78.6 F

Davis, California

Friday, April 19, 2024

Culture Corner

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


By CHARLIE MCBRIAN — arts@theaggie.org 


Movie: “The Apartment” dir. by Billy Wilder (1960)


“The Apartment” sees Writer-Director Billy Wilder as well as actors like Jack Lemon and Shirley MacLaine at the height of their talents. In the film, CC Baxter (played by Lemon) attempts to climb the corporate ladder by allowing his superiors access to his apartment for affairs. Much of the film consists of Baxter dealing with how this negatively affects him and others including Fran Kubilek — played by MacLaine. Fred MacMurray’s heel turn as Baxter’s duplicitous boss Mr. Sheldrake is played perfectly as he is simultaneously vile and charismatic. “The Apartment” provides a healthy dose of cynicism balanced by an earnestness that allows the movie to explore dark places without ever losing hope. I recommend this for anyone with a pair of eyes and a beating heart. 


Book: “The Number Ones” by Tom Breihan (2022)


Tom Breihan’s “Number Ones” examines 20 US number one singles from Chubby Checkers’ “The Twist” in 1951 to BTS’s “Dynamite” in 2020. The book covers a range of artists including Michael Jackson, Prince, The Beatles, Vanilla Ice and The Supremes. The diversity in artists allows Breihan to reveal new aspects of modern standards by contextualizing each song within the culture that embraced it. The content reads as a cohesive history of American pop music rather than mere idol worship. A great book if you want to learn more about what American pop is and how it came to be.


Album: “27 Demos” by Margo Guryan (2014)


Like a warm cup of cocoa, “27 Demos” provides a bittersweet warmth in these cold months. Not properly appreciated in her time, Guryan released only one album, 1968’s “Take a Picture.” Later, Guryan developed a cult following leading to the release of “25 Demos” in 2001 and the expanded “27 Demos” in 2014. Don’t be fooled by the “demos” title, though. These songs aren’t half-baked, but rather contain more exceptional songcraft than most artists’ entire career. On “Demos,” Guryan mixes The Mamas and Papas syrupy soft pop and the cosmopolitan cutesiness of French pop with the loungey sophistication of Bacharach and mid-60s Beach Boys. It makes you wonder how many amazing artists slipped through the cracks without being “rediscovered” like Guryan. Regardless, this record aged exceptionally well and I would recommend it to all, especially if you’re into 60s pop like me.


TV Show: “Sex and the City” (1998-2004)


Currently, “Sex and the City” sits in sitcom purgatory: not old enough to induce nostalgia, but not new enough to exist within public discourse. The show overflows with a catty charisma that middle-of-the-road sitcoms often lack. By broaching taboo subjects, “Sex and the City” subjects itself to the whims of shifting cultural norms, leading to some poorly-aged jokes. But the characters, format and — above all — entertainment value remain evergreen. With its decidedly feminine charm, “Sex and the City” is not for everyone. But if you need a new sitcom in your life, the show makes for a consistently entertaining watch that gets stronger as it goes along.


Written by: Charlie McBrian—arts@theaggie.org


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