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Editor-in-Chief
Alex Carnevale
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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

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Monday
May042009

In Which It Was Altmanesque If Nothing Else

The Week In Review

I thought about getting a clone, but then what would my intern do? Optimally, my clone would look like Shelly Duvall, except she wouldn't age quite as badly.

Did you read everything from Altman Week yet? Everything will be back to normal soon: Molly will be blogging about Nas and Kelis, Dick will be chiming in about Lost, it will be just like the usual but fresher, more sure of itself.

Harris Feinsod on Quintet

Harris made me really want to watch Quintet, so I downloaded it here. Much of it I didn't understand, the rest aroused me quite a bit.

Gabriel Milner on Buffalo Bill and the Indians

This just brought back Deadwood flashbacks. Did you read the piece Alex did on that? It praised Al Swearengen a little too much.

Molly Young on The Long Goodbye

Thankfully Molly reviewed this movie, as Elliot Gould is too handsome for any of our other writers to contemplate. I liked how he was Ross and Monica's dad on Friends. God wasn't Friends great? Georgia's shots at Magic Molly were so unjustified.

Dick Cheney on Lost

It appears there was Cheney this week. My apologies. I guess my computer prescreens commentary about Daniel Faraday being a pedo. Daniel Faraday is an immortal hero to the cause of time travel and I will not hear him disrespected in this fashion.

Karina Wolf on The Player

The Player is probably the greatest Robert Altman film. No one was more obsessed with satirizing his own business. Have you ever read William Goldman's chronicle of one season on Broadway, The Season?

It's my favorite book of his, after the screenplay to The Ghost and the Darkness. He does an awesome essay on Harold Pinter's The Homecoming, but he also notes that 75 percent of everything on Broadway that year was about Broadway. No one loves a backstage comedy more than I, but the people behind A Prairie Home Companion should be murdered for the film they made.

Peter Biskind on M*A*S*H

I never got M*A*S*H. Was it Korea or Vietnam? Did it even really matter?

Tyler Coates on Nashville

Tyler is so sensitive about his picture placement. After he sent along that photo of himself next to the soundtrack for Nashville, I resolved immediately to put it on the blog. Also, Tyler's shots at McCabe and Mrs. Miller are totally inappropriate.

Alex Carnevale on Gosford Park

Why don't I ever get invited to hunting parties? You don't see that many hunting parties nowadays. A lot of game nights, a lot of doing shots out of girls' belly-buttons, but not so many hunting parties. Huh.

Molly Lambert on California Split

Lambert's really upset about the whole Nas and Kelis thing. She's taking it really hard. The least you can do is read her review of California Split, which I have never seen. It does look like the greatest film ever made though.

Chad Perman on Brewster McCloud

Brewster, you wanted it all. You wanted to fly. Cartman wanted to fly but then became a psychic. The Wright Brothers wanted to fly and got an entry on Wikipedia for their troubles. R. Kelly wanted to fly, but he really just wanted to poop on some chick. Seal wanted to fly, but then he married Heidi Klum.

Wolverine and 17 Again review

Looking back, these two movies had the same plot, actors, characters, and ending.

Georgia Hardstark on McCabe and Mrs. Miller

I don't like this movie either. But I do like 3 Women. It is the best Altman movie about the best subject:

"Don't Slow Down" — Matt and Kim (mp3)

"Cutdown" — Matt and Kim (mp3)

"I'll Take Us Home" — Matt and Kim (mp3)

"Turn the Boat Around" — Matt and Kim (mp3)


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Sunday
May032009

In Which You Can Pacify But Never Kill The Medfly

Why Does Naked Make It Art?

by WILL HUBBARD

Someone help me out with this. Is it the lighting, film quality, or decade that makes Robert Altman's Short Cuts feel like a made-for-TV movie? Did he like that style, or was it just that Short Cuts came on the heels of a dark period—if you can really call making great money for directing mindless television programming 'dark'—of Altman's career?

Thankfully, the spell of TV-like mediocrity breaks with the film's first moment of utter bewilderment—so much an Altman specialty—in which a man with a pool-cleaning business (Tarantino's Mr. White, in much the same character and wardrobe) is trying to put his children to bed to the sound of his wife talking dirty (really really dirty) to a man on the phone for money. It's a cue that says Here ends the formulaic Hollywood expostion— now for something a little different.

Who doesn't <3 Lily Tomlin?Credit the original plotlines to Raymond Carver, but with the acknowledgement that Carver's stories had, previous to Altman's agile weaving, seemed unfilmable. Carver's fictions, like Faulkner's before him, are an attempt to mirror reality in all it's paradoxical, unseemly interrelations. Altman's a good fit, because a moment in his sprawling movies is not a moment in time but a synapse firing in all directions forward, backward and sideways.

In a particularly poignant moment in Short Cuts, Altman proves—with no small help from prime-of-her-life Julianne Moore—that even the obligatory minute of nudity can function artfully in an adult movie. Because a sex scene does not fit into his cosmology, Altman has the woman take her clothes off while engaged in brutal emotional conflict with her lover (a spilled glass of wine causes her to remove and frantically scrub her skirt just as the dinner guests are supposed to arrive). The sequence so reverses the expected order of events that it might safely be called heartbreaking.

Porky-Piggin' itNow that I think about it, other glimpses of nude females mark many of the film's other significant junctures. There's the pool guy secretly watching the manic cello-virtuoso nihlist tomboy fake kill herself/skinnydip, the too-old-to-be-that-drunk-and-broey guys finding a nude female corpse floating around their favorite fishing hole, and the egoist doctor coming home to his wife painting her best friend in the buff, prompting the unforgettable query: "Why does naked make it art?"

In Altman there is always the growing sense that things are about to fall apart. Borges called this "the imminence of the revelation," but in Altman it is more the imminence of the conflagration. In Short Cuts, this comes in the form of a minor, run-of-the-mill LA earthquake. I'm not sure the 74 plotlines Altman has opened are totally resolved when the earth begins shaking, but at least the pool-guy won't be listening to his wife pillow-talk into the phone anymore. Or will he?

Will Hubbard is the executive editor of This Recording. If you'd like to complain about or request a change to this website, please contact him at fuckoff@thisrecording.com.

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"West Coast" — Anni Rossi (mp3) highly recommended

"Venice" — Anni Rossi (mp3)

"Machine" — Anni Rossi (mp3)

Anni Rossi website

Sunday
May032009

In Which We Think About It Every Night And Day

This Man-Boy Flies

by CHAD PERMAN

How I yearn to throw myself into endless space and float above the awful abyss.

— Johann Wolfgang Goethe

It begins inside a mostly barren Astrodome, the one-time Wicked Witch of the West (literally) leading the red and white uniformed African-American marching band she has hired through an out-of-tune rendition of the national anthem.

(They will soon revolt and launch into "Lift Every Voice and Sing", long considered "The Black National Anthem").

Elsewhere in the dome — in a forgotten bomb shelter buried deep within its bowels to be exact lives an awkward, lonely teenage boy with big glasses named Brewster McCloud who is building the wings he hopes will one day enable him to fly far away from the worries of this world.

It was 1970 and Robert Altman, armed with the ability to do whatever the hell he wanted to do next in the wake of M*A*S*H's massive success, reared back and swung for the fences. The result is a comic fable of sorts, a parabolic meditation on birds, flight, adolescense, innocence, Icarus, love, temptation, sex, dreams, guardian angels, detectives, serial killers, the impossibility of freedom, and guano.

From the very opening (and then, re-opening) credits, Brewster McCloud feels like a film sent down from another dimension: a ridiculous, anarchic, funny, bizarre, oddly beautiful character piece that seems entirely unconcerned about whatever you might think of it.

Even in a filmography as eccentric and diverse as that of Robert Altman's, Brewster stands out as an insane film, the sort of thing you almost can't believe you just saw. Not for nothing, it was also Altman's own personal favorite of his films.

Bud Cort plays the titular character, a man-boy perched somewhere between Harry Potter and Waldo, whose dreams of flying fuel the narrative thrust of the film.

He hunkers down in the Astrodome and works endlessly on his wings, often under the watchful, protective eye of Louise (Sally Kellerman), who may or may not be his mother — and is later revealed to be a fallen angel herself by virtue of the wing-shaped scars we see across her bare back.

Louise believes Brewster can one day fly, but only if he follows one certain condition: he can never have sex.

If he loses his virginity, she will no longer be able to offer him her protection — a protection that just might have something to do with the recent deaths of people in Brewster's life who have treated him poorly (their deaths continually foreshadowed by being shit upon by birds). Obviously, psychoanalysts would have a field day with this one.

Brewster, though, is human and horny and ultimately unable to resist the temptations of an Astrodome tour guide named Suzanne (Shelley Duvall, in her very first film), and thus begins his tragic downfall, which ultimately concludes in an Icarus-like warning about flying too close to the sun (or in this case, the roof of the Astrodome), before giving way to a surrealistic, Fellini-esque parade of a final scene.

To some extent, Brewster plays out like a stream-of-consciousness ramble of a film, and that's certainly no accident: Altman reportedly disliked the original script so much that he tossed it aside completely and, rather than hire another screenwriter, decided to improvise a great deal of the film on the spot — a style of shooting he would frequently return to throughout the remainder of his career.

Chocked full of ornithological information provided by way of the professor (Rene Auberjonois) who serves as the film's interstitial (and increasingly bizarre) narrator, the film is able to soar to great absurdist heights in some moments, while seemingly teetering on the very brink of complete disaster at others. It's Altman's directorial hand, finally, that keeps the whole thing from coming apart entirely, and you can sense all the fun that he's having behind the camera while doing so.

And so, while Brewster McCloud never emerges as a truly great film, it is also never anything less than an entertaining one. It's also an important film in terms of Altman's own development, expanding on many of the themes and techniques (overlapping dialogue, crowded scenes, improvisation, parallel editing, zoom focus) he had first begun to seriously play with on MASH and would continue to develop and refine throughout his remarkable string of 1970s films, culminating in the crown-jewel masterpiece that was Nashville. As such, it's an vital if often overlooked film in Altman's oeuvre, as well as a strange and wonderful document of a time in American cinema where serious directors — under the guise of being auteurs — were allowed to make things this outrageous and ridiculous with the full support and bankroll of big Hollywood studios.

Chad Perman is a writer and a psychotherapist living in Seattle.

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"No Love Today" — Michelle Phillips (mp3)

"It's Getting Better" — Cass Elliot (mp3)

"I Call Your Name" — The Mamas and the Papas (mp3)

"Blueberries for Breakfast" — The Mamas and the Papas (mp3)

"California Dreamin' (live at Monterey)" — The Mamas and the Papas (mp3)