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Alex Carnevale
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Features Editor
Mia Nguyen
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Senior Editor
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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Friday
Nov182016

In Which We Live Vicariously Through This Young Pope

The Royal Painter

by ALEX CARNEVALE

The Young Pope
creator Paolo Sorrentino
HBO

We all know someone who believes, with a certainty that never admits doubt, that the world revolves around them. These people float in and out of our lives. It is hard to begrudge them their views, in a way, since their deleterious attitude proves useful as a survival mechanism. They remind us of animals in that way, of beasts who can no more consider others' plight that they can leave their bodies and travel as spirits. At some point they are rewarded with tragedy caused by the limits of awareness.

There is a character in a Cixin Liu novel I thought of while watching The Young Pope, the new series about a young American pope cross-produced by Sky in the UK and HBO. He is a prince who appears the same size no matter what distance you stand away from him. Viewed from afar, he resembles a giant; up close he is a bit smaller than an ordinary man. At times Paolo Sorrentino's direction makes his titular character Lenny Belardo (Jude Law), clad in gaudy robes and a tiara, seem to violate the laws of perspective.

Law seems to be having too much enjoyment in this role of an orphaned priest who manipulates his way into the papacy. He does not have to play at being a prick, since being Jude Law is synonymous with the concept. Law uses his lips to sneer in forty different directions, constantly on the verge of devouring his own face. He seems unable to pause or consider – every action and sentence was pre-planned, pre-written a long time ago, before the moment we witness. Scenes with the Italian ensemble that surrounds Law are markedly different when he is not present. His Pope is perenially onstage.

Eventually, Belardo chooses to address his cardinals to give them the blueprint for his reign as Pope Pius XIII. He presents them with a tiny door, explaining how he plans to demand fanaticism from Catholics, and his disgust with a Church which hopes to merely win the esteem of the people. It will be difficult to fit through the small opening, and not everyone will make it.

Belardo, like his alter-ego Dr. Mindy Lahiri, is not entirely unsympathetic. On the night of her ex-boyfriend's wedding, Dr. Lahiri begins hearing his voice channeled through a photograph on her refrigerator. In a fugue state she drives all the way to Massachusetts. Her boyfriend Ben has chosen not to spend the weekend with her, preferring to chaperone his daughter to a school event. He does call to check in on her. She does not ask him how it is going, or what he is feeling or thinking. He is merely an accessory to her, and when she thinks about Ben, her only thought is whether or not he is benefitting or detracting from the life she wants to live.

The danger for a priest is to become too drawn in to the lives of his adherents. Like Pope Pius XIII, Mindy has several useful followers. There is Jeremy, a man with low self-esteem who directs her gynecological practice. There is Morgan, an indigent nurse who finds the time to care for fifteen to twenty dogs when he is not constantly on call for his boss, and there is Ben, another nurse who cares for Mindy's son since she barely even holds him. Lahiri has nothing in the way of female friends – in the original incarnation of The Mindy Project she had several, but no one could think of any plotlines for them. They detracted from her odd appeal rather than added to it.

Pope Pius XIII's main follower is Diane Keaton, a nun who served as his secretary, but he soon bullies most others in the Vatican into his cause. He is fond of saying that when he appears in public he will be taken as a Christ-figure if he wishes it. The irony, of course, is that he is nothing like the son of God, and all the ways that he is different could fill several leatherbound volumes. Flashbacks explain how Lenny Belardo, abandoned by his alt-left parents got to be the way that he is.

Dipping back and forth between eras and locations, Sorrentino seems to have found his most rewarding subject. His recent films in Italian and English have considered, at extreme length, the topic of old age. He had a lot to say about how bracing it is to realize you are not as you were. In The Young Pope, he has engaged with the polar opposite experience. Birth is an ongoing metaphor in The Young Pope; as he cascades through a series of ever more elaborate settings and costumes, Jude Law seems to be constantly reborn. Watching him emerge in and out of his robes is so enervating you almost look away. Even his shoes are indecent.

It is supposed to be a kind of nasty fun, watching Law completely turn the papacy on its head. The Young Pope's astonishing title sequence makes the show appear to be a wicked joyride, like sneaking into a movie you were not supposed to get into. But I suspect anyone interested in Catholicism can't help but see it differently. Some of Law's over-the-top rhetoric is even inspiring in a certain context. It is rewarding to see a figure who truly believes in something, even if that something is only himself.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.


