Staff Picks: The ‘Hamilton’ Soundtrack, ‘Witchita’ and that Tense Casey Affleck Interview


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.

Casey Affleck on Colbert

Stephen Colbert is a tremendously gifted interviewer, with plenty of positive examples racked up in the mere five months he’s spent hosting The Late Show. Sometimes, however, a truly terrible interview is a better testament to a host’s skills than a great one, and I’d take this train wreck of an encounter with Casey Affleck over that Joe Biden summit any day. (Okay, not really, but still.) At a certain point, Stephen Colbert stops trying to course correct the obvious antagonism developing between him and Affleck, beginning with a fairly innocuous comment about Affleck’s outfit, and simply leans into it, eventually coming out the other side as both men shock-laugh their way through the confrontation. Affleck emerges with better word of mouth than a generic talk show appearance would have gotten him, and Colbert shores up his own reputation as one of the sharpest conversationalists in the game. — Alison Herman, TV Editor

The Hamilton Soundtrack

Oh, okay, I admit it. My staff pic this week is the Hamilton soundtrack. I hate to be one of those people but I have become one, and Lin Manuel Miranda’s grammy-winning assortment of songs about our founding fathers a now on repeat on my Spotify. I still think a lot of the internet hyperbole around the album’s revolutionary qualities, pun only partly intended, sounds deluded when it comes from white people who don’t actually like or understand Miranda’s hip-hop influences. But I also acknowledge the music here is great: innovative and inventive, but also firmly in the tradition of well-composed, operatic musical theater. Besides, the soundtrack contains a number of earworms that are just gorgeous and inescapable. Like the British at Yorktown, I surrender. — Sarah Seltzer, Editor-at-Large

11.22.63 on Hulu

I grew up in Dallas and have spent most of lifetime reading about the JFK assassination, its conspiracy theories, and its counter-factuals. I approached Stephen King’s 11/22/63 with great hope, only to be disappointed by a bloated narrative, waiting five years of story time for Jake Epping to attempt to stop Oswald (at the last minute, of course; never mind using those extra five years). The denouement, which I won’t spoil, struck me as contrived, frustrating and unrealistic — even for a story about time travel. So I’ve been very impressed with the first two episodes of Hulu’s series based on the book. Here, James Franco’s Jake has only three years to kill (no pun intended), and Monday’s episode about stopping a much more personal murder contained layers of dread and suspense. Franco achieved a great deal through silence, just watching an abusive husband slowly become a murderer. The series is already drifting away from the novel, dropping huge and unnecessary sections and adding what looks like a sidekick character. I recommend 11.22.63 to anyone interested in time travel, history, suspense — and, of course, James Franco. — Jason Ginsburg, Social Media Editor

Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling

After spending the better part of a month working my way through Peter Guralnick’s hefty Sam Phillips biography (and longer than that reading 25 years of Greil Marcus columns), I wanted my next pleasure read to be, simply put, simple: something short and breezy, that I could get through in a couple of days and restore some sense of reading accomplishment. So Mindy Kaling’s latest collection of humorous essays sort of hit the spot. She may not have the same cultural cachet as when her first book hit a few years back, but Why Not Me is, in many ways, a funnier volume – and a more formally interesting one as well, with Kaling not only engaging in the usual Hollywood testimonials and dating confessionals, but inventive bits like a Harvard commencement speech and (especially) a peek into her imagined “alternate” life as a schoolteacher, told entirely in emails, texts, and unsent drafts. It’s a clever device – and an indication that when she runs out of personal stories to tell (or decides she no longer wants to tell them), Kaling’s might find a nice sideline in fiction. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

Shannon and the Clams

I don’t know the story of Shannon and the Clams. I don’t even know Shannon’s last name. I know she was in Hunx and His Punx for a while. I know she has a great voice. I know she is a killer bass player. I know she is one of indie’s best kept secrets. I know I like the song, “Corvette,” which I’ve posted above. This isn’t to say that willful ignorance is OK, but it is to say that the story of Shannon and the Clams, whatever it may be, is completely unnecessary for enjoying their music. Those pipes, that aesthetic. Perfect. — Shane Barnes, Associate Editor

Witchita on Netflix (sort of)

Witchita is neither a real TV show nor a real city. Rather, it is what you get when you combine current pop cultural witch obsessions with, well, Wichita, within the context of Netflix’s Judd Apatow series, Love. The show-within-a-show, on whose set Love protagonist Gus works as a tutor for its teenage star (played by Judd Apatow’s daughter), is a recurring joke throughout the just-released first season, and one I find particularly amusing. The name alone so perfectly spoofs the (decades long) “put a witch on it!” TV trend, while also sounding like it could legitimately be a real TV series. Interestingly, Twin Peaks’ Mädchen Amick — who recently ended a stint on another family witch show (The Witches of East End) in real life — plays the mother on the fake TV show. I like Love, but I love Witchita.Moze Halperin, Associate Editor

City of Women‘s roller coaster of memory

Listen, I won’t pretend to have arrived at a satisfactory interpretation of this late Fellini epic. City of Women is a fantastical journey into a hidden feminist enclave that forces its protagonist (Marcello Mastroianni as Snàporaz, who is of course an avatar for the filmmaker) to reckon with his fraught relationships to all the women in his life. There are activist teach-ins and radical performances and gangs of lady road warriors and one woman attempts to rape Snàporaz… and then we visit the lair of the proud, gross last misogynist lothario left standing and things start to get really weird. OK. I still can’t tell you whether I like this film, much less agree with it, or not. What I DO love unequivocally is a classic Fellini set piece that comes towards the end: a trip through Snàporaz’s memory, depicted as a gorgeous roller coaster lit up amid total darkness (yes, there’s certainly yonic imagery there if you’re looking for it). It’s a gorgeous metaphor and a moment of pure visual pleasure in a film that makes it incredibly hard for the viewer to gain a foothold. — Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief

Vinyl on HBO

Despite low ratings and middling reviews, I felt an odd sort of comfort watching the first two episodes of Terence Winter’s rock n’ roll window. I’m not nostalgic for any of the people, places or things on the show —except for the giant car phone— but there’s a familiar language around discovering music and what makes a song good that modern audiences are too cynical to believe in anymore. At a time when rock, both as a sound and a pop philosophy, seem all but forgotten in mainstream culture, it’s nice to be able to conjure its spirit on TV, even if it isn’t channeled through entirely believable characters. — Michael Epstein, Editorial Apprentice