Today in Blurbs: Entertainment Weekly Likes Us!


Have you seen this week’s Entertainment Weekly, the one with Halle Berry on the cover? We’re in it! The magazine named You Must Remember This to their Must List of The Top 10 Things [They] Love This Week!


Perhaps not coincidentally, this weekend we also hit a new high on the iTunes Film & TV…

YMRT #6: Isabella Rossellini in the 1990s



Today we celebrate the 62nd birthday of actress/model/filmmaker Isabella Rossellini. She was born into Hollywood scandal: her mother, Ingrid Bergman, was denounced on the floor of Congress for her adulterous relationship with Isabella’s father, Italian neorealist director Roberto…

You Must Remember This: The (Suddenly, This) Summer Experiment

I started my podcast, You Must Remember This, in April, and have managed to produce four episodes in two months. I didn’t know what I was doing at first, technically (as I’ve noted elsewhere, I taught myself how to use GarageBand by editing the first episode), but also in a larger sense. I wasn’t sure what this even was, but I knew I needed to do something creative, and that I had to start making it in order to figure it out.

I think I’m still figuring it out (technically, and otherwise), but the response has been encouraging (thanks, you guys!), at least encouraging enough that I’ve decided to try something. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been working a job which more or less ends today. I have nothing planned, work-wise, starting next week (although I do have a book coming out in September and I figure I’ll probably need to devote some time to asking people to pay attention to it around then). So, for the next two months, I’ve decided to do nothing except for work on this podcast. My goal is to try to crank out one episode per week, beginning next week (although realistically, the episode I’ve just started to work on might not be ready for publishing until Monday June 9) and continuing through the end of July. I want to get faster, in terms of how long it takes to make these, and I want the storytelling to be a little tighter. Most of all, I want to see if it makes sense to treat this like a full-time job.

Wish me luck! And if you haven’t already, please subscribe to the podcastcheck out our website, and/or rate and review us on iTunes.

You Must Remember This Episode 2: Frank Sinatra in Outer Space

Welcome to the second episode of You Must Remember This, the podcast devoted to exploring the secret and or/forgotten histories of Hollywood’s first century. Today, we look back to 1979, when — while the music world was full of punk and post-disco coke rock, and the movie world was making the transition from the “New Hollywood” of the ’70s into the blockbuster age — Frank Sinatra recorded Trilogy: Past, Present and Future, a triple album with one disc each devoted to big band standards (“The Past”); covers from “the rock era” including Billy Joel and Beatles songs and also “Theme from New York, New York” (“The Present”); and, most amazingly, a 40 minute song cycle about life, love, death and visiting outer space (“The Future”). We’ll take a look at how and why “The Future” was made, and theorize as to why it’s fallen into the dustbin of pop cultural history.  

—-Show Notes!!—-


Tracks from Trilogy: Past, Present and Future, performed by Frank Sinatra:

“Let’s Face The Music and Dance”

“Theme from New York New York”


“What Time Does the Next Miracle Leave?”

“World War None!”

“The Future” 

“The Future (Continued)”

“The Future (Conclusion)”

“Before the Music Ends”


“Can’t Get Started” performed by Frank Sinatra, from the album No One Cares

“Come Rain or Come Shine” performed by Frank Sinatra, from the album Sinatra and Strings

“New York is My Home” composed by Gordon Jenkins, from  Manhattan Tower

“This is It” by Kenny Loggins, from The Essential Kenny Loggins

Other audio

“Jonathan Schwartz’s Good Time” from NPR


Sinatra! The Song is You by Will Friedwald 

Why Sinatra Matters by Pete Hamill 

Goodbye: In Search of Gordon Jenkins by Bruce Jenkins 

“Frank Sinatra’s Heat-Seeking Missive Finds Two New Targets: a Columnist and a Deejay” by Cherie Burns, PEOPLE Magazine, May 5, 1980 

"Sinatra: The Legend Lives" by Pete Hamill, New York magazine, April 198

  Ignore this post. 

Ignore this post. 

You Must Remember This: The Hard Hollywood Life of Kim Novak

A pilot for a new podcast … or, How I Spent My Spring Break.

What is this? This is the first edition of what I hope will be first a bi-weekly and then, come summer, a weekly podcast. Actually, it’s more like a series of audio historical storytelling essays which I plan to distribute as a podcast. Call it This American Life meets Hollywood Babylon (if you must), although my focus will be a bit wider than Kenneth Anger’s. I’m not solely or primarily interested in scandal, and I’m really excited about being able to draw from the whole of the 20th century, and from high and low and everything in between. Maybe one week I’ll talk about Theda Bara, and the next, Adrian Lyne. I really want to do a big research binge on David Blaine. I’m fairly sure the next episode will have to do with an album Frank Sinatra released in the ’80s. But we’ll see what happens. 

In this first episode — written, narrated, and edited by me, and featuring a guest appearance by Farran Nehme — we work back from Kim Novak’s appearance at the 2014 Academy Awards to trace the ways in which Novak has always been an outlier amongst Hollywood beauties. Briefly the biggest star in Hollywood, Novak’s career has always been defined by the tension between her well-crafted image, and her resistance to being crafted into something she was not.

Special thanks to Farran Nehme, and also to Meghan Lee, Noah Segan and Rian Johnson, who contributed to the making of this episode, and whose contributions ended up on the cutting room floor through no fault of their own. Also, big thanks to the crew who beta tested this episode. I got some really great feedback to take into consideration on future episodes. 

Please note! This episode is the result of my first ever attempt to do anything like this. I taught myself how to use Garage Band as I was making it. I consider it the pilot for what I want to do going forward, and in terms of the storytelling this it’s pretty close, but with every additional episode I hope to refine both the quality and the sophistication of the sound production and editing. Which is a way of saying, I know there are some audio issues here. This is never going to be a professional radio production, but it will get cleaner as I go along. 

Why am I doing this? Since August, most of my time has been occupied with finishing a bookpromoting another book, and teaching. What this amounts to is that I’ve spent a lot of 2014 either talking about work I did a year ago, or doing new writing and research that no one, outside of my editors and students, has yet been able to see. I started itching to do something that I could get out into the world relatively quickly. (That being said, this episode took about 10 days to produce. Much of that was occupied with teaching myself how to use Garage Band, so hopefully it will take less time in the future.)

Also, since I quit my job over a year ago, I’ve been struggling to find the right format and outlet for the kind of work I’m interested in doing. Mostly, this is my fault: increasingly, I’m not that interested in new movies, or in writing about them within the standard conventions of journalism. I’m much more interested in diving deep into weird corners of the past, and taking what I find and spinning it into something personal, and personalized.

So, I decided to create a space which could contain everything I’m interested in, and, at least for the moment, make it as DIY as possible, so that I can figure out what it is without wasting anyone else’s time or money. 

I am hungry for feedback, so please email me at karina dot longworth at gmail dot com if you have any thoughts, questions or suggestions. As I noted above, I didn’t how to make a podcast prior to the weekend before last, so there are clearly aspects of this that I could do better, and hopefully will do better in the future. But it’s a start. 

***Show Notes***


“Let’s Talk About Kim Novak” Farran Nehme,

“Kim Novak Returning to SF To Share Her Art” Ruthe Stein, 

“Bell, Book and Scandal: Kim Novak and Sammy Davis Jr.” from The Bad and the Beautiful by Sam Kashner and Jennifer MacNair

Kim Novak: Reluctant Goddess by Peter Harry Brown

Vertigo: The Making of a Hitchcock Classic by Dan Auiler

Spellbound by Beauty: Hitchcock and His Women by Donald Spoto

Audio sources

Hitchcock and Truffaut (and translator!) audio

Vertigo trailer

Novak speaking to British Film Institute

The Legend of Lylah Clare directed by Robert Aldrich

Picnic directed by Joshua Logan

 Yahoo! UK report on the Oscars


“Perfect Neglect in a Field of Statues” by Eluvium

“Mademoiselle Mabry” by Miles Davis

“Life Round Here” by James Blake

   Meryl Streep: Anatomy of an Actor , is  on sale now . 
 You can read excerpts from the book at  Vanity Fair  (preceded by a Q&A with me) and  Roger . 
 You can read about the book at  LA Weekly ,  Slate , the  Hollywood Reporter ,  Thompson on Hollywood ,  Metro NY ,  Inside New Jersey ,  Bloomberg View ,  Verite Film Magazine , and at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s blog, where it was named one of the 10 best  New Movie Books For Cinephiles .  
 You can listen to interviews with me about the book and Meryl at  Q ,  Nerdist Writer’s Panel , and  Broken Projector . 
 Want more information?  Here it is!

Meryl Streep: Anatomy of an Actor, is on sale now.

You can read excerpts from the book at Vanity Fair (preceded by a Q&A with me) and Roger

You can read about the book at LA Weekly, Slate, the Hollywood Reporter, Thompson on HollywoodMetro NY, Inside New Jersey, Bloomberg ViewVerite Film Magazine, and at the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s blog, where it was named one of the 10 best New Movie Books For Cinephiles

You can listen to interviews with me about the book and Meryl at Q, Nerdist Writer’s Panel, and Broken Projector.

Want more information? Here it is!

Meryl Streep: Anatomy of an Actor FAQ (Updated 2/18/14)

Order the book from Amazon now!


Meryl Streep: Anatomy of an Actor, a book commissioned by Cahiers du Cinema and written by me, was published on January 6 by Phaidon. It has received many nice writeups, and excerpts have been published by Vanity Fair and

You may have questions. Here are some answers. 

1. So, what’s the deal with this thing? Is it a biography? 

I consider it to be a work of longform film criticism. I did a wealth of research to familiarize myself with Meryl Streep’s life and its relationship to her work, but it’s not a biography, authorized or otherwise. There are ten chapters, and each is essentially a long piece of film criticism focused on a specific performance in a single production, the period it represented in Streep’s life and career, and its impact on Streep’s own stardom and the wider landscape of opportunity for women in Hollywood. In short, it’s an analysis of Streep’s career, written by a film critic, in a fully-illustrated, coffee table-ready package.

2. What are the ten films?

The Deer Hunter, Kramer vs. KramerSophie’s ChoiceSilkwoodOut of AfricaDeath Becomes HerThe Bridges of Madison CountyThe Devil Wears PradaJulie and Julia and The Iron Lady

3. What sets your book apart from the hundreds of other Meryl Streep books on the market?

Actually, there are not hundreds of other Meryl Streep books on the market; SimplyStreep, an incredibly detailed and frequently updated fan site, has a summary of the offerings, and if you’re looking for something in-print and in English, the pickings are slim.

That said, as far as I can tell, my book is the first lengthy study of Streep as a feminist artist. I chose these ten films in part because each represents a kind of historical fiction about women, and in the book, I make the case that Streep’s body of work often seems to function as a kind of alternative history of the 20th century from a female perspective. I argue that her choice of roles, her process and the results are frequently actually quite radical, even (or especially) when the projects themselves seem on the surface to be fully mainstream or even conservative in nature. So, there’s that.

4. Okay, you’ve sold me! How can I buy it? 

Order the book now from Amazon. Or, even better, you could ask your local independent bookstore to order it. The publisher is Phaidon and the ISBN-13 is: 978-0714866697.

5. I’m a critic/journalist, and/or I have a blog/podcast/radio show, and I would love to get a free copy for review, and/or so I can interview you. What should I do?

That’s great! Email me at karina dot longworth at gmail dot com, with your mailing address and your outlet. I will pass your information along to my publisher, they will send you a review copy, and then you can email me again once you’re ready to talk about it. 

6. I have a movie theater/screening series/bookstore/other place and I would like to show some Meryl Streep movies/host a book reading or Q&A/throw some kind of event or party in honor of your book release. Can we make that happen?

ABSOLUTELY! Email me at karina dot longworth at gmail dot com and I’ll help out in any way I can. 

7. Can you introduce me to Meryl?

No. Sorry!

8. Who are you, anyway?

I used to be a full-time film critic, at the Village Voice and LA Weekly, and now I’m a freelance writer/researcher/journalist. Meryl Streep: Anatomy of an Actor is my third book, and I have two others underway. Here’s more info about me

Nathan Landau: Don’t you see, Sophie? We’re dying.

-Sophie’s Choice(1982)

This Week in Meryl-Mania

Exciting things have been happening!

This week, I talked about Meryl on Q, the Canadian radio program which is distributed in the US via PRI. I also recorded a segment for the Film School Rejects Broken Projector Podcast. Due to a scheduling mess-up on my end, I had to record the podcast sitting outside Cafe Vita in Los Feliz. On garbage day. Enjoy the ample background noise!

But the big event of the week was the series of screenings I programmed at the New Beverly Cinema, which went splendidly. It was super exciting to see and meet so many people who were excited about movies like She-Devil, Death Becomes Her and Postcards From the Edge. Talking about these types of forgotten or lesser thought-of moments in Streep’s career was a big motivation for me to write the book, and it was great to see that I wasn’t alone in wanting to hear these stories and rediscover these movies.

Also, there was this:

The series got some great local press, in places like LAist, Los Angeles Magazine and my alma mater, LA Weekly

I’d love to do more of these types of events. If anyone out there is affiliated with a theater and would like to do some sort of Streep screening, email me at karina dot longworth at gmail dot com, and we can get something going. 

Finally, right now I’m gearing up to talk about the book with my friend/Los Angeles Times critic and reporter Mark Olsen, at Book Soup on Tuesday. This is the last local event I have scheduled for awhile, so please come! We will laugh and chat and probably have drinks after. 

Meryl Streep vs. Pauline Kael

I was asked to contribute an essay for an anthology about Pauline Kael to be published by Scarecrow Press. The editor of the book, Wayne Stengel, graciously allowed me to post the essay I submitted here. If it by any chance it piques your curiosity about Sophie’s Choice, come see the film tonight or tomorrow at the New Beverly Cinema


The great, lasting gift of Pauline Kael’s body of work may be its unfailing ability to provoke debates and disputes, but there remain a few aspects of her film criticism that are indisputable. Without question, she was a great observer of performers, one who made her habit using her reviews to detail her ongoing relationship (not physical, maybe, but definitely emotional) to a star across their various movies. And, more than anyone else of her time (or maybe even any time), she was a critic who related watching movies to having a body and feeling desire. Look at the titles of her books: I Lost it at the Movies, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Going Steady. She called Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice “whorey” in the same breath as praising it as “the liveliest American comedy so far this year.” At a college-town lecture, she countered a question about her controversial review of Louis Malle’s Murmur of the Heart with a question of her own: “Do you remember your first fuck?” She fought unsuccessfully to review Deep Throat in the New Yorker, and later capped off her famous rave of the X-rated Last Tango in Paris by admitting Bertolucci’s film “has made the strongest impression on me in almost twenty years of reviewing.” She was forever drawn to performers and films which, as she put it admiringly of Henry James’ The Bostonians, had “sex right there at the center.”

As Kael’s biographer Brian Kellow put it, the critic “generally preferred actors “who conveyed some kind of ripe sensuality, inflected with a certain craziness or messiness.” Just as intensely as she praised an actor like Marlon Brando for his sexual presence on screen, Kael could sharpen her knives on performers who she felt didn’t use their bodies to the fullest.  One actress whose physicality made her a Kael bete noir was Meryl Streep. 


Kael first noticed Streep in The Deer Hunter, and actually singled the actress out for praise (calling her “a real beauty…[who] doesn’t do anything standard; everything seems fresh”) in what was otherwise an incensed pan of Michael Cimino’s Vietnam War film. In her 1980 essay “Why Are Movies So Bad? Or, The Numbers,” Kael went on to wholly dismiss two Streep films, Kramer vs. Kramer and The Seduction of Joe Tynan, as fantasies for “over-age flower children,” but waited until reviewing Karel Reiss’ The French Lieutenant’s Woman to consider Streep as a body on screen. The verdict? “She’s pallid and rather glacial,” Kael sniffed of the actress, who by this point had won an Oscar for Kramer (just her second major film role) and had occupied a cover of Newsweek in January 1980 under the headline “A Star for the ‘80s.” Kael went on: “Meryl Streep’s technique doesn’t add up to anything. We’re not fascinated by [her character]; she’s so distanced from us that all we can do is observe how meticulous Streep— and everything else about the movie— is.” Streep’s unsatisfactory physique came up again in Kael’s review of Still of the Night in 1982, in which she essentially compared Streep to a corpse, claiming the actress didn’t “resemble a living person; her face is gaunt, her skin has become alabaster.” But the piece de resistance — the moment when Kael’s scrutiny of Streep’s physicality no longer seemed happenstance or accidental — came with her review of the film that would net Streep her second Oscar in three years, Sophie’s Choice:

I felt more sympathy for Meryl Streep, the actress trying to put over these ultimate-horror scenes, than I could for Sophie herself […] Streep is very beautiful at times, and she does amusing, nervous bits of business, like fidgeting with a furry boa— her fingers twiddling with our heartstrings. She has, as usual, put thought and effort into her work. But something about her puzzles me: after I’ve seen her in a movie, I can’t visualize her from the neck down…she in effect decorporealizes herself. This could explain why her movie heroines don’t seem to be full characters, and why there are no incidental joys to be had from watching her. It could be that in her zeal to be an honest actress she allows nothing to escape her conception of a performance. Instead of trying to achieve freedom in front of the camera, she’s predetermining what it records.


Kael would continue to offer harsh assessments of Streep’s screen presence in other films she reviewed before her retirement from criticism in 1991. In Silkwood, “Meryl Streep gives a very fine performance as Karen Silkwood,” Kale wound up, then delivered the punchline: “considering that she’s the wrong kind of actress for the role…in her starring performances she has been giving us artificial creations. She doesn’t seem to know how to draw on herself, she hasn’t yet released an innate personality on the screen.” In Out of Africa, Kael insisted that Steep’s highly-specific Danish accent “puts quotation marks around everything she says.” But it is the Sophie’s Choice review that’s most often quoted — or misquoted, as in a 1987 LIFE Magazine profile of Streep, in which Brad Darrach claimed that Kael “likes to say that Meryl acts only from the neck up.” (“What does that mean, act from the neck up?,” said Streep’s Joe Tynan co-star Alan Alda, according to Darrach. “Should she act with her knees more?”)

The “abuse” Streep suffered at the pen-wielding hands of Kael had become such a large part of the actress’ legend that in 2008, seven years after Kael’s death, Streep finally fired back. “I’m incapable of not thinking about what Pauline wrote,” Streep admitted in an interview with The Guardian designed to promote Mamma Mia! “And you know what I think? That Pauline was a poor Jewish girl who was at Berkeley with all these rich Pasadena WASPs with long blond hair, and the heartlessness of them got her.”

Meryl Streep’s job is to act and to promote the movies in which she acts by submitting to interviews and projecting a fascinating star persona. Pauline Kael’s job was to take in movies, performances, and the whole of the image that a star projects to their audience, and to essentially report on how all of the above made her feel. (An argument could be made that this shouldn’t be a film critic’s job description, but it’s certainly an accurate description of how Pauline Kael approached her job.) If there is an unspoken professional contract between critics and art makers, there’s no trace of awareness of this pact in Streep’s comment. There’s no acknowledgement that Kael’s words are her work, or that this work is both a kind of art, and in some sense its own kind of performance. There’s no gesture of respect, phony or otherwise, for position and status, and the implied prerogative it would seem to carry with it to allow Kael to say whatever she thinks needs to be said about a given film and the elements in it. There’s no demurral. In researching my book, Meryl Streep: Anatomy of An Actor, I read dozens of interviews with Streep spanning about 35 years, and catalogued hundreds of quotes. This was one of the few moments of absolute candor, one of just a handful of times when Streep let a personal feeling trump her very savvy understanding of the politics of publicity. Her comments were clearly spontaneous, emotional, and unprofessional — all adjectives that Streep likely thought could fairly be applied to Kael’s written judgements of her. 

Instead of observing a theoretical professional code of conduct, Streep paints the conflict between her and Kael as a kind of proto-Mean Girls dynamic — ostensibly because, as she perceived it, Kael went there first — but Streep’s comments are, in some sense, more brutal than Kael’s. Of course, if her actual intention was to be truly catty or vicious, Streep could have gone further. She could have fleshed out the “otherness” that she implied to be the source of the critic’s nagging insecurity, by noting that Kael was a have-not in the beauty sweepstakes, whose romantic career consisted of multiple frustrated liaisons with gay and bisexual men. She could have subsequently suggested that Kael’s preoccupation with the bodies of performers had something to do with the the critic’s own body having failed her as a sexual object. Instead, while acknowledging that she was still bothered by words written 25 years in the past, Streep cooly eviscerates Kael as a permanent adolescent who let her own decades-old pain color her judgement. 


