In the winter of 2019, I attended the Sundance Film Festival as an over-worked intern. Although the experience was mostly dropping off Uber eats orders and escorting people to their interviews, I had been given free tickets to watch two films of my choice. I had to choose from a list, giving each film a numerical value ranging from 1 to 5. The film marked “1” (meaning the film I wanted to watch most) was A24’s “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” . Due to popular demand, I was not able to get a ticket to this film, and was instead stuck with watching a horrifically boring documentary about lumber.
Tennis anyone? Horseback riding? A round of golf? Try your luck at the shooting range, or out on the hunting grounds? Aim clear of the private zoo, with its collection of peacocks, yaks, ostriches, deer, antelope, pheasants, and wild boar. For the motoring minded there is a lineup of antique cars to ogle, 27 in all, valued at more than $1 million. At the end of a busy day a spa awaits to offer massages (Thai, Swedish, or facial, with designated rooms for each), a tanning room of nagging clouds has obscured the Slavic sun, and a fully functional gym to tone muscles is left untried. Dinner awaits in either of two formal dining rooms or a restaurant housed in a Spanish warship afloat on a manmade lake. Before bedtime, nightcaps are poured into crystal glasses in the wood-paneled bar. Were these the delights on offer at a five-star resort on the Black Sea coast? No, they awaited guests of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych at Mezhyhiriya, the site of his country home until he fled to Russia on February 21, 2014 following a flurry of nationwide protests.
Punch Drunk Love is a kind of movie we are all familiar with, but also one that is unlike any other. The initial shot of this movie makes director Paul Thomas Anderson’s vision clear: he aims to show us something we could not have seen otherwise. It is through his craft that the audience is treated to a subversion of the romantic comedy—a genre of film riddled with clichés. PDL is special because it is made up of things we are used to seeing and flips them on their head. This subversion of components generates something entirely different: a beautiful, intimate experience that demands that we change what we ask for from these kinds of movies.
Downtown Toronto is a paragon of late night, big city affairs. The ROM stands an eight-minute subway ride away from the CN Tower. Toronto’s extending crowds lead into the University of Toronto’s Varsity Centre and the Royal Conservatory of Music, across the street from the slimmer crowds of young adults and teens equipped with fake IDs entering their selected bars for the night. The Bloor-Yonge intersection lies just a few blocks east. Turning south on Yonge reveals a different sense of a big city: one of detachment and poverty, wonderfully depicted within the Yonge-Charles McDonald’s.
As far as individual books go, controversy is normal and often welcomed. In terms of disagreement on entire genres, however, one category up for discussion is that of self-help literature. These types of books have been around for over a century, even if they seem to be a relatively modern occurrence, and their popularity has been on the rise. In 2018, sales of self-help books in Britain were up 20% from the previous year, landing at a solid three million books sold. Celebrities have even gotten in on the business, with Russell Brand and Fearne Cotton having written and published their own books. It is estimated that the genre will be worth 13.2 billion dollars in the US market by 2022.
On January 17th, Marshall Mathers — aka Eminem — quietly released his 10th major-label album, entitled Music to Be Murdered By. The title and cover image are a nod to Alfred Hitchcock’s eponymous work from 1958, and the “Alfred” interlude and outro are the famed director’s orated introduction and closing from his own album. But Eminem didn’t use the theme to make a concept album. Instead, with production by Dr. Dre, Tay Keith, and D.A. Doman, among others, the 64-minute album has Eminem performing a balancing act that invokes his crude alter ego — Slim Shady — with rabid foolishness. It has him rapping alongside younger artists such as Juice WRLD (in his first posthumous musical appearance) and Young M.A, all while still trying to provoke nostalgia by emulating his D12-era self and sharing the scene with established rappers like Black Thought and Royce Da 5’9”. Unfortunately, for a body of work that takes its title from the so-called “King of Suspense,” the album leaves the listener largely unmoved.