Quantcast

Video of the Day

Masthead

Editor-in-Chief
Alex Carnevale
(e-mail/tumblr/twitter)

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen
(e-mail/tumblr/twitter)

Senior Editor
Brittany Julious
(e-mail/tumblr/twitter)

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

Live and Active Affiliates
This area does not yet contain any content.
Tuesday
Aug232016

In Which We Put Our Hands On An Executive

Prodigy, CompuServe and AOL

by ETHAN PETERSON

Halt and Catch Fire
creators Christopher Cantwell & Christopher C. Rogers
AMC

A monkey's paw is all this third season of Halt and Catch Fire is. Coined by the terrible English writer W.W. Jacobs, the little paw of a monkey is a concept that refers to when you wish for something but the thing you end up getting, while ostensibly identical to what you asked for, is substantially worse that your desire. 

Halt and Catch Fire did everything right for two wonderful seasons, and all I wanted was a third. Now it looks like it is being made in some guy's barn. This is supposed to be Silicon Valley?

I understand that it makes sense that the coders of Cameron Howe's social tech company would bring their clothes from their previous home of Texas to their new California environs. It seriously looks like they are just reusing the costumes from last season to save more money. "Why make more costumes," AMC probably opined in a memo, "no one watches this show enough to notice."

I watch this show, AMC. This third season reads like they only had the money to get the show's signature star, Lee Pace as sinister web security mastermind Joe MacMillan, for a couple of hours each day. The focus here is all on the relationship between Donna Clark (Kerry Bishe) and Gordon Clark (Scoot McNairy), which was exactly the wrong choice, since like most couples, the Clarks are only interesting when they are fighting.

I blame AMC for this entirely. There is one new actor in the season premiere of Halt and Catch Fire. Drink that in. I understand that later in the season Matthew Lillard and Annabeth Gish will be coming onto the show, but that would cost all of $10. What about maybe casting a star onto this project and giving it a budget to look as good as the other shows on the network. Fear the Walking Dead probably spends more on catering.

Despite the obvious lack of network support for this project — this show could have been Stranger Things — I have full faith that this season will eventually turn it around.

The early days of online interaction as a metaphor for our current view of technology leads to a lot of bracing critical moments. The soul of Halt and Catch Fire was really in the relationship between Cameron Howe (the brilliant and sexy Mackenzie Davis) and Joe MacMillan. The show's run began when they had sex, and the two barely share the screen together at all. Howe now gets along really well with the Clarks and in fact all of her employees, even though she misses the boyfriend she left in Texas.

The premiere was the perfect time to introduce her to a new love interest, someone who was also powerful in Silicon Valley who could become a major character on the show and a rival to MacMillan. This can still happen, but just think of how much that would cost in additional sets.

Instead we meet Ryan (Manish Dayal), who is meant to take the new role as the enterprising technical genius. Cameron struggles to believe in what Ryan is selling her, even though only months ago she was in his exact same situation and her bosses didn't listen. This is slightly implausible, but not as difficult as it is to identify with a character whose only trait is that he likes to work a lot.

Here's the problem: when you are good at one thing, you have a great situation. You are only good at that one thing, so you go and do it as well as you can. But what if you're good at more than one thing? How do you know which thing you are best at? You can't really know, since it depends on how good other people are at the thing you do. If you are the best at it, great and it's lonely at the top. If you are not, maybe you go back and revisit that other thing you do well.

At the end of the day (shut up), a show like Mad Men had two key characters and anything that took the focus off of Peggy or Don was a flat-out distraction from what made the show successful. Halt and Catch Fire created other characters that we love and respect. But there is such thing as being too respectful of what you make. For example, the executive played by Toby Huss should have died a long time ago, preferably in a fire.

Ethan Peterson is the senior contributor to This Recording.

Monday
Aug222016

In Which We Already Made Our Choice And We Regret It

Spill the Beans

by DICK CHENEY

Sausage Party
dir. Greg Tiernan & Conrad Vernon
88 minutes

Sausage Party was made for a cool $19 million. The animation was done by Nitrogen Studios, whose disgusting reputation for awful treatment of their employees emerged during the press surround the film's release. It seems even more egregious that animators weren't paid or credited for their work on Sausage Patty considering the production company behind the film is Annapurna Pictures, which was founded by the daughter of Larry Ellison, the fifth wealthiest man in the entire world.

The real tragedy is the end product itself. Animated movies require substantial financial investment in order to look good, and Sausage Party is an aesthetic mess. Most of the work is focused on a group of sausages that include Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and Michael Cera. The sausages themselves are a little too glossy, but it makes sense for them to not really resemble meat in any way, since no other living flesh in Sausage Party is given human personification.

Ethically, the most egregious animated film was Ratatouille, which turned a monstrous species of vermin into a cuisine loving pet. It had the advantage of looking substantially better than Sausage Party, where the character models so infrequently resemble food of any kind and yet don't go completely in the direction of being entirely unrecognizable. You spend a lot of time during the movie asking yourself, "What kind of food is that?" and not really caring whether you can figure it out.

Bill Hader plays a bottle of Firewater, and he was instructed by the directors to adopt a Native American accent for this important role of the liquor who warns Barry (co-writer Rogen) that the world beyond their supermarket is not exactly the happy place they had been led to believe. Most of the jokes revolve around the idea that Barry is a penis who needs to be in a vagina. If you find this idea hysterical, it is relatively certain that you thought Knocked Up was a powerful and important statement about pregnant women.

The racial humor in Sausage Party is actually pretty tame, and a lot less offensive than the general visual direction and the meandering nature of the script. The voice acting is also all over the map, with Kristen Wiig sounding like she recorded her audio in an afternoon and Michael Cera doing an almost unrecognizable boy's voice. Edward Norton portrays a Jewish bagel since there are no Jewish actors in the cast to take on this key role.

There is nothing actually funny about Sausage Party, since only amusing part of the concept was pretty much encapsulated by the trailer in which a bunch of sausages were upset about being cooked. With such a flimsy concept, it would have made considerable sense to make Sausage Party a musical, but unfortunately hiring songwriters would have cost too much money. There is an opening theme but it is rushed through as quickly as possible since there is no humor whatsoever in it.

Later, a package of Meatloaf sings "I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)" for about ninety seconds. Seemingly at a loss for another direction to take things, Rogen immediately has one of the characters get incredibly high in a scene that features prominently in every one of his projects. In this state, he is able to communicate with Barry (Michael Cera). Meanwhile, Kristen Wiig's bun gets involved in a lesbian subplot with a taco (Salma Hayek).

In order to escape from the supermarket, the food products shoot a bunch of toothpicks infected with bath salts at the store's shoppers, so that everyone becomes real to each other. They tie up a man with licorice, and murder a bunch of other people, but this is all just preface to the sausage penetrating the bun while all of the other food watches. It turns into something of an exciting orgy, but even the massive, um, hilarity involved in watching sex among inanimate objects aren't enough to salvage this disaster.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

Friday
Aug192016

In Which We Have Frozen All Of Our Desires

Smilla's Sense of Smell

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Engagements
play by Lucy Teitler
dir. Kimberly Senior

Sex Object: A Memoir
by Jessica Valenti
224 pp., Dey Street Books

"Why does anyone want to get married knowing what we know now ?" whines Lauren (Ana Nogueira) in Engagements, a play by Yale graduate and Mr. Robot writer Lucy Teitler. She spends the rest of the play's 80 minutes complaining about how degrading it is to live in Boston.

Whit Stillman has resorted to making period pieces since his own knowledge of what to satirize was last relevant in the late 1990s. It used to be that the upper, educated class of any society was the first to understand new things and create trends, but this is no longer the case. Technology democratized haute. As she pursues a PhD in Victorian literature, Lauren faces detractors who denigrate her chosen field because it is gauche to study the novels that first attracted you to literature. She possesses no special knowledge or distinguishing trait.

Lauren sleeps with her best friend's boyfriend Mark (Michael Stahl-David). She fucks him in a gazebo and it is admittedly great: really emotional and both of them come at the exact same time, like Prince having dinner/sex. Mark turns out to basically be a dirtbag, but what the hell, like most satire these days, Engagements is really about women and how they relate to the concept of men as objects.

I recently read Jessica Valenti's memoir about guys masturbating on top of her during her subway trips. The best chapter in Sex Object is about this Brooklynite with whom she shared a certain emotional connection named Ron. Ron was very clear about one thing: he was a feminist. He also had what appeared to be a titanic addiction to cocaine, and in lieu of a sexually transmitted disease, he passed that on to Jessica Valenti. Once, while he was in missionary, he asked the author to marry him.

lucy teitler

This was the most upsetting moment of Sex Object, and incidentally, of Engagements as well. Ryan (Omar Maskati) gets down on one knee to illustrate a point to the girlfriend (Brooke Weisman) he met at Yale, and she mistakenly believes that he is about to ask her to marry him. Any proposal should be answered at the time in which it is administered. If you want to be with someone for the rest of your life, what difference does it make how they ask you this question? And if you don't, you should end things then and there. This basic rule would have allowed Jessica Valenti to avoid a lot of trouble.

Instead of telling her friend about this gazebo-sex, Lauren decides to learn more about Mark at first. Since he is such a paper-thin character these scenes are not totally satisfying. He sends her anal beads in the mail and follows that up with a vibrator. This is not usually the sort of psychology employed by a man who is serious about a woman, and there is something bizarrely childish about Engagements that parallels the worldview of the show Teitler writes for, Mr. Robot. Neither show is filled with particularly good liars.

jessica valenti

Eventually Jessica Valenti meets someone she really cares about, a bro named Andrew. Almost immediately she is in couples therapy with this guy, and for some reason he is really resentful of the trauma that she has gone through. Men are so exhausting to pacify. She makes a really specific point of mentioning, in Sex Object, how keen her sense of smell is. A lot of times she will come home from her day of work, and she detects a bad smell in the apartment that he does not notice or care about.

Maybe that's something important in compatibility. It's a word I have been thinking about a lot. In memorable scene in Sex Object, even the most simple act is enough to convince Jessica of her husband's value. Valenti writes

Once when I was pregnant I refused to drink a glass of water Andrew had brought me because it smelled terrible. Water doesn't have a smell! he yelled, but he brought me another, because he is a kind person in that way. Boston smells the worst.

The Boston of Teitler's Engagements is a sad and lonely simalcrum. There was recently an article about how bad single women in New York have it. It's true that in New York these creatures outnumber their male counterparts by two to one, but things are far worse in Boston. There are like three guys in all of Boston with any personality, and even those men can barely plan an afternoon beyond, "I have Sox tickets" or "we should stay in." Being an unmarried woman in Boston is a recipe for a lengthy stay in psychoanalytic therapy.

There was an emotional moment on The Real Housewives of New York this week when Skinnygirl mogul Bethenny Frankel told her friend that she had a picture of her fiance cheating on her. "I don't want to know," LuAnn sobbed, and married the guy anyway. I don't know exactly why the rise of female empowerment also precipitated a dramatic lowering of standards among powerful, sexy intelligent women. Bethenny Frankel's boyfriend, for example, looks like Dr. Evil from Austin Powers.

Even Jessica Valenti ends up settling. Two years into her difficult marriage she becomes pregnant for a second time and decides to have an abortion. Her daughter Layla struggles with selective mutism, despite communicating well with her mother. Boston is so far from the city of her dreams. Sex Object is a woefully depressing book, both for the ways it tells us our culture treats women, and how the author has managed to make a meal out of these desiccated ingredients.

In Engagements, Lauren dates a series of unimpressive men, a list that includes a janitor, her college-aged neighbor and the boyfriend of her cousin. None understand her or even attempt to do so, and she cannot bring herself to like or respect them; it is only important whether or not they like and respect her. Her friend Allison (Jennifer Kim) eventually finds out that her boyfriend and husband-to-be has been sending the sexual gifts to a variety of women, and keeping a spreadsheet so that he doesn't mail the same vibrator twice. It emerges that this meager, sadistic amount of attention was basically enough to captivate an educated woman who studies the Victorians, and the excitement of betraying her annoying friend sufficient erotic charge. Who could ask for anything more?

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.