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Frank in all directions

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais

Simply cannot go back to them

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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 dick cheney (139)


In Which We Wanted To Hold On To The Feeling

Be My Husband


creator Ronald D. Moore

This weekend's premiere of Outlander was the most fun I have had in years. Claire (Caitriona Balfe) returned from her time in Scotland during the mid-18th century and she was cranky as hell. The noise of airplanes and cars was absolutely disgusting to her, and she was astonished by the fashions of the 1948 season. After showing up in the middle of the street, she screamed at a passerby in order to find out who won World War II. Perhaps not surprisingly, she was left unsatisfied by the answer.

It got better from here. The husband she left behind in 1743 had a big penis (shockingly large IIRC) and impregnated her. So she tells her 1948 husband this, and at first he is all happy. Then you see his visage crumple as he realizes a number of key things: (1) he is sterile and (2) he is not the father of this child. His next move was most amusing: he balled up his fist like he was going to smash Claire's face in and looms over her. He backed off, but what a moment! I love this show.

It got better from here. Frank, her 1948 husband who is this douchy professor apparently prone to striking pregnant women heads into this old workshop that his buddy, a Scottish priest, has handy, and he's so angry that he smashes the entire place up. God Outlander is incredible; he was like this deranged guy feebly smashing boxes, and it went on for what felt like five whole minutes of just agony because his wife hadn't recovered from her ordeal in the few days he gave her to recuperate and acknowledge he was the most important individual in the world to her.

He gets with God and then returns to his wife for more tawking. It's obvious that she no longer cares for him. He tells her that he can give her time, but that they have to pretend the child is his. She agrees, and he burns all her old clothes. He asks her to move to Boston and she says yes to that too.

At that moment I knew this whole thing was bullshit or some kind of setup because a woman would never agree to move to Boston unless she had no other option. It got better from here. The setting shifts to France in the 1740s. Claire and her fertile ginger husband Jamie observe a man with smallpox coming in on a ship. Claire loudly shouts that she is a healer even though the man is already dead. They end up burning the entire vessel and its cargo, even though that seemed maybe somewhat excessive for one case of smallpox.

Claire is from the future, but unfortunately she knows very little about how to aid Jamie. She wants to prevent his people from being wiped out by the British, but she maybe glanced at a history textbook once ten years ago and forgot the rest. This is all well and good, but she could have aimed higher and stopped the Holocaust or the First World War. If you start actually thinking about this show it will make your head hurt.

There's actually a lot wrong with Outlander – the performances are not the best, and the soft lens they shoot everything with makes it look like Skinemax. But who cares, the B-movie feel to the proceedings just adds a certain flair missed from other dramas. The reason Outlander is so fucking great is because it does not shy away from going hard, verging on completely silly and overwrought. Most people would say a scene where a grown man flails about like a five year old just isn't realistic, but that is the brilliance of this entire endeavor. Outlander remains unafraid.

The world is likely flush with time travelers at this very moment. Most of them are trying to prevent Trump from becoming president; a select few were sent back to blackmail the press into giving Batman v. Superman bad reviews. This was a brilliant movie with a lot of subtext, and if you did not see it, at least google the scene where Superman slips it in Lois Lane (Amy Adams) while she's in the tub. I haven't been that turned on since I watched two lawyers who work for Paul Giamatti have really intense sex on Billions.

Someone once asked me whether or not all the things I write in my reviews are things I really believe, or if I am just exaggerating for pageviews. Hah hah. I am always serious unless I am talking about how Shonda Rimes' characters all talk and fuck the same. Then I am slightly tongue-in-cheek, but then again that is annoying. Especially the latter.

Outlander is my jam, but come April 24th I will be returning with my Game of Thrones reviews. I say reviews, but they will really be essais which weave in all the major events of our time: police brutality, my feelings on Ted Cruz's wonderful wife Heidi, the troubling rise of Russia, the anti-human rights legislation passed in the state of North Carolina, how I can't wait for Uncharted 4, and other such major news stories. I have gone on media blackout, since I want to experience it all fresh, knowing nothing, just like Terence Winter when he watches season two of Vinyl.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording. 



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

Subsumed By It


creator Glen Mazzara

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)


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


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)

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