The Arts Desk’s weekly pick of movies, tv shows, books and music
Movie: “The Most Hated Family in America” dir. by Geoffrey O’Connor (2007)
The Westboro Baptist Church has been picketing funerals for decades, drawing completely understandable ire and generally making fools of themselves under the classic assumption that no publicity is bad publicity. However, due to their highly insular and antagonistic behavior toward outsiders, few have managed to actually capture the true nature of those involved. Louis Theroux manages to put together a pretty compelling portrait of the Kansas family that populates one of the most infamous hate groups still present today. The self-deception and thinly veiled sadness of those involved comes through consistently despite Theroux’s occasionally obnoxious demeanor and a fairly lean runtime. This thing should probably be hyperlinked in the Merriam-Webster entry for cognitive dissonance.
Book: “The Loser” by Thomas Bernhard (1983)
Bernhard provides one of the most haunting depictions of competitive neuroticism ever written. A nameless narrator, standing in the door of an inn, recalls his attempt to become a professional pianist alongside his friend Glenn Gould. Gould’s virtuosity is so earth-shattering that it instantly sends both the narrator and his friend into a years-long death spiral out of sheer naked inferiority, leading to Gould’s suicide—all in a single unbroken 40,000 word paragraph. Just about every page has a line that demands to be reread or re-reread. Bernhard’s control of language is unrivaled and seems to display the very same innate power he ascribes to Gould. Infinitely memorable and sad, “The Loser” is a winding, monstrous reminder that when we meet the very best, we have to give up.
Album: “Codename: Dustsucker” by Bark Psychosis (2005)
Moody and subtle, “Codename: Dustsucker” is a sprawling soundscape of abandoned cities and mistuned pianos, all aimed towards the same point way off on the horizon. It’s atmospheric, beautiful and sometimes unsettling. I would not recommend giving this one a listen while walking home at night. (I tried and it wasn’t a good time.) There’s nothing specifically scary about it per se, but there’s probably never been a more cohesive musical depiction of living in a fallout shelter, and no album containing a track titled “The Black Meat” is gonna be entirely comforting. It’s excellently produced and creates a mood you won’t experience anywhere else. Give it a listen if you get the chance.
TV Show: “The Wire” (2002)
Hey, it’s “The Wire!” You know, that show your dad likes. So, bad news—it’s really good. Yes, it’s largely scenes of 30-something alcoholics and drug dealers repeatedly having the worst day of their lives, but it’s also impeccably written—it’s realistic and enthralling and unbelievably satisfying, not to mention really not boring at all, despite what the cultural representation of the show might have you believe. Season five gets just a twinge goofy, with McNulty fabricating the existence of a serial killer to rouse an increase in police budget and somehow getting away with the whole thing, but besides that, “The Wire” is consistently amazing and certainly worth the time investment.
Written by: Jacob Anderson — firstname.lastname@example.org