Thursday
Nov172016

In Which We Regret Every Relationship But One

A Very Good Year

by ETHAN PETERSON

Red Oaks
creators Joe Gangemi and Gregory Jacobs
Amazon

The women in Red Oaks are completely variegated. Their desires are manifold; they have men at their beck and call. How to choose just one man? It is a difficult task, but one they take up with aplomb. Karen (Gage Golightly) falls in love with a creepy photographer who is really into magic after she and David (Craig Roberts) break up. Their wedding takes place late in the second season of Red Oaks, after he makes her give away her cat.

David's mother is a divorcee who dates a lesbian comic but can't take things past second base. One of the great pleasures of Red Oaks is that her son is exactly like her: this accomodating but resolute person who takes other people's wishes into account — just below her own. Jennifer Grey still looks fantastic, and her scenes are filled with an elegant authenticity. Her ex-husband (Richard Kind) is completely miserable now that he is alone, although he was not exactly super-enthused by married life either.

At the end of the 1980s, everything else is great. 1986 was such a special year. The men in Red Oaks do not seem to realize this. They are constantly unhappy — they feel they are not getting enough from the women in their lives, that these women are not overly committed to them, or at least not as much as they should be. 

One night Misty (Alexandra Turshen) realizes she wants to be with a Jewish guy. As soon as Wheeler (Oliver Cooper) finds out that the woman of his dreams actually wants to be with him, he makes every excuse not to be with her. He considers going to school upstate to avoid life with a lifeguard.

Craig Roberts was a bit stiff during the first season, but he comes into his own during Red Oaks' Paris episode. His girlfriend Skye (Alexandra Socha) is the most unlikable, most pretentious person in this entire milieu. In his heart, he pretty much loathes her. She constantly abandons him to snort cocaine and paint the worst portraits anyone has ever seen. When they break up, he gives her a movie he made of her smoking in a bed. It is very derivative.

Her mother (Gina Gershon) has some serious difficulty holding her alcohol. She has been married to Paul Reiser for twenty-five years, showing us the real outcome of Mad About You. Reiser is on trial for financial crimes, being prosecuted by a young Rudolph Giuliani. Some of the season's final episodes are directed by Gregg Araki, and they do a fantastic job of widening the frame of Red Oaks. The show is at its most dull when it takes place in the restrictive country club environment it became tired of satirizing. Ultimately the show's creators made the difficult choice — to take this all very, very seriously.

Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording.

Wednesday
Nov162016

In Which We Address Things The Moment They Arrive

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,

My girlfriend Amber is in her early thirties. She took a new job in September and many of her co-workers socialize together on a regular basis. She goes to events with them regularly and it has been a big shift in our relationship because at times it seems like these new friendships are her number one priority. Her co-workers are a bit younger and still single, and they like to go out and drink often.

I have tried to be understanding since on one level I am glad she has met people she enjoys spending time with. We are new to this area and I know she missed some of her old friends in New York. Still, it does seem like she goes out a lot with these people. When I brought it up to her, she was defensive, asking me, "Don't I want her to have friends?" So I'm uncertain how to pursue this further.

Keith A.

Keith,

Because she is not responsive to your concerns, you have encountered a very red flag. It is probable that the validation she seeks from these people, whether romantic or just platonic, has superseded her main relationship. If it was at least equal, she would reassure you and make accommodations. There is a bigger problem in your relationship. 

It appears from your description that you are living together before marriage. While this can be a decent idea in the right circumstances, in a relationship without the proper communication, it is a hot disaster. You are not committed enough to one another to overcome these problems, so they will fester for as long as this situation persists. The best thing to do to get ahead of this situation, and give it a chance of succeeding, is to end things. If she really cares about you, this will be the wake-up call. If she doesn't, at least you found out sooner than later.

Hi,

My boyfriend Steven is a great guy. For some reason, he will lie about the dumbest things. When he lies, he is usually being deceptive for no reason, or to make himself seem busier or more interesting. On occasion, he will do it to get out of doing something with me, but it is always in a situation where truth would do just as well. He does not lie about anything important, but I still find this behavior disconcerting. Should I be worried?

Megan Y. 

Dear Megan,

Introverts are used to the expectations of extroverts. They may need more time to process the events of their daily life. Instead of simply explaining this, they often wish to do what extroverted people do, since this is more acceptable behavior in our society. 

Also, it seems like Steven does not lie very much to you. Is it really a lie if the person you are telling it to knows you are telling a lie? Therefore Steven is a satirist, not a liar.

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.