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Alex Carnevale
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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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Entries in alex carnevale (173)

Friday
Jul242015

In Which We Would Like To Explain To The Citizens Of West Germany

Perestroika

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Deutschland 83
creators Anna Winger & Joerg Winger


Germany in 1983 was a very special time and place to be a part of. Sundance Channel's Deutschland 83 begins where last season of The Americans ended — Ronald Reagan's Evil Empire speech. No one takes Reagan the least bit seriously in East Germany, if they could even watch the speech, which was mostly about the evil of women aborting their children. Enlisted East German soldier Martin Rauch (Jonas Nay) has bigger problems: a blonde named Annette (Sonja Gerhardt) whose sexuality is a beacon in this grim time.

Martin doesn't take communism very seriously. Annette is more devoted to the cause. When she finds some banned books in the house of Martin's mother, she immediately takes them to the Stasi. "That's a good book," Walter Schweppenstette (Sylvester Groth) tells her upon seeing a paperback copy of 1984. "But it's not permitted in East Germany."


Martin is deployed by the Stasi as an aide to a West German general named Edel (Ulrich Noethen), the disobedient son of a Nazi officer. Edel is the real hero of Deutschland 83, a man trying to unite his country in a good faith democracy and turn back the communists. Every single person around him, from his wacky wife, to his commune-residing daughter, to his turncoat son Alexander (Ludwig Trepte), seems focused on impeding that goal.


Martin is not much of a spy. At an important NATO meeting he is almost killed by an American operative. His sloppy work leads to a floppy disk no East German computer can access. Tasked with seducing the secretary of a NATO representative, Martin can't bring himself to let her drown when a cleaning lady finds a microphone he has placed under her desk. (Another agent runs her over with a car.) It is precisely because Martin is so goofy that the West Germans don't suspect he is endangering all their lives.

Nay only has three or four main facial expressions, but he vacillates between them at a moment's notice. He is blackmailed into his service by his aunt Lenora (Maria Schrader), who insists that his mother will be moved up on the kidney transplant list through his continued service with the Stasi. Martin continues his work even after his mother gets his own kidney, recognizing that he is in too deep with these people to simply abscond.


Filming Deutschland 83 in the native language of the period adds a lot to the diegesis. The German language is gorgeous and practical in the right tones, but screeching and inhuman when elevated through anger or pain. Unlike English, it very quickly ceases to make sense when stress is put on it — a facile metaphor for Germany's national character in the late part of the 20th century.

Deutschland 83 presents a nuanced view of the country. No one comes across very bad: the worst thing you can be in a serious time is silly, and no one has ever accused the Stasi of that. There is a lot of humor here, but it is always a broader comedy, never at the expense of the individuals involved. The German state is ridiculous — the people that comprise it are only doing their best.

The husband-and-wife team behind Deutschland 83 marches the German versions of 80s music over the proceedings like it is the first time anyone has thought of using "Boys Don't Cry" ironically. It's actually the millionth time, but there is a certain triumph in the innocence of Deutschland 83 — nothing here is especially new, but the series doesn't do its viewers the insult of assuming you have seen and heard it all before. It is more important to be in the spirit of a period that may have never really existed, than to get it all down right.

Despite the fact that he believes she is carrying his child, Martin becomes disillusioned with Annette. Instead he begins a relationship with General Edel's daughter Yvonne (Lisa Tomaschewsky). Yvonne is a backup singer who has escaped her society by taking up with the nonviolent Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh worshippers. She is the most beautiful thing in the entire world, so it is not a surprise that Martin is drawn to her after his fourth or fifth murder.

While the music and dialogue might feel a bit familiar, the wonderful sets, striking color and wildy different scenarios of Deutschland 83 all add up to an experience not previously possible in television. The series brings a sense of absurd fun to historical events that has evaporated from dull jaunts like The Hour and Aquarius. There is really nowhere to go with the show from here except to explore darker and more horrifying avenues, and that may ruin it. The Wingers seem intent on preserving the history itself, reminding us that it is more important to remember things as they were, before going on and on about why they ceased to exist.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Unstoppable" - Lianne La Havas (mp3)

"Green and Gold" - Lianne La Havas (mp3)

Thursday
Jul162015

In Which Halle Berry Has Involved Herself With Some Questionable Individuals

End This

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Extant
creator Mickey Fischer

There is a scene in CBS' miscarriage of a television series Extant where Halle Berry starts to make out with her alien son. She is interrupted by bounty hunter J.D. Richter (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) before things get too exciting. Halle Berry is looking kind of run down. I'm worried about her.

Every Extant begins with a recap of the series so far, which takes about twenty-five minutes. It is then followed by a moment of Halle Berry screaming about one of her sons. The first is named Ethan, and he is an android. The second was the alien son she conceived in space, and for whom she harbors a quasi-sexual attraction. Her reaction to this situation, as with every other stressful moment, is to break down in womanly tears.

There was only one movie, Mathieu Kassovitz' masterpiece Gothika, where Halle Berry was locked up into a mental institution and acted completely unhinged through the film's running time. Every single person involved in Extant took this to heart as the most magical thing. Berry's Molly Woods has the same initial reaction to every situation she is put in — she starts screaming and fecklessly battering the person with which she is upset.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan was brought onto this horrific tragedy of a television show to explain "I have a problem with authority." He is a veteran of the war in Iraq. His acting has regressed to a primordial state in which every single line he delivers is smirked out. Unlike previous roles, Morgan has grown in his grey beard and he looks every bit of his forty-nine years. "Listening to bullies isn't my strong suit," he explains. Mmk.

The most charismatic young actress in Hollywood was brought onto Extant to class things up a bit. Kiersey Clemons was cast as an unfeeling android named Lucy. (They were unfamiliar with the movie of the same name.) This strikes me as a misuse of Clemons' considerable talents, but that is the least of Extant's problems. Switching the casting of Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Clemons would have made for a show that is about 100x more interesting.

The first thing Lucy asks when she wakes up is to look in a mirror. The scientists behind this program have equipped Clemons' character with an ethical implant, which is an incredibly made-up sounding thing. It seems that something subtle has gone wrong with Lucy, and we are meant to know this by the fact that she takes a woman's dress from a closet without her permission.

Molly's android son Ethan (Pierce Gagnon) is tucked into bed with a children's book every night. His most recent tome was The Velveteen Rabbit, which is about a stuffed rabbit coming to life. Do you get it, or do you maybe need to watch another recap of Extant? Molly Woods went into space... BUT SHE DIDN'T COME BACK ALOOOOOOOOOOOONE!

The government tries to kill Molly and her alien son in a drone strike while they are making out. When she survives, they incorporate her as part of their team to track down the alien. Team leader Toby Shepherd (David Morrissey) has no other options. "We're putting our faith in a woman of questionable emotional stability!" someone screams in objection. They give Molly a superpowered gun and some remedial instruction. "When I set my sight on a target, I nail it!" she cries out happily.

But don't forget about the nerd! He wears a sweater to work! Someone thinks this is a real thing:

We can fix this, one of the scientists tells the nerd. We can change the algorithms. Oh, good. Fixing Extant is completely out of the question, it is like watching kids get dressed up to perform their part in a school play. Actually, the acting and writing is substantially worse than that. About 90 percent of the scenes begin with someone saying, "Let me get this straight," so we know the story is being recapped.

It turns out that Halle Berry's alien son is impregnating a bunch of women. They die as a result of conception, which is incidentally not really his fault. Although she has agreed to murder her son, she finds she is too weak to actually go through with it. Instead she begins to cry.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Royal Geography Society" - China (mp3)

"Pinwheels Spinning" - China (mp3)

Thursday
Jul092015

In Which We Answer Life's Questions In The Affirmative

Familiar with the System

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Dope
dir. Rick Famuyiwa
103 minutes

Malcolm (Shameik Moore) expresses no opinions, has nothing to say about his life in Inglewood, California. He just lives there. Even in his utter vacuousness, he is immensely attractive to women, including the daughter of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet, who looks like a cross between Naomi Campbell and Debbie Reynolds. Malcolm's straight A's in school and high SAT scores would entitle him to go to any school in the nation. He chooses Harvard.

Dope is a story about how bad things are for Malcolm. Wait a second, you are probably saying, somewhere in this magical success story, what exactly went wrong? I guess the answer would be nothing. Malcolm is also the lead singer of a band named Oreo. His friends Jib (The Grand Budapest Hotel's Tony Revolori) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) play the guitar and drums, respectively. The band's music is fantastic.

Despite the fact that before he graduates from high school, he has probably resisted the potent allure of gang life a million times, Malcolm finally succumbs at the age of 17. There is no one below that age ever in Dope. Not one of the characters has a younger sibling. Everyone in the world is in fact around the same age: 18-34.

Dope may not have much of a script, or make sense on any level, but the performances carry the film so far beyond what it should have been. Moore is a phenomenally captivating actor, if a bit limited in his range. He stares at everyone in his world with open, untrusting eyes, like it is his first time seeing them, even when he is holding a gun. What he does possess is a preternatural ability to convey vulnerability and strength at the same time, which is so rare that Marlon Brando made an entire career out of projecting it.

Revolori and Clemens are both exceptional in supporting roles. Malcolm just pretends to be an outsider — his mixed-race and gay friends actually are exceptions in their culture, and it is a shame we never hear more about who they are or what they want. Revolori makes noise about wanting to go to a good college, but he allows Malcolm to pull him into a Bitcoin-drug scheme for what seems like no reason, and explains he is permitted to say the n-word because he is 14 percent African according to Ancestry.com.


Malcolm's love interest Nakia (Zoe Kravitz) is such a dunce that she requires help from him, a high school student, in her college studies. Her judgment is so bad that she has been leading on a local drug lord (A$AP Rocky). Malcolm saves her from all this: there is nothing that a man from the Ivy League can't accomplish given time and money, and the 26-year old woman attends his prom.

In the end, Malcolm ends up having the blackmail his way into Harvard. In the real world, the trustees would probably make him an offer to be president of their university. Malcolm also sells a bunch of drugs for around $100,000. The first draft of his college essay is an brilliant, esoteric analysis of Ice Cube's career; his final draft is a meaningful essay about how it's hard to be an African-American who loves Game of Thrones and came from nothing. The world taught him to be a victim — he had never even thought of it before.

Dope is not very funny or insightful about the kind of struggles that actual people face. At times it seems like a parody of Spike Lee's She's Gotta Have It, where you felt as if the transcendent director was actually opening up people you never knew existed. Writer-director Rick Famuyiwa has already told his Inglewood-story in 1999's The Wood, and after that more genuine film's lack of success, Dope feels like a collection of what people want people to be like rather than what they are.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Poppin' Off" - WatchtheDuck (mp3)

"The World Is Yours" - Nas (mp3)