Supporting Actress Sundays for August '08: 1966

I am very pleased to officially announce the roster and panel for August 2008

Supporting Actress Smackdown for 1966:
Sunday, August 31.
Featuring what will, I'm sure, prove to be a truly fabu Smackdown panel...
If only I had a clue who they might be...

Any volunteers?

(If you have a blog, are able to re/screen this month's movies, and want to join the Smackdowning fun, please email StinkyLulu asap!)


Elsa Lanchester in Come to the Stable - Supporting Actress Sundays

At this past Sunday's 1949 Smackdown, Aaron (of Sarcasm with a Light Cream Sauce) described himself as "completely baffled" by the nomination for today's profiled performance. And, indeed, it is quite the puzzler. I can only presume that this nomination is a perfect example of what I sometimes call a "coaster" nomination, in which the general swell of nominations for a given picture ends up tossing a Supporting Actress nomination to a performance that would almost certainly not have otherwise made the cut. Sometimes the "coasters" are a delight (like Joan Cusack in Working Girl or Abigail Breslin's Little Miss Sunshine) but just as often the "coasters", especially in retrospect, prove to be confounding examples of that enduring query: "What were you thinking, Oscar?" Indeed, what else can explain why, in a year in which not a single nomination went to the women of A Letter to Three Wives, Oscar somehow saw fit to nominate...

...Elsa Lanchester in Come to the Stable (1949)
approximately 17 minutes and 33 seconds
6 scenes
roughly 19% of film's total running time
Elsa Lanchester plays Amelia Potts, a painter of religious paintings whose work proves a beacon to two intrepid, entrepeneurial nuns (the nearly insufferable Loretta Young and the nearly delightful Celeste Holm, respectively).
Of course, Lanchester's Miss Potts provides the traveling nuns shelter in her cozy rental shack and listens with interest to their plans to build a children's hospital in her Western Connecticut neighborhood.
To be sure, Lanchester's Miss Potts also listens with concern.
For this religious comedy, Lanchester's Amelia Potts is the essential ambient character, a secondary character who can help set the tone for the whole picture (here, by embodying both good-natured silliness of the piece as well as the sincerity of its religious feeling). Come to the Stable is a very sincere goof of a picture and, on one level, that's precisely what Lanchester's characterization accomplishes: she's sincerely goofy.
The problem, though, with Lanchester's approach is that she so overplays Amelia's eccentricities that she loses touch what is, arguably, the character's most important feature: her genuine faith.
Lanchester's signature quirk might have served the role with charm had she tempered some of Amelia's fretfulness with more of Amelia's genuine faith. But as it stands, Lanchester's performance is a dotty, dithering disaster.
And it's too bad, too. I like Lanchester. A lot. And I think I really like the character of Amelia Potts. It's just that the two put together? This "coaster" is, as one StinkyPal might say, just not good.


To Dos Day

___ Item 1: HAPPINESS IS...
Ellen Trying the "Hawaii Chair" -- a guaranteed giggle.

Don't miss the smartness over at My Stuff and Cr*p's excellent Rugrats Blogathon. Always a fascinating topic. (And, yes, Criticlasm, I suspect Keisha Knight-Pulliam would agree

___ Item 3: BEHOLD.
Infinite Hasselhoff (possibly NSFW).

___ Item 4: PASS THE PICKLE.
I love this picture.

___ Item 5: BE WARNED.
A midsummer bout of academentia is whisking me away to Denver for the weekend, so I'm expecting a minor delay in the publication of the first profile for 1966.

Alison Bechdel's ever-valuable RULES For Filmgoing has experienced something of a renaissance of late, being (re)discovered by all stripes of blogs. It's almost impossible for a moviefreak to truly follow these rules but I have always found that, if I'm feeling crabby about my movie options, or if my feelings
about a generally worshiped film feel more contrarian than usual, reflecting on Bechdel's Rules can help to clarify the source/s of my confusion. Which leads me to wonder, lovely reader, if you might have any of your own "rules" for moviegoing? If so, do spill in comments.

Have at it, lovelies...


