Staff Picks: Hurray for the Riff Raff, ‘Interiors,’ ‘The Sellout’


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.

Interiors and Another Woman on Blu-ray

Woody Allen’s first three attempts at straight-up, serious drama – Interiors in 1978, September in 1987, and Another Woman in 1988 – met with bad box office and mixed reviews upon their initial release (I still remember Peter Travers dubbing them “the trilogy from hell”). But with the passage of time, and Allen’s own continued experimentation with serious subject matter, they no longer create such a feeling of whiplash – and though September remains a brutal sit, Interiors and Another Woman (which both recently debuted on Blu-ray via Twilight Time) stand tall. The austere Interiors was the biggest shock, coming hard on the heels of the triumph of Annie Hall, but it’s a probing and often powerful examination of familial dynamics, masterfully captured by Gordon Willis’s cold yet involving camerawork. Another Woman is even stronger, repurposing Annie’s structural freedom to tell the compelling story of a professor taking a hard look at her life and relationships, perhaps for the first time. Gena Rowlands is terrific in the leading role, while Gene Hackman is the stand-out of the stellar supporting cast as a former lover. Neither would work with Allen again, which is a shame, because Another Woman lingers in the memory longer than even some of his better comedies. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley has never gone easy on the absurdities of billionaire moguls in its depiction of the tech industry. (Remember that time Jared got in a driverless car, which deposited him on a remote, artificial island 4,000 miles away?) But this season — which sees Richard (Thomas Middleditch) attempting to create a whole new internet while navigating the precious egos and impulsive personalities of Silicon Valley investors — foregrounds the insanity of the tech world’s 1 percent. From the season premiere pissing match between Gavin Belson (Matt Ross) and Jack Barker (Stephen Tobolowsky) to the glorious return of the profane, demented Russ Hanneman (Chris Diamantopoulos), Season 4 has given viewers even more reason to root for the show’s motley gang of homebound engineers. — Lara Zarum, TV Editor

Hurray for the Riff Raff’s The Navigator

I’ve been listening a lot to Hurray for the Riff Raff’s The Navigator, which sees bandleader Alynda Lee Segarra emerging (after years, and five other albums, under the Riff Raff name) from the niche of the folk revival scene, pairing narrative and sonic traditions of American folk with a robust and wandering sound, and incisive contemporary political commentary — particularly a stinging examination of colonialism from a specifically Nuyorican perspective. Segarra, on the album, sings as a character in an album-long theatrical narrative, but The Navigator is teeming with indictments of the violence and hypocrisies of xenophobia in a colonial country — and specific in its attempts to trace the dizzying journeys of a people into the societal margins, and then hopefully out. The title track itself feels like a journey — spending a good deal of time in verse before getting to its breathtaking chorus, Segarra’s voice both wearied and immense: “Oh where, will all my people go?/The navigator wants to know.” And then, on “Rican Beach,” her voice softens as the lyrics bolden, “Well you can take my life/But don’t take my home/Baby it’s a solid price/It comes with my bones.” Keep on listening — the album never ceases to reveal further complexities. — Moze Halperin, Senior Editor

Paul Beatty’s The Sellout

I’ve been away for a couple of weeks for shitty reasons with which I will not bore you, dear reader, but the upshot of it is that I had two very long trans-Pacific flights in a short period of time, which means lots of hours to fill. Happily, I was accompanied by Paul Beatty’s riotous The Sellout, the Man Booker prize-winning novel that’s worthy of every little bit of praise thrown in its direction. A good satire is hard to pull off, especially in these satire-resistant times, but The Sellout absolutely nails its laundry list of targets. It’s the sort of book that makes you giggle uncontrollably and widen your eyes in horror at the same time — I feel like listing any of the jokes here would spoil them (and, out of context, they might appear…. questionable), but if the idea of a lacerating satire on American race relations, all wrapped up in exuberantly hilarious prose, sounds like your sort of thing, then look. No. Further. — Tom Hawking, Editor-in-Chief

The Fortune Cookie on Blu-ray

Twilight Time also recently brought this 1966 comic gem to Blu-ray, and it’s a pip: directed by Billy Wilder at his peak, written with his reliable partner I.A.L. Diamond, and teaming onscreen, for the first time, the ying-yang comedy team of Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. And though their collaborations never disappointed (okay, maybe The Odd Couple II), their first time out may have been their best, with Matthau doing his lovable-scoundrel bit to perfection as a scheming lawyer, and Lemmon slow-burning beautifully as his brother-in-law, whom Matthau gets to overplay an on-the-job injury to get over on the insurance company. The black-and-white cinematography sparkles, the stars poke and prod uproariously, and leading lady Judy West is to die for. Matthau won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for this one, a rare occasion in which a comic genius got the credit he deserved. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor