Staff Picks: Flavorwire’s Favorite Cultural Things This Week

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Need a great book to read, album to listen to, or TV show to get hooked on? The Flavorwire team is here to help: in this weekly feature, our editorial staffers recommend the cultural object or experience they’ve enjoyed most in the past seven days. Click through for our picks, and tell us what you’ve been loving in the comments.

The Hunger Games (dir. Gary Ross)

This week, I got around to watching both Hunger Games movies, and I was honestly swooning, especially at the first film. I cannot believe that such a defiantly political story is the big young adult craze of the moment! The Hunger Games have recently been a point of contention in this office, and Flavorwire editors have questioned whether or not the politics are actually a bit empty, or if a multimillion dollar blockbuster can even be political at all. These are both extremely good points that are well worth evaluating, but I think it’s so exciting that a bestselling young adult series written by and about a woman is making us ask these questions. Maybe it is easy to project our own beliefs onto Suzanne Collins’ dystopia, and maybe it won’t start any big movements, but I am beyond thrilled to see that kids are hearing stories that don’t dare to candy coat this increasingly terrifying world, stories that encourage them to question absolutely everything handed down to them. I think the films (and the books, which I’ve started to get into) are riveting, subversive allegories of how the world– particularly America– is sacrificing the future of its youth, and their popularity gives me hope that the coming generations will be less jaded and irresponsible than their predecessors. Maybe it’s a misguided hope, but this is a phenomenon I really, really don’t wanna be cynical about. —Sarah Fonder, Editorial Apprentice

Gone Home

Other than the indie game Braid and the online 8-bit Kreayshawn game that popped up a few years ago, I’ve never really gotten into video games. When I was younger, my sister used to shut off Snowboard Kids any time I started winning, which sadly turned me off from them in my formative years. But the “story exploration” game Gone Home is SO GOOD. Set in the Pacific Northwest in 1995, you play as a young woman named Katie, who returns home from abroad to an empty house and a note on the door from her sister asking Katie not to look for her. The story is uncovered through zines, art, and personal effects — all beautifully crafted. I’m still working on finishing it (even exploratory games are hard for me, okay?), but I’m loving every minute. The soundtrack is a mix of garage band rock and riot grrrl songs from bands like Heavens to Betsy and Bratmobile. And I just got a “Kicking Against the Patriarchy” card/badge, which is pretty much everything my life has been working towards. —Brie Hiramine, Editorial Apprentice

Computer Chess (dir. Andrew Bujalski)

From the ubiquitous Duplass brothers and Lena Dunham to the determinedly lo-fi Lynn Shelton and Joe Swanberg, filmmakers whose works have at some moment been filed under the dubious heading “mumblecore” have made diverse and largely welcome contributions to cinema over the past decade. But perhaps the best — and surely the brainiest and strangest — is Bujalski’s most recent film, set at a 1980s tournament that pits computer-chess programs (and their eccentric programmers) against one another. The director’s black-and-white video aesthetic evokes the period in a way costumes and sets alone couldn’t hope to achieve, and the hyper-naturalistic dialogue juxtaposed with Bujalski’s increasingly surreal plot gets at the tensions inherent in the brave new technological world these characters herald. Plus, it stars Wiley Wiggins, who’s just as perfect a geek in his mid-30s as he was a teenage stoner in Dazed and Confused. —Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief

Roy Wood, Boulders

I think that there are two kinds of people: Jeff Lynee people and Roy Wood people. I have this whole complicated theory on how this actually works out, but I won’t get too deep into that here. What I will say is that I have a sort of Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde thing with the two, where I’ll be in the mood for one of the Electric Light Orchestra co-founder’s solo work more than the other. This week it’s been Wood’s Boulders, his proto-glam (is that a thing?) pre-Wizzard, pre-ELO masterpiece. —Jason Diamond, Literary Editor

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KD6tCdE9Qo]

Natalie Cole – “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”

Did you know that Natalie Cole did a batshit crazy cover of The Beatles’ “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds”? Someone gave her ALL OF THE COCAINE IN THE WORLD and said, “Go ahead! This is a good idea!” And thank God, because I can’t get enough of this performance, in which Natalie rips it up and spits it in your face. “Whatcha doin’ up there, Lucy?” she screams. That’s not a rhetorical question: Natalie really, really wants to know.