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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 bobby cannavale (2)

Tuesday
Mar292016

In Which We Pretend To Be Andy Warhol Or The New York Dolls

Factory Living

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Vinyl
creators Mick Jagger, Terence Winter, Rich Cohen & Martin Scorsese

The massive list of producers on Vinyl reads like a bad joke: a Brit, a Jew, an Italian and an Irishman walk into a bar... A lot of people were involved in making Vinyl, probably hundreds, many of them very talented. The two-hour pilot alone cost $18 million. There is a person of every possible race and ethnicity in HBO's Vinyl, except Asian. (Didn't you know there were no Asians in New York in the 1970s, at least none involved in the music industry in any significant way?)

Let's talk about the music, since Vinyl plays a lot of songs. Figure that the people behind this show don't sit around watching tons of television to know that half the stuff they play has been in every generic movie released in the last fifty years. The music alternates between wonderful and terrible, but the worst part of the aural situation is this: no one seems to care very much how is it made. We never see anyone writing songs or tuning instruments.

Instead of focusing on creative individuals, Vinyl concerns itself with Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale). When he is lucid, which is not often, Richie occasionally (this is rare) might say something semi-intelligent. In Vinyl, we live for these moments, since witnessing him destroy himself with cocaine and alcohol, and hurting the feelings of all New York's not-Asians is pretty hard to watch after awhile.

Richie is Italian, and he relied on his former secretary Andrea Zito (Annie Parisse) in so many ways. They slept together when he told his wife Devon (Olivia Wilde) that he would be working late. He kept a white woman at home and an Italian woman in the city in a reverse-Tony Soprano situation. This ethnic switcheroo is never explicitly explained, and I sometimes think it must be like watching aliens from space for people in other places to view Vinyl. Then again no one watches the show anyway so does it really matter?

Despite the fact that Richie is a complete asshole to everyone except his kids and his employee Jamie Vine (Juno Temple), he has to murder a guy in self-defense and he spends most of Vinyl's episodes whining and crying about this. The man he killed to protect himself was a dirtbag who owned some radio stations. The guy had no wife, no children, and no one who cared if he lived or died outside of the prostitutes who depended on him for their living. His company and family are falling apart, and all Richie Finestra can think about is this piece of shit.

It makes no sense whatsoever, but then maybe treating Vinyl as an actual series with characters who might have positive and negative qualities is giving it too much credit. It is more about an overwhelming sense of style which never coheres or agrees upon itself, and so becomes ugly. This period in American life was a great deal more disgusting than either the 1920s or the 1990s, the focus of Terence Winter's previous series. The colors all clash, the outfits are ghastly, and there was no antibacterial solution in all of New York.

Winter's writing has always been among the very best on television, and he has a few artistic crutches which make it into everything he works on. He loves showing people by themselves, following them even after the scene he is writing would traditionally end. He focuses so intently on every moment having something at stake that he makes anything he constructs into a thriller of sorts. This works a lot better in noir, because people can live or die based on events. On Vinyl it just means we have to care about who gets a record deal.

When Finestra first meets his wife, he has sex with her in the bathroom of the Factory. He puts his hand around Devon's neck to choke her a bit. She slaps him but seems to enjoy his sense of play. I hate to say it, but Olivia Wilde is about as plausible in this role as it was when Whoopi Goldberg put on a nun's habit.

But even if she did seem like the kind of person who would be a Connecticut housewife, the sheer number of fakes on Vinyl makes the entire show seem a comedy sketch. I guess using actual footage of Lou Reed and Iggy Pop would have completely changed what they were going for, but no one wants to watch actors play these people and lip synch their songs. There is a reason Milli Vanilli did not have a lasting career in the business.

This is essentially the conundrum: making Vinyl fun would make these people seem like heroes glorifying excess and theft from the musicians. Without those guitarists and vocalists, there would be no great sums of money to pay for the ample suppy of cocaine, heroin, and prescription drugs. So instead Vinyl is utterly depressing to watch and be a part of; every single person on the show is permanently unhappy and completely ashamed of their lives, which is not only terrible to witness, but not really realistic when you think about it.

Worse than being immersed in the darkness of these pagans, however, is the fact that Vinyl is completely out of date. Period pieces needs to comment on contemporary times, but Vinyl has nothing to say about who we are now, since whatever authenticity was present in this period evaporates by reconstructing it. The only possible conclusion is that the 1970s was as fake as the modern concept of celebrity, which is not really something we need told to us by an expensive television program.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"You're Gonna Get Love" - Keren Ann (mp3)

Monday
Nov192012

In Which We Sleep On Nucky Thompson's Couch

Familiar Story

by DICK CHENEY

Boardwalk Empire
creator Terence Winter

You know what is a completely original idea I have never heard before? A woman in an unhappy marriage to a powerful man begins an affair with her husband's younger, attractive subordinate. The relationship comes about because of the ethnic connection between the two lovers. This general plot has never even been experimented with until now.

furio, your taste in fashion was unmatched by American men

Much of Terence Winter's Boardwalk Empire is a lot more interesting if you pretend The Sopranos never happened. (This is equally true if you have never seen Goodfellas or Casino.) There's actually a scene in Martin Scorsese's completely retarded blowjob of the Dalai Lama, Kundun, that I am completely reminded of every time I watch HBO's prohibition-era drama.

The potential child prophet is shown a variety of objects, some commonplace, other more valuable, on a woven blanket. Whichever object he selects, as in the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, indicates the likelihood he is a god returned to Earth to appear on Dr. Oz. (I believe roughly the same process was used to appoint Nancy Pelosi the speaker of the house, except the correct object in question was a needle filled with Botox.)

wait, someone might actually want to watch this guy. Let's exclusively give him scenes with Gretchen Mol. $$$$This reminds me of Boardwalk Empire insofar as the show's writers can't decide between a variety of individuals. There is an insane number of characters in Boardwalk Empire, actually over 100 of them, with 80 of those wearing an identical hat. It's difficult to know exactly who to focus on when you love them all the same. 

As a viewer, keeping track is exhilarating and discouraging, because whoever you do choose to invest in will likely end up bludgeoned by Bobby Cannavale or set on fire by Bobby Thompson. Both are unpleasant and humiliating, and make you wonder why no one was called Robert in the early part of last century.

so he decapitated a guy with a shovel, who hasn't done that?

Relatively safe from this merry-go-round of death is Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi). Nucky had a very difficult home life as a child, and tries very hard to be a good stepfather to the children of his wife Margaret (Kelly MacDonald). For some reason the fact that Nucky excels where his father failed does not really capture our attention the way that Tony Soprano's poor parenting did.

The writers of Boardwalk Empire can't possibly believe a few kind words outweigh the countless murders and the numerous infidelities Nucky implausibly consummated while succoring Broadway actress Billie Kent. Thompson was very nice to his girlfriend - she called him her gangster - but there is a hard and fast rule, in drama and in life, that being nice to someone who is going to die does not count.

Examining the weirdly sympathetic portrayal of Al Capone yields roughly the same feeling. The man who gave a bad name to so many Italian-Americans being presented as the heroic godfather and loving parent to a deaf child when he is basically their Osama Bin Laden leaves a terrible nausea in my sizable gut. It's roughly analogous to the disgust that rose inside me while I was playing Call of Duty: Black Ops II and terrorists blew up the USS Barack Obama. A sinking feeling. Get it?

Tommy, run

When I think about who I actually empathize with in Boardwalk Empire, my faith in people is usually destroyed within minutes of them garnering my favor. All the emotional reserves I placed in the Picasso-faced Richard Harrow (Jack Huston) were destroyed the moment I saw him in a liquor commercial and his countenance wasn't half exploded. Marlon Brando would have rather clawed his eyes out, and I think a lot less of Terence Winter that he did not insist upon it.

the president also smokes after a fresh kyll

I won't make any more lighthearted remarks about how disgusting I find the constantly topless Gretchen Mol. Such commentary is completely misogynistic and diminishes the righteousness of my jokes about Nancy Pelosi. At least Gretchen is trying. I even received a nice jolt in my Dockers when the only living Mrs. Darmody had intercourse with an unemployed man who intensely resembled her late son. The pseudo-incest represented a sweet moment, akin to when George W. Bush makes Laura put on a massive white wig before doggystyle.

My momentary engagement with Gretchen's plight vanished when she drugged and drowned this Jimmy-lookalike in her whorehouse bathtub as a means of getting her son declared legally dead. I have never known a woman who actually killed a man, and I have certainly never known an attractive woman who has done this. That's as close to a compliment as I can pay Gretchen Mol.

"You're going to buy me a wedding ring and fly me to Honolulu? YESSSSSSSS"

The death of Nucky's handsome bodyguard Owen Sleater (Charlie Cox) on last night's episode, due to the treachery of an Italian-Jewish coalition against the Irish, attempted to strike an ironic note. After Owen's body is sent to Nucky's home in a wooden crate, Margaret breaks down crying, recollecting the previous day when she told Owen she was pregnant with his baby. "Whatever you tell me next," she informs him before his passing, "let it be the truth." "I'm hoping it's a boy," he responds.

Despite our knowledge that this flashback presents Owen telling a fucking lie, he comes across as more human than he did during his entire run on Boardwalk Empire. Even a liar is endearing in the moments he's telling the truth. The disappointment comes afterwards.

Then, dreamy, half-amusing, half-tragic music sang him off. And now he looks like this:

Guess he promised marriage to some women in the Russian baths

The opening sequence of Boardwalk Empire has taken on a new meaning of late. Last night's episode took the discord between reality and fiction still further by watching American excesses flood the beaches of Atlantic City. Beachgoers rushed into the surf to claim bottles of whiskey floating in the water. Even if there never was a storm to later destroy that very boardwalk, this was metaphorical overkill. Using the past to say something about the present is inherently unfair. It's a dirty trick, the vain task whereby winners rewrite history according to their own impulses. Sure, Al Capone is still a disgusting gangster, and women weren't getting the diaphragms they justly deserved. But really, that can mean nothing to us now.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in an undisclosed location. He last wrote in these pages about the Showtime series Dexter. You can find an archive of his writing on This Recording here.

"Something In Between" - The Phoenix Foundation (mp3)

"If You Have To Leave" - The Phoenix Foundation (mp3)