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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 eleanor morrow (57)


In Which We Harken Back To A More Disturbing Epoch

Aging Well


Another Period
creators Natasha Leggero & Riki Lindhome

Once in a generation a television series comes along which obliterates everything that came before it. M.A.S.H. Seinfeld. Firefly. The character of the Jewish butler Mr. Peepers (Michael Ian Black) in Natasha Legero and Riki Lindhome's triumphant new series set in turn-of-the-century Newport, Rhode Island has never before been attempted, and it probably never will be again.

The ever-young Ian Black, 43, is an actor who has bounced from project to project without being taken seriously as a dramatic fulcrum. In Another Period, his essential Jewishness at first seems suppressed, only observable below the surface. He is invisible as a Hebrew to the member of the wealthy family he has so dutifully served for most of his life.

The Commodore (David Koechner) enlists Mr. Peepers to keep his secret: he is bringing his mistress (Christina Hendricks) onto the family's staff, both to create easy access for his selfish, cheating trysts, and to ensure that she does not get restless waiting for him to separate from his morphine addicted wife Dodo (Paget Brewster).

Making Paget Brewster look dowdy is the work of some various makeup, but Hendricks keeps things chaste as well. This leaves the real attention to two of the Bellacourt daughters, Another Period creators Leggero and Lindholm.

Lillian (a vampish yet subtle Leggero) is in an unhappy marriage to a gay man named Albert (David Wain). In Another Period's second episode, she plans to tell the police he has abused her in order to win a divorce. Her plan goes awry when they don't take spousal abuse seriously, and she is forced to confront the issue with her husband. He demands financial compensation for their separation — he will pretend to be dead so that she can remarry. In return, he gets to occupy a cute little house with his boyfriend Victor (Brian Huskey), who is married to Lillian's sister Beatrice (Riki Lindhome).

On the surface, you would think would all be played for laughs. There are moments of humor in Another Period, but there is also a deep pathos in the desperation the Bellacourt sisters feel, first because they are completely unhappy in their marriages, and secondly because the sexist society they inhabit seeks to keep them illiterate and insincere. Their sister Hortense (an unrecognizable Lauren Ash) is a suffragette who doesn't realize her sisters exemplify the downtrodden female status every bit as much as she does.

The Bellacourts demand that their children reproduce in a timely manner, and so Lillian and Beatrice are regularly forced into semi-consensual sex but their homosexual husbands. Albert accomplishes his goal in the manner of a sneeze, masturbating into his wife's vagina while covering her face with a napkin. Victor sucks on the finger of a nearby manservant to achieve orgasm.

In order to rationalize what essentially amounts to an imprisonment, the Bellacourt sisters take out their anger on the servant class. Mr. Peepers consciously avoids the venom of his betters, but the new house maid is the victim of Beatrice and Lillian time and again. Lillian names Hendricks' mistress character Chair, and the nickname sticks.

There is no greater respect for women among the underclass. Chair is constantly harassed and abused by another member of the staff. No one steps in or comes to her aid, not even the patriarch of the house. There is a much deeper realism here than we find in English versions of the same.

Another Period never avoids depicting life as it actually was at this time: dark, nasty and downright Dickensian. Dickens made his first trip to America in 1842, when he was only 30 years old. He complained the whole time he was there, of people like the members of the Bellacourt family. Another Period answers the question of why that might be.

The show's explicit scenes of rape and abuse are unlike any other to make it basic cable. In addition, no show on television has ever confronted the issue of incest head-on the way that Another Period does. Pushed to an irrational extreme by abuse and neglect, Beatrice finds herself falling in love with her brother Frederick. The two engage in disturbingly childish pastimes, like allowing a servant to pull them in a small boat across the grounds of the Bellacourt estate, and consummating unprotected brother-sister sex.

Ian Black's Mr. Peepers navigates this environment as an ethnic minority in plain sight, patching together the various strands of the family into a cohesive whole. What initially seems like a parody of Downton Abbey's Carson becomes something far greater. Carson was just a white man beset by ill fortune to become some asshole's manservant. In his explosively concealed Judaism, Ian Black is something far greater.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in New York. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

"Blue Flower (live)" - Mazzy Star (mp3)


In Which We Remain Engaged For Six Years

About the Last Few Nights


Marry Me
creator David Caspe

Odd couple romances drive society to exceed its norms and boundaries, bringing the joy of love to unexpected, dark places. In the background of David Caspe's new NBC comedy Marry Me is one such arrangement, a love story that recalls Belle and the beast, Mariah Carey and Nick Cannon, or Minnie Driver and anyone.

Gil (John Gemberling) is a divorced hair-plug salesman who looks like a sheep with only its head unshorn. Dennah (Sarah Wright Olsen) is a leggy blonde fresh off portraying the nuanced role of Jerry's daughter on Parks & Recreation. She is always clad in a romper; he is always wearing a two-tone sweatshirt. One appears to have nothing to do with the other: yet because each has flaws, they must accept each other.

