Staff Picks: Flavorwire’s Favorite Cultural Things This Week


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.

Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of

The new Backstreet Boys documentary is by far my favourite cultural experience of the week. OK, I haven’t actually seen it yet. But when I do attend the earliest possible screening of the doc after it hits theaters on Friday, I can say without a doubt that Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of will be my favorite cultural experience of the week, quite possibly of the year. Because this is the Backstreet Boys we’re talking about, and I’m still eleven-years-old in my mind. Unlike the “documentaries” of Justin Bieber, Katy Perry, and Beyoncé, Show ‘Em What You’re Made Of doesn’t appear to be a tightly-controlled portrait of pop perfection. If the trailer is any indication, the Backstreeters open up about what it’s like to suddenly transform from pop kings to goofy tokens of 90s nostalgia. “What do you do when you’re a full-grown man in a boy band?” one of the Boys asks. For real, though. — Brigit Katz, Editorial Apprentice

Sarah Gerard’s Binary Star and Jan Ellison’s A Small Indiscretion

I read two very different novels centered around the theme of female desire and repression this week. A Small Indiscretion by Jan Ellison, which hit shelves last week, traces a long-ago affair back to a woman’s current comfortable family, and the plot explodesdelightfully, with suspense and a few twists. Using second-person narration and hypnotic prose, Ellison’s debut novel is both juicy and beautifully-written. How do I know it’s juicy? A stranger started reading it over my shoulder on the New York City subway, and told me he was sorry that I was turning the pages too quickly. This week I also read Sarah Gerard’s Binary Star, which was as brittle and spare as A Small Indiscretion was rich and detailed, but also explored the theme of a young woman’s conflict between feeding and starving her inclinations, and how those two impulses get confused. Honestly, I just feel incredibly privileged to live in a moment in which so many female writers can tackle the contemporary female experience in such different styles, with such compelling results. — Sarah Seltzer, Editor-at-Large

Giving up on Black Mirror

Sometimes, as a person who writes about culture on the Internet and shares many favorite shows with colleagues and acquaintances, I worry that my taste in television has been too deeply influenced by my peers. In that sense, my deep dislike for Black Mirror — the British sci-fi series that has become everyone’s favorite binge-watch since appearing on Netflix streaming — comes as something of a relief. Friends told me that even if I didn’t like the heavy-handed premiere episode, which involves pig-fucking, I would be floored by its follow-up. As it turned out, I found it almost as ham-fisted (if far easier to watch) and a bit irritating from a gender perspective on top of that. So I gave up on Black Mirror, and it felt great. — Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief

Calvary (dir. John Michael McDonagh)

For someone who grew up Catholic outside of Boston, this film feels made for me: about a good priest in a little shithole town in Ireland’s County Sligo, John Michael McDonagh’s second film has Brendan Gleeson, magnificent and bearlike in his cassock, roaming the wild hills and sweeping panoramas, looking to comfort his flock, which includes the stunning Kelly Reilly in her perfect green coat, Chris O’Dowd, and Aiden Gillen, still in his Game of Thrones-wear. It is on some deep levels regarding Catholicism, faith, the role of the church in society since the disillusionment of the Catholic priest sex abuse scandals, and the quality of mercy. It is very much an allegory, a two-hander, and it is profoundly beautiful on the subject of forgiveness. — Elisabeth Donnelly, Nonfiction Editor

The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie

I can think of no other comic that feels more marketed directly to me than The Wicked + The Divine which centers on twelve gods who are incarnated as young, fierce, and attractive humans — who die after only two years on earth. But for those two years, they are basically treated like massive pop stars, beloved by a devoted group of fans. But it soon goes into a compelling murder mystery and the internal struggle young girls have when they want to be so much more but aren’t sure if they can. The writing is original and brilliant, the art is beautiful (I basically want a print of every single frame hanging on my wall) and the second I finished reading the first volume (ahem, The Faust Act), I went and bought everything else and now I’m just silently freaking out while waiting for new issues. — Pilot Viruet, TV Editor

Range Anxiety by Twerps

Twerps are three guys and a girl, but they’re Australia’s answer to Real Estate, or maybe even Pavement, or maybe both, their Matt Mondanile guitars tinkling beneath Stephen Malkmus vocals. Unlike those guys, though, Twerps specialize in oddly cathartic choruses, most notably on first single “I Don’t Mind.” This whole album, the band’s first on Merge, dwells in the world of sunny lo-fi that can get you through even the worst non-blizzard situation, and that’s exactly what I’ve been needing this week. — Shane Barnes, Editorial Apprentice

The Awkward Charm and Subtle Boldness of Togetherness

Three episodes in, and already I’m hooked on the Duplass brothers’ HBO series, particularly in a Sunday night block with other dramedies that explore human relationships with candid realism (Girls and Looking). A family sitcom where the screw-up uncle shamelessly dons a pair of Spanx and the titular couple explores dominatrix dynamics in the post-baby bedroom? I’ll take it. — Jillian Mapes, Music Editor

Watching Girls After Making My Staff Pick Two Weeks Ago “Pretending to Be Done with Girls After the Season 4 Premiere”

To be fair, I admitted the first time around that I was only “pretending” to be done. And for the record, it’s still bad. It’s so bad that when my roommate walked in on me watching it yesterday, I felt something akin to the overplayed “mother-walks-in-on-teenage-son-masturbating” trope and, as said teenager might hide beneath a blanket, I actually shut my laptop in knee-jerk shame. But. Last week — in the episode before this — there was hope. And that’s why I’m here, talking about it. Because the workshop episodewhich spurred much discussion about creative writing workshops, generally — showed that the series could still be acerbically self-aware and manage to lacerate its detractors, its fans and its creators all at once. Each parodically annoying creative writing workshop student (Hannah Horvath very much included) — and the dynamic of the workshop as a whole — so masterfully paralleled common Girls’ relationship to the media and the general population. For each biting remark made sounded like it easily could have been a critique not of Hannah’s work, but of the show. At a time when people seem to not understand the importance of the debates caused by criticism, one thing that can be said for Lena Dunham is that as a writer and artist, she’s always had a knack for smartly weaving criticisms of her show into its very fabric and responding therein. While all else on the show seems to be failing, this is an admirable, and genuinely awesome trait. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor