Quantcast

Video of the Day

Masthead

Editor-in-Chief
Alex Carnevale
(e-mail/tumblr/twitter)

Features Editor
Mia Nguyen
(e-mail/tumblr/twitter)

Senior Editor
Brittany Julious
(e-mail/tumblr/twitter)

This Recording

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

Live and Active Affiliates
This area does not yet contain any content.

Entries in martin scorsese (5)

Tuesday
Mar292016

In Which We Pretend To Be Andy Warhol Or The New York Dolls

Factory Living

by ALEX CARNEVALE

Vinyl
creators Mick Jagger, Terence Winter, Rich Cohen & Martin Scorsese

The massive list of producers on Vinyl reads like a bad joke: a Brit, a Jew, an Italian and an Irishman walk into a bar... A lot of people were involved in making Vinyl, probably hundreds, many of them very talented. The two-hour pilot alone cost $18 million. There is a person of every possible race and ethnicity in HBO's Vinyl, except Asian. (Didn't you know there were no Asians in New York in the 1970s, at least none involved in the music industry in any significant way?)

Let's talk about the music, since Vinyl plays a lot of songs. Figure that the people behind this show don't sit around watching tons of television to know that half the stuff they play has been in every generic movie released in the last fifty years. The music alternates between wonderful and terrible, but the worst part of the aural situation is this: no one seems to care very much how is it made. We never see anyone writing songs or tuning instruments.

Instead of focusing on creative individuals, Vinyl concerns itself with Richie Finestra (Bobby Cannavale). When he is lucid, which is not often, Richie occasionally (this is rare) might say something semi-intelligent. In Vinyl, we live for these moments, since witnessing him destroy himself with cocaine and alcohol, and hurting the feelings of all New York's not-Asians is pretty hard to watch after awhile.

Richie is Italian, and he relied on his former secretary Andrea Zito (Annie Parisse) in so many ways. They slept together when he told his wife Devon (Olivia Wilde) that he would be working late. He kept a white woman at home and an Italian woman in the city in a reverse-Tony Soprano situation. This ethnic switcheroo is never explicitly explained, and I sometimes think it must be like watching aliens from space for people in other places to view Vinyl. Then again no one watches the show anyway so does it really matter?

Despite the fact that Richie is a complete asshole to everyone except his kids and his employee Jamie Vine (Juno Temple), he has to murder a guy in self-defense and he spends most of Vinyl's episodes whining and crying about this. The man he killed to protect himself was a dirtbag who owned some radio stations. The guy had no wife, no children, and no one who cared if he lived or died outside of the prostitutes who depended on him for their living. His company and family are falling apart, and all Richie Finestra can think about is this piece of shit.

It makes no sense whatsoever, but then maybe treating Vinyl as an actual series with characters who might have positive and negative qualities is giving it too much credit. It is more about an overwhelming sense of style which never coheres or agrees upon itself, and so becomes ugly. This period in American life was a great deal more disgusting than either the 1920s or the 1990s, the focus of Terence Winter's previous series. The colors all clash, the outfits are ghastly, and there was no antibacterial solution in all of New York.

Winter's writing has always been among the very best on television, and he has a few artistic crutches which make it into everything he works on. He loves showing people by themselves, following them even after the scene he is writing would traditionally end. He focuses so intently on every moment having something at stake that he makes anything he constructs into a thriller of sorts. This works a lot better in noir, because people can live or die based on events. On Vinyl it just means we have to care about who gets a record deal.

When Finestra first meets his wife, he has sex with her in the bathroom of the Factory. He puts his hand around Devon's neck to choke her a bit. She slaps him but seems to enjoy his sense of play. I hate to say it, but Olivia Wilde is about as plausible in this role as it was when Whoopi Goldberg put on a nun's habit.

But even if she did seem like the kind of person who would be a Connecticut housewife, the sheer number of fakes on Vinyl makes the entire show seem a comedy sketch. I guess using actual footage of Lou Reed and Iggy Pop would have completely changed what they were going for, but no one wants to watch actors play these people and lip synch their songs. There is a reason Milli Vanilli did not have a lasting career in the business.

This is essentially the conundrum: making Vinyl fun would make these people seem like heroes glorifying excess and theft from the musicians. Without those guitarists and vocalists, there would be no great sums of money to pay for the ample suppy of cocaine, heroin, and prescription drugs. So instead Vinyl is utterly depressing to watch and be a part of; every single person on the show is permanently unhappy and completely ashamed of their lives, which is not only terrible to witness, but not really realistic when you think about it.

Worse than being immersed in the darkness of these pagans, however, is the fact that Vinyl is completely out of date. Period pieces needs to comment on contemporary times, but Vinyl has nothing to say about who we are now, since whatever authenticity was present in this period evaporates by reconstructing it. The only possible conclusion is that the 1970s was as fake as the modern concept of celebrity, which is not really something we need told to us by an expensive television program.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.

"You're Gonna Get Love" - Keren Ann (mp3)

Tuesday
Jan172012

In Which We Charm Absolutely No One

Notes on Margaret

by DURGA CHEW-BOSE

Margaret
dir. Kenneth Lonergan
150 minutes

Kenneth Lonergan’s hold on the countless ways we fail to communicate is Margaret’s most bewitching coup. Rather than gaining mileage from what is unsaid, his teenage protagonist, Lisa Cohen (Anna Paquin) clashes with each person in her ever-growing sphere as she tries to reconcile with a fatal bus accident in which she feels partly responsible.

Discovery, as Lonergan lays bare, is often achieved with fight. Shushing, shouting, crying, dismissive arm-waving, passively listening, correcting someone’s grammar, mimicking, misunderstandings, storming out and slamming doors, all inch Lisa further from resolve but closer to breaking through her childhood safeties and habitat, the Upper West Side — a character unto itself in Margaret.

Anna Paquin is terrific as a teenage girl. She struts to her desk. She pouts. She still has baby fat. Her skirt is too short and her henley shirts, too tight, but with stretched sleeves to pull over her hands in more contemplative, panicked moments. Her hair is greasy at the roots. Her eyeliner, reapplied regularly. Her eyebrows are over plucked and her stare is restless no matter the emotion — eagerness turned frustration, grief turned anger. Her attitude thaws with adults who outdo her wit or minutes before she loses her virginity.

On screen, teenage rebellion is charming. But not Lisa Cohen’s. Hers is not easy to look at — it overcompensates, it’s at times ugly and a bit ridiculous. It’s authentic. For years on screen, Kirsten Dunst sought to be Lisa Cohen.

In one scene she wanders drunkenly around a party, stumbling from a boy named Paul to another boy named Darren. She is bold and willing with Paul in the bathroom but it’s the way her body flops down on the floor in the hallway to make-out with Darren, only to struggle as she gets up, that is exact.

Lisa Cohen is both the heroine in a 19th century novel and a character from a post 9/11 graphic novel.

Margaret is cut somewhat messily; some jumps are more abrasive than others. In this way, everyone’s story is told alongside Lisa’s. Everyone is defenceless, including the audience.

She dismisses a boy’s phone call and we are immediately dropped in his bedroom where he sits on the edge of his bed, crying beside his Pavement poster.

A conference call with lawyers and loved ones, and Lisa, contrasts with three New York buildings — Lisa’s urgency calmed momentarily, not by a parent or a friend, but by her city.

“What’s Indiana like?” Lisa inches in to ask her teacher. They are sitting on the couch in his sublet. Seconds later the camera cuts away, and in the next scene, she stands at his front door as he apologizes for what just happened.   

Like Maurice Pialat in A Nos Amours, who too directs and plays the father of a teenage daughter, Lonergan is Karl, Lisa’s dad who lives in California, remarried. Shots of Karl pacing outside his beachside house as he speaks somewhat idly to his daughter, contrast with her relentlessly shifting world. His sky is blue and empty while wide shots of Lisa walking home after school are peopled and hectic — a huddle of boys part as she digs her hands in her skirt pockets and passes them, bothered by the unwanted attention.

Margaret slows in parts to truly appraise emotions. Instead of dialogue as a tool used to forward plot, it rationalizes a character’s feelings. Lisa’s mother, Joan (J. Smith-Cameron) is dating a man named Ramon played by Jean Reno. One night she asks Lisa’s opinion about a date outfit. Their exchange is immediately cruel and spirals as if on each side, the breaks have jammed. But neither is in fact mad. Both are hurting and experiencing the kind of homelessness only possible in one’s own home, at the end of a week that crawled with failed attempts. A mother readying herself for a date is no match for a daughter afflicted with misunderstood angst.

Lonergan’s long takes ripen as Lisa’s emotions, no matter how sincere, heighten. It’s as if something on screen thickens, like batter, when the camera sticks with a conversation that at first appears to have no direction. It’s exhilarating. 

At an outside terrace, Paquin, Jeannie Berlin, who plays a dear friend of the deceased, and a lawyer meet for lunch. They discuss legal options. Lisa interrupts a number of times. Salads are served. It brought to mind a scene in Olivier Assayas’ Summer Hours where three adult children, mourning the loss of their mother, discuss her will and the family’s summer home. They speak diagnostically much like in Margaret where emotions turn to equation. In both films, unglamorous details are entirely involving. 

Durga Chew-Bose is the senior editor of This Recording. She is a writer living in Brooklyn. She last wrote in these pages about the city of Los Angeles. She tumbls here and twitters here. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here.

"Carolina" - The Gertrudes (mp3)

"Flashbulbs" - The Gertrudes (mp3)

"Six Jars" - The Gertrudes (mp3)

Wednesday
Feb162011

In Which We Can Never Stay Out Of Trouble When It's Baited With This Much Tramp

I Found My Level And I'm Living It

by MOLLY LAMBERT 

The Hot Spot, 1990

dir. Dennis Hopper

Once there were three friends who took it upon themselves to overthrow and destroy an old guard system they knew they could clearly improve upon. They had grown up on the work of the people whose jobs they now had to take. They realized it was a funny way to thank them. But when it came down to it, the old legends had succeeded because they were so much a product of their time, and new times required new products. It was necessary to invent Easy Rider/The Social Network/This Recording

The new sixties Alpha Male sensibility ultimately didn't turn out to be any different from the old Alpha Male sensibility. It was exactly the same with long hair. The new Alpha Male may have even preached a good game on gender politics (although just as often not), and then not followed suit in his personal relations with women. It might seem difficult to reconcile masculinity with feminism, BUT IT'S NOT. Only an insecure man/person has to always be right or in charge all the time. Traditional masculinity is a cool looking hot rod with a shitty engine that stalls in middle age. It is a lemon.

Nothing is worse than a guy who thinks he is a revolutionary because he reads foreign newspapers and Al Jazeera's twitter feed but who can't seem to fully renounce male chauvinism in his own life because of course he loves the perks. There's an economic principle that these perks come at the expense of another group, in this case women.

nothing in her way except THE FUCKING PATRIARCHY

The Privilege Denying Dude meme caught on because it was so true. It is only heterosexual white men who ever believe that we live in a post-anything world. Romanticizing traditional masculinity is like romanticizing the Confederacy or the Nazi regime. Great uniforms, accessories, and anecdotes. But your politics fucking blow. 

Straight white dudes often want to believe we are past these problems because the alternative is that they are the villain in the movie called World History. But I mean, it's true that they are the villain. And like any legacy sullied by genocide and imperialism, no one is asking them to claim all the responsibility for it but it is absolutely required that it be acknowledged. To refuse to acknowledge the continued dominance of racism/sexism/homophobia/socially exclusionary practices is to reinforce them. 

Here's the thing about unconscious biases. They are unconscious! So when people say "I am not a sexist/racist/homophobe" they are being well-intentioned about meaning it, but just saying it doesn't automatically make it true. It is about deeds, not words. And thoughts are not deeds. They are not even words. A person may think a tremendously offensive thing, and then feel as though this is an intrinsic betrayal of their real sexist/racist/homophobic feelings. But it's not. Necessarily. It also can be.

You have been conditioned, and then encouraged not to think about it. Often rewarded for not thinking about it. But you must think about it. True self-analysis is a revolutionary act. And unlike revolutions in other countries where you are just sympathizing hopefully with the proletariats, it is a revolution you have a shot at being an actual part of. The personal is political. Women are the universal proletariat

The individual has the most power over itself. More than any outside group can influence, and more influence than it can have on any outside group. It is impossible to renounce dominance in all its forms because dominance can be incredibly useful. Dominant behavior exists in nature to such an extent that it is often conflated with "nature" (although of course nature is equally a pond as much as it is a tidal wave).

The desire to dominate exists in the self, but why is it so rarely felt as the desire to dominate the self? To subordinate and win control over one's worst urges and tendencies? It spins outwards instead. Other people seem easier to take control over than oneself, because other people appear static and one's self is always shifting. 

Which brings us back again to gender. To see "women" as a foreign country you must conquer is the definition of denying them personhood. To assume that to fuck a woman is to take something from her, to degrade her as a person in some way, or alternately but equally insidiously, that it is to promise commitment. Yo she might just want to get laid. To assume anything about "women" as a body: that single women are lonely, that married women are happy. That you can make any universal statements about what "women" are like. You can't make any universal statements about what any group is like, because then you are denying individuals their differences. You are perpetuating your privilege. That is how stereotypes work. They are useful! It is scary!

Everybody is different. Women are not automatically Taylor Swifts just like men are not automatically whores. Believing that all men are whores/assholes/dogs is just as damaging and untrue and fucked up as believing that all women are Taylor Swifts. Even Taylor Swift is not really a Taylor Swift. Everybody is a whore sometimes.

The Nice Girl is really a Slut. Likewise, the Slut is really a Nice Girl. It works exactly the same for men. The Nice Guy is also an Asshole. The Asshole is also a really Nice Guy. There is only one type of person, and that person is a person who can be different ways with different people under different circumstances. Nobody is always nice or always awful. People are not monolithically good or bad. Everyone is capable of both. 

I never really gave too much credence to the whole virgin/whore thing because like most of the most horribly misogynist aspects of life I chose to ignore it and pretend it just didn't/would never be applied to me for as long as possible. Then in the past six months I got called a slut by three different dudes, none of whom I knew well at all.

All three of whom took it upon themselves to tell me and my female roommate (unprompted, naturally) what kind of girls we are. More specifically in one case that she is a "sexy uptight librarian" and I am a "fun bar slut." All three times I was so baffled that I didn't even react appropriately and punch them in the fucking face. 

Later I kept going back over why exactly I didn't. I think I probably didn't want to betray that it had any effect on me whatsoever. They are just words, after all. But it did have an effect on me, and the effect was "WAIT WHAT?" Because my roommate wears glasses and I am a ginger? I also wear glasses, and my roommate is really hot. You actually believe there are two different kinds of women, and they are "sexy uptight librarian" and "fun bar slut"? Was that a neg? Has that ever worked to get you laid?

But the truth was that it haunted me, because nothing is funnier than the phrase "fun bar slut." I saw it chiseled on my gravestone. "Molly Lambert: She Was A Fun Bar Slut." I don't even go to bars that much! I just thought about the episode of Laguna Beach where douchebag Stephen Coletti yells "Keep dancing on the bar SLUT" at Kristin.

That only happened on Laguna Beach. Things like that only occurred on reality television. That would never happen to me. But then it did, three times, all equally unprovoked. All sort of attempts to pick me up, I guess under the false auspices that a strong negative reaction from someone is better than no reaction at all (WRONG). 

The virgin/whore trope plays heavily into film noir. I took a film noir class in college but all I remember is that I wrote a tight paper about the sound design in The Long Goodbye and got really mad at my friend Jon when he criticized Barbara Stanwyck's wig in Double Indemnity ("IT'S PURPOSEFUL ARTIFICE!!!" I may have yelled). There are always two women, and one is a virgin and the other is a whore. One is Janet Wood and the other is Chrissy Snow. The whore is always more interesting and usually dies. 

The first time I recall my awareness of the concept of virgin/whore dichotomy was musical theater, in West Side Story. Maria is the lead. She has great songs. But Anita is so much cooler and stops the show. Maria is boringly good and humorless. Anita gets to be funny. Maria is a soprano. Anita is an alto. In chorus I sang as an alto because there were always less of them. Most girls tended to want to sing the "pretty" i.e. soprano parts rather than the less glamorous harmonies assigned to altos and men. 

I sometimes envied the sopranos, but I also found them cloyingly sweet. I thought it was ridiculously narcissistic to think you should always get to sing the lead parts. Both were within my range, and I always thought about how arbitrary it was that I considered myself an alto. I could equally have sung the soprano parts, I just happened to be singing alto. Shouldn't I be rewarded for being able to do both?

In The Hot Spot, Jennifer Connelly is a sexy uptight librarian and Virginia Madsen is a fun bar slut. Don Johnson is the fucking dude. Don Johnson is so hilariously cool in this movie. So flawlessly masculine. It's dumb as hell. Is there a term for the way male directors dehumanize their male antiheroes into overly perfect idealized objects of desire? The narcissistic male gaze? Christopher Nolan has made it his life's speciality. 

Dennis Hopper drains most of the ambiguity from the Charles Williams book and screenplay. This despite the fact that what's so great about Charles Williams is how he questions pulp's genre conventions. His femme fatales are usually the smartest characters in his books, not judged for wanting to have sex in crazy places. Rather than die at the end she wins the hero's heart and rides off into the sunset with him.

The emotionless drifter/private eye is an archetype like James Bond. Like James Bond it doesn't exist in real life anywhere. It's an ideal, seductive and imaginary. The same way the "Nice Girl" is an imaginary ideal of a woman who would never get upset about anything. The slut might get mad. She might leave you or fuck someone else. It is even possible she will murder you, since film noirs are hysterical masculine fantasies

The Hot Spot's gender politics are more than decent in the end. Virginal teenage dream Jennifer Connelly also takes topless photos and flirts with her blackmailer. She is the one who gets Don Johnson to murder someone. So much for the Nice Girl. Meanwhile Fun Slut Virginia Madsen murders her husband (while fucking him, LOL) and asks Don Johnson to fuck her in all kinds of "deviant" ways that aren't really deviant so much as they are incredibly silly. So silly that when he ends up with her it doesn't really matter (although it's a nice twist), because the love triangle feels so weightless.

I have seen The Last Movie. It is unwatchable. And I say this as somebody who will watch anything. It's incredibly boring and not shot well. You can see that the budget was spent on drugs. The Hot Spot is fucking hilarious, but one thing it is not is unwatchable. It is totally watchable. It is the kind of movie you watch on Cinemax until 4am (as I did) and wake up the next day not sure if you just had a well-lit dream.

The lighting is a character, falling somewhere between David Lynch and Zalman King, and tending towards blue and pink. What is this kind of lighting called? Erotic thriller lighting? Overlapping with neon noir? It shows up in Showgirls and Bad Influence. It calls to mind 80s porn, Miami Vice, and Cocktail. It definitely feels extremely 80s. 

Oh yeah the 80s. They were not always kind to the Easy Riders and Raging Bulls of the 60s and 70s. But then again, those guys weren't very kind to the 60s and 70s were they now? Never assume you can just rest on your past glories. Let's do a body count:

Jack Nicholson: He made some of the best movies of his career and peaked on testosterone poisoning. He starts the decade with The Shining (80) and Reds (81) and ends with making The Two Jakes (90) which presumably was the beginning of the deflation of the hubris that he was unstoppable. It's too bad, because one of the things I love about Nicholson is his extreme versatility. I like that he wrote a bunch of scripts. I liked Drive He Said. I will also point out that after Reds Jack Nicholson stopped being hot. Much like Brando he became sort of actually disgusting. He was just coasting on the idea of his previous hotness and became a dirty old man, which is why I was so confused when I found out he was actually hot in the seventies.

Dennis Hopper: Blue Velvet, Hoosiers. But Jack Nicholson still fucked your wife!

Dustin Hoffman: no1curr

Warren Beatty: Oh Warren Beatty. So much privilege to spend. Reds is one of my favorite movies, so for that alone Warren survives the 80s with his dignity intact. If Jack Nicholson is Don Draper, Warren Beatty is Roger Sterling; never taking himself seriously enough to accomplish anything truly great as an actor. And I guess there was Ishtar. Although like Heaven's Gate, Ishtar is one of those movies that is more "legendarily bad" than it is actually bad. They are both more like legendarily bloated and long, but not without their fans and moments. Beatty makes Dick Tracy the same year Jack Nicholson makes The Two Jakes. They both find out they are actors.

Bob Rafelson: After making The Postman Always Rings Twice ('81) everything on Rafelson's IMDB starts to have the word "Erotic" in it. Sorry Bob. Was it Head?

Peter Fonda: OOF.

Robert DeNiro: Jake LaMotta. DeNiro was never a partyboy. He staged Scorsese's intervention after The Last Waltz and is supposedly very mild mannered IRL, nothing like a "DeNiro character." He's just an incredible actor. He puts all his crazy in there.

Al Pacino: Scarface, the ultimate cool 70s becoming the shitty 80s movie.

Roman Polanski: You know how in every group of guys there is one guy who is the biggest asshole/fuckup and every other guy is secretly like "man, at least I'm not THAT guy" even though they are first to goad him on at parties? Roman Polanski. The guy that Jack Nicholson compares himself against when he wants to feel better about his choices. Like, cheat on Anjelica Huston? Reprehensible. Rape a child? WORSE!

Martin Scorsese: Raging BullAfter Hours and The King Of Comedy. Scorsese hustles

Francis Ford Coppola: Lost his damn mind in the jungle. But hey The Outsiders and Rumble Fish and I do enjoy Peggy Sue Got Married, especially Nic Cage's part.

Toni Basil: Hey Mickey!

Molly Lambert is the managing editor of This Recording. You can read more of her work here. She last wrote in these pages about painting. She twitters here and tumbls here.

digg reddit stumble facebook twitter subscribe