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Editor-in-Chief
Alex Carnevale
(e-mail/tumblr/twitter)

Managing Editor
Kara VanderBijl
(e-mail/tumblr/twitter)

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen
(e-mail/tumblr/twitter)

Senior Editor
Durga Chew-Bose
(e-mail/tumblr/twitter)

Senior Editor
Brittany Julious
(e-mail/tumblr/twitter)

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 (158)

Wednesday
May192010

In Which They Never Got Me Like They Got Him

In the Company of the Queen

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Just Wright

dir. Sanaa Hamri

93 minutes

In 1997, Neil LaBute's directorial debut In the Company of Men hit American theaters. It upset many people, and is considered a disturbing film in general. Aaron Eckhart and Matt Malloy play corporate types who decide to seduce a deaf woman who works in their office and dump her at the same time to crush her spirit. As usual, LaBute's real intentions were submerged beneath the crudity of the film's finer moments, such as Eckhart's character politely informing the disabled Christine (Stacy Edwards) upon revealing his deception that "I was going to let you down easy, but I can't keep a straight face."

Little did LaBute and company know that thirteen years later their signature satire of corporate nastiness would grow prescient. Or perhaps they did realize this, but since LaBute's about as popular as an outbreak of herpes these days, it just hasn't been said enough. With enough time to appreciate In the Company of Men, it was high time for a remake, preferably with a new ethnicity, like The Karate Kid.

if you're going to remake a movie and make it less racist, start with 'gone with the wind' Moroccan music video director Sanaa Hamri has done exactly that with Just Wright. The film, penned by screenwriter Michael Elliot, concerns two women (physical therapist Queen Latifah and professional seductress Paula Patton) who decide to seduce a basketball player and see how far they can take it. It turns out they can take it very far, and no one will think anything of their behavior.  

In the Company of Men featured the overbearing, controlling Eckhart in his first major role. LaBute's alpha-male demon was a parody of every me-first dickhead that worked in offices across the country. His negative influence forced a weaker, less attractive colleage into a misogynist gag to make a deaf women feel wanted. In contrast, Just Wright's version of Eckhart's domineering alpha is Patton, whose lies are a lot sweeter and more easily told. If you are able to ignore the fact that Patton is married to Robin Thicke, she is every bit the mirror image clone of the overly sexual Eckhart.

Paula Patton's greatest desire is to marry a rich basketball player. She focuses on the New Jersey Nets for some reason, perhaps not realizing they boast one of the lowest payrolls in the league and will play the next three seasons in Newark. Her godsister is the eponymous Leslie Wright; a woman with a "good personality" who has serious problems meeting the right man. They all think she's a cool pal, perhaps because (or in spite of) her Nets gear.

Anyone who's seen Queen's video for "U.N.I.T.Y." or the comedy she made with Jimmy Fallon more than once knows she can act; her mid-90s FOX sitcom Living Single was among the most underappreciated shows of the decade. She might as well have been a baby when the current proliferation of Tyler Perry-esque comedies began in earnest, and it must be rewarding to see she's on her way to being something of a star in the discipline.

The two conspirators of Just Wright love each other, and when Queen craftily scores an invite to the birthday party of Nets superstar point guard Scott McKnight (Common) by claiming she listens to Joni Mitchell during a "coincidental" meeting at a gas station, this physical therapist is only too pleased to help her friend try to hit on him. And game it up Patton does, basically doing her best Mystery impression and getting Common's attention right away. Soon the two are dating their balls off while Queen waits on the sidelines for the relationship between her superficial friend and her favorite ballplayer to break up.

The basic flaw of In the Company of Men was that no woman would ever fall for the collective charm of these two meatheads. Well, Common's Scott McKnight is the biggest pawn in cinema since Searching for Bobby Fischer. The two women don't bother to fight over him. After Common tears his knee in the All-Star Game, Patton bails on the relationship at the first sign of physical weakness, and Queen steps in to rehabilitate Scott's injured leg. As Queen's Misery-esque obsession grows and deepens, highlighted by her giving him an inspirational and somewhat scary speech before a Game 7 against the Heat, Patton regrets dumping Common and asks him to consider getting back together.

Just Wright argues that women are even better at manipulation and deception than men, because their lies are more likely to be believed. Patton breaks up with Common by leaving the engagement ring he gave her (despite disapproval from Common's mom, Phylicia Rashad) with a note that says Sorry. Common becomes bereft of all human feelings, he can't even be bothered to return Dwight Howard's texts. He shouts at Queen Latifah, who makes no effort to defend her friend and yells at Patton for dumping the salty basketball player. It's a strange development, because instead of telling Common that maybe it's for the best, Queen instantly turns into his every second-of-the-day BFF in order to completely reassure him of his masculinity.

The cruelty of their gag is hammered home in an unforgettable scene. Having completed the better part of his rehab, Common taps on piano keys in one room of his magnificent house. ("Beware of men with secret rooms," Patton tells Queen as she giggles about her fiancée.) Queen approaches with some smores, which Common has been completely unaware existed in the world until this moment. They share a tidy snack. Later, when he gets back together with Patton, she asks him to close the door because his piano playing is becoming too loud. This is B.F. Skinner methodology with the added benefit of inspiring an eating disorder in one of the finest rappers of our time.

After getting dumped by a particularly salacious vertebrate, Neil LaBute realized that the only useful part of love was common interests. He's hammered this home in a succession of ever-worsening films, the catty masterpiece Your Friends and Neighbors, the pathetic but vaguely compelling Nurse Betty, and the movie that made Nicolas Cage's hairline an undeniable fact of life, The Wicker Man. In all of these efforts LaBute tries to reclaim the power he presumably lost when a woman told him he was too hairy. The understated message of In the Company of Men is that some people feel entitled to love.

Queen becomes so important to Common that he restores the classic but broken car she drives from New Jersey into New York to serve at his beck and call. She begins living in his house. They sleep together. He gets her job offers from every NBA organization imaginable, calls come in from legendary trainers like Tim Walsh and Aaron Nelson. Instead of thanking him, she berates him for even considering the idea of taking Paula Patton back.

The most magical thing you can do to anyone is reject them. The burn sticks in some secret place, always ready to flare up again at the slightest hint of acceptance. Objects as innocent as a knee brace or a loaf of bread take on an added significance. Unlike In the Company of Men, Just Wright features a happier ending, suggesting that when women play games with men, it's a lot less mean-spirited. This is probably true enough, but it's not very heartwarming.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He tumbls here. He last wrote in these pages about Iron Man 2.

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"See How Man Was Made" - Josh Ritter (mp3)

"Change of Time" - Josh Ritter (mp3)

"Lark" - Josh Ritter (mp3)

Tuesday
May042010

In Which You're So Money And You're Overly Aware Of It

A Real Man Doesn't Like Quiche

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Iron Man 2

dir. Jon Favreau

124 minutes

My least favorite part of Swingers has always been the ending. The perennially pathetic Mike (Jon Favreau) stumbles through a pseudo-documentary about Los Angeles that does the disservice of reminding us that Vince Vaughn was once under three hundred pounds, and he ends up with Heather Graham before she turned into Jessica from Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

At the time, it was thought unbelievable that the squash-shaped Favreau could nab such a creature. Now he's the director of a $200 million dollar motion picture event and Graham is doing theatrical reenactments of the best part of Boogie Nights and her scene from The Hangover at a bar in Missoula, Montana.

It was obvious from Swingers that Favreau prized a happy ending over all else; his numerous clichéd homages to his favorite films - Goodfellas, Reservoir Dogs - were desperate attempts to be loved, to satisfy the audience in the same way those films satisfied him. In Iron Man 2, Favreau delivers his ultimate crowd-pleasing movie, a collection of lively big-budget action sequences and meta-jokes that reminds me of so many things, it reminds me of nothing in particular.

It was also clear from Swingers that Favreau loves pastiche and collage even more than Francis Bacon. If he didn't, he wouldn't have had to fill Swingers with ad-libs, references, and catchphrases galore. The unloved are always seeking it, and Favreau's desperate "character" left so many messages on that young lady's answering machine, one had to get returned.

Iron Man 2 is an even more winsome plea for crowd-pleasing love; the movie winks at its audience so often it develops a twitch. There has never been a film with less of a story that was so incredibly captivating for no real reason outside of the expense spared to put it together. Yet the film wouldn't work at all without the only two talented actors cast in Iron Man 2: those being Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, and Mickey Rourke as the devilish Whiplash.

in a mix-up, he asked Favreau what it was like to have intercourse with Rachel WeiszIt's not really surprising that Rourke reportedly had no idea what the movie was about, because he probably wouldn't have tried half as hard if he did know. Like the vast majority of actors cast today, he is there mostly because of reasons other than that he was good for the role. Rourke makes the best of it by stealing every scene he's in, including a jaw-dropping sequence on a Monaco racetrack. His Russian accent is almost unintelligible, and he gets more laughs out of a toothpick and a cockatoo than Sam Rockwell does from the entire character of Stark's other rival, weapons manufacturer Justin Hammer.

