I recently rewatched the Armando Iannucci film adaptation of Charles Dickens’s “David Copperfield” (entitled “The Personal History of David Copperfield”), and I gotta say, it’s terrific. While Iannucci’s usual work tends to be biting, nihilistic and unredemptive in its satire (looking at you, “Death of Stalin”), “The Personal History of David Copperfield” is far more tender. It’s a big novel to cram into one hour and 50 minutes, but the story doesn’t ever get too caught up in its plot to forget to have fun. The production design is incredible, and the costuming choices are delightful. Of course, the real star of the show is the film’s cast, which is stacked from tip-to-toe. Dev Patel gives an incredible performance as David Copperfield, and the supporting cast includes the likes of Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Benedict Wong, Peter Capaldi and the committed-to-the-bit-enough-to-rock-the-worlds-worst-haircut Ben Whishaw.
It’s a good deal of fun, and Patel gives us a hero to root for. Even more than that, it’s a film that understands the weight of both trauma and joy in the width of its runtime. “David Copperfield” was Dickens’ most autobiographical novel, and this fact makes the image of David as a self-made man who deals with his unhappy childhood through writing not feel like a one to one analogy. Even in the 21st century, it’s touching.
Indie pop darling Perfume Genius recently released a collection of remixes based off his critically acclaimed 2020 record “Set My Heart On Fire Immediately,” aptly named “IMMEDIATELY Remixes.” There’s much to say about the album. We could talk about, for example, the unusual decision to remix each track only once, thereby keeping the remix album identical in tracklist to its original material. Also worth mentioning is Perfume Genius’s expansive selection of producers (A.G. Cook, Danny L Harle, Jenny Hval, Initial Talk, among others, are featured) resulting in a twisting genre-bending collection of tracks. And, of course, I’d be remiss to not mention that the remix album, despite being much more upbeat and catchy than the original album, remains just as emotionally devastating. The original “Jason” is a gut-wrenching song about an intimate encounter between strangers going south, and though the Planningtorock remix of the track introduces club and house elements to the track, it’s still so, so sad. Crying in the club realness, etc.
What I’d like to highlight more than anything else about this set of remixes, though, is that it’s crazy, wildly, unsettlingly good. I think remixes, especially remix albums, can be a bore if not handled well. If you already know and love the tracks, it’s hard to be convinced, as a listener, that these reinterpretations are of equal quality to their first iterations. I mean, the original works as it is already, right? Why fix what’s not broken? But sometimes lightning hits twice, and I think “IMMEDIATELY Remixes” is lightning striking twice, being bottled, then put on Spotify (or your streaming service of choice) for us all to enjoy.
If nothing else, give the Jim-E Stack version of “Without You” a listen — that bass is worth your time and a half. Oh, also worth a shoutout is Jaakko Eino Kalevi’s acoustic treatment of “Whole Life,” alongside the ‘80s synthpop wonder that is Initial Talk’s take on “On the Floor,” which compliments beautifully the new wave influence on Boy Harsher’s remix of “Your Body Changes Everything.” I could keep going — the joke is that the whole album is good. Get it?
A few weeks ago, I saw Nina Menkes’s 1991 film “Queen of Diamonds.” I don’t remember how I heard about this movie or why I watched it, but I’m so glad I did. It’s a 77-minute film that details the life and experiences of a blackjack dealer in Vegas (Tinka Menkes) named Firdaus.
It’s a portrait of American emptiness and desolation in the desert of Vegas. The meaning of the protagonist’s name, paradise, is an ironic reminder of the juxtaposition of the idealized and actual America. Occasional paranormal events in this world prevent the viewer from melting into resigned tolerance. Menkes’s Vegas is a banal place, but there is evil lurking behind it.
The movie is centered around about 15 minutes of Firdaus dealing blackjack. There is no audible dialogue and no camera movement. She will periodically stuff the players’ lost money into a hole in the table and deal out around round. It’s a mesmerizing scene that manages to depict the soul-sucking nature of her job without ever directly stating it. Menkes is creating a portrait of Hell, or maybe just purgatory.
The film is also gorgeous, with shots that accentuate the emptiness of Firdaus’s environment. One particular scene shows a tree slowly burning to the ground as she watches from far off. It’s not only symbolically resonant, but a well-composed and striking image by its own right. Menkes’s film is a uniquely bleak look at America in the city at the heart of its depravity.
During the semester, I always have a hard time finding enough time to sit down and read for anything other than what I’m required to do. However, I’ve found that reading short stories has given me the same sense of personal fulfillment without the commitment that an entire novel takes. In that vein, I just finished Jhumpa Lahiri’s “Interpreter of Maladies,” a book of nine short stories by this Indian-American author. Although I loved all of the stories, I thought the first one, “A Temporary Matter” was absolutely stunning. This particular story follows a couple, Shoba and Shukumar, a few months after they’ve had a miscarriage. The power company around their house has notified them that they will have scheduled power outages for an hour each day and in that time, the couple ends up having these moments of clarity and honesty that they’ve been missing for several months.
Other stories in the collection expand beyond this kind of interpersonal exploration; “When Mr. Pirzada Came to Dine” deals with the East Pakistan-West Pakistan war through the lens of a father living in New England who constantly watches the news in hopes of learning about the status of the rest of his family living in Pakistan. “A Real Durwan” follows Boori Ma, an elderly woman who cleans an apartment building in exchange for being able to live there, and “This Blessed House” centers on a newly married couple that keeps finding Christian relics in the house they’ve purchased. “The Third and Final Continent” recounts the experience of an Indian immigrant in the U.S. and his relationship with an elderly woman who he ends up boarding with after responding to an advertisement.
For anyone, like me, who has been missing being able to read for pleasure, I would highly recommend the Pulitzer Prize winning collection “Interpreter of Maladies,” especially “A Temporary Matter,” which is only slightly longer than 20 pages and can be found online. Each story creates a really special world in such a short amount of time, navigating transnational identity through intimate and personal vignettes.
Reject modernity; embrace tradition. I could offer any number of suggestions for modern young adult pieces or artistic creations in a variety of media: books, movies, TV shows, podcasts, bathroom stall graffiti, et cetera. However, the YA genre has a lot of garbage, and fine art gets exhausting after too much consumption. Ergo, in a most inane and low brow selection, I must humbly suggest to all the classic film “Caddyshack.”
The 1980 tour de force, directed by none other than the legendary Harold Ramis, focuses on class disparity and bourgeois indifference as it appears at Bushwood Country Club. Chevy Chase and Ted Knight star as Ty Webb and Judge Smails, respectively, both of whom are wealthy, paying members of the elite establishment. The latter, a tremendous slouch, spars with Rodney Dangerfield’s Al Czervik over the expectations of high society, especially on the golf course. Class antagonisms make for the main storyline, however, as the greenskeeper Carl Spackler (played by Bill Murray) fights with a gopher hellbent on terrorizing patrons at the golf course, and the main protagonist, caddy Danny Noonan (Michael O’Keefe), vies for the chance to go to college in trying to win the Judge’s favors and earn the caddy scholarship.
A classic, “Caddyshack” seldom fails to become an instant favorite with any audience virgin to its charm. Bill Murray’s character, almost entirely ad-libbed, creates some of the most memorable lines in Hollywood history, while emphatic performances from both Ted Knight and Rodney Dangerfield survive long past the actors themselves through allusions from paternal figures and Twitter gifs. Anyone with an appreciation for defining moments in the history of Hollywood and of culture in general must place this flawless piece at the top of their queues. Nothing better merits a late night spontaneous screening.