Quantcast

Video of the Day

Masthead

Editor-in-Chief
Alex Carnevale
(e-mail/tumblr/twitter)

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen
(e-mail)

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

Live and Active Affiliates
This area does not yet contain any content.
Thursday
Jul022009

In Which Whatever Woody Says Must Be True

Looking Glass

by GEORGIA HARDSTARK

As a child, when picturing myself as an adult, my imaginary life very closely resembled a Woody Allen film. Much like the beginning scene of Hannah and Her Sisters, a large part of my imaginary adulthood took place at a party. Glasses of wine clasped in one hand, the other hand gesturing wildly as I would surely be caught up in some argument or heated discussion, I would flit from room to room to check on guests, make sure the maid had enough petite food to pass around on shiny silver trays, all the while bitching about my mother. Boobs would be involved, too, as I would surely have grown them by then...large ones, actually, I assured my young and flat-chested self.

I look at my life now, and can’t help but think it was a detriment to my future that I was allowed, even encouraged, to watch Woody Allen movies as a child. "This is what Jews are like," I thought. “This is what adults are like."

If you’re one of my ex-boyfriends who had the opportunity to accompany me to one of my many family get-togethers (Hanukkah at my grandma’s house being the most hectic), you’d have seen that there was no reason for me not to think that Woody Allen movies might actually be documentaries, and not, in fact, fictional.

There is SO much going on. A drama in every conversation, a glass of wine in every hand, a complaint about one’s mother uttered at least hourly. The only one of my childhood fantasies that didn’t evolve into reality was the mammary-centric one (really, the most important one), as my breasts seemed to think that wine and hors d'oeuvres were enough to keep me happy as an adult.

Since many aspects of my life do resemble a Woody Allen film now, I couldn’t help but wonder which sister I most resembled, as I watched Hannah and Her Sisters last week. I was nothing like Mia Farrow’s character, the titular oldest sister, Hannah, I assured myself. Although the backbone of the family, the most stable and the one everyone seemed to rely and depend on much to her seeming comfort, I saw her as a pushover and much too trusting. That isn’t me...plus I have better hair. Probably to my detriment, I’m hypersensitive to other people’s intentions. Sure, I’d love a sister like Hannah, but aside from the fact that I find a young Michael Caine (playing Hannah’s husband) to be one sexy bitch, she and I have nothing in common.

Holly, played by the lovely Dianne Wiest, now she is the sister that scared me the most, because in the beginning of the movie I recognized more and more similarities between her character and myself. But by the middle of the movie, when she was berating Hannah after asking for yet another loan, taking bumps of cocaine during dates with small, balding Jewish men (SO not my type), and letting herself be walked on by domineering friends, I assured myself that this was not the sister I resembled.

This leaves us with Lee, the youngest of the sisters, played by Barbara Hershey. I am, indeed, the youngest of my siblings, so that’s an easy correlation to make. While I would never, not in a million years, have an affair with any married man let alone one that was married to my sister, Lee also found Michael Caine to be one sexy bitch, so there’s that correlation again. But that was just about where the similarities ended.

Aside from an affinity towards older bearded men and used bookstores, I was left once again to scramble to make connections with these fictional women, but I kept coming up short.

Once the movie was over, after everyone ended up happy and married and right back at a wine and hors d'oeuvres infested soiree, I realized that perhaps it was time for me to reevaluate my ideal adulthood fantasy, and to pick a new director to orchestrate my future. I’ve been holding on to this idea that I’m some quirky, neurotic Mia Farrow/Diane Keaton hybrid with better hair when in actuality, I’m less neurotic than inquisitive and bold, plus I look terrible in hats and becoming pregnant with Satan’s spawn is unlikely because I’m on the pill.

So Hannah can have her nitpicky life and her troubled sisters, as I’ve decided to mirror my adulthood daydreams after Spaghetti Westerns. At least this way I can prop my nonexistent boobs up with a corset instead of hiding them under a blazer and oversized tie.

Georgia Hardstark is the contributing editor to This Recording. She tumbls here, and blogs it all here. She last wrote in these pages about making up her mind.

digg delicious reddit stumble facebook twitter subscribe

"Bullet In My Breast Pocket" - Woody Allen (mp3)

"The Army" - Woody Allen (mp3)

"Private Life" - Woody Allen (mp3)

"Pets" - Woody Allen (mp3)

"The Lost Generation" - Woody Allen (mp3)

"My Marriage" - Woody Allen (mp3)

Thursday
Jul022009

In Which We Are Wise Beyond Our Years

Those Radio Days

by BEN ARFMANN

Does anyone else get annoyed when the 45-and-older crowd talks about their prepubescent days? I do. Sometimes you get lucky and meet a crazy old guy with stories about the time he set fire to the Elks’ Lodge, but mostly you get generic Our Gang re-runs: "I threw firecrackers at the neighbor’s dog, Fluffy." "I stole biscuits from Mrs. Joseph’s window." "I blah blah blah cutesy story blah blah." Come on. Really? Whenever I hear one of these, I want to grab the middle-aged storyteller by the shoulders and yell: “No! I do not accept these anecdotes! Your childhood does not accept them!”

No one’s childhood was actually Leave It To Beaver. I’m already twenty-five, but somehow I can still remember, un-prompted, that years 5 through 10 of my life were spent variously in extreme states of fear, confusion and stupidity.

A lot of the time, it was intolerable to be around me. I was a jerk-ish, weird little kid with jerk-ish, weird little concerns. I did stupid things, and a lot of them weren’t very nice. Once I filled up a water gun with my own urine and sprayed the neighbor girls while they sunbathed. Another time I called my best friend Jesse a “stupid Jew” until he cried and hid in my closet. I was kind of a shit as a kid, and from what I remember, most other kids were shits too.

That’s what childhood was like: we were all jerks. And pretty damn cruel, too. That’s what made childhood interesting. And funny. But the movies, produced out in la-la-land like they are, don’t seem to get that. Most movies about kids are either neon-colored schlock or god awful i-wanna-die-I’m-so-depressed awards festival groupies. Examples of the first — Hotel for Dogs and The Sandlot — conform to your un-married uncle’s ideas about childhood: "Oh those little ragamuffins, just out for trouble, aren’t they?" They impose logic and rational motivations on top of generic, sugarplum characterizations. On the other end you’ve got all the true-life, scared-straight artfilm pictures — George Washington, Ratcatcher — which are, at best, poignant and “true;” which means they’re nostalgia trips for people "too smart" for nostalgia. Wouldn’t it be nice if someone made a picture about kids that was honest? A film that enjoyed watching kids not in a creepy way, or in a stupid, corporate way, but in a simple "little kids are strange and bizarre and fucking awesome" way?

Make a list of the directors you might hire for that job. Maybe Jean Renoir directing a Tom Green script? Alex Cox filming Roald Dahl? Good choices, all. I would submit also (maybe, just maybe): Woody Allen circa 1973. If the guy who directed Bananas and Sleeper were to pull a Tiger Lily on Stand By Me, that might actually be something. Woody used to be Hollywood’s vulgar, vital court jester.

I came at the film hoping for a manic, ruthless comedy about the real stuff — the cruel, terrible, clinically insane stuff - of childhood. A “classic.” That hope was irresponsible. This movie was released in 1987 — well into Woody’s “no really, I’m a WASP” phase. It received a four star review from both Roger Ebert and from my Gram. I love Roger (I love my Gram more) but the man has got a pudding-pop heart and a badly misguided memory. Playground trauma must have struck Roger early and struck him hard; looking like he does today, I can only imagine what sort of Goof Troop reject seven-year-old Ebert was back then. Maybe he blocked out all those painful memories of childhood torment, and now honestly thinks grade school was all about rosy cheeks and prime-time mischief. Well, fine.

Radio Days is not morally offensive, but it is safe and cute and lacking in nutsack. Bananas-era Woody would have cried. Radio Days is a limping collection of childhood anecdotes (set during the Second World War), loosely structured around the idea that "radio, man, that was a real mass medium." These are the venture-nothing-gain-nothing stories that your parents might break out at a co-worker’s anniversary celebration, or while carpooling with a tennis buddy.

Example: Woody’s parents, when introduced in the movie, enter the narrative while bickering fiercely. "I had never met a couple that argued as much as they did,” claims disembodied Woody. What did they argue about? Which ocean is better: the Atlantic or the Pacific. There’s some other stuff in the movie — some limp-wristed jokes about how “radio voices never match the face!” and Mia Farrow doing a dialect bit — but most of it is lamed and embarrassing. This was the movie that Allen shot between two more serious attempts at the plate — Hannah and September — and everything about it screams “bunt.” His voice over, which blankets the film, is flat minded; the sets get more attention than the dialog; and when Larry David shows up for two lines in the second act, Allen doesn’t even have sense enough to play his mug for the close-up comedy it’s capable of. For shame, Alvy, For Shame.

Behind my reaction to Radio Days is pouty little-boy disappointment. I wanted it to be a vulgar trip through America’s shared small times. But it’s not. It’s inert and grinning, the product of an artist who found out too soon that “people really like me!” and decided that was all he really wanted, anyways.

Ben Arfmann is a contributor to This Recording. He tumbls here.

"I Don't Have Any More Love Songs" - Merle Haggard (mp3)

"Our Paths May Never Cross" - Merle Haggard (mp3)

"Can't Break the Habit" - Merle Haggard (mp3)

digg delicious reddit stumble facebook twitter subscribe

Wednesday
Jul012009

In Which We Deal With Woody's Unreal Expectations

Woody's Husbands and Wives

by CHAD PERMAN

Make no mistake about it, marriage is difficult. It's a wonderful, complicated, messy, beautiful, frustrating ball of emotions that can strangle you one day and make you blissfully happy the very next. At the same time, it just might be the single most misunderstood institution in our lives, and Hollywood is in no small part responsible for that, feeding rather gleefully into the 'happily ever after' syndrome that we all, on some level, aspire to — despite its absolute impossibility. No relationship (let alone a marriage) is ever a fairy tale, at least not in a conventional sense; nothing can live up to that, though we very nearly kill ourselves trying to prove exactly the opposite.

