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Alex Carnevale
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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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Entries in alex carnevale (175)

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)

Thursday
Jul022015

In Which We Find Nicholas Ray In A Lonely Place

This is the second in a series about the life of the director Nicholas Ray. You can find the first part here.

A Dangerous Fault

by ALEX CARNEVALE

He has a dangerous fault in work. You feel that he is thinking a little bit more about himself, and the angles, than the material. This comes out of his uncertainty.

Hollywood in the late 1940s was a dangerous place for anyone who had ever has the slightest association with the Communist party. The director Nicholas Ray had recently married an actress named Gloria Grahame after impregnating her.  He could not afford to be blacklisted; he had to work. So he turned to his friend Howard Hughes.


At RKO, Hughes' mission was to make anti-Communist films — he did not particularly care the politics of the people who made them. Ray refused to direct a movie called I Married A Communist because it hit too close to home — his friend Gene Kelly had done just that. His first film, They Live By Night, had been shelved and  a proper follow-up, starring Joan Fontaine as a miscast bad girl, was something of a mess as well.

He was unhappy with his marriage, too. Grahame was beautiful, but as Patrick McGilligan explains in his masterful biography Nicholas Ray: The Glorious Failure of an American Director, Ray admitted he was "infatuated with her: but I did not like her very much." At the start, their connection was mostly sexual, with Ray's friends in awe that he was able to even maintain an erection given the amount of alcohol he consumed.

Gloria loved sex more than her husband. One of her friends suggested that when they were out, Gloria stood behind Ray with her eyes cast to the ground. Ray's gambling and drinking were spiralling out of control — Grahame and her mother would spend hours replacing his cocaine with sugar.

One of Ray's closest friends, Humphrey Bogart, was his star in the legal drama Knock On Any Door. In 1951, they planned to reunite for a picture in which Bogart would play a man with the double life of a screenwriter and serial killer. The working title was In A Lonely Place. Because the Production Code was loathe to approve the concept of Bogart as a multiple murderer, Ray and producer Robert Lord rewrote the script to make Bogart only a potential suspect in the case.


In A Lonely Place is a masterpiece of atmosphere and mood over actual content. Bogart plays his usual caustic individual, but Ray pushes the character into something like a literary supervillain. They had great trouble casting Bogart's love interest-victim until Ray suggested his wife. In order to get the film publicity they drew up a his-and-hers contract where Ray's second wife was forbidden to "nag, cajole, tease or in any other feminine fashion seek to distract or influence him" during the film's production.


On set, the real intimacy was between the heterosexual Bogart and the indeterminate Ray. The particulars of the relationship depended entirely on which of them was drinking at the time. "At certain times when I would not drink," Ray later wrote, "when filming, particularly or the preparation before filming, our relationship would alter. In some ways it became deeper, in others, only more formal."

Ray rewrote the novel's ending to reflect the dark nature of the relationship between himself and Grahame. The real-life parallels were all too obvious to everyone on set of In A Lonely Place, and Bogart convinced the studio that it all actually worked, so Ray's new ending stood. Although not very successful at the box office, In A Lonely Place established Ray as a director who was doing new things that other men in the industry could only dream of.


The closeness necessitated by their working together drove Ray and Gloria Grahame even further apart. He moved his things out of their Sunset Boulevard home and slept in his trailer. They kept up the fiction of their marriage in order to protect their young son, but the gossip columnists broke the story. Grahame's deep hurt was expressed on a series of men, while Ray started an on-again-off-again courtship of a younger woman named Marilyn Monroe.

One night Ray walked in on his 13-year-old son Anthony from a previous marriage inside of his soon-to-be-ex-wife. The story followed Ray everywhere. (It only worsened the situation in 1962 when his look-alike son and Gloria Grahame reconnected and decided to exchange vows of marriage.) The betrayal meant more drinking, more drug use, and when he could get it, more of Marilyn.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Crux" - Jean Grae (mp3)

"August 20th" - Jean Grae (mp3)