Friday, July 04, 2008

FRIDAY SCREEN TEST: Karina Longworth

According to Karina Longworth's bio at SpoutBlog, she once spilled a negroni on Huey Lewis. My instinct tells me I should ban her name from this blog forever due to this nefarious attempt at alcohol assassination (and Huey is the victim here, not the drink), but I'm going to give her a second chance since she's also kind of a blogging goddess. Don't believe me? Well, she founded Cinematical, then it was bought by AOL, and now she is the editor of the aforementioned SpoutBlog. That was a medium-sized sentence, but those are two very large movie sites, and her writing has also appeared at The Huffington Post, NewTeeVee and TV Squad -- not to mention a few sightings on G4, AMC and NPR. And as you'll read here, she does all this and lots more, I'm getting tired just thinking about it.

EARLIEST MOVIE-WATCHING MEMORY: 'In the 80s, before The Little Mermaid reinvigorated their production of new animated films, Disney used to theatrically rerelease their animated classics, at the rate of one or two per year. I know that my parents used to take me to ALL of these––they were the ONLY movies I was allowed to see––and I have a vague memory of really loving Sleeping Beauty and demanding to see it more than once. But my REAL first memory––and the gateway to my first act of film criticism–– comes from the first grade. I set next to this boy named Paul, and on the first day of school, I decided he was my boyfriend. He wasn't so sure. Every day he'd come to school talking about "grown-up" movies that he was allowed to watch: Poltergeist, E.T., Back to the Future, Ghostbusters. Especially Ghostbusters. It was his favorite, and I decided it was going to be mine too, and that would prove that our love was true. It took some convincing before my parents would actually bring a VHS copy into our home––I think Paul's mom got a call from my mom inquiring about Ghostbusters' swear word and boob count––but eventually it was approved, and I remember watching it every day after school until I knew it by heart. A year or two later, a nanny brought over Singin' in the Rain, which was my first non-animated musical, and I recognized that there was something about the way that film was put together that was a lot like the way Ghostbusters was put together. Now, I'd be able to isolate the way Ivan Reitman choreographs actors in front of his camera, the way the plot such as it is exists to more or less form a bridge between set pieces. Then, I think I just thought that Ghostbusters must be a musical. '

LAST DVD YOU BOUGHT: 'Between festivals and screeners, I haven't had a chance to watch, let alone buy, anything new in a while. But I think my last purchase was Douglas Sirk's All That Heaven Allows, which is currently stuck in my MacBook's drive. '

IF YOU WERE A TCM GUEST PROGRAMMER, WHAT THREE MOVIES WOULD YOU CHOOSE: 'This is a really hard question, and I don't think I could provide an absolute answer, but one theme I always go back to is the way the glamour close-up––an image type and use of technology that has remained virtually unchanged since the beginning of cinema––can be used to wildly different ends in different contexts. So I'd show three films featuring some of my favorite close-ups: Pandora's Box, Pickup on South Street, and something where Judy Garland's lips quiver––maybe A Star is Born, maybe The Clock. If TCM deemed that too wonky (and they probably should), I'd probably put together a Lubitsch triple feature, because there are so many of his films I've never seen, and TCM never shows anything but Design for Living and Trouble in Paradise.'

FAVORITE MOVIE ENDING: 'I tend to be really into endings that force you to reevaluate everything you've just seen. Again, this is just today, but right now I'm a bit obsessed with the endings of both James Gray's Two Lovers, and that film's evil Cannes twin, Phillippe Garrel's Frontier of Dawn.'

'I'm not really ashamed about it (although others have told me I should be), but I've never seen a single Indiana Jones movie. I have no excuse, beyond disinterest.'

The Goodbye Girl
Working Girl -- 'Working Girl is one of my classic sick day guilty pleasures. Every day I'm terrified that I'm going to wake up in Sigourney Weaver's place––crippled, powerless to stop a trashy blonde from screwing my boyfriend and stealing my job.'
Funny Girl
Jersey Girl

WHO WOULD YOU AWARD AN HONORARY BEST ACTOR/ACTRESS OSCAR TO: 'Judy Garland for A Star is Born, although that *would* alter the space time continuum in an unfathomable way, and possibly not for the best. At the very least, it would have robbed her of her favorite cocktail party punchline about Grace Kelly ("I hear she only won for The Country Girl because she's a nymphomaniac." "Only when you can calm her down.")

WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU WERE AT A DRIVE-IN, WHAT DID YOU SEE: 'I've never been to a drive-in. I drove past one in Delaware on a road trip back from Virginia Beach last summer and really wanted to stop, but the timing was bad. I'd like to rectify that situation some time soon. '

FILM ERA OR GENRE YOU'RE A LITTLE OBSESSED WITH: 'Macro: everything from the 1930s, particularly early talkie sex farces and horror films. Micro: 1934, the year of The Black Cat, The Gay Divorcee, The Scarlett Empress, weirdly class-conscious pre-screwball (and barely pre-Code) comedies like Servant's Entrance. I could go on...'

FILM CRITIC YOU TRUST THE MOST: 'For me, reading criticism isn't really about tapping into someone else's taste––it's never, "He likes it, so I'll like it," probably in part because often times by the time I'm reading a review, I've already seen the film. I'm more interested in critics who either force me to look at films in a new way, or just make me really, really angry. These days it's often David Bordwell, J. Hoberman, Nathan Lee and Armond White.'

FAVORITE BOOK ON THE SUBJECT OF FILM: 'Not to be overly dramatic, but Stanley Cavell's Pursuits of Happiness changed my life.'

DESCRIBE THE FREQUENCY OF YOUR FILM INTAKE: 'Lately, I'm going to one or two film festivals a month, and at a festival, I tend to start with a 9 am screening and just watch as many films as I can throughout the day, taking breaks to file copy, until I absolutely can't take anymore and have to force myself to go out and drink. Usually it ends up being about four films a day, but often I'll fall asleep for at least part of one or two of them. When I'm not on the road, I'll probably go to one or two press screenings a week, and maybe three special events or rep screenings at Film Forum or Anthology Film Archives. I fit screeners in when I have time. And I watch a lot of fragments of films on YouTube and Hulu.'

1. Smoking and drinking are cool.
2. When two people want to have sex with each other but can't, they either argue or dance.
3. The dead rising from the grave is the fundamental fantasy of contemporary culture. (Actually, I think I learned that from Slavoj Zizek, but I'm pretty sure he was talking about Pet Sematary, so it counts.)

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