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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Culture Corner with Sierra Jimenez

The Arts Desks’ weekly picks for movies, books, music and television shows

By SIERRA JIMENEZ — arts@theaggie.org


Movie: “Do the Right Thing” dir. by Spike Lee (1989) 

This late 1980s Spike Lee film tackles various social issues ahead of its time and is correspondingly controversial. The film reveals the social history of 1989 involving police brutality and a prejudiced justice system, while also touching on global warming, gentrification, cultural preservation and the overarching issue of racism. With an immaculate cast including Samuel L. Jackson, Martin Lawrence and Lee himself, the social controversies are flawlessly portrayed in this film, evoking all sorts of emotion. In the heat of the summer, the characters would go about their everyday lives in Brooklyn, New York, visiting the main Italian pizza joint, wearing their classic late ‘80s/early ‘90s fits and listening to classic early ‘90s hip hop such as Public Enemy’s hit “Fight the Power” on their boomboxes. Their normal days, however, are clearly filled with racial discrimination. Every shot of this film is particular to the scene and a greater theme — there is no meaningless word, movement, background or angle of the videography. The film encapsulates the similarities and dissimilarities of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X’s approaches to racial injustices, and includes quotes directly from them to conclude this striking movie. This film is powerful to say the least, and it hurts to watch it, but it is a necessary hurt to wake up and self-educate on real historical issues that continue to have a lasting impact. 


TV: “The Queen’s Gambit” (2020)

The premise of this Netflix limited series is a coming-of-age story of an orphaned chess prodigy — a big turn-off in my opinion, which made me hesitant to begin the show. However, once I did, I was on my knees begging for more after the short week of binge-watching. The colors, fashion and overall visuals of the drama series are eloquent and European-esque. The lead actress, Anya Taylor-Joy, is flawless in her role as a poised, intellectual female protagonist burdened with the pressures of young stardom. Her mannerisms as a woman in the male-dominated world of chess blow away her male opponents and the viewers as she remains calm and collected (excepting an occasional alcohol or pill-popping addiction, but she bounces back). This show encapsulates all the culture, drama, sex and knowledge of a standard multi-series show in just seven short-lived but rewarding episodes. 


Visual Album: RÜFÜS DU SOL “Live from Joshua Tree” (2020) 

This album is auditorily brilliant, but accompanied by the visuals… chef’s kiss. Beginning with an aerial view of California’s beloved Joshua Tree National Park, the song “Valley of the Yuccas” serenades the flight of the camera across the orange boulders kissed by the desert sunset looking as though it were footage of Mars. Completely isolated in the bare desert, this Australian music group performs to the setting sun and stars of Joshua Tree valley with their eccentric, electric enchantment. The audio is psychedelic in nature and cosmically seductive with the visuals. The visual album gives the viewers their own personal concert experience in the comforts of their own home, perfect for a background ambiance for any occasion. Ending with “No Place,” the album leaves the witnesses of such a masterpiece wanting to be in Joshua Tree alongside them. 


Book: “Santa: A Novel of Mexico City” Federico Gamboa (2010)

I stumbled upon this fictional novel in my Latin American Culture & History course this fall quarter. Typically, course-required readings bore me — if I could read anything else, I would. However, this novel surprisingly piqued my interest. The story follows a poor girl who lives in a village in Mexico and has conflicts with her family and their religious values. She restarts her life in the modern city life of the state’s capitol, Mexico City, but must resort to sex work to support herself. Although translated from its Spanish original, the literary devices and eloquence are unimpaired. The author touches on thematic elements such as the double standard of womanhood and religion, culture, history and the rising modernity of Mexico City. Based on real events from the authoritarian Porfirian Era, this novel is deeply rooted in Mexican culture and history, but incorporates universal themes that are relatable to readers from any background. 


Written by: Sierra Jimenez — arts@theaggie.org


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