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Alex Carnevale

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Mia Nguyen

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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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Entries in sam worthington (3)


In Which We Watch Her Hands For Clues

Cheating on Keira Knightley


Last Night
dir. Massy Tadjedin
90 minutes

In many ways, Massy Tadjedin's Last Night is an exercise in how to make cheating look like the right thing to do. After all, a cast anchored by such unblemished actors — Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington, Eva Mendes and Guillaume Canet — clouds the film with a perfumed haze, leading us to contemplate their couplings agreeably, if not approvingly. There are no reinforced protagonists or antagonists, only choices amongst the beautiful.

Knightley and Worthington play a married couple - Joanna and Michael Reed - who met in college and married a few years down the line. Canet plays Alex, the guy who came in between the two stages of the Reeds' relationship; Mendes plays Laura, a designer for Michael's real estate development projects, and an attractive wedge in their otherwise quotidian marriage. The film centers around the various shades of cheating that arise when husband and wife are separated by a business trip, and both parties are confronted with an excess of desire.

Exploring a theme painfully common to relationship-oriented dramas, a film on infidelity often finds tropes hard to eschew. Secretive, erotic, unnecessarily elaborate — to our relief, Last Night is none of these things. It's straightforward, simple and, although predictable, surprisingly insightful. Most notably, it's — to the extent that still allows for unfaithfulness — honest.

Joanna dissects the impossibility of a relationship with Alex: "Oh, what I wouldn’t give to tire of you." She is frank in ways that are almost cruel; the film is stitched with these moments of disclosure. The characters’ respective bearings give depth to the otherwise routine plot. Instead of exploring the infidelity landscape, Tadjedin opts for a macro lens, a study of the minutiae. This sense of privacy, like the kind of bond forged after a confession, incites our empathy.

Last Night operates upon this surplus of information: although the four main characters are all astute, earnest and admirably introspective, they are also overdetermined. If happiness is not to exclude temptation, honesty does not prescribe morality. Being earnest does not mean knowing what to do with that honesty, if the choice is yours at all. Their frankness means unfaithfulness is discussed and resisted before being consciously and deliberately carried out. Last Night reveals the often-eclipsed ramifications of infidelity: awareness, acknowledgement, history, isolation, circumstance. Nothing is disavowed.

A film so visually interested by the personalized gestures between individuals certainly does not fail to utilize them as delineations as well. There are many complementary shades of affection in this movie: the almost-had-you embrace and the almost-lost-you reconciliation; the contemplative bleariness of guilt, and that of love's loss. Her guilt is manifested in the nervousness of her hands; his guilt is revealed by his taciturn responses.

The love between Joanna and Michael is a love that has aged into a refined rapport, an understanding of each other’s motivations no longer requiring demonstration. Much of their relationship has been internalized, and as such, there is ritualistic intimacy in everything: brushing teeth, snacking at midnight, taking the time to say "I love you." He intuits her silences as his own shortcoming. She reminds herself not to forgive easily. Their impulsions towards each other, as with gravity, have reached weightlessness.

No two bodies respond to each other with the same motions, and Joanna's relationships are no different. Her relationship with Michael exists in its own affective dimension, as does her relationship with Alex — with few overlaps.

She is aware of the polarity of her relationships, if not grateful for its perpetuation; it invites multiplicity, an alternative reality. Despite condemning Michael for craving novelty, she adorns herself in his absence: for Alex, she puts on lipstick, moisturizes, dons a pair of heels.

As that alternative, Alex and Joanna share an intimacy that is equally enviable, something that the director portrays beautifully. They have retained the cuteness of a new couple: the compulsion to smile, the inability to keep your hands off each other.

Alex knows Joanna through states of retrospective permanence: fixed addresses, memorized phone numbers, the writer's propensity for coffee in the morning. The frames of their relationship, developed in sparse windows of time across years — an e-mail here, a party there  — are welded to nostalgia. Their affection is most salient through reminiscence; after all, memory has always been a trigger for dormant desire. She tells him that their love is "something that doesn't change", something to hold on to. It doesn't lessen, doesn't become diaphanous with time. But how could it? There is no escape: a photograph kept in the dark barely fades.

the director with her stars

What Last Night exposes is not a series of acts of infidelity, but the rueful choices of individuals plagued with another reality, what Joanna astutely calls "the in-between", the episodes in which one can live outside of oneself. Its sadness lies in the inability of these characters to be content with a singular possibility, to put their decisions to bed and lie in it, unclothed, undisturbed.

As a result, the sting of Joanna and Alex’s night together is soothed by its own tenderness; the carnal grace of Michael and Laura's night is obstructed by his guilt.

There are instances of this life that we will into being, and those that materialize as consequence. As Joanne acutely confesses to Alex, "I don’t know that this would be what it is on its own." And really, what is? Her word is true of this and all stories, and all that we do. What we wouldn’t give to tire of the impossible, to accept the future without referencing the past, to be contented with the everyday without the unexpected to punctuate it? But we can't: we need absence to be sure of presence. Love only exists in comparison.

Tracy Wan is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Montreal. This is her first appearance in these pages. She tumbls here.

"Green Grass" - Tom Waits (mp3)

"Motel Blues" - Bombay Bicycle Club (mp3)

"Modern, Normal" - Memoryhouse (mp3)


In Which We Teach James Cameron A Thing Or Two

The Unsubtle



dir. James Cameron

161 minutes

There are still things Hollywood has yet to learn in this brave new age of cinema. Maybe most importantly —  no matter how good the CGI or whatever brand new visual technology they’re flashing before our eyeholes may be, nothing trumps a believable story and good acting. 2012 may have realistically wreaked destruction upon the Christ the Redeemer statue, but the fact remains someone cast Lloyd Dobler as the one American who can outdrive the crumbling earth in a limo. Oops.

James Cameron’s Avatar is saddled with this same problem. The 3D experience is incredible. It’s stunningly immersive and immaculately executed. The camerawork is exciting without any overly graphic scenes (a surprise stabbing in 3D could really spur a heart attack).

It’s like spending 3 hours in a Lisa Frank folder on acid. You might as well invest in 3D Lasik now — it will only save you money in the long run. The visual revolution is here. The only thing that could possibly be more entertaining than watching Avatar in 3D would be some sort of Avatar 4D screening, wherein James Cameron stands behind your seat yelling, “Watching you watch my movie is like watching two monkeys fuck a football.”

As an allegory, Avatar is a hit-you-over-the-head cautionary against American imperialism set on a moon called Pandora. There live a hot blue-bodied humanoid species, the Na’vi, and they inhabit a tree parked right over the mineral we grabby earthlings came for. It’s called UNOBTAINIUM. (Close runner up in the unsubtle naming pool: Nevergonnagetitium.)

For all you worrywarts out there, rest assured, despite all current signs to the contrary, America is still the number #1 world power in James Cameron’s future. The foreigners on base in Pandora can easily be divided into the good science-y Americans who just want to better understand the Na’vi people and the bad overly-militaristic ones who see the Na’vi as savages in the way of a precious resource.

Jake Sully, a paraplegic jarhead straddles the line between these two extremes, and he’s sent into the forest as a “dreamwalker”—a human embodying a genetically-forged, controllable Na’vi avatar. Jake lies in a pod, a scientist presses a red button, and poof he’s in the forest running around with a ten-inch electric blue cock.

Of course, when Jake’s journey begins his only goal is to spy on the Na’vi people. But as he learns more about them and is trained in the Na’vi way, he grows to like the Na’vi and see them as the benevolent, advanced society that they are. This of course is made easy because Cameron endows the blue people with English-speaking abilities, hot bodies, classically beautiful features, and the exact same family structure and benevolent rule as the greats of Western civ. It’s just so natural to love ‘em. They’re not ugly and they’re totally like us!

There are important lessons to be learned from these easily swallowed anthropomorphic creatures. For one, the Na’vi are super attuned to their environment. In fact, they can just plug their ponytails into trees and horse-like creatures and immediately become in synch with their surroundings.  Which is a good lesson for us—we Americans SHOULD be more plugged into the world, more in tune with our delicate ecosystem or whatever. When I got home from the theater I plugged my ponytail into my iPod receptor and immediately had the greatest synchgasm of my life.

But the more blatant lesson of Avatar is not that American imperialism is bad, but that in fact it’s necessary. Sure there are some bad Americans—the ones with tanks ready to mercilessly kill the Na’vi population, but Jake is set up as the real embodiment of the American spirit. He learns Na’vi fighting tactics better than the Na’vi themselves, he takes the King’s daughter for his own, he becomes the only Na’vi warrior in centuries to tame this wild dragon bird thing. Even in someone else’s society the American is the chosen one. He’s going to come in, lead your army, fuck your princesses, and just generally save the day for you. Got it? This is how we do it.

Lauren Bans is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Brooklyn. She blogs here. She twitters here. She last wrote in these pages on our robotic future.

"Dandelion" - Charlotte Gainsbourg (mp3)

"Greenwich Mean Time" - Charlotte Gainsbourg (mp3)

"Trick Pony" - Charlotte Gainsbourg (mp3)

"Time of the Assassins" - Charlotte Gainsbourg (mp3)


In Which There Is Probably A Terminator In This Movie

Poorly Named Auteur


Joseph McGinty Nichol directed this picture. He signed it “McG.” It makes me cringe to say it but: McG is getting interesting. It’s fashionable to hate the guy and maybe that fashion is on point, but there’s something in him that could be, might be, should be great. This film is not it. But the poorly named auteur has potential. High school track coaches search for it every season and upper level management goons comb the proles for it when promotion time rolls around, but few, very few souls in any field of human endeavor really have it. McG has it. Potential. Quote me.


How many directors can honestly marshal together all the pieces required to make a film like Terminator: Waste of Time (oops sorry: Salvation) see the light of day? The man had to: detonate a post-industrial Texaco; restrain Christian Bale’s self-importance; and convince the Governator to lend his likeness to a project that could only be called “a political liability.”

Doing these things is harder than you may think. McG has pulled together a huge, complex, and awe-inspiring-on-paper piece of movie. I really think the guy has something going for him; only maybe a half dozen other directors could have pulled off something this freaking big. It’s a damn shame the film is no good. But I suppose some people always knew that would be the case.

At the end of the film’s production, McG and the studio sent Arnold the Guv a showreel of Salvation’s juiciest parts. The man-him-self responded with doubt: “I do not know who the terminator is in this film. I do not know if there is a terminator.” Not the response McG et al were hoping for, certainly, but they should have listened.

When the truth arrives it doesn’t bring flowers; sometimes it speaks Austrian. Yes: this film lacks a terminator. “But wait. Ben. I’ve seen the trailers. There are tons of terminators. Bike terminators. Eel terminators. Huge Wild Wild West diesel powered terminators...” Right. Sure. But what Arnie and I mean is: there’s no unstoppable boo-machine in this film. The previous Terminators were sci-fi in their conceits – time travel let Cameron play fast and loose with set pieces - but their genre was always plain old Campfire Tale. Arnold in the first and Robert Patrick in the second were really just variations on The Guy With A Hook For A Hand – menacing, slow walking, deathless forces that would see our heroes terminated come hell or industrial machining accidents. Salvation has no perfect killing machine. It has no unstoppable manifestation of man’s techy hubris; just a bunch of disposable off-brand terminator knock-offs. No terminator means that it also, sadly, has no movie. (It is a movie, but it has no movie. “There’s no movie in your movie.” It makes sense. Trust me).

What does the film have instead? A long, well-rendered reference volume of terminator mythology. I suspect McG and the producers hired a 14-year-old fanboy as a script consultant – the film plays like an extended answer to every sideline question you or I might have had after seeing the first three films.

“How did John Connor gets his scar?” Oh yeah, he was cut by molten steel terminator claws. “Is there vegetation in future world?” Yep. Of the blood-red, ground clinging variety (exactly like in Spielberg’s War of the Worlds).

Do people still bother getting pregnant in the future, now that being alive basically sucks?” Um...yeah?

Bryce Dallas Howard both proves that people bang sans future-rubbers in 2018 and squanders my respect for her by flying into a detonating, war-ravaged Roboto HQ while cradling her way-preggers belly at the film’s disjointed climax. What kind of parent does that? More important: who signs up for a movie knowing her character will do that? The film is subtitled Salvation (as A. O. Scott, sage of the age, wisely put it: Salvation? really?) but it may as well have been Terminator: Appendix. There’s no rapture in this film, no religious eruption of redemption, just a lot of off-hand answers to lingering questions from the previous movies.

But damnit, they didn’t answer any of my questions. Like: do people still go to the theater in the future? Do people still laugh? I sat through the whole film and have no idea. There is absolutely zero wit in this film, and I don’t think I heard a single chuckle in the theater except for when CGI Arnold arrived rude and nude late third act.

If two good things come out of this film, they will be these: Christian Bale will only find work with feminist directors looking to study the fragility of male ego, and one of the hip New York mumblercore auteurs will get inspired by Salvation’s poster to make a post-apocalyptic My Dinner With Andre. It just tickles me to think of Wallace Shawn and Andre Gregory sitting down to dine in an after-the-bombs downtown Manhattan eatery, catching up on how their respective theater careers have changed now that Übermensch Skynet has taken over Broadway, off-Broadway, and off-off-Broadway. I really think a film like that could be great.

The mumblecore style is so resolutely dedicated to slacker production aesthetics – shitty lighting, shitty framing, shitty set design – an ambitious concept (machines run the world; men live like rats) might actually become interesting and fresh in the hands of a Joe Swanberg or a Jay Duplass, instead of just rote and un-arousing, as it has so consistently been in every $200 million + Hollywood picture that’s come down the logjam since Thunderdome plopped.

No. No you should not see Terminator Salvation. It will bore you and you will feel a little bit bad afterwards for encouraging Christian Bale. McG is an interesting, promising director. He has “the potential.” But he clearly doesn’t need your encouragement to continue making films. Neither Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle nor We Are Marshall discouraged his professional ambitions.

Your dollars poured into the abyss of Terminator Salvation will have no effect on his future plans. Let’s all just let this loud, monochromatic fanboy festival pass through theaters, like a T-Rex in the night, and hope that someone – maybe McG’s niece, or his barber – starts choosing scripts for him. Joseph McGinty Nichol, if you’re reading this: a good script can make you great. Wait for your pitch, and then swing just like you’ve been swinging. You’ve got the old-school directing muscle, and when the right project comes at you, you’ll knock it clear to Mexico. But you can’t keep swinging at the trash. Trust me. I know what puts the movie into movies.

Ben Arfmann is a contributor to This Recording. This is his first appearance in these pages. He tumbls it all here.

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"Left in Fragments" - Chris Tignor (mp3)

"Last Nights on Eagle Street" - Chris Tignor (mp3)

"Core Memory Unwound" - Chris Tignor (mp3)