Staff Picks: ‘Call the Midwife,’ Erica Ash on ‘Survivor’s Remorse,’ and Bob Fadoul’s Reggae Album


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.

Martha Kelly on Baskets

Perpetually about six months behind on television, I finally got around to watching the first season of Baskets – a program that clearly required viewers to get on its weirdo absurdist wavelength, or be on their way. I fell into the former category, and found it endlessly, oddly funny and inventive, and was obviously cheered by Louie Anderson’s richly deserved Emmy nomination for his work as Mother Baskets. Yet the only drawback to the flurry of praise for Anderson was how it seemed to overshadow the similarly complex performance of stand-up comic Martha Kelly (making, incredibly, her acting debut) as Martha Brooks, the put-upon friend of Chip Baskets, and recipient of his most undeserved ire. Kelly is one of those performers whose dry delivery and sprung timing can put a funny spin on pretty much any line, and the way she conveys the character’s basic goodness, in scene after scene of slight to total insanity, ends up making her the show’s (unemotional) emotional anchor. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

Erica Ash on Survivor’s Remorse

I’ve already urged everyone to start watching this excellent Starz comedy, which premieres its third season on Sunday. Erica Ash’s character, Mary-Charles (“M-Chuck”) is the reason I fell in love with this show: A brash, foul-mouthed, femme lesbian whose brother recently signed a lucrative contract with a pro basketball team, M-Chuck is consistent comic relief on a show that’s already hilarious. All hail Erica Ash. — Lara Zarum, TV Editor

Triplets of Belleville in Prospect Park with Benoît Charest and the Orchestre Terrible

I’d never seen Sylvain Chomet’s Triplets of Belleville in theaters. I believe I watched it in a high school classroom and then once on my computer in college, and never realized how powerful seeing the partially hand drawn, beautifully grotesque animation projected on the big screen would be. In a dialogue-free animated film that takes its time with pacing, the sense of action is actually derived greatly from the meticulousness with which each characters’ hyperbolized body and face is portrayed; I was amazed by how completely magnetized to every movement I was when I saw it projected in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park for Bastille Day.

Each scene lingers longer than most films would on characters’ breathing, their twitching, or whatever mundane their body might be doing, to the point where even an obese dog lapping up fish-bits seems dancelike. The exaggerated but deeply detailed humanness is at once wrenchingly beautiful and also kind of wants to make you gag. The event in the park — which was free (one of the lovely things about the ongoing BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival) — didn’t end at just seeing these characters reaching goliath proportions. The film’s composer, Benoît Charest, scored the movie live with his 9-piece Orchestra Terrible de Belleville band (following a set from opening act Jessica Fichot) — and watching them create (and add to) the soundscape of the film in person brought even more vitality to this already awesomely alive work of animation. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor

Call the Midwife

Men, this means you, too: A BBC series about a group of nuns and nurses delivering babies in a poverty-stricken section of London in the 1950s may sound “girly.” But Call the Midwife features some of the most harrowing medical scenes this side ofThe Knick, without sacrificing the sweetness of that whole “miracle of life” thing. It’ll make you look at any woman who’s had a baby with a newfound respect. — Lara Zarum, TV Editor

The Sleaze Merchants (John McCarty, editor)

I recently finished reading this wickedly entertaining collection of profiles and interviews with a rogue’s gallery of exploitation filmmakers from the 1950s through its publication in 1995. The usual suspects (Herschell Gordon Lewis, Jess Franco, John Waters, Ed Wood) are rounded up, with predictably enjoyable results – but I especially enjoyed the war stories of some of the lesser-known (to me, anyway) filmmakers, and their tales of how to reallllly stretch a dollar. My favorite: Fred Olen Ray (Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers) describing how he once engaged Robert Carradine for a weekend to shoot inserts for a completed film, and then spent the rest of the weekend shooting generic scenes that he ended up building four other pictures around. These YouTube kids today, they’ve got it so easy. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

Fadoul — “Fi Jamique”

I have a friend and former colleague in Australia, the inimitable Bob Baker Fish, whose speciality is finding and writing about music that exists entirely outside the mainstream — and not, I hasten to add, in any sort of self-aggrandising “Look how weird the stuff I like is” kind of way, but out of a genuine spirit of curiosity and a love of of human creativity in all its strange and wonderful manifestations. His column Fragmented Frequencies is consistently compulsory reading if your interests like in similar directions, and he’s outdone himself this week by tracking down a reggae album by Fadoul, a fascinating character who was apparently “considered Morocco’s answer to James Brown.” If reggae by a Moroccan James Brown sounds like your idea of a good time — and honestly, if it isn’t, maybe reassess your life choices — then this is the business! — Tom Hawking, Editor-in-Chief

Stranger Things

If you’re looking for originality, you may need to go elsewhere, but The Duffer Brothers’ new Netflix series is one of the most compelling and cohesive patchworks of references and tropes from a particular era I’ve seen. I tend to get annoyed about nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake, but this is so gorgeously executed, and more importantly, doesn’t substitute heart with atmosphere: the two coexist wonderfully here, and the surprising warmth of this legitimately chill-inducing (I may have been sleeping with the light on this whole week) series is served up by a superlatively talented and assured cast of child actors, led by Millie Bobby Brown who, with hardly any words, carries the emotional weight of the series. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor