Staff Picks: ‘Tangerine,’ ANOHNI, and Matthew Zapruder’s ‘Sun Bear’


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.

Creed (dir. Ryan Coogler)

Unlike millions of Americans, I’ve never been invested in sports; in fact, I’ve never even seen a single Rocky movie. This isn’t a humblebrag so much as it is a testament to the power of Creed, a movie that managed to win over even a viewer with no emotional attachment to either its franchise or its subject matter. Watching director Ryan Coogler’s jaw-dropping, single-take boxing scene and Michael B. Jordan’s performance, as charismatic as it is physically impressive, I realized I’d actually forgotten what it feels like to enjoy a blockbuster without reservation. We complain a lot about the exhausting, dispiriting franchise phenomenon here at Flavorwire, and most of those complaints still hold water, but there’s an exception to every rule. Creed is that exception. — Alison Herman, TV Editor

Tangerine (dir. Sean Baker)

The Oscars will surely be too busy awarding self-important movies for baby boomers (and their parents) to notice, but the most 2015 movie of 2015 — in a good way! — is this cellphone-shot account of a day in the life of a transgender sex worker in Los Angeles who has just gotten out of prison. It’s Christmas Eve, and Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez) is on a quest to find the pimp (James Ransone) for whom she took the fall; he’s also her fiancé, and her friend Alexandra (Mya Taylor) has just let slip to Sin-Dee that he’s cheating on her. While the characters and plot sound like they might reinforce rather than challenge stereotypes, Baker and his cast bring so much empathy and authenticity to the darkly funny story that Tangerine ends up doing just the opposite. This is a film about female friendship, cultural conflicts, and the dreams of people who have to struggle just to pay the rent and stay out of jail. It’s Rodriguez and Taylor who make it work, and they deserve to rack up far more award nominations than they’ve gotten so far. — Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief

“Shoe Leather: On Spotlight” at Los Angeles Review of Books

Author Charles Taylor is a former instructor and a friend, but that’s not why I’m recommending this exquisite explanation of the greatness of Spotlight to you (about all it explains it how it ended up on my Facebook feed). It arrives a good month after Tom McCarthy’s terrific journo drama hit screens, but isn’t a moment late—in fact, it’s right on time for the backlash that inevitably greets great films as they start doing well in year-end awards and best-of lists. In my own social media circles, I’ve been told it’s “stylistically oatmeal” (as though it should’ve been shot like a fucking Michael Bay movie or something) and that it’s “largely inert” (come again?); Taylor succinctly swats away such nonsense criticism like so many flies. “[It] just might be,” he writes, “that the initial praise for Spotlight will give way to faint praise that it’s ‘conventional’ (I’ve already read one clueless review that chastises it for its ‘lack of scope and ambition,’ though how a film about an investigation that opened a worldwide dam of disclosure can be characterized that way, I don’t know.) Avoiding the obvious — that nowadays there’s nothing conventional about a superbly crafted mainstream movie for adults — Spotlight does what it does so deftly that all it does is not at first apparent.” Preach. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

Sun Bear by Matthew Zapruder (Copper Canyon Press)

I’ve got a bad habit of leaving the office and heading down the street to McNally Jackson, where I proceed to blindly spend fistfuls of money on poetry I’ve never heard of, based only on a brief glance at some lines or sudden infatuation with a cover. With Matthew Zapruder’s Sun Bear, it was the same, only there was no “or”: the book is handsome, sure, but it’s also sharply and written. “Your Eyes Are the Color of a Lightbulb Floating in the Potomac River” has a special beauty, succinctly exploring in its brief lines the nature of invention and the inevitability of senescence. — Shane Barnes, Associate Editor

“4 Degrees” by ANOHNI

“Let’s be brave and tell the truth as much as we can,” ANOHNI (formerly Antony Hegarty) said as she shared the first track from her upcoming album, Hopelessness. “4 Degrees” would be a sanctimonious climate change track — about an issue that honestly deserves a bit more preachy representation — if it weren’t for a disturbing shift in the lyric along the lines of desire. In this song about the acknowledgement of one’s own complicity in climate change (released right before COP21 began) she sings, “I wanna hear the dogs crying for water/I wanna see fish go belly-up in the sea.” It’s a wrenchingly simple way of interrogating the irrelevant disconnect between desire and (in)action: pure existence as a human benefiting from the trappings of modern life means being a catalyst for destruction, regardless of “want.” Even still, this message could land well as a barefaced political statement and poorly as a song, but ANOHNI’s voice haunts with its soaringly heartfelt delivery of the callous lyrics, set against the Oneohtrix Point Never and Hudson Mohawke’s blistering, off-puttingly danceable, co-production. ANOHNI’s at her sweetest when she nonchalantly finishes with, “I wanna burn them/I wanna burn them.” — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor

Downwell (mobile video game)

Having a fresh go-to game front and center on your phone can be just as essential the book in your bag or the album in your pocket. If you haven’t tried it yet, your next game should be Downwell, a newish vertical-scrolling shooter from Japanese developer Moppin. In the game, players control a boy descending down a seemingly never-ending well (get it?) with a set of magic boots that can shoot ghosts, and monsters below him. Like many of the most captivating mobile games, it combines an interesting aesthetic with simple, but endlessly repeatable gameplay. It is by no means an easy game —I’ve been banging my head against subway poles for days after tough losses— but an empowering sense of progression randomly generated levels ensure that the challenge remains fresh, even when it frustrates. Downwell is available on iOS devices and Windows PC. — Michael Epstein, Editorial Apprentice

Private Records’ Bloody Moon and Eaten Alive!

Private Records in Berlin has been hitting my cult film sweet spot. They just released the first 3-LP horror soundtrack with Jess Franco’s Bloody Moon (a former video nasty that features roller disco!). The label is also re-releasing the soundtrack for Eaten Alive!, one of Umberto Lenzi cannibal movies from 1980 (starring my pretend cult film boyfriend Ivan Rassimov). For bad-taste movies, they have some real soundtrack gems. — Alison Nastasi, Weekend Editor