Off the shelf

DVDs, By Andre Stackhouse

“Amadeus,” dir. Milos Forman

It would be easy to disregard a movie about Mozart as one that is probably dry and boring. However, “Amadeus” isn’t a stale historical piece about the life of a composer, but instead a tale of jealousy, obsession, and mediocrity. Primarily set in Austria, Amadeus follows the rivalry between Mozart and a less famous composer named Antonio Salieri. Salieri has all the desire and Mozart has all the talent. It seems unfair given that Salieri pledged himself to a pure Christian life while Mozart is a childish, spoiled brat. Given that the dialogue is fantastic (and at times hilarious), the music is absolutely grand, and the rivalry is intense, it’s no wonder that Amadeus won the 1984 Academy Award for Best Picture.

Odegaard Media Library / DVD WHV 136

“The Truman Show,” dir. Peter Weir

It’s rare that movies manage to find the perfect balance between being philosophical and lighthearted. However, “The Truman Show” pulls this off while also showing Jim Carrey can play a serious role tactfully. Truman, a baby adopted by a TV studio, has been raised his whole life in a huge, realistic, and tightly controlled biosphere. He does not know there is a world outside the biosphere, and everyone he knows is actually a paid actor. Without ever seeming heavy or melodramatic, “The Truman Show” gets you wondering about utopia, the human attraction to voyeurism, and even the morality of a benevolent God. Warning: Watching this movie may make you doubt the reality of your own life.

Odegaard Media Library / DVD PARA 074

CDs, By Tyler Hartung

“Aquemini,” OutKast

It might be hard for some to fathom that OutKast existed before “Hey Ya!” burst onto the top of the charts in 2003, but the Atlanta-based duo is one of the pioneers of southern rap that made its way onto the music scene during the ’90s. Unconventionality has been a trademark of André 3000 and Big Boi’s music since the beginning, and “Aquemini” is an album that captures the essence of that perfectly with its excessive use of live instrument recordings. Lead single “Rosa Parks” features a guitar during its sing-along chorus that sounds like it was ripped straight from a southern blues jam session, while “Return of the ‘G,’” a track that spits rhymes about staying true to your roots in the face of critics, juxtaposes its “thug” lyrics with an orchestra, layering melodic strings underneath the vocals. More than anything, OutKast placed themselves above the rest of the rap game by proving themselves to truly be the players they describe themselves as, not so much players of the rap lifestyle, but players who are looking to win in the everyday struggles that of life. This is evident on “Da Art of Storytellin’ (Pt. 1),” a beautiful song in which André muses, “I said what you wanna be? / She said, ‘Alive.’” Word.

Odegaard Media Library / Cd LFR 013

“Dear Science,” TV on the Radio

If you can find an album in the history of the universe that has more energy coursing through its veins than TV on the Radio’s “Dear Science”, well, then I’d just have to tell you that you’re wrong. Never have I heard an LP with a sound comparable to a caged animal desperate to break its bonds and wreak havoc on the world around it, but TVOTR has it down to a — pardon my pun — science on their third album. “Dancing Choose,” a sort of crossover between contemporary rock and rap, is best described as jittery and becomes borderline maniacal as the quintet’s energy finally bubbles over the edge. As soon as songs such as “Crying” and “Red Dress” have gotten your heart up to a dangerously fast pace, the group slows it way down with melancholy melodies such as “Love Dog,” in which Adebimpe laments to a lover, “I know why you cry out.” All the songs are enjoyable, and it’s no surprise that “Dear Science” was selected almost unanimously by publications across the nation as the album of the year when it was released in 2008. But don’t take my word for it; go pick it up yourself and try not to dance until you drop.

Odegaard Media Library / Cd GEF 064

Books, By Nathan Taft

“A Game of Thrones,” by George R.R. Martin

George R.R. Martin’s seven-book “A Song of Ice and Fire” series is a powerful one, and the first book in the series, “A Game of Thrones,” is no exception. You may have heard the name from HBO’s new series, which is an adaptation of the novel. Having read the book and watched the series, I can safely say the book is the better of the two. Told through limited third-person accounts of multiple characters, Martin weaves tales of political intrigue with a realm of danger of collapsing into civil war. He paints a picture so clear you’ll feel like you’re right there alongside his characters. The book starts off slow, but by the time you get a little way in you won’t be able to put it down. And what’s a nice twist to these books is that Martin has no qualms about killing off his main characters, making for a fresh, more intriguing read, as no one is safe. If you’re looking for a good way to kill some time in this cold winter weather, look no further and pick up this fantastic read.

Odegaard Good Reads / PS3563.A7239 G36 2011

“The Hunger Games,” by Suzanne Collins

Another series that is being adapted to film is Suzanne Collins’ hit trilogy, “The Hunger Games”. “The Hunger Games” is the first book in the trilogy and arguably the strongest of the three. The book is set in a bizarre futurescape where 12 districts are subservient to a single capital in the country of Panem, a nation that has risen from the ashes of post-apocalyptic North America. As punishment for an earlier rebellion, a boy and a girl from each district must compete every year in the Hunger Games, a brutal, gladiator-style fight to the death. Collins’ story follows the path of Katniss, a girl from the poorest 12th district who is forced into the Hunger Games and must use all her resourcefulness in a struggle to survive against the better-trained and better-equipped kids from the richer districts. The book is not only a great read, but also a fascinating look into the psyche of human beings when they are forced into situations where they either must kill or be killed.

Suzzallo/Allen Stacks / PZ7.C6837 Hun 2008

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