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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

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Tuesday
Jul292014

In Which Her Parents Constituted The Final Straw

Paying My Dues for the Journey

by ELEANOR MORROW

They Came Together
dir. David Wain
83 minutes

Joel (Paul Rudd) is an executive at Candy Systems Incorporated, a multi-ventured candy conglomerate. He is in a long-term relationship with a brunette named Tiffany (Cobie Smulders) who struggles to return his affection because of certain depraved incidents in her past.

On the day that Joel plans to propose to Tiffany, he finds her apartment spackled with torn off clothes and accessories on the hardwood floor. He calls out her name and hears sounds in the bedroom. Assuming she is just washing herself noisily in the shower, he attempts an elongated speech to preface his marriage proposal. When he turns around he sees her in the arms of Trevor (Michael Ian Black). His relationship is over.

With this inauspicious beginning commences David Wain's supreme masterpiece, They Came Together. Previously known for tackling lighter topics like the innocent thrills of summer camps or couples retreats, They Came Together marks a departure for Wain. The film is riotously funny, but it is also deeply personal.

On the surface, They Came Together presents like a zany parody of You've Got Mail. Joel's new love interest is Molly (Amy Poehler). Watching Molly swish through her delightful homespun candy shop named Upper Sweet Side makes you realize how much the showrunners on Parks and Recreation dressed and made her up so as not to overshadow Rashida Jones or Aubrey Plaza.

In They Came Together, Poehler's Molly is the utter embodiment of womanhood. Mother of a nine year old son, she meets Joel at a Halloween party where both attend dressed as Ben Franklin.

Joel and Molly don't click at first, but eventually the two New Yorkers discover they share a rare hobby: they like fiction books. "It's the feeling of being transported to another place and time," Molly says at one point. Just as quickly as their romance takes off, Joel has second thoughts when he discovers that Molly's parents are white supremacists. (Did you know that over 30 percent of whites in America believe in white supremacy, and of those 30 percent, over 95 percent of white supremacists are regular viewers of Person of Interest?)

Molly and Joel try to make their relationships with other people work after that. Joel gets back together with Tiffany, who is honest enough to inform him that he should be very suspicious of her motives, and Molly finally accepts the advances of her accountant admirer Eggbert (Ed Helms). He does not particularly share her love of fiction ("I only like to read about things that actually happened," he explains over a burrito) but he does seem pretty devoted to her, even complimenting her on how she plays Charades.

Where They Came Together really shines in its exploration of how Jewish men adapt to dating non-Jewish women. Joel's parents were killed in a tragic accident, and he has had to provide for his younger brother  Jake (Max Greenfield) who now works as a cab driver. His knowledge of the financial reality of the candy industry is the complete opposite of Molly's homespun ways  in her shop, candy is free for all children and dogs.

When Joel's company attempts to put Molly's tiny candy shop out of business, we realize how insane it was in You've Got Mail that Meg Ryan blamed her low sales on bookstore chains that are now themselves filing for bankruptcy. No one has ever properly explained to me why wasting paper is somehow morally superior to reading something on your phone, and I doubt they ever will.

Unlike the out-of-date pieces of shit They Came Together pays tribute to, there is no happy ending here. Molly discovers she has an affinity for prescription painkillers, and the coffee shop that Joel tries to open on the Upper West Side flops within a week. Meaningfully, there is no overly familiar scene where Joel and Molly have sex  it wasn't really about that. It was about the candy, and how you really should not give it away for free.

Eleanor Morrow is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Manhattan. She last wrote in these pages about Masters of Sex. You can find an archive of her writing for This Recording here.

"Not Mine to Love" - Slow Club (mp3)

"The Pieces" - Slow Club (mp3

Wednesday
Aug212013

In Which We Provide A Masculine Contemporary

Major Fall, Minor Lift

by SHELBY SHAW

Prince Avalanche
dir. David Gordon Green
94 minutes

Forget all the roles you think of when you think of Paul Rudd, including his memorable role as Josh in 1995’s Clueless. Now Rudd is moving on from his current oeuvre of Apatow-ridden comedies and familiar funny-guy castings in David Gordon Green’s new film, Prince Avalanche.

Alvin (Paul Rudd) works in constructing the streets of a quiet area of Texas, evident from the state’s embroidery on his work clothes. With him for the labor is Lance (Emile Hirsch). Lance is out of high school, but he has the vernacular and tendencies of a thirteen year old. He is also the younger brother of Alvin’s significant other, Madison. Madison is not around in Prince Avalanche; she is home with daughter Olive, but letters are written back and forth over this summer of 1988.

Just as Frances Ha is a film about the transgression of female friendships, Prince Avalanche can be said to be a masculine contemporary, one that is slow and steady. If watched on mute about 80 percent of the film would be mistaken for a documentary episode on the Discovery Channel.

Alvin tries to learn German in anticipation for a trip with Madison, reads mail-in magazines, builds campsites, and takes charge. There’s often a feeling of Alvin shaking his head in wonder at how Lance’s seemingly-eternal youth is channeled into dance moves and trying to score with ladies instead of how to catch a fish, set up camp, and make a general effort to become A Man. There are a lot of long takes and overall less happens than one might have hoped for, but more comes through than one may have expected.

After falling asleep in a hammock he sets up by himself - alone for the weekend while Lance tries to “squeeze the little man” in the city - Alvin's elaborate dreams go on so long that it isn’t clear whether or not he’s dreaming at all.

There is something of a music video in the attention paid to all the slow zooms and pans of Texan wildlife that more strongly resemble New England than Texas: bright flaming oranges and deep lush greens amid the tall, dark, wet stripes of endless barren trees. But it’s all left behind when Alvin’s dreamscapes delve into a deeply surprising surrealism.

The mystery of the reappearing aviator, the relationship budding between Alvin and Lance, the solitude of the nature – it all slips away as a phone conversation between Alvin and Madison plays out in clear voices over light uplifting music set to a rapid discourse through the woods. It feels like hearing a cold reading and watching something else, like being handed too much of the truth of their failed relationship, spelled out when all this time things were anything but spelled-out clearly. Prince Avalanche yields a strange and affecting climax in the most anti-climactic sense.

At the end of this sequence Alvin comes walking through the trees, blue paint dashing through the forest until, the camera tracking downwards, there is a straight blue line on which the phrase “i love you so much” is written in blue. It’s as if someone made a Tumblr gif of a film and it somehow got put into the real thing.

Prince Avalanche is not so much about becoming an adult as it is about two different men learning how to take the reins of their lives with the help of one another. There are a number of things never explained, like Alvin’s medications, or the mysterious woman who appears only to the two of them, or the truck driver who is always lugging pop and booze to them on the road.

Even Madison’s true relation to Alvin is not fully disclosed until long after Prince Avalanche has picked up. But it is this kind of floating of the story that has Green entrusting it to his audience – backing out at the first sign of discomfort or surprise makes Prince Avalanche the “weird Paul Rudd movie.” Don’t back out. Alvin may realize he’s impossible, but it doesn’t make him any less capable. Even Lance proves that.

Shelby Shaw is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in New York. She tumbls here and twitters here. She last wrote in these pages about The To Do List.

"All Things At Once" - Tired Pony (mp3)

"The Ghost of the Mountain" - Tired Pony (mp3)

Wednesday
Jan022013

In Which Money Buys Judd Apatow Happiness

With Luxury

by SHELBY SHAW

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)