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Alex Carnevale

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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 terminator (2)


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)


In Which They Are Taken From Us With Cause

Kill Lists, YouTubes, And Other Ways To Pass The Time


It is always disturbing to find your own name on a kill list. In the case of this Washington mom, she found her daughter's name on a kill list. She immediately oriented herself towards the sky, spread her arms wide, and yelled like in Wolverine.

The first kill list was constituted in the early stone age, and the trouble wasn't in completing the stated intention, it was reading the handwriting of that period. From then on it was mostly girls in high school. No one ever said why they had to list the ways they would kill her. The whole point of a kill list is that the method is arbitrary. It is a distinction that maintains we still must do what we say, despite all evidence to the contrary.

A Pierce County mother says she's horrified by a cartoon video - posted online - that showed several ways to kill her sixth grade daughter. The cartoon was made off school grounds by some of her daughter's classmates, girls aged 11 and 12.

Titled "Top Six Ways to Kill Piper," it includes depictions of girls shooting her, making her commit suicide, poisoning her and even pushing her off a cliff. Beth Smith tells KING5-TV the cartoon was set to a Hannah Montana song called "True Friend" and posted on YouTube.

Her daughter Piper attends Elk Plain School of Choice in Spanaway, Wash., as do the girls who made the video. The little girl says it hurt her feelings.

A boy was recently expelled for an 18-name kill list. My reaction: He only wanted to kill 18 people? I feel for the little guy, because before the computer was around, it was totally status quo to make real world kill lists with pen and paper. I think we actually even might have carried some of them out. Let me check with Google.

"you're of different religions and colors. who would like to take a bath with me?"In Hawaiian Gardens, CA, of all places, a Latino gang was targeting black people outside of L.A.

Gang members take pride in their racism and often refer to the VHG Gang as the `Hate Gang,'" the main indictment said. "VHG gang members have expressed a desire to rid the city of Hawaiian Gardens of all African-Americans and have engaged in a systematic effort to achieve that result by perpetrating crimes against African-Americans."

the fact that gang members have facebook photos: good for both cops and bloggerThe indictment alleges a string of attacks on black residents, including a shooting into a home with eight people inside. The indictment does not say if anyone was hit.

Fortunately, according to the California hate crime law, only white people and black people can be arrested for hate crimes. Being Latino was ruled "a grey area."

another kind of kill listIn another instance, two gang members allegedly chased a black man, yelled a racist epithet at him and then beat him with a garden rake. The same man was later repeatedly stabbed by two gang members, according to the indictment, which charged them with his attempted murder.

For god's sake people, have you never seen John Leguizamo's one man show? Healing. It's about healing. And I think Jada Pinkett Smith is Latino, or the younger version of her that was on Star Trek. I'll have my research intern work on that one.

Killing people is totally wrong, but making a list of people to kill can be so right. In my time, that shit was different. This was before TLC dropped "Waterfalls." This was when Michael Jackson was black, when Jesus was a real person and had a phone number and stuff. This came first.

I just saw Terminator: Salvation and those guys really don't stick to their kill list. The people who made that movie have no idea how many contingencies a machine intelligence would plan for. Thus you have an enemy that is downright retarded and makes no sense. Guess what list of mine McG is on?

i know it sucks, but the poster was cool right?

Christian Bale is on a similar list, because he's a dick and can't act except by growling. The governor of the state in which this Latino hate-grudge grows was in the movie I watched. Mind-boggling stuff that even Marshall McLuhan didn't see when he took LSD.

marshall, you fucked us. what happened?Fortunately, the much-maligned Seth MacFarlane took care of Christian Bale so I didn't have to:

Before the machine — Cyberdyne, Apple, Jamba Juice, Rachel Maddow — comes to get us, let's see if we can't get off on the right foot this time. TLC had so much promise. I was really looking forward to the 2009 TLC album that would contain lyrics about a nude photoshoot that had been discovered in 2008. That's all I'm waiting for.

My friend Eleanor says we should all collectively agree to set the clock back to 1994. Date is arbitrary anyway. You know what they do in theater, right? Take it again from the top.

Alex Carnevale is the editor of This Recording. He tumbls here.

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"Creep" — TLC (mp3)

"Take Our Time" — TLC (mp3)

"Waterfalls" — TLC (mp3)