How true does Streep’s conception of Kael’s motivation ring? It’s true that Kael was a “poor Jewish girl” who essentially dropped out of Berkeley when she ran out of money, and it’s true that if she had been someone who had developed an allergy to “rich Pasadena WASPs with long blond hair” due to bad experiences, you couldn’t find a better avatar to dredge up that resentment than Meryl Streep circa the late 1970s-early 1980s. But based on everything else we know of Kael, it seems more likely that any resentment Streep sparked in her had less to do with Kael’s unshakable memory of Berkeley bullies, and more to do with her professional struggles. 


Pauline Kael loved being a star, even on the relatively small level of Berkeley fame that she enjoyed while writing program notes for the Berkeley Cinema Guild and reviewing movies on KPFA, but she wasn’t really famous, or even able to make a comfortable living, as a critic until she was well into middle age. Long before that, she expressed disdain for sudden fame. Writing to a friend in the mid-1940s about her ex-lover, the poet Robert Horan, Kael commented that his recent, higher-profile work felt “hurried and a little too chic. Success doesn’t come that easily if you’re really serious…” Once Kael did have a high-profile platform, she felt compelled to use it to champion underdogs, and undercut virtually anyone for whom success seemed to come too easy.


Kael may have been initially perturbed by Streep’s apparently easy fame, and felt determined to take the girl of the moment down a peg. But Streep, of course, wasn’t merely the the flavor of the month — she didn’t go away. As she continued to star in films that Kael was obliged to take seriously, the critic’s resentment might have increased. Maybe Kael was kicking herself for her own lack of foresight regarding Streep’s longevity — or ashamed that her arguments continued to fall on deaf ears. Kael was famously confident in her power not just to set the critical agenda, but to actually change filmmakers’ minds. Long before her friendships with Sam Peckinpah and Robert Altman incurred whispers of impropriety, she allegedly burned her social bridge to Sidney Lumet by pointing to the director in polite company and saying, “My job is to show him which way to go.” 

Another big part of her identity as a critic was to stand in opposition to a trend. Kael apparently felt a self-righteous mission to balance the scales by zigging where others zagged. To quote a radio broadcast from December 1962 in which Kael eviscerated the safe liberal climate of the very station on which her voice was being heard, “Do you really want to be endlessly confirmed in the opinions you already hold?” As Kellow put it, “she was determined to let her readers know that she was one critic not taken in” by the hype du jour. Meryl “Star for the ‘80s” Streep was the first to admit that her early career was marked by “excessive hype”: “For a while there it was either me or the Ayatollah on the covers of national magazines,” she sighed in 1981. Maybe Kael dished it so aggressively because she felt Streep had grown big enough to take it. 


Or maybe she didn’t “feel” anything about Streep at all. These types of attacks were part of what would now be called the Pauline Kael brand, and as with anything branded, there was something soulless about their manufacture; they were not, Kael would say, motivated by personal animosity. In fact, Kael claimed to be surprised when her attacks on filmmakers or other critics were ever taken seriously or personally. Kellow uses the word “detachment” to describe Kael’s attack mode. Kael’s daughter Gina, at her mother’s funeral, was more specific — and more critical. Gina noted that Pauline “truly believed that what she did was for everyone else’s good, and that because she meant well, she had no negative effects. She refused any consideration of that possibility and she denied any motivations or personal needs … This lack of introspection, self-awareness, restraint, or hesitation gave Pauline supreme freedom to speak up, to speak her mind, to find her honest voice. She turned her lack of self-awareness into a triumph.”



Given the critic’s apparent blindness (willful or otherwise) to the consequences of her acid pen, what would Kael have made of Streep’s long-delayed response? It’s easy to imagine that Kael would have claimed Streep was flattering herself in thinking that a mere actress could be a thorn in a critic’s side. Streep may have been more of a convenience than an annoyance, an easy target that gave Kael a chance to do some of the things she most loved to do, a high-profile idol around which Kael could paint her own critical philosophy. Ultimately, her criticisms of Streep could conceivably be about a lot of things, but particularly in hindsight, they hardly seem to have anything to do with Meryl Streep. Here, as was so often the case, Pauline Kael’s true subject may have been Pauline Kael.