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Programming Note: 1969 Smackdown postponed

Dearest Friends of StinkyLulu:
Because of holiday and postal delays, the Supporting Smackdown for 1969 has been postponed until Sunday, 12/6. (My profile of Catherine Burns's nominated performance in Last Summer will also be published sometime in the coming week.) My humble apologies for any/all disappointment, distraction or dismay caused by this brief delay...


To Dos Day - Giving Thanks Edition

Due to circumstances beyond my control, the final profile for 1969 (the hotly anticipated performance by Catherine Burns) will be delayed. So, too, will 1969's Smackdown. The remaining 1969 festivities will continue through next week and the 1969 Smackdown will be published on Sunday, December 7.

Though I know it wasn't everyone's choice (hi Alex!), StinkyLulu's pleased to confirm that 1945 will provide the focus of our final month of Supporting Actress Sundays for 2008. And there are still openings on the panel if you happen to be as intrigued by 1945 as I. If you have a blog (or other web presence), are willing to re/screen the five nominated performances, and would like to join the Smackdown panel, just holler and we'll get you signed up.

Like the Supporting Actress Blogathon - January 4, 2009. Not to mention the Day of Appreciation for The Boys in the Band on December 15. And whatever other exciting events loom. (Remind us all of everything upcoming in comments, if you can.)

A sad moment in bloglandia, indeed, but we are all the better for having been visited by the denizens of Planet Fabulon!

It's one of the most exciting movie weekends of the year for Oscarphiles -- the weekend that truly inaugurates prestige season. MrStinky is stealing me away for a weekend of fabulousness in a city chock full of great movie options. (Not that the ABQ doesn't keep me busy but, well, you know...) I'm somewhat stunned that I've already got tickets to see this movie at this theatre. The mere thought is nearly enough to cause me to crumple into a little ball of sissy delight. That, plus I'm hoping to snag screenings of several other films (A, B, C, D) which have not yet hit the provinces. Of course, I hope spend some good time with MrStinky's family and a Stinky pal or two. Between screenings, o'course. Yay. Yay. A gazillion times Yay.

___ Item 6: BE GRATEFUL.
For those in your life who help brighten your days. And so I thank you, lovely reader, for keeping me on track and making the little experiment that is StinkyLulu so consistently gratifying, week in and week out. Be well, dear ones, and make room for the joy (or a little extra supporting actressness) this weekend.
Have at it, lovelies...


Susannah York in They Shoot Horses, Don't They (1969) - Supporting Actress Sunday

Talk of "Oscar bait" tends to swirl around those Supporting Roles that contain a few key ingredients. First, a "baity" role is usually pretty indispensable to the storyline while also secondary within it. Second, the "baity" role usually has a showstopping quality, as either foil or scenestealer to the central character. Third, such a "baity" role also has to have at least one bravura turn, the cinematic equivalent of an aria in which the whole film stops to watch the Supporting player seize center frame. (When an actual song is not an option, a mad scene is usually your best bet.) Both JHud and Angelina snagged trophies for just such Supporting "bait" performances, and it remains a surprise to some that a similar honor did not go to...

...Susannah York in They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969)
approximately 21 minutes and 25 seconds
32 scenes
roughly 18% of film's total running time
Susannah York plays Alice LeBlanc, a glamorously aspiring actress among the many seeking the realization of their dreams at a dance marathon competition in 1930s Los Angeles.
York's Alice presents herself as a serious actress -- even proffering a monologue from Saint Joan at the merest provocation -- but her platinum blonde tresses and silk satin sheath dresses (not to mention her swarthy Latin-ish lothario of a dance partner) are as suggestive of the young woman's desperation as they are of her actual star potential.
York's Alice immediately stands out among her competitors, a seemingly radiant star among the common folk.
Alice's glamorous persona also marks her for a special variety of humiliation, and York scores her characterization of Alice deftly in what are to become the first stages in her ultimate devastation. First, when Alice's second dress is stolen along with her makeup from her suitcase, York's Alice explodes from the gate of her carefully disciplined persona.
In this scene, York dramatically cues not only that Alice is a teensy bit nutso but also that she's an unusually taut wire, capable of snapping at the slightest moment. York's work in this scene -- establishing the precise ways in which Alice's facade might crumble -- serves the film in subtle but indispensable ways. In short, once we see that Alice is capable of disintegrating in this way, we know it might happen again and Alice's mere presence on the screen thereafter amplifies the dreadful tension upon which the film's grueling narrative depends.
Yet, even as we become ever more attuned to Alice's capacity to lose it at any moment, York's Alice remains naive to what's in store for her as the marathon wears on. Throughout, the film utilizes York's Alice to underscore the cynical (and profitable) pleasures to be derived from the dance marathon as a spectacle of human suffering. Seeing York's Alice stripped of her heavenly glamor is but the first step in the character's long descent, Alice standing as the film's symbolic metaphor for the distance between the competitors's dreams and their realities. And nowhere is the spectacle of human suffering more vividly on display than in "The Derby," a ten-minute speed-walking race in which the couples race for the finish line to avoid elimination as one of the three last-place finishing couples.
In "The Derby," Alice's vestigial glamor melts away and she's left wilted but standing, her fabricated Hollywood persona no longer maintaining the illusion that Alice's aspiration is distinctly different from the other competitors' desperation.
Director Sidney Pollock uses York's performance as Alice as a kind of narrative foil. York's work -- like that of Red Buttons's in the role of Sailor -- proves useful as a kind of counterpoint for the narrative's central character of Gloria (Jane Fonda, basically good if vocally limited). Both Fonda's Gloria and York's Alice are aspiring actresses, shut out of the Hollywood machine and nearing the end of their rope. Yet, where York's Alice aspires to be a movie star, Fonda's Gloria is only trying to get work as an "atmosphere" player, or an extra. Alice wants to live the Hollywood dream; Gloria wants to eat in a company town. Yet for both women -- the leading lady and the extra -- the wide-eyed, masculine simplicity of the drifter Robert (Michael Sarrazin, a cipher-like actor portraying the cipher of a role) seems to hold redemptive promise.
In what is one of the most curious turns of the narrative, York's Alice determines to seduce Robert, thus causing a rift between he and his prickly partner Gloria, impelling Gloria to dance first with Alice's mercenary partner and then with the "mature" Sailor (Red Buttons delivering a vivid performance) as the second, fateful "Derby" round begins.
When, at Derby's end, Fonda's Gloria carries Sailor's corpse (he suffered an apparent heart attack during the race's final minute, something Gloria -- in her desperate quest not to lose -- seems not to have noticed), Fonda's Gloria lays Sailor's lifeless body upon Alice's lap, thus instantiating what proves to be the final episode in Alice's devastation.
In the sequence that follows, York's Alice -- having realized that Sailor's dead body was lain across her single remaining dress -- experiences something akin to a psychotic break.
She begins to shower, while fully clothed, distractedly scrubbing a bar of soap across the surface of her gown.
At this moment, York inaugurates Alice's final descent into complete madness, her frayed grip on sanity snapping possibly forever. Here, too, Alice's character arc is poised in stark, productive distinction with the similarly drastic demise of Fonda's Gloria. However, Pollack utilizes the distinction to demonstrate that -- even though both women were pressed to their limit by the stresses of the competition -- Fonda's Gloria retained her sanity even as those around her (first, Allyn Ann McLerie's Shirl and, then, Susannah York's Alice) lost hold of theirs.
York does two really amazing things with the role of Alice. First, York maintains Alice's ominous fragility with an intriguing intensity: from early on, we're sure she's gonna snap at some point and we're always checking to see if now's gonna be the moment. Second, York allows Alice to be an actual person even though the film's showiest character is scripted almost entirely as a counterpoint/foil for Fonda's character arc. I love that York gives Alice a fleeting stammer, a verbal tic that manifests only when Alice is caught "out" of her contrived character/persona. Moreover, in what is to my mind the actress's most formidable accomplishment in the role, York's Alice is both haunting and heartbreaking but never especially likable. It would have been much easier to make Alice a sweet victim but, in ways I can't put my finger on, York doesn't do that, opting instead to craft Alice as a fascinating, flawed mess caught in the same web of selfish desperation as everyone else. Hers is a strange, surprising, essential performance within a brutally cynical film.


Alphabet Movie Meme: StinkyLulu's Guilty Treasure Edition

Over the last week or so, lil StinkyLulu has been tagged a couple times (most recently by the lovely Self-Styled Siren) to complete an especially popular movieblog meme: Blog Cabin's Alphabetical Movie Meme. The rules of the meme go something like this:
1. Pick one film to represent each letter of the alphabet.

2. The letter "A" and the word "The" do not count as the beginning of a film's title, unless the film is simply titled A or The, and I don't know of any films with those titles.

3. [As regards franchises and sequels,] movies are stuck with the titles their owners gave them at the time of their theatrical release. Use your better judgment to apply the above rule to any series/films not mentioned.

4. Films that start with a number are filed under the first letter of their number's word. 12 Monkeys would be filed under "T."

5. Link back to Blog Cabins in your post so that I can eventually type "alphabet meme" into Google and come up #1, then make a post where I declare that I am the King of Google.

6. If you're selected, you have to then select 5 more people.
As my list began to emerge, I was struck by (a) how accurately the list reflected my truest movie passions and (b) how trashy my list of favorites actually was. Now, I will go down defending the merits of each of these films but I also know that this list contains something to appall nearly every reader. Thus, I feel compelled to qualify my list as...

StinkyLulu's Guilty Treasures, Alphabetically
All That Jazz
Broadway Rhythm (1944)
Decline of the American Empire
Female Trouble
G.I. Jane
Hannah and Her Sisters
I Want to Live!
The Jerk
Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane
Myra Breckenridge
On the Town
Parting Glances
Radio Days
School Daze
That's Entertainment III
Under the Same Moon
Vanya on 42nd Street
West Side Story
X2: X-Men United
Zorro, The Gay Blade

Even though it seems that everyone has already completed this one, I nonetheless now I tag: Criticlasm; The Oscar Completist; Alex in Movieland; MrPeenee; and Canadian Ken. And, of course, I'm absolutely fascinated to hear what you make of my little list in comments...


To Dos Day

___ Item 1: CHECK OUT.
The most recent entry in Nathaniel & Nick & Goatdog's amazing project, Best Pictures from the Outside In. This one -- comparing Gone with the Wind and The English Patient -- is especially rich.

___ Item 2: BEHOLD.
The astonishing fabulousity of Kristen Scott Thomas via her most passionate acolyte, ModFab.

The Smackdown for 1969 is soon upon us (November 30) and I've still got a few slots open on the panel. If you are interested (and can lay your hands on the relatively obscure Last Summer), please gimme a holler and we'll sign you up.

Please please please do help me spread the word about the upcoming Supporting Actress Blogathon. I'm a little paranoid that the event'll float under the radar given it's early date of January 4, 2009. (I'm running it so early to maintain the fantasy that someone with a nominating ballot might see y'all's insightful suggestion, etcetera etcetera.) But please do consider promoting the event on your blog if you are so inclined. And, of course, please start planning your entry/entries for the big day!

___ Item 5: OK - I KNOW I'M CRAZY BUT.
I've decided to start StinkyLulu's monthly "Women on the Verge" Film Club in the new year. Why? Because I want to prime the pump a little with a Day of Appreciation for the newly remastered Boys in the Band. So, mark your calendars, girls: Monday, December 15 is StinkyLulu's Day of Appreciation for Boys in the Band. Rearrange your queues and prep your posts for what is sure to be a fabulous day devoted to an important -- if problematic -- part of our homo cinematic heritage.

___ Item 6: WISH IT.
Today's MrStinky's birthday. And I'm a total slacker. Flowers and movie. That's it. But I am at a loss as to what else to do (especially given the fact that I have little in the way of extra cash to toss around). So I turn to you, lovely reader: what do you think I should I do to celebrate the amazingness of MrStinky on this, his special day?
Have at it, lovelies...