hey sam, I hear the census is looking for pplSam Rockwell was almost cast by Favreau as Iron Man the first time around, and thank god Downey Jr. got sufficiently sober for the part. It is high time Sam Rockwell fell from grace, since his "acting" consists of two modes, neither of which is particularly entertaining after you've experienced it for more than thirty seconds. There is the Sam Rockwell who ruined Moon by overacting so badly that Nicolas Cage claimed a copyright violation. Then there is the Zaphod Beeblebrox-Sam Rockwell who is super-hyped up all the time and clearly internalized too much of Tom Cruise's performance in Magnolia.

 

This is an ideal transition, because the only person with less respect for women than Favreau is Justin Theroux, screenwriter of Iron Man 2. Gifted with the legendary Marvel character of the Black Widow, these two geniuses cast Scarlett Johansson, whose idea of acting is narrowing her eyes, pouting and delivering everything in a husky monotone. After every single thing she does in the film, Scarlett spins, poses and stares straight into the lens. Also, the only move she really has involves her simply wrapping her legs around her opponent's head and spinning them to the ground in a hurancanrana, which is only a valid offensive move in lucha libre. Considering every other act of violence in the film is an energy weapon, it's amazing she survives until the end.

I was never much of an actor, although I did once play the only Russian character in a vaguely anti-Semitic high school production of Fiddler on the Roof. Yet even I know that it's bad policy to stare at the camera like it's a piece of bacon in every scene, as Scarlett does here. We can only assume that Favreau was so entranced by the dailies that his note to Scarlett was "more pouty, more widow." Despite this, Scarlett mainly gets a pass because she is so overshadowed by the meta-disaster that is the presence of Gwyneth Paltrow as Tony's assistant Pepper Potts. Haven't you read my review of Two Lovers? Are you aware that it's tongue-in-cheek?

let's hope this image doesn't inspire a reboot of the fantastic four because I don't think I can handle that right meowNow that Gwyneth has survived Chris Martin cheating on her and writing songs for his ex with all the dignity you would expect given that she hasn't blogged about it, her weirdly boisterous romance with Tony Stark takes center stage here. She has two kids under the age of 6 (named Apple and Moses, just like in the Bible) and a husband who's completely unaware of how little talent he has, I feel nothing but compassion for Gwyneth. I feel even worse that the most likely Black Widow storyline for the next sequel involves her capping Pepper Potts in the face, albeit after wrapping her legs around Pepper's blonde head in what is sure to become a YouTube sensation.

pepper, that's incredibly unhygienic dear The film's two African-American characters are similarly caught up in the hex of their previous performances. I didn't realize Nick Fury was Vincent Vega's partner until the moment he started using the exact same vocal mannerisms as a gag. Then again, I never really got the point of Nick Fury; did Captain America really need an invalid ordering him around?

Don Cheadle replaces Terrence Howard as War Machine, and he's apparently the dumbest living member of the American military, a crack organization that gets regularly thrown under the bus here. In just under two hours it is victimized by weapons manufacturers, career criminals, and its own personnel, not to mention both Larry Sanders and Roger Sterling. Cheadle doesn't get a punchline in the whole movie, so he must have told Justin Theroux that he didn't understand a single second of Mulholland Drive.

before we bang tongue, what was the deal with the opera scene? It's distracting that we even have to think about all these things that really have nothing to do with Iron Man 2, but the whole movie is pretty much a joke on the comic (which let's face it was no great shakes to begin with) and on the people Favreau casts to play these not-particularly-deep characters. When I go back and look at Swingers now, it's home video of two people who went onto drastically different careers. The only common element is the size of their underwear. Watching the director of Iron Man 2 playing golf with the guy who dumped Carrie Bradshaw via post-it note ("I'm sorry, I can't, don't hate me") lends a whole new meaning to the original proceedings, one that was never really intended.

In Iron Man 2, the references are all intentional. There's even jabs at Scarlett and Gwyneth for fighting on set. It's all in there, each part of the process, in the film's sixty-seven subplots. Even now, Favreau's still the guy on the answering machine who includes every detail, anything that might be relevant. Like Swingers, Iron Man 2 is propelled by the steam of its star, who carries off Stark's sweet narcissism better than Vince Vaughn ever did. He's a chatterbox who can't control anything he says, and since he's a billionaire, he lets it all fly no matter the effect on the people around him. Favreau is out to prove that if you keep talking, or in this case, if you keep blowing something up, eventually something you say will have to be entertaining.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He tumbls here. He last wrote in these pages on the letters of Anne Sexton.

