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.

Please Like Me (Pivot)

Perhaps it’s that Summertime Sadness talking (thank you, endlessly, LDR), but whatever malaise I’ve unwittingly fallen into has led me to have a profound crush, not on a person, but on a television show. That television show is Pivot’s Please Like Me, Australian comedian Josh Thomas’ empathic show about 20-somethings (any millennial-bashing that can be found here is goodhearted, and the show seems to propose the astonishing notion that we are, in fact, people). Please Like Me is in every way refreshing – it eschews many of the annoying tropes of homo-representation (essentially, the idea that homosexuality can only be expressed socially with one’s fag-hags and fag-gaggles; I found it harder to relate to Looking in this sense), as well as mental illness. As Josh Thomas’ character assumes an air of confidence as a young, gay man, his mother’s mental state deteriorates, catching him somewhere between unfettered self-discovery and caregiving. Though her character (played by Debrah Lawrance) is morbidly depressed, she’s never depressing – she’s a vibrant, accepting, and nurturing person who is suddenly stuck in a state where she, herself, must be nurtured. My crush statement was serious: when I finally caught up with this season (the show is now in the middle of its second season), I felt an emptiness in me, and a sudden, desperate desire to find a rebound televisual bedfellow (yes, I watched all of it in bed on iTunes). — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor

The Trip to Italy (dir. Michael Winterbottom)

Come for the sumptuous meals, postcard-worthy scenery, and Michael Caine impressions; stay for Byron, Shelley, and the melancholy thread of obsession with one’s own mortality that runs through both of Winterbottom, Steve Coogan, and Rob Brydon’s The Trip movies. There’s also a wonderful running discussion of Alanis Morissette. I enjoyed it while sipping a Prosecco drink at Williamsburg’s booze-tastic Nitehawk Cinema, and I urge everyone who’s planning on seeing the film in New York to do the same. — Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief

Adult World (dir. Scott Coffey)

My expectations were low for this film featuring Emma Roberts as a recent college grad and wannabe great poet and John Cusack as the cranky punk-rock poet who grudgingly accepts her assistance, but I found it kind of charming in one key aspect: it gets what it is to want to create great art, but to not have the life (or maybe talent?) to make it work. There’s a nice, palpable sense of place with the completely unglamorous, cold and grey, dead mill town setting (Syracuse, New York), and a good soundtrack featuring songs from the late, great band the Handsome Furs. Not everything works in the movie — must Roberts have a magical transgender coworker who teaches her about life? — but the things that work, namely the focus on the desire to make art and how those ambitions clash with the naivety and oversized ambition of youth, work well, and are sharp and funny to boot. Also the most “John Cusack” John Cusack performance since he was a previous generation’s adorkable crush. — Elisabeth Donnelly, Nonfiction Editor

Jhene Aiko’s Souled Out

I wasn’t aware of Jhene Aiko before her appearance on Drake’s track “From Time,” on Nothing Was The Same. Her presence in that song — sensual, lush — expands in her latest album, Souled Out, which debuted yesterday. Souled Out is, simply put, gorgeous — the kind of album you’d make love to. Yet the lyrics betray exhaustion, with Aiko expressing disappointment at the inability of love to conquer all, the way we’re told it does. “The way you feel is not my problem,” she sings. “I don’t wanna see you go, but I don’t have time to solve this.” — Angela Lashbrook, Editorial Apprentice

The Marx Brothers TV Collection

I wrote a couple of weeks back about Shout Factory’s delicious new Marx Brothers TV Collection , primarily to spotlight its most valuable inclusion, “The Incredible Jewel Robbery.” But I’ve spent some time working my way through the rest of this three-disc set, and it is just plain terrific. And exhaustive — it seems like they got their hands on nearly every guest shot and TV commercial, from the divine (an episode of Groucho’s short-lived British You Bet Your Life follow-up) to the bizarre (a peculiar 1961 special that finds Harpo wandering through Central Park and playing with toys, as Carol Burnett narrates). Even better, it includes the solitary dramatic appearances of Harpo, effective as a deaf-mute who witnesses a murder, and Groucho, as a father who can’t get on board with his daughter’s too-young marriage (to Dennis Hopper, so you kinda get where he’s coming from). But most of all, through the evaporated milk and beer ads and the guest shots on pool/bridge/golf programs, we’re reminded that these comic legends weren’t just movie stars of an ancient vintage, but something altogether more contemporary: celebrities. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

Total Divas (E!)

E!’s Total Divas combines two of my favorite things: professional wrestling and trashy reality shows done right. Total Divas focuses on a few women wrestlers in the WWE and all of the crazy (and contrived) drama in their lives. In the Season 3 finale, we get everything from Nikki Bella trying to hide her egg-freezing plan from her wrestler boyfriend John Cena (including hijinks where a fertility nurse stealthily takes Nikki’s blood on one side of their giant mansion while Cena is kept busy on the other side) to Eva Marie suddenly demanding that her husband convert to Catholicism for a second wedding. I swear it kinda makes sense in the show. WWE is a wonderful franchise because of its over-the-top and downright stupid storylines played with a straight face so it’s only natural that Total Divas attempts to do the same thing with a chintzy E! reality format that just hypes up how ridiculous this wrestling world is. — Pilot Viruet, TV Editor

Perfume Genius’ “Grid” video

This video just dropped, but it’s already my most-viewed anything this week. Perfume Genius’ Mike Hadreas is a damn genius, period, and this video, with its lo-fi aesthetic and its “demons” that recall the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers putties continues his streak of perfect videos. Oh, and it helps that the song itself hits harder than anything else Hadreas has ever produced. — Shane Barnes, Editorial Apprentice