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Welcome back to The Daily’s Sunday culture edition, in which one Atlantic writer reveals what’s keeping them entertained. Today’s special guest is Elizabeth Bruenig, a staff writer at The Atlantic who covers politics, culture, and religion.
Liz rewatches Manchester by the Sea when she needs a good cry, checks Instagram for baking recipes, and can no longer stomach the aughts-era emo songs she loved as an eyeliner-wearing teen.
First, here are three Sunday reads from The Atlantic:
The Culture Survey: Elizabeth Bruenig
An actor I would watch in anything: Anya Taylor-Joy. I love her choice of projects, and I could look at her mesmerizing face for hours.
My favorite blockbuster and favorite art movie: My favorite blockbuster: Casino Royale. Has anyone ever looked as elegant as Eva Green does in that movie? She brings such charisma and old-Hollywood glamor to her role. I’m not really sure if The Silence of the Lambs was a blockbuster (a cursory investigation reveals that it did quite well at the box office), but it’s certainly up there among my very favorite mainstream movies. Jodie Foster is completely hypnotic as a lead.
My favorite art film: The Believer, starring Ryan Gosling. It’s a wild ride, but I think Gosling’s performance is incredible. He makes the mixed-up emotions and competing impulses of a self-hating Jewish skinhead compelling and believable. I’m not sure everything in this movie totally works, but as an almost-solo performance by Gosling, it’s very moving.
The last thing that made me cry: Manchester by the Sea. I don’t think you need to have kids in order to be thoroughly moved by this film, but if you do have kids, I think it hits especially hard. It’s such a raw portrait of grief and brokenness that it’s hard for me to rewatch often, but I do it now and again when I’m looking for the catharsis of a good cry. [Related: Manchester by the Sea is a stunning meditation on grief.]
A quiet song I love and a loud song I love: I love “Heavy Water / I’d Rather Be Sleeping,” by Grouper—I can easily listen to it on loop for an hour or more without getting bored of it. It succeeds at sounding like dreaming feels. I’d say my favorite loud song is “Heart-Shaped Box,” by Nirvana, and that’s about as loud as my tastes run.
A cultural product I loved as a teenager and still love, and something I loved but now dislike: I’ve been a big Slowdive fan for as long as I can remember. It still holds up! But I also had a mixtape (okay: a mix CD) of typical aughts-era emo songs when I was a teenager that I thought were awesome at the time and find totally unlistenable today. I guess some music only makes sense when you’re really focused on heavy eyeliner and studded belts.
Something I recently revisited: Louise Glück’s Averno. I was introduced to her work in college, and I quickly consumed several books of her poetry. Averno, a meditation on the myth of Persephone and Hades, remains my favorite. Glück’s voice is cold and distant at times, which makes the whole collection feel like a dispatch from another world.
A piece of journalism that recently changed my perspective on a topic: I’m late to the party on this, but I just read this New Yorker piece on the Dyatlov Pass incident and am now thoroughly persuaded by it. I guess I had always hoped that there was some kind of exotic explanation for it, and I won’t spoil for you what really appears to have happened, but it’s much more mundane than the majority of theories out there. Alas!
My favorite way of wasting time on my phone: Instagram. I have a backlog of 50 or 60 baking projects I discovered on there that I may or may not ever get around to. But it’s amazing for inspiration.
Something delightful introduced to me by a kid in my life: Bluey! A lot of children’s shows have subtle jokes built in for adult audiences (who tend to be conscripted into viewing), but Bluey has something even more special: theme episodes apparently engineered to make grown-ups cry. I mean this in the best possible way. [Related: In praise of Bluey, the most grown-up television show for children]
The last thing that made me snort with laughter: The Adam Friedland Show. It developed a little bit of a wild reputation during the Taylor Swift/Matty Healy drama, but Friedland invites genuinely interesting guests on and presses them on subjects they perhaps wouldn’t address in another context. I guess I had lost confidence in comedians as good interviewers—for a while now, nothing on late night has really inspired me—but Friedland is (among other things) a talented interlocutor. I think he’s also capable of eliciting comedy out of some pretty straitlaced figures, which is always entertaining.
A poem, or line of poetry, that I return to: “Archaic Torso of Apollo,” by Rainer Maria Rilke, is a major touchstone for me:
We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,
gleams in all its power.
The Week Ahead
- In the novel The New Naturals, a young Black couple turns a hill in Western Massachusetts into a utopian commune (on sale Tuesday).
- A Murder at the End of the World stars Emma Corrin as an amateur sleuth trying to solve a murder at a tech billionaire’s retreat (premieres Tuesday on Hulu).
- The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes, a prequel that tells the origin of the president of Panem, Coriolanus Snow (in theaters Friday)
The Baffling Cruelty of Alfred Hitchcock
By Matthew Specktor
Anyone who’s ever watched an Alfred Hitchcock film—seen Tippi Hedren clawed to pieces by dozens of gulls and ravens or Janet Leigh repeatedly stabbed in the shower—would have to wonder about the director’s attitude toward women. When it came to his leading actresses, he was known to have walked a line between stringent and outright sadistic. And yet the particular nature of Hitchcock’s collaborations with these women continues to serve as fodder for study and debate, despite the fact that the details of these relationships are more or less undisputed: With Ingrid Bergman, Grace Kelly, Eva Marie Saint, Kim Novak, and Leigh, the director would veer between the courtly and the coarse, at one moment inviting them to dine with his wife at his house in Bel Air, the next peppering them with filthy jokes in his trailer. And at least one allegation indicates that his behavior may have moved from the volatility long associated with Hollywood directors into something we today would call abuse. In a 2016 memoir, Hedren says that Hitchcock sexually assaulted her twice, while working on The Birds and Marnie, and that she experienced retaliation from him on set after she rebuffed him.
Read the full article.
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Katherine Hu contributed to this newsletter.
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