"71 Years of Precocious Supporting Actressness" (Rugrats Blogathon)

This post marks my contribution to The Rugrats Blogathon instigated by My Stuff & Cr*p. Peruse more precocity at the blogathon HQ...
Starting with the category's first appearance in 1936, Oscar has demonstrated a recurring fascination with the actressing at the edges done by actresses aged 16 and younger. Eleven such young women and girls have been nominated; three have taken home the trophy. The 16-and-under nominees are:
Bonita Granville in These Three (1936)
• Patty McCormack in The Bad Seed (1956)
Patty Duke in The Miracle Worker (1962) - winner
Mary Badham in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
• Linda Blair in The Exorcist (1973)
• Tatum O'Neal in Paper Moon (1973) - winner
• Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver (1976)
• Quinn Cummings in The Goodbye Girl (1977)
• Anna Paquin in The Piano (1993) - winner
Abigail Breslin in Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Saoirse Ronan in Atonement (2007)
Such a range of precocity. Girls in touch with the powers of darkness (Granville, McCormack, Blair, Ronan) and girls wise beyond their years (O'Neal, Foster, Cummings, Paquin) and extraordinary innocents who challenge the adults around them to do the right thing (Duke, Badham, Breslin).

Considering this list I'm struck by three main things.

First, most of these young women went on to build interesting and sometimes formidable careers as adult performers. (Only Badham and Cummings left the business entirely and, whatever you wanna say about Linda Blair, you must acknowledge that the gal keeps on working.)

Second, this is such a lily white bunch of little ones. (I guess Keisha Castle-Hughes remains the only young woman of color to have been nominated, although -- of course -- that was over in Best Actress.)

And third, the young girls really do keep the nominators busy. Point of comparison: in the 71 years of Oscar, the twelve African American actresses nominated for Best Supporting Actress account for nearly the same percentage of total Supporting Actress Nominees as the eleven "16 and under" nominees (3.3% and 3.1%, respectively); notably, both groups account for the same number of winners (3). Likewise, and while I acknowlege that the Best Supporting Actor category is not my area of expertise, I can only think of two young male nominees for Best Supporting Actor -- Justin Henry and Haley Joel Osment (are there more?) -- which suggests that the girls really do have it on the boys in this category.

All told, an interesting batch of precociously accomplished actresses.

But I'm curious:
What, lovely reader, most strikes YOU about Oscar's history of nominating younger Supporting actresses? And, now that Dakota Fanning's "aged out" of potential "16 and under" distinction, who do you think is the likeliest contender to snag that 12th slot on the poster? And what's up with Oscar's interest in little girls, anyway? Please share your thoughts in comments.


Supporting Actress Smackdown - 1949

The Year is...

And the Smackdowners for the 22nd Annual Academy Awards are...
AARON of Sarcasm with a Light Cream Sauce
of Canadian Ken
yours truly, STINKYLULU.

1949'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.)

Ethel Barrymore in Pinky
AARON Miss Em is easily the most important role in Pinky, no matter what the film's title is. She haunts the film before she ever arrives and when she does arrive, Barrymore delivers. It's a star turn, but a well-executed one. Barrymore is crotchety, loveable and sassy.
BROOKE Barrymore manages to live up to the hype that the plot creates for her in a perfectly serviceable and endearing performance. Perhaps it is the film's fault that it ends up no more than this, but it's definitely a worthy nomination.
KEN Barrymore, with her weathered patrician beauty, brings dependable star presence. The sense of imperious mischief is familiar but still pleasurable. Especially her, "All I ever wanted … to have my own way", delivered to Pinky with a conspiratorial wink. (But where was Evelyn Varden’s nomination? She was terrific.)
STINKYLULU Barrymore invests Miss Em with an alacrity and intelligence just slightly beyond what's required by the script. Solid, witty and astute – an entirely adept performance of a showcase role.
TOTAL: 13s

