Staff Picks: Jonathan Meades, ’10 Cloverfield Lane’ and ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Season 8


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.

The films of Jonathan Meades

Lately, I’ve given myself over to the Youtube “shrine” to Jonathan Meades, a British “autodidact” who writes beautifully and is perhaps best known for his essay-films, which often detail, with visual gags and wry maximalist humor the spaces and architecture that strike his interest. His documentary films, whether they consider Brutalism or Stalinist architecture, are lightly reminiscent of the work of Adam Curtis, except that you can see Meades (he always wears sunglasses) and they’re better written and funnier. This précis from an interview with Jamie Sutcliffe is fairly mesmerizing:

If, as it happens, you’ve never caught a Meades film, then you’re yet to encounter how startling it can be to receive a dose of television presented by a critically lucid pontificator who simply refuses to remove his Ray-Bans, all the while affecting a kind of stolid, critical pedestrianism that’s perfectly calibrated to defamiliarise and make strange the overlooked and obfuscated elements of our built environments.

Jonathon Sturgeon, Literary Editor

RuPaul’s Drag Race, Season 8

After taking two seasons off America’s greatest reality show parody that also happens to be a pretty damn good reality show, I’m now fully committed to Drag Race season eight — and glad I stopped watching for a minute, because now I appreciate both the improvements and the old-school charms all the more. Untucked is now a YouTube-hosted shop talk show, and the queens are more diverse, both racially and in styles of drag. But the show still combines comedy and genuine pathos in a way most reality series just can’t, probably because most reality shows’ contestants aren’t from a highly specific and historically marginalized community that gives rise to a distinctive subculture and some seriously affecting backstories. Both of which, incidentally, make for damn good TV. —Alison Herman, TV Editor

10 Cloverfield Lane (dir. Dan Trachtenberg)

I came into 10 Cloverfield Lane knowing nothing, except for that I wasn’t supposed to know whether it was science fiction or more traditional suspense, and wasn’t supposed to know whether the Cloverfield-inclusive name was an intentional diversion. Because I enjoyed my own naiveté so much, I certainly won’t ruin yours. But I will say that it plays around with genre expectations in ways that’d sound gimmicky if they weren’t so well handled by director Dan Trachtenberg and if it weren’t instilled with palpable fear and heart by Mary Elizabeth Winstead and John Gallagher Jr. as two people either saved by or trapped by a man with an unsettlingly well-prepared bunker. I will also say that John Goodman is a genre unto himself, and down in the claustrophobic subterranean home in which the film is set, he has just as much command over the tiny world he’s created as the apocalyptic event he’s fabricated (or not fabricated) has over the outside world. You don’t need a Cloverfield monster when Goodman’s doing his best at being cryptic and explosive. It’s awesome to see that mainstream penny-pinching can result in something so experimentally exciting while ultimately being just as crowd-pleasing as the more straightforward genre film a Cloverfield “spiritual sequel” could have been. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor

New Order’s “People On The High Line”

Full disclosure: my interest in New Order’s 2015 album Music Complete, the band’s first release in more than a decade, came after viewing their recent appearance on The Late Show . It was a strong performance of “Singularity,” but it left me mostly with an intense desire to hug singer Bernard Sumner. (Those moves! Those eyes!)

Listening to the album, though, the standout track for me is certainly “People On The High Line,” a song that captures the spirit of early gay club funk without being totally nostalgic — Sumner’s always-stiff upper lip grounds it in heartbreak and gives it more weight than most things that reference disco (or, more specifically, Chic). Also, it has absolutely nothing to do with New York’s High Line, but the morose lyrics about a sad man capture the city’s general disdain for that 20-block tourist trap. “I’ll keep tryin’” goes the closing refrain of the heartbroken singer, as he tries to push through the crowd and grab a latte from Blue Bottle. — Shane Barnes, Associate Editor

The West Wing Since before it went off the air, I have always turned to The West Wing in times of high stress, anxiety and self-doubt. (Luckily, all seven seasons are on Netflix.) A formative piece of pop culture for me and one of the all-time great TV shows — don’t bother trying to argue — its snappy dialogue and increasingly unfamiliar optimism simply evoke a world that’s just a little (or a lot) more earnest and honest than our own. Though I can certainly understand why liberal-leaning politicos might want to turn back to the Bartlet administration during this extremely disconcerting political moment, the comfort I personally find is more philosophical. The West Wing exists in a pocket universe where working and thinking hard always pays off: The campaign doesn’t always go exactly as planned, but the office and the people surrounding it endure. With word counts and deadlines beginning to mount, I can watch President Bartlet convince himself to persevere and feel galvanized myself. (Even if I’m just reviewing video games.) — Michael Epstein, Editorial Apprentice

The Idea of Less Reboots/RevivalsI’d like to advocate the cultural idea of leaving some ideas alone. As a longtime fan of The X-Files, I was excited about the new mini-season. But only two of the six episodes recaptured the magic or were, you know, any good. Fuller House is a joke of itself. Even the distaff version of Ghostbusters, which I heartily applaud, doesn’t look to further the franchise; it looks distressingly like the 1984 original, just remade with women. Independence Day is coming back, too, though that film had a conclusive, satisfying ending. Now there’s word of Indiana Jones returning in 2019, when Harrison Ford will be 76 — and this after a disastrous fourth movie featuring Shia LaBeouf and aliens. On TV, there are rebooted versions of Nancy Drew and Prison Break on the way. Maybe we as a culture should get better at discerning which creations need to be brought back and which should be left intact and untouched? I know, usually the blame is on movie studios and networks banking on name recognition to avoid risk — but we as consumers don’t have to reward that strategy. Of course, I’ll still be lining up for Indiana Jones in 39 months… — Jason Ginsburg, Social Media Editor