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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 eleanor morrow (67)

Friday
Jun232017

In Which We Seriously Miss Megan Fox At This Time

Operation: Enduring Freedom

by ELEANOR MORROW

Transformers: The Last Knight
dir. Michael Bay
149 minutes

There is a scene smack-dab in the middle of Transformers: The Last Knight where Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) is sitting in a room opposite Oxford professor Viviane Wembley (Laura Haddock) for around two minutes. That is how long it takes for him to refer to her attire as "stripper-wear" because she was showing maybe an inch of her breasts. That no one has thought to arrest Michael Bay and put him in jail for this is a testament to the enduring freedoms possible in our country.

In all other ways, Mr. Bay informs us at length, Dr. Wembley is a piece of shit. Even though she appears to be a tenured professor, she also gives tours at a local museum. She informs her tour group that the Knights of the Round Table probably never existed, which is quite the statement. Dr. Wembley is proved to be an academic fraud shortly after she was objectified by a man she did not even know. Subsequently, we learn her only purpose for being in the film is that she is the only one able to grip a long wooden shaft.

The rest of Transformers: The Last Knight makes a lot more sense, except the parts that don't. Take one subplot involving Seymour Simmons (John Turturro). Simmons appears in two scenes in Transformers: The Last Knight. Both of these scenes take place by telephone – Turturro literally got paid to stand next to a phone and talk to Anthony Hopkins for a few minutes. Why was he in Transformers: The Last Knight? I don't know, is it weird every single woman in these movies is a carbon copy of Megan Fox at different ages? Yes.

At the beginning of Transformers: The Last Knight, Cade Yeager finds a fifteen-year old Peruvian girl (Isabela Moner) in the wreckage surrounding Wrigley Field. He calls her "bro" and allows her to stay in his house. Much later, she hides aboard a dropship, unnoticed by a platoon of soldiers in order to follow Cade Yeager into the upper atmosphere. And that's it. That is her entire role in the movie. I don't know, is it weird that the way we are introduced to Dr. Wembley occurs when she careens into a bunch of bicycles with a car because she can't handle the challenges of an automobile?

In another scene, Anthony Hopkins is trying to evacuate an old Navy submarine that is held in a museum. He screams, "Get moving fat boy!" when one of the tourists does not vacate the premises as quickly as he would like. But why stop there? Why not just bring racial slurs back into vogue, Michael Bay? It certainly would have livened up the proceedings. Without ever having met Michael Bay, is it not terribly hard to conclude he is the dumbest piece of shit of all time. Transformers: The Last Knight features the long awaited return of the ghetto Transformer, who speaks in an African-American dialect siphoned from landmark films like Do the Right Thing and Scary Movie.

Cade Yeager and Dr. Wembley pilot a submarine into a ship buried off the coast of England. Although it is at the bottom of the ocean, there is no depressurization whatsoever as they return to the surface. I don't know why, but this bothered me more than anything else in Transformers: The Last Knight. The cast heads from underwater to Stonehenge, where they have learned the Earth's ancestral name was Unicron, and that the Earth's crust conceals a massive organism beneath the surface. Despite teasing this early on, Bay saves this plot development for a future movie he has promised not to direct.

The worst part of Transformers: The Last Knight, besides the lack of plot of any kind, is the humor. Since the characters have zero pre-existing relationships, it is painful to hear them joke with one another. Particularly cringe-worthy is a transforming butler voiced by Jim Carter responsible for the major comic relief. He is more like a physical manifestation of Michael Bay telling us what we should be laughing at in each scene of the movie. After Anthony Hopkins dies at Stonehenge, the butler explains that of all the lords he served, "you were by far the coolest." Michael Bay hasn't changed since the moment he walked out of The Goonies in 1985.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording.

Monday
Jun192017

In Which Rachel Reminds Us Of Ourselves

Where to Begin

by ELEANOR MORROW

My Cousin Rachel
dir. Roger Michell
103 minutes

As the only woman to successfully consummate a relationship with both Daniel Craig and Darren Aronofsky, Rachel Weisz has so much to teach us. So as not to be overwhelmed with her outstanding Rachelness, we never linger on her trademarked self-possession too long in My Cousin Rachel, Roger Michell's adaptation of a dull Daphne du Maurier novel. Her scenes are all flitting, finding her dashing in or out of a room. She is continuously interrupted by the son (Phillip) of her now deceased husband Ambrose.

Sam Claiflin (Me Before You) portrays Philip as an immature, coddled orphan who idolized the father who adopted him after his mother perished. When Ambrose develops a serious brain tumor, he packs off to Italy where he meets his wife. Since Ambrose lives in the most glorious part of England one can ever imagine, this choice seems a bit bizarre; then again, no one can ever properly account for the tastes of the English.

As a local woman obsessed with Philip, Holliday Grainger steals the show in My Cousin Rachel. She disapproves of Philip's stepmother, and after Rachel arrives in England, she and her father/Philip's godfather Nick (Iain Glen) do everything they can to persuade Philip that his stepmother is a freespending, manipulative malingerer who only wishes to deprive him of his considerable fortune. "You are very lucky," Nick tells Philip, since he has so much money he can give it to Rachel freely and without any caution.

Philip's father abandoned the entire concept of women to care for his son, and Philip took up his father's example. It is not so terribly difficult for Sam Claiflin to act like a eunuch and virgin – he always look vaguely pent-up and constipated in himself. Whenever he plays concern or caution, he tenses up his cheekbones, giving his countenance the look of a castrated horse. Out of kindness, Rachel throws him a fuck one night since he reminds her of Ambrose.

This turns out to be a very serious mistake, since afterwards Philip expects more sex. This results in a very uncomfortable scene where Rachel lies motionless in a garden of bluebells while her stepson penetrates her missionary-style. It is the only really good look we get at Rachel in My Cousin Rachel, and what a harrowing moment it is. 

The idea that the blind assumptions of men about women are more likely to bring about feminine doom rather than patriarchal instability is a funny one. Roger Michell, who wrote the adaptation of the novel as well as directed My Cousin Rachel, expands on this idea and tries to make it work onscreen in a new way. He succeeds completely, and the film becomes a dreary, upsetting portrait of unhappiness.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording.


Friday
Jun162017

In Which We Serve The Mistress A Margarita

Sleeping Beauty

by ELEANOR MORROW

Lady Macbeth
dir. William Oldroyd
83 minutes

Is there ever a decently plausible explanation for doing something evil? Every single immoral act that Katherine (Florence Pugh) commits during the short running time of Lady Macbeth has a justification that is very moral indeed. It is difficult to imagine Lady Macbeth as a sympathetic character, and yet giving the ostensible reasons for her behavior is the basic task of the not-so-surprising events of this film concerning what the West identifies as the Russian way of life.

It is a great time to begin understanding Russia, only not really, since it is the single least rewarding area of study left to the West. Privileged and humanist, Europe can never see their Eastern neighbors clearly, and from America this nation seems only a dark, abiding, inextinguishable, blurry flame. Katherine is married off to the son of a wealthy Russian landowner many years her senior. Her new husband Alexander (Paul Hilton) has no interest in her at all; later we learn he was in love with someone else. He never tells Katherine this, or much of anything, and this rejection on its most basic level is her first and most significant experience of profound disappointment.

Katherine has no one to commiserate with, least of all her black servant Anna (Naomi Ackie) who has been reduced by fear of her masters. Florence Pugh, after only a tantalizing few roles onscreen, has already addressed herself as one of the most appealing British actresses working today. The point she is making in Lady Macbeth is that she is just as fearless as her character, and her various bouts in the nude as well as extensive lovemaking sequences demonstrate this fact. Her blend of androgyny and raw sexual angst is more than a novelty.

Only there is nothing much erotic about Lady Macbeth. With her husband away, Katherine quickly begins a complex relationship with a snotty servant named Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis). When her father-in-law discovers the infidelity, he does nothing to Katherine except a slap, informing her that he cannot even look at her. There is the constant suggestion of the past that lies between the characters, but playwright Alice Burch leaves so much to our imagination that at times it seems a shame that there is so little space in the diegesis to ponder Lady Macbeth's tight mysteries.

Her father-in-law Boris (the wild-looking Christopher Fairbank) refuses to release her lover from confinement, so Katherine poisons him. Anna is driven mute by this act of violence – someone she thought helpless has murdered the most important person in her world, and she never does come to terms with that. After she gains her freedom, Katherine arranges her life in as pleasant a fashion as she can imagine; only she cannot picture much in the way of happiness, since her experiences so far in life have been unpleasant. Katherine is alone as the lady of the house for only moments.

The estate itself is rarely depicted, and we acquire no greater sense of the hierarchy or rules at play in Katherine's world. A bizarre, creepy egalitarianism pervades the manor, and this lack of order is no more evident than when Katherine finds a few of the grooms torturing Anna in the stables for their amusement. Instead of identifying their crime, which she is unable to manage because she no longer has a working concept of right and wrong, she scolds them for wasting her husband's money and time.

Directer William Oldroyd lingers on the faces of his performers at great length, attempting to give a sense of the drama merely through reaction shots. Pugh herself has a terrifically expressive face that suits this choice, but the other actors in Lady Macbeth offer very little in contrast to her oversized presence. It is damn near impossible to keep up. As an allegory, this concept of self-determination seems a valuable one. It is only important for a person without state or property to be something, Birch seems to be explaining in this adaptation of the 1865 Nikolai Leskov novella, and what the thing is remains less important than that it is. Presenting this as a cultural difference is spin city, but you have to admire the effort.

During Oliver Stone's embarrassing, fawning hagiographies of Vladimir Putin, we learned that nothing has changed when it comes to our considerable ignorance of any other continent. Lady Macbeth is more along the lines of Stone's blind searching for equivalence than careful analysis of history, but Pugh saves the entire attempt with the furtive wildness in her eyes and laugh. It is always a thrill to see someone with enough good sense to set themselves free.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording.