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Alex Carnevale
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Mia Nguyen
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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 (164)

Thursday
Jan082015

In Which We Still Dream Of Orgonon

Running Up That Hill

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Clouds of Sils Maria
dir. Olivier Assayas
124 minutes

She is tired, actress Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche) is, of watching movies set on other planets. She takes a role in the revival of a play that is set on earth. Her personal assistant (a more generic looking than usual Kristen Stewart) tells her that even if the settings of these fantasy films are unfamiliar, the emotions and themes are basically the same.

Stewart smokes throughout Clouds of Sils Maria. Between cigarettes she opines, at length, on the difficulties of being Kristen Stewart. The hardest parts are as follows:

1) Being on the news for cheating on your boyfriend

2) See No. 1.

By the thirtieth cigarette, an intense disdain for everything outside of the stunning Swiss mountains of Clouds of Sils Maria washes over us. The only thing moral in the movie are the environments themselves; the actors and actresses that populate the landscape are purposefully positioned as transient fog.

Binoche plans to take the senior role in the play that began her career as a precocious 20 year old. She runs the scenes with Stewart, rehearsing the text of this fictitious play about a lesbian who dominates and is dominated by her secretary. The text of the stage play and conversations between the two women from different generations run into each other in an amusing way that almost makes us forget how the play-within-a-play is as decidedly impotent as the actual drama occurring. Played off each other, the maelstrom creates a far more riveting narrative than either offers in isolation.

Binoche harbors a muted sexual affection for Stewart's douchey assistant that is never consummated. Because her ego is too large, she can't see the world from any other perspective but her own. She is forced, against her better instincts, to take a thankless role opposite Jo-Ann Ellis (a rather one note Chloe Moretz), a young starlet in the the vein of half Jennifer-Lawrence and half Stewart herself. (The shots at Lawrence in Clouds of Sils Maria's savage X-Men parody are a bit unnecessary, but what the hell.)

Moretz's Ellis breaks up the marriage of a novelist and his artist wife, bringing even more attention to Binoche's production. The suffering wife attempts suicide. We experience the only real tragedy of Clouds of Sils Maria as she google image searches a view of the man's nearly dead partner, to find out what kind of person would make a decision of real consequence in a world without any.

Binoche holds the entire movie together as much as she can through sheer force of will. She is better than almost every actress of her generation at the difficult trick of dying and coming alive again in a single scene. We are always able to see the whole story in her chastely wrinkled face, but like any true professional, she keeps us blind to the twists and turns, never broadcasting or telegraphing her inner turmoil.

It is hard to make a sincere satire, but it is fun to watch Assayas, probably the most exciting director working today, give it his all. Assayas doesn't get much out of the young actresses at his disposal, which is perhaps the point. If either of them were any good, it would prove we have no need for Binoche's Maria Enders at all.

Stewart struggles here for the most part. Her understated style suits the quieter scenes well, but she has difficulty projecting anger or discontent as anything but a lame sulk. Her body is exposed a few times as a temptation for Binoche's character; but nothing ever materializes from it, probably because Stewart's sexuality is diminished by our knowledge of the type of person she actually is. When she disappears from Clouds of Sils Maria; it is supposed to be heartrending, but it is something more like a relief.

Still, Clouds of Sils Maria is so technically brilliant that it overcomes the unlikeability of these people through sheer enthusiasm for superior composition and design. The Hollywood parody is as tired and broken as a superhero movie, but themes of passing and aging manage to triumph. In some ways Clouds of Sils Maria is more like watching a nature documentary about human beings than a mannered industry satire about the essential lack of empathy that comes, instinctively, with any kind of wealth or power.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"The Everlasting Muse" - Belle and Sebastien (mp3)

"Enter Sylvia Plath" - Belle and Sebastien (mp3)

Friday
Dec052014

In Which Jake Gyllenhaal Excludes Gluten From His Diet

Jacob's Camera

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Nightcrawler
dir. Dan Gilroy
117 minutes

Did you know the cause of everything bad that has ever happened in human history was the media? When the black plague broke out, Channel 7 News was on the scene. One of their cameramen got affected and showed up at a Wendy's in Bruges and a lot of people got really sick.

Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) looks like a pug flattened by a tire. Modifying his body for roles is all JG cares about now. On a smaller frame his face looks even more cartoonish; he could believably play Bugs Bunny. Nightcrawler, the directorial debut of Rene Russo's swarthy husband Dan Gilroy, rests entirely on his performance.


Gyllenhaal is at his best when he stops modulating his voice like a Muppet. When he gives over to the effect in this movie, which concerns the filming of car accidents and other crimes for local news broadcasts, he sounds like the demon love spawn of Olaf and Travis Bickle. He is having so much fun that Nightcrawler turns into a spastic comedy where you can't wait to see what this too-thin sleeve of a man does next.


I recently rewatched Taxi Driver. Jodie Foster looks like a trembling gerbil; I couldn't understand why Cybill Shepherd never became the biggest star in the world. The novelty of the lone crazed psycho has sort of worn off - you couldn't surprise people by showing the level of one man's unhappiness anymore. Besides, he's a man: why is he unhappy?

Gyllenhaal's Bloom is actually the polar opposite of that. He finds a secret pleasure in everything. In Nightcrawler's climatic scene, he follows a pair of homicidal drug dealers in their car and films one of them being shot to death. Throughout he has a disturbed smile on his face, because he is able to distance himself from events. It was sad to watch Travis Bickle, but when it comes to Bloom, you can't help but be a bit happy he has found something that he enjoys.


You'll be shocked to learn Nightcrawler suggests that there is something macabre and wrong about this entire business. In order to keep getting the kind of quality footage that anchors an evening newscast, Nina (Rene Russo) agrees to sleep with Lou.

Nina doesn't do everything he asks in the bedroom, but she does perform most of it. The reason she does it is because higher ratings allows her to keep her job at the station. Somehow this bit of misogynistic cynicism is glossed over because Gilroy quickly cuts to his bread and butter: Jake's being creepy again, look!


At some point during the not-especially meaningful montages of cable wires running up house, broadcasting relevant information, I actually wished he would leave these poor journalists alone. Some of Nina's coworkers are reluctant to show Lou's more graphic footage, which is kind of like leaving a little fluid at the bottom of a tiny juice-box. Just finish it.

There isn't anything in the way of grey area in Nightcrawler, rendering the fallout from Lou's all-nighters somewhat predictable. Surely there must be greater villains than the people producing this stuff, but if you watched Nightcrawler or anything by David Fincher, you would not know it. Although there is a rumor that David Muir killed a guy.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"The Driver (crossfaded version)" - Bastille (mp3)

"Fall Into Your Arms (crossfaded version)" - Bastille vs. The Gemma Sharples Quartet (mp3)

Tuesday
Nov182014

In Which We Wake Up Each Day Knowing We Are Tom Cruise

Sleepyhead

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Before I Go To Sleep
dir. Rowan Joffe
89 minutes

"I don't think I'm the kind of person who would cheat," Christine (Nicole Kidman)  says in Before I Go To Sleep. "Do you?" Her therapist, Dr. Michael Nasch (Mark Strong) eyes her suspiciously, sort of like the way a reindeer eyes a sleigh.

Things are already out of sorts. Before I Go To Sleep is set near Greenwich, England, but Nicole Kidman does a weird approximation of a half-American accent for some reason. Christine wakes up every day remembering very little. "You think you're in your twenties," her husband (Colin Firth) tells her. "But you're forty. You're forty." He tells her this like eight more times as he mansplains who she is, and again when she's sitting on the toilet.

Christine's daily amnesia is supplemented by a video camera she keeps in her drawer, where an earlier version of herself does not want her to trust the husband man sleeping next to her - if he indeed is who he says.


In this new film from director Rowan Joffe, Kidman looks pretty good all things considered. (Marriage to Tom Cruise is the only thing I considered.) They shoot a lot of the movie in a car so as not to emphasize how much taller she is than the men around her. She has always seemed like the kind of person who needed be given lines to say anything.

When Christine starts having feelings for her therapist, she becomes worried that he may be the man who attacked her and caused the memory loss in the first place. He explains that transference is natural, but counter-transference means that he must recuse himself from her case. He does not mouth the words 'I love you' but it is implied that for some men, a woman who can easily forget their flaws is something of a virtue.


Strong is a fun performer to watch: no one seems as natural vacillating between various facial expressions. He doesn't fit a more reserved role of a psychologist falling in love with his patient because his Achilles heel is showing two things, vulnerability and erudition. On the plus side he is as subtle as a mace, which perfectly suits the events of Before I Go To Sleep.

Meanwhile, Christine's husband Ben (Firth) is perpetually rotating his head so we don't see the bad side of his face. He plays his part a bit upside down, since when he turns on Christine because she can't enjoy their relationship, it's way overdue. No one could stand being forgotten on a daily basis except Adam Sandler, and Christine is far from nice about the difficulties Firth faces in caring for an invalid. She has driven everyone in her life away, to the point where we wonder why she can't just pretend to remember for a little while.

It turns out that Christine is the kind of person who would cheat. The fact that she in any way caused her own amnesia is basically a gussied-up version of blaming the victim. Whatever life she idealizes instead of the one she has probably seems better because she lost it. (Tom Cruise wakes up each day not knowing who he is, get it?)


The concept that you should never allow yourself to be betrayed twice by the same person is an important principle of self-respect. The repeated shattering of her trust that Christine suffers almost renders her inert, but it is great fun to watch her survive by feeding off her own frenzy. Kidman's constant glancing everywhere is meant to portray her shaky emotional state, but at times she resembles a spectator at a ping-pong tourney. Her too-short hair, suggesting a recent cut, is always the first betrayal in her life. She does not look the way she feels.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"You and Me" - The Veronicas (mp3)

"Mad Love" - The Veronicas (mp3)