5 Stinky Thoughts on The Anti-Christ - Final Girl Film Club

StinkyLulu offers the following "5 Stinky Thoughts" as my contribution to the monthly FILM CLUB instigated by Final Girl.
click image to be routed to video/trailer
Thought #1: WTF?
I must confess: Most of the time, I had no idea what was actually going on in this freaky, meta-Catholic campfest. It seems that, on first glimpse, the story is your basic, exploitastic riff on the standard sexualized Satanic possession/pregnancy narrative but jeepers...this little flick seems to have decided to not to scrimp on any additional freakorama detail. Barking dogs. Doomed tourists. Possessed paintings. Hypnotherapy. Past life regression. Religious cults. Horny toads. Horny devils. Biting the heads off reptiles. Naked Swedish stepmothers. Immortal priests. Miracle cures. Creepy girls in pigtails. Fancy parties. Bad table manners. Weird statuary. Invisible sex in the sky. And lotsa lotsa incest... But, through it all, it seemed to me that this film might only really make spectacularly scandalous sense if you knew a little more about Catholicism than I. The spectacle's diverting enough but there seems to be an underlying logic of heresy that I seem to be clueless to. But, all told, wtf?

Thought #2: Satan Says Suck It.
Without question, my favorite aspect of the film was its reliance on perverse sex, especially references to oral sex, as a way to connote Satan's influence. Indeed, never have I seen a film that so clearly utilizes the serpent (and the serpent's lowly cousins, the lizard and the toad) as a hypersexualized symbol for ween. People are always shoving the heads of toads in each other's mouths in this film, forcing one another to lick up the toad goo, or the toad blood, or the toad puke as a signal of their ecstatic deference to Satan's power. Everytime you turn around, it's all gaping mouths, and lapping tongues, and drooly, oozy blowjob face. To which I can only say: Who knew Satan was so into oral?

Thought #3: Behold - Goatilingus.
And, indeed, one of the more startling examples of Satan's oral fixation (one which I couldn't quite bring myself to post a screencap of [but Gorillanaut's not nearly so squeamish]) arrives in the spectral sex scene -- where the lead lady is ostensibly reliving a Satanic sexual encounter from her past life -- and the horny devil is getting ready to mount her. At precisely the moment when we think we're gonna see nasty devil sex, one of the devil's minions presents a goat's hindquarters to the heroine and, after a flash shot of goat hoosie, we get an extended sequence of the heroine writhing in an extended lingual reverie. Her, alone on the bed, making orgasmic licky licky faces for, like, two minutes. And the filmmakers -- sick f'ers that they are -- leave it to the viewer's imagination to fill in the lickety-lick-lick blanks of the perverse picture, forcing the viewer to realize that, yes, Ippolita's the licker and, yes, the goat is the lickee. (And of course -- sick f'er that I am -- I take it to a whole 'nother level of twist and get all fixated on whether it was a girl goat or a boy goat.) Talk about stinky thoughts.

Thought #4: Why Cruising the Catacombs Isn't the Best Idea.
Probably my most favorite sequence in the film was the one when the heroine -- "miraculously" un-paralyzed all of a sudden -- goes cruising for German schoolboy in the nearby catacombs. She spies a dewy Leif Garret-clone and seduces him readily. The thing I like most about this sequence is how it fortifies my mini-reading of the film (see below) that Ippolita isn't really a woman at all, but a trans-ish character. A lusty Italian woman wearing only a crocheted dress would not go unnoticed amidst a busload of German schoolboys descending the catacombs, so I find it easier to read Ippolita in this scene as a femmy boy cruising another femmy boy. In any case, it's a palpably queer scene made all the queerer by the strange final image of the doomed German sissyboy. I mean, I've had my share to creepy cruising encounters, but what kind of nasty devil sex leaves you in this position?

Thought #5: How Queer Is the Antichrist, Anyway?
The character I thought most intriguing in the film turned out not to be Ippolita, but her femmy brother Filippo (that's him -- yes, HIM -- at right above). The more I watched this flick, the more I wanted to be watching a whole 'nother movie, one which would have been building the whole time toward a fabulous freaky reveal in which the siblings Ippolita and Filippo would be simultaneously pantsed, thus revealing that Ippolita actually had a weiner and Filippo had a hoosie -- that the siblings would be intersex twins and that Ippolita's past life regressions were not her own memories but those of their birth mother (a different lady than the one killed in the car) who was impregnated by Satan and who gave birth to this freaky pair of genderqueer kids. This would explain why Ippolita was experiencing paralysis "from the waist down" despite having no spinal injury. It might also explain why Filippo looked so much hotter when I imagined he was actually a lesbian. Unfortunately, my trannyhack redo of this film was not the film on the dvd. Alas. But it didn't stop me from scavenging what queer pleasures I could -- like this unrealized seduction between Filippo and the cute shrink -- check out the shape of those mini-obelisks!
For my unedited ramblings on the film, click here.
And be sure to get your blasphemous freak on
with the rest of The Final Girl Film Clubbers here.


Dyan Cannon in Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969) - Supporting Actress Sunday

I have no idea how to begin this one. I had thought about leading with a riff about the brand of charismatic actress who's never actually good but steers assiduously clear of ever being bad. I had thought about talking about how early career Supporting Actress nominations provide an easy alibi for "category fraud." I had thought about opening with a salvo about my weakness for actresses who know how to act with their hair. But none of those strategies seemed to actually amount to much. An apt enough description, I suppose, for my general feelings about...

...Dyan Cannon in Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice (1969)
approximately 50 minutes and 12 seconds
14 scenes
roughly 48% of film's total running time
Dyan Cannon plays Alice, a wealthy and fairly sophisticated Hollywood wife (to Elliot Gould's Ted, at what is likely the very brief apex of the actor's career as a near-hunk).
Cannon's Alice happens also to be best friends with Bob and Carol (Robert Culp and Natalie Wood, respectively) -- a comparably privileged couple recently radicalized by their attendance at a weekend "Encounter Group".
As Bob and Carol enthusiastically share the dimensions of their new appreciation of real intimacy, Cannon's Alice discovers -- somewhat to her own surprise -- the latent conventionality of her own core beliefs about friendship, marriage and, especially, sex. When Wood's Carol reveals not only that Culp's Bob had an affair, but also that she -- Carol -- is absolutely "fine" with it, the news rocks Alice's foundation to the core.
At first, Cannon's Alice reacts to the news of Carol's acceptance of Bob's infidelity with disbelief, a brief stage of denial that also marks the first node in the core emotional arc of the film (an arc marked by Alice's subsequent scenes) as both Alice and the audience absorb the full dimensions of Bob and Carol's "new" approach to marital intimacy -- an open marriage in which full emotional disclosure serves, at least theoretically, to fortify the integrity of the marital bond.
When Cannon's Alice realizes that Gould's Ted is not especially shocked by either Bob's affair or Carol's acceptance of it, and when she figures out that Ted is mostly appalled that Bob told Carol in the first place, Alice's denial dematerializes and a startling mix of fury and fear take over. In this extended, erratic and somewhat exhausting scene, Cannon's Alice realizes that the revelation has not simply changed how she thinks of her friends' marriage but also how she thinks of her own. With this turn, Cannon's Alice emerges as both the emotional protagonist of the film as well as the character who will perform as the audience's surrogate. The experiment may be Bob and Carol's (and Ted may try part of the experiment himself) but the film offers Alice's uneasy encounter with the idea of "open marriage" as an empathetic guide for a presumably similarly discomfited audience.
Thus, we see Cannon chart the next nodes of Alice's journey to acceptance, when Cannon's Alice first checks with Wood's Carol to see that it's all true...
Before Cannon's Alice finally gives impolite vent to her true feelings of disgust and dismay at the choices her beloved friends are making.
This outburst leads, perhaps inevitably, to Cannon's Alice talking about it all in therapy, where she, perhaps also inevitably, learns that her own sexual hang-ups are the true root of her resistance to Bob and Carol's new way of marriage. Throughout this concentrated sequence of scenes, in which Cannon's Alice provides the narrative and cinematic focus, Cannon performs the twists and turns of Alice's journey with alacrity. The actress's doll-like face and body combine with her palpable energy to create a character we are inclined to like, and to root for, even when we don't entirely understand what the character's doing. Indeed, Cannon's performance does little to illuminate the nuance of Alice's dilemma but, nevertheless, Cannon's forceful, uncomplicated charisma impels us to attentively follow the character's dilemma anyway.
Yet, at the same time as Cannon's Alice steadily becomes a reluctant "convert" to the idea of emotional and sexual openness in marriage, the other three characters have begun to encounter crises of faith. So, when Cannon's Alice somewhat naively asks a question shortly after the foursome have checked into their Las Vegas hotel suite, the cascade of revelations that follows occasions a new crisis of faith for Cannon's Alice. Incongruously, but in keeping with the erratic logic of the film, Cannon's Alice giddily insists that the foursome reaffirm their commitment to this new ideology of intimacy through a communal sacrament of sorts -- an orgy! -- the occasion of which Cannon's Alice pronounces with a fervently maniacal zeal.
And just as quickly as the orgy begins...
it stops, as the characters contemplate the inevitable consequences of having sex with your best friends.
And then Bob and Carol and Ted and Cannon's Alice put all their clothes back on and collectively hits the street for a spontaneous, surreal "encounter group" with the multicultural denizens of Las Vegas marching two by two down the Strip (a sequence I think I don't really understand at all and which strikes me as a "we don't know how to end this movie" kind of hail mary choice).
As the couples reconfigure in a conclusion of dyadic harmony, Cannon's Alice reaffirms her tacitly monogamous commitment to her husband. Indeed, at this moment, Alice emerges as the almost salvific figure in this troubled narrative of heterosexual, marital monogamy -- the single figure of the foursome to have not actually committed infidelity even as she traveled and weathered its emotional terrain.
All told, I remain uncertain what I think of Cannon's performance in what is arguably the film's most important (and even possibly leading) role of Alice. Cannon's Alice is vivid, captivating and appealing -- yet she remains a cipher. And given that Alice is possibly the most important character in this four-hander, that might prove a problem...if, that is, the film cared at all about making a clear statement upon its designedly provocative premise. Indeed, Cannon delivers both a befuddling performance and a starmaking turn. In short, Dyan Cannon may be a muddle but she's memorable, much like the film itself.


VOTE: DECEMBER's Supporting Actress Sundays!

At long last, I've finally gotten it together to commence voting for December's month of Supporting Actress Sundays. In this roster, you'll see a collection of "runner ups" and "special request" to round out our year of Supporting Actress Sundays. So, lovely reader, take your pick...

What year deserves the focus
for DECEMBER'S month of
Supporting Actress Sundays?
1937: Alice Brady in In Old Chicago, Andrea Leeds in Stage Door, Anne Shirley in Stella Dallas, Claire Trevor in Dead End, May Whitty in Night Must Fall.
1945: Eve Arden in Mildred Pierce, Ann Blyth in Mildred Pierce, Angela Lansbury in The Picture of Dorian Gray, Joan Lorring in The Corn Is Green, Anne Revere in National Velvet.
1956: Mildred Dunnock in Baby Doll, Eileen Heckart in The Bad Seed, Dorothy Malone in Written on the Wind, Mercedes McCambridge in Giant, Patty McCormack in The Bad Seed.
1960: Glynis Johns in The Sundowners, Shirley Jones in Elmer Gantry, Shirley Knight in The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, Janet Leigh in Psycho, Mary Ure in Sons and Lovers.
1968: Lynn Carlin in Faces, Ruth Gordon in Rosemary's Baby, Sondra Locke in The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, Kay Medford in Funny Girl, Estelle Parsons in Rachel, Rachel.
1983: Cher in Silkwood, Glenn Close in The Big Chill, Linda Hunt in The Year of Living Dangerously, Amy Irving in Yentl, Alfre Woodard in Cross Creek.
1998: Kathy Bates in Primary Colors, Brenda Blethyn in Little Voice, Judi Dench in Shakespeare in Love, Rachel Griffiths in Hilary and Jackie, Lynn Redgrave in Gods and Monsters.
Let your voice be heard by casting your vote in the column at right...
or by clicking HERE.


Sylvia Miles in Midnight Cowboy (1969) - Supporting Actress Sunday

A week or so ago, Supporting Actress Sundays considered a performance that is for me one of the most thrilling and terrifying performances ever nominated for Best Supporting Actress. Of course, that performance was part of a film that is largely acknowledged as a horror film, so it's little surprise that it might contain a truly scary performance. I bring this up because, this week, we arrive to one of the few performances that I might submit as even scarier, partly because it's just as freaky and partly because there's no supernatural explanation of its monstrosity. Of course, I'm talking about the indelible terror of...

...Sylvia Miles in Midnight Cowboy (1969)
approximately 5 minutes and 46 seconds
3 scenes
roughly 5% of film's total running time
Sylvia Miles plays Cass, a hot-to-trot NY dame that the naïve Joe Buck (Jon Voigt) lamely propositions on Park Avenue as her poodle is pooping.
Cass replies to Joe's lame come-on ("I'm brand, spankin' new in this here town and I was hopin' to get a look at the Statue of Liberty") with a sardonic dismissal ("It's up in Central Park, taking a leak. If you hurry, you can catch the supper show") before wordlessly inviting the hopeful hustler up to her apartment.
As their assignation begins, Miles spools out a rapid-fire monologue -- a one-sided telephone conversation with her own "patron" Maury -- as Cass guides Joe's clumsy efforts to undress her. While Voigt's Joe is near to bursting with boyish excitement that all his plans are finally working, Miles's Cass adeptly multitasks both of her men, plumping each man's libinal excitement while carefully maintaining the curtain of cluelessness between them.
Miles handles this dialogue with salacious wit, affirming dinner plans with Maury and complimenting Joe Buck's "talent" with the same line ("Beautiful, baby").
Miles's aggressive confidence also amplifies the visual swirl that director Schlesinger utilizes to amplify the dizzying chaos of Cass's and Joe's actual sexual encounter. The strength of Miles's performance as Cass here derives from her clarity in both charting the vivid continuity of Cass as a character -- she's a blast of personality in the role -- while also marking the sharp turns in the character's brief arc. Indeed, what I admire most about this performance is how clearly Miles keeps Cass one step ahead of Joe Buck...until, that is, the brief moment in which Cass lets down her guard (during what might count as "afterglow") and permits Joe to utterly surprise her.
After politely asking Joe "what business" he's in, Joe guilelessly replies that he's a hustler, and that he's ready to talk about payment for his recently completed services.
Cass takes a long moment to assimilate this information, a moment that Miles maximizes with a dull gaze of bemused incomprehension. And, then, when Miles's Cass finally absorbs what Voigt's Joe is asking of her...well, boy howdy...that's when the distilled magic of this performance really happens.
Miles's posture of offended dignity quickly devolves into a shriek of feral fury. Miles unleashes Cass's despairing rage, an emotional blast comprised of much more than simple anger. Indeed, watching Miles unfurl invectives in this scene, I'm reminded of the energy that explodes when a wild animal realizes it's been trapped.
Miles's scary, animal explosion in this sequence (which lasts mere seconds) nonetheless establishes Cass one of the most memorably frightening character encounters in this complicated, often horrifying narrative. What's also really cool about Miles in this brief scene work is how, even as she's unleashing her rage at being presumptively place on the opposite side of the sex work transaction, she demonstrates the character's street-smart dexterity in finding a way to survive. Indeed, when Cass aptly assesses that Joe's a lover not a fighter, Miles has Cass play pathetic, reeling Joe Buck in by playing to his manly fantasies of chivalry, while also turning the tables so that he actually pays her for her troubles.
This memorable scene begins as a giddy seduction before transforming into a terrifying street fight between the veteran and the new kid. And, throughout, Miles never misses a beat. Moreover, Miles deftly cues that this encounter with Joe Buck represents a temporary victory in a larger battle that Cass knows she's likely to lose.
Miles's work in the role of Cass is vivid -- lively and vigorous and powerful while also the source of images and feelings that are hard to forget. Through Miles's fearless and fearsome work in this sequence of short scenes, we see that her Cass has a complex, scary and sad story that we never get to see. As such, it's indelible actressing at the edges -- I love the feeling that I could follow her to her own story and continue to be fascinated -- skilled, potent work that is elevated by Miles's thorough inhabitation of her character, an investment that exceeds the frame of this film. Hers is formidable accomplishment for such a brief performance in such a dense, terrifying and haunting film. Though I do wonder about its nomination, I don't doubt Miles's accomplishment in the role.