With midterm season in full swing, this past fall reading week served as a much-needed reprieve from the academic grind—and the perfect chance to relax with a good book, movie, or album. From stellar British hip hop albums to the Fat Bears gracing your Twitter timelines and everything in between, The Tribune’s Arts & Entertainment section share their highlights from the break.
The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
Maria Gheorghiu, Contributor
Between midterms and research-heavy proposals, I fell in love with The Best We Could Do (2017), a graphic novel memoir by Thi Bui. Narrating over visually striking illustrations, Bui delves into her family’s flight from a war-torn Vietnam, recalling the memories of her grandparents and parents, from colonial occupations to dictatorial regimes. She contrasts depictions of her family’s migration to the United States and the hardships associated with being a newcomer in America with her and her parents’ recollections of their lives in their homeland. In the process, Bui explores themes of childhood, parenthood, and the emotional loads they impart. As a child of immigrants, I read the book through tears and will be recommending it to anyone who asks.
No Country for Old Men
Sophie Naasz, Contributor
A whirlwind of tumbleweeds and bloody travels, No Country for Old Men is a chilling twist on the classic Neo-Western film. The cinematic adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel follows Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin), a hunter who discovers more than $2 million when he stumbles upon a drug deal gone wrong. His inability to resist the cash, paired with his compassion to help a dying man at the scene, leaves him on the run from a twisted sociopath with only a bizarre air compressor for a weapon. The movie offers a look into the lives of war veteran Llewelyn struggling to get by, a deranged killer named Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) at ease with life, and a determined but saddened Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones). While its ambiguous ending will leave you feeling uneasy and unsatiated as you consider how evil morphs over time, this is a thriller you don’t want to miss.
Sometimes I Might Be Introvert by Little Simz
Charlotte Hayes, Contributor
With a jarring sense of confidence and genuine talent to back it up, Little Simz stands out as an anomaly in the British rap scene. Besides breaking barriers as a woman in a male-dominated sphere, Little Simz also delivers a powerful message of self-assurance and love. Her 2021 album, Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, takes the smooth sounds of modern British rap and weaves them seamlessly with orchestral and gospel music. The result is a captivating musical experience that feels both euphoric and cathartic, placing her miles ahead of her peers in terms of sonic innovation. Little Simz’s lyrics are a refreshingly introspective departure from the usual hook-and-verse formula, prioritizing storytelling over a catchy hook. At times, they resemble spoken word poetry, inviting the listener to embrace their emotional experience and identity with honesty and strength. Little Simz’s genre-defying masterpiece shatters both social and musical boundaries, cementing her as a force to be reckoned with in British rap.
The Haunting of Hill House
Aimee DeLong, Contributor
Picture a graveyard’s worth of ghosts, an episode of Fixer-Upper, and the most tense family Thanksgiving dinner that you can remember. Combined, this doesn’t sound like a successful horror show, but Mike Flanagan’s The Haunting of Hill House proves that at the heart of every scary story is an even scarier piece of family drama. The show—adapted from American author Shirley Jackson’s celebrated novel of the same name—follows the Crain family across two timelines: A past fateful summer spent in a house that culminates in the death of the mother, Olivia, and a present-day tragedy that draws the estranged family to the house once more. Instead of relying on superficial tropes, Flanagan captivates audiences by tackling issues such as mental health and addiction—and, of course, the long-term effects of being followed around by ghosts for your whole life. Packed with twists and heart-wrenching turns, The Haunting of Hill House delivers a beautiful story about healing from a haunting past, both literally and figuratively.
“My Evil Mother” by Margaret Atwood
Ava Ellis, Contributor
After loving classic feminist novel The Handmaid’s Tale, I was intrigued by Canadian literary icon Margaret Atwood’s other stories. A quick read, “My Evil Mother” follows a young, unnamed woman and her evolving relationship with her eccentric mother. In her formative years, the mother’s enigmatic behaviour—which includes eerily predicting her daughter’s boyfriend’s demise and offering assistance to local women with their marital woes—alludes to the possibility of her being a witch. As the story unfolds, we witness the protagonist’s intermittent presence in her mother’s life while she forges her own path. The simplicity of their conversations enhances the brilliance of this narrative. While the mother is a social outcast, she has many profound quotes throughout the book about ignoring the judgement of others. Atwood expertly crafts a poignant mother-daughter bond, illustrating the lengths parents will go to protect their children and how we often take such sacrifices for granted until faced with comparable dilemmas.
TAPE 2/FOMALHAUT by BERWYN
Luke Pindera, Contributor
During this past reading break, I couldn’t stop listening to TAPE 2/FOMALHAUT by London-based artist BERWYN. It is unfair to put BERWYN in a musical box, as the self-taught musician raps, sings, produces (along with longtime collaborator Fred Again..), and writes on the follow-up to his Mercury Prize-nominated mixtape, DEMOTAPE/VEGA. The Trinidad-born artist explores a multitude of personal grievances on his second mixtape, including betrayal, drug addiction, loss, and his precarious immigration status. BERWYN conveys the overarching theme of loneliness throughout the record, reflecting its title; Fomalhaut is known as “the loneliest star in the sky”. BERWYN’s distinct writing style of direct and raw depictions of his reality showcases his vulnerability, which is a breath of fresh air in the ultra-commercial context of music. I believe it may only be a matter of time until the buzz around BERWYN crosses the Atlantic.
the record by boygenius
Dana Prather, Arts & Entertainment Editor
Five years after releasing their eponymous debut EP, boygenius’s first full-length project, the record, proves that some things really are worth the wait. The indie trio comprises Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus, each formidable solo artists in their own right. Yet, when the women of boygenius collaborate, the result is a masterful mix of Baker’s impressive guitar work, Bridgers’ eviscerating, confessional lyricism, and Dacus’ signature haunting vocals that is more than the sum of its parts. Freewheeling through a collage of rock, folk, pop, and even country sounds, the album’s throughline is the trio’s friendship; whether it’s the simple admission that, “it feels good to be known so well” in the Dacus-fronted “True Blue” or the trio’s harmonic reflections on a group beach day gone (almost) wrong during “Anti-Curse,” the band members prove time and again that platonic love can be as profound, lasting, and meaningful as any romantic connection.
Fat Bear Week
Suzanna Graham, Arts & Entertainment Editor
I don’t know about all of you, but my March Madness involves fat bears and intense Twitter (X) polls. From Oct. 4 to 10, twelve of Katmai National Park’s most winter-ready brown bears faced off in head-to-head battles that gathered over 1.3 million votes. An annual tradition since 2014, park rangers showcase each bear’s glow up between spring and fall of that year, educating the masses on the importance of bear nutrition and fuzzy little ears. But don’t fear—Katmai National Park gives bears of every size and shape the opportunity to win. Contestants included tiny teen bears like 806 Spring Cub, four-time Fat Bear champion 480 Otis, and defensive mamma bears like 435 Holly. With a roster like this, each bear has more personality (and diversity) than your average reality TV show. So connect to those 24/7 Love Island-esque livestreams, pick your favourites, and keep an eye on the gorgeous Ursa Chonkuses that bless your Twitter timeline.