Which is precisely why a film like Husbands and Wives is such a welcome cinematic breather of sorts, something that those of us in the midst of the battle for happily ever after can watch and realize, heads nodding with knowing laughter: "Yes, exactly!"

Did desire really grow with the years? Or did familiarity cause partners to long for other lovers? Was the notion of ever deepening romance a myth we had grown up on, along with the simultaneous orgasm?

Perhaps the best thing about Woody Allen's 1993 classic is its recognition of life and relationships as they actually are, rather than as we would like them to be. True, at the time it was released Allen and co-star Mia Farrow were embroiled in a rather nasty and hugely publicized break-up, but the fact that the film itself - if not the stars' actual lives - seemed so accurately to depict the state of modern marriage ultimately means something. Whether we stay together or divorce, cling to each other or go our separate ways, this film has something to tell us, something to offer by way of proximity. And in the end, what else can great art ever really hope to do?

Judy: Do you think it could ever happen to us?
Gabe: Well, I'm not planning on it, are you?

Gabe and Judy Roth (Allen and Farrow) are a modestly happy married couple of ten years whose lives begin to unravel when their closest friends, Jack (Sydney Pollack) and Sally (Judy Davis), suddenly announce to them one night before dinner that they have decided to separate. They assure Gabe and Judy that this is an amicable decision, mutually arrived at and agreed upon: things simply weren't working out how either of them wanted any more, and they both felt the need to explore other options in life. And, while this turns out to be only barely true in actuality — an ugly collision of naivity and denial that manages to masquerade as a type of bold open-mindedness on the part of both Jack and Sally — it's still more than enough to shake Gabe and Judy's own relationship to its very core. After all, if their best friends in the entire world could split up, how could they (or anyone else, for that matter) ever expect to stay together for the long haul?

Jack and Sally's decision to separate quickly leads Gabe and Judy to some tough, emotional, heartbreaking conversations about the reality of their own relationship. In their room together late at night, getting ready for bed, they have the kind of conversations that most married couples end up having from time to time — at least, those couples who actually talk to one another — the kind where you carefully confess and backpedal, provoke and soothe, a crazy and numbing dance known so well by long-time lovers. You only hope that in the end they don't break you apart.

Judy: All those memories, they're just memories...they're from years gone by and they're just isolated moments. They don't tell the whole story.

As Gabe and Judy struggle to regain their footing, Jack and Sally continue their exploration of "other options". Jack quickly takes up with another woman — a much younger, ditzier aerobics instructor whom he quickly moves in with — while Sally slowly begins to test the waters of the dating pool, eventually jumping in with one of Judy's work colleagues. At first, their separation from each other allows them fleeting moments of relief that they mistake for happiness, forgetting that freedom always brings with it a certain anxiety and that, as unglamorous as it is to say, there is always a certain comfort and safety in the familiar that the excitement of something new can rarely replace, at least not fully.

While the first few pleasurable bursts of romance, lust, and love might convince us that things will somehow work out differently this time, they seldom, if ever, do. Miserable, but determined to keep trying, Jack and Sally struggle on.

Sally: Well, I've learned that love is not about passion and romance necessarily, it's also about companionship: it's like a buffer against loneliness.

Meanwhile, Gabe begins to fall for one of his much younger writing students (this is a Woody Allen movie, after all) and Judy starts to develop strong feelings for someone in her office (Liam Neeson). Gradually, their relationship drifts apart, the slow erosion of trust — along with continual arguments over whether or not to have children ∏— ultimately wearing the both of them down. It's heartbreaking to watch but, again, it's so very real.

This is how relationships often play out in each of our lives, whether we want them to or not. While some of us manage to struggle through the tough times and keep the whole thing together somehow, others feel they can only stand by and watch as the whole thing goes up in flames.

Jack: That stuff is really important, someone to grow old with...the thing that's so tough, that kills most people, is just unreal expectations.

Husbands and Wives is many things, but above all, it is honest. Make what you will of Woody Allen's own personal marital and domestic failings, the man knows how to hold up a mirror to all of our lives, our relationships, and show us the many ways — both humorous and heartbreaking — that we choose to live. It's a rare thing in American cinema today to see marriage so deftly captured onscreen — not just in its broad strokes but in its smaller moments as well that when we find a film like Husbands and Wives, we must be careful to embrace it. As far as I can tell, it's really the only sensible kind of antidote we have to all those happily-ever-after stories, the cheap and dangerous Hollywood romances that only serve to whet an appetite that life itself can never hope to fulfill.

Chad Perman is the senior contributor to This Recording. You can read his essay on Brewster McCloud here. You can read his essay on National Lampoon's Vacation here.

digg delicious reddit stumble facebook twitter subscribe

"Bag of Bones" - The Maccabees (mp3)

"No Kind Words" - The Maccabees (mp3)

"Seventeen Hands" - The Maccabees (mp3)