Celeste Holm in Come to the Stable
KEN Celeste Holm realized that Stable was essentially mounted as a vehicle to promote and prolong the box-office twinkle of Loretta Young (which it did). Asked which nun she played, Holm replied "the one that’s slightly out-of-focus". She’s a good sport but the wobbly French accent defeats her.
STINKYLULU Celeste Holm is entirely adequate in the role of Sister Scholastica, somehow surviving both her miscasting and her costar with a witty, empathetic, vivid grace. Holm's face registers empathy and gravitas with undistracting warmth at precisely the right moments but, even so, it’s merely adequate work.
AARON Holm is too good for this role by far, but it seems to fit her in an odd way. The film is a silly little confection, and the viewer leaves with that impression mostly because of the giddy joy that Holm brings to each of her scenes. It's an honest, earnest, Chaplinesque performance that makes the entire film watchable.
For a role in which she was horribly miscast, Holm gives a performance that sometimes edges into greatness. But, Sister Scholastica has nothing to give the actress and she ends up spinning gold from coal.
TOTAL: 10s

Elsa Lanchester in Come to the Stable
STINKYLULU Lanchester's signature quirk might have served the role with charm had she tempered some of Amelia's fretfulness with more of Amelia's genuine faith. But as it stands, Lanchester's performance is a dotty, dithering disaster.
I am completely baffled by this nomination. Lanchester's performance consists mostly of standing around gaping in shock and awe at the havoc the nuns are wreaking. Even when the film asks more of her, in her single scene with Hugh Marlowe, Lanchester stays on the same note.
KEN The drawling eccentricity, the preoccupied twittering have been used to better advantage elsewhere. Agreed, the picture’s just Catholic cotton candy. But Loretta Young does make a great Supernun (she and Thomas Gomez work especially well together). Lanchester, on the other hand, does little more than exist.
BROOKE Lancaster has perhaps one of the least interesting or compelling roles in the movie and although she seems to be trying to attempt to do something with Amelia, her successes are at best limited.

Mercedes McCambridge in All the King's Men
BROOKE A disappointingly uneven performance. McCambridge nails Sadie at some moments, but loses her in between scenes and sometimes during scenes; amounting to little more than what is a tag-along nomination.
KEN McCambridge circles this crude mess of a movie like a pissed-off bumble-bee. Best in her moment of cathartic, exultant shock after Ireland (who plods through the picture looking like an unmade bed) slaps her. She knows she’s sunk her stinger into a nerve.
STINKYLULU McCambridge's performance delivers many vivid, and skillfully rendered, moments of clarity to this fascinating and prescient film. Yet, somehow, McCambridge's lapses between electric clarity and indistinct cardboardness culminate in a strangely discordant performance. I wanted to love this performance as much as I sometimes did in a specific moment, but ultimately I'm just confounded and Mercedes McCambridge's fascinating but erratic work in the role.
AARON All the other characters in All the King's Men are conflicted, but McCambridge's Sadie isn't conflicted at all. This makes her interesting onscreen, but only for a limited time. The actress is hampered, too, by what the social mores of the day allow onscreen. It's a performance that starts off wicked and enjoyable, but ends up rather flat and predictable.
TOTAL: 12s

Ethel Waters in Pinky
BROOKE A great performer gifted with a great role. Unfortunately, Waters doesn't even get into the real depths of what could've been a truly heartfelt performance of Granny, but what is there is detailed and full-bodied enough to deserve a nomination.
STINKYLULU Waters' performance is, by turns, vivid and blurry. Waters presents a completely realized characterization in one moment, a 2nd tier stock performance in the next. Waters is good in the role, sometimes great, but even a performer as formidable as Waters can only do so much when the film seems to be working against her.
KEN Granny’s essentially a defender of the segregationalist status quo. Complicating modern reactions to her performance. And her "wisdom" often comes off as sanctimonious badgering. Still, Waters’ face teems with spectacularly photogenic emotion. Especially in that stunning reveal at the end of Barrymore’s final scene.
AARON Waters brings a grounded naturalism to her role. It's a strange performance that feels out of place in this film filled with melodramatic acting, but I loved Waters all the more for this. Nearly every move feels lived-in and real, and the pain that registers on her face when she realizes her best friend is dying is palpable.
TOTAL: 14s
Oscar chose...
Mercedes McCambridge
in All the King's Men
But the SMACKDOWN confers the honor to...
Best Supporting Actress of 1949!

BUT, lovely reader, what do YOU think?
Please share your thoughts in comments.