Staff Picks: What Flavorpill Editors Are Thankful for This Year

Over the past week, we’ve done features on mouth-watering feasts on film and parental-friendly playlists for your Thanksgiving dinner. We’ve looked at some of the most culturally-relevant birds that we could find and ranked TV’s best Thanksgiving-centered episodes — Zagat-style. Now it’s finally game day. But rather than forbidding you to eat things like Cherpumple Pie while simultaneously encouraging you to indulge in a booze-tastic four-course meal, we’ve decided that today we’re going to focus on what this holiday is really about: giving thanks. Click through for a list of the cultural gems that Flavorpill staffers have been the most grateful to experience this past year, and if you’re feeling in the holiday spirit, keep it going in the comments!

“I don’t often write about music here on the site, due to being grossly underqualified and hopelessly unhip (my big-dollar music purchase this fall was the 20th anniversary vinyl reissue of U2’s Achtung Baby, if that gives you an idea of how tightly I’ve got my finger on the pulse of what’s hot musically these days). But few things on this earth have given me as much pleasure this year as the utterly marvelous throwback video for Cee-Lo Green’s ‘Cry Baby.’ Already my favorite song on the record (it runs circles around ‘Fuck You’), the Hi Records-style pop confection is given a candy-colored visual rendering, complete with backlot-style set design, retro group choreography, and Jaleel ‘Steve Urkel’ White stepping into the role of Cee-Lo. It’s a beautifully executed, joyful clip with a sense of humor — a reminder of how great music videos can still be (if you can find them).” — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

“I would be hard pressed to provide the single cultural product I loved best this year, but as far as the one I’m most thankful for, there’s no contest. Just over five years ago, Ellen Willis, one of the 20th century’s strongest critical voices, passed away. For decades, she had been a leading voice in radical feminism and leftist politics, prizing freedom through democracy as the ultimate pursuit. But she began her career, in the late ’60s and ’70s, as a pop critic — The New Yorker’s first. Willis brought the same passion, sensuality, and analytical power to her writing on Lou Reed, Janis Joplin, and Bob Dylan that she did to her political work, from which it is inseparable. Out of the Vinyl Deeps, edited by her daughter, GOOD editor Nona Willis Aronowitz, is a necessary reminder that there’s a deeply human side to music criticism, one that has largely been lost in the speed- and knowledge-obsessed 21st century.” — Judy Berman, Deputy Editor/Music Editor

Bonus: Speaking of Willis’s feminist work and other political writing, Emily Gould’s Emily Books recently e-published her collection No More Nice Girls: Countercultural Essays. We highly recommend checking that out as soon as you finish Out of the Vinyl Deeps.

“The word ‘epic’ gets thrown around a lot these days… For 2011, I’m most thankful for Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, a straight-forward, sadistic, gorgeous romp of nihilism that reminded me why I should go to the movies more often. Without spoilers of what happens to one pathetic Apocalypse-fearing patriarch, I can’t tell you just how much it wins me back after the misogynisms in Antichrist! Surely, I wasn’t the only one who was eagerly awaiting for planet Melancholia to smash into the Earth, that explosive final catharsis. Kirsten Dunst has never been brighter, darker and better at convincing you of the futility of your life’s ceremonies, and yet, this film wasn’t depressing, just stunning, tense, and visceral. Not a flawless picture (superfluous moon-lit nipples much?), but recommended for the happy cynic who can separate life and art. Let’s go to more movies!” — Marina Galperina, Art Editor

“In an age where pop stars are essentially the embodiment of the outcomes of a gazillion focus groups and market research studies, and even the world of indie is looking suspiciously homogenous, it’s harder than ever to find genuine individuals. Thank heavens, then, for John Maus. A true oddball, in the best possible way, Maus’ hyper-intellectual take on classic synthpop has been one of the highlights of 2011. His interviews are always compulsory reading, usually involving him talking at a million miles an hour to bewildered journalists about everything from philosophy and sociology to medieval music theory and Body Count. And, of course, his music’s great. We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves is one of the best records of the year, and his manic live shows — lots of chest-beating, shrieking and teeth-gnashing, all set to a soundtrack of home-made beats and big, sweeping synth pads — are the most strangely compelling spectacles you’ll ever see.” — Tom Hawking, Contributing Editor

“2011 has been a fantastic year for music, but despite all the great new artists, I’m most thankful for the return of Noel Gallagher. After the split of Oasis in 2009, the emergence of Liam Gallagher’s new group, Beady Eye, seemed to offer some promise, but their lackluster debut did little to fill the void left by his former era-defining band. However, with the debut of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, big brother made a triumphant comeback, reminding everyone that he wrote the lion’s share of all Oasis songs (and 100% of those on the early albums that brought them global fame). Gallagher’s remarkable songwriting chops remain undiminished by time, with tracks like ‘If I Had A Gun’ and ‘AKA… Broken Arrow’ among the finest he’s ever written. Plus, with Noel on lead vocals full-time, all those ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ and ‘Little by Little’ fans who always thought he should stay center stage finally got their wish. Oh, all this also brought about a really bizarre video starring Russell Brand as some kind of demon, so there’s that too.” — Doug Levy, Senior Editor

“This Thanksgiving, I’m thankful for Drive. I’ll admit, it’s probably because I just perused BuzzFeed’s 63 Reasons Why Bradley Cooper Definitely Isn’t The Sexiest Man Alive and I’m in some sort of Ryan Gosling trance, but who didn’t enjoy watching that guy kick some ass and drive around to the tune of that hot, synthy soundtrack for 100 minutes straight? Like most Thanksgiving tables I’ll ever frequent, I’m probably going to think of something worth more ‘thanks’ as soon as I blurt this out — but right now, I’m thankful for Drive. Now crank up the ‘Nightcall’ and let’s feast.” — Jennifer Lewis, Editorial Intern

“One engaging film which I’m grateful for this year is a hilarious documentary by Martin Scorsese about Fran Lebowitz called Public Speaking. A dynamic writer who covered the downtown NYC scene for Interview magazine during the Warhol years, has contributed to Vanity Fair, and published a few books, Lebowitz is first and foremost a speaker. A character who must be experienced in person, Lebowitz is constantly riffing, owning the space around her with clever, dominating monologue, and, when interrupted, even more brilliant repartee. Presented almost entirely across a table at Waverly Inn (co-owned by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, who also produced the film with Scorsese), Lebowitz is on the screen nearly every second of the film and comfortable being there, dropping laugh-out-loud insights in her classic deadpan delivery, one after the other. To watch such a unique personality in her element is inspiring.” — Mark Mangan, Co-founder, Flavorpill

“For 2011, I’m most thankful for the insane, lovely head-trip that is the theatrical experience of Sleep No More. When I was a kid I used to collect comic books and Magic: The Gathering cards, and I dropped out of my college’s theatre program because, frankly, I sucked, but in my adulthood I haven’t found anything to channel my inner drama geek’s urges to collect and to crave. The highly stylized, intensely personal world created in the abandoned Twilo space in midtown New York City has given life to way too many (for my brain and my wallet) half-drunk late-night fantasies, and, cliche as it sounds, it’s reminded me that there really can be magic around any corner. Can I go again now?” – Russ Marshalek, Social Media Director

“Still reeling from Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s ambitious neo-giallo film Amer — a mesmerizing tribute to the Italian thrillers of the ’60s and ’70s — I came across Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi’s like-minded album, Rome. Luppi previously won me over with the stylish and sinuous An Italian Story and recently worked on Mike Patton’s Mondo Cane (another favorite). I grew up obsessing over inherited VHS cassettes of Italian cinema’s lustful screen sirens, dusty spaghetti heroes (questionable good guys who often did bad things), and violent showdowns in exotic, bloodstained celluloid worlds. The album sublimely echoes the cinematic era, borrowing just enough (Edda Dell’Orso even makes an appearance), without becoming blunted nostalgia. Speaking as someone who listens to Morricone, Nicolai, and all the usual suspects on a regular basis (on vinyl, even), Rome still managed to be an entirely refreshing and exciting project that has set up camp in my regular rotation all year long.” — Alison Nastasi, Night Editor

“In September of this year, a previously undiscovered oil painting by the artist Gustav Klimt, Seeufer mit Birken (pictured above), was found in a private home in the Netherlands. I’m thankful that, almost a century after his death, my favorite visual artist is still giving us new art. After first stumbling into it on my way home from high school, I would regularly visit the tiny Neue Galerie in New York to stare at the Klimts on its walls with that Midnight in Paris time-traveling awe. I think what astounds me about Klimt, and why the gallery employees now know me by name, is that not only did he, in essence, portend the entire Art Nouveau movement, but even today, his media seem precocious. And with discoveries bubbling up to declare that the fin-de-ciecle hasn’t quite come to a fin, he can continue to astound me in new ways.” — Romy Oltuski, Editorial Intern

“This year, I’m most thankful for Nan Lawson’s latest crop of quirky illustrations. From paying homage to the late Pushing Daisies with an adorable illustration of “The Pie Maker” to her original drawings of blushing, sweater-wrapped boys and girls, Ms. Lawson’s charming artwork has not only consistently brightened my days, but has been a source of inspiration.” — Nicole Rallis, Editorial Intern


Photo credit: The Photograph Studio, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

“Let me preface this with the fact that I’m a really impatient person who strongly dislikes crowds. This is important because I spent almost two hours waiting in line with my sister for Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty, the Costume Institute’s career-spanning tribute to the late fashion designer, and once I finally made it into the exhibition, it was so jam-packed that we could barely move. No matter. It was all worth it for the rare opportunity to get so close to McQueen’s breathtaking designs. In many cases, the proximity led me to discover that a piece was made out of some crazy material — think shells and horsehair — or to notice a new mind-boggling detail in the construction. McQueen’s imagination freaked people out. As he once explained it, ‘People find my things sometimes aggressive. But I don’t see it as aggressive. I see it as romantic, dealing with a dark side of personality.’ Perhaps that’s why you can’t help but have a visceral reaction when confronted by his work. That, and the white elephant haunting every room of the exhibit — we’ll never know what other beautiful things McQueen might have dreamed up if he hadn’t killed himself last year.” — Caroline Stanley, Managing Editor

“2011 for me was all about Game of Thrones, both the fantastic HBO series and George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels. I’ve long avoided fantasy and sci-fi books, dismissing them as either kid stuff or nerd stuff, or worst of all: nerdy kid stuff. But two episodes into the show and I knew that I would be buying the entire novel series. I devotedly followed Peter Dinklage (congrats on the Emmy, dude!) and (for a time) Sean Bean each week on TV, and once it ended, burned through all five published books, turning the local Flavorpill bar into a proudly geeky book club, and silently communing with all my fellow nerds on the subway who were also toting around 1,000-page Martin tomes. I’m thankful to have had my horizons broadened; a new literary world has been opened for me.” — Leah Taylor, Managing Editor, Flavorpill NYC

“This may be revealing a little too much of my inner nerd for comfort, but so be it. Though not new by any means, 2011 was the year I discovered George RR Martin’s fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire, via HBO’s spot-on adaptation of the first book, A Game of Thrones. The show was great, but the novels it led me to were even better. For the first time since I was a kid, reading The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Prydain, I let myself become immersed in a world of epic adventure, chivalry and family trees, of war and courtship and strange customs. Dorky it may be, but this year, I am thankful for the opportunity to take a break from all those Important Literary Novels and be a kid again, if only for a few thousand pages.” — Emily Temple, Literary Editor/Weekend Editor

“I remember the first time I listened to Past Life Martyred Saints – halfway through, not fully paying attention, I decided it was my favorite album of the year, and the year was only half over. Something in the songs resonated instantly and deeply with me. Erika M. Anderson, who goes by EMA, feels things very intensely. She’s been through a lot, especially since the break-up of her already emotionally-charged project Gowns, and in her voice you can hear that pain, and a need for catharsis. Listening to the album, you get the sense that recording it was her personal catharsis. There are points on the album so bleak they feel like you’re looking up at the world from a deep, dark hole, the light from outside seeming dim and unreachable. But that feeling never lasts. The reason I’m so thankful for this album is that moment when the darkness breaks, and Erika proves it’s possible to surmount even the heaviest burdens, that sometimes you get second chance to make things right. In those moments, her sad night is a lost memory, and the world glows, brilliantly.” — Sophie Weiner, Social Media Manager