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Alex Carnevale
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Mia Nguyen
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Reviews Editor
Ethan Peterson

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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Wednesday
Jan172018

In Which We Assume The Worst When We See The Best

The Bonfire of the Bosom Buddy, Part II

by ELLEN COPPERFIELD

I was watching The Polar Express and trying to recover the spirit of Christmas for some muffins I was planning when it occurred to me: doesn't that train conductor remind me of something ineffable and someone specific?

My aunt told me it was Tom Hanks, and I was like, "they modeled the conductor after a producer on Big Love?" She explained that Hanks was the owner of a long and storied Hollywood career, while her daschund Leopold stared at me unforgivingly for my ignorance. I spent this past weekend watching all of this old-timey actor's moving pictures, and I have summarized the plots of these films so you can easily find what interests you. UPDATE: I watched more movies of this old gentleman. He must be 80 by now. Was he also the male lead in Mad About You? If so, I will address it in a forthcoming feature-length essai.

Splash

A man has sex with a mermaid and feels somewhat bad about it. The mermaid's father frowns upon the match because it conflicted with the IPO of his underwater company.

Inferno

A repressed homosexual finds a riddle in his morning coffee. He pretends to have a relationship with a woman and convinces her that the message in the coffee was of such tremulous importance that they can never consummate the immense attraction between them. She dies.

The Money Pit

A home restoration project goes south when a man realizes his wife is Shelley Long.

Bachelor Party

A famous football player insists that protection is for Ravens while attempting sex. The woman mishears "Ravens" as "cravens", freaks out, and ends up majoring in communications. Todd Phillips is passed out nearby and gets the idea for The Hangover.

Dragnet

Two white police officers pay tribute to a long-running television series by visiting Santa Claus at the North Pole. Santa tells them to come back when they're animated.

Big

A man shrinks to the size of a gumdrop to become a boy again and lives inside a huge piano with all his friends. Older women are constantly intuiting he's more advanced sexually than he professes. To return to full size, he is forced to rape a gypsy woman.

Punchline

A comedian is infected with AIDS by Denzel Washington.

Turner and Hooch

A man and an anti-semitic dog fight crime.

The 'Burbs

You may be more familiar with a recent remake of The 'Burbs, Saw IV.

Joe Versus the Volcano

A pet detective finally marries his true love (Courteney Cox) and decides that Meg Ryan is likelier to have a successful big screen career. He struggles to find a way to break off the engagement before deciding to burn his penis off in an active volcano.

The Bonfire of the Vanities

A journalist with no imagination finds it easier to make things up than interview any more astronauts than he has to. He uses a revolutionary technique to clone himself. He names the clone Malcolm Gladwell.

A League of Their Own

An alcoholic womanizer leads a baseball team of women to greatness and inadvertently creates a popular daytime television program. A text card at the end of the film specifies that they would have achieved nothing without a male manager.

Sleepless in Seattle

A woman facebooks a guy and he ends up taking it way farther than it ever has to go. She falls in love with his eight-year old by accident and they go live on a cute houseboat for the rest of their lives.

Philadelphia

The two main people in a gay man's life are Antonio Banderas and Denzel Washington, and he's still unhappy as a clam for no discernible reason. Andrew Sullivan cameos as "another guy with HIV."

Forrest Gump

The thinly disguised life story of Joe Biden. He has a sexual relationship with Robin Wright Penn and everyone has some misgivings that she took advantage of him. Biden emphasizes the fact that he rides Amtrak in his speeches because he is unable to pilot an automobile.

Sully

A pilot lands a plane. Everyone pretends to be impressed, including the seagulls.

Saving Mr. Banks

Walt Disney loved Jews, including Carl Bernstein, Jonah Hill and Barbra Streisand. You believe us, don't you?

Apollo 13

A bunch of guys head into space, reassuring their wives with platitudes like, "We won't fuck up in space," and "It's space, what could go wrong?" and "Kevin Bacon's coming with us to space, this will be hilars." These predictions prove largely inaccurate.

Captain Phillips

A man is almost certain that he is going to die, so he decides to make up an improbable story that he figures won't matter because he will be dead anyway. He lives, and crosses his fingers every night that no one finds out his lie.

Saving Private Ryan

Despite the fact that Jews are dying by the millions in camps across Europe, it ends up being a lot more important for everybody's peace of mind that one goy be rescued by a squadron of morons.

You've Got Mail

A man flirts with a woman on the internet; she is somehow not disgusted by the fact it takes 20 minutes for him to type one instant message into AIM. He misunderstands "Shop Around the Corner" for a sexual euphemism, she apologizes for the miscommunication. Not only does he not accept her apology, he puts her out of business and cuts off her airway with the skin folds from his degraded neck. The funeral is a lovely affair, and each of the eulogies emphasize the dangers of misrepresenting yourself on AIM.

The Green Mile

A magical, physically imposing black man heals people with his touch, so the white prison guards murder him, but not before he cures all their urinary tract infections. It turns out that the black man had the spirit of a white guy (Rob Schneider) inside him all along.

Cast Away

High on cocaine, Robert Zemeckis has an idea that later becomes Lost; a plane crashes on an island and only the boring characters survive.

The Circle

A few guys are really attracted to Emma Watson to the extent completely unjustified by her looks, personality or apparel. One day, they hear her say she likes guys with beards, so they quickly all grow beards and spy on her in the bathroom. When confronted, they apologize and are rewarded with multiple seasons of their pet projects by Netflix.

Road to Perdition

Two playwrights debate the existential nature of life over dinner one evening. Hot topic: 'what does the word perdition mean?'

Catch Me If You Can

Christopher Walken has a son, and - shock, surprise! - it doesn't turn out all that well. The son becomes a pilot and figures prominently in the September 11th terrorist attacks on America. He ends up dating Cardi B, probably.

Bridge of Spies

A bunch of people in Hollywood beg all their friends to pretend a movie is interesting. It isn't.

The Post

Rich white people pretend that things they did were important. Ta-Nehisi Coates guest stars as a skeptical onlooker.

The Terminal

A man who jerks off into people's luggage is apprehended and forced to copulate with Catherine Zeta-Jones while Michael Douglas looks on approvingly.

The Ladykillers

A brother-brother writer-director team misfires with their latest film and decides to nab an Oscar by utilizing the foolproof method of having Tommy Lee Jones do the movie's voiceover.

The Polar Express

A shocking expose of how the Japanese kill 500 of Santa's dwarves each year in front of a live studio audience in the Arctic.

The Da Vinci Code

Dr. Robert Langdon is infected with HIV by Denzel Washington.

Charlie Wilson's War

Mike Nichols' 100 minute logic proof that Elaine May had all the talent.

Angels and Demons

Dr. Robert Langdon gives up treasure hunting and retires to a tropical island with Audrey Tautou, Emily Blunt, and Denzel Washington.

Ellen Copperfield is a contributor to This Recording.


Monday
Jan152018

In Which We Remain Smaller Than We Were Before

All You Have To Do Is Say Yes

by ETHAN PETERSON

Downsizing
dir. Alexander Payne
135 minutes

There is a scene late in Alexander Payne’s Downsizing where a bunch of Norwegians watch the sun go down for the last time. It is an oblique commentary on President Trump’s desire to see more Norwegian-Americans, and as such it is very topical. Around 150,000 non-whites live in Norway, but as Payne pans across this collection of Norwegian people, they are a diverse panoply of different ethnicities. It is the moment where the question of, “Is Downsizing pandering?” is answered definitely in the affirmative.

Payne has been often celebrated for his satires. That is until Downsizing, because no one could seemingly figure out what was being satirized, or why it would be unusual for human beings to shrink down to a size of five inches. Once Paul (Matt Damon) makes this move, his wife (Kristen Wiig) refuses to go through with it and files for divorce. Instead of having a life of considerable wealth in his tiny village, he has to answer telephones for Lands' End, which Payne presents as a humiliating job.

In contrast, Paul’s true calling is as an occupational therapist. He is always noticing when someone is walking funny or suffering from some kind of chronic pain. He dates a woman who doesn’t want him to meet her kid, and comes home to the same shitty apartment he might have in a large person’s world. In other scenes, he witnesses a depth of poverty that transcends the size of the people involved.

Paul spends the rest of the movie as a pseudo-doctor to those in the slums who can’t afford anything better. It is a strange choice for Payne's film, but not as strange as the presentation of poverty in this context. Like many rich whites, Payne believes that those who depend on the efforts of others for their subsistence are uniformly non-white. Payne shares this view with - you guessed it - our beleaguered president.

Watching Matt Damon minister to the poor strikes us as a pathetic recreation of his actual life of justifying and defending the abhorrent behavior of his friends and colleagues. Yet in Paul there is something of the sycophantic enabler that Damon must be to the point where we sense Payne is using our disapproval of the actor behind the mask to draw suspicion to all those individuals who would do something positive for the wrong reasons. In the end, the wrong to be rectified is so much more awful that we accept any reason is just.

Poverty is a disgraceful symptom of a certain, more inclusive society. (Norway has never had to face such problems.) In order to eradicate it, we could conceivably shrink ourselves. As Payne presciently notes, there are ensuing problems – the amount of taxes collected would go down, the amount of consumer spending would go down. But what we should have realized before our government prevented the collapse of massive, irresponsible banks is that a new economy will always replace the old. This is the essential, undiminished spirit of capitalism. Payne writes around this essential question by drawing the world to an end in Downsizing.

By the end the main character in Downsizing becomes Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau), a Vietnamese woman whose leg was amputed at the knee. She falls in love with Matt Damon while he is attempting to fix her prosthetic leg. In one exciting scene, they have sex after he is massaging her stump — she makes very elaborate groans which are meant to be a cue to him to initiate intercourse. Hong Chau is a fantastic actor in a somewhat problematic role, since Lan Tran has no flaws whatsoever and is basically presented as a female Confucius. Still, this at least feels like a risk in a movie that has very few.

As a result, the remedy that Downsizing offers for American life is focused on the personal. It is a very inoffensive, ineffectual answer to the serious economic question posed by this film’s premise, and I think audiences and critics reacted to Payne’s cowardice. I tend to give him a wider berth, but I understand it. In art, it's not enough, anymore, to say how and why the world feels wrong to you. You should probably have an idea of how it could be changed for the better.

Ethan Peterson is the reviews editor of This Recording.

Thursday
Jan112018

In Which We Solve Many Problems Through Tears

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,

I have been dating my girlfriend Lydia for over a year. My apartment was damaged by a fire in a neighboring domicile less than three months ago, so I moved in with Lydia. Things have been going great, but recently she has been alluding to the idea that I won't be moving out.

Living together is a new experience for me, and it is hard sometimes to be around someone so much, even someone you love. We have different interests and it has been difficult making time for some of mine since moving in.

Since it wasn't feasible to secure a new place until I received money from my insurance company, I held off. But I do intend to move out and recently secured a room in a multiperson apartment until I can purchase or rent my own place. What is the best way to break this news to my girlfriend?

Taylor R.

Dear Taylor,

You know that rap song where it's like, "Hotel, motel, Holiday Inn"? That should have been you.

There are a few problems with the path you have chosen. The first is that you did not make your situation clear to Lydia before moving in. You should have done that in writing, and if possible through some kind of henna. The second is that you are looking for a way to not be honest with her. Crying can solve a lot of problems that reasoned discourse can never approach in its particulars.

Who am I kidding? They call HTS the House of Sweet Lies for a reason. The best way to get out of this is if her building doesn't allow pets. If they don't, you can claim an animal has been forced on you. Choose an exceptionally short-lived creature, e.g. a housefly or a pigeon.

Unfortunately a lot of buildings allow pets, which moves our situation to Plan B, which I call the Godfather plan. Someone made you an opportunity you couldn't refuse, and you had to take that apartment. Possibilities include an amazingly cheap apartment, or that your new roommate is a friend who needs you there or (s)he will slit her wrists.

If you can't think of a compelling reason, suddenly explain that you have been doing some thinking and there is evidence to suggest that people have better relationships when they don't live together before marriage. Lydia's eyes will light up at the thought of a long term committment with the plan who is currently plotting a way to spend less time with her.

Hi,

My boyfriend Davis served a short prison term from 2011-2012. He was incarcerated because of a drunk driving incident where he harmed another driver.

Davis and I have been talking about possibly getting engaged in the next year. My question is whether you think I should mention any of this to my family before or after the engagement/wedding?

Mallie R.

Dear Mallie,

It is impossible to keep such a thing a secret if you are going to include Davis as part of your family. It is going to come out at some point, e.g. when his prison buddies show up to take you hostage demanding liters of your blood or Jim Beam.

The key is to present this information to your family in the correct way. That correct way includes while Davis is performing some relevant community service, like ladling out soup at a kitchen, counseling young individuals on the error of his ways, or cunnilingus. Let your family know that Davis is a changed man. I assume he gives speeches for a modest rate as a part of his rehabilitation? OK, see ya.

 

Illustrations by Mia Nguyen.