Staff Picks: Maria Bamford, Enya, Pleats, and Lots of ‘Happy Endings’


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.

Enya’s Dark Sky Island

I don’t care who knows it — I’m a lifelong fan of Enya. Last month, she released her first non-holiday album in ten years, Dark Sky Island. I was pleased to discover it harkens back to her first (and probably most famous) work, Watermark. Enya has basically created her own entire genre of music and it’s been interesting to see how she has evolved her sound over 25 years. I think she’s under-appreciated, at least here in the US, though I can hear her in current artists like Sia, Grimes (especially “Butterfly”), and even Nicki Minaj — who named Enya as her biggest influence on The Pinkprint. If you’re interested in classical music, Irish jigs, world music, folk, or New Age, I’d recommend giving Dark Sky Island a listen. — Jason Ginsburg, Social Media Editor

Happy Endings on Hulu

Between high-end sketch shows, animated buddy comedies, and post-modern spins on late night, there are more kinds of TV comedy on offer than ever before — but sometimes, nothing scratches the itch like a quality hangout sitcom, the Ol’ Faithful of network programming since Cheers. Enter Happy Endings, ABC’s late, great show that finally hit Hulu this week. None of its central characters appear to have jobs; all of them have preposterously huge apartments; and nobody seems to notice that “Chicago” looks an awful lot like a Los Angeles studio lot. But between the barrage of one-liners and winning performances from the likes of Adam Pally (as Max, the “straight guy who has sex with dudes”) and Casey Wilson (as Penny, whose singledom becomes a launching point for hijinks rather than the butt of the joke) none of it matters. Best consumed twelve episodes at a time while glued to one’s couch. — Alison Herman, TV Editor

Happy Endings

It’s been a sad, death-filled, and sparse (as January is a desert for both film and TV) month in the culture sphere, so I’ve been taking refuge in Happy Endings. It’s is an endlessly watchable hangout comedy with great characters (Adam Pally’s Max, Eliza Coupe’s Jane, and Damon Wayans, Jr.’s Brad are the standouts), funny standalone storylines, and a steady stream of delightful guest stars (Max Greenfield, Larry Wilmore, a pre-Jane the Virgin Gina Rodriguez). It’s definitely a network sitcom — the quality varies greatly from episode to episode — but one to which many of this decade’s best cable comedies owe plenty. — Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief

“Stakes Is High: On Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq by K. Austin Collins (at LARB)

Though its reviews ranged from rhapsodic to savage, pretty much every critic who tackled Spike Lee’s modern-day Lysistrata riff noted its tonal incongruities – and most (including this one) basically left it at that, writing them off as par for the course with this particular filmmaker. Writing for the Los Angeles Review of Books, film writer Collins digs deeper, placing the picture within the context of reimagined Greek verse, Lee’s previous satire Bamboozled, and the real tragedies that not only lurk outside his frames but often bleed into them. “He is pushing us to see beyond realism as a marker of political seriousness,” Collins writes “beyond the straight, progressive path to readily politicized sentiment that some have demanded of him.” Kudos to Collins for taking the trouble of genuinely wrestling with this challenging, difficult picture – as well as reminding us that, in the instant-reaction world of modern film criticism, some work is worth taking the time to puzzle out. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

Maria Bamford on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert

Maria Bamford has, for a while, been recognized in comedy sphere in-crowds, but with her Mitch Hurwitz series coming to Netflix, she’s about to break into a whole new dimension of fame, and I’m so glad to see that she’s bringing her brimming (and endlessly amusing) bag of vocal tricks — and her hilarious, poignant, and unmitigatedly detailed depiction of mental illness — along with her. On her appearance on The Late Show this week, it was first of all completely validating to hear Stephen Colbert call her his “favorite comedian on the planet.” In their conversation, she skipped between voices — imitating her mother as a coked-out-tourist, her sister as a perpetual nail-biter, and discussed OCD Pure O in a way that was at once hilarious, informative and destigmatizing — and ultimately turned into an improvised song of unwanted thoughts! Watch her equally amazing stand up routine from the show here. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor

The Pleats in Spotlight

I’m way behind in my moviegoing, so I only just recently saw Spotlight, the Oscar-nominated retelling of the Boston Globe‘s investigation into the molestation of dozens/hundreds of children at the hands of Catholic priests. The film was beautiful and tragic, and the acting was amazing. But I’ve got to give it up to the pleats. The pleats really stole the show.

What fashion feature is more emblematic of the out-of-fashion, hard workin’ journalist than the unflattering pleat? Sure, pleats are making a comeback among the thin, glamorous set, but in the era of Spotlight, pleats were practically de rigueur for everyone in Boston. The mobility, the movement, the complete lack of critical thought required thanks to the unavailability of flat-fronted Dockers! The pleats here were amazing! Somebody, anybody, give these pleats an award. Or, rather, redesign all awards to be wearing pleated pants. Imagine Oscar, only with pleated khakis on. It’d be groundbreaking — and comfortable. — Shane Barnes, Associate Editor

War and Peace on BBC

My staff pick is the new “sexed up” BBC War and Peace that’s being simulcast on Monday nights on A&E, Lifetime and the History Channel, of course. It may be Tolstoy via Downton Abbey, but a smart viewer can fill in the blanks. “Man, those Russians.” I keep saying as I watch it, referring to the novelists, not the entire nation of course. The former sure love their grim narratives. Literally grim, beause the reaper is always waiting. They are as prone to making their characters fall into despair as the British are prone to describing the foibles of the clergy. But also their unrequited longings, disputed wills, social machinations, and all the best of the 19th century are here, and it makes for such good stuff. I confess somewhat guiltily to recently re-watching Woody Allen’s Love and Death, a hilariously slapsticky parody of the great Russian novels and their film adaptations and it adds a funny dimension to all the brooding, existentialism and cannon fire on the battlefields that makes War and Peace so quintessentially Russian, and watchable. — Sarah Seltzer, Editor-at-Large

Bluetooth Earbuds

You may have never noticed, but earbuds can act like a pair of chains tethering your neck to your hip. I never really cared about craning my neck to make sure my cords didn’t get caught or to avoid having them yanked out inadvertently by an oblivious passerby. That’s changed since I got a pair of Bluetooth earbuds, which hang around your neck and can easily connect to pretty much smart device, including just about any modern phone, tablet or laptop. (I got a pair of Samsung Level wireless earbuds. There may be better sets out there.) Though the sound quality and connectivity leave a LOT to be desired, I think my posture has improved, and it’s just one less thing for me to worry about. I have speakers at home for when I really want to listen closely. I’ll suffer through a little audio compression on my commute if it means I can listen worry-free. — Michael Epstein, Editorial Apprentice