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.

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (dir. Rainer Werner Fassbinder)

An old woman wanders into a bar to get out of the rain. A young Moroccan, on a dare, asks her to dance. They chat amiably, and an unlikely (and complicated) relationship ensues, motivated in equal parts by genuine affection, crippling loneliness, and cultural alienation. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (new this week on Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection), Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s 1974 riff on All That Heaven Allows, is overwhelmed with sadness — these are two rejected souls who find each other, only to be rejected together by their friends, family, and society at large. Fassbinder directs with a spare elegance, making particularly effective use of compositions that emphasize their solitude. Yet it’s an emotionally raw movie: the third act in particular functions both as a narrative conclusion and a sly commentary on the entire notion of the “happy ending.” There’s a powerful openness and simplicity to their final bit of dialogue — and to the entire, modest yet moving picture. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

Cayetana’s Nervous Like Me

No matter how old I get, my ultimate dream will always stay the same: to play in an all-girl punk band. It may have originated from a childhood love of Josie and the Pussycats but it’s a band like Cayetana that keeps the dream alive even as an adult. This trio from Philly teased us with promising demos and a too-short EP while taking their time recording a full length, and our patience was definitely rewarded. Nervous Like Me is a strong, fully-formed debut anchored by Augusta Koch’s distinct vocals. Her voice endearingly cracks and wavers, dominating the album by accurately conveying every feeling you’ve ever blogged about — heartbreak, optimism, desperation, nostalgia — over steady drums and rumbling basslines. The members of Cayetana learned their instruments together, resulting in a musical chemistry that can’t be faked (and is best witnessed at live shows). The lyrics range from painfully relatable (“We’re both prone to misery / But you still get drunk / And wanna hang out with me”) to complex and mature (“I swore right there on my father’s eyes / That I would never be compromised / But in a dream, she came to me / The archetype of femininity”) to raw, simplistic, and perfect for junior high away messages (“I still want you in a bad way / I wanna see you on your bad days / Oh, I want you in the worst ways”). Nervous Like Me is easily one of my favorite records of the year and I’m not the only one who shares this sentiment; at any given time in my apartment, you can hear this album being blared from behind at least one bedroom door. — Pilot Viruet, TV Editor

Time Is Illmatic (dir. One9)

This week, if you haven’t seen the Nas documentary Time Is Illmatic, then stop reading this — OK, read everyone else’s picks first — and go and book a ticket. I was lucky enough to see the premiere at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival, and I’m gonna go see it again, because it provides fascinating insight into one of the truly great records of the 1990s. It’s also a rather sobering view of the environment that produced Nas — a broken school system, an economy based around crack, a “justice” system that funnels black men into a prison system from which they never really escape. Perhaps the most moving moment is when the rapper looks at a picture of himself and a bunch of contemporaries outside the Queensbridge projects, celebrating the day of the record’s release, and counts off everyone that’s dead or in jail. It’s virtually everyone else in the picture. It’s a brilliant, moving and illuminating film. — Tom Hawking, Deputy Editor

Jay Duplass’s dreaminess in Transparent (Amazon)

For me, the biggest surprise I had watching Jill Soloway’s wonderful Amazon Prime show about a Los Angeles family with a parent coming out as transgender is that I ended it having a silly crush on Jay Duplass, the actor playing the brother. It was surprising, since I basically had an idea that Duplass was a director, the shorter and nerdier Duplass in comparison to his brother and collaborator on projects ranging from The Puffy Chair to Cyrus, fast-talking schlub Mark Duplass (who also acts on The League and other things), but nope! Jay Duplass is totally adorable as a wealthy, promiscuous-yet-damaged hipster on Transparent and I kind of can’t deal with it. — Elisabeth Donnely, Nonfiction Editor

The Real Housewives Of Melbourne (Bravo)

I’m not going to pretend that I’m not deeply ashamed to be saying this, but every American needs to be watching The Real Housewives of Melbourne. Whereas the American iterations of the Housewives descended almost entirely into drunken bitch-fests, the Melbourne ladies offer a frightening, educational glimpse into the culture of wealthy Australians. Watching the show, you’ll notice several things. First, these women are RICH. I am talking private jet-owning, Alexander McQueen shopping-spree-having, rockstar-marrying RICH. Second, these ladies are fake as hell, but in a real-as-hell way. What does that even mean? It means that Australians, for all their posturing as “bloody honest, mate,” can be very hyperbolically complimentary. “Gorgeous” is a word used to refer to everything from someone’s fashion sense to the fact that they are coming out with a book about Having It All. Everything is “brilliant.” They call each other (gasp) “cunt” in private but then vehemently claim to have never said (gasp) “cunt” in their lives. And, lastly, they are racist, and they don’t know they are racist. Terms like “Chinese whisperer” are thrown around in casual conversation with no real acknowledgement of their awful origins. Oh, and the woman pictured above always looks like that, and is a very serious barrister (lawyer). Australians, everyone. — Shane Barnes, Editorial Apprentice

Watching Chef While Eating Subway

Last week, Jason Bailey made Jon Favreau’s Chef his Staff Pick. Trusting his taste, and also trusting my lack of anything whatsoever to do one evening, I rented it on iTunes. In the first three minutes, I found myself starving: as Jon Favreau’s byzantine multi-course menus did sexy dances on my computer screen, I realized that this experience would be excruciating on an empty stomach. I certainly wasn’t going to cook a fine-dining spin on Cuban cuisine to accompany the film, so I went to Subway down the street. 6 inches and 2 hours of processed turkey, triangular cheese, “Southwestern Sauce” and efflorescing father/son relationships later, I had enjoyed this lovely – albeit slight – movie and a large – albeit gross – sandwich. Did the wettish turkey and oregano ashes (Italian herbs), improve the viewing experience, or did the gastronomical erotica (Jason Bailey already said “food porn” last week) rub off on (ha) my Subway sandwich? You know, I’m really not sure. And you know what else? I recommend both. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor