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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Culture Corner

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


By ANGIE CUMMINGS — arts@theaggie.org


Movie: “X” dir. by Ti West (2022)

A slasher at its zenith, “X” is set in the golden age of horror: 1979. What do you get when three adult film stars, their older manager and a film crew of two college students head to an old cabin to capitalize on the emerging home video market? You get a great scary movie with just the right amount of corniness and comic relief. This movie features Mia Goth with her signature bleached brows and doe eyes, Kid Cudi being his usual cool self (no notes there) and everyone’s favorite rising horror it girl Jenna Ortega; what more could you ask for? “X” gives you all of that and an entirely off-their-rockers elderly couple in a rickety house out in the middle of nowhere, Texas. Not only does this movie give you the satisfaction of hearing Goth say, “I need to be famous, Wayne” in her high-pitched Southern twang, but it also leaves you asking so many questions that you’ll almost forget the eye-searing intimate scene that takes place between the aforementioned elderly couple. In terms of those questions that you’re left with, don’t worry — they’re all set to be answered in the follow-up movie “Pearl,” which has yet to be released. 


Book: “Frank O’Hara: Poet Among Painters” by Marjorie Perloff (1977)

Poetry is sometimes seen as an inaccessible and pretentious art form that some people only pretend to understand or enjoy in order to seem cool and cerebral. Admittedly, there have been many years that I have sided with the poetry skeptics, but I’m here today as a fully converted believer, all thanks to the work of Frank O’Hara. This book is not a collection of O’Hara’s poems but instead functions (at least for me) as a crash course on why his poetry works so well. If you aren’t familiar with his work, I’d highly suggest reading at least one of his most famous (and one of my favorite) poems, “Having a Coke with You” (1960). It recounts an experience of sharing a soda with a lover in the park, and every ounce of love O’Hara felt can be found in that poem. Marjorie Perloff analyzes O’Hara’s unique and spontaneous poetry through the lens of his personal history because, as the title suggests, O’Hara was around a lot of famous painters while living in 1950s and ’60s New York City. Working as an art critic and a curator at MoMA and dabbling in visual arts in his spare time, O’Hara wrote poetry in the written form of the incredibly popular action painting that was taking over the abstract expressionist scene. Quite often, Perloff analyzes his poetry as one might analyze a friend’s abstract artworks, taking into account the content, context and even the form of the poem (all of these being tenants of formal analysis that art historians swear by). Perloff fully explains why O’Hara’s short lines of words make me feel so much, revealing that it’s for many of the same reasons that art like that of Lee Krasner’s (a friend of O’Hara’s) stirs up equivalent levels of emotion. 


Album: “Under the Blacklight” by Rilo Kiley (2007)

Don’t be fooled by the pared-back album cover or the generally sad and bleak lyrics veiled by smooth and funky sounds — this is not a hidden gem classic rock album from 1978. It truly shocked me when I came to this realization after years of jamming out to songs like “Moneymaker” and “Smoke Detector” in the backseat of my mom’s minivan. Rilo Kiley was an indie and alternative band active from 1999-2007, and I have yet to figure out why they released this (perfect) final album in a way that bears such little resemblance to the rest of their discography. Even though their glitzy turn to disco might be seen as selling out or just a riskless move, I honestly don’t care: This isn’t a deep album that has much at all to say about the human condition. It sounds good and has a fun retro feel. Even at eight years old, I knew these 11 songs were gold, and, since rediscovering the album in high school, I can tell you with certainty that it stands the test of time. With prominent drums or bass paired with lead singer Jenny Lewis’ beautiful voice in every song, this album is a great one to power walk to. Playing it at a volume in your headphones that some may deem “unsafe” really completes the experience. “Under the Blacklight” is a thoroughly enjoyable album with an incredibly coherent sound throughout. It basically transports you to a smoke-filled dive bar full of bell bottoms, feathered hair and bad decisions (in 1970s LA, of course). 


Song: “Susie Save Your Love” by Allie X and Mitski (2020)

I really had to double up on the music this week (sorry to all the boring TV shows I could’ve chosen) because, for some reason, my favorite song from the very beginning of the pandemic has made its way back into my daily music queue. While it might not be the world’s most upbeat song, it is definitely a treasure from two masters of esoteric and sentimental music. “Susie Save Your Love” tells the all-too-relatable narrative of unrequited love and is made complete by both Allie X’s hypnotic and melodic voice and the strength of Mitski’s paired vocals. I discovered this song pretty quickly after it came out even though I had no idea who Allie X was — this was, of course, due to the great drought of Mitski music that the world endured from 2018-2021. I had no expectations going in with this song; I only hoped to hear Mitski’s familiar voice once more. Little did I know that Allie X had so much to offer me as well. I am unfortunately unable to go into much detail on precisely why this song is so effing good, simply because I don’t know much about music theory or technicalities. I’m sure, however, that someone who is knowledgeable on the subject would agree that everything about this song is perfect in every way. 


Written by: Angie Cummings — arts@theaggie.org



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