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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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Thursday
Jun302016

In Which We Bury Every Single Tycoon In The Room

Breathless Chances

by ALEX CARNEVALE

The Last Tycoon
creator Billy Ray
Amazon Studios

In the meantime, Stahl is now seriously ill. He and Kathleen have been taking "breathless chances." They have succeeded in having one last fling, which has taken place during an overpowering heat wave in the early part of September. But their meetings have proved unsatisfactory. -  from the synopsis of the unwritten conclusion to The Love of the Last Tycoon

The Love of the Last Tycoon was the kind of literary disaster than probably never should have seen the light of day. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a weird, vaguely homosexual worship piece on producer Irving Thalberg. Thalberg was a Jew who had the kind of inspirational story Scott had never been able to credibly write. Naturally, it turned out that this perfect male icon was doomed.

In Billy Ray's adaptation of this mess, he casts Matt Bomer as Hollywood executive Monroe Stahr. Bomer, recently of a Guy Ritchie movie that should have never been released, is slowly improving as an actor. Here Ray positions him opposite Lily Collins. Ms. Collins' eyebrows are inches thick and she looks like a deformed side character in a John Steinbeck novel. She loves Monroe, spending long monologues whining about how heroic he is. No one knows what the fuck she's talking about, least of all her father Pat (Kelsey Grammar), who runs this studio.

For some reason Billy Ray has turned the incredibly weak plot of Fitzgerald's half-novel into a Nazis vs Jews story. "I can't even put the word Nazi into one of my pictures," Bomer whines to one of his friends even though this makes so little sense it actually gives me a headache. Does Billy Ray think that the word Nazi was a slur? It was the name of their party.

Back to Scott's book, which was reconstructed by Edmund Wilson. Fitzgerald definitely has his highs and lows as a prose stylist. There's this one racist scene where they are driving down a road in Los Angeles and they see a "Negro" herding some cows. He moves them across the road and they give him a quarter. It's a very sad little moment that shows how behind the times Scott was as a writer at the end. Flannery O'Connor was in his rear view about to run him over.

Adding to the general confusion of this horrendous adaptation is Kelsey Grammer. In The Last Tycoon, he gets tons of screen time and looks so much heavier than he ever did. This neither suits him or the role he is playing, and Ray's writing for all his characters is a messy cross between the snappy dialogue in a Billy Wilder movie and some approximation of reality. In comparison to Bomer, who it seems may disappear if he is viewed from the wrong angle, Grammer looks like the obese girl from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in her final form.

As a representation of the period, The Last Tycoon is tremulously bad. Bomer's character is super-depressed because his Irish wife died, so he submerges his grief into his work. Ray wants us to think that Monroe Stahr is really good at his job. Actually, he is only terrific at motivating and manipulating people as a Don Draper-clone, and Scott's story shows how much they resent it and how little there is left of a person who behaves in this fashion. The odd, vaguely homoerotic glorification of this Jewish character is not only a historical abortion, but it feels like a lie on every level.

I was completely certain when I first read The Love of the Last Tycoon and now watching this latest disaster from the inimitably bad Amazon Studios brand that neither Billy Ray nor Scott Fitzgerald has any idea what it is like to be a Jew. At least Scott's novel admits that, in a way, positioning Monroe as fundamentally misunderstood.

In Ray's version of The Last Tycoon, there is actually a scene where Bomer is sobbing like a little girl over his deceased Irish wife. He explains to everyone who will listen that he wants to make an inspirational version of her story. Such a person who came from nothing would never elevate his own experience above any other? Billy Ray doesn't understand any of these people, and the visual look on offer completely absconds with any semblance of truthtelling.

That is what is so profoundly offensive about The Last Tycoon. Telling a story about any ethnic minority and lying about the particulars should face harsh sanctions. If Wesley Snipes went to jail, so should everyone involved in this piece of shit, especially Lily Collins. The fact that Amazon has so little faith in their decision-making on individual series that they feel the need to greenlight so many awful pilots proves how little confidence they have in their product.

There is one astonishing scene in the abridged version of The Love of the Last Tycoon that I will never forget. The woman who will eventually become Lily Collins is talking about her father, and how she had no real conception of how he appeared to others. Then she is at a bar and a man approaches, looming near here in a sort of mourning avidity. She wishes for him to move on until it occurs to her that this is her papa. As in all Fitzgerald, this metaphor of a single moment represents the whole fucking situation completely.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.


Wednesday
Jun292016

In Which We Seek A Higher Power Than Our Own

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.

Hi,

For the past couple of months I have been dating a guy I'll call Michael. So far, we get along really well and share a lot of the same values. There is definitely an intense physical chemistry between us also. 

A concern that I do have is that while are backgrounds are not markedly different, Michael is not as intelligent or educated as the guys I usually date. He's not stupid or anything, and he also seems to recognize that sometimes I think about things in a more contextual way than he does. I don't know if it worries him or not, but I could see it becoming a problem if we were to become more serious.

Am I the one being stupid or is this a valid concern?

Hayley U.

Hayley,

There are lots of different types of intelligence. No, I'm just kidding, there are only two types. Of people in the world. Of cats, or sandwiches. I hope this resolves your question. 

At a very young age, this column was praised for its burgeoning intelligence. It was also very cute. Women appeared in large numbers, from which we can conclude that yes, intelligence can be attractive. 

The caveat here is that by and large the most unhappy people in the world not suffering from any diagnosed mental illness are brilliant. I mean, look at Stephen Hawking. He's got to be so pissed off. He even hates robots now, the guy is so miserable. 

Hayley, I'm sure that some guy could come along and think he was more intelligent than you, and wonder whether your relationship could work on that basis. How would that make you feel? If annoyed and shocked is the answer, then you can probably detect whether or not you're standing on moral high ground in your own situation. 

Just be like, "Smarten up!"

Hi,

I have been dating my current boyfriend, James, for five months. I have started to question our long-term compatibility as well as the sexual side of our relationship. To explain a bit: my faith is really important to me, and James has shown no interest really. The sex is okay but not incredibly adventurous, which is what makes me come. 

I still like and respect him, and in a perfect world I'd love to be friends or at least stay on good terms. I also don't want to hurt him with my rejection. What's the best way to let him down easy?

Harriet H.

Dear Harriet,

No one reacts well to rejection. If he's the excitable type, I would just tell him on the phone. If he's not, you can do it in person. If you really want to stay friends and ensure he's hung up on you for significantly longer, this is your choice. But don't bring it up, except in passing, while you're dumping him and make it clear that if he's interested in that he should contact you later on.

Considering your reasons for moving on don't seem so hurtful, why not just explain them? I think he'll understand. It's fairly rare that one person is sexually fulfilled when the other isn't at all. It does happen. And he should know that the fact that he abhors God is responsible for his current misery and loneliness.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.

Tuesday
Jun282016

In Which No One Ever Missed Will Smith This Much

Alien Queen Blues

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Independence Day: Resurgence
dir. Roland Emmerich
120 minutes

You know what Independence Day needed, when you really think about it? Charlotte Gainsbourg. Sure, Char might be a little young to play Jeff Goldblum's love interest. Then again she is eleven years older than his wife so what am I saying.

You know what Independence Day needed more than Char, when you really think about it? A Hemsworth, any Hemsworth will do. Chris would have been ideal but since he was busy Roland Emmerich settled for his second choice, Liam. Liam is in a committed relationship with Bill Pullman's daughter Patricia (Maika Monroe). The pair haven't moved in together yet, but you feel the moment is coming. Although Patricia is of course a trained fighter space pilot, she retired before Independence Day: Resurgence begins to take care of her Da.

Don't worry though, because right after Vivica A. Fox dies falling off a building, a female fighter pilot from China named Rain (Angelababy) emerges to capture the all important international market. Women are quite powerful from the shadows, as the casting of Sela Ward as the president of these United States indisputably proves. "There will be no peace," she screams as she is murdered by aliens halfway through this impressively wretched movie.

Independence Day: Resurgence features a cast as a massive as Gosford Park. This is a shame because the actual plot has tons of potential. A devious queen alien plans to milk Earth of its sensational molten core. Do you ever just drive around and think, wow, below me thousands of miles beneath the Earth's crust is something infinitely more valuable than Maika Monroe's mediocre acting abilities?

A lot of stuff is dated in this movie. There's no sex or love except one guy who has a crush on the Chinese girl. (He disappears shortly thereafter confessing his crush and she refuses to kiss him later on.) Generic alien-type aliens are no longer sufficient to inspire fear or wonder. Just looking at Charlotte Gainsbourg's neck generates more apprehension than all the special effects in Independence Day: Resurgence combined.

In order to battle the queen alien, Jeff Goldblum discovers this sphere on the moon. White tendrils emerge from the object, incensing the queen for whom it acts like a kind of beacon. She puts on a very cute suit of armor and heads to where Jeff is, so she can presumably lecture him about an obsession with younger women. The sphere learns English and explains it originates from another alien species opposed to the queen.

Eventually Liam Hemsworth sort of forgets about Maika Monroe, suggesting she may not have been affectionate enough for his tastes. He starts flirting with Will Smith's sexy son from the first movie. Young W.S. isn't quite the pilot that his father was. Near the end of the movie Maika strips down to a tank top and everyone is happy, even though her dad died. Earth is saved, and Will Smith is just a guy in a painting in the White House.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.