Survivor: Winners at War — Maggie Garnett
“Survivors Ready?” So asks Jeff Probst, the never-aging host of CBS’ never-aging Survivor. The show is a constant on American television and in my family’s home. But, reader, a confession: my Survivor devotion waned as I journeyed through high school and college. My passion for a good Tribal Council, my outrage at an undeserving winner, my tears at a family visit…they felt like things of the past. Now, faced with a fortieth anniversary season and a lot of newfound time on my hands, I was ready to “outwit, outlast, and outplay” again. In “Winners at War,” Survivor brings together a cast of twenty previous champions, competing for an unfathomable two million dollar grand prize. “New school’s” anxious, ever-shifting game takes on “old school’s” calculating play. The show’s most lauded winners take on some of its most contested victors. The season is a testimony to human endurance, providing a delightful cast, moving moments, and a not-to-be-missed season finale. Good Survivor remains great television.
Jojo Rabbit — John Burke
I watched Jojo Rabbit twice since returning home in March. Simultaneously hilarious and powerful, director Taika Waititi seamlessly weaves the tale of a young boy in the waning days of the Third Reich yanked in two directions by his “blind fanaticism” for Hitler and his own pure and innocent heart. Nothing I can say will prepare the viewer for the experience, but expect an edgy movie that uses dark comedy to put the preposterous Nazism on full display. Though I found the movie tasteful, Waititi’s choice to make jokes of Hitler and his ideology may come as a shock. But at its core, Jojo Rabbit will undoubtedly teach you how to embrace the adversities of life with a spirit of undying freedom and joy, a necessary skill for the months ahead.
The Jeweler’s Shop — Mary Frances Myler
Before he was Pope John Paul II, he was Karol Wojtyla. Before he wrote encyclicals, he wrote poetry and plays. The Jeweler’s Shop, one such play, was written in 1960 and follows three different couples through significant moments in their relationships. Influenced by his experience performing forbidden plays in secret during World War II, Wojtyla emphasizes internal drama over the dialogue and action typical of stage plays. The Jeweler’s Shop offers a window into the complexity of human life and divine love, conveyed largely through monologues. In capturing the emotional drama of marriage, heartbreak, and new love, Wojtyla pens a brilliant play filled with realistic characters, theological truths, and memorable lines. Short enough to read in one sitting and rich enough to contemplate for a lifetime, The Jeweler’s Shop is a must-read for all who have made JPII the patron saint of their relationships!
The Grand Budapest Hotel — Luke Koenigsknecht
Although I only watched it for the first time this past summer, Wes Anderson’s 2014 comedy-drama The Grand Budapest Hotel certainly ranks amongst the best films I have ever seen. Set in the fictional Eastern European country of Zubrowka in the interwar period, the film recounts the adventures of one Monsieur Gustave H., the concierge at the titular hotel, after he finds himself framed for the murder of a exceedingly wealthy guest. While the characters are fascinating, if somewhat underdeveloped in the short runtime of only 100 minutes, the film truly shines in its visual and audio design. Anderson’s style, focused on symmetry in every shot and a heavy usage of miniature models for practical effects, is notable for its uniqueness and uncanny ability to make many shots in the film appear as if they were a portrait. Alexandre Desplat’s soundtrack, influenced by Russian folk music, certainly lives up to its Academy Award-winning fame and complements the eccentricity (and occasionally, the gravitas) of the characters and the situations they find themselves in. All in all, The Grand Budapest Hotel is a supremely enjoyable film for anyone looking for a simultaneously hilarious and profound viewing experience.
I Know This Much Is True — Sydney Missigman
Wally Lamb’s 897 page #1 New York Times Bestseller novel written in 1998 tells the story of identical male twins who grow up with completely unidentical lives. Thomas and Dominic are raised in the same house, under the same conditions, with the same education and experiences. However, Thomas is diagnosed with schizophrenia and is challenged with living in a 1970s society, plagued with conflict in Vietnam and trouble at home in the U.S. Both brothers struggle with Thomas’ diagnosis, but readers might sympathize with Dominic, as he is aware of Thomas’ pain (and Thomas does not understand his illness). The motifs of blissful innocence and unconditional sibling love run throughout the whole book, as Dominic is tasked with the unspoken responsibility of looking after his ill brother. For any reader who is interested in page-turning fiction, mental illness, or psychology—and has some extra free time over the next few weeks to dive into this lengthy read—I strongly recommend I Know This Much Is True.
Brideshead Revisited —Lizzie Self
My journey to Brideshead began before spring break, and I enjoyed the first hundred pages and a few episodes of the BBC production with friends on campus. Over lamb stew and brown bread at Fiddler’s, we mused about Sebastian’s detachment from home, what we hated most about Rex and Lady Marchmain, and how much we would give for dorm chapels to look like the one at Brideshead. I google-searched gillyflowers, sought a tweed scarf for a birthday present, and planned with new enthusiasm for studying abroad. At home as I finished the book, when the shock of the aesthetic experience lessened and I was alone with my thoughts, I sympathized with the characters in a new way. This book casts sin as tragedy and conversion as coming home and spins every spoken word and movement of the heart in gold. I challenge you readers to take this one up and see what you can make of such a cast of characters. I, for one, have found that I will need to revisit Brideshead, because I long to relish in Waugh’s stunning language again, but more importantly I have unfinished business with our protagonists. So much eluded me, and the intricacies of this text call us back—each line in my mind ”full of rainbow light for a second and then—phut!—vanished, with nothing left at all, nothing.” (Waugh, Evelyn. Brideshead Revisited. Little, Brown, & co. pp 56-57)
The Lamp, Issue 1 –– Bea Cuasay
Just fourteen months ago, Matthew Walther and William Borman pitched their idea for The Lamp. I’ve met the two on two separate occasions in the past, and knowing them, I knew this project had to be good. It has been exciting to watch how The Lamp has grown over these months. Now, two beautiful issues have been released. Regarding the first issue, articles which I particularly enjoyed were: “How to be a Radical” by Urban Hannon, “Cranmer” by Peter Hitchens, “How I Joined the Resistance” by J.D. Vance, and “Pestsäulen” by Susannah Black. There is really no other Catholic magazine like The Lamp, which places Catholic orthodoxy at the forefront without giving way to the sides which the world offers. I encourage you to subscribe, if you are able. (I would like to note my gratitude towards Politics Section Editor Luke Koenigsknecht. Without his generosity, I would definitely have written on something I have on hand).
The Chosen – Leo Corelli
I cannot think of anything else in the last six months that came close to captivating me the way The Chosen did. The first season (with the second currently under production) begins with Jesus preparing to begin His public ministry and ends with Him and His disciples setting out to preach that the Messiah has arrived. The show follows Jesus as He seeks out and assembles each of his to-be followers and Apostles. It is the most beautiful realization as a viewer to understand that Jesus seeks us, daily, in the same way: with the deepest love and persistence. Jonathan Roumie, the actor who plays Jesus, is a devout Catholic who recites the Rosary and Divine Mercy Chaplet daily. The grace with which he represents our Lord will send shivers down your spine and fundamentally change the way you see Him.