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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Culture Corner with Mike Holzer

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

Movie: “A Beautiful Mind”

Ron Howard does a fantastic job of storytelling in this star-studded, Academy Award-winning 2001 movie, based on Sylvia Nasar’s biography of the same name. John Nash (Russell Crowe) is a brilliant but odd mathematician who comes up with an original theory at Princeton that ultimately earns him a Nobel Prize. His wife, Alicia, (Jennifer Connelly) stands by him as his behavior becomes increasingly erratic. The audience is pulled into the chaos — wondering what is real and what is not — until Nash is ultimately diagnosed with schizophrenia.

The enduring love between Nash and his wife is challenged numerous times as they try to rebuild their shattered lives following his diagnosis, but it’s this love that leads him back to academia. The ending is sure to pull on heartstrings, and his Nobel acceptance speech is one for the ages: Instead of delving into his mathematical theory, Nash speaks about love.

Album: “Let It Bleed” by The Rolling Stones

This is Stones at their peak. Ending the decade with one of their best albums of all time, The Stones’ tenth American studio album was released at the end of a turbulent decade, on Dec. 5, 1969.  The album includes the classics such as, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and “Midnight Rambler” which are the last two songs founding band member Brian Jones played before his death. The album also included “Country Honk,” which fans will recognize as the harbinger of the hit “Honky-Tonk Women.”

The two greatest songs on the album both open with some of the best guitar riffs from the band: The piano and guitar quietly kick off the drug anthem “Monkey Man,” which then explodes into electric guitar before Mick’s insane lyrics about fleabit peanut monkeys, junkies, cold pizza and lemon squeezers. The opening guitar on “Gimme Shelter,” with its eerie apocalyptic sound, has appeared in movie scores and even a recent congressional campaign kick-off ad. The haunting notes and lyrics about rape and murder were a homage to the times — the Vietnam war raged and both JFK and RFK had recently been assassinated. Mick is joined on the lyrics “rape murder, it’s just a shot away” by Mary Clayton, who was called in the middle of the night as she laid in bed pregnant and with curlers in her hair. It took Clayton just a couple of takes to blow away the British band.

Television: “Law & Order” (original)

First aired in September 1990 with the final episode airing two decades later in May 2010, this crime drama filmed in New York City focuses on — you guessed it — the police who investigate crimes and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders. A slew of wonderful actors have appeared in the show’s regular cast, my personal favorites being DA Jack McCoy (Sam Waterston), Detectives Lennie Briscoe (Jerry Orbach) and Rey Curtis (Benjamin Bratt) and Lieutenant Anita Van Burren (S. Epatha Merkerson). Although every episode starts with a disclaimer that the crime stories are fictional, many episodes seem to mimic high-profile crimes that have captured national attention.

The show doesn’t always end with a conviction — even when it appears it should. “Law & Order” is more about the human drama in finding the supposedly guilty party and the courtroom prosecution of those individuals. 

Book: “The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game”

Before the movie, there was the book. Michael Lewis’ “The Blind Side” tells the story of Michael Oher, a physically gifted young man who overcomes a highly dysfunctional life to earn a college scholarship to Ole Miss. Lewis, who is well-known for his financial writing, delves into the economics of various football positions and why offensive tackles are so highly paid. He explains that offensive tackles are the team’s insurance policy and protect the “blind side” of the typically highest-paid player on a team: the quarterback. 

The main character, Oher, is an African American man born into poverty. He does not know his father, his birthdate or even his real last name. He meets a wealthy family who take him into their home and create a culture in which he can thrive while playing at an elite private high school. Oher eventually becomes a highly paid NFL player, thanks in large part to the Tuohy family, who ultimately adopt him. 

Written by: Mike Holzer — arts@theaggie.org 


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