Staff Picks: A New Look at ‘The Birth of a Nation,’ ‘Lemonade”s Ability to Energize, and ‘Veep’


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 below.

Lemonade at Work

At a happy hour event following Blavity’s EmpowerHer conference for black women in tech, media, and business the scene was as you’d expect: black millennial women mulled around with their drinks of choice in hand, networking and socializing. And then something happened that would shift the energy of the space completely. The DJ played a track from Beyonce’s LEMONADE. The bar erupted. Cries of of joy overtook the room and hips began to wind in unison. The space transformed from a sepia buzz into a rainbow of sounds and melodies. It was a beautiful phenomenon to bear witness to. It was an exciting reminder that Beyoncé is the ultimate breaker of I’ve-been-here-and-done-this-a-thousand-times chains. — Sesali Bowen, (Pop) Culture and Politics Staff Writer

The Birth of a Nation by Dick Lehr

With Nate Parker’s title-sharing Nat Turner biopic hitting theaters this fall, we’ll presumably hear even more discussion of D.W. Griffith’s endlessly controversial Civil War and Reconstruction epic, which turned 100 last year and remains a formidable foe for film historians to wrestle – a landmark of cinematic form and scope, a shameful vessel of racism and hate. After literally a century of writing, it’s hard to think of anything new to say about it, but Lehr’s recent volume found a new way in by supplementing the film’s history with parallel biographies of director Griffith and Monroe Trotter, the newspaper editor and civil rights leader who headed up the heated battle over the film’s release in Boston. By telling their stories, and meticulously detailing their skirmishes over history, censorship, and activism, Lehr comes up with a book that is thoughtful, pointed, even-handed, and (wouldn’t ya know it) cinematic. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

You Must Remember This, Blacklist edition

If you have even a passing interest in film history and haven’t already checked out Karina Longworth’s podcast, You Must Remember This , do so immediately. Longworth, L.A. Weekly‘s former film critic, has written and narrated over 80 episodes of the podcast, each one dedicated to a different story — often centred on one figure, usually an actor but sometimes a studio head like Louis B. Mayer — from Hollywood’s first century.

Last summer, Longworth turned over the weekly podcast to a series on the Charles Manson murders and the cult’s intersection with Hollywood. For the past few months, You Must Remember This has turned its focus to the Hollywood blacklist. Through a series of painstakingly researched profiles — there are segments on Dorothy Parker, Barbara Stanwyck, John Garfield, and others — Longworth reveals how the HUAC hearings affected the careers and personal lives of those who were unfortunately caught up in the anti-communist panic of the early 1950s. If you were disappointed in Trumbo, a weak-tea film about the blacklisted screenwriter released last year, this series will both edify and entertain. — Lara Zarum, Contributor, TV

Theater Lotteries

A confession: I love live theatre. Another confession: I am lazy. I don’t have the time, energy, or work schedule to stand in line for hours and hours on the chance I might get into a show. That’s why I’m so happy that lots of Broadway shows here in New York are offering online lotteries. Hamilton? Check. The Crucible? Check. Fun Home? Check. Now even Cirque du Soleil’s Paramour and Shakespeare in the Park provide the convenience of a few taps on a phone or computer instead of spending hours on the sidewalk. Online lotteries cut down on scammers and “professional line-sitters,” respect fans’ time, and democratize the buying process — since many of the tickets are far below regular price. Hamilton‘s 21 daily winners pay just $10 for front row seats. As Broadway prices keep climbing and lines keep getting longer, fans need all the advantages and shortcuts we can get. — Jason Ginsburg, Social Media Editor

Selina Meyer’s Body Horror on Veep

This season of Veep has been all-around great — that funeral scene? amazing — but the show has drawn laughs twice from messing up the face of Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Selina Meyer, a woman who, like all political candidates, does not want her face to be messed up. The season’s opener saw her battling a massive pimple, and she spent the most recent episode trying to hide her blood-red eye sockets, which were the result of some light plastic surgery. It’s maybe a cheap laugh, playing on the vanity of a high-power woman, but the genius of it is the way this superficiality permeates the political world; the extent to which her staff attempts to cover up the surgery is astounding, and, though it goes unsaid, it’s probably due to the fact that Selina would be judged for it in the context of her being a woman, when all politicians (especially at the federal level) are so vain. This is to say nothing of the way it’s played by Dreyfus, whose physical comedy is consistently beautiful. Her pained look after being shocked into a wide-eyed expression is just perfect. — Shane Barnes, Associate Editor