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Entries in StinkyLulu (7)

Wednesday
Oct302013

Supporting Smackdown '68: Lynn, Sondra, Kay, Estelle and Ruth

The revival of "StinkyLulu's Supporting Actress Smackdown" now in its new home at The Film Experience continues. The year is... [cue: time travelling music] 1968.  Oscar skipped the Globe nominees in this category from For the Love of Ivy, The Lion in Winter and Finian's Rainbow and despite their love of Oliver! AND of women in musicals AND of prostitutes with hearts of gold they also skipped newcomer Shani Wallis. Instead they went with these five...

Tony Curtis presented the 1968 Best Supporting Actress Oscar

THE NOMINEES

Estelle Parsons, the previous year's winner in this category for Bonnie & Clyde returned for a victory lap (though she skipped the ceremony). She was joined by two showbiz veterans: Ruth Gordon, a three time nominee for screenwriting who was in the middle of a surprising golden years reinvention as a beloved character actress, and Kay Medford, who had previously experienced her greatest successes on stage. Filling out the shortlist were two fresh faces nominated for their film debuts: Sondra Locke (who would later partner up with Clint Eastwood both on and offscreen for 14 years) & Lynn Carlin (who would later vanish into a series of guest spots on television).

Who will win the Smackdown? Read on 

Click to read more ...

Friday
Oct252013

The Smackdown Cometh

Guess what's on its way?

That's right. Supporting Actress Smackdown 1968 coming at'cha on Wednesday October 30th. If you haven't yet voted on the Reader Ranking portion of the Smackdown, please do so by Monday. Rank only the performances you've seen on a scale of 1 to 5 hearts (5 being stupendous, 1 being totes unworthy and so on)

Let's meet our panelists shall we? Their bios and "what 1968 means to them" after the jump.

SPECIAL GUESTS

Manuel Muñoz
Manuel is the author of three books, including the Hitchcock-inspired novel, What You See in the Dark.  He teaches creative writing at the University of Arizona in Tucson and is a judge for the 2014 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

What 1968 Means To Me

❝It’s the Year of the Tie.  If nothing else, 1968 drives me bonkers when it comes to wish fulfillment for a tie in some other year when a split decision could ease the nagging feeling that Oscar couldn’t get it right no matter the outcome.  (I’m thinking of you, 1987.)  The sight of Ingrid Bergman opening that envelope with a look of delighted awe registers, for me, as a big ol’ can of worms for those of us wacky enough to reimagine these outcomes.  What a tantalizing, frustrating possibility—that you could reward a truly major performance and get the warm buzz of sentiment all on the same night, sometimes without knowing which is which.  Burstyn/Rowlands?  Dunaway/Spacek?  Hunter/Close?  Roberts/Linney?  It just kills me.  Better to just call it for Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction and leave it that.❞

Angelo Muredda 
Angelo is a contributor to Film Freak Central and Torontoist and a doctoral candidate in Canadian literature and film at the University of Toronto. He has his father's eyes. Follow him on Twitter 

What 1968 Means to Me

❝Sally Draper slumps back in her seat and takes her first hit of LSD as Keir Dullea goes beyond the infinite. She is fourteen years old. Unlike Sally, I wasn’t around for 1968, so I’m speaking in strictly retrospective terms when I say that for me it’s the year of the Star Child and Rosemary’s unholy issue — a good time for weird births.❞   

RETURNING PANELIST

Brad Griffith
Brad is a blogger/actor/writer/producer/etc living in Los Angeles and working at a large media institution that he's not sure he can name, but for sure can have no official opinions on their movies. Other than that, he spends his relaxation time being busy, and taking in as much culture as he can.

What 1968 Means To Me

 

❝1968, besides being the year of my birth, gave us "Funny Girl", which helped along a youthful appreciation (obsession) for Barbra Streisand. I used to ask to stay up late to watch it during its annual TV broadcast. Our nominee from that film has one of my favorite comebacks in cinema:
Fanny: A gentleman fits in any place.
Rose: A sponge fits in any place. To me, a stranger should act a little....strange.
What a wacky year 1968 was cinematically - from early independents to the grand scale musicals... and the Smackdown won't even include The Producers, The Lion in Winter, or Herbie the Lovebug.❞

YOUR HOSTS

 

Nathaniel Rogers
Nathaniel is the founder of The Film Experience, a reknowned Oscar pundit, and the web's actressexual ringleader. Though he holds a BFA in illustration, he found his true calling when he started writing about the movies. Follow him on Twitter but do not stalk him in New York City.

