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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Culture Corner with Ilya Shrayber

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

Movie: “Police Story” (1985) dir. by Jackie Chan  

Democracy is flailing, COVID-19 is spreading and the stock market is the worst it’s been since the 1930s or something like that. So you owe it to yourself to kick back, relax and watch Jackie Chan beat the living daylight out of hundreds of corrupt officials and their henchmen. Set against the backdrop of a 1980s Hong Kong, “Police Story” is the ridiculous tale of Chan Ka-Kui (Jackie Chan), who botches a sting operation, pisses off his superiors and causes general mayhem, all in the name of higher justice. Intoxicating colors and rapid cinematography define the film’s energy — fun, yet deeply gripping. “Police Story” is hilarious, even for an international audience. At the same time, it has moments of tragedy, serious drama and character development. But at its core, it’s just a really fun piece of filmmaking. If you’ve never seen a crime lord fall through multiple panels of glass in a Hong Kong shopping mall, can you really call yourself a cinephile?

Book: “5,000 km per second” by Manuele Fiore 

Near the end of the first chapter of “5,000km per second,” Piero, our main character, gets an earful from Nicola, his best friend: “You saw her for three minutes! You can’t be stuck on her already!” Immediately, he responds: “Seven minutes. And I think this is it!” Never have I felt more attacked by a piece of literature. That being said, there are quite a few reasons you should pick up a copy of “5,000 km per second.” It could be the art: beautifully analogous watercolors that convey just as much emotion as they do plot. It could be the narrative: A not-quite love story that bounces from Europe to Africa and then back again. Or it could be the message at the center of it all: A simple glance is sometimes all it takes to change your life, for better or worse. On a sunny day, I sat down and finished the graphic novel on the Quad in about an hour. I hollered with laughter, I quietly shed a few tears and when I finished it, I smiled. 

Album: “Hippies” by Harlem  

Growing up in San Francisco meant that there were always at least a couple of stinky, grimey, degenerate-filled house shows happening on any given weekend. They were energetic, electric and, most of all, a ton of fun. Harlem is kind of my go-to band when people ask me what the sound of these shows are. At its core, it is frantic, catchy garage rock jams that just make you want to dance. No synthesizers, tons of fuzz pedals. Fifty percent chance of a broken amp and 100% chance of someone slapping the bag while they play. Put simply, it’s what someone who works at The Co-Op would call “straight bangers.” Hippies itself is filled to the brim with certified earworms — seriously, every song on this record could be a single if it wanted to, and that’s saying something. With pure guitar riffs, alkaline lyricism and a penchant to explore youth in urbanity, Harlem jumps over a fence that separates good artists from great; they capture a moment in time, a feeling. 

TV Show: “Seinfeld” 

With a dozen things happening at once, and another dozen up in the air, the ample time one has to relax should be spent in any fashion that makes you crack a smile. For myself, that looks like gathering a plethora of blankets, wrapping myself up like a bean and cheese burrito and watching “Seinfeld.” It is, in every sense, escapism. A simpler time, “Seinfeld” somehow took the malaise of everyday life and weaved it into hilarious narratives of friends living in The Big Apple. The show has, in many ways, just been something of a mood booster. It is quite hard to juggle the many different obstacles life throws at us. But somehow, despite all that, I have found solace in a dumb ‘90s sitcom, one that can make me laugh when everything else seems to make me frown. 

Written by: Ilya Shrayber — arts@theaggie.org


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