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Alex Carnevale
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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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Robert Altman Week

Thursday
Dec232010

In Which You're Telling Me You've Really Never Rolled Before Tonight?

I Love Your Nails

by MOLLY LAMBERT

I was told we needed more Black Swantent on This Recording. Surely you read Durga's review. What about Elizabeth Gumport on Wild Things or when I did Basic Instinct? As with Inception, I joked about Black Swan forever before I finally saw it, and then it shut me up completely with all the subtlety and charm of Mila Kunis sitting on my face.

The erotic thriller genre is never dead because it has enduring core appeal. Despite the abundance of porn on the internet, there's no substitute for the speedball of narrative pleasure and filmic sex. Audiences are voyeurs by definition. Sitting in a dark movie theater surrounded by strangers is the exemplary mundane sensual experience. Sitting in bed alone with your computer is the black swan of mundane sensual experiences.

Inception and Black Swan would make good partners for a double bill; one glassy and phallic, the other wet and feathery. Architecture and Ballet are the barely disguised stand-ins for Film Direction. Both men take on their rivals and fatherpigs (Kubrick, Hitchcock, Lynch, De Palma). Both are meditations on control and release. Is any profession more like being the Old Testament God than directing movies? Blogging?

David Fincher made The Social Network into a movie about how we use the internet to create and control our images. Life is the contrast between perception and truth. Nina Sayers looks like Natalie Portman, but that doesn't help her with dancing or fucking. Winona Ryder and Jennifer Connelly are cast as the spouses of Vince Vaughn and Kevin James and we are somehow supposed to ignore the cognitive dissonance that follows.

Women especially are told not to talk about or ask what is going on, to trust men and male decision making abilities without question. It's the cornerstone of horror and basis of the "final girl" trope. It is what makes Rosemary's Baby, Alien, Carrie and Halloween, the ultimate horror films about being a woman, so insanely effective. 

Natalie Portman is great. She does the thing in the movie that the movie is about. Mila Kunis, girl honestly if you get google name search alerts and you see this, I just wanna go half on some weed brownies with you and Miley Cyrus and Macauley and some internet Mollys. Seriously Mila is so cool, and part of it is that you know if you saw her and American Psycho 2 somehow came up she'd be the first person to laugh about it.

Every time Vincent Cassel talked about "doing the black swan" I thought of that thing from The Game about subliminal seduction cues like saying "below me" to get a girl to think you're saying "blow me." When you are a girl most of culture is not addressed to you but you are supposed to act as interested in it as if it were. Would men rather see The A Team or an erotic thriller about competitive ballet? Why can't it just be both?

The best thing is that Black Swan passes the Bechdel test with flying colors, was made for cheap, and is doing really well, going against the horribly off-base yet oft-repeated conventional studio wisdom that men won't see a movie with a majority of female characters, whereas women will still have to go see crap like the The Hangover.

Black Swan's box office isn't all dudes being dragged by their girlfriends. Nor is it all perverts in raincoats. Men are able to enjoy movies about women just as much as I am able to enjoy Caddyshack (and I really enjoy Caddyshack). Don't believe me? Just ask the people who watch Mean Girls whenever it's on TBS because that's EVERYBODY.

I mean thank god Aronofsky and Portman both went all the way, as promised. All of the tropes: the heavyhanded symbolism, the mirror scares, the crazy night out at the club from Blade. Without camp it would just be cold. Aronofsky embarrasses himself constantly in this movie, but that's why it works. He stops caring about cool because coolness is detachment, and this is a movie about getting wired into your damn self.

What if There Will Be Blood had closed with Daniel Day Plainview making Paul Dano suck his cock in the basement bowling alley? If instead of bashing his head in, he had forced him to fuck? What's the difference? Mentorship and rivalry are poorly disguised metaphors for sexual roles. Why is it only in movies about females that these tensions are ever noticed or played upon? If True Grit doesn't end with a gangbang, I'm out.

Kill your idols, kill your rivals. David Mamet is my Winona (forever) and Aaron Sorkin is my Mila Kunis. Let's be real, I am my own Mila, tacky backpiece and all. I'm from Hollywood. Ask me about the time I successfully Buellered my way through improvising my final solo project for a modern dance class in college. It was my Opening Night.

Stay tuned for Blog Swan, wherein the many Mollys of the internet get locked inside a library and have to read our way out like a flock of little literary Nomi Malones. "Publish or perish" is taken to the limits of seriousness as we are stalked down giallo lit hallways by the subway poltergeists that leave spam comments on squarespace.

Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording. She took dance classes in school for so much longer than you might imagine.

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"The Coral Sea, Part One" - Patti Smith & Kevin Shields (mp3)

"The Coral Sea, Part Two"- Patti Smith & Kevin Shields (mp3)

"The Coral Sea, Part Three" - Patti Smith & Kevin Shields (mp3)

"The Coral Sea, Part Four"- Patti Smith & Kevin Shields (mp3)

The Coral Sea wiki

Wednesday
Dec222010

In Which We Realize We Hated Lost In Translation In Retrospect

Is That It?

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Somewhere

dir. Sofia Coppola

98 minutes

Were you possibly among the many millions of people dying to hear another story about a jaded rich guy living in Los Angeles who reinvents himself due to the presence of his wonderful young daughter? You are in luck. Star actor Johnny Marco (Stephen Dorff, in the 101st role he was not at all suited to play) has clearly never seen Californication, because it is loosely based on his life. Does every single man in Hollywood go around half-shaven, divorced, with a daughter of the same age (Dakota's younger sister Elle Fanning)? The answer is yes, and it is a relief.

Somewhere, which gets its U.S. release today, is Sofia Coppola's latest film, on the heels of the tragically boring Marie Antoinette. No one who has to work for a living could possibly feel sympathetic for the tribulations of an actor who lives on hotel room service, and no one who paid to see this film could possibly walk away feeling anything but pity for its creator and disgust for its hero. The drudgery of Johnny Marco having to watch twin strippers in his bedroom is only exceeded by the cruel vicissitudes of being a popular Hollywood star. If having a daughter makes people so warm and appealing, how come Harvey Weinstein has three and he's still a complete piece of shit?

Somewhere not only has the worst title of any movie this year, it also takes itself more seriously than Inception, which many scientists believed was impossible. Most grating about Coppola's directorial style is her obsession with long takes. Granted, extended periods without rapid cuts and reverse angles distinguish her films from say, Hawaii Five-0. But really, her exhausted Los Angeles scapes aren't visually stimulating enough to be engaging; images like those of Dorff's daughter figure skating on an open rink and Dorff's head ensconced in a foam mask for his new movie only pretend to be novel. We've seen these places before — nothing about the locales is exciting or unfamiliar.

Once Johnny Marco almost chases a woman back to her house after making eye contact at a stoplight, but when he gets to her gate and it closes on him, he drives home. For the briefest of moments we feel something like excitement, but then we retreat to the next long take. Quentin Tarantino and Catherine Breillat can get away with two minute takes because at the end of their scenes, Jews flee the Nazis or Caroline Ducey has sex.

Somewhere follows the basic cinematic outline of all such father-daughter partnerships. In the real world, teen girls are a thousand times more intelligent than their parents, operate high level machinery and text at a PhD level. In Coppola's world, they retain the innocence of Anna Paquin in The Piano. It's impossible to watch this film and not think about Katie Holmes, what with the masculine, half-shaven man-boy's total lack of concern for how his treatment of women might influence his daughter or anyone he cares about. Johnny Marco is such a misogynist that he makes his daughter's mother abandon them both, which is just about the cheapest trick in the screenwriting book, right after killing your main character's trusty german shepherd (Michael J. Fox).

All the serious misogynists that I have had the good fortune to encounter are unabashed and unapologetic. Only a truly deluded person could create the so-rare-it-doesn't-exist-in-the-wild empathetic womanizer. In the real world, there's no such delicate balance between sensitivity and insensitivity in one male body. When Ryan Reynolds was politely let go by Scarlett Johansson, he whined to his friends about her lack of effort in their marriage. Hasn't Sofia Coppola read Men in Revolt? The most masculine person in the world is Mr. Rogers, and he passed some time ago. Every other man in the world is more reminiscent of Carrie Bradshaw if he dyed his hair brunette.

One morning Johnny wakes up for breakfast in Milan and both his daughter and his one-night stand are looking at him with the same expectant eyes. It's the kind of absurdly simple joke Coppola loves to play — every irony pretends to be new, as if she had recently discovered hypocrisy for the first time in recorded history and wanted to share it with everyone. Dorff's face, while far too inexpressive to ever make him anything more than a slightly classier Christian Slater, begs us to become sufficiently disgusted by how famous people are treated. On a scale of relevant or important lessons, this ranks somewhere between "don't put your hand in dog shit" and "being white is pretty hard."

In her most vacuous film, Lost in Translation, Coppola managed to make some people feel sorry for two of the least sympathetic people in the world. The fact that it is even worked at all is a credit to how effective she can be at convincing you the most uninteresting monsters are partly human. But we have a different attitude towards waste and excess than we did in 2003. Back then we could watch the husk that used to be the actor known as Bill Murray make vaguely racist comments about Japanese people for no reason and applaud afterwards. Maybe for the international audience this was like watching the National Geographic Channel. I really don't know, I am pretty sure even they think Twilight jokes and playing "I'll Try Anything Once" over a guy swimming with his daughter in a pool are overdone.

One of William Goldman's best ever essays was about why most plays were about putting on a play. He didn't have to account for the poverty of ideas that led to Broadway about Broadway, because it was obvious — people who spent their entire lives in theater naturally had no other life experience to draw on. Somerset Maugham's edict to write what you know is among the dumbest pieces of advice ever given about writing, and it has recently become more harmful than even he realized. The maxim of 'write what you know' is revolting self-help propaganda: you're good enough, you don't need to keep learning, your experience of the world is valid and complete in itself.

The number of possible life experiences is dwindling. Eventually we will all have one life experience, distinguishable only in small moments not accounted for by communal art. What draws divergent backgrounds into the Americam amalgam is the shared experience of life reflected in art, but the people who create this perception in the film medium are drastically limited by their own surroundings. The last thing you have to do is start making films about people markedly different from yourself, but the first thing you have to do is stop making films about people identical to yourself.

Here we have a life stretched generically over the same old surroundings. It is not simply the characters or the action or the sets or the dialogue that is so ubiquitous and familiar. It is the shots themselves — Stephen Dorff has looked in a mirror in every movie he has been in since 1995. The metaphor of a swimming pool is now a common sight in Tyler Perry sitcoms, let alone in films that purport to be taken seriously. The cliche of a man falling asleep while having sex was recently featured on an episode of Spongebob Squarepants. Wide angle views of cars driving down the Los Angeles freeway while subdued trance music plays in the background are about as entertaining as a colonoscopy.

The fact that Johnny Marco has a cast on his arm for most of Somewhere is so pedestrian a symbol I would expect it in some undergraduate's romance novel. The film's interminable 98 minutes roll on so uneventfully that outside of the occasional presence of Johnny Marco's cell phone and Guitar Hero, the entire plot might have taken place in 1970. The idea that this incredibly dull, prosaic movie won the Golden Lion (or as I call it, the Flying Aslan) in Venice is only slighter sadder than the possibility that Avatar made more money than the GNP of Michigan. (Thought: was the audience simply so relieved they didn't have to sit through Marie Antoinette that they gave her the award out of gratitude?)

The specter of Heath Ledger looms over the proceedings, since the resulting cinematic apologia resembles something like what a simplistic mind thinks when a father takes his own life through a combination of otherworldly excess and outright stupidity. Coppola's film is like looking at a squirrel that got run over by a car and vainly trying to bring the creature back to life with a screenplay. After Johnny Marco drops his daughter off for summer camp in a helicopter, our hero becomes uncontrollably sad, complaining, "I'm nothing." He moves out of his residence in the Chateau Marmont Hotel and leaves all his rich person gear behind. You see, wealthy and famous people believe they aren't the real heroes, they are just very close to the real heroes. They admit that their lives are essentially meaningless, and that the true pleasures can't be purchased by money, but as long as they have it, they don't really need it. They are so out of touch with reality they think a silly movie like this is reality.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He is a writer living in Manhattan. He tumbls here and twitters here. He last wrote in these pages about the life of Mary McCarthy.

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"Babylon" - Angus & Julia Stone (mp3)

"Lonely Hands" - Angus & Julia Stone (mp3)

"Little Bird" - Angus & Julia Stone (mp3)

Tuesday
Dec212010

In Which It Seemed Eventual But Then It Also Happened All At Once

Youth And Discipline

by MOLLY LAMBERT

In elementary school I was often in trouble. I could never tell whether I was being singled out to scare the other girls into submission, or if I was just genuinely worse than they were. I wasn't violent. My badness came out as a lack of respect for authority. I asked questions. I rejected being treated like a child. The administration wasn't fond of this approach. I developed a reputation as a troublemaker. I felt I was being unfairly stereotyped due to being ginger. I refused to sing the national anthem. 

Homeroom teachers liked me every other year. The ones who liked me loved me but the ones who didn't like me really, really didn't like me. Why would they? I read books inside my desk when I was bored, and I was almost always bored, except for when I felt like being interested, and then I would insist on dominating the discussion.

I told my kindergarten teacher that I wanted to be an ichthyologist. She asked me how to spell it and I said "I don't know, I'm a fucking kid." I probably didn't say "fucking."

I left the classroom constantly without any real reason and went to the library down the hall, then showed no remorse whenever I got caught because I felt none. I was stubborn and arrogant and nine. I talked to the librarian more than probably any other person at school. She suggested young adult books to me and I bristled at reading anything that far below my advanced reading level. I can't remember her name or even the honorific, but I have a vague recollection of what she looked like (a librarian).

There was a contest to stump her with any question that could be solved with information from the library. I continually tried to win and failed. I found some remote scientific information and then hid the book way back behind some other books on the wrong shelf. She figured me out immediately. The shame I felt was mostly that I hadn't gotten away with it and beaten her. It was a good warmup for the internet.

As a child I was most afraid of men with beards and other people's dads. At some point my position on bearded men reversed, in a psychologically transparent turn towards fetishization. I am still pretty fucking scared of other people's dads. 

There was a mock election in 4th grade and we all gave speeches. I wrote something about helping the homeless that I thought would go over well. I read it out loud to the class and felt like a fraud, as all politicians must feel. I was chosen as the class candidate for the democratic party, to compete against room 8's republican, my friend Jessie. I had never felt any natural calling towards politics, but I didn't want to lose.

I picked the nerdiest kid in my class to be my VP, since he had written the only other speech I considered to be remotely in the same league as mine. Jessie picked a kid who was really dumb and mean and had a growth hormone deficiency but was somehow considered popular, possibly because he was rich. They won in a landslide. 

After I lost, I contemplated the pointlessness of the election, which was after all fake and yet had proven some things I already suspected to be true. I sat on the swingset alone with whatever big important novel I was reading that week, Steinbeck or Melville or something else that I didn't really have any life experience to relate to yet but deeply enjoyed the idea of relating to. I always hoped somebody would ask me about what I was reading but nobody ever did. Later as a teenager I was always hoping somebody would ask me what album I was listening to on my discman. They didn't. 

The PE coach, a youngish blonde lady that we referred to only as Coach, developed an intense enmity towards me when I refused to spend my valuable recess time playing house or sports with the other kids in my class. I was often caught inside the library and forced back outside, where I would read a book alone in silent dickish protest. 

In a meeting Coach told my parents that I made the other kids feel stupid by using such big words, and that sometimes I used words even she couldn't understand. My parents only told me about it much later, confirming all my suspicions that Coach had been kind of an idiot, and that people in positions of power over you usually were. 

A kid in my class told me I was sarcastic, and I told him that I didn't know what that meant. I am sure he thought I was just being sarcastic. I went and looked it up and felt satisfied that there was a term for the thing that I was. Whenever I was accused of cynicism, I would say "I'm not cynical, I'm just sarcastic. I'm an optimist." I am still not convinced that I am really an optimist. It would be optimistic to think that I am.

At the neighborhood playground I talked to all the kids, and when that became dull, I would talk to their parents. "Oh hey what's up? You here with your kids? That's tight, I'm a kid. So, what do you do?" When I got bored of that I would talk to the ice cream truck guy. "You sell ice cream? That's rad. In the future I'll write for the internet."

Sometimes I went to the park with a weird girl I was friends with whose family lived next to it. Once she brought a box of condoms she said she had found in her parents' closet and we walked around putting condoms on all the metal fenceposts. In high school I would write a hit one act play based off of my playground experiences that was seventy percent a ripoff of The Zoo Story and thirty percent a ripoff of True West.

My music teacher selected me to sing a solo of "Where Is Love" from Oliver. I was flattered and embarrassed to be singled out. As a kid the desire to be exceptional competes with the desire not to establish yourself as different, for fear it will be turned against you. I was accused of reading the dictionary for fun. It was not very far off.

When I got up to perform the song during the recital I suddenly felt horrified that I was about to sing something so earnest and corny. Afraid that people would somehow be able to see into me too deeply. Halfway through the first verse I blew in the microphone accidentally, and laughed. Then I sang less, and blew in the microphone some more. This cemented my bad reputation. I am still struggling with sincerity. 

I joined the Girl Scouts because all my friends joined. When I learned that the Boy Scouts would be getting pocket swiss army knives I became furious, then sad when I found out that nobody else cared but me. The most hated girl in our class's mom became the troop leader. Our meetings were held in the auditorium after school.

Once I excused myself to go to the water fountain and when I got into the hallway sprinted at the playground exit, towards night and freedom. When the kindergarten teacher's son opened a door the doorknob made direct contact with my face and I had to go get stitches. I can't remember whether the kindergarten teacher's son was attractive, or if all men in their twenties just seemed desirable to me at that age.

My interest in ichthyology turned to marine biology when I decided that I couldn't possibly exclude mammals. My budding ocean sciences career eventually wound down after the realization that I was way too claustrophobic for Alvin. I had an art teacher whose obsession with Ancient Egypt became mine. I was initially terrified of him because of his beard. I did a drawing of the sun and the real sun glinted off it so intensely, for a week I was secretly convinced I had magical powers related to art.  

I was cashiering at a grocery store and my old art teacher came in. I didn't recognize him since he was clean-shaven and I hadn't seen him in twenty years. He remembered me immediately, since I look basically the same and had a nametag on. He seemed surprised to find me working in retail. I took his wife's business card and promised to call them and have dinner but then never did. It's strange to see the adults from your childhood. What do you say to someone who changed the course of your life forever?

I wrote a poem and was chosen to read it during graduation. I felt completely confident that my poem had been the best but also vindicated that it had been chosen. The administration took credit for my love of reading, which they had tried to squash at every possible turn. I wore a mint green dress. I decided I was going to be a writer, even if I had to take credit for it occasionally. I didn't blow in the mic.

Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Los Angeles. She authors the This Recording twitter here and tumbls here. She last wrote in these pages about incepting the internet. You can find an archive of her work here.

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