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Summer culture roundup: ‘Midsommar,’ ‘Euphoria’ and more


Ari Aster's sophomore effort, "Midsommar," was a nightmarish fairy tale, so lush and achingly beautiful that its moments of unimaginable horror seemed more like lovingly rendered paintings than film prints. Beyond just being one of the most visually gorgeous and entrancingly dreadful movies of the year, "Midsommar" unflinchingly depicted the agony of not being listened to and the danger of letting grief and pain go unexpressed. An ugly story told with all the lyrical grace of the prettiest storybook, it was truly unforgettable and deserved to be crowned May Queen of the summer movie season. — Sydny Long, culture editor 

“Euphoria” Season One

High school drama “Euphoria” took the summer by storm with its colorful cinematography,  hypnotic score, and star-making performances from Zendaya Coleman as Rue, Hunter Schaefer as Jules, and Jacob Elordi as Nate.  “Euphoria” is centered around Rue, a drug-addicted teen recently released from rehab who takes interest in the new girl in town, Jules. Rue and Jules codependent yet deeply loving relationship is the heartbeat of this show, fleshed out with moments of stirring tenderness and heart-breaking tension.  When the show moves outside of this storyline, to focus on a bevy of other East Highland students, it remains compelling, but loses some momentum.  We have seen these themes of drug-addiction, family problems, body shaming, and intimate partner violence covered before and covered better, but “Euphoria” still manages to separate from the pack with slick direction, strong writing, and the best visual aesthetics of 2019. — Jack Rubenstein, culture editor 

Lana Del Rey, “Norman Fucking Rockwell!”

As a former superfan of Lana Del Rey during her “Born to Die” era, I was cautiously optimistic about her new album before it was officially released on August 30th. Now, having listened to the album on repeat for the past few days, I can confidently say that it exceeded my expectations and reignited my admiration and love for one of the greatest artists of our time, Lana Del Rey. “Norman Fucking Rockwell!” is a complex work filled with historical references, reflections on the current state of America, and the themes of the American Dream, the struggling artist, love and loss, femininity and masculinity, invincibility and vulnerability, and disillusionment and hope. The poetic, soul-stirring lyrics paired with Lana Del Rey's arresting, versatile voice and the spot-on instrumentals in every song make for a musical masterpiece and a roller-coaster time capsule through American history up until the present day. So yes, that means this album is relevant to YOU--and you should start listening to it right now. — Lily Zhu, contributing writer 

Carly Rae Jepsen, "Dedicated" 

We're all guilty of boiling down Carly Rae Jepsen to her classic 2012 bop "Call Me Maybe" at some point in our lives. We usually change our minds after one listen through her album "E - MO - TION." Her latest album, "Dedicated" promises just as many hits as her earlier work. However, this album displays her music's frequent themes of love, desire, and heartbreak in a more developed way than ever before. Some days, my mood requires "Real Love," "The Sound" and "Too Much" in the queue. Others, I can't walk to class without blasting "Want You In My Room," "Everything He Needs" and "Automatically In Love." Regardless, I do not go a single day without listening to Jepsen, and neither will you -- once you get past your "Call Me Maybe" phase. — Tyler Kopp, contributing writer 

J. Maarten Troost, “The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific” 

The shock power of this travelogue’s title led me to scoop it up on the way out of Barnes and Noble, which ended up being one of the best decisions that I have made recently. The Sex Lives of Cannibals is J. Maarten Troost’s breakout novel in which he details his too-funny-and-tragic-to-be-true experiences living on the Tarawa atoll in the Pacific island nation of Kiribati with his wife for two years. From rambling chapter titles to vivid descriptions and Troost’s eccentric and hysterical voice, this book has it all, and had me laughing from start to finish. What can I say? Sex sells. — Danica Schwartz, contributing writer 

Rich Brian, “The Sailor”

I have been a fan of Brian, who is considered an industry meme by some, mainly to keep track of how he would turn his antics into cultural currency, and boy did he bring the big bucks. The album features production collaborations from BEKON, who produced 8 songs from Kendrick Lamar's “DAMN.”, as well as new vocal complexities, clean rhymes, and honestly, play too loud in a quiet suburban neighborhood beats. Not only is the album euphonious, it also has rich storytelling and is accompanied by LEMONADE-esque short films produced by Brian's record label, 88 rising. If you have not heard it yet or still think Rich Brian is a joke, I recommend you start with “Confetti” if you want to headbang yourself into a headache, “Yellow” if you need inspiration, or “100 degrees” if you still miss summer. — Omolola Sanusi, contributing writer 

“Woodstock: Three Days that Defined a Generation”

Sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll. This is the archetypal image of the American 1960s: one of rebellion and promiscuity. One event, however, challenged this idea by bringing over 400,000 people together for three days of nothing but love and music. The new Netflix documentary “Woodstock: Three Days that Defined a Generation” commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the iconic music festival by displaying not only the groundbreaking performances of artists including Richie Havens and Jimi Hendrix, but the community that formed between the thousands of attendees. Watch to see how volunteers guided people through bad acid trips, how local citizens donated food, and how even the U.S. Army carried in medical supplies for thousands of anti-establishment hippies. The unquestioned generosity of the festival defined the late 60s as an era of peace, love, and rock-and-roll. — Skyler Graham, contributing writer 

“Broad City” Series Finale

Creators Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer did an impressively subtle job of maintaining what audiences love most about their characters throughout the final season of Comedy Central's “Broad City,” while also introducing less carefree aspects of later young adulthood that had been previously unexplored. What I loved most about seeing Ilana decide to get a Master's in Psychology or Abbi putting herself out there by applying to an art fellowship across the country was that the women approached these new and scary situations with a perfect blend of wary nervousness and muted excitement that I think many young adults experience as they go out into the world on their own. Sacrificing normality for the sake of taking appropriate risks is a crucial element of truly growing up during young adulthood, and watching characters grow up through a phase of life that I am soon to enter is one of the main reasons that I've enjoyed the show so much. All told, each character's ending on, or rather graduation from, the show was so perfect that I could have never imagined the creators ending their tenure in a better way.  — Ellenor Brown, contributing writer 


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