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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

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Entries in dick cheney (135)

Monday
Mar142016

In Which The Son Of The God's Enemy Shoots Your Photography

Subsumed By It

by DICK CHENEY

Damien
creator Glen Mazzara
A&E

The antichrist is a photographer. I can continue. No, I can keep going. An African-American woman befriends the antichrist, and he is noncomittal. He doesn't really know if he wants a relationship with her (she is also a photographer, but not as good a photographer as the antichrist).

Bradley James plays the antichrist in Damien. When he squishes his face together (he does this when he is thinking, or as he terms it, thanking, since his American accent is not the best) he looks like a pigeon defecating on someone's leather jacket.

Damien goes to visit a biblical scholar who his adopted father consulted about him. The man tells the antichrist to seek Jesus, and he grumpily responds, "Well this was a waste of time." The scholar is eaten by dogs, rottweilers presumably possessed by Satan. I would have found it a lot scarier if they were schnauzers.

The scariest movie of last year was It Follows, which ended horror by making it so the most frightening thing you could think of was a person walking towards you. Satan can't compare to that, but Damien's black friend is swallowed by a conveniently timed sinkhole. He is distressed by so much morbidity, and calls the cops to take the body away.

Fortunately, this mediocre photographer has a sister. Comparing the looks of the two of them is a useless task, each is perfect where her rival fails. They bond over the death of the more appealing one (Tiffany Himes RIP), who I presume will eventually return to the show as a sex slave to Satan, since why not.

Damien wants to get back to Syria; he is going to take a bunch of pictures of a ghetto there. When bad things happen, he does not intervene, preferring to snap as many cute pics as he can on his camera. He only shoots film, since I cannot imagine a bigger waste of time, and it is all he has.

To get back into this awful country he enlists the help of Ann Rutledge (Barbara Hershey). I don't know what has happened to Ms. Hershey since I saw her last. It is a little offensive that her age is used to accentuate her inherent villainy. Still, she succeeds at playing a great deal younger than her actual years: she is IRL almost 70. The irony that she once played Mary Magdalene is subsumed by the caked-on makeup she is wearing here.

That is it — the entire show. Damien eventually will embrace his nature, but he will not able to manage this around any convincing characters and in any kind of satisfying or dynamic way. I doubt this show even makes it to a second season, since its idea of fun is a creepy old woman appearing in a lot of Damien's photographs.

Any story about the antichrist needs Jesus, God and the rest of it. Damien reminds me that we have never really had a worthy Jesus television series. At the age of 30, it emerges, the man started his church, and it is implied Damien could manage the same. The casting of Jesus as the antagonist in Damien is a touchy subject. Most of us want him to be played by Daniel Radcliffe, since he has nothing else to do except to lick his lips when he smells baked cod.

The devil offers no credible alternative to Christianity. He is more an avatar of atheism, feeding on a nonbelief which eschews faith as a silly leap of logic. There are many people whose advanced knowledge of the world around them amazes me, and chief among that group is Richard Dawkins. Just ask yourself — what does Richard Dawkins really want, besides to tawk about himself constantly at every opportunity? To restore Satan to his rightful throne on Earth.

In the end, though, the best Satan could manage, when it came time to bring the world to its knees, was the services of a photographer. I mean, what's next, a blogger becomes vice president of the United States?

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. He is a writer living in an undisclosed location.

"Waiting" - Sarha Bialy (mp3)

Monday
Mar072016

In Which Catherine Durant Remains A Beautiful Human Being

This review contains mild spoilers for only the first six episodes in House of Cards' fourth season.

The Only Thing That Would Make Francis Underwood Happy

by DICK CHENEY

House of Cards
creator Beau Willimon

Ronald Reagan's first wife was Jane Wyman. She was a better actor than he was by leaps and bounds; she was a more natural Republican, too. She starred in this one Douglas Sirk movie I can never forget. She wanted to be with her gardener. I mean, he wasn't just a gardener, he had like a degree in horticulture. Also he looked like Rock Hudson.

Her family really pressured her that this man wasn't good enough for her. (The same thing happened to Claire Underwood on House of Cards, which is why I'm explaining this Douglas Sirk yarn to you now.) So she breaks it off with Rock, and she is real sad about how things went down. Her kids want to cheer her up, so they wheel this television into her room. And she says, "I had Rock Hudson, and you made me send him away. Now you're giving me an RCA?"

Fortunately it is not too late: she can always go back to him. House of Cards would have been a great project for Douglas Sirk. It is so obvious that the fourth season of this Netflix series is being masterminded by a scriptwriter, because this show would be no different in its substance if it were staged as a radio play. Budgets have clearly been scaled back; even the cast seems incredibly small. Most scenes are rendered in an utterly drab fashion, shot in low light in order to accentuate the clandestine nature of events.

Once again Robin Wright herself directs quite a few episodes. She has a great eye for the pulse of a crowd, the way that individuals form groups. She works to contrast that with the private exchanges involved in the feud between herself and domineering husband Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey) that came to a breaking point at the end of the last season. The Underwood character has been pushed to its limits and there is really no hope of redemption at this point without making him seem weak, so House of Cards focuses on Wright's First Lady+ character almost exclusively.

Accompanying these two mainstays is one debut of any significance, which makes the show feel a little repetitive of past seasons at times. The inclusion of Neve Campbell in House of Cards as the Underwoods' campaign manager LeAnn is a welcome sight on its own. Campbell is a reserved performer who can play several emotions required of this role quite easily: secrecy, confusion, and an understated sex appeal that could explode at any moment. She introduces the Underwoods to a data scientist named Aidan (Damian Young) in the most underwhelming subplot of its time.

Claire uses LeAnn as a tool to further her own ends, and this season of House of Cards is mostly about how she makes everyone else do her bidding. Dressed in a vanilla blouse for a good 96% of her scenes , Claire is not given the chance to prove she is a human being, which is just as well. Her relationship with her mother Elizabeth (Ellen Burstyn) the only attempt to make her slightly more sympathetic, but we are not really fooled – their debates are something like witnessing a fight between two kaijus.

The first half of this season concerns how the Underwoods dispose of their chief rival to the Democratic nomination, Heather Dunbar (Elizabeth Marvel). Last season Dunbar was the principled opposition with a commanding lead. Watching Francis and Claire transform her from political Supreme Court justice to convention afterthought is as satisfying as it is unlikely, and Beau Willimon imbues her with none of the charisma or craftiness she had when she debuted on the scene. She sort of fades away here for no real reason.

In her place is Underwood's opponent in the general election, the Republican governor of New York (?) Rob Conway (Joel Kinnaman) and his wife Hannah (Dominique McEligott). I will have more to say about them at a later date, but I am not happy.

House of Cards has already had so many eventful moments that it would not even shock us now to watch President Underwood commit mass murder. He cannot feasibly silence his enemies that way now – they have grown too numerous, and in the case of Claire she knows him too completely for that. The show tries to make Francis as canny as he was in the past, but it is much less interesting watching Underwood try to be a good president, since we could not believe that he did all these awful things to fail at his job.

In order to prove that he needs her on board, Claire leaks a photo of Francis' father posing next to the leader of the KKK, and the next day he addresses a black church on the subject. Thereafter it is painful to watch the producers position young black men and women in the audience of Francis' rallies and speeches. Francis Underwood's relationship with actual African-Americans is confined to a throwaway scene between Francis and a member of the White House staff.

Frank's relationship with a Texas congresswoman Doris Jones (Cicely Tyson) from Claire's district and her daughter never really gets more in depth than a minute-long meal. Claire plans to supplant Jones' daughter as her successor, and the congresswoman agrees to the insult in order to fund an abortion clinic in her area. The latter comes to pass but not the former, although we never see Tyson or her daughter again. House of Cards' African-American characters are alternately humbled, angry or reduced. They never get any kind of satisfying revenge or action — instead they recede into the flow of events with a frown on their faces.

House of Cards' major black protagonist throughout has been Remy Danton. He is maybe the best performer on the entire show, but he does not get more than a few token scenes here — in one, all that happens is that he cannot find any gas for his car. "You don't care about money," someone says to him at one point, an allegation that seems hollow given Danton's background on the series. Danton tries to protect his girlfriend Jackie Sharp (Molly Parker) from Francis but he never gets a scene with either of the Underwoods – he has to deal exclusively with the woman who replaced him. 

Beau Willimon is fantastic when it comes to pushing the breakneck speed and chaos of a presidential election forward, and that momentum sustains House of Cards even when its developments appear asinine or unlikely. There is no great showpiece episode or storyline, nothing that will make anyone's jaw drop ensconsced in this set of scripts, but Willimon is a good enough writer to pull off the demands of a serial with smoke and mirrors.

After completing this iteration of House of Cards there is an empty feeling. The world of politics, Mr. Willimon suggests, is an empty, turgid place with no consequences for the citizens or the people perpetuating the crimes. I do not believe that this is really how things are in Washington, but Willimon's exaggeration of the malicious tendencies of certain elements in our political class remains instructive. The tone in this House of Cards marks a more serious shift; there is a lessening of the vicarious thrill we might have shared in the Underwoods' tactics, which seamlessly blend into the general malaise. There is no such thing as too many cautionary tales.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. He would like to dedicate this essay and all further essais to the memory of Nancy Reagan.

"All the Ways" - Wet (mp3)

"Small and Silver" - Wet (mp3)

Monday
Feb292016

In Which We Strive To Be Outside The Thing That Thinks

The Culture Wars In Reverse

by DICK CHENEY

The 1960s and 1970s were a garbage time and place to be a part of. You had to choose a side in this war of bad color schemes, scarves worn in exactly the wrong places, and the all-encompassing scent of B.O. On one side stood an ungrateful bunch of wretches who had not really done any work, but listed the things they expected their country to provide for them. On the other side were a bunch of sexist racists who inhabited the power structure and were like, "What was really wrong with how things were when women and blacks were casualties of a quintessential maleless that was everpresent, like the wind?" 