In contrast, the central relationship at the core of Marry Me, embodied by Ken Marino and comedian Casey Wilson, already feels completely neutered. Six years into things, there are not a lot of surprises for us to uncover, except that Annie is a "drama queen" and Jake has a penis. It is hard to believe that a connection this mediocre is supposedly based on the true life coming together of Wilson and writer David Caspe, except the penis part!

Caspe sets Marry Me in Chicago, the city where all romance goes to die. About Last Night, the Chicago romance between Demi Moore and Rob Lowe, did not end well as I recall, The Break-Up was gross and depressing, and no one was actually happy in Happy Endings, especially not Elisha Cuthbert, who was forced into a two way with a guy who owned a food truck.

The men of Chicago are the drizzling shits. Reduced to such a meager collection of candidates, even a leggy blonde like Dennah has to learn how to settle, which is basically the message of Marry Me: if you don't lower your expectations and fall in love with basically whoever is around, you will end up alone.

Wilson's impressively rehearsed histrionics have carried over from Happy Endings, and at times she seems to be playing an abridged version of the character. None of her friends on the show seem like the actual people such a charismatic individual would attract. Wilson is essentially too good for everyone in the entire city of Chicago, and it would have been amazing to start Marry Me with the tension filled Mexican vacation the couple finds themselves returning from in the series' opening scene.

Kay (Tymberlee Hill) has the unforgiving role of the token black and the token gay; in order to set up her character, she admits to Annie that she peed in her friend's clothes hamper. There is also no world where Ken Marino's mother (JoBeth Williams) is blonde.

When Jake moves in with Annie after six long years of separate apartments, she starts to feel crowded and moves her liquor cabinet, drapes and collectibles into her car, giving her the space she needs. It seems like a bad sign that she finds Jake in a set of boxer briefs revolting, but this is glossed over. How can you lead the story to the conclusion that its central characters aren't right for each other when the show is called Marry Me?

Marry Me really should have been about a leggy blonde fresh off fake-dating Rob Lowe who meets a schlumpy guy and decides that love is destined to take an unexpected, more rotund form. A concept episode surrounding their intensely unlikely intercourse is sure to outdo M'Lady in youtube views. When he reaches out a grizzled, foodstained paw to stroke her manicured hand, she will not shudder.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Manhattan.


In Which Michael Fassbender Brought The Whole Band



dir. Lenny Abrahamson
95 minutes

In Frank Michael Fassbender has a line serrating his upper hair from his lower hair. It is the impression of the cartoon head he wears onstage as a performer in an experimental rock group for the first 70 minutes of Frank. Near the end of the film we meet Frank's parents and we learn is from the God that brought you the mentally unstable Daniel Johnston (he once crashed a plane and survived) or the astonishingly honorific Dr. Dre. I think Alanis Morisette has sclerosis?

Something is always like something else.

Frank features ensemble experimental music created by a group of actors, which was the entire reason for the failure of the John Cage musical. The songs are uniformly bad until the last number, where Fassbender bleats 'I love you all' while staring away from the camera. Maggie Gyllenhaal attempts eye contact for a few seconds during this improvised song, but it is never achieved.

Robbed of his ability to make that expression where he shows off his gums, Fassbender attempts to construct Frank purely out of his movements. The best part of Frank is when Fassbender runs anywhere - his legs revolve like those of Bugs Bunny or the Tasmanian Devil. You can tell it is Fassbender in the head the entire time, even if no one told you. You would just be like, That's the guy from everything, which is what we say before a talented artist achieves his defining role, like Tom Cruise in Jack Reacher.

At first Frank seems like a musical genius, but once you hear his songs, that possibility fades away. Frank has the worst music of any movie.

Gyllenhaal too is focused on her physicality. Left as the only interesting thing to look at in a group of guys who look like they were taken from central casting for  a Freddie Mercury biopic, she writhes and poses in equal measure. She has aged very well and is only now being cast in parts appropriate for her dashing, tilting artifice. She can keep something - a scene, a moment - alive long after you believed it was dead, and show the camera how it has been changed by being resurrected.

The only time the film is quiet or at rest is when the band's manager is tweeting about their album recording session or tumbling about a really moving artistic moment. The tumblr and twitter posts appear onscreen, just so you're 100 percent sure that none of this is the least bit authentic. All of them are super-cringeworthy, the ones that are meant to be and the ones that aren't meant to be. Telling the difference is a job for scientists, artisans, or psychologists. The only thing that is certain is that this movie is not a satire, unless...would that make it better?

Having never approached the sun, you can be certain Frank never tried to imitate the actual creative process. It just tries to stand in the light nearby.

The point of Frank, I guess, is that nothing is authentic, especially in, but not limited to, the musical world. John Cage was possibly authentic, but no one else, especially not Lou Reed or Andy Warhol or Mark Kozelek or Gary Lutz or Marlon Brando or Junot Diaz or Stanley Fish or Javier Bardem. They were all in soap operas. You will know the real thing when you see it.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Washington D.C. You can find an archive of her writing here.

"Armpit" - Ashrae Fax (mp3)

"Daddystitch" - Ashrae Fax (mp3)

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