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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 melissa mccarthy (3)


In Which Paul Feig Lost Us Completely This Time

Stunt Woman


dir. Paul Feig
120 minutes

I am trying to think of the exact point that Paul Feig's Spy becomes just plain mean-spirited. It is probably about the forty-first or forty-second time someone comments on Melissa McCarthy's appearance in a negative way. The sentence most often uttered in Spy is, "You look like..." with the ending of the statement finishing with a derogatory comment such as "a hairless squirrel" or "a diseased cauliflower." This is a form of comedy so lazy it was mocked in a forum as discerning as Hot Tub Machine 2.

McCarthy is an office drone in the Central Intelligence Agency, working behind the scenes in order to navigate agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law) through what appears to be a Los Angeles pool party with terrible production values. I understand Spy is a spoof, but all the agents, including a barely understandable Jason Statham, are British with accents intact, making the entire setup impossible to take seriously, even in a fun way.

In addition, the only real spoofing going on is one scene where Michael McDonald plays a parody of Q who rigs up various bathroom products — stool softener, hemorrhoid cream, rape whistle — for McCarthy to sue as weapons. The rest of the time Spy is basically just a fish-out-of-water comedy. It's like Paul Feig ran out of things that would even be entertaining to spoof and just decided to throw in some explosions and one-liners about how anyone even slightly overweight should be alone with cats.

Now that Melissa is a star, every role she takes has to be focused on her apparent lack of beauty. This is entirely ridiculous to anyone who has eyes, and insulting to the vast majority of human beings who don't look nearly as good. Spy has her weirdly drooling all over Jude Law, and movie is barely minutes old before McCarthy is dropping puns about sucking his penis. Law is several decades past his prime, has a hairline that resembles the tines of a comb, and what amounts to his gross, sexist banter consists of asking her to pick up his laundry, a task many people, male and female, perform without humiliation.

It turns out that McCarthy's charazcter is an exceptionally talented agent, and the best parts of Spy consists of seeing her perform various stunts and fights. In 2013's The Heat, the disastrous script Feig directed had one virtue: it made her the living center of an Irish family that both loved and detested what she was. Here Melissa is presented as a lonely woman of 40 with no romantic prospects or social life. Even as a caricature, it is a depressing and sexist one.

What happened to Paul Feig? He used to actually be interested in material with emotional and comedic weight. Spy is the kind of tonal disaster that should make you evaluate your deepest life priorities : the biggest laugh the movie got in my theater was when a bunch of agents accidentally viewed photos of a man's penis. Formerly talented writer-directors like Joss Whedon, Brad Bird and now Feig working on these humorless summer vehicles is a tremendous loss for us all. At least people went to see the absolute stinker (an army of robots?) that was The Avengers: Age of Ultron.

This year's other James Bond parody as least knew its source material. Kingsman: The Secret Service was pretty much a mess as well, but it was so obviously having a good time: Colin Firth and Michael Caine practically held the movie up by sheer force of will and finely tailored suits. Spy looks like it was filmed with a third of the budget. Samuel L. Jackson may have been a bit much in Kingsman, but at least he was somebody: Spy's main baddies are Rose Byrne and Bobby Cannavale.

Even more puzzling were Spy's pathetically pandering reviews. Apparently when comedy based mostly around inserting various words for human genitalia in unlikely places in verbal speech originates from men, it's demeaning. (This much we know is true.) When a woman utters the same lame bullying verbal invective, Paul Feig emits a chuckle and tells other people it's okay to laugh. I hope everyone involved in this pandering dreck never works again.

Spy runs out of Steam about halfway through after McCarthy's husband's wretched cameo. The rest of the film turns into a bunch of people standing in a circle threatening to kill each other. Listening to their fake, quasi-humorous banter made me want to take one of their firearms and turn it on myself.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording.


In Which Money Buys Judd Apatow Happiness

With Luxury


This Is 40
dir. Judd Apatow
133 minutes

If anything, Judd Apatow should have titled his new effort This Is My Life In 2012, and not only because Apatow’s wife of 15 years is cast as the lead mom/wife, Debbie (Leslie Mann), alongside the couple’s two daughters as 13-year-old Sadie (Maude Apatow) and 8-year-old Charlotte (Iris Apatow). Alternatives such as This Is Marriage or This Is Family or even This Is Life would not have been any better.

The family in This Is 40, rounded out by the deceiving and charming Pete (Paul Rudd), is anything but typical. Sure, the daughters go through tantrums against the parents and bouts of getting along/hating one another, and there are plenty of problems stemming from woes of finances and in-laws, but this is not the average American family. For one thing, their California house is gorgeous and massive, and at one point even called out as too big for the four of them by Pete’s overbearingly dependent father, Larry (Albert Brooks), who Pete secretly continues to lend money to despite having told Debbie he hasn’t done so in years.

Despite the family’s lavish home, decorated and conveniently organized like a Pottery Barn catalogue, and the private catering for Pete’s 40th birthday party (only days after Debbie’s own birthday, which is celebrated as turning 38), and the nice cars they each have, and Debbie’s personal trainer Jason (Jason Segel), and Sadie’s random anger outburst in her walk-in closet over needing new clothes – despite all this, the family is having financial problems.

Debbie’s clothing boutique, Lulu’s, is your dime-a-dozen L.A. clothing store, something you would find in the likes of New Canaan or Katonah, and seems to be relatively new at her career. Whatever she did beforehand for a job is a mystery. Pete is a music producer, and manages the British rocker Graham Parker, whose latest album is hardly selling past 600 copies.

So how does this family of four manage to have weekend get-aways and still afford their life in-house? While, let’s not forget, secretly supplying $80,000 to Larry, in order to support him, his wife and their test-tube triplets who are always dressed in the exact same outfit? Something seems a little suspicious about their money 'woes', until at one point (late in the film) Debbie mentions how Pete’s left Sony to work on his own. So he made a lot of money in the past, I guess, and it’s lasted them through now.

Oh, and provided all of their little goodies along the way. The cars, Pete’s bicycle and matching Livestrong gear, Debbie’s trainer, and the girls’ countless personal items (including photos with Justin Bieber and the Jonas brothers, both of which are events that probably happened in the Apatows’ lives but here are simply shameless props), constitute the mere basics – This Is 40 is essentially a commercial for Apple.

It would be impossible to think Apple was not a sponsor, considering how iPhone, iPad, iTunes, iHome, etc are all used not only physically, but named constantly by the characters. Yes, many/most people own an Apple product. But the way we just end up expecting the girls to watch Lost on an iPad, or for Pete to be found playing Scrabble on his iPad while on the toilet, or for Debbie to pull out her iPhone, or jump onto her MacBook in order to see if hot-to-trot salesgirl Desi (Megan Fox) is stealing $12,000 from Lulu’s, all feels like too much of a privilege.

Is this really what being 40 is about? Having all the latest technology in a big house with a swimming pool and caterers and doctors' appointments where they all seem to promise you good fortune and good looks and good health just for showing up? I may not be 40, I may not be married, I may not have kids, but I know that this isn’t what your average household is up to. Maybe in Los Angeles or Orange County, or even Fairfield or Westchester counties on the opposite coast, but I live there and that is not even what most of those families are like.

The film is about having privilege and luxury, alongside “common” domestic problems. But it probably does not speak to the majority of families, married couples, or even 40-year-olds in the country. Debbie’s constant fear of Pete losing interest in her would insult me as a viewer if I were 40 – I am sure the majority of women that age would kill to have Debbie’s looks; in fact, I would not mind looking like that right now and I am half her age. Together, the couple effortlessly steals the attention when they are out, like something out of a bank commercial, as pointed out by an angry and outlandishly brutish parent from school, Catherine (Melissa McCarthy).

I am not even sure that kids who would see the film, for whatever reason, would be able to relate to Sadie and Charlotte. Puberty can make any adolescent seethe with unwarranted rage. Sadie comes off as simply unstable with anger when she throws tantrums over needing new clothing in her walk-in closet or hating her family for not letting her carry out a bizarre obsession with watching as much Lost in as little time as she can. Meanwhile Charlotte seems the quiet prodigy of  a piano playing and humble family caretaker, but is more of just a Shirley Temple-esque face for the screen, making “cute” kid quips about this or that, often with the kind of stilted candor only a child who hasn’t had much time to practice the lines could deliver. Regardless, my biggest question is whether all kids these days own iPads and have iPhones that their parents take away when they are grounded.

The perfect lives of the family, chipped here and there by stress from work or each other, are hardly entertaining when the ending comes together in an almost too-resolved fashion. And aside from Rudd and Mann’s good looks, their conversations feed off one another like something from improv comedy; it’s like they constantly are mocking the other’s lines, and it gets annoying quickly.

The couple seems the most genuine when either high on marijuana cookies, practicing the kind of talk their therapist suggested, or simply crying. This Is 40 tries too hard to portray what it's trying to sell itself as: the poster-child for mid-life crises, family dysfunction and love, and coming to terms with yourself in your age. It should have been called This Is What You Wish 40 Could Be, because there does not seem to really be anything wrong.

Shelby Shaw is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer and artist living in Chicago. You can find her website here. She twitters here.

"What's All This Talk" - Ruby Fray (mp3)

"Barren Hill" - Ruby Fray (mp3)


In Which Fashion Is Our Passion

40 Secrets I Have Learned from
Reporting on the Fashion Industry


• Carine Roitfeld looks exactly like Iggy Pop and is incredibly sexy.

• This is a pair of facts which can’t be reconciled. 

• The fashion world is full of facts that can’t be reconciled.

• Here's another one: High fashion has always been a struggle between aesthetic values and market values.

• Success in the marketplace requires compromise.

• Artists do not, as a rule, like to compromise.

• Therefore some designers can seem to have an aura of hostility toward the market.

• This tends to demoralize the average consumer. 

• Nobody can help that.

• Runway shows are startlingly brief. About five minutes long.

• A lot of models have bad tattoos.

• Examples of bad model tattoos: smiley face, skeleton morphing into a woman on a diagonal axis.

• A lot of male models have chest acne.

• Most models, male and female, are pleasant.

• It is hard not to be pleasant when so little is asked of you.

• You can stare at models as much as you want, because that’s what they’re paid for. The normal rules of human conduct don’t apply.

• They are also habituated to it, so they barely even notice you looking.

• The amount of stuff a designer can do to a model for a runway show depends on his status.

• For example, you'd have to be a pretty big designer to get away with shaving blue mohawks into everyone's hair.

• Spring and Fall are the two main collections. 

• Stores demand more frequent infusions of new stock, so there are also “pre-fall” and “pre-spring” (resortwear) collections.

• This is why it seems like there is always a Fashion Week going on. 

• Resortwear is not clothing that you wear on a cruise.

• Economic failure doesn’t carry the taint in high fashion that it does in other creative industries, such as Hollywood. 

• But nor is it like Silicon Valley, where failure is an asset.

• A failed fashion show is always embarrassing.

• Fashion PR people tend to talk like press releases.

• Fashion press releases tend to be confoundingly dumb.

• For example, I am looking right now at a press release from a couture house in Paris. 

• The verb tenses change at random from past to present to future conditional. 

• Words are capitalized for No reason.

• It is 900 words long.

• The number of extraordinarily rich people in the world continues to grow.

• For this reason, luxury fashion brands are doing quite well.

• Even in a global recession.

• LVMH — parent of Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, Donna Karan, etc — predicts this year's sales to reach $33 billion.

• 85 percent of women in Japan own a Louis Vuitton product.

• Unlike the rest of the world, fashion industry people do not assume that Hollywood celebrities have inherently good style.

• This assumption is largely correct.

• Designers are choosy about which celebrities they will dress.

• "Dress", in this case, means "give free clothes to".

• As one editor put it to me, "No one is lining up to dress Melissa McCarthy."

• The world is an ugly place.

Molly Young has written about fashion for GQ and New York magazine. She is the senior contributor to This Recording. You can find her twitter here and her tumblr here. You can find an archive of her writing on This Recording here. She last wrote in these pages about living in New York.