Well, now that power structure has been dismantled. The most important person in our foreign policy has largely been a woman for seventy percent of the last two decades, and for eight years we have enjoyed the gentlemanly, paranoid camaraderie of an African-American policy wonk in the Oval Office. Nobody in their right mind would say that the last eight years were a nightmare; neither did they represent a renaissance. We stood pat. Unfortunately our hand was not all that great.

Now one maniac has a basic platform. Let's go back to how things were, let's make America gr8 again. The WGN series Outsiders concerns the white people who settled on a mountain in Kentucky more than a century ago, and a corporation which wants to remove them from their home. They know exactly what Mr. Trump is talking about.

All property is rightfully possessed by those with the will to defend it. None of the police officers in Blackburg, Kentucky want to go up to that mountain and lead an eviction of these primitive folks who call themselves the Farrells. This crazy inbred tribe brew moonshine; it is not entirely clear how they supply themselves with food. They are led by a man named Foster (David Morse) and his mother Ray (Phyllis Somerville), who looks like a granola bar.

At times Hillary Clinton lapses into a disturbing Southern accent. She cannot help being something of a fake, of being the sort of person who tells everyone she meets exactly what they want to hear, because this is the primary tact of her two main competitors in obtaining the presidency. Say what you want about Mr. Obama, but he always said what he thought he could get away with, and if you didn't like it, he did not really care.

That is two types of people. Whites are becoming a majority; white males even more so. America's population is becoming urbanized and weak, feeble like the sheriff in Blacksburg, an Oxycontin addict played by the marvelous New Zealand actor Thomas M. Wright. A man is not a man, now. Donald Trump is not even a man. Look at photographs of him when he was younger: he looks like Patrick Bateman crossed with William F. Buckley wearing a condom on his head.

Ronald Reagan was not exactly a man's man either. You have to go back a long way to find someone who was a man's man in the Oval Office. I used to think Donald Rumsfeld had balls, but then he focused his energies on making a card game app, and I started writing for This Recording because I wanted to seem cool and because I had a lot of jokes about Matthew Fox that I felt needed telling. When I looked down in the shower on Friday I couldn't see either a penis or balls. I was bare as a mannikin down there. 

Thomas Wright's police offer becomes the sheriff under unusual circumstances. The previous sheriff took him on the Farrells' mountain. His foot became caught in a bear trap, and he fell, where another trap snapped his head off. Outsiders showed this unlikely death, and since I am not a real man, I almost cried. 

Even the men on Outsiders, grizzled as they are, spend the vast majority of their time worried about what women think of their actions and behavior. It is less of a patriarchal society on Hick Mountain than you could expect. A ruling council is led and filled by women, though the men do not always obey. Outsiders is the best thing WGN has ever brought to air, but it may hit a bit too close to home.

I watched a movie the other day that I hoped would place some gristle in my private parts. It is called The Survivalist. It is about a man's man (Martin McCann) who lives on a little farm long after people have run out of oil and other fossil fuels which sustain our current way of life. He is doing fine by himself living in the cutest cabin until two women saunter into his garden. Naturally, the women are his complete undoing. The younger one (Mia Goth) has no eyebrows and offers to have sex with him for food. 

He accepts naturally, and he becomes incredibly soft. He only has eyes for Mia Goth. He is perhaps unaware of all the filthy things Shia LaBoeuf did to her in the context of what Shia calls a romantic relationship. Not even Shia LaBoeuf is a real man, for a real man only knows what a mirror is when he hears other people talking about it or when he uses the bathroom at the mall.

As you can see this essai has gotten away from me. When I began it, my goal was to prove that this was the culture wars in reverse: an aggrieved white minority wants to return to an idyllic past while a multicultural majority wants to suppress what they believe are disturbed values.

But as I was proving this by reviewing a TV show that airs on WGN and movie that went straight to OnDemand, I realized that in order for a culture war to exist, there actually has to be a culture. There is nothing Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton can actually do to change America in any discernible way. The only way they can alter the nation is by saying things that make people angry. Then perhaps those individuals will go and do things to alter the flow of events. 

The last important decision made by a president was made by a real man, Lyndon Johnson. It was the wrong decision, and we kept fighting the war in Vietnam. I say 'we', of course I had no desire to get anywhere near this shitshow. A president is not going to do anything, and anybody that tells you differently just doesn't understand the world. 

More importance is attached to that thing in our brain which thinks. That is what we are, and to make a culture, a bunch of people have to think a lot of different things. Someone asked me the other day who I thought the most important man in America was. It was a good question, possibly a query without a real answer. But then it came to me: there are no men left except for Robin Thicke, so I guess the answer is, him by default?

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

"Millionaire" - Thao Nguyen & the Get Down Stay Down (mp3)