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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Culture Corner

The Arts Desk’s weekly picks for television, movies, novels and music

Television: Catch 22

When I heard Hulu was creating a show based off of one of my favorite books, “Catch 22” by Joseph Heller, I was somewhat apprehensive. How could one of the most nuanced, satirical anti-war books of our time be translated into a mini-series? It seemed as though “Catch-22” was written deliberately to be a convoluted nightmare for screenplay writers. Regardless, I gave it a shot and was not disappointed. With George Clooney at the directing helm, the series reflected the book’s same comically absurd and delightfully entertaining humanist critique of war and the ridiculous bureaucracy that backs it. Yossarian, a B-25 bombardier played by Christopher Abbott, embodies the pessimistic realism of the original and makes a perfect centerpiece for the series. As he and his buddies make a ruckus of the Italian island Pianosa, they confront outlandish characters, bamboozling logic and heartbreaking truths. Although I would recommend reading the novel first, the series is a great way to reconnect with Heller’s timeless masterpiece.

Movie: “Whiplash”

Want to get your blood pumping, undergo catharsis and be thoroughly entertained all in one go? Look no farther than “Whiplash.” Released in 2014 and directed by Damien Chazelle, Whiplash creeped into the critical spotlight, earning a handful of Oscars and a nomination for Best Picture (though it should have won). “Whiplash” follows the journey of drummer Andrew Niemann, played by Miles Teller, a first-year jazz student with a relentless work-ethic and an obsession with becoming etched into musical history as “one of the greats.” The movie centers on Niemann’s physically and mentally abusive relationship with Terrence Fletcher, the school’s studio band teacher, played by Oscar-winner J.K. Simmons. As their relationship unfolds, and as Fletcher pushes him to a breaking point, Niemann sees his relationship with the outside world crumble when his life becomes consumed by an addiction to greatness. 

Book: “Factfulness”

During times of misinformation, sensationalist stories and alarmist rhetoric, reading “Factfulness” is a necessity. Author Hans Rosling, esteemed professor of health at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, breaks down the trajectory of some of society’s most important metrics from child mortality rate, interstate conflict and women’s education. “Factfulness” examines the long-term patterns of global health and the tools needed to uncover the truth about our growingly complicated world. It urges the reader to be critical, do their own digging and come to their own conclusions. In closing, it may inject its readers with some much needed optimism. Our situation may be a little better than one might assume, despite what we may think by relying on nightly cable news or a Facebook newsfeed.

Album: “Sleep Through the Static”

“Sleep Through the Static” is the fourth studio album by Jack Johnson, the easy breezy singer-songwriter Hawaain native. This gem of an album helped me through the turbulent times of adolescence and I have been indebted to it ever since. To me, it has everything that’s great about Jack: his easy-going insightful lyrics are crystal clear, touching on everything from love to despair to the perils of climate change. Crisp guitar and piano riffs add accompaniment to a voice that has the quality of a deep, warm embrace. Some of my favorite tunes on the album include “If I had Eyes” and “Losing Keys.”

Written by: Andrew Williams — arts@theaggie.org


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