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.

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The Creators of “Seeing Calvino”

The person (people?) behind the Tumblr “Seeing Calvino” turns the writings of Italo Calvino into illustrations that I’d love to hang on my wall. I’d also love to see more of these in hopes of some bigger project like Matt Kish did with Moby-Dick and Heart of Darkness and Zak Smith did with Gravity’s Rainbow. —Jason Diamond, Literary Editor

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EMA at Union Pool, April 11

There isn’t much I can say about EMA’s new album that Tom Hawking didn’t already cover in his thoughtful piece, so I’ll settle for observing that there’s no better way to spend a warm spring evening than watching one of your favorite musicians perform new material at a tiny, intimate venue. —Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief

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Riot in Cell Block 11 on Criterion

Don Siegel is best remembered among casual moviegoers as the director of Dirty Harry and frequent collaborator/mentor to its star Clint Eastwood. But cinephiles know that for decades before their partnership, he turned our a steady stream of lean, mean, tightly executed B-movies, including 1954’s Riot in Cell Block 11, which is getting the deluxe special edition Blu-ray/DVD treatment from Criterion (it’s out Tuesday). Siegel opens his film with a newsreel about the outbreak of prison riots, and it’s an appropriate tone—he works in the tough, punchy style of a newspaperman, and Riot is remarkable for the economy of its action and storytelling. But he also sneaks in some “message movie” business about prison reform and recidivism (prompted, as the film was, by producer Walter Wanger’s brief stay in the big house), as well as prescient commentary on sensationalistic media coverage. Performances are simple, blunt, and effective, and the outcome is admirably bleak. Criterion, as usual, has supplemented with an impressive array of extras, including scholarly commentary, book excerpts, tributes, and a radio documentary on prison reform. And the black-and-white transfer is a knockout. —Jason Bailey, Film Editor

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Under the Skin (dir. Jonathan Glazer)

You’ve probably heard that Under the Skin is a visually stunning rehashing of a very specific type of sci-fi film, wherein an alien dons a human skin to varying degrees of success, à la Sil in Species, Edgar the Bug in MIB, or Benedict Cumberbatch. And while the film’s subject matter could, at any second, fall into campiness with its narrative centered on a sultry, van-driving, man-eating antago-protagonist, Jonathan Glazer’s Skin is so withholding and enigmatic (its rare moments of dialogue almost seem bleeped out by Scottish accents) that it never does. What’s more, just when these two qualities could lead you to dub it laughably pretentious, the movie surprises by being very genuinely tragic. Glazer uses an array of new images to rediscover our continued curiosity with this old narrative: in one scene that takes place somewhere in Scarlett Johansson’s subterranean digestive tract, we behold a man who’s just been swallowed realizing what’s happening to him. Across the sloshy void, he sees another man who was likewise swallowed, but a little while ago. He swims toward him and reaches out to him, but the other man pops like an old Mylar balloon, leaving his skin — even the expression on his face — floating around in the wet abyss. This scene was so dreamily hideous as to leave me nauseated and bolting toward the water fountain in the middle of the movie. Under The Skin then does a 180, diverging from its narrative of man-eating horror, and slowly reveals itself as a Lacanian tale of human development, or a tale about the consuming nature of sex, or a tale about surveillance culture, or a tale about… Luckily, it’s vague enough that, from day to day, the film’s thesis about the tragedies of life on Earth can be reapplied to just about any new form of philosophical musing. In other words, I can’t see this movie ever getting old. —Moze Halperin, Editorial Apprentice

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Brooklyn Cyclones’ Seinfeld Night

The Brooklyn minor league baseball team announced today that they’ll be hosting a Seinfeld night on July 5 to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the show’s premiere. With an Elaine dancing contest, free Keith Hernandez bobbleheads for all, players in puffy shirts, and so much more, this will be the highlight of my summer. Hell, I’d steal an old lady’s marble rye to get into this. Jillian Mapes, Music Editor