Flavorwire Staffers’ All-Around Best Cultural Experiences of 2015


Plenty can be experienced while here at our computers, pounding away on news and essays and stories, but sometimes we’ve all gotta get out of our chairs and make our way to some real-life culture. But what’s special to one of us means nothing to another, and what this year’s best cultural experiences tell us is that no matter how much you love a song, or how much a movie speaks to you, nothing beats having your eyesight back.

Regaining My Sight

I went blind in my right eye earlier this year, an event which began to affect me culturally when I tried to watch a 3D movie and discovered, much to my self-amusement, that you really need both eyes to accomplish such a feat. The slow recovery of my vision over the course of many months allowed me to do my job more easily: to read hundreds of books. So the recovery of my right eye is probably my best cultural experience of 2015. — Jonathon Sturgeon, Literary Editor

Joanna Newsom Live at the Apollo After having done something of a deep dive into Divers (though it seems impossible to fully unpack its manifold historic/literary/completely imaginary references) I wondered whether seeing her new album performed live would be quite as impactful as hearing the studio recording, as the album seems to have such a deliberate order. But of course Joanna Newsom seems to have similarly conceptualized the order of her live set, looping in incredible, percussion-incorporating rearrangements (with her brother on drums!) of her older favorites and still concluding with Divers‘ sweepingly ambiguous final track, “Time, as a Symptom.” On top of the fact that she dexterously revisited her back catalog while sustaining the force of Divers was the sheer virtuosity of her vocal performance. It goes without saying that her harp playing was mesmerizing, but what really struck me is how, over the years, she’s learned to use her voice as an instrument that sounds expansive and wild but is actually masterfully controlled. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor

TCM’s Trailblazing Women Series

Trailblazing Women, TCM’s stellar series about pioneering female filmmakers, united some of the most iconic directors in the flesh to discuss the indies and Hollywood films that historians have often ignored. Over 40 women were profiled for the series, which featured rare screenings of Barbara Loden’s Wanda, Allison Anders’ Border Radio, and Julie Dash’s Daughters of the Dust. — Alison Nastasi, Weekend Editor

Killer Mike and Bernie

Seeing Killer Mike sit down to have lunch with Bernie Sanders. Hope comes from the most unlikely places. — Tom Hawking, Deputy Editor

Vivian Gornick, Maggie Nelson, Kate Bolick, Joan Didion’s White Album, Sarah Manguso, Laura Kipnis, and Ellen Willis

2015 is the year I really embraced the female essayists, memoirists and other nonfiction writers. It ranged from contemporary books by sharp writers like Vivian Gornick, Maggie Nelson, and Kate Bolick to re-exploring Didion’s White Album essays, to reading recent books by Sarah Manguso and Laura Kipnis to the crowning experience: reading all of the massive Essential Ellen Willis on my commutes this fall. There are so many themes that criss-cross through these disparate works, especially those of women’s relationship to men, the family, and ambition — topics I muse about every day. — Sarah Seltzer, Editor-at-Large

Orson Welles rarities at Film Forum

It came early in the year, when Film Forum presented a giant retrospective of Orson Welles’ work in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of his birth. And the best night of that series was “Wellsiana,” in which Welles historian Joseph McBride presented a program of his personal favorite Welles oddities: unaired television shows, long-lost early short films, clips from unfinished movies, and (best of all) completed scenes from The Other Side of the Wind, the master’s long-unfinished final feature. This year was supposed to give us its long-awaited completion and release, which (as you might’ve noticed) didn’t happen. But based on the clips I saw at this remarkable event, I already know what might fill this slot next year. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

Jacques Rivette’s OUT 1: Noli Me Tangere at BAM; Teenage Jesus and the Jerks at Trans-Pecos

Nothing will make you consider the role duration plays in art like watching a 13-hour movie where very little actually happens, followed less than a month later by a loud, fast, abrasive, 20-minute set from a No Wave band that only reunites every seven years or so. — Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief

Visiting Paris in December

This is maybe a cop-out, as I didn’t go to too many shows or museums outside of my trip to Paris, but to visit the City of Lights for the first time just weeks after the tragedies of the Bataclan and the shops surrounding the Place de la République was a beautiful thing. To say nothing of the art itself — the Louvre, for all its assumed “best museum ever!” labels, is astounding — the culture of Paris opened itself up to us in a way that I hadn’t expected even before the attacks. I am not a Francophile by any means, but I left the country with a greater respect for its people than I’d ever imagined possible. — Shane Barnes, Associate Editor

Experiencing Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly

Every single time I listened to To Pimp A Butterfly. It’s an instant classic that we’ll be unpacking for years to come. Believe the hype. — Matthew Ismael Ruiz, Music Editor