Gallavantin' with The Stinkys

On an FYI, lovely reader, MrStinky & Lulu are gallavanting this week. Lu kicked off the week's adventures this past Wednesday up in Vermont, doing an academented little tapdance (called "Death By Chit Chat"), before jaunting down yesterday to the Isle of Staten (for MrStinky's parents' golden anniversary celebration with all the brothers, the wives, the nieces/nephews and a pooch from Jersey - whew), after which The Stinkys will get all up in that Big Apple starting tomorry (to catch a show or two and meet up for reals with a blogfriend or two). 'Twill certainly be jampackedandfunfilled...

All of which is to say...if postings are a little light, y'all'll understand...


"If You're A Man Who Doesn't Mind Drawing a Crowd" (Homo Heritage Fridays)

November 1981, page 84.

For details, click the image; then click again to magnify.


GoatDog's 1927 Blogathon

Just yesterday, StinkyLulu received a compelling invitation from the ever amazing GoatDog- to join in some blogathonic fun over at his place come the end of March. (Yay. Love those blogathons, 'specially the kind that "broaden" StinkyLulu's cinematic horizons...) You, lovely reader, really should plan to join in the fun too.
Check out the particulars here.


Blanca Portillo in Volver (2006) - Supporting Actress Sundays

Amidst the recent revelry of The Class of 2006 - Supporting Actress Blogathon, StinkyLulu's longtime pal Criticlasm, in his blogathon post, called for all actressexuals to pay particular attention to the work of...

...Blanca Portillo in Volver (2006).

{alas, no scene counts or screentime stats until the dvd's out}

On Friday night, when Almodovar's latest actually landed in the ABQ, MrStinky and Lulu finally got the chance to marvel at Portillo's extraordinary performance.

In Volver, Blanca Portillo plays Agustina, the least flashy among the blossoms crowding Almodovar's bright bouquet of gorgeous female performances. At the outset, the seeming drabness -- in both affect and appearance -- of Portilla's Agustina sets her off almost immediately. As the other women chatter and buzz, their beauty and their boobs and their babble busting out all over the place, Portillo's Agustina just goes about in her quiet way, underscoring just how loud everyone else is. Hers is a stark presence. The shorn hair. The sad eyes. The inscrutable smile. The dutiful diligence. Almost immediately, in the film's earliest scenes, Portillo's Agustina becomes an unexpected but calming enigma. Wacky character detail bounces in every moment, in every burbled line of dialog, from every character in the film...but the mystery of Agustina quietly hovers, ultimately becoming a refining point of focus for the craziness of this gorgeous gaggle of women.

But who is she? Who is this nearly bald, beatific busybody? A nun? A dyke? A cancer patient? In a very simple way, as the film moves along, Portillo's Agustina emerges as all three. The only character in this all-female film without some known, defining moment of macho drama in her past or present, Portillo's Agustina is what feminist historians might term a woman-identified woman -- a woman devoted and attentive (in Agustina's case, almost to a fault) to her family of women relatives, friends and neighbors. Still living alone in a village from which nearly all the women of her generation have fled for lives in bigger (if not necessarily better) cities, Portillo's Agustina maintains a kind of vigil for her "departed" mother. (Several years earlier, Agustina's mother left the house one morning for a walk but never returned, a departure that happened to coincide with the fiery death of the parents of Penelope Cruz' Raimunda.) Portillo's Agustina inhabits this home as if it were a kind of memorial reliquary, with Agustina herself being only the most ambulatory of its contents. (Her departed mother's jewelry box of paste baubles, along with her forest of marijuana shrubs, are certainly among the more admired and revered. Meanwhile, the vestigial presence of Agustina's famewhoring absentee sister -- a reality tv star -- floats as a mist of gossipy whispers in the air.) Indeed when the woman across the way dies, Agustina's home is clearly the perfect place to hold the funeral, already outfitted as it is as a mausoleum for the living and the dead.

Portillo wryly convey's Agustina's abiding seriousness (note how no one, not even her childhood friends, refers to her by nickname or in the dimutive -- it's always Agustina) without brittling the character's innate delicacy and tenderness. Portillo's Agustina is a formidably humble woman, savvier to the ways of the world and -- more importantly -- the ways of her world than anyone gives her credit for being. As a result, director Almodovar's able to situate her as a kind if idiot savant of family secrets and innuendo. When she makes observations or asks questions - to Raimunda's daughter Paula (the gorgeously petulant Yohana Cobo) "You have your father's eyes" or to Sole (the brilliantly batty Lola Dueñas) "Your mother might appear to you" - Portillo's Agustina treads the line between naivete and cunning with thrilling ease. It's to the credit of director and actress both that Portillo's Agustina's level of sophistication remains an open question. Is she presciently intuitive? Or does she actually know? Neither Almodovar nor Portillo tells us exactly what Agustina knows or when she knows it. Rather, they allow Agustina's blend of simplicity and sophistication -- especially regarding secrets -- infuse the spirit of the film.

Nowhere is this duality -- Agustina's simplicity and sophistication -- as clear as in the grotesquery of Agustina's ambush appearance on a daytime talk show, in which she's asked to display "dirty laundry" in exchange, ostensibly, for medical treatment but also clearly to reconnect with her estranged sister. When Portillo's Agustina leaves the stage, violating gossip's transactional contract, it's neither a testament to her nobility nor proof of her simplicity. Like her childhood friend Raimunda (who, in the space of a hundred paces, adeptly negotiates an entire dinner of delicacies by playing on her knowledge of her neighbors' foibles), Agustina is not above using the dirt she has on people as a means of calling in favors. But as Portillo ably conveys, Agustina does not waste energy on frivolous pursuits (and she certainly doesn't see the point of doing it on tv). Portillo's Agustina may wander in her pursuit of answers, but she does so deliberately -- like a spirit seeking peace before its mortal vessel is rendered unable to provide assistance.

Portillo's Agustina is a woman who's long lived on the cusp of life and death, almost a living ghost. Hers is a luminous, ethereal, ghostly performance -- a generous and subtle gift of a performance in film just brimming with more flamboyant pleasures. There's more genius actressing at the edges in Volver than any film in recent memory and yet, even in a film as chock full of actressexual goodness as this, Blanca Portilla's performance as Agustina is the pungent, rare treasure -- certainly among 2006's best actressing at the edges.

And with Portillo it becomes clear: the best non-nominated Supporting Actress performances of the year -- Portillo, Biswas, Epps -- came from women who stand as the deceptively stolid witnesses of the principals' actions and who perform simple acts of emotional bravery that reorient the moral compasses of their respective films. (Barraza and Rose might be in this mix as well.) It's a curious phenomenon that these extraordinary performances are among the most conspicuously overlooked of 2006.


Stinky Trouble (The Movie Soundtrack Of Your Life)

The Movie Soundtrack of Your Life!
The meme asks:
If your life is a movie, what songs are on the soundtrack?
1. Open iTunes; 2. Put it on shuffle and press play; 3. For every stock movie scene listed, note the song that's playing; 4. Make up a title; 5. Choose cast

StinkyLulu's answers follow below...
TITLE: Stinky Trouble
A story of innocence lived and lost.
With production numbers.

America Ferrera (as StinkyLulu)
David Rakoff (as MrStinky)
Dolly Parton (as The Narrator/Voice of God)

the following actresses at the edges in supporting roles
variously delightful, poignant, terrifying and thrilling:

Pamela Adlon, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Kathy Bates, Karen Black, Toni Collette, Aunjanue Ellis, Frances Fisher, LisaGay Hamilton, Daryl Hannah, Cherry Jones, Swoosie Kurtz, Cloris Leachman, Rachel McAdams, Rita Moreno, Catherine O'Hara, Sophie Okenedo, Elizabeth Peña, Elizabeth Reaser, Christina Ricci, Isabella Rossellini, Sherry Shepherd, Shefali Shetty, Brooke Shields, Amy Smart, Jean Smart, Naomi Snieckus, Sissy Spacek, Julie Walters, Sela Ward, Vanessa L. Williams, Grace Zabriskie

The Songs

Opening Credits:
Ethel Merman - Gypsy (Original Broadway Cast) - Small World "Small World" ~ Angela Lansbury (1973 London Cast of Gypsy)
Sweet, romantic. Maybe the titles could be written on a series of satin pillows.

Waking Up:
Gloria Gaynor - Gloria Gaynor - I Will Survive: The Anthology - I Will Survive
"I Will Survive" ~ Gloria Gaynor
A touch ominous. But fierce. Could do worse when starting one's day.
Wonder if a wig's involved.

First Day At School:
Peggy Lee - The Best of Miss Peggy Lee - I'm a Woman
"I'm A Woman" ~ Peggy Lee
Totally fabulous, totally bizarre. Hope it's not the first day of kindergarten though.
That'd be just weird.

Falling In Love:
Audra McDonald - Way Back to Paradise - Baby Moon
"Baby Moon" ~ Audra MacDonald
Sorta weird that a song about pregnancy is the "falling in love" score...and yet this is sorta how Lu does fall in love. With exhilaration, terror and total devotion. And of course the voice of Audra sings the sound of love better than anyone Lu can think of.

Fight Song:
LINK "Baby That's Me" ~ The Cake
True enough - the only way StinkyLulu can get tough is via girl group.

Breaking Up:
Freddy Fender - 20th Century Masters - The Millennium Collection: The Best of Freddy Fender - Before the Next Teardrop Falls
"Before The Next Teardrop Falls" ~ Freddy Fender
Duh-rama! Let it go already, Miss Martyr!

Ava Gardner - Show Boat - Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man (Outtake)
"Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" ~ Ava Gardner (unused track from Showboat - 1951)
Oh jeez. Still stuck on Mister Man. Miss Martyr's really working that tiara.

Dick Brave & The Backbeats - Dick This! - Get the Party Started
"Get The Party Started" ~ Dick Brave & The Backbeats
This is more like it. Prom's over. Time for a real party!

Mental Breakdown:
Toni Collette & Yancey Arias - The Wild Party - People Like Us
"People Like Us" ~ Toni Collette & Yancey Arias (from Broadway Cast of The Wild Party)
Uh oh. Back to the self-obsessed tragedy.
At least this is one of the most fabulous Pity Partys ever!

Marilyn Manson - Lest We Forget - The Best of Marilyn Manson - Tainted Love
"Tainted Love" ~ Marilyn Manson
Wow. This is a driving song. Driiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiive!!!

Lena Horne - Lena Horne at MGM: Ain' It the Truth - Just One of Those Things
"Just One of Those Things" ~ Lena Horne
Finally. Some perspective.

Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood - Hold On, Hold On
"Hold On, Hold On" ~ Neko Case
Somehow methinks this isn't my wedding.

Birth of Child:
David Bowie - Hunky Dory - Queen Bitch
"Queen Bitch" ~ David Bowie
OK. We've officially moved from melancholy melodrama to a punky coming-of-age story. Again, somehow methinks it ain't Lulu birthing the baby.

Final Battle:
Nellie McKay - Get Away from Me - The Dog Song
"The Dog Song" ~ Nellie McKaye
Kicking. Ass. While wearing Uma Thurman yellow.

Death Scene:
LINK "America" ~ Natalie Cole, Patti LaBelle & Sheila E.
Have no idea what this means.
Though the utter absurdity of this version of this song does kill me. Starts like a number from the Muppet Movie then goes all Latin before ending up as a gospel choir.
Ideally an extended surreal production number...

Funeral Song:
LINK "Once Upon A Memory" ~ Dolly Parton
Swinging, righteous anthem by a wronged woman who still believes in love. Nice.

End Credit:
LINK"My Funny Valentine" ~ Dinah Shore
Ooh. Dark. And back to the satin pillows... Hmmm.


Thanks to ModFab for the tag.
As for Lulu's tags -- Fag Yer It!
Same for Your Mom & Sarcasm With A Light Cream Sauce...


"Wipes Clean With A Towel" (Homo Heritage Fridays)

from Honcho: THE Mag for the Macho Male.
March 1985, page 72.
For details, click the image; then click again to magnify.


StinkyLulu Hearts David Rakoff

I don't know how I missed this.

MrStinky's only real competition might well be David Rakoff -- with whom StinkyLulu's long been in deep writerly crush largely for his mordantly pensive style of cultural comment on This American Life (check out episode #248). Well, not-MrStinky has recently completed a three-week, one-man blogathon apropos the recent Essentially Woody retrospective at NYC's FilmForum. A blog post for every day's screenings. Rakoff's distinctive voice commenting on Woody's incomparable ouevre. Yowza. Woulda been nifty to follow along, but now...it's a delicious gorge. Enjoy...

click image for link


Ellen & McYummy

Viewing this actually made StinkyLulu a bit misty.
(Watch it quick before YouTube yanks it...)

click image to be routed to video
see also ongoing coverage from the ubiquitous towleroad


Supporting Actress Redux - Any Thoughts?

Yes, smackdown sure sounds funnier.
But redux might be more accurate.
Your thoughts?

5 Stinky Thoughts on the 64th Golden Globes

After a long day of semester prep, settled in for a bit of Golden Globing. But alas. Not too entertaining... So rather than offer some tributary ode or some blow by blow account (see my post-nomination post for Lulu's thoughts on the Supporting Actresses), please accept the following...

5 Stinky Thoughts on
the 64th Golden Globes

Thought #1:
Sometimes the Mountain Time Zone Just Sucks.

Being 2 hours behind (and 1 hour ahead) of the real Time Zones sometimes really messes with StinkyLulu's mind. See, tonight, Lulu tuned into the broadcast just as it was starting, and then clicked over to ModFab's Live Chat -- only to discover that the dang thing had already been on for an hour. (We Mountaineers had a tape-delay.) Which shouldn't be a problem but. Even the most innocent clicks around the interweb revealed all. And then with so many of the awards seemingly predetermined? Well. Not a single un-spoilered surprise. Which really took the wind out of StinkyLulu's awards-loving soul... Sad, sad, so sad.

Thought #2:
Latin Cutaways.

If Lulu drank, a perfect drinking game would be "The Latin Cutaway." Sip whenever the director cuts to a Latin celebrity for a reaction shot. Gulp when it's a Latin+Latin shot (as when they cut to Eva Longoria as America Ferrera accepted her award). Two gulps when it's a double whammy Latin shot (meaning as when they cut to America during Jennifer Hudson's acceptance speech - chubby girls of color in da house!) The Latin Cutaway was frankly the only sustainingly entertaining aspect of tonight's globes.

Thought #3:
Who Boiled David Geffen?

The man looked like a steamed kosher frank.

Thought #4:
Who's Scarier?

StinkyLulu will ever love Vanessa Williams. But that shrub on the back of her head tonight was just cumbersome. Looked all like a really long running bus'n'truck of Deena Jones. And then there's the generally terrifying Sharon Stone. No wonder The Gilded Moose is so scared.

Thought #5:
Meryl Gives Good Speech.
Streep's award-show dither schtick provides such a niftily humanizing contrast to her actorly precision. If it weren't enough of a treat to watch the woman act, it'd almost be worth giving MissMeryl prizes just to hear what she'd say. Ever politically astute, humble and funny.

That's all.


Opera! Live! At the Movies!: Tan Dun's First Emperor - Live in High Definition

On Saturday morning, StinkyLulu undertook an adventure into heretofore untraveled entertainment waters: The simulcast of Tan Dun's First Emperor broadcast Live in High-Definition at an ABQ googaplex. The outing was part of a xmas gift to MamaStinky and StinkySis - who love that Crouching Tiger vibe and, upon seeing the promo before a screening of Night at the Museum thought the idea of opera at the movies might be fun. For StinkyLulu's part, the prospect seemed compelling. Would a "theatrical" live-broadcast feel like a "theatrical" experience? Certainly, it did seem likely that "The Metropolitan Opera - Live in High-Definition" would mostly be like the stuffy PBS video captures of opera performance, just on a much bigger screen. (Indeed, 'twas). Nonetheless, "Live on the Big Screen" seemed to be a fascinating hook. How "live" would it feel? Would it feel like an event somehow different than listening to it live on the radio or watching a recording on the teevee? Even more confounding, where would "Tan Dun's First Emperor - Live in High Definition" fit on StinkyLulu's lists (at right): in Screenings? or in LivePerfs? And -- the biggie -- would people buy buckets of popcorn, nachos and smelly pickles when enjoying opera at the movies?

So many important, confounding questions.
StinkyLulu just had to check it out.

So MamaStinky, StinkySis and StinkyLulu trundled over to ABQ's West Side to the single movie theatre within 100 miles to which StinkyLulu had never been. (MrStinky opted out of the adventure, choosing prison over opera. Seriously. But that's another story entirely...) After a typically inane ticket hassle, The Stinkys stood in line - for forever - along with hundreds of old white people. Most of whom seemed vaguely stunned by their movie lobby surroundings. (The much younger, much less white movie patrons - wielding tickets to Stomp the Yard or Happy Feet or Primeval - seemed no less shocked by these overdressed strangers in their midst.) 'Twas indeed a curious collision of entertainment cultures... Like Times Square in the 'Querque. Or something.

So, finally, the harried theatre manager - opera patrons are so needy (even/especially at the movies) - finally started letting folks into the two screens that had been devoted for the next four hours to the opera-ness. (Word on the line said that the first events in this series had so oversold that they decided to open a second theatre for the remaining dates, and even with that expansion, the event was near sold-out. Which means, if the 2nd theatre had roughly the same capacity as the one The Stinkys sat in, that's 720 or so opera seats sold... At 11am on a Saturday morning. In Albuquerque.) The Stinkys snagged real good seats in the center of the last row of the lower level of stadium seating. (Would that be the "orchestra"?) There, TheStinkys waited for the opera to begin...

And now...
StinkyLulu's Impressions of Opera! Live! At the Movies!

Did people concess at the Opera?: In a word - yes.
Buckets of popcorn. Vats of soda pop. And just as the prelude began, the woman right in front of TheStinkys began gnoshing on a real smelly weiner. The aroma of relish and mustard made for a curious blend with the Peking Opera style of the First Emperor's opening. But that weiner seemed to make that lady real happy.

The "welcome to the opera" introduction by Zhang Ziyi on the Metropolitan staircase was sweet (the First Emperor production was staged by film director Zhang Yimou, and Tan Dun's perhaps most acclaimed for his film scoring) but StinkyLulu had the distinct feeling that 80% or so of audience had no idea who this prettly Asian girl was. The glancing, mildly jokey film references got barely a titter of response. Not because they were lame (which they were) but because they went right over this crowd's head. Interesting that the attempt to use Zhang Ziyi - one of the great, contemporary international film beauties - as a bridge between audiences did not work at all...

Mediocre opera is tiresome, no matter how nifty the production, whether in standing room at the back of a 3000 seat house or in the cushy, reclining comfort of movie theatre stadium seating. First Emperor is an ambitious piece, with several electrifying sections that meld the east/west musical and theatrical sensibilities in exhilarating ways -- but mostly? The tale is told tediously, with a stentorian dramatic sensibility and a lugubrious bel canto fetish. Unfortunately, the episodic dramatic structure of traditional Chinese theatre (unconcerned with connecting plot dots through character or action ala Western drama) and the narrative-thrust-be-damned aspects of 19th Century Italian opera (where everything stops while someone sings and sings and sings) combine here to become just amazingly boring. The characters aren't emotionally captivating and the action is a trudge. (Among the principals, only tenor Paul Groves as the anti-hero Jianli was able to balance the exciting episodes of theatrical intensity with an undistracting but sustaining character continuity.)

The utterly banal camera work reflected the "Live From Lincoln Center" sensibilities and telecast conventions of this kind of production. Of course, the frustrating handful of moments where the camera framed things oddly were there, but the range of long-medium-close shots delivered as well. Further, for anyone with any theatre tech geek sensibilities, the depth of vision provided by the scale of the big screen provided many occasions to marvel at the extraordinary spectacularity of the production and the technical artistry of it all...

The voices were captured with delicious precision. The live-miking of the production also captured - with crystal clarity - the voice of the prompter at least 20 times. All for Placido. Mostly in the first act. Not hating. Just saying. (Though when Placido, at his character's climactic moment, had the presence of mind and elegance of carriage to kick Jianli's left-behind wig - laying on the floor like a stomped on rat - from centerstage to the pit? That was the work of a real pro.) If MamaStinky hadn't laughed so large at the mistake, many of the folks just around us would have surely not noticed at all...

Love that Met Chorus. By far the most accomplished performance in this piece came from the gazillion chorus folk, who performed the most interesting music while also somehow elevating the theatrical and dramatic stakes of the whole project. StinkyLulu still doesn't really understand the piece aesthetically - what it's about, what it's saying, why it matters - but the only glimmers came when the chorus was at work. A truly thrilling performance by all these nameless folk. (BTW- who are the Met chorus? do they get paid well? how hard is it to get into the chorus? Lulu knows next to nothing about the Met.)

Beverly Sills is a loon. But golly -- whatta mix of diva and yenta. She could probably get anyone to do anything. The intermission "backstage" pieces, both those hosted by Sills and the pseudo-documentary segments, defied Lulu's expectation of lameness to become a real treat. Sorta like nifty little culture-geek palate cleansers...

All told, First Emperor - The Metropolitan Opera - Live in High Definition proved to be a fascinating experiment and experience. Lu'll likely be back. And MamaStinky and StinkySis are already making plans. (And they don't even like opera.) 'Twill be interesting to see if this "Live Simulcast" schtick will expand to include other kinds of highbrow offerings, or if it'll continue to be primarily in service to the comic stylings of Dane Cook, revival meetings and retro arena bands. Because, really, can you imagine the wet panties of chubby girls and theatre queens everywhere if they started doing this with the Broadway-ish offerings of "Live From Lincoln Center"? (A girl can dream...)

But where - lovely reader - is StinkyLulu to list this?
A screening? A live performance? A what?