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Monday, October 18, 2021

Culture Corner

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

Music: “MTV Unplugged in New York” by Nirvana (1994)

After I stumbled upon a showing of this performance at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle this summer, followed by the stellar Nirvana exhibit around the corner, I immediately had this live album on repeat. The set includes both hits and lesser-known tracks, with a particularly sandpapery sound from Cobain on the live recording. The intimate performance comes through on the album, with snippets of the band’s comments lingering at the end of songs and blending into the following track — it’s worth listening to in order. Some standouts are “Dumb,” which I prefer to the original recording, and “Polly,” but their iconic cover of David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold The World” takes the cake — I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up at the top of my Spotify Wrapped this year. 

Book: “Daisy Jones & The Six” by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Told in the format of interviews with members and friends of a fictional ‘70s rock band, “Daisy Jones & The Six” is one of the most captivating stories I’ve read, thanks to the intimate nature of the first-person tellings of the group’s history. The famous rock stars’ accounts, often contradicting each other due to ego, drugs or both, tell the story of the world-renowned band, Daisy Jones & The Six, with a focus on the complicated relationship of Daisy Jones and Billy Dunne, the band’s main songwriters and vocalists. The trials and tribulations of sex, drugs, love and rock and roll take you on an exciting yet heartbreaking ride where, in typical rockstar fashion, the highs are high and the lows are low. A twist at the end leaves you wanting to reread the story with a new perspective — but it shouldn’t take too long, since this one’s tough to put down. 

Movie: “Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain” dir. by Morgan Neville (2021)

I think what made this film so good — other than Bourdain’s charm and the honest, enamored accounts of his life by friends and colleagues — was the pure quantity of footage we got to see of the beloved chef-turned-author-turned-TV-show-host. The movie starts with clips of Bourdain in his apartment, talking with his wife or at his restaurant, complaining about his fish delivery being late. He was filmed before his rise to stardom, and these moments humanized him, giving us a starting point from which to analyze the rest of his brilliant life. Much more of the footage, of course, came from outtakes or other filming related to the two TV shows he went on to host, which, while retaining his authentic character, developed into an on-screen persona we got to know, mainly on “No Reservations” and “Parts Unknown.” “Roadrunner” stripped some of that back, revealing who he was and why, or at least as much as his friends and the camera could capture about his curious, complex love of life.  

TV Show: “The Chair” 

This Netflix limited series follows the newly appointed chair (played by Sandra Oh) of a dwindling English department at an esteemed liberal arts college. Oh’s character comes on with goals of modernizing and reinventing the department, only to be faced with firing tenured professors, an unhinged colleague and old white men dictating her new role, not to mention the implicit racism and sexism running rampant in the bureaucracy of collegiate institutions. A campus scandal with the aforementioned unstable colleague (who also happens to be a love interest) highlights the fine line between accountability and cancel culture, only adding to the relevancy of the show. It’s funny, heartwarming and probably one of the most well-done shows I’ve seen in a while.

Written by: Allie Bailey — arts@theaggie.org

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