Movies and Books for Winter Break

Good entertainment and a warm blanket: the resolution for a cold night.

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      With winter break coming, the landscape begins to freeze while the rigidity of our schedule melts. However, there are few things as horrid, even nauseating, as committing hours to a form of “entertainment,” only to have it be a waste. You could have lived; you could have even gone to Trader Joe’s! But, for some reason, that vengeful impulse in your developing frontal lobe demanded that you watch that one Netflix original. You know, the very one that’s been in your “Just for You” section for months now, beckoning you with its immaculate cover art and 98% match ratio. 

     This feeling of degradation, though, is avoidable. If a Netflix original is in the critically acclaimed section, it is a lie. If the trailer has an overvoice, leave immediately. In fact, watching trailers is just a goldmine for spoilers; Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb are happy alternatives. 

     That being said, it might be difficult to know where to start. As self-described TV and film junkies, Claire and I thought we were uniquely qualified to give advice on this difficult subject matter. 

     In the 1940s, films began to evolve from propaganda and westerns to psychological and societal portraits. Citizen Kane was one of the first to take this leap. Directed by Orson Welles, the film is based on American newspapers’ role in the Spanish-American War. Welles, also starring in the film, plays Charles Foster Kane, a successful publisher based on William Randolph Hearst. However, rather than focusing on the exact details of the papers’ twistings of the truth, the film investigates Kane’s life; specifically, the meaning of his last word, “Rosebud.” As a journalist pieces together Kane’s life by questioning those closest to him, the viewer experiences a comlex, disjointed narrative examining the life of a wealthy, powerful man. 

     Another revered mid-20th century is Rashomon. In this black-and-white classic, Japanese director Akira Kurosawa explores the faceted nature of truth. The story follows the rape of a woman, telling the tale from each party involved. Starring Toshiro Mifune, a simply brilliant actor, the film seamlessly merges comedy with mystery, and mystery with human morality. Like many of Kurosawa’s pieces, the cinematography is striking, pulling Western elements into feudal Japan. Overall the plot and film techniques in Rashomon are superb.

    For a bloodier movie, Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds takes place in Nazi-occupied France. Taratino, seemingly unimpressed with history’s handling of WWII, rewrites the past in a comical, and graphic, story. Paralleling the “Basterds,” a group Jewish-American Nazi Hunters, and Shoshanna, an orphaned Jewish-French woman seeking to avenge her family, the film is intense, morbid, and hilarious. Plus, deciphering exactly where Lt. Aldo Raine’s accent is from, in itself, makes the experience worth it. 

     However, the Basterd’s graphically depicted knife-slashing and gun-shooting efforts are not “E for everyone.” For a feel-good film that is better on the nerves, Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel offers a whimsical tale of a fashionable European ski resort, its concierge and junior lobby boy. Specifically, after the concierge, Gustave, inherits the fortune of one of his hotel “clients,” he and the lobby boy, Zero, must escape from the client’s malicious family. The symmetric, colorful cinematography, too, adds to the fantastical nature of the film.

     For our TV recommendations, we have to start off with a fall classic that should be universally appreciated. I’m talking, of course, about Gilmore Girls. This show couples cozy fall and winter vibes with witty banter guaranteed to make you fall in love with it. As someone who’s watched this show multiple times at different points in my life, I’ve seen my perspective change on its events, as it’s a true coming-of-age show. From Rory’s actions to her choice of men in her life (I’m Team Jess, by the way), there’s definitely a lot of growth and fun times to come about, which is why it’s one of my favorite shows to come back to. It’s available to watch on Netflix and Hulu. 

    Even though I absolutely adore reality television, I have been told that I must limit my choice of the genre to just one item. Nevertheless, I have a good one for you all. This is none other than (insert drumroll) The Great British Baking Show. Now, need I say more? This show is a delicious confection in itself. It’s truly delightful to witness the spectacle that is British people shading each other and leaving passive-aggressive comments on each other’s fruit cakes. However, the overall wholesomeness of the show still persists. It’s a very heartwarming, innocuous-enough baking show featuring British people. What more is there to love?