Staff Picks: ‘Better Call Saul,’ ‘Electrick Children,’ and Musical Geniuses Dissing Each Other


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 Wes Anderson Collection: The Grand Budapest Hotel by Matt Zoller Seitz

The trouble with writing a career-retrospective book about a prolific film artist is that said artist will render your book dated the moment they put out a new film. Even worse luck for Matt Zoller Seitz, author of the excellent 2013 volume The Wes Anderson Collection, is that Anderson’s next film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, became his most commercially successful picture to date—and, for the first time, an awards season player. So Seitz did the only sensible thing: he wrote a sequel. But The Wes Anderson Collection: The Grand Budapest Hotel (out this week from Abrams) is no mere supplement, nor some hastily assembled rip-off; Seitz rightly sees Budapest as the culmination of Anderson’s career-long themes and aesthetics, and takes the opportunity to delve into this work at greater length and with greater detail than the earlier films. He retains the first book’s format, supplementing his own insightful essays and extensive Anderson interviews with gorgeous stills and behind-the-scenes materials. But this time, other voices are added to the conversation: actor Ralph Fiennes, cinematographer Robert Yeoman, costumer Milena Canonero, composer Alexandre Desplat, and production designer Adam Stockhausen are all interviewed at length, and fellow critics Ali Arikan, Steven Boone, David Bordwell, Olivia Collette, and Christopher Laverty have their say as well. The result is a rare follow-up that equals its predecessor, and a welcome post-script from the critic who’s become the definitive voice on all things Anderson. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

Stop Wanting by Lizzie Harris

Stop Wanting is not the rambling, tongue-in-cheek alt-lit poetry I have been devouring lately, and perhaps that’s why I’m enjoying it so much. Lizzie Harris‘ debut collection is full of stark beauty, its poems touching on psychologically rough upbringings in equally rough environs. A sample, from “White Loss of Forgetting”: “he had my body run the water/ he took my body for a carpet/ he took my body from men/ I would one day want to love me.” Harris’ writing is a thing of carefully composed power. — Shane Barnes, Editorial Apprentice

Rebecca Thomas’ Electrick Children

Rebecca Thomas’ 2012 debut is a refreshingly strange indie film about a fundamentalist Mormon teenage girl (the wonderful, unearthly Julia Garner) who runs away from home to Las Vegas after she finds out that she’s pregnant — she’s convinced that it’s from listening to The Nerves’ “Hanging on the Telephone” on a hidden cassette player. The movie is eccentric and beautiful, as the ghostly religious girl falls in with a group of punk skaters. It’s the sort of movie that makes you thankful for indies — the sort of what is this? magic that feels increasingly rare these days — and very curious about what Thomas will do next. It’s also available on Netflix. — Elisabeth Donnelly, Nonfiction Editor

J.C. Chandor’s A Most Violent Year

This awards season, A Most Violent Year was almost entirely forgotten; but, for what it’s worth, it wins the award of getting a short blurb in this post: with its grandiloquent title, the movie could have easily been an unsubtly sanguine affair, but director J.C. Chandor relies, rather, on acute performances from Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain to infuse the film with a sense of unwavering combustibility. The result is a surprising film that sidesteps the hackneyed narratives of corruption and/or retribution we often see in films about characters’ struggles to climb American hierarchies. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor

Musical Geniuses Dissing Each Other

My staff pick this week is all-time musical geniuses sounding off, reflecting, and dissing others. From Bob Dylan’s endless, score-settling, compelling Musicares speech this weekend to Kanye West’s brilliant pre, mid and post-Grammy shenanigans to Joni Mitchell’s interview in New York Magazine which ranged from deep to deluded, I’ve been enjoying every minute. People who are complaining about this trend vis-a-vis Mr. West, in my humble opinion, are full of it. We all yammer about which artists are better than others all the time. There’s a tournament of books, for Chrissakes. To insist that artists like West who are at the top of their game are required to be opinionless about their peers is simply absurd. Team Yeezy (and Bob, and Joni) all the way. — Sarah Seltzer, Editor-at-Large

Better Call Saul

I must admit that I was pretty unenthused when I learned that Vince Gilligan was creating a prequel to Breaking Bad that would center on Saul Goodman, the lawyer of questionable ethics and infinite burner phones. Why mess with a good thing, right? But if the first two episodes of Better Call Saul are any indication, this is going to be a show that is worthy of its predecessor. Saul is signature Gilligan: hilarious one moment and tragic the next as it puts forth a complex portrait of a man veering into a criminal world that will inevitably spiral beyond his control. Bob Odenkirk’s Saul is driven and desperate, whip smart and terribly foolish. The appearance of Breaking Bad’s Tuco in the second episode of the series was also a treat. As it turns out, the psychotic drug lord really loves his abuelita. — Brigit Katz, Editorial Apprentice

In These Times by Jenny Uglow

Lately I’ve come to reluctantly accept that my self is nothing but a patchwork of the written dreams of others. Instead of rebelling, I’ve decided to “take control” by “deciding” which other people I become. And so last weekend, for no obvious reason, I became hundreds of British citizens who lived between 1793 and 1815 — the years of the Napoleonic wars. What I’m trying to tell you is that I started reading Jenny Uglow’s In These Times, an epic and excellent “from the bottom” history of Britain during those years. And “from the bottom” — from the perspective of the average citizens whose lives were upheaved — happens to be a good and messy way to tell it. — Jonathan Sturgeon, Literary Editor