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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 (176)

Friday
May292015

In Which Alicia Vikander Possesses No Human Agency

Artilect

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Ex Machina
dir. Alex Garland
128 minutes


The camera rarely lingers on Nathan (Oscar Isaac), an android created by the unseen, brilliant CEO of a  searching engine company called Bluebook. On orders, one of the CEO's employees Caleb (Domnhall Gleeson) journeys to a laboratory in a mountainous region to serve as a human stimulus to Nathan and a few other androids, mostly notably the pathetically named Ava (Alicia Vikander). He tells Caleb he is there to determine whether or not Ava passes the Turing test.

Garland is making his directorial debut in this claustrophobic, unhappy Stanley Kubrick... parody? By his own admittance, he does not have a lot to say about the actual science behind this, making Ex Machina more of a lazy, boring fantasy than anything else. Who knows how common movies about artilects will become? On the surface, an artificial intellect is really no different from a human being.

In one scene Caleb cuts his arm with a knife, drawing copious amounts of blood, in order to verify that he is himself not an artilect. Very slowly he figures out that Nathan's Japanese housemaid Kyoko is also an machine. Kyoko shows Caleb her plastic skin, which peels off and reattaches itself to the android's chassis quite wonderfully. Garland oes light on special effects, which is a shame because the AIs in Ex Machina never do anything very impressive, except pout and try to be cast in future human movies.


As Ava, Vikander is particularly wretched. You would think being given the task of being robotic would be right up her alley because is semi-androgynous and entirely wooden by nature, but she someone manages to screw up even that. We never feel anything like closeness or attraction for this creature, so it is hard to understand why Caleb would harbor any sympathy or empathy for her.

Garland uses close-ups very sparingly on his lead actress, since we are always meant to remember, through the viewing of her transparent torso and legs, that she is not a human being. This was probably a mistake, since Vikander's line readings and general mien are so utterly dull that we could not forget it anyway.

Ava plots to get Caleb to let her out of confinement. The two plan to reprogram the doors so that when the facility loses power, she will be set free. This plan works completely even after Nathan finds out about it, revealing that he is not actually in charge of the facility. When he tries to subdue the insurrection by ordering Ava back to her room, she refuses to comply.


There seems to be little point in making films about artifical intelligences if the AIs in question are just going to act like human beings, except slightly less caring overall. It turns Ex Machina itself into larger Turing test. Essentially, we do find we care less about a creature when we realize she has purely been created for a singular purpose rather than an unknown one.

Garland does an anemic job of making us truly empathize with anyone in Ex Machina, but this is sort of the point. The only thing keeping our interest is the magnetic performance of Oscar Isaac. His Nathan carries the proceedings forward, balanced on the sheer weight of his charisma. It is like watching Marlon Brando and Zero Mostel all rolled into one. There is nothing here without him.


Eventually, one of the AIs murders one of the other AIs. It doesn't actually destroy the body, just makes it think death is coming because the triggers preprogrammed to suggest death in its subroutine have been activated. This is the major advantage humans have over artificial intelligences. Even when all the evidence says a human being is dead, it will keep fighting to stay alive. Assuming we can program artilects effectively, they will never be able to destroy us. We will simply do that ourselves.


The main reason we need to develop such machines is to colonize space and report back about what they have found. It might make sense to also include Domnhall Gleeson on such an expedition, because then we would never have to watch him act again.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Giving Up On Miracles" - Ben Lee (mp3)


Tuesday
Apr142015

In Which We Have Eradicated All Blindness Jokes From Our Memory

Claire

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Daredevil
creator Drew Goddard

Matthew Murdock (Charlie Cox) has a long list of things he is not. He is not funny. He is not tall. He is not particularly eloquent, he is not brusque. He is not overly angry. He does not fly. He can't shoot lasers from his eyes. He's not strong. He can't see.


The actor playing him, who famously ended up in a box on Boardwalk Empire, is some of these things. The one element he most certainly possesses is the ability to see. About half the conversations in Netflix's adaptation of the Daredevil story concern Murdock's blindness, as if the lady doth protest too much. Before the first episode is even over we are sick of it. OK, you are blind, Matt. Why accentuate it with a mask that covers your eyes, so as to alert your enemies of your handicap? Why talk about it all day?


Wilson Fisk (a spirited Vincent D'Onofrio) first learns of Murdock's existence when he frees some women Fisk was planning on selling into slavery of some kind. He immediately admires Murdock, and for the vast majority of Daredevil, he never tries to kill his opposite number, preferring to set Matt against his own adversaries. Despite being extremely large, Fisk never sweats.

D'Onofrio is a little small to play Kingpin, but he throws himself into this most thankless of roles with aplomb. Drew Goddard has the good sense to give him a spirited love story, since as a proper villain he is relatively dull. This is a theme in the cast of Daredevil, until Rosario Dawson singlehandedly saves the entire series by exuding a sexuality so divine it is profane. Murdock is the only one who can even talk to her, by virtue of not knowing exactly what she looks like.

The other major female on the show is Murdock's secretary Karen Paige (Deborah Ann Woll). The show is a bit hampered by the fact that Woll is at her best playing opposite alpha males who try (and fail) to dominate her. Murdock is too fey for this, and his partner Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) comes across as borderline gay. Woll runs all over them both, along with her reporter friend Ben Urich (Vondie Curtis Hall). Ultimately Woll is miscast as Karen, since she struggles to convincingly convey humor or fear together. She can only focus on one at a time.


Murdock looks absolutely tiny in his lengthy fight sequences, a fact Daredevil attempts to obscure by amping up the violence to an impregnable level. Matt never uses any guns, and like his caricature of a father, he is known for his ability to take a beating. Daredevil can't decide whether to be overly broad or completely serious, a recurring challenge for the character. Going dead serious produced dreck like Elektra, whereas Affleck's turn as the blind martial artist was meant to be tongue-in-cheek.


Netflix's Daredevil is a lot better when it takes itself seriously, but this results in very long scenes. Some conversations in Daredevil can last six minutes or more, even when the information involved barely advances the story in any way. There is a lot of talk about how these people can save Hell's Kitchen, although what exactly is wrong with the place remains unclear. I guess between the amazing number of lawyers and crooks in the area, we should have some idea.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"The Book Of Dorothy" - Paula Cole (mp3)

"New York City" - Paula Cole (mp3)

 

Tuesday
Mar312015

In Which Laurence Olivier Leaves His Wife For Vivien Leigh

Misunderstandings

by ALEX CARNEVALE

1937. Laurence Olivier was very displeased with his marriage, so he began to look elsewhere. He registered in hotels with Vivien Leigh as Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Kerr. (Leigh was herself in an unhappy, sexless marriage with an older man she had met at 18.) When Vivien got out of the bathtub the first time Laurence ever saw her nude, she said simply, "Now I'll show you how I do it."

While he performed in Henry V, the two couples stayed in the same hotel so his fucks were more accessible. He planned a home in Chelsea where he and Leigh could live together. The two exchanged affection onstage as Hamlet and Ophelia, in full view of their spouses. "This welding closeness tripped the obvious decision, and two marriages were severed," Olivier later wrote. Vivien would not be able to divorce her husband  Herbert Holman until years afterwards.

wedding photo from Olivier's unhappy first marriage

As soon as they were openly together, Olivier changed his will, giving Vivien the lion's share of his estate. To his ex-wife Jill Esmond and Leigh he wrote, "It is my most earnest wish that my wife and Vivien shall live in friendliness and harmony of spirit both forgiving and forgetting any possible bitterness that may perhaps be between them."

Olivier hated vacations, but that first year with Vivien he took two; one in Italy and one in France. While they were on the Riviera, Laurence was offered Wuthering Heights. They quarreled over the role that Vivien would get; she wanted the larger part of Cathy but William Wyler insisted Merle Oberon would play that part.

They shot Wuthering Heights in Los Angeles, and Wyler and Olivier just could not get along. The main conflict was over the amount of overacting Olivier was intent on doing as Heathcliff. (Wyler just wanted Olivier to be himself, and was undoubtedly correct in his appraisal.) "We argued and argued and I must say he didn't argue very brilliantly," Olivier wrote Leigh. "I suspect he must have good instinct with no brains."

Things went no better between Laurence and his leading lady Merle Oberon, who accused him of spitting on her in close-ups.

Laurence Olivier missed Vivien terribly, especially sailing from England to New York.

Olivier refused to take cabin 69, thinking she might disapprove, and spent most of the trip drunk. "I love thinking of you when water is rushing past my face," he wrote her. "I always used to find a cold sponge very soothing at Capri - do you remember? Great comfort in thoughts of you while in water. I must have a pre-natal wish, somewhere, to be your child." Ew.


Los Angeles wasn't much better for Olivier's loneliness. "My dearest little darling passionate supreme love - I am with you, and round you, and in you all the time, my treasure." Eventually, Vivien made her way to him. "HOW GLORIOUS. WILL MAKE ARRANGEMENT FOR EIGHT HEAVENLY DAYS," he telegraphed. "I AM SO HAPPY. SHOULD DIE WITHOUT YOU ANY LONGER. DELICIOUS LOVE." He later added "I DIE TILL YOU COME."

Olivier in drag for "The Taming of the Shrew"

Vivien's reasons for the trip were far more logical. When Hamish Hamilton asked why she was going, she explained, "Partly because Larry's there, and partly because I intend to get the part of Scarlett O'Hara."

For the Oscar-winning role Vivien received only $25,000, and was under David O. Selznick's thumb for the next seven years. This incensed Olivier, who hated the slimy producer long before this. When Olivier brought his doubts to Selznick, the bastard told him, "Larry, don't be a shit twice."

with Marilyn Monroe, who he loathed

Leigh and Olivier were far from happy to be in America. "In fact," she told her soon to be ex-husband, "I do not think there is anything nice about America except the football, and the politeness of men in garages." But when Wuthering Heights came out, Olivier was an instant star in the country. Olivier appealed to both men and women in a deeply sexual way.

He quickly learned that this approval could vanish in an instant after he tried to star in his own Romeo and Juliet with Leigh in New York. The audience could barely hear his girlfriend, and Olivier as a brooding Romeo was a bit old for the part. The reviews were savage.

note to Vivien about doing his hair

Olivier lost $96,000 on Romeo and Juliet, and could not wait to get home to England. Unfortunately, he picked an awkward time to flop: France was fading, and English children were making the trip West to America for safety. When Olivier and Leigh landed in Bristol, they were in the middle of an air raid and the plane nearly went down.

Wanting to aid the war effort, Olivier enlisted in the Royal Air Force. Instead of bunking with the cadets, he and Leigh lived in a bungalow near the base, which she furnished with paintings and a few Indian rugs from their place in London. "I've always thought that my performance as a naval officer was the best bit of character work I've ever done," Olivier lied.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"Moon Never Rises" - Calexico (mp3)

"Woodshed Waltz" - Calexico (mp3)

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