william steig drawing

May 21, 2011
Kartina Richardson

Addy : The Sound of Music

Person : Movie is a Mirror special series. Watch more here!

April 26, 2011
Kartina Richardson

The Cinema: Deadly & Holy

The other night, in a sleepless mania not unfamiliar to me, I rummaged through all my old school papers. They were abysmal, as unfortunately all academic writing is, but I paused self-beration to read one paper in particular. I remember it was handed in for extra credit in a last attempt to pass Dramaturgy. In it I reviewed theatre and film director (Marat/Sade) Peter Brook’s fantastic book The Empty Space and his categorizations of the theater: Holy, Deadly, Rough, Immediate. And as I trudged through my soulless, double spaced writing it suddenly occurred to me that these categories could be applied to the cinema. With the exception of the Immediate, they really are applied quite neatly, and I admit this gives me great pleasure. When things click together, the feeling is one of such satisfaction, it tips into sordidness. When this happens suspicion is the key in saving yourself from obnoxiousness. Fitting pieces of a puzzle together is satisfying, but always mock your vulgar fondness for completing puzzles in the first place.

I will try to split the word [theatre] four ways and distinguish four different meanings—and so will talk about a Deadly Theatre, a Holy Theatre, a Rough Theatre and an Immediate Theatre. Sometimes these four theatres really exist, standing side by side, in the West End of London, or in New York off Times Square. Sometimes they are hundreds of miles apart, the Holy in Warsaw and the Rough in Prague, and sometimes they are metaphoric: two of them mixing together within one evening, within one act. Sometimes within one single moment, the four of them, Holy, Rough, Immediate and Deadly intertwine. The Deadly Theatre can at first sight be taken for granted, because it means bad theatre. As this is the form of theatre we see most often, and as it is most closely linked to the despised, much-attacked commercial theatre it might seem a waste of time to criticize it further. But it is only if we see that deadliness is deceptive and can appear anywhere, that we will become aware of the size of the problem.

In this post (part one) I’ll discuss the Deadly and Holy Cinemas. In part two the Rough and Immediate. Can the Immediate be applied to Cinema? I am not so sure. We will see.

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April 20, 2011
Kartina Richardson

That Darn Cat

Lucille Ball

Carole Lombard

Judy Holliday

Haley Mills?

Sure Haley Mills.

Mills was a fabulous comedian. Her timing was magnificent. Two little scenes in Disney’s That Darn Cat (1965) will either back me up on this or expose my stupid sense of humor.

“Well I was away… on my holiday… to Mexico… on a bus.”

It gets me every time.

Excuse the long-winded voiceover. Allergies are fogging my brain.

April 19, 2011
Kartina Richardson

A Myrna Loy Story

Below is an email I received a few days ago. Brian was kind enough to allow me to share it with the Myrna Loy loving public! Isn’t it a great story?

Dear Kartina,

I was surfing around the channels today and came upon “At The Movies” just in time to see your piece on “The Thin Man Series”. Your passion for the old movies really shows, you did a great job. I wanted to tell you about my dad and Myrna Loy…

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March 21, 2011
Kartina Richardson

Jake : Fame

Introducing a new special series:

Person : Movie

The idea is a simple one. I persuade a person (friend, family or willing stranger) to tell me something about a movie.

Anything about any movie.

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February 18, 2011
Kartina Richardson

I Am Love vs. Somewhere

**Watch my “Ebert Presents” segment on “I Am Love” here**

In Luca Guadagnino’s I Am Love Tilda Swinton plays Emma Recchi, a Russian woman who marries into a wealthy Italian family and finds herself moving (somewhat unwillingly) into the role of matriarch. Dissatisfied with a soulless life of planning dinner parties, Emma finds love with a younger man, one with the earthiness she needs to remedy her stale aristocratic life. Now this is a movie about many things: family, legacy, death, birth, incest, and definitions of love and loneliness among them, but what I like most about the film is its size. I Am Love isn’t a movie that minimizes itself. Though we associate this kind of grandeur with melodramas of old, mainly pre-1970‘s, given the current popular styles of filmmaking, which often cast the theatrical and poetic as false, Guadagnino’s decision to make a grand, operatic film is actually a radical one.

I recently read a review of the film by one of my favorite film critics, The New Yorker’s Richard Brody. Even when I disagree with Brody’s thoughts on a movie, I am always intrigued by his reasons. Brody was not especially fond of Guadagnino’s film. He tore it a new one. But what fascinated me this time was that the reasons he gave were the exact reasons I hated Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere, a movie he loved. And Brody loved Somewhere for the reasons I loved I Am Love. They are two films with relatively similar stories (dissatisfied elite person finds happiness in the unexpected), done in completely opposing styles. Their titles even represent this contradiction: I AM LOVE vs. somewhere.

And as I thought more about I Am Love I thought more about what it represented to me and how my love for it is very much related to my dislike of Somewhere.

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February 10, 2011
Kartina Richardson

Race in Film: L’eclisse

In Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1962 film L’eclisse (Eclipse), time is the enemy. For this reason the chronically depressed will understand it implicitly. They will know that a fan turning left to right makes all the more stagnant the air in a room. They will understand that no part of that room, no corner or cushion, can provide relief from the realization that every approaching minute is opportunity for life to prove itself meaningless.

Do you not hear the constant victory,
in the human footrace
of time, slow as fire,
sure, and thick and Herculean
accumulating its volume and adding its sad fiber?

– Pablo Neruda (Cold Work)

Faced with this pointless existence, the only thing to do is roam listlessly about, picking things up and putting things down.

This is what Vittoria does.

Played by Monica Vitti, Vittoria falls out of love with lover Riccardo and into an affair with stock broker Piero, another relationship doomed to dissatisfy. In between (and during) she wanders about the urban landscape of Rome.

L’eclisse is a modern movie. Its allegiance to an early sixties modernism and aesthetic is declared in its opening titles. It is a movie of hard lines and clean surfaces. A movie about those who have climbed up, out of nature to build lives high above its savagery. As Katharine Hepburn says in the African Queen:

“Nature, Mr. Allnut is what we are put in this world to rise above.”

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January 24, 2011
Kartina Richardson

Ebert Presents At The Movies

Take a look at yours truly and her giant head in this video introducing the show’s critics!

The show premiered this past Friday. If you haven’t seen it yet, clips of all the reviews are up on the site!


And be sure to tune in this weekend for my first segment :: now online ::

Psst. It’s on Black Swan.

(see below)

Check your local PBS stations and times here.

Tell all your friends, of whom you have many I’m sure.

January 3, 2011
Kartina Richardson

Black Swan And Bathrooms

Sitting in a coffee shop I heard a man say:

“I saw Black Swan the other night. It was trash. Elevated trash, but trash.”

When you see a good movie, a very good movie, it’s difficult to remember that the film is not objectively extraordinary.

“Black Swan was great.”

You say to yourself and aloud.

You are certain the world agrees. Summer is hot, winter is cold, and Black Swan is a great film. Now this isn’t exactly evidence you are feeling superior. Superiority means knowing there exists another lesser point of view over which yours rises supreme. If you cannot even fathom an opposing view it is beyond arrogance. It is pure solipsism.

So, if you are sitting in a coffee shop and you hear a man say:

“I mean it was just awful. Natalie Portman was sweating beads, and blood and just really straining for an Oscar.  I don’t like it when actors strain. When you have to strain to do it, when it’s not natural, it’s just fake to me.”

The world will crack in two.

Of course this thinking reveals that I am often deep in my own world with its own rules and definitions for things.

Which brings us neatly to the issue of Nina and her many identities, a split shown most clearly in the bathroom: the Western world’s last vestige of privacy in an increasingly transparent society.

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December 12, 2010
Kartina Richardson

The Thin Man Series

*This post originally appeared on Roger Ebert’s Far Flung Correspondents*

I will do most anything to avoid thinking.

At the hint of strenuous thought I flee. I run like the dickens. I do not want my world to be disrupted.

Seventy five percent of my energy is spent repairing a glorious cocoon of comfort. Inside this shelter there is no overhead lighting, only lamps. There are no cold mornings or metaphysical crises. Everything is as it should be. Every question is easily answered. There you will find me licking my wounds, secretly enjoying the tang of blood and pus.

Thankfully, for the health of body and soul, this cocoon is under constant siege. The valiant twenty five percent of life force that remains does all in its power to destroy a sheltering that in reality is more prison than sanctuary. This twenty five percent is Saint George. The cocoon is the terrible dragon. It is death.

As Cocteau said “comfort kills creativity.” You will find me angrily hissing this to myself all day every day. On good days I heed the wisdom of the french man. On bad ones I refuse.

On the days Saint George loses this battle I immediately review a list of movies and TV shows I have carefully programmed for pacification purposes. These are films I have seen numerous times. I know the plot and dialogue by heart and so don’t need to pay any attention to them at all. I use them only for their mood elevating qualities. Some of them are actually great films (Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House). Others just happen to have a lot of sunlight (Housesitter).

But at the top of this list are five movies. Films that have held the top positions for over twenty years. MGM’s The Thin Man (1934), After the Thin Man (‘36), Another Thin Man (‘39), Shadow of the Thin Man (‘41), and The Thin Man Goes Home (‘45).

Song of the Thing Man (1947) is not included. I never did like it.

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