What 1968 Means to Me

Please sir, I want some more.

❝That's how I feel about every grand cinematic year but since Oliver! was my third favorite movie of all time as a child (Yes, listing predated blogging) the quote is especially relevant. I was shocked to discover much later in life that it was very uncool to love Oliver! but I love what I love and proudly. Aside from prematurely empty bowls of gruel there is no 1968 without: a pendant filled with tanas root, the voice of HAL 9000, the Statue of Liberty buried in sand, and a vinyl recording of Babs singing "My Man"❞

Brian Herrera (aka StinkyLulu)
Brian convened the first Supporting Actress Smackdown and hostessed more than thirty. He is a writer, teacher and scholar presently based in New Jersey, but forever rooted in New Mexico. Follow him on Twitter

What 1968 Means To Me

❝One of these movies came out the weekend I was born. I saw it about fourteen years later, on the evening of the very day I happily lost my virginity. Yet, as that remarkable day ended, I realized a life-altering fact. I was more thrilled by my first time seeing this movie than by my actual "first time." My name is Brian and I am an actressexual.❞

 

THE SMACKDOWN ARRIVES ON OCTOBER 30TH
Until then, daily at noon, little helpings of 1968 for context.
(Since reviving the series we've done 1980 and 1952)

Friday
Sep272013

StinkyLulu's Preliminary Thoughts on The Supporting Actresses of 1980

[Editor's Note: On Monday, the next Smackdown hits, Supporting Actresses of 1980. Here, as intro, is StinkyLulu to continue the festivities. If you missed the revival of the series last month we did 1952. In October we'll hit 1968. -Nathaniel R]

The 53rd Academy Awards were a life-changer for me. The ceremony for 1980 marked (held in March 1981) marked the first time I watched the broadcast and determined that it was my urgent task to see each of these nominated films. A precocious scheme, really, given that I was at the time thirteen years old and living in the middle east when I viewed (on betamax) the taped-from-tv recording of the ceremony months after its actual airing. Still, the 1980 Oscars were a clarion call to this wee little Stinky, a prompt to seek out films worth watching. Perhaps unsurprisingly, I started with the actressing, ultimately screening (mostly via similarly bootlegged betamax tapes that filled my expat community’s lending library) all but one of 1980’s nominated best- and supporting actresses as quick as I could.

Returning to these deeply-imprinted films after so many years in preparation for this weekend’s Supporting Actress Smackdown has been intriguing, to say the least. What’s perhaps most startling is just how clearly, in 1980, Oscar liked his Supporting Actresses to be catalyzing presences. We got three maddening beauties, one sage observer, and one crafty nemesis — each of whom compels the protagonist to and through their transformation pretty much just by being there. To their credit, these particular actresses do not just stand around being the battle-axe (Eileen Brennan, Private Benjamin), the crone (Eva Le Galliene, Resurrection), the moll (Cathy Moriarty, Raging Bull), the neighborhood gal (Diana Scarwid, Inside Moves), or the frustrated wife (Mary Steenburgen, Melvin & Howard). Still, being “that woman” is pretty much all that’s asked of them.

It’s a peculiar paradox really. These films are ripe with “liberated” depictions of the empowering potential of the female orgasm, of women deciding their own sexual partners and futures in defiance of masculine reprobation, of the gruesome brutalities of domestic violence, of the perilous degradations of sexwork, and so on. (Not to mention all Ellen Burstyn’s randy "I'm touching your penis" jokes). Even still, for the supporting actresses in these flicks, it remains presence first, and character second.

Diana Ross & Donald Sutherland presented the 1980 Best Supporting Actress Oscar

But sometimes that’s what actressing at the edges is all about — to shade contour and dimension within the broad strokes of a casually-scripted character, to make a presence into a person. And, for better and worse, 1980 gives us five memorably distinct approaches to this core burden/opportunity of supporting actressness. Notably, Oscar himself anointed a surprise winner, which makes me wonder if this weekend’s Smackdown might also do the same. (I know I have my clear favorite. Do you?)

Thursday
Sep192013

Movie Teachers: "Fame" (1980)

Back to School Month + 1980 Retrospective- StinkyLulu doubles up for Fame (1980). A partial version of this article first appeared at StinkyLulu in 2007

 

When I was a wee lil Stinky, I watched the original Fame over and over and over again. 'Twas my movie. And possibly because I watched the film so many dang times, the starkly human performances by the actresses playing teachers in the film burrowed deep into my consciousness. I’m not just talking about Debbie Allen’s legendary cameo. Mostly, I’m thinking especially of Anne Meara as Mrs. Sherwood and Joanna Merlin as Miss Berg. 

The roles of Sherwood and Miss Berg are quintessential “actressing at the edges” sorts of parts. Each is relevant to the film’s dramatic arc only insofar as she amplifies the narrative of one of Fame’s principal characters. As the language arts teacher, Meara’s Sherwood is Leroy’s obstacle, while Merlin’s Miss Berg is the ballet teacher who makes Lisa’s life hell. In the student-centric emotional swirl of Fame, Meara’s Sherwood and Merlin’s Miss Berg are indeed the hard-ass battle-axes who appear to have nothing better to do than to torment their students. Merlin’s Miss Berg permits the languid Lisa no slack, and Meara’s Sherwood refuses to buckle, even when Leroy explodes in a kinetic blaze of profanity and violence. 

But Fame, to its credit, gives both Meara and Merlin just enough room to be human. For Merlin, the kicker comes when she calls Lisa to her office to cut the young dancer from the program. With measured, unflinching firmness (you can almost tell that Merlin paid the bills by being Harold Prince’s casting director for much of the 1970s), Merlin’s Miss Berg conveys in no uncertain terms that there has no future as a dancer in the department or, in all likelihood, beyond. Merlin’s Miss Berg is brutal in her honesty, deflecting Lisa’s promises and pleas as if she’s waving away flies. Yet, when she opens the door to dismiss Lisa, her eyes brim with a glint of emotion, until she wilts — just that little bit — against the door upon Lisa’s exit.

Merlin in "Fame"

Meara’s moment comes when Leroy (suddenly terrified that his grade in English might actually be important now that his invitation to join a major dance company is contingent on his successful graduation from high school) seeks Sherwood out at the hospital where her husband is undergoing some unnamed "serious" procedure. Meara's Sherwood is at first firm but dismissive when faced with this self-involved student come, to the hospital, for a little bit of friendly grade grubbing. Then when Leroy pushes, accusing her of having it in for him, Meara's Sherwood explodes with sheer, agonizing fury. Her rebuttal ("Don't you kids ever think of anyone but yourself!?) stops Leroy cold, allowing him to grow up a little and to show Sherwood a quiet gesture of empathy and consideration.

In most ways, Meara's Sherwood and Merlin’s Miss Berg are thanklessly supporting performances. Everything each does is in support of Leroy’s/Lisa’s character arc. But Meara and Merlin mine every moment for its depth, humanity and humor. (The looks Merlin gives Debbie Allen during Leroy’s audition. The flash of fear that ripples Meara’s stern facade when Leroy physically erupts. Merlin’s way of whispering her true feelings, both snarky and vulnerable, under her breath. Meara’s heart buckling devastation when Leroy tears into Sherwood with the oblique epithet "You people...”) Each line, gesture and sideways glance conveys the simple fact that this woman is really good at her job and that Leroy/Lisa is but one of her more difficult pupils. Neither is a saintly superteacher. Neither is an inhuman gorgon. They are both simply educators working in the NYC public school system, trying to get through another day.

Meara in FAME

Indeed, I will be ever grateful to Anne Meara and Joanna Merlin for crafting these teacher characters so intelligently, so generously, so humanely -- and, in so doing, for also teaching little StinkyLulu how much was to be learned from all the actresses not only at the edges of Fame but also all those other actresses at the edges of fame itself.

 

previously on back to school...
History Lessons from Half Nelson, The Breakfast Club when you're too young for it

Saturday
Aug312013

Supporting Actress Smackdown '52: Colette, Jean, Gloria, Terry, and Thelma

Presenting the Return of Stinky Lulu's Supporting Actress Smackdown now in its new home at The Film Experience. The Year is... 1952 and our panelists are allowed 52 words per actress!

THE NOMINEES

Gloria Grahame, Jean Hagen, Colette Marchand, Terry Moore, and the perennial Thelma Ritter!

THE PANELISTS

Matt Mazur (Pop Matters) is a New York-based publicist who works on campaigns for independent, foreign language, and documentary films. His vast archive of actress interviews (including Sissy Spacek and Courtney Love) can be found here. Follow him @Matt_Mazur 

Nathaniel R (The Film Experience) is the founder of The Film Experience, a Gurus of Gold and CNN International Oscar pundit, and the internet's actressexual ringleader. Also loves cats. Follow him @NathanielR

Nick Davis (Nicks Flick Picks) tweets, blogs, and writes reviews and is a professor of film, literature, and gender studies at Northwestern University. His first book "The Desiring Image" was recently published. Follow him @NicksFlickPicks

Brian Herrera (aka StinkyLulu) convened the first Supporting Actress Smackdown and hostessed more than thirty before shuttering the series in 2009. He is a writer, teacher and scholar presently based in New Jersey, but forever rooted in New Mexico. Follow him @stinkylulu

And You! We also factored averages from reader ballots sent by e-mail!

Oh, hurry up!!!"

... get to the smackdown already. Geez. Okay Okay, here we go...

 

 

1952
SUPPORTING ACTRESS SMACKDOWN

GLORIA GRAHAME as "Rosemary" in The Bad and the Beautiful
Synopsis: A southern wife accompanies her writer husband to corrupting Hollywood
Stats: 29 yrs old. 14th film. 2nd nom. 10 Minutes of Screen Time (8.4% of Running Time)

Matt: No disrespect to Grahame, one of this era’s finest actress, but she got the gold for the wrong movie; like many women before and after. This performance is a weird fit. While other directors gave her the space to explode, Minnelli tried to contain her sexual force. It's not Rosemary you remember... ♥♥  

Nathaniel: Grahame underlines the frisson of excitement in this marriage, suggesting that it comes from the playful mix of this woman’s outer propriety and inner friskiness. She even nails a tricky final scene moving from accusatory abandoned wife to complicit partner in failure. Yet the role is slight and the voice too chirpy. ♥♥♥ 

Nick: The first Grahame performance I haven’t loved. Admittedly, the role’s scope and nature constrain it.  I admire her against-type playing, and the character invites stiff attitudes and overdeliberate gestures. Still, however tiny, the part feels underexplored.  Her win feels like recognition of prior feats and her eclectic body of work in 1952 ♥♥ 

Reader Write-In Votes: "A truly bizarre winner, though not undeserving: beautiful, quiet work in shading this restless social butterfly. I wanted much more of her.." - Sean D. (Gloria average ♥♥½) .

StinkyLulu: If I were evaluating The Bad and the Beautiful on "Top Chef" or "Chopped", I might praise Gloria Grahame’s Rosemary for bringing a much needed brightness to the dish. Grahame plays this soon-to-be-sainted flibbertigibbet with easy verve but I fear Grahame’s work here is as glancing as the character:

Gloria wins 10½ ❤s 

JEAN HAGEN as "Lina Lamont" in Singin' in the Rain
Synopsis: A silent star attempts to make it in talkies by stealing another woman's voice
Stats: 29 yrs old. 8th film. 1st nomination. 31 Minutes (30% of Running Time)

Matt: She does it all: vocal work, physical comedy, unlikability, stupidity, scheming, hiliariously failing at everything. Flawlessly.  Bonus points go to any actress playing an actress, let alone the kind of woman who has the cojones to poke fun at not only herself, but really her entire profession. How she did not win this Oscar…? ♥♥♥♥♥ 

Nathaniel: Her vocal comic invention is so thorough you can even hear the diction training sloshing around its agonizing surface but never sinking in. Lina’s silent “ACTING” is delicious, too but Jean’s is even better. Her Lina is always off-tempo, playing catch up, waiting for a line no one has written for her. ♥♥♥♥♥ 

Nick: Pretending to hate Gene Kelly requires three-star acting at least. And Hagen’s vocal ingenuity is obviously beyond.  She’s also a savvy modulator, underplaying annoyance throughout Kelly’s opening interview, deferring her delicious explosions of resentment until character-appropriate moments.  Once she gets going, she steals some of the very best scenes in American movies: ♥♥♥♥♥ 

Reader Write-In Votes: "Lina Lamont was robbed, just as Lina's soul sister Norma Cassady (Lesley Ann Warren) was exactly 30 years later." - Paul Outlaw. (Hagen average ♥♥♥♥♥ ) 

StinkyLulu: In what might have easily been a single (nasal) note of a “dumb” role, Jean Hagen deftly surprises with clever twists to unsuspecting vowels, syllables and studio executives alike. Yet, even with few glimpses into Lina’s heart, Hagen’s skill permits our delight in always knowing exactly who Miss Lina Lamont truly is.  ♥♥♥♥♥

Jean wins 25 ❤s, a perfect score 

 

COLETTE MARCHAND as "Marie Chalet" in Moulin Rouge
Synopsis: a street-walker moves in with the famous artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec but just can't settle down
Stats: Debut Film. 27 yrs old. Debut Film. 1st Nom. 27.5 Minutes (23% of Running Time)

Matt: Too many clichés: hooker with a heart of gold, scheming hooker with weak john, French slut, tragic waif… but Marchand does a decent job of navigating complicated waters and still managing to be memorable in a Moulin Rouge full of oddballs. But she's no Nicole Kidman, let me put it that way. ♥♥ 

Nathaniel: She had me at “monsieur!”, all gangly swinging arms, restless body, and giraffe-with-attitude neck. Marchand’s physicality is so heady it almost doesn’t matter that her scenes are but moodswings on loop. Her pride in poverty and self-consciousness with wealth is insightfully rendered. Like Henri we pine for her when she’s gone: ♥♥♥ 

Nick: To its credit—and not much is—Huston’s film acknowledges an essential garishness in the Moulin Rouge and Toulouse-Lautrec’s depictions. This context somewhat justifies Marchand’s frequently coarse performance; her drunken truth-telling scene with Henri and Babare thrives on that quality.  Too often, though, she’s simply rigid and off-putting.  I prefer Suzanne Flon  ♥♥ 

Reader Write-In Votes: "This film is a little slow in spots, but the best scenes are the ones with Marchand and Jose Ferrer together. You feel for her prostitute character, a common role but Marchand adds her own spin." - Sean T. (Marchand average ♥♥)

StinkyLulu: Feral, frightening and sometimes quite funny. Colette Marchand’s Marie Charlet remains a more presence than a person. (Katherine Kath does much more with much less as La Goulue.) While her palpable emotion does reliably energize this frequently languid film, Marchand’s performance lacks the precision needed to stir and sustain a deepening investment: ♥♥♥

Colette wins 12 ❤s  

 

TERRY MOORE as "Marie" in Come Back Little Sheba
Synopsis: a flirtatious college girl rents a room from an unhappy couple while struggling with fidelity to her longdistance boyfriend
Stats: 23 yrs old. 14th film. 1st nomination. 28 Minutes (28% of Running Time)

Matt: Let’s have a moment of real talk: there is no one on earth paying attention to anyone other than mesmerizing Queen Shirley Booth in ...Little Sheba. Moore does what she is asked: be pretty enough to drive Lancaster into a mad rage. But there’s not much character there so she’s left struggling. ♥ 

Nathaniel: She does engaging work as a cock-tease testing her boundaries with a local stud. She’s smart, too, about how the young switch on and off with adults in a room. I like the way Marie sizes up her strange landlady (less so her landlord). But the character never feels fully explored or resonant. ♥♥ 

Nick: Between Booth’s asphyxiating affectations and Lancaster’s stolidity, Moore’s relaxed effervescence is a welcome mediator. Her richest scene comes when that aplomb gets tested by Richard Jaeckel’s abruptly aggressive advances; her panicked response is clearly to him, not to sex itself.  Nonetheless, this isn’t complicated acting.  Standard for Moore and bordering on generic ♥♥

Reader Write-In Votes: "I can't remember many movies from the 50s that had a young sexually-active character and performed well by Moore. I certainly can't see the negative of the performance" - Travis. (Moore average ♥♥).

StinkyLulu: Marie feels more plot device than character, an inciting incident taken to human form. Yet Terry Moore animates her catalytic presence with startling believability. Her Marie is a simple, smart, capable girl who fully enjoys playing at being bad — and who (unlike those around her) somehow knows when to say when.  ♥♥♥♥ 

Terry wins 11❤s


THELMA RITTER as "Clancy" in With a Song in My Heart
Synopsis: a nurse accompanies a famous singer on a USO Tour in World War II
Stats: 50 yrs old. 9th film. 3rd of 4 Consecutive Noms (2 More Followed). 28 Minutes (24% of Running Time)

Matt: One dynamic performance hidden within a limp noodle film makes it a little more al dente. Her stalwart nurse ("Clancy" -- how perfect is that name?), is not afraid to tell it like it t-i-is. As is Ritter’s custom, she packs in an astounding amount of detail, using the tiniest bits of dialog to reveal something key. ♥♥♥♥ 

Nathaniel: Gold from dross! Though half her role consists of gazing admirably at Hayward’s lipsynching (blech), Ritter seizes every opportunity to make the other half dance, managing heaps of personality while narrating and offering sly subtext like  embarrassment at her friend/ patient’s self-pity. I live for that improv dancing… “I’m more the type!” ♥♥♥♥ 

Nick: Ritter hews to type as a wisecracking helpmeet whose humor and lucid counsel profit the other characters. Still, she’s the Dijon mustard this ham sandwich needs, her candor and tangy delivery tempering all the sanctification.  Ritter presents a prickly, compassionate, occasionally reproachful nurse, not a blandly colorful worshiper in a biopic pew: ♥♥♥ 

Reader Write-In Votes: "Ritter fills the role with emotion, and - more importantly compared to Grahame and Moore - feels like a necessary and irreplaceable role/performance for the film. " -PoliVamp (Thelma average ♥♥♥) 

StinkyLulu: As “Flatbush Florence Nightingale” Clancy, Thelma Ritter gets to do Thelma Ritter. Always cracking wise as the film’s in-house heckler and audience surrogate. Stalwart. Salt-of-the-earth. With just that dash of saltiness. But even with costume changes and a couple of tiny tearful moments, there’s no arc or special insight here. Just Ritter. ♥♥

Thelma wins 16 ❤s  

OSCAR vs. SMACKDOWN


The Academy pied Jean Hagen right in the kisser and handed the coveted Best Supporting Actress statue to Gloria Grahame as "Rosemary" in The Bad and the Beautiful. As Matt notes: 

In 1952, it made all-too-terrible sense for Grahame to win given her solid work in three other films besides this Minnelli classic: The Greatest Show on Earth, Macao, and Sudden Fear. She worked with literally everyone that year. She is fantastic in Fear and Macao, moreso than in Beautiful.

 But our panelists "cannnn'stann'it!" and rewrite Oscar history to hand a landslide win to that 'shimmering star in the foimament' Lina Lamont.

Soak it up, Jean!

Thank you for attending the Smackdown!  Throw pies, shade or applause at your favorites. (If you're new to the Smackdown, here's the old archives at StinkyLulu)

Previous Smackdown Goodies
Stinky's Preliminary Thoughts, Introducing... the 5, and The Oscar Ceremony Itself

NEXT SMACKDOWN SUNDAY, SEPT 29th 
The Supporting Actresses of 1980 
Brennan, Le Galliene, Moriarty, Scarwid, and Steenburgen comin' atcha!
Panelists TBA

Thursday
Aug292013

StinkyLulu's Preliminary Thoughts on Supporting Actressing in '52

We are pleased to welcome StinkyLulu back to Smackdowning. Give him a warm welcome in the comments! - Editor

It has been a while since I dropped into a random year’s field of Supporting Actress nominees. Still, as I have re/screened the relevant films in preparation for Saturday afternoon's Supporting Actress Smackdown, it’s startling how familiar the 1952 roster feels. Remember that “Best Supporting Actress” was only in its 15th year or so (having been introduced in 1936, almost ten years after the Oscar game got started) but, already by 1952, the category seemed to have established some of its most enduring quirks.

1952’s nominated roles are definitely cut from Oscar’s favorite cloth: the hooker with a heart; the hale helpmeet; the full force of youth; the long (briefly) suffering wife; and the shrewish “ex.”

Oscar loves a type - you see these types still!

The field we'll be discussing Saturday definitely reminds us that, by the early 1950s, Supporting Actress had emerged as one of Oscar’s favored ways to anoint the newcomer/s with one hand, while taking care to honor the time-tested trouper/s with the other. As example, 1952's nominations honor not only breakout performances by “new stars” Jean Hagen and Terry Moore (not to mention the screen debut of Colette Marchand) but also familiar work by previously favored nominees Gloria Grahame and Thelma Ritter. And, yes, Oscar’s habit of nodding to certain troupers also stirs the faint whiff that a Supporting Actress nomination might sometimes be an apology bouquet of sorts — Oscar’s way to say “please forgive my neglecting to nominate (or award) that other performance…but do accept this as a token of the Academy’s esteem.” (Might Grace Kelly’s 1953 nomination for Mogambo and Katy Jurado’s 1954 nomination for Broken Lance been made possible, at least in part, by Oscar’s neglect of their High Noon turns this very year?)

And in a field full of what I have called “coasters” (efficient supporting actressness buoyed by being part of a heavily nominated film), Jean Hagen’s nomination looms especially large as that “single nominated performance from an ignored-in-other-major-categories picture”. That's a particularly burdensome last bit of support not infrequently borne by Supporting Actress nominees.

Katy Jurado (High Noon) and Ethel Waters (Member of the Wedding). Who would you call snubbed from '52's Supporting Actressing?

All told, 1952 stands as nearly exemplary of the idiosyncrasies of the Best Supporting Actress category, and is thus perhaps the ideal one to revive the peculiar pleasures of the Supporting Actress Smackdown. And while I might wonder what this roster might have felt like if, say, High Noon’s Katy Jurado or Member of the Wedding’s Ethel Waters (or even Viva Zapata’s Mildred Dunnock) had “coastered” into the field, the Smackdown challenges us to look closely at the work of the women who were nominated, for it is in such “actressing at the edges” that the category’s true pleasures shine.

See you on Saturday!

Saturday
Jul062013

Do You Miss StinkyLulu's 'Smackdown'?

You'd better sit down. Here have a grilled cheese sandwich to commemorate the moment.

In the Aughts when film blogging was rapidly progressing from infancy through busy rushed adolescence, quality Oscar-loving actressexuals were tuned in to and turned on by Stinky Lulu's monthly Supporting Actress Smackdown. Each month your host would profile the five Oscar nominees in a given year culminating in a "Smackdown" wherein a handful of fans would chime in on all five nominees and an actress would be crowned as best of that vintage. The restrospective smackdowns ended four years ago with a look back at 1956 (Limbo-dancing Oscar-winning Dorothy Malone prevailed) though one final smackdown was held five months later for the Supporting Actresses of Oscar 2009 and its winner Mo'Nique. Not that the Smackdowners always agreed with Oscar... 

I hadn't spoken to Stinky in years and we recently became reacquainted over lunch and a play. I told him how much I missed the smackdowns and it was only the 5,000th time he's heard this from someone. We got to talking and struck up a deal. We're ready to tell you... 

THE SMACKDOWN WILL RETURN

Gloria Grahame's acceptance speech was four words long "Thank you very much"There will be a couple of minor adjustments for its new home at The Film Experience but StinkyLulu will be back as emcee for the big event. The monthly smackdowns will resume (at least for a short while) at the end of August. The kick off Smackdown will be the ladies of 1952

  • Collette Marchand in Moulin Rouge
  • Gloria Grahame in The Bad and the Beautiful
  • Jean Hagen in Singin' in the Rain
  • Terry Moore in Come Back Little Sheba
  • Thelma Ritter in With a Song in My Heart

More details, years, and guest list TBA but please do speak aloud your immediate thoughts in the comments.