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Monday, September 27, 2021

Culture Corner

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

TV Show: “Last Week Tonight” with John Oliver 

In a seemingly endless slew of late-night talk shows, it can get a bit old watching the same ten comics/hosts joke about the same current events every weeknight. Sure, each one (or their writers) brings with them some refreshing take on otherwise dull or less than interesting news, but more often than not, the punchlines just fall short of their mark. Perhaps it’s the British character and humor of John Oliver, or the less restrictive language of HBO’s platforms, but Oliver’s weekly commentary is as calculated as it is hilarious. Again, this could be partly accredited to the writers, but they’re also given the whole week to compose material for a once-a-week show. If you’re someone that finds themselves switching back-and-forth between Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, Seth Meyers and the likes of other late-night talk show hosts Monday through Friday… take a break and just catch John Oliver on HBO on Sundays.

Movie: “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” dir. by Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam (1975)

In 1975, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam put together the second film from the “Monty Python” group as they follow Arthur, King of the Britons on his quest in finding his Knights of the Round Table, riding throughout England using… coconuts? While the film is approaching its 50th anniversary in just a couple of years, it’s deadpan humor and historical satire have aged almost too perfectly. Summarizing the plot or explaining any of the jokes—there are too many—would not do the viewer any justice. One could find themselves content simply laughing themselves into jerking a tear or two over the sheer absurdity of the film at their first viewing, while those with an especially dry sense of humor may find themselves hurting from laughing too hard. If you’re someone that appreciates dry humor, look no further. 

Album: “You Can’t Take It with You” by As Tall As Lions (2009)

After two extended plays and two full length albums, “Lafcadio” in 2004 and a self-titled record in 2006, Indie/Alternative/musical wizards As Tall As Lions released their final work in 2009. The 11-song long play has range, and I mean a lot of range. It opens with “Circles,” a drum-heavy, almost tribal sounding introduction that has a circular feel about it that draws you in with some easy-to-follow and fun riffs to accompany the drums. “Sixes and Sevens” has the makings of an anthem, putting lead singer/guitarist Dan Nigro’s melodic vocals on full display. In the middle of the album, “Duermete” takes listeners on an entirely new journey for about eight minutes that culminates in seven words that repeat through it: “But I know that better days will come.” In each song, the group somehow finds that perfect balance of sound and lyric that brings you down only for the sole purpose of picking you back up again. 

Book: “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor E. Frankl (1946)

“Man’s Search for Meaning” is one man’s firsthand account of his experiences in a German concentration camp accompanied by his own psychoanalysis of those experiences. However, grueling the circumstances and/or consequences of his internment, Frankl explains his own search for meaning in these grave situations and helping his fellow prisoners do the same during his time at the Nazi camps and afterwards. Frankl’s narrative and analysis offers readers a more in-depth look at the horrors of the Holocaust and it’s psychological affects on those who endured it. It’s a different format from what you’d expect from most firsthand narratives, but it is refreshing in that sense alone and is well worth the read. 

Written by: Cameron Perry — arts@theaggie.org

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