Staff Picks: ’13th,'”Cranes in the Sky,” ‘9 to 5’


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.

13th (dir. Ava DuVernay)

Ava DuVernay’s new Netflix documentary 13th — as in, the 13th Amendment — has been received with near-universal praise, and for good reason. At just over an hour and a half, the documentary is a succinct and forceful argument that while slavery may have been officially abolished in the United States in 1865, the institution has, in practice, been replaced by the mass incarceration of black men. 13th unfolds with solemn purpose; DuVernay lets the talking heads that populate the film do most of the work of explaining how America came to boast the highest incarceration rate in the world — and how that fact is inextricable from the racial injustice at the heart of the country’s founding institutions. The resulting film is eye-opening even if none of this is news to you, recasting all of American history through the lens of white supremacy. It’s frighteningly good. Watch it on Netflix tonight. — Lara Zarum, TV Editor

9 to 5 on Blu-ray (dir. Colin Higgins)

Twilight Time’s recent Blu-ray upgrade of Colin Higgins’ 1980 classic is a fine excuse to revisit this fabulous workplace comedy; turns out, there’s barely any dust on it at all. Its light-hearted but serious-minded take on the issues faced by women in the workplace – the pay gap, harassment, lookism, unionization, unfair advancement, presumptions of sleeping one’s way to the top (even from other women) – are sadly still timely. (If anything, it’s difficult to imagine a film this overtly feminist could get made and released by a major studio in 2016.) But aside from all of that, it’s worth revisiting because it’s just plain funny, and the performances are peerless: Jane Fonda is a treat, Lily Tomlin is the master, Dolly Parton is pure charisma, and Dabney Coleman is as slimily hateable as ever. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

Solange’s “Cranes in the Sky”

There isn’t enough room here for me to recommend all of Solange’s A Seat at the Table, as there’s something immense about its serenity and its sonic imagining of the act of healing from the wounds, both historical and contemporary, this country has inflicted on black people’s minds and bodies. (This loose, quiet album reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart this week). “Cranes in the Sky” is at the core of A Seat‘s striking balance of sobriety and uplift. The most sweepingly beautiful track on the album is also the most elliptical, in terms of whether the wound it describes (here just referred to as “it”) is personal or racial — but on A Seat at the Table, the two are often deeply interwoven. “Cranes in the Sky” floats the listener through the air on a warm bed of strings and bass, blanketed in the layered softness of Solange’s voice. But hovering over all of it are “cranes in the sky” — looming “metal clouds.” The image, so sweetly sung, but lyrically jolting, disrupts the sheer enjoyment of the song just as a crane might distort a skyline with a confrontational realism. The song gives sound to both the power and fatigue of finding beauty in life, even when the world insists on casting the shadows of its ugly social structures over you. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor

The Shallows (dir. Jaume Collet-Serra)

Scheduling conflicts forced me to hand this one off to Moze when it hit theaters in late June, and I can’t say I was too broken up about it; it looked spectacularly dopey. But its mostly positive reception got me interested enough to check out its recent Blu-ray release, and it’s a pretty effective little thriller. Director Jaume Collet-Serra is basically doing a Jaws remake, but starring the girl who’s killed in the first scene (he even, at one key point, replicates the iconic shark POV shot from underneath her). Blake Lively’s med student/stranded surfer is resourceful and resilient but not superhuman – she’s charismatic and present and gets a couple of opportunities to really shine. The exposition is clunky and the on-screen graphics illustrating smartphone use are goofy and there are some mighty dodgy effects throughout. But at its best, this is tense, effective, white-knuckle stuff. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor