Cultural diary: part 3

I’m back! Since it’s becoming quite clear that I won’t be posting weekly, lets call this cultural diary pt. 3. This time around I watched fewer movies and more TV. Here are my cultural highlights for the past few weeks.

Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

I’m a big fan of Tina Fey’s work. Much like 30 rock, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is lighthearted (on the surface), fast paced and chock full of blink and you missed it references (to Montreal, to Mad Men, to 30 rock, to the 90s, etc..The show follows  Kimmy, a strong, fearless heroine who spent fifteen years locked in a bunker  with 4 other girls. Upon release from her captor, she decides to take her money to stay in New York city. Though she went through a horrible experience, she remains (almost too) positive and naive. Her optimistic worldview comes across as odd to her new acquaintances, who are all cynical new yorkers.

After reading this, you might think that the story sounds dark, yet the characters and situations that are depicted in the show are so absurd that it ends up being hilariously over-the-top. I love it. Season 2 just came out and I devoured it within 3 days. if you’re looking for a funny lighthearted show, I highly recommend it. However, this type of humor is not for everyone.

21 jours

21 jours (21 days) is a documentary series where documentary makers immerse themselves into their subject for a three week period. Apparently, it takes three weeks for a human being to get used to a new environment. Under this premise, in each episode the documentary maker joins a world that isn’t theirs. it doesn’t have to be very far away in terms of geography, but the subjects have to pulled out of their comfort zone. The Following subjects have been covered so far in the second season: the porn industry, daycare, caregivers for Alzheimer patients, working in mines and volunteering in Haiti.

Photo cred: BBC

Photo cred: BBC

Drinking to oblivion

If you haven’t watched a Louis Theroux documentary before, make it a priority in your life! Over the last twenty years, Theroux has covered an incredibly disparate array of subjects, from white supremacist to body builders, extreme Zionists to drug addicts. Theroux practices a form of gonzo journalism, meaning that he immerses himself with his subjects for weeks, getting to know them and earning their trust. However, Theroux himself never becomes the main subject of the documentary. He is there as an observer and as someone who can ask questions which represent an outsider’s point of view. Yet throughout his films, he rarely casts judgement on his subjects or at least, he doesn’t let it show. In this latest film, he follows a group of heavy drinkers who are reaching the tipping point: their next drink is bringing them that much closer to an early death caused by liver disease. They are hooked and have been for years. Some of them had managed to be sober for years and a traumatizing event sent them reaching for the bottle. They are all being treated on and off at a hospital in London. The one hour film is almost too short. we would have wanted to learn more about these people and their experiences. For non alcoholics, watching this film may ironically prove to be a sobering experience, where we get a glimpse of what life is like for an addict. Louis Theroux has done it again. I can’t wait for his Scientology movie.

My beautiful broken brain

Yes, another documentary. I can’t get enough! This one is about as personal as a film can get. Filmmaker Lotje Sodderland tells us about her new life after suffering a massive stroke. Sodderland nearly died and during the first year, she had to relearn most basic things such as talking, moving and reading. Her memory was gravely affected, which made things a lot harder. Before her accident, Sodderland was lready an avid videographer whose camera was an extension to her hand. After the stroke, she started filming nearly every moment of her life, scared that her broken brain wasn’t going to able to record her memories. The film shows the first year of her recovery, with all the little victories, and also the tremendous lows that she went through. One interesting feature of this film is that at certain moments, the visual aspect and sound effects are made to mirror how her brain and eyes see the world, post accident. When she talks about seeing double or being blinded by rays of light we are too. When street noises become too overwhelming for her to bear, the soundtrack reproduces that feeling for the viewer. It’s a touching, intimate movie. And boy is it scary!

Comic book:

a storytelling home_chroniques d'une fille indigne

Chroniques d’une fille indigne by Caroline Allard and Francis Desharnais

And now for something completely different… Chroniques d’une fille indigne (chronicles of an unfit daughter). Caroline Allard earned her reputation as as an unfit mother, blogging about her experience as a new mother. Now she shares funny stories about her unfit “daughter”, Lalie, a stubborn, talkative kid who always has something interesting going on. Let’s just say that her parents will never get bored and they probably have enough stories for another book or two. This little book is so much fun to read.

Music: 

I’ve never been a huge fan of Benjamin Biolay’s work, I find that his songs and videos often rely on typical Parisian bourgeois tropes: constant melancholy, how hard it is to be monogamous , objectifying women, consuming boat loads of cigarettes and champagne… But his newest album piqued my interest. Heartbroken and depressed, he made his way to Argentina for a few months and the country pushed him out of his funk. He found a new muse: Buenos Aires. She was exiting and mysterious enough to entice him and with her, he was able to exorcise his demons. There’s a ray of hope in these songs.

Here’s a little sample of summer for your ears. Normally, i’m not a huge fan of this type of reggae but this song by Nattybwoy and RR Burning really gets me into a nice vibe. It must be RR Burning’s voice! Irresistibly smooth and silky…

Punk boys from Madagascar! The Dizzy Brains are using fast guitar riffs and highly politicized lyrics to tell the world about what’s happening in their country. Thank you Le Ptit Journal for giving them a high-profile stage!

La Yegros is an Argentinean singer currently living in France. She wears colorful attire and sings funky cumbia songs.  Her show last year at the Francofolies music festival in Montreal was great. This might just be my summer jam.

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