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Sunday, April 14, 2024

Culture Corner

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

By CORALIE LOON — arts@theaggie.org


Book: “The Secret History” (1992) by Donna Tartt

If the title alone isn’t enough to capture your interest, here’s your nudge to pick up the book that put Pulitzer Prize-winning author Donna Tartt into the literary spotlight. “The Secret History” is a book that’s hard to compare to any other book I’ve read, but it can be described in a few ways: captivating, beautifully written and at least a little disturbing. It follows a narrator who comes into contact with a group of characters studying Greek at a preppy university who, over the course of their studies together, develop an exclusive friendship. The narrator, partially an outsider himself, is the perfect candidate for only giving the reader a spoonful of information at a time, a technique that can hardly ever do a psychological thriller wrong. While “The Secret History” is slow and meandering at times, its tone so richly encapsulates the reader in its abnormal world that I almost wanted it to be slower, just so I could remain captivated for a minute longer. This book is for lovers of dark academia, cozy (or not so cozy) mysteries or watching the morality of rich kids slowly decay.


Movie: “CODA” (2021) dir. by Sian Heder

For those who’ve stayed up-to-date with this year’s Oscars, the name “CODA” may sound familiar. It was the winner of Best Picture and, in my humble opinion, rightfully so. This deep-dive drama into the life of a Child of Deaf Adults (CODA) brings a perspective to the big screen that is often ignored, focusing on the nuances of deaf culture as it intersects with the hearing world. Capturing experiences of those who are hearing impaired is naturally challenging to do in film, a format that caters toward hearing people. But “CODA” circumnavigates this divide by zooming in on the child, Ruby, who wants to pursue a singing career but also has a meaningful and beautiful relationship to her deaf family members. I won’t lie — I did cry three separate times while watching this film: as each powerful moment came and went, I didn’t expect its emotional reach to be able to extend any farther. But, from the minute of complete silence as Ruby’s parents watch her recital, to her climactic audition for Berklee, this film continues to outdo itself, earning its spot as one of the best films of the year.


TV Show: “Love on the Spectrum” (2019)

Reality dating series can be exhausting, especially when they all depict straight, conventionally attractive and neurotypical people. “Love on the Spectrum” isn’t exactly a dating show, but it does follow people on the autism spectrum in their real pursuits for love. Some of their experiences are more successful than others (don’t worry Michael, I’m still rooting for you!), and the show does a good job of not overly-dramatizing moments of interpersonal tension in the same way conventional reality dramas do, making for a more “realistic” portrayal of a variety of autistic experiences with love and dating. Of course, “Love on the Spectrum” is not a documentary and could be improved by fact-checking some of the rhetoric and advice that is given to its stars, not all of which is useful or accurate. But, overall, it does a good job of committing itself to neurodivergent and queer representation, and is both an insightful and emotionally rich series to watch. The two seasons of “Love on the Spectrum” can be streamed on Netflix.


Album: “Glow” (2021) by Alice Phoebe Lou

Alice Phoebe Lou, a South African singer and songwriter, combines spacey synth-pop with almost folk-like vocals in her third album, “Glow.” While her second album, “Paper Castles,” is definitely worth a listen, “Glow” is a good place to start for those who haven’t heard Lou’s name before. Her songs are eloquently and diversely paced but tied together by an ambiance that makes me want to dance and fall into a deep sleep at the same time. Maybe the lyrics of the title song say it better than I can: “I swim out of the window / And into the night / I am smiling, I am screaming / I am glowing from inside.” This album is perfect for taking a shower (or a steamy bath), night driving or painting with friends.


Written by: Coralie Loon — arts@theaggie.org




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