Staff Picks: ‘Phase IV,’ ‘Master of None,’ and Kirsten Dunst in ‘Fargo’


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. Scroll through for our picks, and tell us what you’ve been loving in the comments.

Hopes and Fears’ piece on New York City’s Latin nightclub posters

This deep dive into the world of these posters is a peek into a culture that, for many young new residents of the city’s historically hispanic neighborhoods, is ever-present but decidedly foreign. Hopes & Fears spoke to two designers of the ubiquitous posters, identifying the nuance and differences of ancestral influence—like the loud, colorful collages of the Mexican posters for Cumbia and Corrido parties, or the sleek, minimal designs of posters for Dominican Merengue, Bachata and Reggaeton jams. It’s a fascinating look at the culture of the incumbent residents of some of New York City’s most rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods. Give it a read, you might just find something new to groove to. — Matthew Ismael Ruiz, Music Editor

The Bob Dylan bootleg compilation, The Cutting Edge

The Cutting Edge takes us through dozens of outtakes of the Bard of Hibbing’s most fruitful songwriting period, including the albums “Bringing It All Back Home”; “Highway 61 Revisited” and “Blonde on Blonde.” Of course, the songs are gorgeous and affecting; they always have been. But what’s inspiring about the box set is how wrong some of the original takes were. Clumsy lyrics, dirge-like tunes where lightness was called for. These rough drafts didn’t emerge fully-formed, but were rough, with sparks of genius shining through. The reason Dylan ended up making some of his era’s enduring albums is because he kept going, kept tweaking, kept editing. For a fan, it’s a joy to listen to, but also worthy of study for anyone who’s creative. Even Bob Dylan didn’t get things right on the first take. — Sarah Seltzer, Editor-at-Large

Grimes, Art Angels

I am a young woman in a major urban market who identifies as both a feminist and, to the extent that the term means what I think it means, a poptimist. (Like hipsterism, poptimism’s been strip-mined of any objective definition by the thinkpiece industrial complex, but if it’s simply the belief that pop can be evaluated seriously and shouldn’t be dismissed on the grounds of being pop alone, count me in.) I was going to love the new Grimes album no matter what. But Art Angels pleasantly surprised even me, starting with a pitch-perfect ode to my home state in “California”—the world needs more odes to the dark underbelly of all that sunshine, à la EMA and, now, Claire Boucher—and continuing through a Janelle Monáe collaboration that was all I could have hoped for. Art Angels is both a logical extension of and a step up from Visions, and I’ve had it on repeat since Friday. — Alison Herman, Associate Editor

Phase IV (dir. Saul Bass)

Saul Bass designed some of the most iconic posters and opening credit sequences in movie history—but he only got one shot at directing a feature film, so it’s a little surprising (and, frankly, kind of admirable) that he chose to make it so peculiar and alienating. This story of desert biological experiments is a strange goulash of heeby-jeeby insect scares, shock edits, body horror, Stonehenge allusions, trippy close-ups, and primitive computer fetishism, told with an unsettling remove and an oddly mournful tone; it’s ultimately part of that old sci-fi tradition of man (and his technology) versus nature, but there’s nothing familiar or comforting in how Bass approaches his material, or his stubborn and sometimes inscrutable characters. A commercial failure upon release (unsurprisingly), it has since accumulated a small but loyal cult following; the new Blu-ray from Olive Films is sadly bereft of bonus features (including the recently rediscovered original ending), but is still worth investigating, particularly if you’re in the right (perhaps chemically altered) state of mind. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor


I’ve been under the weather lately. During my forced downtime, I somehow became addicted to Periscope. #ScopeDay, which oddly enough is “supported” by Al Roker, took people around the world in a day, via 56 Scopers and 37 Cities. That’s how I found people like Darius Arya, an archaeologist who lives in Rome and takes Scopers on a walk through the city’s ancient ruins every morning. Seeing the great pyramids in Egypt was also fantastic. I’ve used Periscope for meditation (with users who normally charge for their services), free concerts and exhibitions (a Daniel Johnston show at MAMA gallery, Hi, How Are You, where he performed), and peeking inside fellow artist studios. — Alison Nastasi, Weekend Editor

Brief Encounter (dir. David Lean)

If you’re getting excited for Todd Haynes’ Carol — and you should be — I recommend feeding your anticipation with David Lean’s 1945 film Brief Encounter. Miles away from Lean’s later epics, it’s a short, tight melodrama about a suburban housewife who falls suddenly and disastrously in love with a doctor she meets by chance. At an event last month, Haynes cited Brief Encounter as a major influence on Carol; though the relationships at the center of the two movies have wildly different trajectories, Carol borrows its bookending scenes from the earlier film, and both revolve around what Haynes described as “love cropping up in life almost as a problem.” They will also both make you weep. — Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief

Master of None

Aziz Ansari’s Master of None doesn’t shy away from notions of guilt. Guilt about the privileges you may live with, guilt that you don’t call your parents enough, guilt that you put your wants ahead of others’ needs. The Parks and Rec’s star’s Netflix show, which launched on Friday, masterfully sends up all of the ways in which people falter in their personal and professional lives with precise and visceral “aha moments.” The show is a 21st century Seinfeld that marvels at life’s idiosyncrasies; Master of None’s true strength is its ability to illuminate your own flaws, then lets you laugh them off in the next breath. — Michael Epstein, Editorial Apprentice

Kirsten Dunst in FX’s Fargo

I’ve always thought Kirsten Dunst was a good actor, and was particularly obsessed with just about everything Drop Dead Gorgeous-related as a kid. The last truly great role Dunst had was in Melancholia in 2011, and it’s been especially fun seeing her reprise her heavy Upper Midwestern dialect to, once again, create an environment of quaint Americana underlaid with anxiety and gilding a violent core, as it does in both exceedingly different Dunst-starring, caricatural depictions of the region. What’s especially enthralling is how she can make her relatively careless Fargo character so sympathetic, how through her and her husband (the always fantastic Jesse Plemons), we’re shown the fear that can so easily overwhelm a fragile “American dream.” (Albeit a form of this fear that’s somewhat specific, as most people luckily avoid smashing their cars into young mafiosos). — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor