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Alex Carnevale

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Mia Nguyen

Senior Editor
Brittany Julious

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 (188)


In Which We Have Finished With Steven Spielberg



Bridge of Spies
dir. Steven Spielberg
141 minutes

"Do you never worry?" Joseph Donovan (Tom Hanks) whines to his client Rudolf Abel (Mark Rylance) as they prepare an attempt at exonerating him of charges that he was a KGB spy working out of a Brooklyn apartment. Bridge of Spies is mostly about Donovan and how it was so important that he defend a guilty man. 

Rylance barely gets any screen time at all outside of an early sequence where he is captured by one of the racist cops from The Wire. It is his story, and the story of the actual Russian agents who escalated the development of the atomic bomb, which serves as the only captivating thing in this tedious script by Matt Charman and the Coen Brothers, but director Steven Spielberg is more interested in a kind of silly individual who puts principle above truth.

Hanks' insurance lawyer is one such person. Even after his client receives a modest sentence of 30 years in jail, he still wants to appeal Abel's sentence on the basis of an unlawful search. Bridge of Spies even features a scene in the Supreme Court, one that is so boring Spielberg crosscuts with scenes of fighter jets ascending into the air.

Hanks deals with the venom spouted by the police department and general public at his person for defending an English national who transmitted documents from Brooklyn to Moscow. His wife (Amy Ryan) naturally does not support him at all, and the law firm he works at wonders why he is so invested in this grubby, misguided little man.

Rylance is somewhat fun to watch in his rare scenes, but he speaks so langorously that Spielberg has to speed up everything around him just to turn Bridge of Spies into a composition of contrasts in style. He is arguing, here at length and for no discernible reason, that was all the Cold War was.

In reality, Abel was a terrible agent for the KGB and he was a disappointment in managing his major subordinate, an alcoholic who was eventually turned by the FBI. Bridge of Spies is not terribly concerned with the truth of that story, either. Hanks gets all the screen time, and I have to admit he looks fantastic for his age. Bridge of Spies never shows him outside of his suit, for obvious reasons.

The fighter jet that takes off unceremoniously crashes to Earth about an hour into Bridge of Spies. The pilot ejects long before that, and Spielberg takes us to Abel painting in prison. (The entire point of the subplot is to explain why we gave Abel back to the Soviets in a prisoner exchange.) While he was in an Atlanta prison, Abel mostly did portraits and still lifes; he hated expressionism. Watching Abel meticulously go over his own face is about as exciting as Bridge of Spies gets.

The rest of this sludge is not only incredibly inert, the sheer number of old white people in it truly dulls the mind. Spielberg's historical forays are now routinely disasters, as his Lincoln was one of the worst movies of that year. He seems to think it is reasonable to make an entire movie based off one idea, no matter how slight, which has garnered his momentary interest. The idea that anyone should pay to see Bridge of Spies is an insult far worse than any managed by the KGB in its history.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Into the Garden" - Parquet Courts (mp3)


In Which We Feel Sympathetic Towards Kieran Culkin And His Friends

Old Is New


creator Noah Hawley

Lou Solverson (Patrick Wilson) is not a true detective. He shows up at the Waffle Hut way past midnight, one body outside, one on the floor, and one on a table next to the breakfast. His father-in-law (an unrecognizable Ted Danson) clomps in and offers to take over the case. Lou agrees, and they joke about Lou’s wife’s cooking and how she has cancer, and then Lou goes home. There is no intimacy with his wife (Cristin Miloti).

Noah Hawley is genius at what the Coen Brothers had also mastered before they lost interest in it: the overwhelming premonition that something life-changing is about to happen out of total normalcy. After a brilliant first effort, he has reset the second season of Fargo in 1979, a time that feels a great deal less cynical than the first season's 2006.

It is a relief, since the story of insurance salesman Lester Nygaard was extremely depressing, especially the part where he murdered his wife and you kind of felt sympathetic towards him for doing that because she was not the best.

Wilson always does a fairly good job of playing the same general character: a mild-mannered fellow who goes along, gets along until the moment you make him very mad: then he becomes more powerful than you can possibly imagine. His hair is receding at a glacial pace, and he could almost pass for any age.

The tone here is very different from the morass of Hawley’s previous effort: this is not a diegesis to be taken seriously in the least — noir instead of a jaunty seriousness/unseriousness is the modality here. Even if this Fargo is a bit sillier, Hawley's writing is the best on television by far.

Adam Arkin portrays a maleficent Jewish overlord looking to take over a power vacuum in the greater Minnesota area. The casting is generally perfect: from Kirsten Dunst as a hoarding housewife who runs over Kieran Culkin after he murders a federal judge, Breaking Bad’s Jesse Plemons looking about forty pounds heavier as her husband, and Bokeem Woodbine and Brad Garrett as gangsters, Nick Offerman as a conspiracy theorist.

Usually Hawley gets his kicks out of casting well-known character actors against type, and he does find joy in that in the second season of Fargo. Jean Smart is a disturbingly hardened wife to the local boss, and Kieran Culkin as her sulking son ("the comic in the bubblegum") fits the bill of characters entertaining simply because they are not what we conventionally expect from these performers. At times the casting is distracting, but it works better this season, because you are not expected to take anything that happens in this Fargo seriously at all.

With Dunst, Hawley really hits the mark. This is the role Kirsten probably should have been playing all along. Hawley really knows how to write for her: she is perfect at the staccato silences, how she exudes sensations without ever having to say a word. The role of Peggy Blomquist is a lot more than merely a costume she inhabits.

Hawley's themes are very subtle, and you often don't know what he is getting at until the very end of a thread. Adding to the obfuscation is the mild-mannered politeness of every resident of Minnesota. Whether it is authentic or not, we feel immersed in an environment that could not ever have existed, but did. The American Midwest before Ronald Reagan took office was a very special time and place to be a part of.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"If I Ever Fall In Love" - Pentatonix ft. Jason DeRulo (mp3)


In Which We Have Heard Enough About Your Border War

Take Me Back to Phoenix


dir. Denis Villeneuve
121 minutes

In his previous film Prisoners, Denis Villeneuve proved capable of making an entire film without a single joke in it. Prisoners could make a convincing argument for being the most humorless movie ever made, and in Sicario the director nearly accomplishes this feat again. Sicario is a numb, boring mess, the kind of effort only interesting to people who never go to the movies or watch television, where the "thrills" of the U.S./Mexico border war have been uncovered in more empathic and gripping fashion by dramas that actually have something to say.

Benicio Del Toro plays Alejandro as a poor man's Javier Bardem, attempting a portrayal of masterful subtlety that never comes together in the least. Alejandro is a corrupt government operative who plans to eliminate one cartel and put another in its place. His master plan is about as complicated as eggs on toast. Usually Del Toro is at least fun to watch, but here he seems like a parody of himself, too familiar to us from his previous roles and self-consciously hogging the camera at every opportunity. His performance is far short of a disaster, but it mainly sits there like a lump.

Most of Sicario is Emily Blunt whining to Josh Brolin about how she is upset about where he is taking her. He says they are going to El Paso to look for information about a mass grave in a booby-trapped house, but they are actually on the way to Juarez where they plan to shake down a guy for reasons. Blunt has improved her craft immensely in recent years, but she does not really have the charisma to carry the underwritten role of a flustered and naive cop. Brolin looks like her dumpy father rather than a peer.

In between extremely dull sequences of violence, Villeneuve places extensive aerial shots of crowded border crossing. It is a sight familiar to everyone familiar with this turgid topic. Blunt just wants to do the right thing, but it soon becomes apparent she has no actual idea what that is. "You're doing nothing in Phoenix," Brolin says. "Do you want to find the guys who did this?" She nods furiously.

When she is not complaining about the hidden motives of her superiors, Blunt meets a local officer (Jon Bernthal) in a bar and rides him at length. During their liasion, she spots a telltale band that the cartel uses to wrap drug money. She immediately goes for her gun. He renders her helpless, to be saved by the unlikely intervention of Del Toro. It was kind of difficult to hear what Del Toro said after that because he was muttering, but I doubt it was that important.

Why did Sicario receive such glowing reviews when it is basically the equivalent of dumping a cliched bag of shit onto a movie screen? I'm not really sure. Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy made a hilarious, insightful trainwreck of a film on the same subject in 2013 called The Counselor and everyone hated it. I would say it comes down to Blunt herself, whose angular, ghostly face is expert in taking on an identity nothing like her own.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.