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.

werner herzog

Shout Factory’s New Werner Herzog Collection

The cinephile fetish object of the week is Shout Factory’s outstanding Herzog: The Collection, a 13-disc retrospective including 14 features and two short films spanning nearly 20 years. It’s a remarkable journey, from his experimental and often impenetrable early works (I know some consider it a cult classic, but Even Dwarves Started Small is a brutal sit) to his confident — and frequently insane — later masterworks. All are on Blu-ray for the first time, and the high-def format is particularly transcendent on the set’s two best known films. Aguirre, The Wrath of God is a scathing critique of colonialism and imperialism; it also finds the filmmaker merging documentary techniques with conventional storytelling, as period costumes are framed by handheld cameras and a grimy production design. And, of course, there’s Klaus Kinski, his icy blue eyes capturing paranoia and stubbornness in the face of clear defeat. Yet that remarkable film is, in many ways, just a dry run for Herzog’s masterpiece Fitzcarraldo, the story of a dreamer, “and it’s only the dreamers who ever move mountains.” Kinski returns as “Brian Sweeny Fitzgerald” (hahaha), who attempts to move a steamship over a mountain, and the images of that act are staggering. But it’s not mere spectacle; this is a film of quietly astonishing lyricism, and offers plenty of opportunities to contemplate the thin line between protagonist and filmmaker (who did all of the things “Fitz” did, and via many of the same methods). — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

snowpiercer

Alison Pill in Snowpiercer

In a movie where the future of the story is systematically obfuscated, held from sight one train-car away, each scene comes as something of a surprise. One such surprise occurs when the rebel forces enter an elementary schoolroom; firstly, seeing Alison Pill in a movie is always a pleasant surprise – she seems to pop up out of nowhere (for she’s rarely billed as a lead), bolstering whatever project she’s a part of for however many minutes she’s onscreen, and then disappearing until the next random time you see her in a film. Here, Pill plays a pregnant schoolteacher who, with the saccharine temperament of Snow White and the questionable teaching skills of Leopold Poetsch, proves to be one of the scariest ultra-capitalist cogs onboard the Snowpiercer. Though her scene is short, between her propagandistic musical number and the coupling of her baby bump and her machine gun, Pill’s manic performance leaves its mark. — Moze Halperin, Editorial Apprentice

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Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion

After reading some essays and interviews of Joan Didion’s (I occasionally go on binges like this in a quest to get closer to her), I had a dream that we were pals. I woke up to the crushing realization that we were not, so an invisible force pulled me to the bookstore to buy Play It As It Lays, as I’ve never read any of her fiction before. I’m barely into it, but as expected, her sentences are just perfect. — Isabelle Biedenharn, Editorial Apprentice

Kiesza on Kimmel

The first time I heard Kiesza’s “Hideaway,” I was so distracted by its video’s pro-North Brooklyn gentrification vibe that I barely heard the music. The song’s really catchy, which it would have to be to hit No. 1 in seven countries, but I just couldn’t shake how hard Kiesza is trying in the video. I mean, a crop top, suspenders, and B-boy dance moves on the streets of Williamsburg? :/ But her performance of “Hideaway,” a missing link between Disclosure and La Roux, on Jimmy Kimmel last night won me over. She’s trying just as hard, if not harder, but it’s far less earnest. It’s a one-shot take down Hollywood Boulevard, with passersby looking onward as Kiesza dances with her crew, Kimmel’s security guard Guillermo, and a Chewbacca impersonator. She starts the performance in a DeLorean and doesn’t even reach the stage until the song’s almost over. — Jillian Mapes, Music Editor

make it rain

The Make It Rain App

I’ve been playing the app Make It Rain obsessively over the last two weeks. I’ve made so much fake money that I don’t even know what to do with it. It’s like Monopoly, but more pointless and on cocaine. — Jason Diamond, Literary Editor

Joyce Manor

Never Hungover Again by Joyce Manor

In 2011, Joyce Manor’s self-titled debut quickly became my favorite record of the year, and I’m sure their recently released third album, the optimistically titled Never Hungover Again, will probably be my favorite of 2014. With a mix of summer-fueled punk and Smiths-influenced lyrics, Never Hungover Again is practically flawless — and watching the band perform these songs live in Brooklyn last week just cemented that fact. At only 19 minutes, it’s short and to the point but leaves you wanting so much more. — Pilot Viruet, TV Editor