Arts & Entertainment, Books, Film and TV

What we liked this winter break

The return to class, whether online or in person, following the holiday season is a frustrating yet familiar struggle for McGill students. As per tradition, the Arts and Entertainment team used their time off to take in lots of exciting TV, movies, and books. Here’s the best of what we liked this winter break.

My Body by Emily Ratajkowski – Isy Stevens

My Body a memoir by Emily Ratajkowski, describes the model’s rise to fame in the male-dominated, and often toxic, fashion industry. Through a series of essays, Ratajkowski explores topics that include the internalization of the male gaze, the power of externalized sexuality, and the dark side of the “momager” phenomenon. Ratajkowski’s writings reveal a surprising shrewdness and vulnerability, subverting assumptions that social media personas like herself are vapid and one-dimensional. Although much of the memoir’s content will resonate deeply with readers, Ratajkowski did miss a major opportunity to examine her own role in perpetuating the harmful beauty standards she condemns. Nevertheless, My Body is an insightful read that should provoke important discussions among us all. 

A Discovery of Witches by Rebecca Harkness – Courtney Squires 

Rebecca Harkness crafts an adult, dark-academia version of the fantasy novels that shaped our generation’s childhoods, weaving romance, magic, and scatterings of historical alchemy together in the first novel of the All Souls trilogy. Set in the delightfully dreary university town of Oxford, A Discovery of Witches follows Diana Bishop, a magic-avoidant witch who discovers a long lost book and, of course, a vampire. Despite a somewhat predictable plot, Harkness carefully cultivates an aesthetic that will reignite any fantasy-lover’s past aches at not receiving a Hogwarts letter. An accompaniment to my annual holiday Harry Potter marathon, the popularity of A Discovery of Witches is an example of how magical fiction can mature alongside its readers, with new books emerging to replace ones we’ve outgrown. As we enter our third year of the pandemic, A Discovery of Witches provides a bout of much-needed escapism. 

Succession Season 3 – Louis Lussier-Piette

From its synopsis only, Succession gives the impression of a bland show specifically designed for Desautels students, but it is able to to transcend clichés in the most surprising ways. Described by some as the corporate Game of Thrones, Succession centres one dysfunctional family of Wall Street billionaires dealing with issues ranging from tax fraud controversies to third-degree murder. Showrunner Jesse Armstrong constructs characters complex and relatable enough that the audience can’t help but root for them despite their questionable moral standing. After ending its second season on a cliffhanger two years ago, Succession came back for a third season and delivers narrative twists more akin to a Greek tragedy than a TV series, acclaimed by both critics and fans. With its genius writing, impeccable cinematography, and hair-raising soundtrack, Succession checks all the marks, making it one of the best shows on TV right now. 

Licorice Pizza – Arian Kamel

While the rest of the world was recoiling from the Vietnam War and Watergate in the 1970s, the San Fernando Valley felt like its own little world. Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest triumph, Licorice Pizza, follows the lovesick Alana (Alana Haim) and Gary (Cooper Hoffman) as they explore the valley. Contrary to expectations, it is exactly these first-time actors’ inexperience that makes their performances a joy to watch, as their raw acting blurs the boundary between actor and character. Alana and Gary test out different callings, while a wide array of eccentric figures enter their lives like Sean Pean’s charismatic Hollywood star or Bradley Cooper’s batshit crazy hairdresser. Each job or situation seems so full of potential, yet ends up subverted and befuddled. Nonetheless, Alana and Gary continue and try something new again, hoping to finally find their place in the valley and in the world. It’s a shock when the film ends, since it felt so real and so warm that I’d hoped it never would.

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