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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Culture Corner

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

By JACOB ANDERSON — arts@theaggie.org

Movie: “Deep End” dir. by Jerzy Skolimowski (1971)

An emotionally honest and well-crafted bildungsroman in the tradition of the French New Wave, this movie follows a teenage boy, Mike, who is newly hired at a bathhouse, as he navigates the world of adults and his relationship with an older female employee. Mike’s authentic and endearing naïvete creates situations as charming and funny as they are vaguely sad — few films capture the experience of childhood as adroitly. Classic progresive rock band Can (who, as legend has it, replaced their initial vocalist with a Japanese busker the band met in the street who provided gibberish vocals for their most prominent albums) does an excellent job of complementing the film’s awkward melancholy.

The only questionable spot is the film’s ending, which fails to congeal with the film’s sincere and almost humorous tinges, instead transforming it into a morbid spectacle. This small failure doesn’t significantly detract from the larger experience, luckily.

Book: “Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself” by David Lipsky (2010)

This book consists of interviews with the late literary giant David Foster Wallace (infamous for his titanic, almost 600,000-word novel “Infinite Jest” and less famous for his much better and much more concise essays like “Big Red Son” and “Roger Federer as Religious Experience”) was transcribed and published after his death by David Lipsky, who joined him near the end of his book tour for “Infinite Jest” and recorded these conversations over dinners, Funyons and lengthy drives around the American northwest.

The book is notable on two levels: 1) Wallace’s extemporaneous wit and startling clarity on a seemingly endless number of subjects, capable of turning a conversation on practically any topic into a needle on a course straight for the heart of  Western millenial life, and 2) Lipsky’s partially veiled contempt and feelings of rivalry toward Wallace — he’s intent on exposing Wallace for his inauthentic persona, sprinkling poison in every exchange, no matter how pointless or intimate, out of something between envy and journalistic rigor, with the border between the two fraying nearly as intensely as the edges of Wallace’s own constructed identity. It reads as an unspoken battle of wits, and Lipsky’s cool introduction and incessant transcription of Wallace’s midwestern mispronunciations (“wudn’t”) serve as the last postmortem daggers in a war neither writer probably knew he was fighting.

Album: “At Home with Owen” by Owen (2006)

This is a plaintive and intimate acoustic-driven album by Mike Kinsella, known best for his role in American Football’s 1999 self-titled album and the band’s unlikely 2016 reunion. Kinsella’s style has never changed to any great extent since that genre-defining album, but the largely fameless years between the release of “American Football” and Kinsella’s discovery of its accumulated notoriety generated a string of similarly confessional albums, networks of sweetly repeating riffs that reach full maturity on “At Home with Owen.” The tracks are melodic and poppy, worming into the listener’s memory like pleasantly depressive parasites. Kinsella recorded the album in his parents’ house, a fact audible, if such a thing is possible.

TV: “Beverly Hills, 90210” by Darren Star (1990)

The progenitor of the teen drama — clumsily constructed, way too long, frequently preachy and silly, and yet there’s something in it that lets the characters feel much more lurid than those of its successors. Where more modern entries in the genre like “13 Reasons Why” rely on gaudy and clumsy moralizing to justify themselves, “Beverly Hills, 90210” is surprisingly unafraid to turn its characters into flawed, terrible people. It’s sanitized and antiquated and not really worth consuming in whole, but certain highlights in the show’s almost decade-long run remain ballsy and interesting, if only to consider how they’ve influenced (or sometimes outstripped) the reputedly more mature shows that have replaced it. The show actually plays the line between goofy and sincere with tact on frequent occasions, offering a model of affluent, white teenagerhood that’s influential and interesting for every ounce contemptible.

Written by: Jacob Anderson — arts@theaggie.org


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