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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

Not really talking about women, just Diane

Felicity's disguise

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Entries in dick cheney (161)

Monday
Dec192016

In Which Lee Daniels Bases All His Characters On Sean Penn

To Sing

by DICK CHENEY

Star
creators Lee Daniels & Tom Donaghy
Fox

From the moment Queen Latifah opened Lee Daniels' new show Star with her throaty voiceover I was in love. My wife Lynne won't let me watch Empire anymore because she says that it only feeds into the stereotypes the media creates about the lifestyles of African-Americans. Since Star has a white lead — its titular character portrayed by Jude Demorest — she allows me to view the show as long as I close my eyes whenever a person of color is committing a crime.

This happens fairly early on in the series. Star walks in on some older fellow sexually assaulting her half-sister Simone (the actress most likely to become an actual star out of this show, Brittany O'Grady). Star indicates Simone should be quiet while she goes downstairs to secure one of the largest knives I have seen since the late 1980s. Her first murder is easy.

Star explains that she plans to move her and Simone to Atlanta from Pittsburgh. They stop in New York and pick up an incredibly rich black woman named Alex (Ryan Destiny) on the way. Alex's dad is Lenny Kravitz, but a very annoying version of Lenny Kravitz. Things only get considerably more exciting from here, especially when Star screams, "I killed that man for us," while wearing the most distracting hoop earrings I can possibly think of.

If I was to explain the top five actors that enlarge my penis to approximately normal size, the list would be in no particular order Bryan Cranston, Benjamin Bratt, Queen Latifah, Khandi Alexander and Jimmy Smits. Star has two people on this list with the possibility of adding the full set down the road. When Latifah finally pops up on this show wearing a red wig and looking even more spectacular than I ever could have imagined, I immediately paused my viewing of Star and did a hot rewatch of Just Wright.

From the moment these three young starlets hit the stage, only one question comes to mind: Where is Benjamin Bratt? It turns out he is at a strip club in suburban Atlanta looking extremely tired. Star explains that his regular stripper has syphilis. He makes out with Star at his leisure and agrees to manage the band. 

Besides being a fantastic singer and despite being white, Star is also fantastic at hand-to-hand combat. When Queen Latifah finds out that Benjamin Bratt and Star made out, she shows up with a gun, informing him that her father maintained a woman only needed three things in life: your bible, your piece, and your word.

Despite this, Benjamin Bratt arranges for the ladies to perform at the birthday party of a white NFL linebacker. "Do you want to change our lives?" Star screams at her bandmates, I guess as a way of hyping up the whole experience. At the party, the NFL player wears a loose fitting white shirt and eyes Star like she holds a bevy of Hershey's kisses on her insides instead of organs. An hour later she lip-synchs a song about wanting to be a variety of different things.

Real talk, Empire was a little too soapy for me and I feel dirty whenever I am forced to view Terrence Howard in any context. Star is way better so far.

Now that Queen Latifah is back on series television for the first time in decades, I can finally debut my five part retrospective on her seminal situation comedy, Living Single. Included in my recollections will be screenshots from messageboard posts I made about various aspects of the show from 1995-1996. This was a very early time in the history of the internet, and I would troll Living Single fansites and try to get Kim Coles replaced because I didn't like looking at her face. On Living Single, Queen Latifah was the editor of a magazine called Flavor, and I have brought everything I know of it into my journalistic work.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

Monday
Dec122016

In Which We Become Brad Pitt At Great Cost

It's All Very Real

by DICK CHENEY

Allied
dir. Robert Zemeckis
124 minutes

It is an important human tradition that all great couples begin to resemble one another. Brad Pitt's eyes have slowly been rendered heavy-liddled; his skin hardening into a flat, slightly leathery carapace. The moment he sees Marion Cotillard he is mainly shocked that a person could look any different. "Now this is the part where I tell you I love you," she whispers to Pitt on a rooftop. The Canadian intelligence officer (these apparently exist) whose role Pitt inhabits in Allied is quite deliberate and cautious, but he has to be. If he perishes in Casablanca, Canada's contribution to the Second World War will be vanquished as well.

Just kidding, Canada, and I'm sorry that Trailer Park Boys became so awful, and thus your only contribution to civilization besides allowing a lot of television shows to be shot in Vancouver is now impotent. Even more sadly, Pitt never even attempts a Québécois accent. Pitt does speak a bit of French in Allied, and it never really makes too much sense that most of the characters speak English: switching back and forth only reminds us how inauthentic it all is.

The rumor, of course, was that Pitt cheated on his wife with Cotillard. Watching Allied you can be fairly certain that this was never the case. At one point Pitt kisses her on the forehead like a sweet friend that you maybe stick your penis into one night after work and then every time you see each other after that it's a little awkward, but the memory is hardly painful.

You never fucked a friend? Good. He never lets you forget it.

Allied was something far short of a box office smash. In fact it lost a substantial amount of money after you factor in the considerable marketing budget. Sometimes a movie will thrive on gossip, but no one really wanted to see these two older people in coitus, especially considering that we will never stop thinking about Brad yelling at his adopted children on their private plane.

Any movie about the past must tell us something about the present. The view of Nazism here is revoltingly casual; the war itself is a mere incidental background. The massacre of millions is nothing in light of the importance of the key romance here; despite that Pitt and Cotillard mostly seem exceedingly frosty to one another. The chemistry is not there at all, and director Robert Zemeckis (The Walk) is out of his depth trying to create it. Cotillard does have the capability of projecting an eminent sexuality, but Allied buttons her up way too much: she is at her most appealing when she is in the corner of the frame nowhere near the center, so elusive she might totally disappear if the wrong word is spoken, or the penis inserted in an unwelcome orifice.

What surrounds this misstep is no less dull. A period piece demands a certain sweeping music, and the score to Allied, by Alan Silvestri, comes across as more or less inchoate. The tone remains entirely off as Zemeckis vacillates between painfully bad scenes where the two senior citizens flirt with one another to supposedly tense moments while Pitt searches for a German official. The set design of Casablanca itself is a total mess — you never get any moment of foreignness, and there is absolutely no surprise here at all: Allied feels more like a Marlon Wayans-led satire of Lawrence of Arabia.

Cotillard gives birth in a somehwat unlikely scene with bombs falling in the background. Somehow Pitt has great personal wealth and the two settle down in England. Marion turns much softer then, and when Pitt wakes up next to her we understand how thrilling it is to have someone there for you, that you can touch at any time and who will touch you.

Marion makes a lot more sense as a dull English wife than a spy, but soon Pitt finds out she is probably working for the Germans and doesn't feel as attracted to her. Compounding the issue is that Marion never undresses for the sex scenes in Allied: the two consummate their marriage in this weird, fetishy, fully clothed wintercourse.

Neither of them feel very attached to the child, perhaps sensing on some level that it was the result of a faux union. The two relentlessly try to recreate their time in Morrocco, but it simply does not feel particularly right. Probably Marion would have just told her husband the truth in real life, but in this story she stays quiet even though Brad is super placid in this role, never once exploding in anger — just showing off some mild Canadian distaste.

It is ironic that the basic plot of Allied is that Brad suspects his wife, when he is actually the suspicious one. Why did Angelina dump this piece of garbage? The terms of the temporary custody agreement allowing Pitt access to his children are quite revealing: not only is he sentenced to a weekly therapy session with Los Angeles-based marriage counselor Ian Russ, he has to go with Angelina. This breakup, then, is in name only. He can never stop looking at her face, primarily because it is his own.

Brad also has to submit to drug and alcohol testing four times a month, which either should have gotten his lawyer fired, or is the measured consequence of the intense diet of cocaine, weed, and alcohol he samples in pursuit of a finer performance in his chosen profession. In Allied, the resulting exhibition is quite the tragic mess. Once we tire of the awkward interaction between the leads, Zemeckis introduces some peripheral characters to testify about the allegiance of Cotillard — one is a pained, squawking Lizzy Caplan who seems totally out of place in this retinue. God this was bad. Please don't see it. They probably should not have ever made a movie which required you to feel sympathy for Brad Pitt.

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.

Monday
Dec052016

In Which We Know Where The Maze Ends

What's Older Than Ed Harris?

by DICK CHENEY

Westworld
creators Lisa Joy & Jonathan Nolan
HBO

There's a moment near the end of the first season of Westworld when Ed Harris is shot in the arm from a very long distance. Blood spills out of the artery, and he is just overwhelmed with delight. He has never been so surprised in his entire life. The truth is he probably has been that shocked before, but he simply cannot remember it. The novelty of that bloody, unexpected injury is only a reminder of how he was hurt before.

Would you possibly be interested in hours and hours of this kind of dialogue? Androids talk to each other the same way the humans do on Westworld: in a boring, quasi-philosophical monotone. Having all the androids and most of the humans wear the same clothes/costumes for ten consecutive episodes was a great way of saving HBO money, but I grew to hate Jeffrey Wright's black suit and the suburban mom pants constantly worn by Evan Rachel Wood. She looks like a corpse flattened by a truck.

Westworld creators, the husband and wife team of Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan, spent the entire season sketching out the "mystery" of this garrulous place: it was primarily that one storyline was a flashback to the younger days of the park's owner, William (Ed Harris). (You will note this was also the basic premise of Lost.) All the viewers of Westworld figured this out rather quickly, so there is some question as to why this had to be veiled at all.

There was one other key mystery of the place, which is that a lot of people were androids who maybe didn't seem like it at first due to the various deceptions of the park's creator Ford (Anthony Hopkins). This led to a chilling scene in a basement and a few more ones in retrospect if you have the time to go back and watch the early episodes. (I'm retired, so I have that kind of freedom.) More and more people turned out to be androids as time went on. It was difficult to trust the death of anyone given that they could simply have created an android version of themselves to take the bullet, as probably occurred in this season's final scene.

We all knew where this completely dull show was going: eventually the androids would rebel and murder a lot of the humans. In last night's season finale, they did it, laughing and smiling the whole time. It was unclear why their murder spree was so joyful until we realized that it too was simply another storyline created by Ford. As Evan Rachel Wood opened fire on the executive board of Westworld, it was just another fake storyline — albeit one with real casualties.

The best part of Westworld's story, we found out last night, was also fake: the awakening of Maeve (Thandie Newton), who discovered she was an android and decided to leave the park. The story of one human being on a mission to destroy the world entire is always a strong plot, and she was supported in her mission by the completely charming Felix (Leonardo Nam). The fact that one murderous android was distinctly more sympathetic than another murderous android gave me a lot of pause.

No one ever made it very far past the basic concept of Westworld before. It is easy enough for machines to take over a space designed for them, with few modern weapons, that they have inhabited for 35 years. Keeping a rebellion going depends on substantial ingenuity, and the element of surprise would not really hurt either. Neither detail really plays much of a role here.

Along those lines, it is difficult for Westworld to come back for a second season with much of the same cast. The finale featured the hasty establishment of some new characters to replace the old — perhaps more significantly few of the park's owners and board members have actually been killed. Unlike most shows, we never really got terribly attached to any of these people/non-people to begin with.

It is a function of old age that people are always asking for advice. No one has ever seen a man like Donald Trump become president before; how could we possibly know what to expect no matter how long we have been alive? When my wife Lynne asks me if I should watch Westworld, I say no. Then she often asks why. I ask her if she has ever thought about whether the roomba that vacuums our living room ever wanted kids or engages in vigorous wishful thinking. After she says no, I tell her to watch The Crown.

 

Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.


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