Staff Picks: ‘Guilty By Suspicion,’ ‘Lunch With a Bigot’ and ‘Unheard Songs by Karen Dalton’


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.

Placebo — s/t and Without You I’m Nothing

If you came of age in the late ’90s (and watched the movie Cruel Intentions too many times), then perhaps you too have searched Spotify fruitlessly for British glam-alternative band Placebo. Well, you’ll be glad to find out — as I did over the weekend, thanks to a friend’s helpful Facebook post — that their full discography has finally shown up on the streaming service. Although frontman Brian Molko’s bleating vocals are (notoriously) an acquired taste, Placebo’s self-titled 1996 debut album is a masterpiece of debauchery, introspection, and sexual confusion. (One could construct a Placebo Bingo card using such frequently employed terms as: cocaine, reclaimed queer slur, lube, designer drug.) Without You I’m Nothing, from 1998, preserves many of its predecessor’s preoccupations while chasing a more radio-friendly sound — it’s the release that brought us the hit “Pure Morning,” with its “a friend with weed is better” rallying cry. From there, the Placebo discography sometimes verges into unintentional self-parody, but I’ll proudly stand by these two albums forever. — Judy Berman, Editor-in- Chief

Lunch with a Bigot by Amitava Kumar

Amitava Kumar is too little known to American readers; or, at least, I didn’t know him until recently. So I’m embarrassed to admit that his Lunch with a Bigot, which carries the provocative subtitle “The Writer in the World,” is the first of his books I’ve encountered. That will now change. These short pieces — the collection includes literary essays, criticism, memoir, even some reportage — coalesce around a geopolitical wherewithal that is increasingly useful for 21st century literature. In fact, while reading Lunch with a Bigot, I couldn’t shake Kenneth Burke’s now forgotten formulation of literature as “equipment for living.” — Jonathon Sturgeon, Literary Editor

Guilty By Suspicion (dir. Irwin Winkler)

This 1991 blacklist drama hit DVD in the early days of the format, before studios realized that people actually liked widescreen presentation, and was thus only issued in full frame (or, as we OAR nerds sneered, “fool frame”)—and wasn’t exactly a top priority for an upgrade. Thankfully, Warner Brothers’ invaluable burn-on-demand “Warner Archive” service has made a proper widescreen version available at long last, which was a pretty good excuse for me to finally get around to watching this very good film. Robert De Niro stars as a hotshot ’50s-era director (“Zanuck’s golden boy”) who finds himself unemployable when he refuses to rat on his friends to the House Un-American Activities Committee. Producer Irwin Winkler lays it on a little thick in spots, but he’s got a firm sense of time and place (the cinematography by Michael Ballhaus is gorgeous) and weaves in plenty of cinema history, using real movies and naming real names (including, pointedly, Elia Kazan’s). And he pulls together an impressive ensemble cast, including a then-unknown Chris Cooper (sweaty and agonized as the pal who puts De Niro under the spotlight), Martin Scorsese (Winkler’s producer credits include Raging Bull), and Cheers co-star George Wendt (effective and heartbreaking in a rare dramatic turn). And the film’s final scene, in which De Niro finally testifies before the witch-hunting committee, is pure fire. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

Ice cream sandwiches from The Good Batch

Almost every weekend since April, The Good Batch has been luring me to Smorgasburg with their divine ice cream sandwiches. I will wait in a line of any length for one of these, since the mouthwatering flavors and the double cookie outside do wonders for my sweet tooth. I’m not being hyperbolic in saying that from my childhood to this very moment in my adulthood, I have never had a better ice cream sandwich. — Ona Abelis, Editorial Apprentice

Marissa Nadler’s “So Long Ago and Far Away” on Remembering Mountains: Unheard Songs by Karen Dalton

There’s a lot to write about with the new tribute album, Remembering Mountains: Unheard Songs by Karen Dalton which sees contemporary musicians such as Julia Holter, Sharon Van Etten, Lucinda Williams and Marissa Nadler sorting through lyrics and poetry written by Dalton before her death in 1993 and recreating them as full, never-before-heard songs. But thus far, it’s Nadler’s “So Long and Far Away” that’s stuck out the most to me. There is no effort here to match Dalton’s bold voice that could sound, all at once, like a sob, a honk and an exultation. Rather, Nadler’s ghostlier-than-thou musicianship and voice are applied, to stunning effect, to this undeniably ghostly project — a seance for Dalton’s unknown talent as a songwriter (it’s been her singing that people have praised — as her two studio albums were made up of covers), in which she is heard through the voices of other female artists. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor

My staff pick is right here! — Tom Hawking, Deputy Editor