Quantcast

Video of the Day

Masthead

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

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen
(e-mail)

Reviews Editor
Ethan Peterson

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

Live and Active Affiliates
This area does not yet contain any content.

Entries in dick cheney (166)

Monday
May082017

In Which The News Of The Day Remains Poor

A Lonely Lie

by DICK CHENEY

Great News
creator Tracey Wigfield
NBC

Nothing short of a writer's strike could ever stop the people who work in television from making shows about themselves. These approximations/reflections had various levels of reality built into them until NBC's Great News, which concerns a local New Jersey newscast that does stories about homicides in Texas for some reason. Accepting this level of seriousness is pretty much de rigeur these days – imagine a television show being important to anyone outside of the people who star in it? – but it took me back to 1988.

I argued strongly and with visual aids of Dan Quayle's face on the head of a horse that I should have been the vice president on the 1988 presidential ticket. You see, Dan would spend most of his free time hate-watching Murphy Brown, the seminal CBS sitcom that in a way created all of us. He would post on the show's messageboards begging the creators to give investigative reporter Frank Fontana more screen time, or a spin-off called Fontana.

Candice Bergen did a service to every single person hovering around the age of 40 on this show. She was presented as a recovering alcoholic who later decided to have a baby in 1991, and a situation that was all completely fine. This state of affairs incensed Dan Quayle a lot. "Why would an attractive single woman have a baby?" he screeched, tearing his hair out and jutting his pelvis at me as if I were unsure how children were in fact produced.

Murphy Brown actually had a real job. In those halcyon days, Murphy Brown creator and all-around legend Diane English made it seem like people cared what the news reported. Granted, national newcasts did have a lot more weight when CBS was like one of seven channels you got on the air. Murphy had this beautiful office that had no windows, but it was still very cozy. I still don't understand why she had all these magazine covers on the wall; maybe she had a print background. All her coworkers were for the most part sexist assholes, but she just put them in her place. When she went home, she had this great house where she was sleeping with her cute house painter (Robert Pastorelli, predictably dead of a drug overdose in 2004) who hung around. I never really understood that relationship until my wife explained it to me.

Murphy Brown was actually referenced by Dan Quayle publicly in the 1992 presidential race, because he hated the idea of a woman having a child without a man that much. I guess he thought it was real or maybe just important, and it kind of was. Candice Bergen had just the right amount of toughness and grit to have a baby and keep on working her job. You had to admire her; also she was perfect in every conceivable aspect. She even wore pantsuits at home, even when she was just relaxing comfortably after a tough day.

Briga Heelan plays a producer named Katie in Great News. Her Jewish mother gets a job as an intern on her newscast, which leads to her shouting "Mom!" a lot when her mother screws up which piece of tape they should be running before air. Creator Tracey Wigfield does not really care how actual news is produced. Great News is more going for how it was revealed that the entire run of Newhart was just a dream of the character in The Bob Newhart Show. Despite being evidently Irish, Katie has a Jewish mother named Carol Wendelson, played by the Armenian-American comedian Andrea Martin.

Since the entire show is really about whatever Catholic upbringing Tracey Wigfield suffered through as a child, it would only have been appropriate for her to cast herself in the lead role. (As The Mindy Project showed, she is a fantastic comedic performer.) Looking back at 30 Rock, the insanely verbose show that Wigfield wrote with Tina Fey, I don't understand 60 percent of the jokes that were made in it. Like Great News, the show is about a talented woman who falls in love with her gruff but exasperating boss. This storyline has not aged well after Bill O'Reilly harassed all those women, and yet the topic of sexual harassment in the workplace is treated very lightly in Great News.

Nicole Richie plays one of the show's two anchors. All of her jokes are about what a terrible millennial she is, and most of her sentences end with a hashtag of some sort. An extremely recurring joke is that Richie's character, Portia Scott-Griffith, will say a word that has a double meaning for people of each generation. For young folks, it will mean the name of a rapper, but for older people it will represent a food product. Are you laughing, because if you are not, or if you do not know the name of every single working rapper today, you will not enjoy Great News.

As Dan Quayle feared, none of the women or men in Great News are married or are particularly concerned about their wives, husbands, girlfriends or boyfriends. "I'll never have a real relationship," Katie tells her mother as she goes through the e-mails of a guy who is living in her apartment for a week, even though Briga Heelan herself is married with a kid. This is how you know that Great News is someone's nightmare – there is no chance of any of these fictional characters reproducing or caring for children, which maybe is for the best. They are a lot more invested in topics like a bear rampaging through Central Park or the comfort of hugging your mother in the workplace when you feel sorta down.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. You can find an archive of his writing in these pages here.


Monday
May012017

In Which We Live To Be Struck Down By Puritans

Snowglobe

by DICK CHENEY

The Handmaid's Tale
creator Bruce Miller
Hulu

Perhaps some day we will know the true story of what happened on the inside of Elisabeth Moss' marriage to Fred Armisen. The pet names, the sex, the types of sex, the frequency of sex, who prepared breakfast for who, who answered the door, kept the dog back from the mailman. Who stroked the hair of who. Who threw out the old bread, when Fred decided Elisabeth was maybe more boring than someone he could be excited by in a long term partner, when Elisabeth felt safe to criticize Fred's late nights, the smell of tequila on his breath, whether he smelled old, who was jealous, who showed it, who stopped the game, who started it again. Who fell out of love.

It feels like we will never know the real reasons that Offred (Elisabeth Moss) married her husband in The Handmaid's Tale. We are introduced to her family before all the events of the series happen in a scene where Offred, her husband Luke (O.T. Fagbenle) and her daughter (Jordana Blake) are watching the aquatic residents of an aquarium. It is an extremely well-trodden scene; it is meant to convey pair-bonding when there is no other connection between the people involved other than shared witness. It is the kind of empty stuff The Handmaid's Tale is full of; I never expected such a serious adaptation of Margaret Atwood's novel.

The real villains of The Handmaid's Tale are either Puritan values or modern American sexism. Neither is identified openly, because doing so would mean this is a real critique. It is not. Attacking the Puritans seems a broadside woefully out of date, given that any philosophy that allows individuals to survive in the wilderness without mass death should be admired for its efficacy. The English were really a very enterprising people overall.

Modern American sexism, too, bears no real relationship to what Offred discovers in the Republic of Gilead. In Gilead, the main vessels through which Offred experiences violence and discrimination are other women. She finds sympathetic companions in the men of her household, even though they are the only ones who hold any power. Offred never experiences catcalls, she is not objectified for her sexuality. She is used in her role because not very many women are capable of carrying children to term. The survival of the species is a far better reason for subjugation than "she looks hawt."

In her previous job, Offred explains that she was an "assistant books editor." This is her desk:

What naive scrumpet would seriously believe that this lifestyle could go on indefinitely without consequence? Offred's nostalgia for her old life seems entirely misplaced. Did she truly think that people would go on buying books and allowing her lifestyle to persist indefinitely? "The future is a fucking nightmare," proclaims one advertisement for the series, a statement which appears to refer to all elements of what is to come, including the ubiquity of Apple advertisements that subsidize your viewing of The Handmaid's Tale.

It has been several decades since The Handmaid's Tale was published, and Gilead is starting to not seem so bad in some ways. Yes, forced sex with her commander (Joseph Fiennes) is a drag, but at least she has a supportive community of other women who are going through the same thing. Alexis Bledel steals the show as Ofglen, a lesbian molecular biology professor who, you guessed it, talks very much. Bledel and Moss have an on-set competition going on as to which one of their respective eyeballs can protrude more prominently into the mise-en-scene. Moss wins pretty much every time.

It is kind of sad to see an actress who usually plays such prominent feminist characters reduced to romping meekly through each scene, although I guess this is sort of the point. In one particularly boring moment, Offred plays Scrabble with her commander. They shake hands afterwards, but instead of feeling bewildered by the interaction, as we are meant to, we merely start to judge Offred for feeling upset and rebellious towards all of this. I mean, when I think of how much her attic room would cost to rent if it were an apartment in New York, I want to cry. She doesn't pay for food or utilities, either. Is there any way we can all be transported to this dystopian future?

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is the author of your current dystopian present.


Thursday
Apr202017

In Which Studio Ghibli Is A Top Priority This Spring

Family Time

by DICK CHENEY

Grandchildren are absolute garbage except if you are a younger-type dog. If you are older, dog or man, they do nothing but create noise. In order to sedate them during the week their parents are in Turks and Caicos, my wife Lynne has been screening the films of the Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli. I have been complaining throughout, although these empty days allow me to create content that you will enjoy. Here are my reviews of all the movies I have been forced to watch.

Castle in the Sky

The obsession with blimps begins in this first Ghibli feature, which concerns a militia pursuing powerful ancient technology that is carried around a little girl's neck. The animation was rough in parts and Castle starts with two excruciatingly long action sequences in order not to lose the kids' attention. The main female character was acting a lot younger than her age, which I guess made sense because she was a princess. James Van Der Beek turns in one hell of a performance as a tiny little boy in the English dub. I really wasn't too keen on this overall – too much of it came across as feel good nonsense to keep the audience from falling asleep. The sheer number of guns on hand was also quite shocking. C+

The Castle of Cagliostro

This predated Studio Ghibli. Really neat island setting that Miyazaki would return to. The dialogue is proto-Palladino and fun to listen to given that the basic plot is darker and more serious than most Ghibli films. Lots of nods to Miyazaki's own influences, and the feeling of a madcap caper. Could conceivably be a decent live-action movie without many changes, which you can't really say for many of these. Ultimately there was not a whole lot going on and I was bored halfway through, but a great example of how style can triumph over substance. B

Princess Mononoke

Art direction is majorly improved here. The long scenes in the forest are just gorgeous, while the relationships and setting are relatively underdeveloped in comparison. Maybe the most Japanese feeling of his movies due to the various references to Kurosawa and others. The titular female character is a bit sedate, but Miyazaki compensates through the presence of a much more entertaining antagonist. Really cool setup where you have three groups and none are completely wrong, they simply have different views. It's hard to think of another movie which is anything like that. Some great action and jaw-dropping scale, but the character work was noticeably weak. B-

Only Yesterday

Two hours of watching a 28 year old single woman apologizing for who she is. It's all explained eventually when she flashes back to her father slapping her. "He only did it the once," she cries out, in what may be her final lie. Some really great dark stuff here that you don't see in a lot of movies period, let alone animated ones. It was a little heavy-handed on the proletariat brainwashing, but maybe I just have an aversion to the idea that farmers are closer to nature than the rest of us. But who cares? This is a timeless message, that we can love ourselves and others at any time, and in doing so change our lives for the better. A+

Kiki's Delivery Service

Good god was this fantastic. Complete waterworks from everyone in the room. Imagine you had a cat you could talk to and one day it stopped talking to you just because you sucked. That actually happens here. Kirsten Dunst is excellent in the dub, and you really feel for this witch. It sort of avoids a stretch where it could have feasibly considered some more mature topics, but who cares? The city by the sea (Stockholm?) is such a lively setting and every single tiny house is a palace in my black heart. A better ending would have ascended this to Miyazaki's very best. A

Whisper of the Heart

Miyazaki wrote this for his protege, who promptly died from overwork. Ironically the teenage female protagonist falls asleep at her desk from pushing too hard on her novel. At times this young woman was genuinely unlikable and her ambition to write a story seems to come out of nowhere. She meets a guy who is a decent violin maker, and suddenly she is so jealous she can't shut up about herself. Just intolerable. Tokyo also looks like fresh hell, but a city has never been more realistically depicted in any medium. The scenes with an older man were kind of creepy, but I guess it's Japan so everyone magically becomes Santa Claus once they turn 60. As much shit as I could talk about it, the family dynamic is stupendous and the movie really stays with you. B+

My Neighbor Tortoro

Easily the best opening sequence of anything ever, after which it kind of falls apart. The neglectful father lets his children wander off, twice, and they're so ill-raised that they trust a furry beast who lives in their nearby woods. At least the girls take care of themselves and don't need some boy to promise to protect them. Art direction was incredible, stupendous, but there really is not much there, there. I admit I cried at times, but there is a weird coldness to this, like Miyazaki really wasn't connecting with these people and maybe even loathed them on some level. A-

Pom Poko

What a crazy movie. A prolonged, unnecessary voiceover explains the encroachment of the suburbia on the lovely habitat of a group of racoon dogs. The environmental message was left on deaf ears with me, and showing kids all those raccoon testicles was beyond the pale. At the same time you can't help but be astonished at the amount of work that went into animating this fucker, which is Isao Takahata's masterpiece. No fear at all about making a super-depressing movie: almost no one is ever happy, families break-up, heroes get all their bones broken or are left dead in the road. I can't even believe this was a cartoon. A

Howl's Moving Castle

Easily the worst thing Ghibli ever did. A boring local woman convinces herself that a witch cast a spell on her to make her look like she is 75. Feeling useless, she wanders into a castle and nominates herself to clean it. The concept of the elastic living space was completely overdone way before this, and Miyazaki has nothing really to add to it. The plot makes very little sense from any angle, and if you just view it as an art piece, the various cinematography and art direction is nowhere near good enough to carry the action. A complete waste of time unless you're on mushrooms. C-

Spirited Away

An extremely annoying main character becomes slightly less annoying by rescuing her parents from the spirit world. Sen, as she starts to call herself, is embarassingly immature for her age. Lots of great details in the diegesis you can watch again and again; can't even imagine how much work went into this. They were on the verge of some more interesting themes here that were sorted out in future films. An amazing achievement but is it on the level of a bunch of other movies which made me care a whole lot more? No. B

The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

The monster that created this disturbing fable was Mr. Takahata. I was not a huge fan of the animation, but it worked for the subject matter. I appreciated the fact that everything in this was completely screwed up and unsalvageable; however there is something innately frustrating about watching people who do nothing to help themselves. I would not watch it again except by force. B+

Ponyo

There can never be enough movies about how wonderful your mother is. The concept of a five year old boy falling in love seems a little odd until you realize it was a substitution for the love denied him by his father. At the end he and his girlfriend's father also have this weird handshake that I loved. The water-flooded town was so much fun, this movie could have easily been like six hours and I would not have gotten bored at all. A

The Secret World of Arriety

You really never go wrong with tiny people, it is simply always great. This sick wimp goes to visit his grandmother, who has this really mean servant who lives in a cute apartment near the house. When the servant finds out there is someone lower than her, and it's tiny people in the walls (!) she goes crazy, which actually makes sense, because they are living in a nicer domicile than she herself. A lot more could have been done with the concept but since Miyazaki was working off a book adaptation they don't really get much farther than the basic theme of how much we can trust even the people who are closest to us. A-

We also watched Ice Age: Collision Course. It starred Neil deGrasse Tyson as a weasel.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.