All posts by Alyssia

About Alyssia

Alyssia is an Adult Services Librarian at the Vaughan Public Libraries. Nothing makes her happier than a great book and a great cup of coffee. She loves fiction in all formats - books, movies, television, you name it - and is always on the lookout for awesome new music.  |  Meet the team

Can Country Music Be Cool? 

beyonce cowboy carter album cover

It’s probably obvious that this post is a response to the release of Beyoncé’s new countrified album Cowboy Carter, to which I have been listening religiously. Despite her insistence that Cowboy Carter “ain’t a country album, [it’s] a Beyoncé album”, the album is a self-admitted response to “an experience I had years ago where I did not feel welcomed…and where it was very clear that I wasn’t.” Fans suspect this is a reference to her 2016 performance with The Chicks at the Country Music Awards, during which they performed Beyoncé’s “Daddy Lessons” to a chilly audience. As (sadly) expected, some folks in the country community still have their hackles raised at (the horror!) a Black woman daring to wade into the country waters, despite being from literal Texas and shouting out Houston every chance she gets (their argument might be that Beyoncé is a pop artist and therefore doesn’t have the chops for country, but I don’t remember any hubbub when the loudly Italian-American pop queen Lady Gaga released Joanne).  

When I ask if country music can be “cool”, perhaps I should clarify what I mean by that vague descriptor. Maybe it’s different for the kids now, I don’t know! But for me “cool” indicates that timeless quality of being slightly outside—and, to channel 90s smugness, slightly above—the mainstream, of possessing an effortless je ne sais quoi, of challenging social norms instead of supporting the status quo. It’s by this definition that today’s mainstream country music misses the mark: as a genre (and this is speaking broadly), it is dedicated to upholding the conservative, patriarchal, exclusionary values of a certain racial and social class. It’s not the only popular genre dominated by white (blond, even!), straight, cis men—rock music has that in spades as well, but rock musicians tend to lean more alternative. Not so with mainstream country. Ontario’s annual Boots and Hearts festival returns this year boasting Jason Aldean as a headliner, the singer whose controversial “Try That in a Small Town” has been derided even by a Tennessee State Representative as a “pro-gun, pro-violence, modern lynching song.” It’s the opposite of cool (apologies to Luke Combs, whose cover of “Fast Car” is lovely, and he seems chill enough). 

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Post-Oscars Movie Awards: A Highly Unserious Year in Review 

With the Oscars airing this past Sunday, the movie season of 2023 has officially come to an end, including the media circus that is awards season. We watched Oppenheimer take home the big awards, we were surprised by Poor Things stepping over Barbie to compete in the same categories (costume, production design, stories about women discovering the world for the first time…), we saw Killers of the Flower Moon get left in the dust. Anyone who follows the awards circuit is undoubtedly burnt out by now, but I had too much fun last year making a list of silly fake awards to let the opportunity slip past me. So to officially-officially wrap up awards season, I present another list of movies and their various parts that stuck out to me over the past year: the highly unserious Post-Oscars Movie Awards.  

anatomy of a fall dvd cover

Best Performance by a Dog in a Motion Picture: Messi, Anatomy of a Fall 

Beyond being maybe my favourite movie of the year with maybe my favourite human performance (Sandra Hüller hive rise!), French film Anatomy of a Fall offers so much to admire: a tight, impeccable script; a hilarious cover of 50 Cent’s “P.I.M.P”; that one lawyer’s hair…but nothing is more impressive to me than the performance by the family’s dog played by the beautiful Border Collie named Messi. A performance so good I was really sitting there going “let’s get back to the murder trial in a second—is that dog real? How is it doing that? Is it a puppet?” If you watched the Oscars this past Sunday, you would have seen good boy Messi sitting in the audience, clapping politely for Robert Downey Jr’s win (turns out that was footage from the rehearsal—as a dog, he was too excitable for the actual ceremony). Jokes aside, all of the performances in Anatomy of a Fall are peak, including young Milo Machado Graner who plays Daniel and is distractingly good for a child.  

barbie movie cover

Message that went the most over my head: Barbie 

Hear me out. I’m not referring to the America Ferrera speech or the commentary on how the patriarchy harms both men and women—I get all that. Very important stuff. But what I don’t get is Barbie’s decision to leave Barbie Land after experiencing the real world. You’re telling me she gives up a place where she and her girls reign supreme and spend all their days rollerskating and having dance parties? For what, the misogyny and drudgery of the “real world”? Even the Kens had it made in Barbie Land, in my opinion (I would love for my job to be beach, personally). I know for the sake of narrative and proper messaging (especially for the kids) Barbie needed to want to grow, but from where I’m sitting as a tired adult in this increasingly difficult world…girl. I’ll swap places with you any day. Put me in that Dream House, I’m tired of relating to Depression Barbie.  

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Valentine’s Day on Kanopy!

Happy Valentine’s Day, readers! For those who observe, this awkward placement of a holiday right smack in the middle of the week might mean low-key plans. Take-out, sweatpants, maybe bingeing Netflix’s new adaptation of David Nicholl’s One Day (and sobbing into your tea, if you’re me). If you’re planning on a cozy night in, movie streaming platform Kanopy has got you covered with some prime Valentines films in their new Reel Romance in February collection. They’re got tons of classics like Four Weddings and a Funeral, Moonstruck, and Shakespeare in Love, but you can also find some more obscure gems. Below are some lesser-known films to check out with your VPL card on this day celebrating all things romance.  

Mr. Malcolm’s List 

For the Bridgerton fans looking longingly towards the new season in May! Mr. Malcolm’s List is a tasty little cake pop of a movie: short, sugary, covered in pink frosting. The plot is basically a series of Shakespearean-style hijinks, set in Regency England (aka Jane Austen time). Julia Thistlethwait is a vivacious young woman out on the Regency dating scene, but finds her charms thwarted by one Mr. Malcolm when she fails to meet his wifely criteria—his titular “list.” Determined to get revenge for this public embarrassment, Julia enlists her more docile friend Selina to ensnare Mr. Malcolm and then reject him. Of course, things don’t go according to plan, and soon enough real feelings are involved. Not a serious movie by any means, but perfect for those looking for an easy, breezy watch while munching on heart-shaped chocolates.  

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