Staff Picks: ‘Wild Tales,’ Ben Seretan and Cronenbergian Toilet Trauma

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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.

Wild Tales (dir. Damián Szifron)

Surely the strangest Best Foreign Film nominee at this year’s Academy Awards, Argentine filmmaker Damián Szifron’s Wild Tales takes the form of a series of vignettes. In one, a road rage incident escalates slowly — and then quite rapidly — into a death match; another follows a demolition expert after a run-in with the local tow pound slowly chips away at everything he holds dear. Szifron saves the best for last, with a wedding meltdown that takes enough surprising turns to give you whiplash. What all these (very) darkly comic stories have in common is their fascination with what happens when the thin veneer of civilization falls away, exposing human beings for the animals we are. — Judy Berman, Editor in Chief

The Constipation Scene in Maps to the Stars

It’s rare that cinema uses poop to its fullest potential: the undeniably pleasant and undeniably putrid act is woefully underrepresented onscreen. It’s hard to say whether or not Maps to the Stars adds a much needed exemplar to this rare cinematic occurrence, for a long scene atop a toilet isn’t so much an epic of cathartic pooping as it is its tense opposite: Julianne Moore’s character, Havana Segrand, is constipated. And, to be honest, no other scene in the film better represents her character. After years of trying to make herself into a body and personality inhuman enough to fit into an industry founded on artifice, after becoming so out of touch with whatever an authentic “Havana Segrand” identity might be — despite all the yoga and all the cleanses — the actress has disconnected so much from fundamental personhood that she cannot complete the very fundamental task of shitting. The fact that she lectures her assistant on her love life while desperately attempting to self-evacuate is especially perfect. David Cronenberg has banalized his body horror here to hilarious perfection. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor

Ben Seretan’s “Swing Low”

Let’s just cast aside the fact that my initial interests in this album were purely prurient, and focus on the fact that Seretan’s “Swing Low” — and the rest of his self-titled album — is perfect for this godawful, forever winter. I’ve abandoned my months-long attempt at surf rocking my way out of the winter blues, and have fallen headfirst into Seretan’s album, with a bed of guitars and Seretan’s raw vocals comforting in the same kind of way a crying person comforts another crying person. The guy has “ecstatic joy” tattooed on his chest, but it might as well be etched (or digitally coded, or whatever) into the music he makes. — Shane Barnes, Editorial Apprentice

David Graeber’s The Utopia of Rules

This week I choose The Utopia of Rules, which I just started reading and about which I’m super excited. This is mainly because Graeber’s last book, Debt: The First 5000 Years is far and away my favorite non-fiction book of the last few years, and The Utopia of Rules promises to build upon its ideas while exploring a subject that seems to have disappeared from the cultural radar in the last decade or so: bureaucracy and all its ills. So far, the new book is ace, and both are highly recommended. — Tom Hawking, Executive Editor

Elena Ferrante’s The Story of a New Name

Ferrante Ferrante Ferrante. This is the week I gave everything up to finish the second Neapolitan novel, The Story of a New Name. The slow steady work that the author did creating a tapestry of details in book one really sketched out a community. This paid off in the second volume as all the characters became adolescent, began having love affairs, betraying each other and walking towards their destinies. The world is so rich that it replicates reading the major 19th century novels, which is something I’m always seeking, usually in vain. — Sarah Seltzer, Editor-at-Large

Madewell Hi Rise Skinny Jeans

For my fellow short-legged girls out there in the world, this pair of pants is pure magic. That’s all. Do you want to look like your legs are a million miles long? Then get these. It’s still going to be hard to reach things on the top shelf, though, if your wingspan is as mediocre as mine. — Elisabeth Donnelly, Nonfiction Editor