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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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Tuesday
Jul262016

In Which J.J. Abrams Tries To Murder Other Peripheral Franchises

Enterprised

by DICK CHENEY

Star Trek Beyond
dir. Justin Lim
122 minutes

What kind of interest do you have in hearing Idris Elba perform a distinctly racist version of his own voice as a pseudo-alien named Krall as Zoe Saldana, looking like the mom of everyone involved, screams, "You already got what you wanted! Let her go!" I hope the answer is none.

At the beginning of the interminable Star Trek Beyond, Saldana's character Lieutenant Uhura politely informs her boyfriend Spock (Zachary Quinto) that she no longer feels attracted to him and she would like to part ways. She offers back a necklace he gave to her, but he allows her to keep it because it tracks her location. He will always know where she is.

This is the most entertaining scene in the entire movie.

Shortly thereafter screenwriters Doug Jung and Simon Pegg entertain us with the worst fucking cliche in all of Star Trek: the destruction of the Enterprise. Director Justin Lim has Idris Elba's ships swarm and destroy the larger the vessel, and what feels like it should take only moments lasts a good half hour. Pretty much everyone survives, and the artifact Elba pursues is luckily safe. It easily might have been destroyed, rendering his tactics somewhat questionable at best and jawdroppingly nonsensical at worst.

But I mean you won't want to be focusing on the plot here, since there really isn't any. The entire crew is marooned on an alien planet, which would be exciting except there is literally nothing to distinguish this world from any other random place the original Star Trek cast set down upon.

The original Star Trek was always shit and the only reason that these movies even exist for J.J. Abrams to torture us with was the tremendous critical and commercial success of the follow-up television serial, Star Trek: The Next Generation. Patrick Stewart singlehandedly carried the entire cast, but the writing was also very good at times and LeVar Burton wasn't terrible either. 

Star Trek: The Next Generation realizes a key lesson about the vast boredom of space intoned by Kirk at the beginning of Star Trek Beyond: if you don't have someone to ejaculate inside of, it can get super lonely out there. Kirk is so completely done with space that he applies to become the vice admiral of an orbital installation named Yorktown. I guess if Chris Pine's career gets bad enough, they can spin that off to series.

Pine's enthusiasm is usually his strongest selling point, along with his comedic timing. In Star Trek Beyond you can tell that he was ill during some of the shooting, because many of his line readings are completely off and he sounds like he has a frog in his throat. The end result is the most unprofessional final cut of an actor I have seen in awhile.

In order to compensate, most of the attention is thrown to the Enterprise's engineer, Montgomery Scott (Simon Pegg). Pegg makes himself basically the star of this movie the exact same way he did in the last horrid Mission: Impossible jaunt. In that movie he at least had lots of great lines and a decent foil in the playful wiles of tiny Tom Cruise, but here his partner in crime is a bit more serious: an alien named Jaylah (Sofia Boutella).

The thing Star Trek Beyond misses the most is any sense of wonder at all. Even encountering this strange woman on an alien planet who lives in the desiccated shell of a Starfleet ship should be a moment of astonishing vitality and novelty. Instead two seconds later Montgomery Scott is being called a cute nickname by the alien and they are bickering like old friends. In every conceivable way it can, Star Trek Beyond skips the B that comes between A and C.

The rest of the cast is given very little. The supposedly southern accent of Bones (Karl Urban) waves completely from scene-to-scene, and he is paired with Spock for most of the film for in-depth conversations about serious and important topics like fear of death and their respective futures in Starfleet. Elba's Krall is not particularly calculating or fearsome villain, and the reveal of his true identity later on both repeats notes from the previous film and makes you wonder why they waited that long.

At the box office, early returns on Star Trek Beyond were that it was down fourteen percent from the previous film. That isn't so bad, but the previous movie really struggled with its tone as well and it had the benefit of a far better villain and story. At least with Star Wars, Abrams can just remake The Empire Strikes Back like he did A New Hope and at least the story itself won't be absolutely terrible. He seems to have no idea what to do with these characters; or maybe he has just realized they don't have very much potential anyway. 

The real answer is war. Star Trek was at its best when it turned space diplomacy into a canvas for the intersections of different ethics and views. A larger, powerful alien enemy is likely to be the focus of the next film, and there is a way to completely revamp this story into something compelling for a modern audience. First contact always has tremendous potential to make us reimagine our own ideas about what meeting other intelligent species in the universe would be like.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

Monday
Jul252016

In Which Communication Is Good For This Line Of Work

I Won't Give Up On Us

by ETHAN PETERSON

Mr. Robot
creator Sam Esmail
USA Network

With its low camera angles and unnatural-natural cinematography, Mr. Robot has never been the easiest show on television to watch. Eliot (Rami Malek) has a voice which reverberates at such low tones it can be hard to understand without subtitles. The Egyptian-American actor has a moment in the second season of the show, airing now on USA, where he explodes into an effluvium of natural speech, explaining his reaction to Seinfeld in a bubbly excitement. It is very funny to see him break out of the darkness, but it doesn't last for long enough. 

This is by way of answering the question of why no one is watching Mr. Robot. The explanation from the show's fans after a promising first season have been enlightening, though perhaps more revealing of themselves than the show's flaws. The truth is that the dark and merciless world Eliot operates in remains wildly pessimistic and optimistic, but in both ways it echoes the worst tendencies of our own.

The news on television is already bad. Mr. Robot tells people that simply by going to work they are feeding into this vicious cycle. Maybe it was like reading the beginning of The Communist Manifesto, the fun part before fully realizing the gravity of what was implied — control, fear, violence and deprivation. The hacker group Eliot founded in the first season of the show, fsociety, seems more and more like a terrorist group. In the season's first episode, the group messes with the home security system of a corporate lawyer, who is forced to move out to her house in Greenwich for the evening.

One of the best parts of Mr. Robot was the story of Angela (Portia Doubleday), a security analyst for the evil bank that is the focus of fsociety's hacking efforts. Despite whatever they accomplished in season 1, the financial industry seems to be moving on roughly as usual. Angela's mother was killed by corporate malfeasance relating to a toxic gas leak, and yet we still find her working for this company directly under its CEO, Philip Price (Michael Cristofer), even after she has spearheaded a lawsuit against them. It doesn't make much sense.

The additions to the cast are generally welcome, but their exact place in the winding narrative that Esmail has created will only become clear after six or seven hours of television. It is a long time to wait to identify with someone. FBI agent Dominique DiPierro (Grace Gummer) is the main addition to the cast, and she quickly becomes basically the main star of Mr. Robot as a masturbating loner insomniac who reads people as well as Eliot doesn't.

Craig Robinson and Joey Badass have come aboard as Eliot's new compadres. Both are excellent at playing off of Malek, but so much mystery surrounds them and every other aspect of the show that I understand why even informed fans of Mr. Robot might be confused. "Maybe truth don't even exist," Robinson bleats at one point in a park, stroking his dog.

The best part of last season was the rise and fall of Eliot's primary antagonist, Tyrone Wellick. He has yet to show up on this season in any meaningful way, and it has substantially hurt the show. Christian Slater's performance as the titular character is as awful as ever, and the machinations occurring within Eliot's disturbed mind are no longer the novelty they were. None of this directly answers the primary question of why no one is watching Mr. Robot. I guess it's because at the end of a long day, they probably don't want to feel like cogs in a corporate machine.

Esmail has been writing much of this second season himself, and directing it as well. He is immensely talented at both tasks. Watching Mr. Robot, you can feel his singular vision for this world. That is what makes the show so completely different from anything out there. Because it hasn't been focus-tested and revamped a million times, plenty of moments are rough around the edges, and performances and scenes play a lot more like theater than we are used to in this medium. Despite all its problems, you sense that Mr. Robot has something absolutely terrible to say. By the time it says it, we will all be watching Westworld or some shit.

Ethan Peterson is the senior contributor to This Recording.

Friday
Jul222016

In Which We Emerge The Victor Of These Events

The Friendship Mask

by ALEX CARNEVALE

She says the same thing, that bitch, that you do about me, that I'm an emotional cripple, by which she means that I don't release my true emotions, that it's a cover-up, what I show the world.  

- Elia Kazan to his therapist about Barbara Loden

Elia Kazan decided to break things off with Barbara Loden. She had already felt, almost imperceptibly, his reluctance. She had recently told him at length of all the men she had ever been with. She informed him of her history, she said, so he did not have to wonder.

Enraged, Kazan began cheating on her whenever he could. She rehearsed her part in The Changeling all afternoon and evening at Lincoln Center, and he was free to stroll off from the set during those times. With a blonde girlfriend, he now exclusively courted brunettes.

with first wife Molly

One of these available women was a singer in a religious choir he had met in Tennessee. She kept her eyes closed while they fucked, mystifying Kazan. Another was a Greek brunette who tried to convince him to impregnate her and disappear. He refused.

While Loden was being fitted for costumes for her role, he wandered in Central Park one day and picked up a girl playing softball. She gave him her dead husband's favorite sweater.

Kazan's friends feared that Barbara Loden had trapped him years before by keeping her only pregnancy. The boy, Leo, was now three, and Kazan had less than no interest in him. "I've never regretted telling Barbara that if she wanted a child it was all right with me," he writes in the best show business autobiography ever penned, A Life. "Knowing my nature, wouldn't you say she was taking a riskier chance than I was?"

wrapping up 'Streetcar'

Seven years into the relationship, Kazan was now weary of her. ("No one can tell me that novelty is not a great charge in sex," he states in A Life, as if that were a revelation.) His numerous indiscretions only further convinced Kazan that he and Loden did not have love between them anymore.

Elia and Barbara

He planned to pick up Barbara Loden from rehearsal in a cab and head back to her place, where he would break the news gently. In the taxi, she immediately began complaining about how he had blocked her scenes, and criticized his directorial efforts in general. Kazan turned on her, dismissing his earlier reticence towards cruelty. She listened quietly to what he said.

Once her room, she took off all her clothes immediately, as she always did, to appease him. "I wanted to lie still on the bed and hold her," Kazan writes about the post-coital mood. "But I noticed she didn't like this the way she once had, and although her head was on my upper arm, and her leg over mine, she seemed tense, like a runner before a race. Then she said, with a casualness I thought feigned, 'Daddy, I wish you'd tell me what you want me to do.'"

with his father

He could think of no real reply. Moments later, she said, "It's either we marry or break up for good." After seeing her home, he went to the apartment of the young widow. There he was happy for a time.

+

When Elia Kazan had first introduced Barbara Loden to his friend John Steinbeck, the writer told him, in no uncertain terms, to stay away from her. Kazan planned to resolve his conflict with Loden by leaving for Europe; his therapist suggested he would feel better if he said goodbye to her. There, on a bench in Central Park, he met his son Leo for the first time.

Molly & Elia with John and Elaine Steinbeck

Elia had been with his first wife Molly Kazan when he first met Loden. Ostensibly a playwright, Molly was not much of a writer and on some level, even after four lovely children by her, Kazan could not forgive this weakness. Molly first learned of Kazan's penchant for infidelity during his not-so-quiet affair with the actress Constance Dowling.

with katharine hepburn & spencer tracy

He always made a habit of introducing his wife to his mistress, but his affair with Constance was so obvious Molly was told by a third party. His wife banished him to the study of their home, right next door to the bedroom, and seriously considered divorce. A friend gave her a piece of advice: "If you want him, you'll have to take him as he is." The only one who supported the director in the marriage's impasse was his parents.

+

He started up with Loden originally on the set of Splendor in the Grass. They had sex during every single lunch break. When the production was in New York, he would go home to his wife and their maid would serve the family dinner. He only stopped having sex with Loden when she became visibly pregnant.

directing Vivien Leigh in 'Streetcar'

Again he was compelled to see what Molly thought of Barbara, and vice versa. Unable to resist, he asked Loden for her opinion on his wife. "She's a very handsome woman," Loden said.

with Molly and their four children

Throughout these lascivious trails, Kazan reveals he felt very little in the way of guilt. His penchant for self-acceptance in A Life reeks of 20/20 hindsight, but there is something else at work there, too, an essence his analyst identified and determined could never be fully repaired. Kazan did not long for other women because there was something lacking in his life. He had determined that this was his life: what primacy could any other part of his self claim, to stand up to that?

Elia's commiseration with Loden waxed and waned as the years went on. Sometimes she sent him letters describing an empathy she felt for him; at other moments she wondered if she even liked the man at all.

From his perspective, her innate destructiveness and lack of interest in how others viewed her was what attracted him in the first place. It was also the inner element which produced the natural charisma invaluable to her work as an actress and filmmaker.

Molly Kazan

Loden and Kazan continued to see each other, if infrequently, in the last years of Molly Kazan's life. (Molly died from a brain hemorrhage in 1963, and was buried with her wedding ring.) Given a new primacy in his life after Molly's death, Loden challenged Kazan regarding the stage roles he gave her. She constantly threatened to move to Los Angeles.

Kazan openly wondered to friends whether he'd required Molly to make his relationship with Loden work. He lost the ability to maintain an erection with her during sex, and attempted to break things off, as I have already described.

with Marlon Brando

Free of Barbara, wandering the earth, Kazan felt somewhat alone. He wrote to Loden, suggested he missed her and asked her to come to Japan. They kept writing until she arrived, and when he saw her at the airport, he knew he had made a mistake. Still, she did everything she could to please him, and he responded in turn. She seemed happy to be with him again until Kazan told her that he had been fucking around with another woman in the month before she arrived.

Back in the U.S., Kazan continued seeing both Loden and his new mistress. (He was never able to manage much more than two at a time.) Again, his curiosity got the better of him, and he encouraged Barbara to confront the other woman he was seeing. Kazan called the girl to warn her Loden might try to see her.

"She's right here," the girl said.

"How are you getting along?" Kazan asked.

"I like her very much."

Loden somehow emerged the victor of these events, and she moved in with Kazan a few months later, walking into Elia's study and putting Leo in his lap. They were married in Kenya soon after, and a ceremony was held in the Caribbean. They were wed for less than a year before he found a mistress that would complement her better.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

loden during her cancer