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"We Can't Be Stopped" - Ratatat (mp3)

"Neckbrace" - Ratatat (mp3)

"Drugs" - Ratatat (mp3)


Thursday
Apr292010

In Which We Examine The Finest Magazine Runs In Human History

15 Best Print Magazine Runs of All Time

by MOLLY LAMBERT & ALEX CARNEVALE

Sometimes people ask us where we get the inspiration for This Recording. This is a complicated question. As with all things, This Recording evolved over time, like Emily Blunt and Jim Halpert looking more like one another. These are the fifteen magazine runs that left the biggest imprints on our minds and fingertips.

15. The New Yorker

The New Yorker is an institution, but like fellow New York institution SNL it's hard to call it consistently good even though some sections are sporadically outstanding. The New Yorker is often a gateway drug for people growing up in media unsaturated areas. It's like The Catcher In The Rye or On The Road in that it's often the most loved bible for an aspiring intellectual person during periods they will later think of as formative but also semi-embarrassing. Unless you are Wes Anderson your tastes have probably evolved from what they were when you were 14 and starved for blurbs about opera. That said, there is nothing wrong with having a spot in your heart for The New Yorker, the way you would for any first love. Just don't go sending them any weird facebook messages late at night. 

14. Crawdaddy! (1966-1973)

Before it turned into a generic music magazine, the idea that you could write something, print something in a magazine you wrote with all the run-on sentences and ridiculous unprovable generalizations and slang words and anything else you wanted to, was not a brand new concept when Crawdaddy! perfected it, but it might as well have been.

13. Spy (1992-1995)

Like any other satirical magazine, Spy had descended into a parody of itself by the time Bruno Maddox was appointed editor. Both of its founders (Graydon Carter and Kurt Anderson) have been a lot better at coming up with ideas than sustaining them, but in the case of Spy it was never intended to last for decades. I literally learned there was no Santa Claus from reading a (hard to obtain as a child) copy of Spy.

12. Might (1991-1995)

Dave Eggers's San Francisco magazine was known for rambling essays on provocative topics. Some have cited their "Are Black People Cooler Than White People?" as the first recorded LOL. They also did an issue that was entirely about cheese, and let David Foster Wallace make the argument that AIDS was going to make sexual pursuit better and more rewarding by making it more difficult. If you write about all the things you find interesting it is possible that somebody else will also be interested, or better yet become interested just because it's written well.

11. Life (1940-1965)

Life is just a magical blend of content that really should have been in Parade and photographs that should stay forever in the Smithsonian. Once it became a weekly, Ed K. Thompson used a trio of female editors and the pages improved under his reign. If they paid the right person for a feature, the writing could be incredible, but usually it wasn't. Life went through many subtly different approaches, like a true variety show. One issue could be a mind-blowing meld of ultimate design and approachable prose, another would be as vapid as People. Throughout, the photography was the real show, bringing the impact of full color and the wide breadth of the world to American homes.

10. Sassy (1991-1995)

Sassy was the best ever teen mag, the best ever women's mag, and the closest thing to a 'zine in the world of real magazines. It was pretty revolutionary in a pre-blog universe to find a magazine that told you straight up that other magazines aimed at girls were bullshit. Despite the sometimes annoying "cooler than thou" attitude Jane Pratt pushed, so much of Sassy holds up to a modern reader versed in blogs: the Kurt and Courtney interview, the fashion editorials making fun of fashion editorials, the Hunt for the Sassiest Boy In America.

9. Entertainment Weekly (1991-1996)

Before the first mass-market arts and culture magazine worth a damn lobotomized itself to compete with U.S. Weekly, Jeff Jarvis' Entertainment Weekly debuted in 1990 as the perfect combination of easy reading and incredible craftsmanship. Softening the teeth off clever graphic bits and listicles like Spy and Esquire's Dubious Achievements, EW brought to the print world what we think of today as commonplace internet sarcasm. They also may have invented the collectible review index of every episode of popular television shows (such as Seinfeld and The X-Files) long before DVDs made following along a probable task.

8. National Geographic (1981-2009)

From layout to design, National Geographic took the photographic best of Life and expanded its view. No magazine has changed so little and still been so relevant to the world to which it was originally borne. Richard Pryor called NG "the Black Man's Playboy" and the mag has taken some heat over the years for touching up photos of the third world. Under the leadership of Chris Johns, NG has exceeded Pryor's pejorative and reinvented the magazine as a series of subtle investigations. The nature photography/pornography is as compelling as ever.

7. Rolling Stone (1967-1971)

Even though it primarily sucks now, Rolling Stone will throw a curveball every now and then and run a totally awesome piece of investigative journalism about like some goth teenagers killing somebody, or a guy who has a huge cock and it's ruining his life. Not to mention, they recently ran the first of John Mayer's twofer crazy interview spree. Music writing has actually never been Rolling Stone's strongest suit, but all the counterculture trimmings are where they still knock it out of the park sometimes.

6. Creem (1971-1980)

Cooler than Rolling Stone, Creem featured articles from a dream roster of counterculture writers like Lester Bangs, Greil Marcus, Nick Tosches, Richard Meltzer, Patti Smith, and Cameron Crowe, all of whom made or embossed their names here (plus countless other staffers who did all the work). The original arrogant confrontational blog, indier than thou when it still meant something, Creem articles expose all other music criticism as falsity. Our favorite kind of snobs, Creem touted the MC5 and ABBA equally.  

5. National Lampoon (1971-1979)

Exploring one specific type of humor to the nth degree, the original National Lampoon had all kinds of great writers and a list of their credits would only remind us of the douchebag P.J. O'Rourke became within five minutes of attaining any notoriety whatsoever. Like its spiritual heir The Onion, there wasn't a whole lot of subtlety here, but a few decades ago, everything was generally subtle and Lampoon seemed like a wild alternative to the mean.

4. Mad (1958-1963)

Patti Smith once said, “After Mad, drugs were nothing.” During an extremely censorious time in American life, Mad put the lie to everything, savaging the culture and revealing its hypocrisies.

3. The New York Review of Books (1976-1992)

Before the best writers were published everywhere you look, they were published in the NYRB. At times stilted and pedantic, the Review was best when it opened itself up to wackier explorations of artistic merit, and writers who could stretch out of the academic confines of what was expected from a 'book review.' Their choices in the last decade have reshaped the review into something more familiar, but at its best the NYRB had a lively letters section replete with non-academic exchanges that rivalled comment wars on blogs. It's fitting that something so ancient as a book review could prefigure something so modern.

2. Time (1939-1945)

Before Time became the absolute mess it is now, two men made this venerable institution the most well-written compendium of critical thought ever to enter the public sphere at the time. Whittaker Chambers joined Time in 1939; soon enough he and James Agee were the primary composers of the arts section of the magazine. Chambers ascended to the magazine's editorial board, and kept writing. It only got better from there.

1. Esquire (1961-1973)

Looking at issues from George Lois' ten year run at Esquire under editor Harold Hayes makes one nostalgic for the type of journalism that had style and substance. The current Esquire now spends its entire day trying to become a bizarre hybrid of Maxim and a "serious" magazine. Under these two titans Esquire knew just what it was.

Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording. She tumbls here. Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He tumbls here.

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barbara epstein and bob silvers in 1963
Other Magazines We Couldn't Live Without Until Print Died

Ranger Rick 

3-2-1 contact magazine 

Tellus Audio Cassette Magazine

Car & Driver 

Games 

Gamepro 

Electronic Gaming Monthly 

Nintendo Power 

the eXile

Harper's

Cat Fancy

Playboy 

The Believer

Oxford American

Magnet 

Highlights

Spin 

Mojo 

XXL 

Ben Is Dead

Chunklet

Sunset Magazine

LA Weekly/Village Voice

FOUND Magazine

Premiere 

Cahiers Du Cinema

Whole Earth 


Wired 

VIBE 

NME 

McSweeney's

Trouser Press 

WET magazine 

Weird Tales

Wizard 

Psychotronic Video 

Photoplay

Stop Smiling

Heavy Metal

Aspen 

Down Beat 

International Times 

JET

The Arkham Sampler

Mademoiselle

No Depression 

Martha Stewart Living 

Gourmet

The American Mercury (ed. H.L. Mencken)

American Magazine of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge (ed. Nathaniel Hawthorne)

291 (ed. Alfred Stieglitz) 

X

VVV

The Little Review 

Fuck You 

GOSH!

Brill's Content

The Germ

Creativity can solve almost any problem. The creative act, the defeat of habit by originality, overcomes everything.

- George Lois