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Monday, September 27, 2021

Culture Corner

The Arts Desk’s weekly pick of movies, tv shows, books and music

Movie: “Howl’s Moving Castle” dir. by Hayao Miyazaki (2005)

“Howl’s Moving Castle” is a Japanese animated movie produced by the critically acclaimed production company Studio Ghibli. The story is set in a fictional kingdom where technology, magic and war all collide into a constellation of vivid colors, heart-warming dialogue and an unlikely love story. The film follows a young hat maker named Sophie who has never seen herself as anything special or beautiful, just an ordinary girl making an honest living. However, a wizard named Howl quickly swoops in and adds a little sparkle and a whole lot of danger into her life. Soon she becomes cursed and turns into an old, withering lady by an envious, greedy witch who had been obsessed with Howl. If you like love stories, unnecessary proclamations of self-sacrifice, magical fighting and colorful chaos, this movie is for you. I was 10 years old when I first watched this movie, and rewatching it as an adult made me realize how stunning it is. It reminded me that in life there’s still hope even during the darkest or most chaotic times. I felt like I was a carefree kid again watching a movie that made me feel like life is still magical. 

TV Show: “Bridgerton” 

In the recently released Netflix original series “Bridgerton,” produced by Shonda Rhimes, viewers are brought into the 1820s Regency Era of Great Britain. During the eight-part Netflix special, we are introduced to the Bridgerton family as its daughters and sons try to find love in aristocratic Britain. The series has handsome dukes, a meddling queen, way too many balls and a mystery “Gossip Girl”-esque character who keeps busy revealing the ugliest skeletons in everyone’s expensive closets. Modern hits are given a new spin with classical orchestras, pianofortes and trumpets playing covers of songs by pop stars like Ariana Grande and Billie Eilish. A cover of Taylor Swift’s “Wildest Dreams” plays above an enchanting ballroom with exquisite gowns, multi-colored feathers, a pastel-neutral color palette and romantic one-liners that can make the coldest heart melt a few degrees. “Bridgerton” is a good show to distract yourself from the chaos of the first month of 2021. 

Song: “This Feeling” by Alabama Shakes

“This Feeling,” a track from the Alabama Shakes’ 2015 album “Sound and Color,” is a hopeful yet sad song. The sentiment expressed is that there are a lot of difficult phases of life, but that “it feels so nice to know I’m gonna be alright.” The feeling of surviving hardship is synonymous with how many are feeling while entering 2021, where the world has collectively suffered a lot of tragedies—all the political, social and personal chaos of 2020—on top of a deadly pandemic. When listening to the song, you get a feeling of hopefulness while also being reminded that life is hard. Oftentimes, we are trying to get to the other side of hardships with as much of ourselves as we can, and if “[we] just kept going, just kept going/And hoping [we’re] growing near,” that “If [we] wanted to, [we’d] be alright.” Entering 2021 when the vaccine is finally being distributed and plans to move back to a more “normal” life are being made, it finally feels like we have found “this feeling.” When I’m listening to this song, usually when I feel very overwhelmed and as though my life is crumbling all around me, it reminds me that I’ll be alright.

Book: “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker (1982)

This Pulitzer Prize-winning piece of literature introduces the world to Celie, a Black girl living in a racist community in Georgia who survives abuse, the negative effects of enforced gender roles and the oppression of being Black in a white privileged world. I recommend this book now more than ever because of its cultural relevance as we enter a new period with a new president and our first Black vice president leading an extremely divided American society. We have to remind ourselves where we came from and where we are going because lasting change does not occur without acknowledging systemic racism and addressing the intersectionality of race and gender.
Written by: Muhammad Tariq — arts@theaggie.org

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