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Kara VanderBijl
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Mia Nguyen
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Durga Chew-Bose
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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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Thursday
Dec112014

In Which This Must Not Be The Place

Panic Room

by KARA VANDERBIJL

The One I Love
director Charlie McDowell

91 minutes

Every relationship has its house rules: put the toilet lid down, don't cheat, listen to what I have to say before telling me what I should do. But Ethan (Mark Duplass) has broken the big one, so he and Sophie (Elisabeth Moss) visit a therapist to see if they can salvage their marriage.

Call me when you get there, don't make fun of me in front of your friends, make yourself more emotionally available.

Ethan and Sophie try so hard it's painful to watch. Attempting to recapture the magic of their early courtship, they break into a stranger's yard in the wee hours and jump into the pool, failing to understand that what thrilled them early on wasn't the act itself but performing it with someone attractive they didn't yet know.

When his initial methods fail, the therapist suggests a new approach: the couple should escape for the weekend to a remote retreat, a huge, beautiful house on lush grounds complete with a guest cottage.

Pick up your socks, pick up some milk, will you, honey can you pick up some beer?

Taking a trip: like telling the truth or trying a new hobby, it's one of the great relationship rejuvenators that can also double as a death knell. At first, Ethan and Sophie bask in the opulence of their getaway: they poke their head in magazine-perfect rooms, begin to laugh, explore the guest house, open a bottle of wine. The film's mood — earlier dominated by discord, deep shadows, and disconnected dialogue — lightens. Ethan fires up a joint and they pass it back and forth. Somebody, we sense, is about to get lucky.

And somebody does. But in the morning, Ethan has no memory of their encounter.

We immediately cry “Drugs!”, of course, but McDowell's film takes a refreshing turn for the weird and ends up revealing more about the rules within a relationship than another rote story about a difficult relationship could.

Slowly, Ethan and Sophie realize that they're not alone at their retreat — in fact, another Ethan and Sophie live in the guest house, which only one of them can enter at a time. Mostly identical, these doppelgangers embody aspects of Ethan and Sophie's personalities that have fallen by the wayside the longer they've been together. Sophie becomes enamored with faux Ethan, while real Ethan's suspicions grow and fake Sophie cooks bacon.

In every relationship, an (unconsciously) agreed-upon dynamic guides the couple's interactions, and the longer the relationship lasts, the more this dynamic cements and resists change. Ethan and Sophie remember the wildness of their early days because these rules didn't yet exist: they “did Ecstasy at Lollapalooza” and jumped into strangers' pools. Ironically, of course, the very freedom to be wild and oneself at the beginning of a relationship is what determines one's role in the relationship later on, a role that's very difficult to break out of — unless, of course, you meet someone new.

Ethan cheated on Sophie — it's the whole reason they're in therapy, after all — and now Sophie cheats on Ethan with his shadow, a foil that apologizes for all the wrong he's ever done and wants to be as close to her as possible. This allows Sophie to see herself as a generous and forgiving spouse, which, ironically, fake Sophie also embodies — the doppelganger is so accommodating and domestic she's basically a transplant from the 1950s.

Moss and Duplass deftly impersonate both the classically boring, married couple that dresses in neutral tones and goes for jogs around the property, as well as the doppelganger duo. It's especially easy to imagine Moss as a blonde and icy cool Hitchcock heroine, which adds even more interest to her character as the film dives deeper into fantasy.

McDowell doesn't draw any conclusions, and by the end it's hard to tell the difference between what's real and what's false. Ultimately, the film's greatest success lies in the subtle suggestion that Ethan and Sophie were in fact in a better place at the beginning of the film than at the end. It's better to build a safe atmosphere in which to be uncomfortable with your partner, than one that is comfortable but unsafe.

Kara VanderBijl is the managing editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Chicago. She last wrote in these pages about Outlander. She tumbls here and twitters here. You can subscribe to her letters here.

Wednesday
Dec102014

In Which We Play Dumb Or A Role

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 boyfriend Tim wants to start roleplaying. I think we've always had a very satisfying sex life, and I think that dressing up would embarrass me - and that I wouldn't be able to get in the mood. How do I tell him thanks, but no?

Elena A.

Dear Elena,

Very few people want to actually dress up and portray characters or archetypes in the bedroom, although it was the foundational aspect of Andrew Sullivan's sex life in the 1990-2000 period. Usually someone will bring up this concept for a different reason.

"Roleplaying" is a way to introduce advanced sexual concepts under the guise of play. These concepts can include S&M fantasies, visions of being the host of Meet the Press, or you calling your boyfriend (Tim? WTF is he in third grade) something paternal/paternalistic or more rarely, maternal/maternalistic. Roleplaying doesn't always involve actual dressing up.

It's best to just cut to the chase and ask your boyfriend what he wants you to call him during sex. If he answers, "Sergey Brin," leave the country.

 

Hi,

This started eight months ago when I met a guy who I will call Jeff online. We really hit it off and we were talking quite frequently despite living in different cities. Eventually we decided that I should come and visit him. Our first meeting was great and just seemed like a continuation of our online communication.

Jeff makes references to past relationships, although since we were just getting to know each other, I did not wish to pry. After that weekend, Jeff confessed that he was divorced and that he was not interested in getting married again. I asked him what he was interested in and he said that he wasn't sure, that he had done the long distance thing before and wasn't very successful at it. At the same time he expressed a desire to keep seeing me.

In the intervening months, I have tried to be more protective of our feelings. Jeff has come to my city to visit me and for the most part we have a great time with very little meta-relationship talk, as he seemed to request. Am I right to be taking this at his pace, or should I just bail?

Andrea R.

Dear Andrea,

Learning all about someone from the person themselves leaves many blind spots open, Andrea. You need a third party who can give you a better view of Jeff. See if you can make up a reason to have a conversation with one of his friends: maybe a buddy is an industry peripheral to yours, and you can claim you are only looking for some general advice.

With that said, you can't necessarily assume there is any foul play involved. Men will say a lot of things; just because he's not considering marriage now doesn't mean the idea is permanently dead to him. Even lemmings have to be coaxed into heading for a cliff, but once they build up some momentum, death is a sweet release.

Demanding a commitment is the surest way not to get one. Make sure Jeff knows you are exploring other options and he will quickly ask you not to be if he cares that much. If he doesn't ask, then you know he doesn't care.

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

"The Disease" - Angels and Airwaves (mp3)

Tuesday
Dec092014

In Which Our Loving Romance Gets Arrested

White Flight

by DICK CHENEY

This Is Where I Leave You
dir. Shawn Levy
103 minutes

"Love causes cancer like everything else," Wendy Altman (Tina Fey) explains during a very weird scene in Shawn Levy's This Is Where I Leave You. "But it still has its moments." Her brother Judd (Jason Bateman) gives her a squeeze as they sit on the roof of their house, the place where every white suburbanite worth his salt goes to think. Things are unexpectedly romantic between this brother and sister, but it is never consummated for obvious reasons - despite being married to a workaholic named Barry, the only man that Tina can attract in this movie is a mentally disabled neighbor.

You know, people gave Reese Witherspoon a lot of shit for pretending to save those Sudanese refugees, but at least there was a person of color peripherally involved in the story, while sexism and ageism never really came into play. This Is Where I Leave You is about as socially progressive as Birth of a Nation.

What is so rewarding about being a white man is that when your wife cheats on you with Dax Shepard, you meet another woman the next week. You get fired from your job, but who cares? You're Caucasian, you'll find another one.

that's a weirdly intimate greeting for brother and sister, but I can't look away

Jason Bateman's constant portrayal of Michael Bluth in every one of his roles at first seemed like a moving tribute to the memory of Mitchell Hurwitz. Now his stuttering and constant clipped one-liners has tread on my last nerve. I can't even look at George Michael anymore, and when I think about him in my mind, he is played by Jesse Eisenberg.

If not for Jane Fonda, This Is Where I Leave You would have been an unmitigated disaster. At one point she makes up her son's bed in a revealing robe. It's not exactly the attire you expect to see when someone's husband dies, but it did the trick:

Get me that plastic surgeon's number, I want him to do the big toe on my left foot.

Judd's brothers are played by Corey Stoll and Adam Driver. The former plays a cranky man who runs a sporting goods store; the latter is constantly dropping bon mots like, "Guys, look how wacky I am? See?" "Even I think this is crazy, and I'm CRAZY!" The wackiest thing Driver does in This Is Where I Leave You is pursue a relationship with his therapist (Connie Britton). Oh, he also drives above the speed limit. What a quirky gentleman.

He cheats on her the day after his father's funeral. She says, "I'm an enabler!" and takes off in her Mercedes.

You have to feel for Connie because she looks fantastic, kind of like what I hope Amy Schumer evolves into at some point, and yet the entire cast treats her like some ancient crone who came to suck Adam Driver's life force/Star Wars royalties from his desiccated corpse.

The age difference between Britton and Adam Driver is really not that much larger than the age difference between Bateman and his love interest, Penny (Rose Byrne), but the two situations are treated in an entirely opposite way, for reasons. God this was fucking lame:

"Does our song have to be Cyndi Lauper?" Bateman whines. Like, fuck off dude, Cyndi Lauper accomplished more in one year than you did in your entire life. God, I hate it when people put down Cyndi.

I guess on some level I expected racism and sexism to disappear completely once everyone got on tumblr and these problems were exposed for what they were. I mean, I assumed we all shared common values: for example, that lying is bad, cheating is worse, cheating with Dax Shepard worse yet, and Chelsea Handler is a delightful young woman.

In This Is Where I Leave You, it is like we have time travelled back to the 1950s. None of the children feel comfortable talking about wintercourse at all, despite the fact that their mother is the author of a sex manual for teens. This Is Where I Leave You is either dated or remarkably current depending on how disorienting you find it when Jane Fonda moves onto her next relationship while still sitting shiva for her dead husband.

in the right light, she looks like a savory pot roast

"None of us are happy," Bateman moans at one point during this terrible movie, in a house that looks like it cost in the $750,000 range. Tina Fey explains the reason that Bateman is so unhappy - his life is too predictable - and then spends the following day ignoring her husband and child and sleeping with the mentally disabled Horry (Timothy Olyphant) who calls her 'Sunflower.'

I'm either offended or jealous of the headband. No, I'm offended.

Clearly, Tina has not been reading any of the scripts she has selected beforehand. To be fair, IRL she is married to a man who resembles Samwise Gamgee, so she probably had a lot more important dilemmas on her mind, like "Did that hobbit eat all the cheerios again?" or "When is Gandalf getting here?" On the plus side, it is finally revealed where Tina got her facial scar: car accident.

Their house looks like a plantation.

In hindsight, the critical success of Arrested Development was the worst thing to happen to the entire cast. For one, Hurwitz made them all seem a lot more clever than they were. (Burn the negative of that final season on Netflix.)

Secondly, Arrested Development made people everywhere believe that the world was still interested in the problems of rich white Americans. If I could tell the people who made this piece of trash one thing, it is that I am only interested in media where white people are saving blacks, hispanics and Asians from natural disasters, terrorist attacks and the constant, everpresent allure of incest.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

"Transfer" - Junes (mp3)