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Editor-in-Chief
Alex Carnevale
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Features Editor
Mia Nguyen
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Senior Editor
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 (192)

Monday
Oct262015

In Which We Have Not Made Any Meaningful Changes To The Woman

Golden Girl

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Fedora
dir. Billy Wilder
114 minutes

Billy Wilder's last film was a terrible comedy called Buddy Buddy that he made with Walter Matthau playing a hitman. Just before that, he wrote and directed Fedora, which no one liked very much either.

Wilder used Sunset Boulevard's William Holden, who plays a film producer trying to recruit a former Hollywood star named Fedora for a part in his remake of Anna Karenina, which he has titled The Snows of Yesteryear. No one wanted Wilder to make movies by this time, and he had to recruit outside financing through his agent's German connections to get Fedora released.

Because of his many laurels and awards, Wilder thought himself above any kind of criticism by this point. He wanted Marlene Dietrich for the title role but she refused to be photographed in her old age and was disgusted by the entire story he was pitching. It suited his small budget anyway to cast European actresses and dub their voices. Wilder shot Fedora in the Greek islands in something of a hurry, since a budget of $6.7 million was not really a lot for what he wanted.

The entire movie hinges on the idea that Holden's character thinks Fedora has been immaculately preserved by time and is imprisoned by a soggy countess in an ocean villa, but this is untrue. Fedora is actually the countess, and the Fedora impersonator is her daughter. She has managed this switcheroo because the right side of her face is scarred.

Matt Drudge celebrated Hillary Clinton's 68th birthday with an ironic picture of her face this weekend. The point he was making is that plastic surgey has made her look unlike any other 68 year old woman not so medically blessed.

Drudge's sexist laugh is a bit of a dirty trick, since plastic surgery is usually only indentified by TMZ or when it goes completely wrong, like what happened to Kate Beckinsale. (The lead role in Fedora is a open commentary on Greta Garbo, who was obessed with her aging proces.)

Given whatever has been done to her, Clinton looks at least fifteen years younger. It's difficult to criticize her for this, since Richard Nixon once lost an entire election by dint of his wrinkles. In a flashback scene — Fedora has about ten of these, and they are all completely wretched and tone deaf in typical Wilder fashion — we see the moment when Fedora wakes us and realizes her pre-Botox-esque treatments from a sketchy doctor have gone tragically wrong.

In this way, Fedora is making a bland point against Hollywood's obsession with youth. Wilder felt deeply discriminated against because studios wouldn't fund his films in his last decades. Given the relative quality of his writing in Fedora, they were correct to abandon ship. When it played in front of its first American audiences, Fedora waa basically laughed out of the theater and Wilder stormed out in horror and rage.

Wilder fired his editor, but eventually he gave up on making any meaningful changes to Fedora. The main setting, on the Greek island of Corfu, is magnificently beautiful, which makes the tone of the film — somewhere between wacky comedy and sob story — all the more wrong. Ugly people in a wondrous setting makes for a bad time.

Fedora actually begins with the actress' funeral, which added to the general malaise the film engendered in its audience. This framing device is so pathetically old-fashioned and out of date it lends extra years to a film that badly needed to feel current. Strangely, Fedora feels more modern today than it did then — not in its lighting or sets, which remain utterly dated, but in the way it merges a screwball comedy feeling with more serious themes.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Leather and Wood" - Deerhunter (mp3)

"Duplex Planet" - Deerhunter ft. Tim Gane (mp3)


Tuesday
Oct202015

In Which We Have Finished With Steven Spielberg

Expressionless

by ALEX CARNEVALE

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)


Thursday
Oct152015

In Which We Feel Sympathetic Towards Kieran Culkin And His Friends

Old Is New

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Fargo
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)

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