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Alex Carnevale

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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 lily collins (2)


In Which Howard Hughes Felt Overly Constipated

Desert Inn


Rules Don't Apply
dir. Warren Beatty
127 minutes

In the last year of his life, Howard Hughes focused his efforts on two of his favorite pastimes: taking drugs and watching movies. His two most important drugs were Valium and a laxative called Surfak, and he took them both in incredible quantities. In order to relieve constipation, you were supposed to take maybe one Surfak over the course of a day or two. Hughes would take ten or twenty over that period. His prostate gland swelled to over three times normal size. His kidneys shrank in fear.

There is something sad about going out this way, Warren Beatty displays in Rules Don't Apply, his sensitive and entertaining depiction of Hughes' final years on earth. But there is also something very hateful about Howard Hughes that Beatty generally avoids putting his finger on, maybe because he tasks himself with playing the role of the reclusive scion.

Hughes watched the same movies again and again. In particular he watched Bulldog Drummond pictures repeatedly, over the course of several days. He also liked mysteries, even when he knew how they ended.

Frank Forbes (Alden Ehrenreich) becomes a member of Hughes' management team. In Hughes' inner circle, none of these "executives" had any authority over each other, and all were granted a great deal of leeway in how they interpreted the man's instructions. Starting his work for Hughes as a driver, Frank meets Marla (Lily Collins), one of Hughes' contract actresses and drives her and her mother (Annette Bening) around in Hollywood, where they have never been.

In what is perhaps the most direct tribute to his film's subject, Beatty spent a great deal of money recreating the place in Rules Don't Apply. In the course of funding the project, Beatty has taken on an improbably large coterie of producers. An astonishing sixteen people, including the current Secretary of the Treasury, are credited as producers on Beatty's film, in what might be a warped commentary on the way Hughes did business. Hughes excelled in one-on-one conversations where he could convince people to do what he wanted. It cannot have simply been money or power which accounted for his influence on individuals.

Rules Don't Apply depicts Hughes in the best possible light considering the facts: here he is merely a crazy nut with a heart of gold. The real Howard Hughes was contemptuous of black people and an incredibly unethical and mostly ineffective businessman with some strokes of genius. His personal relationships were few. A long scene in Rules Don't Apply occurs when Hughes finds Marla drunk and waiting for him in a bungalow. He has been informed that to protect him from being declared an invalid as part of an airline deal, it would be better if he were married. So he proposes to the first woman he sees, and they have sex on the couch.

Ehrenreich's character of Frank Forbes loses his admiring view of the boss rather quickly, and the preternaturally talented actor shows every disillusionment on his face. It takes Frank Forbes until the end of Rules Don't Apply to realize that Marla had sex with Hughes and bore his child. Once he does understand that, he forgives her and spends the rest of his life with her. I mean, it was Howard Hughes, what else could she do? Ehrenreich's chemistry with Lily Collins is so insanely exciting that I wish the entire movie had been them talking to each other with no Howard Hughes. Then again, Howard is supposed to be the villain.

After intercourse, the only thing Hughes really retains from the encounter is his promise to give all his contracted actresses their own automobiles. Marla cannot even start hers and, soon afterwards, moves back to Virginia. Frank moves to Las Vegas where Hughes unsuccessfully tried to enter the casino industry for some reason. Rules Don't Apply rarely gives the full context for Hughes' business dealings – it is not that kind of biopic.

Instead Beatty's film focuses on a unique theme – the concept that we know as little about ourselves when we are old as when we are young. Rules Don't Apply faithfully depicts Hughes' notorious aversion to children. Hughes once wrote a several page memorandum to evict an annual Easter Egg Hunt from his casino in abject fear of the damage they might do to the premises. In the final scene of Rules Don't Apply, the son Howard Hughes never actually had watches him sitting in his bed with a small television nearby. "I should really get out more," Hughes announces, and the kid takes his advice.

Certain aspects of Rules Don't Apply remind us of what made the casting and performances of an earlier age in Hollywood so artistically and commerically successful. Beatty is a master at finding the right person for each role, and the cinematography of these familiar environs renders Los Angeles a gorgeous and frightening place. Other particulars of the film's production seem haphazard or rushed – the editing lacks transitions, and short shrift is given to any introspection or continuity.

Instead, we keep returning to this dreary magnate, who alienated almost everyone in his life. We sense that Beatty has met many men like Hughes, who were so wealthy that the only code they were able to live by was that of their own personal preference. Talking to such self-involved individuals, especially when you require their money to pursue your dreams, is a particularly noxious sort of defilement, and depicting it onscreen weirdly justifies it. I loved Rules Don't Apply, but I can't imagine anyone else feeling the same.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.


In Which We Bury Every Single Tycoon In The Room

Breathless Chances


The Last Tycoon
creator Billy Ray
Amazon Studios

In the meantime, Stahl is now seriously ill. He and Kathleen have been taking "breathless chances." They have succeeded in having one last fling, which has taken place during an overpowering heat wave in the early part of September. But their meetings have proved unsatisfactory. -  from the synopsis of the unwritten conclusion to The Love of the Last Tycoon

The Love of the Last Tycoon was the kind of literary disaster than probably never should have seen the light of day. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a weird, vaguely homosexual worship piece on producer Irving Thalberg. Thalberg was a Jew who had the kind of inspirational story Scott had never been able to credibly write. Naturally, it turned out that this perfect male icon was doomed.

In Billy Ray's adaptation of this mess, he casts Matt Bomer as Hollywood executive Monroe Stahr. Bomer, recently of a Guy Ritchie movie that should have never been released, is slowly improving as an actor. Here Ray positions him opposite Lily Collins. Ms. Collins' eyebrows are inches thick and she looks like a deformed side character in a John Steinbeck novel. She loves Monroe, spending long monologues whining about how heroic he is. No one knows what the fuck she's talking about, least of all her father Pat (Kelsey Grammar), who runs this studio.

For some reason Billy Ray has turned the incredibly weak plot of Fitzgerald's half-novel into a Nazis vs Jews story. "I can't even put the word Nazi into one of my pictures," Bomer whines to one of his friends even though this makes so little sense it actually gives me a headache. Does Billy Ray think that the word Nazi was a slur? It was the name of their party.

Back to Scott's book, which was reconstructed by Edmund Wilson. Fitzgerald definitely has his highs and lows as a prose stylist. There's this one racist scene where they are driving down a road in Los Angeles and they see a "Negro" herding some cows. He moves them across the road and they give him a quarter. It's a very sad little moment that shows how behind the times Scott was as a writer at the end. Flannery O'Connor was in his rear view about to run him over.

Adding to the general confusion of this horrendous adaptation is Kelsey Grammer. In The Last Tycoon, he gets tons of screen time and looks so much heavier than he ever did. This neither suits him or the role he is playing, and Ray's writing for all his characters is a messy cross between the snappy dialogue in a Billy Wilder movie and some approximation of reality. In comparison to Bomer, who it seems may disappear if he is viewed from the wrong angle, Grammer looks like the obese girl from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in her final form.

As a representation of the period, The Last Tycoon is tremulously bad. Bomer's character is super-depressed because his Irish wife died, so he submerges his grief into his work. Ray wants us to think that Monroe Stahr is really good at his job. Actually, he is only terrific at motivating and manipulating people as a Don Draper-clone, and Scott's story shows how much they resent it and how little there is left of a person who behaves in this fashion. The odd, vaguely homoerotic glorification of this Jewish character is not only a historical abortion, but it feels like a lie on every level.

I was completely certain when I first read The Love of the Last Tycoon and now watching this latest disaster from the inimitably bad Amazon Studios brand that neither Billy Ray nor Scott Fitzgerald has any idea what it is like to be a Jew. At least Scott's novel admits that, in a way, positioning Monroe as fundamentally misunderstood.

In Ray's version of The Last Tycoon, there is actually a scene where Bomer is sobbing like a little girl over his deceased Irish wife. He explains to everyone who will listen that he wants to make an inspirational version of her story. Such a person who came from nothing would never elevate his own experience above any other? Billy Ray doesn't understand any of these people, and the visual look on offer completely absconds with any semblance of truthtelling.

That is what is so profoundly offensive about The Last Tycoon. Telling a story about any ethnic minority and lying about the particulars should face harsh sanctions. If Wesley Snipes went to jail, so should everyone involved in this piece of shit, especially Lily Collins. The fact that Amazon has so little faith in their decision-making on individual series that they feel the need to greenlight so many awful pilots proves how little confidence they have in their product.

There is one astonishing scene in the abridged version of The Love of the Last Tycoon that I will never forget. The woman who will eventually become Lily Collins is talking about her father, and how she had no real conception of how he appeared to others. Then she is at a bar and a man approaches, looming near here in a sort of mourning avidity. She wishes for him to move on until it occurs to her that this is her papa. As in all Fitzgerald, this metaphor of a single moment represents the whole fucking situation completely.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.