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Sunday, April 21, 2024

Culture Corner

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

By ANGIE CUMMINGS — arts@theaggie.org

Movie: “Chicago” dir. by Rob Marshall (2002)

This recommendation is a bit of a personal one, and this powerful, musical 1920s period piece is one of my childhood favorites (although it’s not a film specifically meant for children). “Chicago” was originally a Broadway musical, and this 2002 film adaptation with its star-studded cast was, in my eyes, an instant classic — not to mention, it won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2003. With Renee Zellweger, Catherine-Zeta Jones, Richard Gere, John C O’Reilly and Queen Latifa leading the many lively musical numbers throughout the film, you will begin to yearn for the wild and exciting (and crime-filled) times of prohibition-era Chicago jazz clubs. This movie never gets old because once you’ve memorized all the lyrics and ad-libs throughout the film, it is the perfect sing-along whether you’re watching it alone in your room or with a group of friends. This movie is the perfect example of the great film genre of “women who do wrong and yet we are all on their side” because in all honesty, he had it coming (a reference to the classic song “Cell Block Tango”). Bonus: the soundtrack stands alone as a masterpiece that you can listen to anytime on most major streaming platforms. 

TV Show: “Kath & Kim” (2002-2007)

Need a new sitcom that will crack you up despite not fully understanding much of the dialogue? “Kath & Kim” is the show from Down Under that you need in your life. With four seasons of this dysfunctional, suburban mother-daughter duo, you are sure to have a good time. The show functions as an easy chance to fully develop your authentic Australian accent, especially if you rewatch your favorite episodes over and over again as I have done. You’ll never get tired of the little things Kath and Kim do, no matter how many times you watch the show, and I can almost guarantee that anyone you introduce it to will enjoy it just as much (this theory has been tested on friends and family members of all ages and senses of humor). Once you get past their incredibly thick accents, perfectly permed and highlighted hair and admirably flashy appearances, you have two utterly hilarious characters with some pretty questionable ideas. Every episode is available for you to binge or moderately consume on Netflix, and I would recommend you prioritize starting “Kath & Kim” over all else. 

Radio Show: Series 2 “Cillian Murphy’s Limited Edition” on BBC Radio 6

If you’ve recently been in a bit of a music rut like me, this easily accessible radio show is a great push in the right direction. Who knew that a 45-year-old, classically trained Irish actor would have such an eclectic music taste to share with the world? Definitely not me. After listening to a total of four hours of his show, I gained a new appreciation for musical genres I previously didn’t pay any mind to, as well as for a smooth Irish accent. Not only does Murphy provide middle-aged man classic music suggestions like “Modern Love” by David Bowie and profess his love for the Beatles and the Velvet Underground, but he shares songs by amazing contemporary artists he has found through some incredibly niche sources. One of my top songs from the whole show, “Silly Games” (1979) by Janet Kay, came out of a contemporary British film called “Lover’s Rock” (which is now at the top of my watchlist). The show is full of hidden gems like this one and, to put it plainly, could impress even the snobbiest of your indie/underground music listening friends. I’ve always had a bit of a hard time discovering new kinds of music and artists on my own and I think this show, led by my new favorite Irishman, was a great introduction into the brilliance of music radio shows. You can listen to each episode of Murphy’s show on the BBC Sounds app for free. Pro tip: It’s a great thing to listen to as you stand in the 10-mile-long covid testing line at the ARC. 

Book: “Green Girl” by Kate Zambreno (2011)

Categorized as psychological fiction, “Green Girl” is a quick read that follows protagonist Ruth through what some might consider a relatively mundane experience of being lost as an American in her early 20s in London, grieving the recent loss of her mother and a complicated breakup. This novel is reminiscent of a stream of consciousness, giving a glimpse into Ruth’s psyche by an unnamed narrator, who could be an older Ruth reflecting or even her mother watching over her from beyond. Ruth has shaped some semblance of a ‘self’ through pop culture, idolizing models and actresses and just generally everything in the world that tells young women who they are. As you read the book, it is so easy to just pity Ruth and her extremely contradictory mix of self-absorption and self-hatred, but it’s also clear that in some way or another we’ve all been a green girl. This concept comes directly out of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and has been explored by many, most notably being the show “Girls,” whose characters have been pegged as just as narcissistic and self-destructive as we watch Ruth become. Not to get too annoying, but it is quite a generally-accepted experience in late-stage capitalism to have a slight existential crisis in the face of the heavily marketed, branded and rigid ideas of womanhood we are faced with. While I’ve previously been criticized by those who know me for only really reading sad and bleak or even nihilistic books, I still assert that this particular book can give so much to anyone who reads it (even if it’s just knowing a new sad story about a sad girl and her toxic thoughts). 

Written by: Angie Cummings — arts@theaggie.org

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