephanie & The Sligh don't suck. You can also see to it that any one of those three sing first or last on tonight's show. Or you can make any of the remaining 11 sing a song by Heart or Burt Bacharach. And of course you can set your speed dial for any/all of StinkyLulu's chosen three. Momma's tracking those ponies!
• Watch a really old movie & prepare a post on it for
Dare ya. What are ya scared? Come on. All the cool kids are doin' it. Won't your mommy let ya? I promise you'll like it...
• Tell StinkyLulu which Overlooked Performance to watch for Sunday's Supporting Actress '94. Crooklyn? Heavenly Creatures? Exotica? Vanya on 42nd Street? Go Fish? To Die For? Mrs Parker and the Vicious Circle? When A Man Loves A Woman? Nobody's Fool? Little Women? Serial Mom? Reality Bites? Ed Wood? Road to Wellville? Tell Lulu what to do in comments.
There! That should keep you busy, lovely reader... at least for a few.
When voting opened to determine the roster for April's Supporting Actress Sundays, StinkyLulu thought sure 1976 would gather the most votes, with 1994 being a formidable contender. (Lu certainly did not anticipate that 1985 would rout the competition -- though you, lovely reader can still cast your vote for April's Supporting Actress Sundays in the voting panel at top right.) But even more surprising? How 1940 -- one of the most solidly deserving fields of nominees in the category's history -- would be left behind so ignominiously. Indeed, when tossing about for "overlooked" 1940 performance & consulting with the resident "overlooked" expert Canadian Ken, it came even clearer: The Academy nominated correctly in 1940. (How often can you say that?) Even so, the presence of Oscar's very first Best Supporting Actress in a couple 1940s projects was intriguing, especially...
Gale Sondergaard in The Letter (1940) approximately 6 minutes and 2 seconds on-screen 4 scenes roughly 6% percent of film's total running time
In The Letter, a chunky stew of melodrama and noir featuring an almost delicate (scenery-nibbling as opposed to chewing) performance by Bette Davis in the lead role of Leslie Crosbie, Gale Sondergaard plays Mrs. Hammond, the dragon lady "Eurasian" mistress/wife of the man Davis's character stands accused of murdering. The film's title refers to a love note, purportedly in Davis's handwriting, which threatens to reveal the truth about Leslie's relationship with the dead man and of which, of course, Sondergaard's Mrs. Hammond is in possession. The women, then, are not just romantic rivals but also enmeshed in a much more complex game of cat and mouse.
Davis's Leslie is outwardly a delicate flower of British colonialism but, from the outset, director William Wyler makes it clear that she's much more than that. Sondergaard's Mrs. Hammond, on the other hand, is pretty much just what she seems upon our first sight of her: A glamorous enigma, emerging from and receding to the shadows. (It's so not a surprise that Disney used Sondergaard as one of the models for the Wicked Queen in 1939's Snow White.) Because, really, who gives glamorous glower better than Gale?
In The Letter, Sondergaard has few lines and has none in English. She constructs Mrs. Hammond almost entirely through glares, glowers and glances. When viewing her murdered husband's body, her eyes gleam with tears. When she first meets Davis's Leslie, her eyes flare with fury and her lips snarl to a grimace. Davis, for her part, is smart to aggressively volley the eye-contact game with Sondergaard -- theirs is a shared performance of knowing looks, and it deepens each performance immeasurably. Each woman knows more about the other than either would ever say, even without the public humiliation of a translator. And one of Davis's best moments in the film relies upon this wordless eye contact: it's just after Leslie's been declared innocent and is being ushered from the courtroom. Davis's radiant smile freezes to a grim mask as Wyler's camera slides to a view of Sondergaard's Mrs. Hammond, who regards her vindicated rival with mysterious intensity. It's a great moment.
But it's a good thing that Sondergaard's performance is mostly wordless. On the one hand, this prevents her from doing some awful pidgin accent to go with the eye-taped yellowface makeup. (StinkyLulu can only imagine how bad Sondergaard's barky Chinese is.) On the other, it allows Sondergaard to develop a characterization that depends nearly entirely on her ominous and forbidding presence on (or at the edges of) the screen. And quite frankly, few work their screen magnetism as well as Gale Sondergaard. She's rarely an interesting actress but fascinating -- she is always that. Ya just can't look away...
Thought #1: I hate David Lynch. & then I love David Lynch. But then I... It's been 20 years since my first experience of the deep palpable physical misery of a 1st screening of a David Lynch film. A Lynch film is the cinematic definition of "discomfit." Then, of course, the obsession kicks in & I only want to watch it all over again. Somehow believing I might be able to unpuzzle it with a second look. Ha. Got me again... The f*cker.
Thought #2: Actor's faces. Few contemporary American directors love filming actors more than Lynch. You can see it in the way he frames their faces. It's a worshipful cruelty. And it captures the shocking and surprising contours of an actor's performance in ways almost unique to Lynch. Think of that big sidewalk scene and how Lynch's fascination with each actor's face amplifies gory absurdity into something startling...poetry. The f*cker. Thought #3: What was with the big bunnies? Perhaps the most elliptical visual Lu's seen in a good while. For Lulu, the big bunnies were the source of some of the greatest tension in the film. At first I got to thinkin' the big bunny scenes cued some big concept about life & voyeurism & theatricality & rodents...but then I got confused. And toward the end I was just dying -- actually bouncing up and down in my seat -- in anticipation of Laura Dern crashing through that stage right door and then wandering among those big bunny people. (Gawd wouldn't that have been kewl?!?) Not that it would have said anything in particular about what was going on with those f'n bunnies. (What was going on with those bunnies?) And not that it actually happend. Lynch. The f*cker. Thought #4: The genius is in the casting. Lynch casts smarter than almost anyone. Tosses seasoned pros in with novices. And he then adds non-actors for spice/spite. And, here, he gets all international on the cast too. And then he puts big stars in voiceover or in background during the marvelous closing credits. (Behind, of all things, a rollicking lipsych number performed by -- truly, if I read the credits correctly -- students from The Debbie Allen Dance Academy.) Who else would do this? The f*cker.
Thought #5: Why doesn't Laura Dern work more? No. Really. Why?
Nathaniel at The Film Experience (one of StinkyLulu's favorite blogfriends & regular Smackdowner) is currently running a major fundraiser to support his pursuit of generalized film obsession. And while StinkyLulu doesn't have a lotta extra cash, StinkyLulu does have LOTS of extra crap. SO: beginning today, StinkyLulu's begun listing some nifty junk over on eBay as part of a "Share The Love" campaign to benefit The Film Experience. Click on over and you'll find auctions for books, dvds, pop culture ephemera, porn...the proceeds from which will be donated to The Film Experience fundraiser. The bidding starts low. The shipping costs are basic. And it's for a good cause...
So bid away, lovely reader: Get some cash to The Film Experience, snag some crazy crap for yourself, & help Lulu to unload some of this stuff. It's a win-win-win!
Over the weekend, StinkyLulu got word that Ivy -- the beloved canine companion of Lu's dear gradschool bud, Sheepdog -- was able to peacefully shake loose of her earthly tethers and get on with chasing squirrels in the great beyond. Missus Sheepdog writes that Ivy "had been diagnosed with inoperable tumors in November... We were so happy to have her with us these last three months. During this time, she did all of her favorite activities: chasing squirrels (slower than usual), playing tag with me (again slower than usual), exploring the forest, rolling in gloriously stinky stuff (glorious to her, not to us!), eating egg and hamburger, napping, and snuggling. She died very peacefully while being stroked and comforted..."
StinkyLulu remembers meeting Ivy once or twice. She weren't too sure about the menfolk. But, once during quilting, Ivy ended up making friends with my feet. Later, Ivy didn't seem too pleased to realize those new Stinky feet friends were attached to Lulu but StinkyLu was glad to have enjoyed the fleeting encounter, nonethe...
So in honor of Ivy, lovely reader, take a moment to share some love with your favorite critters. Nuzzle that big dog of yours. Pet that adorable pussy. Feed the fish already. Then click the logo at right, and click again on the big purple button to contribute just a smidge to animal rescue efforts....
StinkyLulu's off to chase a squirrel or two. For Ivy. Blessings.
Since each Sunday in March is devoted to profiling the "overlooked" actressing at the edges from each of the years under consideration for April -- (vote for April's Supporting Actress Sundays toward the top of the right column) -- the candidacy of 1967 brings StinkyLulu to this week's installment: a torrid, perverse cinematic sampling of Southern Gothic which (somewhat amazingly given StinkyLu's Tennessee Williams fetish) Lulu had never even heard of until sitting on a panel at an academented fandango last fall. StinkyLulu's co-panelist was theorizing about "the Asian bottom" and riffing on the extraordinary Anacleto, perhaps the sissiest Filipino houseboy character in all of U.S. cinema, and who dotes upon Miss Alison, the damaged southern belle (garden shears!) played by...
Reflections in a Golden Eye is, quite simply, an extraordinary film. Not that it's especially good (it's not), nor that it's especially artful or pathbreaking (nope again). Rather, it's remarkable for simply being the big hot mess that it is.
John Huston's 1967 adaptation of the 1940 Carson McCullers novel, starring Elizabeth Taylor as an adulterous hellcat and Marlon Brando as a closeted military man, is a fascinating document of sexuality in U.S. commercial film. Basically, they couldn't have made this film a year or two earlier, and they wouldn't have needed to a year or two later. Add to that Huston's wild color stylization (desaturating the color to highlight only yellow, white and black tones, creating a somewhat legendary "golden" film that the studio only allowed screened for a week before re-releasing prints using conventional color process & which has been restored in the recent dvd release)? Well. Reflections in a Golden Eye shows studio big names/budgets colliding with the social and aesthetic upheavals of the 1960s in possibly unique ways. Garish. Gaudy. Gory. Soooo much a document of its historical moment.
Julie Harris plays Alison, the "delicate" wife of a military officer on one of the last U.S. cavalry outposts, somewhere in the South. Alison's husband (Brian Keith) is having a not-so-secret affair with the wife (Elizabeth Taylor) of his best friend, closest colleague and next door neighbor (Marlon Brando). The affair is mostly a matter of circumstance: Taylor's Leonora and Keith's Langdon don't do it from spite; they're just dang bored and horny because neither of their spouses will put out. For her part, Harris's Alison struggles with a long-duree post-partum depression (a child died either during or just after birth three years earlier) and Alison recently sliced off her nipples (yes, you read correctly) with a pair of garden shears. (You really have to hear Taylor's reading of that line to believe it.) So, as you might imagine, Alison's not really in the mood. Plus, she's got a swell girlfriend in her houseboy Anacleto, with whom she paints and gossips and stays up all night. As for Brando's Penderton, on the other hand, he's priggish, imperious, insufferable but mostly he won't put any to Taylor's Leonora because, in the language of the day, he's a "latent" homosexual.
An aside about Brando's Penderton: Brando gives an intense, if constipated, performance as Penderton. Vocally, he's all stunted and stifled. (Between Brando's Penderton and Ledger's Ennis Del Mar it might seem that such mumbling and word swallowing is symptomatic of repressed homosexuality). Behaviorally, Brando piles on the mannered idiosyncrasy in extra little scenelets, some poignant (caressing the incriminating treasures stashed in his strong box), some startling (slathering his wife's cold cream all over his face with manic glee). And, truly, it's hard not to see Brando's Penderton as Sayonara's Major Gruver all growed up. But, here, the object of Brando's forbidden desire is the astonishingly hot Robert Forster, in his bareassed film debut, as Private Williams. Forster's Williams flirts with Brando's infatuation just as brazenly as Hana-Ogi but stops just short of...well. Huston's smart to photograph Forster in ways that amplify his beauty while allowing him to remain unqualifiedly masculine, affirming that he's as odd a duck as the rest of them while not "queering" him too much. It's all uapologetically macho and homo at the same time...which remains surprising, frankly, in a mainstream film.
Harris' Julie is, by some measures, the crazy one. But Harris's performance makes it clear that Alison's a loon in no small part because she's paying attention to what's going on. Harris's Alison is the only one who sees Forster's Williams hanging around. Harris's Alison also knows her husband's having an affair with Taylor's Leonora. But what's brilliant is that Harris is able to convey that Alison doesn't hate her husband so much for having the affair. She just hates that he's doing it with Leonora, whose basic disregard for certain principles of Southern propriety offends Alison to the core. And it's not until Harris's Alison catches the serviceman sniffing Leonora's lingerie that she goes over the edge...
With Alison, Harris reinvents the stock character of the neurotic Southern damsel by honing in on Alison's myriad humiliations and tapping the anger there. Alison isn't crazy because she's delicate. No, Harris's Alison is mad -- in both senses of the term -- because of the gendered cruelties of the world in which she lives. In Harris's performance, Alison emerges not only as perhaps the first full-fledged "fag hag" in US cinema but also as a kind of pre-feminist cautionary tale, embodying a particularly Southern variation of the Feminine Mystique.
Harris's performance reaches deep into Alison to retrieve a fully realized, human characterization out of one of the most cliched Southern Gothic stock figures. Harris's Alison is a remarkable accomplishment, a flash of clarity and humanity in the curiously stewed Reflections in a Golden Eye.