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. cd731ee39da511cacf8d1fbb8e942c6d Willem Dafoe and Mikhail Baryshnikov The Old Woman at BAM

While none of the content in The Old Woman will come as a surprise to anyone familiar with Robert Wilson’s “Put an Otto Dix on it!” answer to all theatrical questions, I, personally, was impressed by Willem Dafoe and Mikhail Baryshnikov’s versatility and ability to pull off the frenetic but geometrically rigid style Robert Wilson requires of his actors. Despite Baryshnikov and Dafoe’s status as theater and dance greats, respectively, pulling off the (sometimes crippling) specificity of Wilson’s vision is no easy feat. Acting-wise, I’d only seen Baryshnikov deliver a convincing but understated performance as the Carrie-slapper, Alexandr Petrovsky, on Sex and the City (now that’s a Robert Wilson adaptation I’d like to see). His transformations, from The Old Woman between shrill and coquettish to powerful and straightforward, clearly forced him outside his comfort zone, and while his performance wasn’t seamless, it was exciting to see this unquestioned master testing his skills within a new theatrical language. Dafoe, who acted with The Wooster Group for 26 years, unsurprisingly seemed a bit more comfortable with the material – his presence was bolder, more guttural, and more grounded, a perfect contrast to Baryshnikov’s squeaky agility. — Moze Halperin, Editorial Apprentice

mad-fat My Mad Fat Diary (E4)

Teen dramas are my comfort TV, so I’m always looking for a new one — and after Pilot listed My Mad Fat Diary as one of the ten best shows to watch online, I started tracking it down (and since it hasn’t officially been released in the US, finding each episode can take a bit of work). It’s rare to find an empathetic TV portrayal of an overweight or mentally ill woman, let alone a teen girl who struggles with both issues, but this British series does it effortlessly. Rae is an entirely unique heroine: rebellious, sad, funny, horny, obsessed with music, a good friend but a mean daughter. And for everyone who was a teenager around the same time, MMFD’s mid-’90s setting, complete with flannel and raves and a Britpop soundtrack (Suede! Blur!), will feel soothingly familiar. — Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief

US Conductors Greenlight Books Listening to the theremin at Sean Michaels’ Us Conductors Brooklyn reading

Sean Michaels’ book Us Conductors is a made-up, fantastical story about the bonkers historical life of Lev Termen, inventor, spy, and lover, best known, perhaps, as the creator of the theremin. (Full disclosure: Michaels is a friend, the book is great, and you should read it. It is the world’s best book about a Russian inventor and spy.) For his book tour (happening now), he’s traveling across the East Coast, reading from Us Conductors with a theremin player at every stop. At his Monday night Greenlight Books reading, thereminist Rob Schwimmer, one of the best players of this rare instrument around (he has played with Sting and others), took the stage for some songs, including a reinterpretation of the Vertigo soundtrack. The theremin is a spooky, haunting instrument, it can sound like a diva opera singer alone in another room, and hearing it in person was pretty magical. People filtering into the bookstore while Schwimmer was playing would get the greatest, What is that noise? look on their faces, turn around, and then see the thereminist at work. It was a brilliant night. — Elisabeth Donnelly, Nonfiction Editor

rectify-sundance-tv-show The Strange Beauty of Rectify’s Monologues

For weeks, Flavorwire nonfiction editor Elisabeth Donnelly has been urging me to watch Rectify, Sundance TV’s Southern Gothic drama about a released death row inmate, Daniel, trying to re-enter the society he never expected to see again. The protagonist’s family struggles to find the empathy needed for such a task, while Daniel himself battles with the social norms he’s forgotten after a 20-year sentence. This tends to inspire some stunning monologues on his part, in which he shocks those around him with vivid descriptions of his twisted yet somehow clarity-ridden worldview. The second season of Rectify premiered last week, but season one is on Netflix for your binging pleasure.  — Jillian Mapes, Music Editor

cameron-diaz-car-scene-the-counselor Ridley Scott and Cormac McCarthy’s The Counselor 

The Counselor was a one of last fall’s most promising pictures — how could it miss? Original screenplay by Cormac McCarthy, directed by Ridley Scott, with Michael Fassbender and Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem and Cameron Diaz and Brad Pitt? And then the reviews arrived, dismissing it as an ill-conceived, incoherent mess; chief jeerer Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir insisted it was “the worst movie in the history of the universe” (which makes me wonder what kind of fifth-grade hyperbole he’d spew if he saw an actual bad movie). At any rate, I didn’t get around to renting it until this week, and maybe it’s a case of lowered expectations, but I found it spellbinding. It’s not a perfect film, by any stretch — it gets a little convoluted, and Diaz seems to be acting on a different planet from her cast-mates. But it’s got mood and atmosphere to spare; its violence is sudden, brutish, and bluntly effective, and McCarthy’s screenplay overflows with great lines, quotable exchanges, and entertaining detours. The Counselor somehow acquired a reputation as one of the great follies of modern cinema, but it’s got more energy and wit than most of what passes for studio filmmaking these days. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor