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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 (174)

Tuesday
Jun162015

In Which We Dominate Various Rexes At Our Leisure

Radiant

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Jurassic World
dir. Colin Trevorrow
124 minutes

Bryce Dallas Howard resembles a lit candle, hollow and glowing from within. Bryce is the only person on Isla Nublar who hasn't gotten the least bit tan or even burnt. Presumably she applies vast quantities of sunscreen, but we would never know that. We never even see her, or anyone, eat so much as a sandwich in Jurassic World. Once, for only a second, Chris Pratt takes a sip of Coca-Cola.


Bryce's sexuality has begun radiating off her like contagion, suddenly, as she nears middle-age. Pratt wears the tightest clothing possible in corcordance. "I'm the alpha," he tells her about the group of velociraptors he controls with movements of his hands and butt.


Is it any wonder Bryce wants to spend all her time with him? His khakis look like spandex. She ignores her two childish and spoiled nephews during their visit to the park, detecting on some level that they are too ensconced in white privilege to properly appreciate the genetic research and biological study in which her organization is engaged.


None of these people seem to be in very much danger from the dinosaurs. Chris Pratt has befriended most of the creatures, and at one point Bryce engages the help of a tyrannosaurus rex to sedate a crankier dinosaur with longer arms. It is good to see white people at peace with their environment.

There is one African-American handler, but he has like three lines and the rest of the time he just shakes his head mournfully and hides in a pipe.


A few of the dinosaurs get out of their containers, but most everyone in Jurassic World survives the day-long events of the film. Chaos is a minor inconvenience — isn't it after all just a close cousin of excitement?

In one scene, while searching for her nephews, Bryce finds a wounded diplodocus dying in a field, and she makes some time to cry for it, even though her sister's children may be dead. She really loves the damn beasts.

After the disastrously boring shitshow that was Guardians of the Galaxy, Pratt has much more fun romancing the stone that is Bryce Dallas Howard's slightly upset countess. He has only a couple of limitations as a performer, but he respects those weaknesses so completely he nearly worships them.

In a completely white outfit, Howard is the central figure. It would probably have been more fun to really get her dirty and disgusting as dinosaurs tracked her through a paddock, but instead she barely rips her shirt. Nothing much is lost by that, since dinosaurs are not really prominently featured in Jurassic World, the way the thing you best remember about the Magic Kingdom is when your sister vomited at a character breakfast.

As a result, it is hard to exactly know whether Jurassic World is more vapid than its deadly serious predecessors, or just as silly as the idea should have been to begin with. Michael Crichton was never much for satire, but more than twenty years later, parody is unavoidable. Jurassic World even uses the exact same music as the original — they probably just should have remade it.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Drift" - Debruit (mp3)


Friday
Jun122015

In Which Paul Feig Lost Us Completely This Time

Stunt Woman

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Spy
dir. Paul Feig
120 minutes

I am trying to think of the exact point that Paul Feig's Spy becomes just plain mean-spirited. It is probably about the forty-first or forty-second time someone comments on Melissa McCarthy's appearance in a negative way. The sentence most often uttered in Spy is, "You look like..." with the ending of the statement finishing with a derogatory comment such as "a hairless squirrel" or "a diseased cauliflower." This is a form of comedy so lazy it was mocked in a forum as discerning as Hot Tub Machine 2.

McCarthy is an office drone in the Central Intelligence Agency, working behind the scenes in order to navigate agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law) through what appears to be a Los Angeles pool party with terrible production values. I understand Spy is a spoof, but all the agents, including a barely understandable Jason Statham, are British with accents intact, making the entire setup impossible to take seriously, even in a fun way.

In addition, the only real spoofing going on is one scene where Michael McDonald plays a parody of Q who rigs up various bathroom products — stool softener, hemorrhoid cream, rape whistle — for McCarthy to sue as weapons. The rest of the time Spy is basically just a fish-out-of-water comedy. It's like Paul Feig ran out of things that would even be entertaining to spoof and just decided to throw in some explosions and one-liners about how anyone even slightly overweight should be alone with cats.

Now that Melissa is a star, every role she takes has to be focused on her apparent lack of beauty. This is entirely ridiculous to anyone who has eyes, and insulting to the vast majority of human beings who don't look nearly as good. Spy has her weirdly drooling all over Jude Law, and movie is barely minutes old before McCarthy is dropping puns about sucking his penis. Law is several decades past his prime, has a hairline that resembles the tines of a comb, and what amounts to his gross, sexist banter consists of asking her to pick up his laundry, a task many people, male and female, perform without humiliation.

It turns out that McCarthy's charazcter is an exceptionally talented agent, and the best parts of Spy consists of seeing her perform various stunts and fights. In 2013's The Heat, the disastrous script Feig directed had one virtue: it made her the living center of an Irish family that both loved and detested what she was. Here Melissa is presented as a lonely woman of 40 with no romantic prospects or social life. Even as a caricature, it is a depressing and sexist one.

What happened to Paul Feig? He used to actually be interested in material with emotional and comedic weight. Spy is the kind of tonal disaster that should make you evaluate your deepest life priorities : the biggest laugh the movie got in my theater was when a bunch of agents accidentally viewed photos of a man's penis. Formerly talented writer-directors like Joss Whedon, Brad Bird and now Feig working on these humorless summer vehicles is a tremendous loss for us all. At least people went to see the absolute stinker (an army of robots?) that was The Avengers: Age of Ultron.

This year's other James Bond parody as least knew its source material. Kingsman: The Secret Service was pretty much a mess as well, but it was so obviously having a good time: Colin Firth and Michael Caine practically held the movie up by sheer force of will and finely tailored suits. Spy looks like it was filmed with a third of the budget. Samuel L. Jackson may have been a bit much in Kingsman, but at least he was somebody: Spy's main baddies are Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale.

Even more puzzling were Spy's pathetically pandering reviews. Apparently when comedy based mostly around inserting various words for human genitalia in unlikely places in verbal speech originates from men, it's demeaning. (This much we know is true.) When a woman utters the same lame bullying verbal invective, Paul Feig emits a chuckle and tells other people it's okay to laugh. I hope everyone involved in this pandering dreck never works again.

Spy runs out of Steam about halfway through after McCarthy's husband's wretched cameo. The rest of the film turns into a bunch of people standing in a circle threatening to kill each other. Listening to their fake, quasi-humorous banter made me want to take one of their firearms and turn it on myself.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.


Friday
Jun052015

In Which We Look Down On The Earth Below With A Fair Amount of Skepticism

The Scripture

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Seveneves
by Neal Stephenson
880 pp


Neal Stephenson's new novel begins when the moon breaks up into a number of pieces for no reason anyone can discern at the time. It is suggested that God is the instrument of the moon's destruction at one point late in the novel. "But without the theology, the scripture or the certainty," Stephenson has one of his finest characters, a man named Ty, say. This is typical Stephenson hemming and hawing, for in his heavily-researched novel writing, he is always seeking a slightly different approach than the first that comes to mind, without resting firmly on any one choice.

One of Stephenson's protagonists in Seveneves is heavily based on Neil deGrasse Tyson. It is he, the somewhat racistly named Doc Dubois, who theorizes that the explosion of the moon will also mean devastation on the Earth's surface in a planet-decimating event he terms the Hard Rain. Other scientists confirm the Doc's diagnosis, and Earth's population begins to cope psychologically with its death sentence. "Why were the doomed people of Earth's surface not going completely berserk?" Doc finds himself thinking.

The answer is in renaming death to something better. Naming things is Stephenson's obsession, a literary cliché that he explodes by overwhelming his readers with an encyclopedia of terminology culled from social media and hard science. When properly assembled, the resulting ménage forms what amounts to a new language of acronyms, abbreviations and catchy nicknames. It would be completely ridiculous if you did not sense Stephenson had invested a vast amount of his personal ingenuity in creating these handles.

These lengthy passages of narration and description can become a bit overwhelming at times, but Stephenson prevents them from becoming overly technical. At times the characters seem lost in the sea of terminology, but Stephenson alleviates that sensation by having some of the very best described versions of people as well as machines. His main heroine is a robot specialist named Dinah working on the ISS, and her scientific pursuits and raging sex life get most of Neal's time.

Stephenson prides himself on never ignoring what is happening in the world around him, now, today. As such his novel concerns the last survivors of the human race, and they are mostly women. Dinah is not a woman of a century ago, she is a woman of the century to come. Distinctively there is something effortlessly female about each of the Eves who seek to rescue humanity from the destruction of the Hard Rain. You sense that Stephenson has spent about as much time researching writing women well as he has delving into how asteroid mining might realistically fuel successful human habitats.

The action of Seveneves takes place on the International Space Station. The president, a Berkeley educated woman named Julia Bliss Flaherty, develops a program to send Earth's scientists to the ISS with their expertise and a genetic archive. Along with this crew of technicians, she also plans for representatives of most Earth nations to be shepherded into space in arklets: small habitats revolving around each other in Earth orbit.

It is a bit of surprise when the residents of the ISS realize that the president herself, in violation of an accord which forbade world leaders from joining the expedition, has hijacked her way up to the structure. Quickly Julia, or J.B.F. as Stephenson needlessly refers to her almost as a tic, realizes that she has no authority or particular skills. President Flaherty goes to work consolidating her own power, and her paranoia threatens to undermine the mission to establish the ISS inside of large asteroid. This struggle is by far the best part of the novel.

Neal's grasp of the science involved is absurdly meticulous, and the text of Seveneves tells is everything we want to know about how such a mission might operate and thrive should God decide to eliminate the moon. In his finest novel, Anathem, he displayed promising, B.F. Skinner-esque insight onto how such collections of humanity might operate under divine pressure. The one place he never thinks about going is actual theology, which is because this novel is itself presented as a pseudo-religious text intended to replace the Bible that we have.

The war that develops between the different factions on the Ark unfolds a bit awkwardly, because Stephenson runs out of interest in his main characters. About 2/3 of the way through Seveneves, we flash forward 5,000 years into the future. Stephenson spends thousnds of words painstakingly detailing the ring network hovering above the earth, and explaining how it houses the millions of citizens produced from the genetic stock of the remaining Eves.

War is still going on, of course, and the survivors of the Hard Rain meet the survivors of the ISS with both intensely surprised by the other. There is a newness inherent in every conflict Seveneves so painstakingly describes, as if it were the first time such events had ever been committed to print. Even though Neal's books are at times impossibly long, it always feels to me like he is just getting started.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.


"Obvs" - Jamie xx (mp3

"Just Saying" - Jamie xx (mp3)