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.

detail.21682c11

Epix’s Altman Documentary

Robert Altman gave us one of the most diverse and fascinating filmographies in all of cinema — he flipped genre on its head, rewrote the rules for cinematography and dialogue recording, and crafted a distinctively shambling and shaggy storytelling style, all the while refracting his narratives through a timely and often cynical prism of the contemporary American experience. Ron Mann’s documentary portrait Altman (premiering tonight on Epix) is, as such career profiles often are, frustratingly brief and occasionally shallow — his masterpiece McCabe and Mrs. Miller gets particularly short shrift — but Mann displays a firm understanding of what made Altman such a special filmmaker, as well as seizing on the proper dramatic elements of his own story: the tenacity of Altman’s fallow ‘80s period (where he kept working no matter what, and no matter how comparatively small the project), his health troubles, and how he got away with making his early films in his own style (there is a common theme of men in charge going out of town at key moments). And the archival materials are astonishing: home movies, behind-the-scenes footage from most of his films, unreleased shorts, and even location scouting shots from Hands on a Hard Body, the film he was working on when he died. Epix is making a nice little niche for themselves carrying these filmmaker-based documentaries (last year’s Milius was also very good); Altman achieves the tricky feat of explaining to novices what made the great man so special, while presenting copious surprises and treats for his super-fans. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

willis-earl-beal

Willis Earl Beale’s “Same Auld Tears”

It’s hard to show favoritism toward any one song from Willis Earl Beal’s Experiments in Time, as each song seems a mellifluous fog, with instrumentation so delicate that in singling out any one song or element, I fear it’ll blow right away. The one song that, right now, seems able to withstand a bit of manhandling is “Same Auld Tears,” whose nonverbal introduction and distant, smoky keyboard entice us down into Beal’s timeless, gray (but beautifully so) world. As though bumping up against the walls of his self-imposedly tiny sonic space, every time Beal’s voice rises to meet his emotion, it activates a slight, almost disciplinary static. Despite the song’s lyrics referencing a “caffeine high,” this soporific track will have you out cold over the course of its four minutes, but it’ll be the strangest, most reflective sleep you’ve had in ages. — Moze Halperin, Editorial Apprentice

11709-osheaga-information-osheaga-pictures-osheaga-news

Being Outdoor Music Festival Adjacent

The time in my life when I was ready to spend lots of money for one magical weekend to see my favorite bands ever is pretty much done — there are classy meals and very fancy cocktails to be had for that chunk of change, these days. But last week, I was in Montreal, spending time on the island where Osheaga was happening, and I had the pleasure of seeing and hearing the surreal aspects of Osheaga intrude on my day, whether it was teen girls in extravagant amounts of fringe, plastic flower crowns around their heads or music like Chilidish Gambino, Foster the People, and Pusha T blaring from a distance. When I biked away on Saturday night, it was to the sounds of EDM. Turned out I was passing right by the stage where Skrillex was dropping the bass; I heard it happen live. The crowd freaked out, and I biked up and over a bridge, back to Mile End where I had some bagels and was in bed by ten p.m. — Elisabeth Donnelly, Nonfiction Editor

productimage-picture-fear-455

Gabriel Chavallier’s Fear

Gabriel Chavallier’s Fear, which Franklin Foer recently called “the Catch-22 of World War 1,” also happens to be one of the best and most harrowing war novels I’ve ever read. Timely because of the anniversary of the beginning of the war, but also the sort of book that will make anybody realize just how terrible and terrifying any war is. — Jason Diamond, Literary Editor

screen-shot-2014-08-06-at-10-09-17-am

Kanye Using His Jail Phone Call to Order Chinese Takeout

We here at Flavorwire take our staff picks seriously, using them as a platform to highlight rich cultural corners you may have missed but absolutely need in your life. Which is why I’m choosing a 45-second clip from Keeping Up With the Kardashians, in which Kim claims that Kanye — upon arrest for smashing a paparazzo’s camera in 2008 — used his lone jail phone call to order takeout from the Chinese restaurant Mr. Chow. To jail. Something to remember next time you lash out on an empty stomach. — Jillian Mapes, Music Editor