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Editor-in-Chief
Alex Carnevale
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Features Editor
Mia Nguyen
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Senior Editor
Brittany Julious
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This Recording

is dedicated to the enjoyment of audio and visual stimuli. Please visit our archives where we have uncovered the true importance of nearly everything. Should you want to reach us, e-mail alex dot carnevale at gmail dot com, but don't tell the spam robots. Consider contacting us if you wish to use This Recording in your classroom or club setting. We have given several talks at local Rotarys that we feel went really well.

Pretty used to being with Gwyneth

Regrets that her mother did not smoke

Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

Roll your eyes at Samuel Beckett

John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion

Metaphors with eyes

Life of Mary MacLane

Circle what it is you want

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Friday
May292015

In Which Alicia Vikander Possesses No Human Agency

Artilect

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Ex Machina
dir. Alex Garland
128 minutes


The camera rarely lingers on Nathan (Oscar Isaac), an android created by the unseen, brilliant CEO of a  searching engine company called Bluebook. On orders, one of the CEO's employees Caleb (Domnhall Gleeson) journeys to a laboratory in a mountainous region to serve as a human stimulus to Nathan and a few other androids, mostly notably the pathetically named Ava (Alicia Vikander). He tells Caleb he is there to determine whether or not Ava passes the Turing test.

Garland is making his directorial debut in this claustrophobic, unhappy Stanley Kubrick... parody? By his own admittance, he does not have a lot to say about the actual science behind this, making Ex Machina more of a lazy, boring fantasy than anything else. Who knows how common movies about artilects will become? On the surface, an artificial intellect is really no different from a human being.

In one scene Caleb cuts his arm with a knife, drawing copious amounts of blood, in order to verify that he is himself not an artilect. Very slowly he figures out that Nathan's Japanese housemaid Kyoko is also an machine. Kyoko shows Caleb her plastic skin, which peels off and reattaches itself to the android's chassis quite wonderfully. Garland oes light on special effects, which is a shame because the AIs in Ex Machina never do anything very impressive, except pout and try to be cast in future human movies.


As Ava, Vikander is particularly wretched. You would think being given the task of being robotic would be right up her alley because is semi-androgynous and entirely wooden by nature, but she someone manages to screw up even that. We never feel anything like closeness or attraction for this creature, so it is hard to understand why Caleb would harbor any sympathy or empathy for her.

Garland uses close-ups very sparingly on his lead actress, since we are always meant to remember, through the viewing of her transparent torso and legs, that she is not a human being. This was probably a mistake, since Vikander's line readings and general mien are so utterly dull that we could not forget it anyway.

Ava plots to get Caleb to let her out of confinement. The two plan to reprogram the doors so that when the facility loses power, she will be set free. This plan works completely even after Nathan finds out about it, revealing that he is not actually in charge of the facility. When he tries to subdue the insurrection by ordering Ava back to her room, she refuses to comply.


There seems to be little point in making films about artifical intelligences if the AIs in question are just going to act like human beings, except slightly less caring overall. It turns Ex Machina itself into larger Turing test. Essentially, we do find we care less about a creature when we realize she has purely been created for a singular purpose rather than an unknown one.

Garland does an anemic job of making us truly empathize with anyone in Ex Machina, but this is sort of the point. The only thing keeping our interest is the magnetic performance of Oscar Isaac. His Nathan carries the proceedings forward, balanced on the sheer weight of his charisma. It is like watching Marlon Brando and Zero Mostel all rolled into one. There is nothing here without him.


Eventually, one of the AIs murders one of the other AIs. It doesn't actually destroy the body, just makes it think death is coming because the triggers preprogrammed to suggest death in its subroutine have been activated. This is the major advantage humans have over artificial intelligences. Even when all the evidence says a human being is dead, it will keep fighting to stay alive. Assuming we can program artilects effectively, they will never be able to destroy us. We will simply do that ourselves.


The main reason we need to develop such machines is to colonize space and report back about what they have found. It might make sense to also include Domnhall Gleeson on such an expedition, because then we would never have to watch him act again.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Giving Up On Miracles" - Ben Lee (mp3)


Thursday
May282015

In Which We Find Solace In The Hypnotic

Processing

by MIA NGUYEN

Welcome to Me
dir. Shira Piven
88 minutes

It’s an emotional time for Kristen Wiig as an actress. After leaving Saturday Night Live in 2012, she has become a front woman in emotional independent films. In Welcome to Me, Kristen Wiig plays Alice Klieg, a single woman suffering from borderline personality disorder. Wiig’s expressions are always stagnant. Her mien is camera ready at all times. The state of her apartment is trapped in a perpetual state of the 90s, fully furnished with an eclectic fanfare of swan figurines and slew of VHS tapes. Daytime television is conveniently hypnotic for Alice's secluded lifestyle. She finds solace in watching reruns of Oprah on VHS. She can’t be faulted, Oprah’s voice is meditative.

The question, “What would you do with a million dollars?” usually lends itself in situations where people have nothing better to talk about. It’s self-aggrandizing to flaunt fame and fortune. There are people who consider gambling as a frivolous hobby, merely a waste of time and money, but according to Alice, the chances of winning the lottery can be achieved with the proper mindset.  

After hitting the $86 million California jackpot, Alice makes a public appearance on TV with a “prepared statement” where she seeks the attention and validation for which she has been yearning. She’s glimmering with hope. Everything she has done has led up to this moment.

Her televised speech is shortly cut off by a commercial after the line: “I’ve been using masturbation as sedative since 1991.” Unable to fathom the thought of going on unnoticed, she makes another television appearance to restate her speech. She transitions from one state to another with a turbulent force.

Alice's therapist Dr. Moffat (Tim Robbins) is a laidback man, but he has strict boundaries. There’s a scene where Dr. Moffat kindly asks Alice not to eat during their session. She retorts with a simple answer: “It’s in its own container.” Wiig allows her character to be infused with humor, but doesn’t devalue the overall portrayal of borderline personality disorder. After Alice exploits Dr. Moffat on her talk show, he has no qualms letting her go as a patient.

With $86 million dollars to play with, she fulfills her lifelong dream of being a talk show host just like Oprah. Television producer Rich (James Marsden) uses Alice to help protect the financial constraints of the company. James Marsden’s performance is soft and charismatic, like a cashmere sweater. Rich’s brother Gabe (Wes Bentley) takes quickly to Alice’s eccentric personality and finds her attractive.

Even though Rich finds his brother’s motives exploitative, he continues to pursue Alice romantically. On their first date, she quickly establishes a sexual relationship between the two in back of the bowling alley. When Alice invites him over, he discovers she sleeps with a sleeping bag on her bed. It doesn’t stop him; he could care less.

Each episode of “Welcome to Me” is filmed in front of a live studio audience. In the pilot, she makes a grand appearance in a swan. (Swans symbolize beauty and grace.) She tries her best to mimic these qualities to her fullest in order to be perceived this way. She is her own master. Alice invites us into her world, focusing on her childhood traumas and woes. She hires a slew of actors to reenact the people from her past but doesn’t think anyone is competent enough to perform her vision.

The show is the exact opposite of Oprah. It’s exploitative and risky. She slanders everyone in her life, including her best friend Gina (Linda Cardellini). Alice is unable to see all the hurtful things she has done. After spilling the boiling contents of a crockpot over herself on television, she is too consumed by the situation to shed an ounce of sympathy for Gina’s despair. Gina hits her breaking point and rails on Alice for her selfish behavior, but Alice is unable to process her words. During recovery, Alice retreats to her hotel room at the casino with a bunch of dogs. As a result, Alice has a mental breakdown, baring it all, emotionally and physically.

Despite the uncomfortable challenges, Welcome to Me sheds light on border personality disorder without poking fun at it. You can't turn away Kristen Wiig’s performance, even if you try.

Mia Nguyen is the features editor of This Recording.

"Conquerors" - The Darkness (mp3)

"Hammer & Tongs" - The Darkness (mp3)

 

Wednesday
May272015

In Which We Have A Problem With Your Problem

Hard to Say is This Recording’s weekly advice column. It will appear every Wednesday until the Earth perishes in a fiery blaze, or until North West turns 40. Get no-nonsense answers to all of your most pressing questions by writing to justhardtosay@gmail.com or by dropping us a note at our tumblr.

Hi,

My fiancee Jerome and I have a lovely circle of friends. We want to include everyone in our pre-wedding preparations, but Jerome doesn't get along with one of my college friends, a woman named Kaitlin. I honestly don't know who to blame for the impasse, but the two seems like polar opposites in every conceivable way. Last time we all had dinner, the two got into a twenty minute debate about Christina Hoff Sommers. I cried.

I know there is a type of fighting that is kind of like flirting in a way, and I am worried this is an example of that. I mean why would they be talking about her in the first place? This has gotten out of control and I'm really worried. I have tried to avoid taking sides but being a peacemaker has officially ended its utility and I just want this resolved.

Brenda N.

Dear Brenda,

If you are picking up on some kind of sexual tension, I wouldn't worry too much about it. It is more likely that Jerome is assigned some residual anger/upset about his committment to you on someone else, which is not exactly the worst case scenario. Christina Hoff Sommers is not really something to get upset about. She is just a person, like Meghan Daum or Carly Simon. They wake up, take shits, and go to bed; the things that everyone does.

Any argument that is not between family members, no matter how pervasive, annoying or visceral cannot keep building strength. It must either culiminate in what could very well be an exciting murder, or fizzle out into discontented silence. If you have to side with someone, side with your fiancee by excluding Kaitlin from events if necessary. Otherwise, pretend they are having some tiff akin to the feuds between seventh graders. By diminishing it in your mind, you will diminish it in theirs.

Also, I suggest you never discuss anything other than Chris Pratt at dinner parties.

Hi,

My boyfriend Hal and I were recently watching Bravo's Married at First Sight for reasons. One couple on the show renewed their bows in Las Vegas. It was absolutely disgusting.

Hal started talking about his only trip to Vegas seven years ago, and confessed that during the trip, after some encouragement from his friends, he had sex with a prostitute in a brothel.

I guess I didn't really know how to react at the time. Maybe I still don't. I know STD-wise that Hal is clean, but I'm having trouble dealing with this admission. Am I right to be upset?

Joan R. 

Dear Joan,

I'm more worried about Hal's judgment. He could have lied about this and you would never know the difference until the prost in question came looking for child support. I had a friend who looked for sex on Craigslist for years before his marriage. He also patronized Asian massage parlors quite frequently.

Whether or not his wife knows about this period, I couldn't say, but I told him what I would have told Hal. Nothing good comes from telling the truth about sex with women for money. As is, there's no going back to the place where you did not know this information.

The bright side is this: not only do you have a get out of jail free card for anything you want, you can be sure Hal is super into you. Finding a man who can't lie is not the worst development. Make sure this is the case by going all "Did you order the Code Red?" on him and try get him to admit to other prosts. Also, ask the woman's name. It always helps to get all the information first.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen. Access This Recording's mobile site at thisrecording.wordpress.com.

 

"Love Like That" - Jason Derulo ft. K. Michelle (mp3)

"Love Me Down" - Jason Derulo (mp3)