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Alex Carnevale

Features Editor
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 (180)


In Which We Answer Life's Questions In The Affirmative

Familiar with the System


dir. Rick Famuyiwa
103 minutes

Malcolm (Shameik Moore) expresses no opinions, has nothing to say about his life in Inglewood, California. He just lives there. Even in his utter vacuousness, he is immensely attractive to women, including the daughter of Lenny Kravitz and Lisa Bonet, who looks like a cross between Naomi Campbell and Debbie Reynolds. Malcolm's straight A's in school and high SAT scores would entitle him to go to any school in the nation. He chooses Harvard.

Dope is a story about how bad things are for Malcolm. Wait a second, you are probably saying, somewhere in this magical success story, what exactly went wrong? I guess the answer would be nothing. Malcolm is also the lead singer of a band named Oreo. His friends Jib (The Grand Budapest Hotel's Tony Revolori) and Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) play the guitar and drums, respectively. The band's music is fantastic.

Despite the fact that before he graduates from high school, he has probably resisted the potent allure of gang life a million times, Malcolm finally succumbs at the age of 17. There is no one below that age ever in Dope. Not one of the characters has a younger sibling. Everyone in the world is in fact around the same age: 18-34.

Dope may not have much of a script, or make sense on any level, but the performances carry the film so far beyond what it should have been. Moore is a phenomenally captivating actor, if a bit limited in his range. He stares at everyone in his world with open, untrusting eyes, like it is his first time seeing them, even when he is holding a gun. What he does possess is a preternatural ability to convey vulnerability and strength at the same time, which is so rare that Marlon Brando made an entire career out of projecting it.

Revolori and Clemens are both exceptional in supporting roles. Malcolm just pretends to be an outsider — his mixed-race and gay friends actually are exceptions in their culture, and it is a shame we never hear more about who they are or what they want. Revolori makes noise about wanting to go to a good college, but he allows Malcolm to pull him into a Bitcoin-drug scheme for what seems like no reason, and explains he is permitted to say the n-word because he is 14 percent African according to Ancestry.com.

Malcolm's love interest Nakia (Zoe Kravitz) is such a dunce that she requires help from him, a high school student, in her college studies. Her judgment is so bad that she has been leading on a local drug lord (A$AP Rocky). Malcolm saves her from all this: there is nothing that a man from the Ivy League can't accomplish given time and money, and the 26-year old woman attends his prom.

In the end, Malcolm ends up having the blackmail his way into Harvard. In the real world, the trustees would probably make him an offer to be president of their university. Malcolm also sells a bunch of drugs for around $100,000. The first draft of his college essay is an brilliant, esoteric analysis of Ice Cube's career; his final draft is a meaningful essay about how it's hard to be an African-American who loves Game of Thrones and came from nothing. The world taught him to be a victim — he had never even thought of it before.

Dope is not very funny or insightful about the kind of struggles that actual people face. At times it seems like a parody of Spike Lee's She's Gotta Have It, where you felt as if the transcendent director was actually opening up people you never knew existed. Writer-director Rick Famuyiwa has already told his Inglewood-story in 1999's The Wood, and after that more genuine film's lack of success, Dope feels like a collection of what people want people to be like rather than what they are.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Poppin' Off" - WatchtheDuck (mp3)

"The World Is Yours" - Nas (mp3)


In Which We Find Nicholas Ray In A Lonely Place

This is the second in a series about the life of the director Nicholas Ray. You can find the first part here.

A Dangerous Fault


He has a dangerous fault in work. You feel that he is thinking a little bit more about himself, and the angles, than the material. This comes out of his uncertainty.

Hollywood in the late 1940s was a dangerous place for anyone who had ever has the slightest association with the Communist party. The director Nicholas Ray had recently married an actress named Gloria Grahame after impregnating her.  He could not afford to be blacklisted; he had to work. So he turned to his friend Howard Hughes.

At RKO, Hughes' mission was to make anti-Communist films — he did not particularly care the politics of the people who made them. Ray refused to direct a movie called I Married A Communist because it hit too close to home — his friend Gene Kelly had done just that. His first film, They Live By Night, had been shelved and  a proper follow-up, starring Joan Fontaine as a miscast bad girl, was something of a mess as well.

He was unhappy with his marriage, too. Grahame was beautiful, but as Patrick McGilligan explains in his masterful biography Nicholas Ray: The Glorious Failure of an American Director, Ray admitted he was "infatuated with her: but I did not like her very much." At the start, their connection was mostly sexual, with Ray's friends in awe that he was able to even maintain an erection given the amount of alcohol he consumed.

Gloria loved sex more than her husband. One of her friends suggested that when they were out, Gloria stood behind Ray with her eyes cast to the ground. Ray's gambling and drinking were spiralling out of control — Grahame and her mother would spend hours replacing his cocaine with sugar.

One of Ray's closest friends, Humphrey Bogart, was his star in the legal drama Knock On Any Door. In 1951, they planned to reunite for a picture in which Bogart would play a man with the double life of a screenwriter and serial killer. The working title was In A Lonely Place. Because the Production Code was loathe to approve the concept of Bogart as a multiple murderer, Ray and producer Robert Lord rewrote the script to make Bogart only a potential suspect in the case.

In A Lonely Place is a masterpiece of atmosphere and mood over actual content. Bogart plays his usual caustic individual, but Ray pushes the character into something like a literary supervillain. They had great trouble casting Bogart's love interest-victim until Ray suggested his wife. In order to get the film publicity they drew up a his-and-hers contract where Ray's second wife was forbidden to "nag, cajole, tease or in any other feminine fashion seek to distract or influence him" during the film's production.

On set, the real intimacy was between the heterosexual Bogart and the indeterminate Ray. The particulars of the relationship depended entirely on which of them was drinking at the time. "At certain times when I would not drink," Ray later wrote, "when filming, particularly or the preparation before filming, our relationship would alter. In some ways it became deeper, in others, only more formal."

Ray rewrote the novel's ending to reflect the dark nature of the relationship between himself and Grahame. The real-life parallels were all too obvious to everyone on set of In A Lonely Place, and Bogart convinced the studio that it all actually worked, so Ray's new ending stood. Although not very successful at the box office, In A Lonely Place established Ray as a director who was doing new things that other men in the industry could only dream of.

The closeness necessitated by their working together drove Ray and Gloria Grahame even further apart. He moved his things out of their Sunset Boulevard home and slept in his trailer. They kept up the fiction of their marriage in order to protect their young son, but the gossip columnists broke the story. Grahame's deep hurt was expressed on a series of men, while Ray started an on-again-off-again courtship of a younger woman named Marilyn Monroe.

One night Ray walked in on his 13-year-old son Anthony from a previous marriage inside of his soon-to-be-ex-wife. The story followed Ray everywhere. (It only worsened the situation in 1962 when his look-alike son and Gloria Grahame reconnected and decided to exchange vows of marriage.) The betrayal meant more drinking, more drug use, and when he could get it, more of Marilyn.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Crux" - Jean Grae (mp3)

"August 20th" - Jean Grae (mp3)


In Which Manglehorn Has A Difficult Time Adapting To His Situation

Kitty Kat


dir. David Gordon Green
97 minutes

Al Pacino always looked good for his age. He was fifty twenty-five years ago, and he managed to portray the lives of men decades younger. Bouncing around like a hyper Italian Elia Kazan, Pacino stepped into every type of part you can imagine with the same aggravating way of speaking, like he was inserting breaths where there should not be any.

In Manglehorn he plays a dissatisfied old locksmith who meets a bank teller (Holly Hunter). She is the kind of person who wakes up every day exciting for what is to come, she explains, which makes her a very wise 57. She looks way too young for Al, who shows his age by taking a bad spill while tripping over a plant on their first date.

Angelo Manglehorn has a Persian cat named Fanny who eats a number twelve key that he sells in his locksmithery. A veterinarian removes the obstacle from the animal's duodenum; the hospital astonishingly allows 24 hour visitation. Manglehorn uses it as an excuse to get out of the prospect of intimacy on his date with Holly Hunter, who makes the error of suggesting that they see a movie.

I don't think Pacino can sit comfortably for that long. Manglehorn at first seems to be making fun of him, if not Texas. Neither would be in very good taste, except that the vibrant life that surrounds this broken-down person is altogether more interesting than he is. Manglehorn witnesses a six car pileup that is in better shape than his personality. Everyone is perpetually having a more terrific time than he is.

Harmony Korine plays the owner of a male tanning salon, Tan Man. Chris Messina plays Manglehorn's son Jacob, an unhappy broker who offers his father money rather than emotional sustenance. Instead of being pleased, Manglehorn complains about the quality of the dinner his child treats him to — he is a very ungrateful keymaker.

Gordon Green displays everything at arm's length, rarely lingering for a close-up of his subject. This is brilliant, because it gives us the chance of forgetting we are looking at the husk of Al Pacino all the time. The resulting creature envisioned in its own environment becomes something far different than his usual imitation of himself. It is enough that this is not a parody — Green is a lot more tolerable as a filmmaker when he is completely sincere, and Manglehorn is nothing but utterly serious at all times.

In one scene, in order to please his old Little League coach, Harmony Korine treats Manglehorn to a sexual massage. Instead of thanking him profusely, Angelo breaks his lamp and screams, "You don't know me!" This is not played as a joke whatsoever.

A soundtrack by Explosions in the Sky gives a dreamy happiness to Manglehorn's redemption, as if Angelo's dissatisfaction with the world can only help but give rise to the opposite. The cat eventually recovers from its surgery, and Manglehorn ends up giving his son an important loan with money he had been saving for some woman he drove away through endless complaining about the price of food and his mortgage. He burns all the photos of the girlfriend he longed for along with the letters that were returned to sender, and starts fresh.

The script of Manglehorn is nothing much, but Pacino and Messina wring all they can out of it, making you wish the fractious father-son relationship had been a little bit more of the focus here. Gordon Green's art direction is typically superb, and the living spaces Manglehorn inhabits would almost make him feel real if he weren't, you know, a dessicated Al Pacino.

I guess Manglehorn is primarily about FOMA (Fear of Missing Out), which I did not know applied to people over seventy. For this reason, Manglehorn seems like a film about older people written by younger people. It makes sense that we would expect at least some people never really change from their previous selves. A book I read recently suggested we all freeze, emotionally, at one age or another. For Mr. Pacino, it might be that moment has yet to arrive.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Workin' Man" - Neil Young & Promise of the Real (mp3)

"Rules of Change" - Neil Young & Promise of the Real (mp3)

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