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Monday, April 22, 2024

Culture Corner with Josh Madrid

The Arts Desks’ weekly picks for movies, books, music and television shows.

Television: “Dracula” 

Among the multitude of vampire television shows and movies that have arrived and been easily forgotten, “Dracula” does not have the most creative title, but has an interesting synthesis of old Hollywood, Transylvania and the modern world. This Netflix mini-series is a suspenseful, witty depiction of a character easily written off as pure evil and lacking any redeeming qualities. In a more morally ambiguous account, Count Dracula, played by Claes Bang, spends his nearly five undead centuries searching for the perfect bride — finicky at its finest. My favorite line in the series is when Agatha Van Helsing (Dolly Wells) — a 19th century nun that doesn’t believe in God — asks Dracula why he kills things he finds beautiful. His response: “Why do you pick flowers?”

Movie: “The Two Popes” dir. by Fernando Meirelles

Based on true events, this Netflix biographical drama depicts the series of events that lead up to Jorge Mario Bergoglio’s Papacy. Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce) travels to the Vatican summer home to meet with Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins) in hopes that Pope Benedict XVI will grant him his retirement. At the same time, the Catholic Church is under heavy scrutiny for several allegations including sexual harassment and financial misconduct, so Pope Benedict sees Bergoglio’s retirement as a protest. Pope Benedict, a conservative preservationist that holds tradition closely, is resistant to change. On the other hand, Bergoglio sees the changing world around him and understands the Church’s obligation to connect with this world in new ways. The film is moving, as the audience watches Bergoglio melt Pope Benedict’s cold heart. 

Album: “Norman F***ing Rockwell!”

This was my absolute favorite album of the year and, hopefully, the winner of Song of the Year for “Norman F***ing Rockwell!” and Album of the Year of the same title at the 62nd Grammy Awards. Del Rey discusses American nostalgia through the lens of the famous American painter, Norman Rockwell. The name alone won’t bring a specific painting to mind for most, but notable paintings include “Freedom from Want” and “Before the Shot.” Del Rey explains in an interview that the album inspiration stemmed from frustration toward the trajectory of the country. She poses the question: Is Norman Rockwell all we have to look forward to? I’m also ecstatic about the album because it centers around Los Angeles and in particular my hometown of Long Beach. My favorite tracks include “Hope is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me to Have – but I Have It,” which is reminiscent of Jim Morrison’s ballad “Mariners Apartment Complex” for its ode to nautical melodies, and “Doin’ Time” because Del Rey is well-qualified to represent the LBC. 

Book: “Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language” by Gretchen McCulloch

This is a great read for people that like to think about language and the reasons we speak the way we do (i.e. linguistics). Times change and language changes with it and, in this era, the internet is influencing our language at a rapid rate. The author, Gretchen McCulloch, is an internet linguist and founder of the podcast and blog “Lingthusiasm.” She debunks common linguistic issues such as the assumption that informal writing makes us less smart. 

Written by: Josh Madrid – arts@theaggie.org


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