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Coronaculture: Films, Books, and Albums to Discover in Quarantine

"You're All Caught Up."

Okay, maybe you haven't seen this message in your Instagram feed—yet. But that blue light emanating from your phone screen placed you into a hypnotic trance yet again and this time, your consciousness might not return to Earth. One month into quarantine and you're losing touch with reality, aren't you? Well, fear not, because The Gavel has brought you an exhaustive list of films, books, and albums that will (hopefully) inspire much more reflection than your TikTok FYP. Enjoy!

Frankie Mancini / Gavel Media

Films:

Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)

One of Hayao Miyazaki’s lesser-known films, Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is a visually stunning and emotionally powerful tale emphasizing harmony with nature and warning against ecological destruction. As Princess Nausicaa contends with anthropogenic destruction and violence in a post-apocalyptic world, she seeks to restore humanity’s once respectful relationship with nature.

Cinema Paradiso (1988)

In this beautiful Italian language film, young Toto befriends Alfredo, the local projectionist, and their friendship fills a hole in each of their lives as the two navigate post-WWII Italy. This ode to small-town life and the magic of the movies will bring the theater right to your living room.

God’s Own Country (2017)

God’s Own Country tells the dramatic love story of Johnny and Gheorghe with the backdrop of a luscious farm in Yorkshire, England. Moody scenes paired with a gritty, dark realism make for a solid film about intimacy and rebirth.

Blindspotting (2018)

Starring and written by rappers Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal, Blindspotting tells a story of probationer Collin and his childhood best friend Miles as they face challenges to their friendship in changing times. The film juxtaposes the persistent structures of police brutality and mass incarceration with a gentrified urban landscape and changing dynamics of intersections of race and class in contemporary Oakland.

Call Me By Your Name (2017)

Luca Guadagnino’s masterful film, winner of the 2018 Academy Award for Best Writing Adapted Screenplay, offers the coveted chance to escape the reality of quarantine—if only for two hours. While summering in Lombardy, Italy, seventeen-year-old Elio is fascinated by a doctoral student named Oliver who is working for his father. As the lazy days of summer unfold, fascination blossoms into much more.

Lady Bird (2017)

Before Greta Gerwig, Saoirse Ronan, and Timothée Chalamet gave us Little Women, they worked on Lady Bird, a coming-of-age film loosely based off of Gerwig’s own adolescence in Sacramento. All of us can see parts of ourselves in Lady Bird’s desire to simultaneously fit in and stand out, become independent from her parents, and assert who she is. Between its gorgeous cinematography and artful portrayal of family and friend dynamics, this is hailed as one of the best films of 2017. 

Eighth Grade (2018)

Directed by Bo Burnham, this film follows Kayla through her last weeks of middle school as she tries to gain acceptance from her peers, reconciling the anxious and shy person she is at school with the confident and cool girl she is in her YouTube videos. It’s awkward, painfully cringey, and heartbreaking—exactly what eighth grade really is. 

Amélie (2001)

This whimsical, French-language romantic comedy follows Amélie, a shy and imaginative waitress living near Paris, who helps her friends and neighbors find love and happiness while dealing with her own loneliness. She plans complicated schemes to achieve her goal of helping those around her and finding the man she has fallen in love with.

Trainspotting (1996)

Based on the novel by Irvine Welsh, this cult classic starring Ewan McGregor follows a group of friends in Edinburgh as they deal with urban poverty, crime, and the insurmountable challenge of overcoming heroin addiction. 

The Social Network (2010)

Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Armie Hammer, and Justin Timberlake star in this drama that follows the creation of Facebook, starting with Mark Zuckerberg’s time at Harvard and continuing into the early years of Facebook, when he is sued by his former partner and best friend, Eduardo Saverin. 

The Stanford Prison Experiment (2015)

Inspired by a real social psychology experiment done by professor Philip Zimbardo in 1971, the film follows twenty-four young adult males (including characters played by Ezra Miller and Miles Heizer) who are randomly assigned to the role of prisoner or guard. 

Frankie Mancini / Gavel Media

Books:

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie explores the American experience through the lens of a Black African immigrant woman, dissecting the power of language in the context of a racialized society. A character seeking authenticity and true love, Ifemelu is restless and resilient as she enters a new and often unfriendly culture.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Two half-sisters are born in different villages in eighteenth-century Ghana. One marries a rich Englishman, and the other is captured and sold into American slavery. Homegoing follows several generations of the sisters’ families and explores what it means to be free and to know where you come from. 

The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo

After meeting on September 11th, 2001, Columbia students Gabriel and Lucy are irreversibly intertwined. Santopolo’s novel explores the pain, irony, and beauty of fate, which seemingly has no remorse while it pushes and pulls the two together and apart.

Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl

Pursuing quarantine hobbies in the kitchen? Cultivate your inner chef by picking up this memoir. Reichl revisits her time serving as the final editor-in-chief of Gourmet magazine while describing movements happening in the world of food at the same time.

Beartown by Fredrick Backman

Along with its strikingly artistic style, this novel is rendered relevant to current times with its themes of community relationships and unity. A small, economically failing town’s only hope lies in its junior hockey team until an act of violence leaves a girl traumatized and upheaves all the loyalties the town thought they had.  

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Single mother Mia and her daughter Pearl move to Shaker Heights, a perfectly planned, cookie-cutter suburb, right before a divisive custody battle over a Chinese-American baby girl unfolds and the Richardson family finds themselves intertwined with the complex lives of these newcomers. After finishing the novel, you can see Kerry Washington and Reese Witherspoon in the show adaptation on Hulu.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid

After being accused of kidnapping a child she is nannying, Emira, a Black woman in her early twenties, struggles to find her way while people around her try to make every choice for her. This novel is a quick read that features a piercing satirical look at white people trying too hard to be “woke.”

Wildflower by Drew Barrymore

Drew Barrymore paints a portrait of her life through stories from her childhood to motherhood. She offers wit, solace, and a look at a much happier life than the one she was living in her previous 1990 memoir, Little Girl Lost.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

This novel, although over 500 pages, is a thrill from start to finish. Richard Papen, a college student from a dull California suburb, is sucked into the exclusive, pretentious world of academia shared by his fellow students and professor of ancient Greek. When they are confronted with a brutal crime, the students’ world rapidly deteriorates and they must keep it from falling apart completely.

Frankie Mancini / Gavel Media

Music:

Chilombo by Jhené Aiko

Healing, smooth, and honest, Aiko's third album explores loss, love, and empowerment. The R&B artist's clear voice and the overtones of crystal healing bowls inspire reflection and release.

Stranger in the Alps by Phoebe Bridgers

Phoebe Bridgers is a masterful lyricist that can go from an empowering anthem like “Motion Sickness” to a devastating track like “Funeral” with no trouble. With atmospheric guitar lines and Bridgers’ dreamy voice, this album is guaranteed to make you feel something.

Immunity by Clairo

Ranked at #18 in Pitchfork’s “The 50 Best Albums of 2019,” Immunity is the bedroom pop icon’s first full-length album. It is more raw and insightful than most of Clairo’s work so far, featuring songs about early adolescence and feelings about her bisexuality. Also, the production (by Rostam Batmanglij, formerly of Vampire Weekend) is something to behold in itself.

Six: The Musical Studio Cast Recording

Six, a mega-hit musical that premiered in London in 2017, explores the lives of the six wives of Henry VIII—Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr—reimagined as modern-day pop stars. The show would be enjoying an acclaimed Broadway run as we speak, but for now, we can all enjoy the stunning studio cast recording.

Kid Krow by Conan Grey

Perhaps best-known for “Maniac,” the 2019 single that received considerable attention after making its way onto TikTok, Conan Grey released his first full-length album on March 20. The record showcases wit alongside raw emotion, as he explores such topics as financial inequality, sexuality, and of course, love. Grey’s sound is unprecedented, at times playful but more often somber and wistful; Kid Krow blazes a new trail in the realm of pop.

Romantic Works by Keaton Henson

This nine-track album is a compilation of Keaton Henson’s instrumental work, which features his remarkable piano melodies and cellist Ren Ford. Romantic Works is the perfect album for studying, reading, or quietly appreciating the beauty of music. 

A by The Slaps

In their brief Spotify bio, The Slaps describe their sound as “Beach blues. Something you’ve never heard before with a little something familiar.” The Chicago-based band released this seventeen-minute EP in 2019 and it is a mellow sample that gives you a little glimpse into the world of The Slaps.

You and Your Friends by Peach Pit

One of the most standout characteristics of Peach Pit is their awe-inspiring guitar riffs, and their new album You and Your Friends is no exception. This album carries a more refined sense of the carefree nature of our teenage and young adult years, impressing from beginning to end.

1000 gecs by 100 gecs

100 gecs is not for everyone. But if you are willing to brave the initial shock, you will see that duo Laura Les and Dylan Brady are experimenting with countless influences to make music that truly has never been seen before. 

This Thing Called Living by Eloise

Eloise uses artful jazz influences to create an EP that feels comforting, sweet, and fresh all at once. Although she has only released four songs in her career, it is safe to say that the EP is a success. 

High As Hope by Florence and the Machine

Florence Welch has spent more than ten years wowing fans with poignant lyrics and a sound that is otherworldly. High As Hope brings us through Florence’s highs and lows, and in the opening track “June,” aptly encourages us to “hold onto each other.”

Carrie & Lowell by Sufjan Stevens

There are few other artists that evoke emotion the way that Sufjan Stevens does. Amidst an extensive discography (including songs from the Call Me By Your Name soundtrack), Carrie & Lowell is an album that grips the listener because of its almost whispered storytelling and biographical nature. A review by Pitchfork unveils even more about the significance of what they call Stevens’ best. 

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