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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 (216)

Monday
Jul112016

In Which We Refrain From Touching The Bride Whatsoever

Dating Yourself

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates
dir. Jake Szymanski
98 minutes

Eric (Veep's Sam Richardson) is marrying a white woman named Jeanie (Stephanie Beard) who comes from a unique family. Eric gives Jeanie some absurd pecks on the lips but basically he is not allowed to touch her for the duration of Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, despite the fact that this Hawaiian wedding is supposed to be the greatest day of his life.

Instead of touching her swarthy, African-American husband-to-be, Jeanie complains that she never got the bachelorette party that she deserved and has multiple orgasms with a Pakistani masseuse. She has only one friend in the world, a lanky Jewish woman who serves as her maid of honor. This is a considerable improvement over her fiance, however, who has no parents or friends at his wedding at all.

Instead of their pals from college or work, Jeanie and Eric are pathetically focused on the abstract lives of Jeanie's brothers Mike (Zac Efron) and Dave (Adam Devine). Efron looks like he is being held hostage for most of Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates. Romantically he is paired with Anna Kendrick, who appreciates his meager talents such as they are. Instead of allowing Mike's dream to be that of a dancer or singer, he wants to be an illustrator.

Anna Kendrick's face needs a rest. She looks exhausted and bloated from the sheer number of roles she has taken over the past year. There is something profoundly unhappy in her mien, and it doesn't help that she is wearing either the world's most terrible wig for the duration of this movie or she simply couldn't be bothered to comb her hair. Her character was recently left at the altar by a man who we never learn very much about, but given the massive amount of drugs and alcohol she consumes in Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, it is hard to say he made the wrong call.

During the rehearsal dinner, Kendrick gives Jeanie a bunch of MDMA. Nothing bad at all happens from this, which passes on the lovely lesson that dropping molly can only lead to romping with horses in the Hawaiian countryside and realizing you don't want to consummate your interracial marriage. There is not a lot of love between of any of these people: they specifically are never any good at valuing each other's positive qualities.

Left to carry the humor and, strangely, also the emotional end of Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates is Adam Devine (Workaholics, Modern Family). First off, it must be noted the herculean effort on the part of everyone involved with this production to make Devine and his co-star Efron look normal-sized. Both are absolutely tiny, and you really wish they would own that and make it part of the story instead of shooting everything like Mission Impossible 2 where Tom Cruise looked approximately 6'5".

You do begin to forget about how much of a delicate morsel of a human being Devine is. His relationship (or lack thereof) with Tatiana (Aubrey Plaza) begins when she intentionally is hit by a car so that she can pretend he saved her via CPR. In this role as femme fatale, Plaza fits the casting in everything but her chipped teeth. Her New York accent is vaguely offensive and somewhat distracting, but the rest of her is a welcome evolution from the snippy roles she usually inhabits.

Aubrey Plaza and Devine are the only people in this movie that seem the least bit suited for each other, so of course she spends the entire running time avoiding him, climaxig in a scene where she fingers his female cousin for the chance at Rihanna tickets. This doesn't seem the slightest bit out of character, but it makes it ridiculous that she ever writes off Devine, who is completely her type.

Sometimes Devine seems to be merely vamping jokes and one-liners from his slacker series on Comedy Central, Workaholics, but other times his back-and-forths with Efron are genuinely funny and sweet. One I Love Lucy-esque scene takes place on a bizarrely tiny beach (to make them look bigger?). As Devine explains how everything in his life has gone completely wrong, he becomes a distinctly, plausible human being. Devine has a deft grasp on playing a person who cannot succeed on any aspect of himself other than his own enthusiasm.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.


Thursday
Jun302016

In Which We Bury Every Single Tycoon In The Room

Breathless Chances

by ALEX CARNEVALE

The Last Tycoon
creator Billy Ray
Amazon Studios

In the meantime, Stahl is now seriously ill. He and Kathleen have been taking "breathless chances." They have succeeded in having one last fling, which has taken place during an overpowering heat wave in the early part of September. But their meetings have proved unsatisfactory. -  from the synopsis of the unwritten conclusion to The Love of the Last Tycoon

The Love of the Last Tycoon was the kind of literary disaster than probably never should have seen the light of day. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a weird, vaguely homosexual worship piece on producer Irving Thalberg. Thalberg was a Jew who had the kind of inspirational story Scott had never been able to credibly write. Naturally, it turned out that this perfect male icon was doomed.

In Billy Ray's adaptation of this mess, he casts Matt Bomer as Hollywood executive Monroe Stahr. Bomer, recently of a Guy Ritchie movie that should have never been released, is slowly improving as an actor. Here Ray positions him opposite Lily Collins. Ms. Collins' eyebrows are inches thick and she looks like a deformed side character in a John Steinbeck novel. She loves Monroe, spending long monologues whining about how heroic he is. No one knows what the fuck she's talking about, least of all her father Pat (Kelsey Grammar), who runs this studio.

For some reason Billy Ray has turned the incredibly weak plot of Fitzgerald's half-novel into a Nazis vs Jews story. "I can't even put the word Nazi into one of my pictures," Bomer whines to one of his friends even though this makes so little sense it actually gives me a headache. Does Billy Ray think that the word Nazi was a slur? It was the name of their party.

Back to Scott's book, which was reconstructed by Edmund Wilson. Fitzgerald definitely has his highs and lows as a prose stylist. There's this one racist scene where they are driving down a road in Los Angeles and they see a "Negro" herding some cows. He moves them across the road and they give him a quarter. It's a very sad little moment that shows how behind the times Scott was as a writer at the end. Flannery O'Connor was in his rear view about to run him over.

Adding to the general confusion of this horrendous adaptation is Kelsey Grammer. In The Last Tycoon, he gets tons of screen time and looks so much heavier than he ever did. This neither suits him or the role he is playing, and Ray's writing for all his characters is a messy cross between the snappy dialogue in a Billy Wilder movie and some approximation of reality. In comparison to Bomer, who it seems may disappear if he is viewed from the wrong angle, Grammer looks like the obese girl from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in her final form.

As a representation of the period, The Last Tycoon is tremulously bad. Bomer's character is super-depressed because his Irish wife died, so he submerges his grief into his work. Ray wants us to think that Monroe Stahr is really good at his job. Actually, he is only terrific at motivating and manipulating people as a Don Draper-clone, and Scott's story shows how much they resent it and how little there is left of a person who behaves in this fashion. The odd, vaguely homoerotic glorification of this Jewish character is not only a historical abortion, but it feels like a lie on every level.

I was completely certain when I first read The Love of the Last Tycoon and now watching this latest disaster from the inimitably bad Amazon Studios brand that neither Billy Ray nor Scott Fitzgerald has any idea what it is like to be a Jew. At least Scott's novel admits that, in a way, positioning Monroe as fundamentally misunderstood.

In Ray's version of The Last Tycoon, there is actually a scene where Bomer is sobbing like a little girl over his deceased Irish wife. He explains to everyone who will listen that he wants to make an inspirational version of her story. Such a person who came from nothing would never elevate his own experience above any other? Billy Ray doesn't understand any of these people, and the visual look on offer completely absconds with any semblance of truthtelling.

That is what is so profoundly offensive about The Last Tycoon. Telling a story about any ethnic minority and lying about the particulars should face harsh sanctions. If Wesley Snipes went to jail, so should everyone involved in this piece of shit, especially Lily Collins. The fact that Amazon has so little faith in their decision-making on individual series that they feel the need to greenlight so many awful pilots proves how little confidence they have in their product.

There is one astonishing scene in the abridged version of The Love of the Last Tycoon that I will never forget. The woman who will eventually become Lily Collins is talking about her father, and how she had no real conception of how he appeared to others. Then she is at a bar and a man approaches, looming near here in a sort of mourning avidity. She wishes for him to move on until it occurs to her that this is her papa. As in all Fitzgerald, this metaphor of a single moment represents the whole fucking situation completely.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.


Tuesday
Jun282016

In Which No One Ever Missed Will Smith This Much

Alien Queen Blues

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Independence Day: Resurgence
dir. Roland Emmerich
120 minutes

You know what Independence Day needed, when you really think about it? Charlotte Gainsbourg. Sure, Char might be a little young to play Jeff Goldblum's love interest. Then again she is eleven years older than his wife so what am I saying.

You know what Independence Day needed more than Char, when you really think about it? A Hemsworth, any Hemsworth will do. Chris would have been ideal but since he was busy Roland Emmerich settled for his second choice, Liam. Liam is in a committed relationship with Bill Pullman's daughter Patricia (Maika Monroe). The pair haven't moved in together yet, but you feel the moment is coming. Although Patricia is of course a trained fighter space pilot, she retired before Independence Day: Resurgence begins to take care of her Da.

Don't worry though, because right after Vivica A. Fox dies falling off a building, a female fighter pilot from China named Rain (Angelababy) emerges to capture the all important international market. Women are quite powerful from the shadows, as the casting of Sela Ward as the president of these United States indisputably proves. "There will be no peace," she screams as she is murdered by aliens halfway through this impressively wretched movie.

Independence Day: Resurgence features a cast as a massive as Gosford Park. This is a shame because the actual plot has tons of potential. A devious queen alien plans to milk Earth of its sensational molten core. Do you ever just drive around and think, wow, below me thousands of miles beneath the Earth's crust is something infinitely more valuable than Maika Monroe's mediocre acting abilities?

A lot of stuff is dated in this movie. There's no sex or love except one guy who has a crush on the Chinese girl. (He disappears shortly thereafter confessing his crush and she refuses to kiss him later on.) Generic alien-type aliens are no longer sufficient to inspire fear or wonder. Just looking at Charlotte Gainsbourg's neck generates more apprehension than all the special effects in Independence Day: Resurgence combined.

In order to battle the queen alien, Jeff Goldblum discovers this sphere on the moon. White tendrils emerge from the object, incensing the queen for whom it acts like a kind of beacon. She puts on a very cute suit of armor and heads to where Jeff is, so she can presumably lecture him about an obsession with younger women. The sphere learns English and explains it originates from another alien species opposed to the queen.

Eventually Liam Hemsworth sort of forgets about Maika Monroe, suggesting she may not have been affectionate enough for his tastes. He starts flirting with Will Smith's sexy son from the first movie. Young W.S. isn't quite the pilot that his father was. Near the end of the movie Maika strips down to a tank top and everyone is happy, even though her dad died. Earth is saved, and Will Smith is just a guy in a painting in the White House.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.