Staff Picks: ‘Gleason,’ Liane Moriarty, and ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’

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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.

Gleason (dir. Clay Tweel)

Steve Gleason was a small but tough linebacker for the New Orleans Saints who became a key figure during that team’s (and that city’s) comeback after Hurricane Katrina. He retired from football in 2008; three years later, he was diagnosed with ALS (aka Lou Gehrig’s Disease), and given two to five years to live. Six weeks later, his wife Michel found out she was pregnant. The raw materials of Clay Tweel’s documentary (now in limited release) are the My Life-style videos Gleason made for his unborn son, “to pass on as much of who I am to you,” but they’re amply supplemented by Tweel’s own footage of Gleason’s journey over those years, when his activism increased as his own symptoms began to show themselves, and take him over. It sounds like some sort of sad trudge though a terminal illness, but quite the contrary – it’s bursting with life, and laughs, and joy. But it will certainly destroy you too, in its moments of heart-wrenching candor and unimaginable pain, as we see what this disease does to his vibrant marriage and his relationship with his son. Powerful and moving, this is a must-see. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

Liane Moriarty’s The Husband’s Secret and Big Little Lies

During the last week I binge-read two books by Australian “women’s fiction” phenom Liane Moriarty: The Husband’s Secret and Big Little Lies, titles you may recognize from your local bestseller list. Moriarty is a powerhouse here and relatively unknown at home, as this excellent Good Weekend profile reveals. I’d reviewed her book, What Alice Forgot, several years ago, and was surprised by how much I enjoyed its satirical but poignant take on suburban womanhood. When (no joke) my efforts to read War and Peace during maternity leave got shipwrecked on the rocks of the very first “war” section of Tolstoy’s magnum opus, I decided needed a quick hit, then two, of something overwhelmingly absorbing to remind me that reading could be fun. These books provided it, with fast-paced mysteries and solid emotional hooks. There’s an incredible darkness underneath the surface of these tales. Moriarty’s diet-obsessed housewives and “mums” contain multitudes, and what they’re masking is invariably ugly and often sad, too. — Sarah Seltzer, Deputy Editor

Crazy Ex Girlfriend

Yup. Totally late to this one. And anything I can say will surely be totally late, too, but after getting around to watching the show, I’m so glad to finally have a series that doesn’t make light of the siren song of butter. But really, it is this fact, that here we have a series that’s immediately easy to connect with despite having a premise that on paper reads as alienating. Yet, despite its undertones of depression, creator/writer/star Rachel Bloom’s comedy provides warmth and joy rather than alienation to viewers, while also managing to be about a character who sees butter ads as prophetic and uses them to justify her stalking of a former camp fling. One critique: as someone who’s spent a lot of time in West Covina, I will say it’s really not that far from the beach. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor

Stranger Things

Speaking of being late to the party, I’m most definitely turning up to Stranger Things with a six-pack of moderately priced light beer when everyone else has long since decamped to the jacuzzi with several bottles of fancy vodka and a large silver platter of West Coast cocaine. But look, if for some strange reason you need one more voice to add to the chorus of people telling you how good Netflix’s faux-’80s sci-fi/horror serial is, then let me be that voice! I’ll admit that, as thirtysomething who loved both Steven Spielberg and Stephen King as a kid, I’m very much the show’s target demographic, and I’ll also admit that the ’80s homages here aren’t so much a gesture of affection as they are an extravagant gesture of deep, all-consuming adoration. BUT! BUT! The show is so much fun that, despite being fully aware of the aforementioned, I’m still hooked because sometimes all you want out of a TV show (or a book, or a film, or whatever) is a really good story, told really well. Stranger Things delivers that better than anything else in year — the manifold nods to pieces of culture I’ve loved in the past are just the collective cherry on top. — Tom Hawking, Editor-in-Chief