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Scene Selections: Social distancing starter pack

, and | Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Claire Kopischke | The Observer

Always the ones to seek the positive in a negative situation, Scene sees these next few weeks of online classes and social distancing as an opportunity to catch up on shows and movies, read a good book and connect with our minds and souls. This can also give you the motivation to start that really long book you never read or movie you haven’t watched — looking at you, “The Irishman.” To provide a jumping off point, Scene made a list of a few of those movies, books and artists we’ve always wanted to sit through but just never had the time. 


Tarkovsky’s Masterworks 

By Mike Donovan, Senior Scene Writer 

“The image becomes authentically cinematic when (amongst other things), not only does it live within time, but time lives within it,” Andrei Tarkovsky wrote, exemplifying in his prose the obfuscating nonsense that separates movies (plebeian fare) from **clears throat** cinema. 

And there’s plenty of time to be had when it comes to Tarkovsky’s collection. His three must-see features — “Stalker,” “Solaris” and “Andrei Rublev” — run 2 hours 43 minutes, 2 hours 49 minutes and 3 hours 25 minutes respectively. While each of these behemoths fills every one of its minutes with meticulously crafted images (living in times that live in images) without so much as an ounce of fat, none are easily accessed without (A) a significant gap in your schedule and (B) the capacity to intuit the banality of crisis.

Present circumstances (see: the news) offer both in abundance. Imperatives to “socially distance” and “self-isolate” are at once important directives to protect public health and pitch-perfect descriptions of behavior in Tarkovsky’s films: now all of us can be (have to be) loners in spiral crisis, retreating within ourselves only to find more intricate patterns of obscurity.

As souls shatter and faith sours as we pass through the bottleneck, Tarkovsky isn’t much of a comfort — we have Cameron Crowe and Wes Anderson for such purposes. But what he lacks in pillows and blankets, he makes up for with his “Mirror,” a 1975 film marking the strange, fragmented and non-linear peak of Tarkovsky’s directorial career.

After looking into the “Mirror,” witnessing yourself distorted in timely images of time’s images and washing your hands thoroughly, you’ll be sad, yes. And probably confused. But also #cultured. So yeah.


Grateful Dead

By Ryan Israel, Scene Editor

What does it take to become a “Deadhead?” Beyond a flower-child, free-spirited attitude, one needs a deep knowledge of the Grateful Dead’s lengthy catalogue and 30-year history. Last summer, I dabbled with the Dead after seeing Dead & Company, a group consisting of three members of the original squad along with John Mayer and two others, in concert at Citi Field. The band’s loose, flowing and lengthy jams quickly became the soundtrack to my summer, but I still lack a master’s degree in being a Deadhead.

The two items on the Grateful Dead 101 syllabus, an easy class to add to your schedule, are “Long Strange Trip” and Dick’s Picks. 

“Long Strange Trip” is a comprehensive, six-part Amazon documentary covering almost every aspect of the influential band’s essence and message. The marathon film with it’s solid 4-hour runtime is bound to convert any casual classic rock fan into a Deadhead, but simply watching isn’t enough, you have to listen too. Luckily, there are endless hours of Grateful Dead music on Spotify, but unfortunately, there’s so much that it’s hard to know where to start. A great introduction point is Dick’s Picks, a 36-volume collection of live recordings organized by loyal Deadheads. Along with the classics “Cornell 5/8/77 (Live)” and “Europe ‘72,” they’ll provide a strong musical foundation and plenty of background music for online classes. 

The final exam for this introductory course is seeing a Grateful Dead cover band in concert over the summer, by which time you’ll have completed all the necessary listening and watching to fit in with the most die-hard Deadheads.


Those Books You’ve Only Read On Sparknotes

By Jake Winningham, Associate Scene Editor

We’re all guilty of it: when the work piles up and the assignments look more and more daunting, whatever stodgy classic we have to read for English class gets pushed to the back burner in favor of the Sparknotes summary of the same novel. So, while you’re stuck at home and looking to practice some social distancing from the rest of your family, get comfortable with the classics both sung and undersung that you missed out on in high school.

I’m starting with Nabokov’s “Lolita” and Dickens’ “Bleak House,” both of which have previously been passed over in favor of more pressing schoolwork. You don’t need to stick to the PLS-approved tenets of the Western canon, though; there’s plenty of great, more eminently readable books that carry just as much weight. STEM majors looking for something to distract from their Zoom classes could find much to appreciate in the sparse prose of Hemingway and McCarthy (try “The Sun Also Rises” and “Blood Meridian”). Business majors wondering how they can list this semester as study abroad on their LinkedIn will probably relate to the characters of Bret Easton Ellis and Martin Amis. If you want to cope with the ongoing panic by reading about fictional pandemics, the literary world is your oyster: start with recent masterworks like Emily St. John Mandel’s “Station Eleven” and Colson Whitehead’s “Zone One” — but maybe not while watching the news.

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About Ryan Israel

Ryan is the Former Scene Editor (2020-2021). He is currently washed up. Follow Ryan on Twitter @ryizzy.

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About Mike Donovan

Mike enjoys good words.

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About Jake Winningham

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