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.

Baby, White Hinterland

I can’t stop listening to Casey Dienel’s new album. It’s full of jams, weird stutter stop turns of music, and I find it really soothing and surprising in equal measures, like the best pop music. When the music drops out at the end of the title track and she’s singing, “Is this my weakness?” it gives me chills. —Elisabeth Donnelly, Nonfiction Editor

Escape Plan (dir. Mikael Håfström)

Maybe my affection for Riot in Cell Block 11 just made me an easier mark than usual, but I can’t tell you how pleasantly surprised I was to find myself thoroughly enjoying Escape Plan , a movie I’d have pretty much bet the farm was utterly terrible. After all, it’s late-period Stallone and Schwarzenegger, and if that’s not enough to prompt viewer anxiety, it also features Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson in a supporting role. (Seriously, does he have incriminating photos of several prominent producers? How does he keep getting cast in things? Because he may well be the worst actor who has ever been in a film.) Yet this is a tight, sharply executed little B-movie, full of clever set pieces, ingenious twists, an entertainingly fiendish villain turn by Jim Caviezel, and a likable supporting performance by Amy Ryan (whose every appearance in mainstream cinema should prompt a standing ovation). Escape Plan flopped loudly when it hit theaters last fall, prompting much “oh how the mighty have fallen” head-shaking—after all, if you lived through the ‘80s, its hard to imagine a Sly/Arnie flick tanking. The sad part is that this is a far better picture than most of the profitable dreck from their heyday. —Jason Bailey, Film Editor

“Black Box,” Jennifer Egan

I just read Egan’s Pulitzer winner A Visit From The Goon Squad for the first time (I know, took me too long). But instead of picking that, let’s revisit her short story “Black Box” — a tale told in 140-character or less snippets from a spy manual. I’ve always been fascinated by a) Twitter and b) writers who can pack so much into such little space, and “Black Box” blends those two perfectly. After it was published, The New Yorker‘s Page Turner blog Tweeted it line by line, as it was meant to read. It’s a slow-release story that gets better and better as the bits of emotion slip in. It was also my first introduction to Egan, so this story holds a special place in my heart. —Isabella Biedenharn, Editorial Apprentice

Only Lovers Left Alive (dir. Jim Jarmusch)

Only Lovers Left Alive always seemed a composite of highly fetching elements: who wouldn’t be titillated by Jim Jarmusch’s alternate take on a genre leeched dry, starring Tilda Swinton (all you need to make something an “alternate take” on anything, really, is Tilda), a vampiric Christopher Marlowe, Rock n’ Roll, and long-distance, eternal love between Detroit and Tangiers? On paper it reeks of cinematic sexiness (especially for those with a nostalgia fetish), and before seeing it, I wondered if its winsome atmospherics would hold up in actual viewing. They do, and even though I’m not sure they collate to make it an entirely great film, it was nonetheless one I loved. Though Lovers can come off as a two-hour smirk, its depiction of a love unknown to our species — one that never expires — engages us wholly, sans-smirk. Jim Jarmusch’s work is often characterized by languor, and here it truly finds its purpose: how could a life without end be anything but dizzyingly languid? We never, for example, see the characters do anything so active as fucking — rather, the film avoids sex and skips right to Swinton and Hiddleston sculpturally lying naked next to each other, barely covered by a black silk sheet. Yet despite the slowness of their existences, the vamps have developed an asexual sensuality — especially present in Swinton’s character — a centuries-old appreciation, as Judy Berman recently discussed, of art, which we humans can’t begin to fathom. —Moze Halperin, Editorial Apprentice

Dept. of Speculation, Jenny Offill

After it was featured on our very own list of short novels, and at the behest of another friend, I picked up Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation on Sunday and, naturally, breezed through it in a single sitting. It’s a great experimental novel, one that reminded me a lot of Lorrie Moore’s quippy writing. (I read it on my Kindle, so there are a lot of highlighted passages to look back on.) It seems unnecessary to spend a lot of time praising a book you can read in two hours, so take my word for it: it’s good. —Tyler Coates, Deputy Editor

Witch Camp at New York’s Wild Project

When a friend who knows her Wicca from her American Horror Story: Coven asks you to go to a show called Witch Camp, you do it. So I did, and I wasn’t disappointed: Amber Martin and Nath Ann Carrera’s musical — in which the performers lead the camp as life-partner practitioners of white magic, both named “Isis” — is an interactive trip to a supernatural summer retreat, complete with blood sacrifices, rituals that involve pubic hair, and plenty of classic rock and pop songs about the dark arts. –Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief