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Davis, California

Friday, April 19, 2024

Culture Corner

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

By CORALIE LOON — arts@theaggie.org

Movie: “Harold and Maude” dir. by Hal Ashby (1971)

This little film, which first presents itself as a dark comedy, transforms into a soulful and unconventional romance that has earned its spot as one of my favorite films. Maybe it’s the joy of its soundtrack, made up entirely of Cat Stevens songs, or the lovability of Maude, an eccentric old lady who reminds me of the person I hope to be when I age. The simplicity of its plot and excessive on-the-nose-ness of its dichotomy between pessimism and optimism have drawn complaints from critics. However, the movie doesn’t claim to be big, flashy or structurally complex. It luxuriates in its smallness and its conviction to portray the capabilities (and limits) of human connection in a way that struck me as incredibly real. After watching this film, it’s hard not to feel inspired to live your best life. After all, Cat Stevens said it best: “If you want to sing out, sing out.”

Book: “After Dark” by Haruki Murakami (2004)

This is a lurid, dreamlike and eerie novel that slowly explores an array of characters in Tokyo, each who brings their own layers of darkness into the picture. As someone who was disappointed by how Murakami handled issues of sexual violence and misogyny in his 2002 novel “Kafka on the Shore,” “After Dark” felt like a welcome redemption. While many of the same themes are as clear and glaring as ever, Murakami embraces and acknowledges this darkness rather than glossing over it, sweeping the reader into a world that is purposefully chilling and leaves as much said as unsaid. While not his most popular piece of fiction, “After Dark” displays Murakami’s talent at bending reality and creating an atmosphere that is equal parts poetic and sensational.

Album: “Songs from the Sunroom” by Field Medic (2017)

Field Medic, the pseudonym for solo artist Kevin Sullivan, released his album “Songs from the Sunroom” in 2017. Since then, he has released two more albums, including his latest “Floral Prince,” which explores sobriety and self-healing, a contrast to the slightly darker themes of his earlier music. His songs, composed of a guitar base and unharmonized vocals, are a hybrid between folk and bedroom-pop, or perhaps “bedroom-folk.” The soft and muffled sound of acoustic guitar (and the occasional electric beat) invites a sense of nostalgia and solitude that complements the vulnerability of his lyrics. They are painfully honest poems that ruminate on loneliness, drug use and the spaces between desires and reality. Some songs, such as “do a little dope,” invite the audience to laugh and brush off the tediousness of life, while others dive deeper into his pain. “me, my gibberish, & the moon” is one such song with a powerful ending: “I stalk the streets alone now / just me, my gibberish and the moon / for I speak a different language / if I cannot speak with you.”

TV Show: “The Righteous Gemstones” (2019)

This unique dark comedy follows the lives of a wealthy family of “televangelists,” the Gemstones, who are famous for their over-the-top church service broadcasts. Filled with crime, spunk, excessive family drama and lots of love for Jesus, “The Righteous Gemstones” is a fresh and fun show that has captivated me and kept me on my (metaphorical) toes. Adam DeVine, Danny McBride and others deliver forceful performances as members of a family whose lives behind the scenes are not as glorious as they may seem. The show is currently in its second season and is available on HBO Max. 

Written by: Coralie Loon — arts@theaggie.org


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