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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Culture Corner

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

By ANGIE CUMMINGS — arts@theaggie.org

 

Album: “Caprisongs” by FKA Twigs (2021)

Although we are barely one-quarter of the way through the year, I can say with almost full confidence that this is my top album of 2022 (yeah, maybe it came out in December of 2021 but that’s basically 2022). With only one of these 17 songs qualifying as skippable, “Caprisongs” is a listen that really never gets old. And the skip in question, “christi interlude,” is a song where a random lady reads you a hypothetical horoscope; there is no singing and no Twigs in sight for that one. Basically, this is an amazing album showcasing Twigs’ ability to go from the deep melancholy of “Magdalene” (2019) to pulse-racing party tracks like “papi bones (feat. shygirl)” or “pamplemousse.” Over the course of the album, Twigs takes you on an effervescent journey through love and life, with little pitstops of her and her friends chatting on the tracks along the way. I’m not typically a fan of conversation interrupting my albums, but in this case, we get to hear what seems like anecdotal snippets of a couple of friends hanging out and talking about life, and it completely works. Twigs put it perfectly when she said “it’s like … elevator music but you’re going to the 50th floor,” in the intro to “which way (feat. dystopia)” — this album can function as the perfect background or foreground music with its free-flowing sounds and fun lyrics (if you choose to pay attention to them). 

 

TV Show: “Peaky Blinders” (2013-2022)

Writing about this show that I’ve for some reason stood by for over six years now is incredibly bittersweet, as the final season is coming out right now, and I’m not even able to watch it yet (curse you, BBC). Objectively, this is a well-written and well-made historical fiction TV show about themes I’m always a sucker for: the effects of WWI on those who served and the rest of society, the plight of the working class and the consequences of industrialization and globalization. They are essentially a British mob family led by the eldest brother, Thomas Shelby (played by Cillian Murphy) — a widower and decorated veteran (not really dealing) with PTSD. The visuals of this turn-of-the-century British family gang have oddly been co-opted by many wannabe-Peaky Blinders, and I cannot emphasize how far from that I am. While the show is loosely based on the actual Peaky Blinders gang and features historical figures like Winston Churchill, Sir Oswald Mosley (an early British fascist played by Sam Claflin) and Charlie Chaplin, as well as many other smaller figures. It’s good TV and each season is full of invigorating storylines, as well as a good amount of devastation which might make you ask how Thomas Shelby gets through the day. 

 

Movie: “Wet Hot American Summer” dir. by David Wain (2001)

Recently, I’ve felt a deep void of new laugh-till-it-hurts comedies, leading me to revisit the great stupid movies of the early 2000s. “Wet Hot American Summer” is the epitome of this genre of painfully funny, unnecessarily raunchy and generally absurd movies. The movie is packed with an absolutely stacked cast of what were then up-and-coming actors, including Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Bradley Cooper, Amy Pohler, Chris Meloni, Joe Lo Truglio and Molly Shannon, in addition to some names that were big back then but have since faded out of the spotlight. The majority of this talented collection of nearing-middle-aged actors playing high schoolers is set at a chaos and romance-filled summer camp in 1981 — making for some hilarious visuals in addition to the written jokes. If you have never heard of this movie, I urge you to watch the revisited TV show version (with the same cast) Netflix made in 2017, which of course doesn’t top the original but comes pretty close in terms of levels of absurdity.

 

Book: “Play It As It Lays” by Joan Didion (1970)

After the renowned author Joan Didion passed in December of 2021, I realized I had no clue she even wrote fiction books, as I had only come into contact with “The Year of Magical Thinking” (2005) and other essays over the years. While listening to the audiobook rather than reading the real thing might be seen as cheating, it was a great way to “read” an entire book in the midst of midterm season this quarter. In true Didion fashion, “Play It As It Lays” is by no means an uplifting or happy book but is an incredible insight into the effects of losing loved ones and, consequently, oneself. It follows the story of Maria, a not-very-famous actress and model. It follows her life after the death of her mother and through her unwinding (and toxic) marriage to Carter, a prominent Hollywood producer, eventually leading to the unraveling of every aspect of her life. Set in late 1960s Los Angeles and cutting between memories of New York City and Maria’s now-desolate Nevada hometown, the book is akin to many of those old existentialist movies of that time that don’t seem to have a singular or cohesive plot but instead bring pieces of a life together to form both a cultural critique and an honest view of (some deeply flawed) human nature. 

Written by: Angie Cummings — arts@theaggie.org

 

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