Staff Picks: Luna, ‘Wild Tales” Horrific Wedding, and ‘André Gregory and Wallace Shawn: 3 Films’


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.

Alexander McCall’s Emma

I am reading (No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency autor) Alexander McCall Smith’s very pleasant modern update of Emma, also called Emma. It’s been panned by critics and Austen purists, but a bad review seems too harsh for something that’s as light and pleasing as this gentle little literary morsel, at least thus far. Smith’s contemporary updates of Mr. Woodhouse’s hypochondria and neuroses are particularly amusing. — Sarah Seltzer, Editor-at-Large

André Gregory & Wallace Shawn: 3 Films

The writer/actors André Gregory and Wallace Shawn have made three films since 1981, getting together every decade or two to make another chatty indie that usually becomes, in one way or another, a love letter to the theatre. Criterion has released their three collaborations in a lovely new Blu-ray box set (out this week), and it’s a lovely walk through a fascinating partnership. It all began with 1981’s My Dinner with Andre (still the best of the bunch), which comes exactly as advertised: a real-time night out between the two friends, from appetizer to dinner to coffee, as they discuss big topics and big ideas. Shawn goes reluctantly (sharing his concerns in conspiratorial voice-over), and initially only listens—which is fine, because Gregory is a helluva talker. But if he walks in an open book, Shawn becomes one, and if he’s just listening at first, before you notice it, they’re talking, really talking, the genuineness of their interactions bringing this small, beautiful film to life. Louis Malle directed that film, and its 1994 follow-up Vanya on 42nd Street, which takes on a larger cast (including a still-rising Julianne Moore) and a previous work. The premise is that of an adaptation of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya, done in a conversational, naturalistic style; we see it done in street clothes, to an empty theater in a rehearsal, allowing us to focus not on the setting or the staging but (as in My Dinner) on the tremendous words. And if their most recent collaboration, last year’s adaptation of Ibsen’s A Master Builder (with Jonathan Demme stepping in for the late Mr. Malle), is a more full-fledged “movie,” it still vibrates with love for the text and love for the art of acting and collaboration. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

Luna at Brooklyn’s Northside Festival, 6.11.2015

Luna are one of those ’90s indie bands whose music just gets better as it ages — and, probably, as you age too. At the first New York show of their reunion, Dean Wareheim, Britta Phillips, and co. easily recaptured the dreamy, romantic feel I remembered from their early-’00s performances, in a set that featured classics like “California (All the Way)” and the Beat Happening cover “Indian Summer.” — Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief

The “Hasta que la muerte nos separe” Vignette in Wild Tales (dir. Damián Szifron)

When Flavorwire’s Judy Berman first made Wild Tales her staff pick around the time of its U.S. release, I was interested in its theme of animalism transcending societal pleasantry (especially when said pleasantry is used to varnish over class stratification), yet was inexplicably also turned off by the idea of vignettes. It remained one of those “on my list” films I figured I’d never see, but would repeatedly say, “yeah, that one’s definitely on my list” if anyone asked — the mysterious “list” existing solely as a defense in such situations. Well, surprisingly enough, with some nudging, I actually gave into visiting the oft-forgotten “list” and saw the film — and while I quite enjoyed the whole thing, the last scene was one of the most virtuosic acts of directorial control through the constant threat of violence I’ve encountered; and the rest of the film is critical in making it so. By the time we get to the comparatively long wedding scene, we’ve already beheld a serene drive through the country that results in windshield defecation and a mutual homicide, a plane incident with an eerie parallel to a recent tragedy, and the hit-and-run death of a pregnant woman, experienced through the family of the drunk perpetrator. By the time we arrive at a wedding scene — as the ceremony, interrupted by a revelation about the groom’s past, balletically spirals into mass hysteria — the viewer’s experience of twisted, tragicomic trauma in the previous vignettes creates a paralyzing fear that carries through the one of the most unpredictable segments in recent film history. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor

Fed Up (dir. Stephanie Soechtig)

I can’t remember when I first started paying attention to the calorie count on packaged food labels, but I somehow have always known that if I stayed within my daily allotment or burned off the rest, that I’d balance out and avoid weight gain. Fed Up turns that reasoning on its head—not all calories are equal and the ones from sugar-filled foods are the worst. Rarely does a documentary change my life as immediately as this one did—I packed a lunch to work today and have put myself on Katie Couric’s “Fed Up Challenge.” — Ona Abelis, Editorial Apprentice