Staff Picks: Flavorwire’s Favorite Cultural Things This Week

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. Click through for our picks, and tell us what you’ve been loving in the comments.

Sweet and Lowdown

Sweet and Lowdown (dir. Woody Allen)

I’m working on a Woody Allen book, so I’ve not been contributing to the “Staff Picks” as much as I’d like, since most of my culture diet has been restricted to Woody’s movies and books about him. But this last week, I took a look at Sweet and Lowdown for the first time in at least a decade, and was struck by how woefully underrepresented it is in the conventional wisdom surrounding his best films. The documentary/drama hybrid is imaginative and allows for some very clever storytelling flourishes (the conflicting legends around his fictional jazz guitarist resulting in choose-your-own-endings for certain anecdotes), the performances (by Sean Penn and Samantha Morton, both Oscar nominees) are marvelous, and its closing passages are a powerful comment on the consequences of an artist’s compartmentalization of their life and their work. It feels like this one is due for a rediscovery, and soon. —Jason Bailey, Film Editor

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Tom Charity, “Cassavetes’s Company”

Tom Charity’s annotated gallery of actors in John Cassavetes’ films, which I learned about from The Daily Notebook, is a brief visual history of the great faces that popped up in the director’s work time and time again. Players like Meade Roberts, Timothy Carey, Eleanor Zee, and Vince Barbi brought character, naturalism, and emotional texture to Cassavetes’ cinéma-vérité style. —Alison Nastasi, Weekend Editor

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Rob Delaney, Live at the Bowery Ballroom

At its heart, comedy has always been about telling a good story, but I’m not sure its storytelling element has ever been more prominent than it is now. Thanks to the more anthropological approaches of comedians like Louis C.K., Marc Maron, Pete Holmes, and Aziz Ansari, comedy hasn’t felt this smart in a long time. Rob Delaney is one of the filthier comedians in that category, but despite his tendency to get graphic, you can immediately tell he’s super smart. I think one of the best things a comedian can do is take something fairly normal and frame it in a way that shows you just how absurd it really is, and Delaney’s special Live at the Bowery Ballroom is full of that. It’s a perfect way to kill 90 minutes, and it’s streaming on Netflix. He also has a brand-new book, Mother. Wife. Sister. Human. Warrior. Falcon. Yardstick. Turban. Cabbage., and it’s wonderful. —Sarah Fonder, Editorial Apprentice

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HYLNDS, Spirit of the Glen

There was some mention of a collaboration with a famous distillery from the Scottish Highlands when I profiled David Moltz of D.S. & Durga last year, so you can imagine my delight when I saw a bottle of HYLNDS on sale through Barneys, a scent Moltz created with The Glenlivet. It’s a tad bit pricey at $180 a bottle, but if you’re going to splurge, I say go for the whiskey cologne. —Jason Diamond, Literary Editor

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The return of basketball season

The defining cultural event of my week has been the return of the NBA. No, really. One day I will finish my extended essay about the aesthetic and cultural perfection of basketball, but in the meantime, you’ll just have to take my word for the fact that it’s been an ace opening week, and I have invested in a new couch to sit on for the next few months while I watch games. Life is pretty great, I have to say. —Tom Hawking, Music Editor

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The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan

I’m about halfway through this Scottish author’s debut novel, and am finding it every bit as absorbing as critics on both sides of the pond have said. Its narrator is a 15-year-old orphan whose latest name is Anais; we meet her as she’s being carted off to an unusual facility for underage offenders, the titular Panopticon that more contemporary readers will know from Foucault than Bentham. We learn that a policewoman is in a coma, and Anais has been charged with putting her in it — but even she doesn’t know whether or not she’s guilty. As the latter suggests, though, hers is a different kind of juvenile delinquent story than we’re used to. Anais has led a life so dismal it’s caused her to assume she was created in a test tube as part of something she calls “the experiment,” although there’s nothing less than human about her lively intelligence, stunning intuition, and fierce moral convictions. If the last 150 pages are as great as the first, The Panopticon is sure to be my favorite first novel of 2013. —Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief

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Greatest Hits by Erasure

I don’t think Ambien counts as a staff pick, but it’s amazing what one can accomplish with a full eight hours of sleep! Also, I’ve been listening to Erasure’s Greatest Hits? Whatever, I stand by my choices. —Lillian Ruiz, Social Media Director