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Alex Carnevale

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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 shelby shaw (13)


In Which We Provide A Masculine Contemporary

Major Fall, Minor Lift


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)


In Which We Are Held Accountable For Sexual Curiosity

Way Too Long

The To Do List 
dir. Maggie Carey 
104 min.

Maggie Carey’s directorial debut was a 2001 documentary called Ladyporn in which two female students attempt to “produce a porno for women.” Carey’s first feature, The To Do List, seems to spring from a similar well. Brandy Klark (Aubrey Plaza) is valedictorian of her Boise high school’s class of 1993, and she has the record-breaking GPA to deserve it – but she has one last thing to learn before her pre-Georgetown education is complete: sex, and all of it.

I can’t help but wonder how she missed out on learning anything at all about sex acts when going through sex ed in school, a notorious time to crack jokes and act like a know-it-all (which, in some people’s cases, wasn’t acting at all). Didn’t she at least see Fast Times at Ridgemont High? Think of movies from 2002 that you know, it doesn’t seem so far in the past. Maybe she scoffed at the very idea of Fast Times, but her best friends really didn’t try to convince her, or force her to watch it on VHS the way they eagerly plan a whole night to watch Beaches?

How could Brandy not have a single inkling of sex? She has two best friends (who seem to be her only friends) deemed “slutty” by everyone else. She has an older sister Amber (Rachel Bilson) who got sex out of the way when she was 15. Brandy’s unending innocence with all things sexual may be comically unbelievable on its own – like when she consults an Encyclopedia Britannica for “rim job” – but putting into perspective the lack of Internet and today’s aggressively candid portrayals of sex in “reality TV,” movies, and books may almost make it acceptable to be so far out of the know. MTV’s The Real World did premier in 1992, but that was when MTV actually stood for “Music Television” and pop – not pulp – culture.

Brandy’s desire to become a wise sexpert, and not necessarily a lustful sex icon, begins with Rusty Waters (Scott Porter). With a name that already sounds like a colon-related STD, Rusty looks like a surfing model or boy-band frontman and is home from college for the summer. There is a precise lonesome quality of Rusty’s that lets us see no harm with Brandy pursuing him.

Sure, our first image of him is at a party, playing guitar surrounded by girls – before somehow mistaking a drunken Brandy for a blonde he’s meeting for sex – but he is never popular with other women otherwise. He keeps more or less to himself at the pool and keeps a playful, not sinister nor even suggestive, banter with Brandy, or “Newbie” as he calls her in regards to her new lifeguard gig. Brandy’s haute crush on him and determination to ultimately give him her virginity is like a harmless crush on a celebrity.

Brandy is trying to accomplish many things, from hand jobs to orgasms, but she never lets anything such as emotional attachment or reputations – her own or the guys’ – get in the way. When the other lifeguards at the pool find out about her list of sex acts to complete, they assume she’s writing a sex manual. As Derrick (Donald Glover) puts it to Rusty, Brandy can do anything sexual that she wants to do because “it’s all research.” Guys are in awe of her, but is it because she has sexual freedom without reputational tarnish or is it because of her undertaking to complete this sex encyclopedia? Can women only be awed or held neutrally accountable for sexual curiosity if it can be backed up by a bigger purpose than just personal experimentation?

Later, Brandy masturbates while wearing a Clinton shirt and achieves orgasm with her face next to Hillary Rodham.

Brandy makes plans with Derrick to make Rusty jealous. But when she gets to his house, Derrick is the one to propose a plan: cunnilingus. She’s surprised he’s wanting to do this with her, but he explains that he was dumped for not being good at it. He wants to practice to make perfect, she wants to get it done to know what she’s dealing with for future reference. It’s the only time male and female sexuality are equated or even compared. Derrick is doing exactly what Brandy is doing, but it isn’t made to seem that way, and they never “practice” anything else afterwards. Their mutual symbiosis is just another one of her endeavors.

Regardless of how much respect or awe or coolness she may (silently) gain, Brandy never gets called a slut nor is treated like one, she is never pressured, and is never put into compromising situations except when others constantly walk in on her experiences. Initially Brandy's friends are supportive of her sexual journey, and at one point she is even encouraged to look at all the progress she’s accomplished in one summer. Only when Brandy disregards the boundaries of her girlfriends is she denigrated for her behavior, by her own best friend no less.

When Fiona (Alia Shawkat) begins to dance around the idea of a date with Cameron (Johnny Simmons), Brandy’s best guy-friend and painfully-obvious True Love, emotions come into play for the first time, even though at this point Brandy has already dry-humped with her friend Wendy's ex-boyfriend. Is it that only when threatened by losing sexual attention women are more prone to competition with one another, creating allies and cutting off foes? Or is it that Fiona and Wendy are calling Brandy out on her no-boundaries promiscuity, despite in the name of discovery research, for the sake of girlfriend code? It isn’t until Brandy’s sexuality branches out to include and protect certain guys that her friends – who are considered “slutty” but are never actually shown exhibiting this trait – disapprove of her behavior. 

Despite the campiness of the humor and the mildness of the 1990s setting (the interiors supplied enough Nineties to make up for the dialogue), The To Do List is like a Lifetime original with swearing and better cinematography. For a film about being deflowered on as many accounts as one girl can manage, nothing is raunchy or terribly obscene – no nudity (despite often losing her top), no explicit footage of hand jobs, blowjobs, or even straight-up intercourse, which is always censored with thickly wrapped blankets almost to the point of absurdity. The “real life” goal in such a constructed deliverance made me think of Lizzie McGuire if she tried to learn sex from Clarissa Explains It All.

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 places about replacing her artifacts.

"Here Comes The Snow" - Matthew Ryan (mp3)

"Summer in the South" - Matthew Ryan (mp3)


In Which They Began Spawning In Their Teens

Bluest Velvet


The White Queen 
series writer Emma Frost

With a startlingly-familiar Lifetime soundtrack and overall contemporary feel to the characters’ airs, Lady Elizabeth Woodville Grey (Rebecca Ferguson) is a more realistic Kate Moss. Lady Elizabeth rolls her eyes, walks briskly in what looks like a white California beach cover-up, and lodges with a woman I first assumed is an older sister or cousin; it's her mother (Janet McTeer). Remember women began spawning in their teens in 1464 Northamptonshire, England.

When Mom takes her two young sons to greet Edward (Max Irons) the new king who has slain her husband, she seems eager and flirts openly. He looks like a college football player while Lord Warwick (James Frain) sounds American. Mother reminds Elizabeth of their magical bloodline and they consummate various forbidden witchcraft to predict the future. The White Queen is both drama and historical fiction.

Edward wins Elizabeth over by playing the whole I’m-going-to-battle-and-this-could-be-my-last-request card that must have been such a successful line in the day. Within 48 hours they make it seem like they’re lost childhood lovers. Her brothers disapprove of this puppy love, as Edward has already bed all the wives in England, they sneer. It was when I noticed Elizabeth wearing the same dress/hairstyle every day that I realized I can relate to her.

Because she meets up with King Edward, he assumes she wants sex and attempts to rape her, but not before she pulls out his dagger and begins to cut her own throat in warning not to come near. He makes a lot of I’m-King and you-wanted-it excuses before promising never to return. She’s clearly smarter and more mature than she comes off, causing me to wonder what her ultimate plan truly is (maybe magic). But in the next scene, no sign of the cut of her neck, she admits to Mother that if Edward dies in the coming battle, she’ll regret not letting him have her, she already regrets it. Because she loves him, or because he’s a celebrity?

While the men are the fighters, ultimate decision-makers, and heads-of-house, the women of The White Queen, based on the books of Philippa Gregory, are clearly represented as strongholds. Mother not only “scares” Elizabeth’s father (Robert Pugh), as he admits, but Elizabeth’s own magic begets her a simple sign: a crown ring. When she sees off Edward to battle, they coyly admit to being in love now because they’re insomniacs with no appetite. If she won’t be his mistress then will she marry him? She accepts happily and he says they’ll keep it a secret for awhile. This is a short jump into a very serious relationship.

Elizabeth marries in blue velvet (seems obviously witchy, could just be New Age materialism) but Edward forgets the rings and asks Mother if he can “borrow” one. Elizabeth produces (from matching blue velvet purse) her magic crown ring. He asks his new mother-in-law where to take Elizabeth and she gives him a key to a lakeside lodge prepped for consummation, like a parent handing over the keys to their Jersey Shore house for unmentionable pleasures.

The ensuing sex scene is brief and tame. Afterwards Edward must wash; at dinner he replaces sexual innuendo for conversation. He hastily leaves for battle and casually tells Elizabeth to never reveal their marriage. She immediately reveals it to her always-somewhat-perversely-spying brother Anthony (Ben Lamb) who in turn reveals how Edward has done this before and already has a bastard son.

When called upon to marry a French Princess for a peace treaty, King Edward ignores Lord Warwick’s request and announces his marriage to Elizabeth. It’s royally social suicide, but love is blind. Elizabeth and Mother meet Edward’s mother, Duchess Cicely (Caroline Goodall), an elegantly austere royal hag, and it’s perhaps the juiciest scene, fifteenth-century Mean Girls, with tongues so surprisingly sharp I expect them to behead one another. But what would an ending be without Elizabeth having a Seeing of her own murder?

By episode two, Elizabeth is quite pregnant in white (how ironic) before coronation, births a girl, and begins her duties as Queen, which mostly involve social appearances to banquets and weddings arranged between royal children.

Unfolding with enough secrets to make you wonder how it really happened, the stories continue in endless real-time, seemingly candid (for the fifteenth century) so that it never quite drags on. Everyone has their “conniving” look perfected, families tend to be more concerned with society than kinship, and women are factually scheming objects, living chess pieces men can choose to play. In The White Queen, politics are the never-ending gossip even of young girls – compatible royal matches are the heartthrobs of the century, and they’d all kill to have one as a husband, love second.

Three years later, Isabel (Eleanor Tomlinson), Warwick’s older daughter, finally gets a marriage to Edward’s brother George (David Oakes). War breaks out, made the riskier for because of controversy over Edward’s legitimacy and because Elizabeth has not borne him an heir. Meanwhile her father and a brother are beheaded at Warwick’s order.

Magic appears in the royal blood again through Lady Margaret’s (Amanda Hale) vision of her young 5-year-old, Henry (Reece Pockney), to be King Henry Tudor of England. The witches keep appearing as Mother gives a detailed spell and Elizabeth ominously carries out the curse after crying, “I tried to make them all my friends but now I want them dead.” This is the War of Roses.

Shelby Shaw is the senior contributor to This Recording. She is a writer and artist living in New York. You can find her website here. She twitters here and tumbls here. She last wrote in this pages about her return to New York.

"Beginners" - Matthew Fowler (mp3)

"Come Be With Me" - Matthew Fowler (mp3)

The new album from Matthew Fowler is entitled Beginning, and you can find his website here.