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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Culture Corner

The Arts Desk’s weekly picks for movies, books, music, television shows

Book: “Factory Girls: From Village to City in Changing China” by Leslie T. Chang

I went in with low expectations. “Factory Girls” was part of my required reading and I predicted boring numbers and facts. I had no idea it would become one of my favorite books ever. The novel follows author Leslie T. Chang’s time spent in China, researching her own family tree and studying the effects of the country’s unprecedented economic growth in the early 1990’s on migrant workers from poor rural families. She tells the story of Dongguan, one of China’s largest manufacturing cities, and the stories of the migrant workers who make up its population. She depicts their lives as an adventure replete with villains and heartbreak. She portrays the objectively dismal living conditions, but also highlights the pockets of joy: “If it was an ugly world, at least it was their own.” The novel is consuming, entertaining, heartfelt and well written. If you’re looking for an easy read where you’ll learn something, go with “Factory Girls.”

Movie: “Magic Mike” (2009) dir. by Steven Soderbergh

As I sat in front of a newsfeed on the evening of Nov. 3, 2020, I was struck by an all-consuming thought: I should watch “Magic Mike” right now. What better way to spend your election night than indulging in this timeless 2009 classic. This was my first time watching and let me tell you, I was blown away. The saturated yellow color of Tampa in contrast with the purple atmosphere of an all male strip club cements this movie in the color grading hall of fame. Channing Tatum proves himself as the charismatic lead. He’s also really good at dancing and does a backflip (Hello? Academy?). I think we need more actors like him, the kind of men you look at and instantly think, “that man is very dumb.” “Magic Mike” doesn’t come near the emotional depth of fellow stripping film “Hustlers,” but it’s a good time. Honestly, the stripping parts were kind of eh, but the plot was riveting. What can I say? I like an underdog story.

TV Show: “Sharp Objects” 

Books adapted into miniseries nation, we win again. Author of “Gone Girl” Gillian Flynn’s debut novel adaptation follows a reporter (Amy Adams) as she returns to her small town to investigate the murders of two young girls. The eight episodes explore her twisted family dynamic through atmospheric and disorienting visuals until we reach the stunning conclusion. I can’t believe I didn’t watch it sooner. It has always been on my mind (mostly because Beth from “Little Women” is in it and I wanted to see what she’s up to). I finished it in two days, utterly consumed by the haunting gothic overtones. Directed by the same director as “Big Little Lies,” the series takes a much darker and more gothic approach to storytelling. The ending is so shocking it stayed with me for days. Please do not watch if you’re scared of blonde people. 

Album: “Brol La Suite” by Angéle

If you are a fan of pop and/or feminism, you’ve probably heard about the recent collab between Dua Lipa and Angéle. “Fever” marks the long awaited international debut of one of France’s biggest pop stars and it’s a perfect chance to immerse yourself in her body of work. The Belgian-born artist’s first album “Brol La Suite” is an hour of some of the best pop music released in the last decade. I don’t understand a word, but good electronic pop transcends language. Her style is very unique; most songs sound low-fi and semi-muted, but are still dance tracks. The production paired with her versatile soft vocals has a hypnotic quality. The standout tracks are the more upbeat ones, like “Flemme” and “Oui ou non,” but the slower songs like “Insomnies” and “La thune” are similarly captivating. Unfortunately, in terms of albums, “Brol La Suite” is all we’ve got right now. But keep your head up Angéntourage, there’s more incredible music on the horizon.

Written by: Livvy Mullen — arts@theaggie.org


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