Staff Picks: ‘The Martian,’ a “Miracle” on ‘The Leftovers,’ and Bob Dylan’s IBM Ad


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. Check out our picks, and tell us what you’ve been loving in the comments.

The Martian

I am not a Space Person. I’ve always found science fiction less compelling than fantasy, hence my preference for Star Wars over Star Trek and Game of Thrones over both. Gravity left me impressed but ultimately cold, and Interstellar just left me confused. And yet something compelled me to not just see The Martian, but shell out for 3D on top of an already steeply priced New York City movie ticket. My hunch was right: I didn’t just admire The Martian, I enjoyed it. Screenwriter Drew Goddard turns the nerdiness of Andy Weir’s novel into an asset, not a liability; unlike most survival movies in recent memory, the movie’s not afraid to be funny, and even explores humor as a coping mechanism. Is the cast overstuffed? Sure. Could the movie lose a minute or twenty? Yep. But Ridley Scott has made the first space epic in a long time, Guardians of the Galaxy excluded, that feels like a joyride instead of a slog. — Alison Herman, Associate Editor

This IBM Commercial, Feat. Bob Dylan

My staff pick has got to be Bob Dylan’s astounding new IBM ad, in which he converses with IBM’s Watson about his lyrical content. I dare you to watch it without laughing out loud in sheer bafflement. Bob has been straight trolling us for years now (remember his Christmas album?) but I particularly love it when he sells out to capitalist forces. My favorite example of this, is his 1995 Victoria’s Secret ad, which is never not worth a revisit. — Sarah Seltzer, Editor-at-Large

The Locke and Key Radio Play

Why would you turn a comic book into a radio play? Comics don’t lend themselves to the form; they feature neither the explicit exposition of a novel nor the visual aids capable in film and TV. Despite the odd choice of medium, the new “audiobook” edition of the excellent and creepy comic series Locke and Key manages to draw you in with a twisting horror-fantasy about a mysterious house filled with keys that can give children magical powers. It doesn’t hurt that the audiobook features celebrity voice talent from Haley Joel Osment, Orphan Black’s Tatiana Maslany, Orange is The New Black’s Kate Mulgrew and Stephen King. Based on what I’ve heard, I would still recommend reading Locke and Key over listening, but the idea of a comic-to-radio story seems very interesting and worth exploring. — Michael Epstein, Editorial Apprentice

Miracle, TX

This place truly is a miracle — seemingly, with the relocation of The Leftovers to Jarden aka Miracle, TX, Damon Lindelof & co have managed to expunge most of what was so irksome about the beautiful, but monolithically morose, first season. Because the first season was set two years deep in the aftermath of an event that left the whole world mourning and superlatively perplexed, the stakes actually seemed very low: what real danger was there when everyone already seemed to be at their emotional nadir? Why watch sad people occasionally making each other more sad? The relocation is genius, for this is not just a relocation: Miracle is a “happy” place — it is the one place in this universe that magically avoided “departures.” And now, setting this (falsely, as the first episode reveals) invincible place against the backdrop of the fragility of the rest of the population, Lindelof proves to have made the perfect move, as his characters’ move proves to be less and less perfect. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor

Prick Up Your Ears

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: one of the best things about Blu-ray is how new releases of catalogue titles gives you an excuse (especially if you write about movies) to finally getting around to seeing the movies you totally should’ve seen by now. Take, for example, Stephen Frears’ 1987 look at the short life and violent death of British playwright Joe Orton—new on Blu from Olive Films—in which a baby-faced Gary Oldman takes on the role of Orton and an equally youthful (comparatively, anyway) Alfred Molia plays his lover and eventual murderer, Kenneth Halliwell. In spite of the story’s dark outcome, Ears has the warmly humanistic streak of Frears’ best work, particularly his previous feature My Beautiful Laundrette, which took a shrugging, no-big-deal approach to homosexuality. This one is a bit more flamboyant—for good reason, as Alan Bennett’s script makes quite a bit of sport out of the uptight sexual mores of the era (and its portrait of the public restroom rituals is fascinating). But it’s most effective as a portrait of twitchy domesticity, getting under the skin of a relationship that’s past its expiration date, as festering resentments and various temptations bring the story to a sudden, terrifying conclusion. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

Emmanuel Bove’s Henri Duchemin and His Shadows

I had planned on writing a piece called “France Kafka” about the long dead French writer Emmanuel Bove, but I was too busy reading and rereading and rereading Henri Duchemin and His Shadows . The book, published last month by New York Review of Books and translated by Alyson Waters, comes with a smart, inviting introduction by Donald Breckenridge. (You can read it here.) Bove’s characters, Breckenridge writes, “are often paralyzed by a failure of will.” This sounds right to me. The reader of Bove, in fact, submits to his stories the way Bove’s own protagonists capitulate to the whims of others. “I couldn’t put the book down.” I hadn’t the will to put it down at all. — Jonathon Sturgeon, Literary Editor