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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Comparing Birdman to Soapdish

Birdman, the film, gave me little joy — perhaps because it was trying so hard to be awe-inducing despite its absurdly flat, attemptedly witty dramedy dialogue (which it thought it could hide beneath all that aforementioned forced awe, hoping audiences would be too busy drooling over long shots to catch how terribly trite and on-the-nose it all was). No — no joy from the film. Lots of joy, however, in thinking of how this expensive, indulgent but utterly unsubstantial movie was kind of just Soapdish seen through the eyes of master cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. Think about it: it’s all contained on a massive stage where live performances mirror offstage turmoil, it’s about the relationship between an aging celebrity and their neglected child (who was the product of a brittle Hollywood romance), wherein a serious method actor comes in and messes everything up with his earth-shattering energy and flirtation with that child. Ooh, also, as in Soap Dish, there’s a deceptive toupée! And the movies’ titles are both compound words! So maybe this is a huge stretch. But I feel my only way of retaliating against Birdman‘s badness — and its critical acclaim — is to say that its self-serious humor and ostentation amounted to a film that paled in comparison to the goofiest of 90’s spoofs. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor

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WKRP in Cincinnati: The Complete Series

Getting Hugh Wilson’s four-season radio sitcom onto DVD seemed like a lost cause—the contemporary music drops (abundant and important, considering the subject) were only cleared for broadcast, and a first-season set that replaced them with generic sound-alikes was met with hostility from fans. But Shout Factory has come to the rescue, clearing most (not all, but enough) of the original cues and presenting the entire series run in a single box set. The humor is occasionally too broad and/or leer-y, and they sure weren’t too interested in details (it’s the only radio station in America where the jocks don’t use headphones), but it’s a top-shelf workplace sitcom, its distinctive characters (particularly Howard Hessman’s Dr. Johnny Fever and Richard Sanders’ Les Nessman) quickly established and comically reliable. And it’s aged better than you might think; the third-season closer, in which the station’s “obscene” content is targeted by a right-wing evangelist, has some potent material on censorship and “secular humanism” that I’d be surprised to find in primetime today. Bolstered by a bonus disc of featurettes and a Paley Center reunion talk, this is the WKRP collection fans have been waiting for. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor

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Mark Ruffalo Looking Like a Dork Playing a Boston Globe Journalist

Okay, whatever, Rachel McAdams is also looking silly, too, but paparazzi shots of Mark Ruffalo Dad-jeaning it up as a crusading Boston Globe reporter in the currently filming in Boston film Spotlight give me so much pleasure. The film is about a serious topic: the investigative team that broke the explosive story of child molestation (and coverup) in the Catholic church, and the resulting film could potentially be good, considering the generally trustworthy Tom McCarthy is behind the lens. We’ll see! But until then we have photos of Ruffalo looking rumpled like a dork, not rumpled like an adorable hunk, and that’s a prize. — Elisabeth Donnelly, Nonfiction Editor

Here Lies Love at New York’s Public Theater (see it before it closes!)

Four years ago, David Byrne and Fatboy Slim recruited a whole slew of guests like Tori Amos, Sia, and Florence Welch for a concept rock opera based on the extraordinary life of Imelda Marcos, the controversial Filipino First Lady from 1985 to 1986. Last year, Byrne and Fatboy Slim adapted the album into a stage production at New York’s Public Theatre, which I finally got around to see last week. I should say, I got to experience it last week; the show has you on your feet, moving around and disco dancing right up until its tearful conclusion. The cast does a lot with just a little amount of space and set dressing, and it makes for a show that’s as off-kilter as it is purely entertaining and emotionally resonant to those with an interest in political revolutions. The New York production closes January 4, and the London show at the National Theatre ends not long after that. (The one thing I found amusing was that Imelda Marcos was well-known for her impressive collection of high-end heels — thousands of them — yet in the show, her character wears a simple pair of nude pumps the entire time. Ha!) — Jillian Mapes, Music Editor

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Vince Staples’ and Run the Jewels’ Songs About Police Brutality

The two most affecting songs I’ve heard in 2014 are both about police brutality, both were released in October, and both make use of an emotional crescendo that mirrors the escalating anxiety of a police encounter. The similarities end there. Vince Staples’ “Hands Up” sets A$AP Ferg-like haunted/hellish production behind lyrics that truly deserve it. By the second verse, we find Staples at full tilt in a Balzacian survey of police brutality and misconduct delivered with the wit of true witness. In Run the Jewels’ “Early,” Killer Mike rehearses an immensely frustrating scene with a police officer who stops him for smoking weed. But where Staples wires his exasperation into a ticking bomb, Killer Mike defies all expectations by condensing the reverberations of a police encounter—these encounters affect many lives—into an attempted conversation, which is something that police action strenuously avoids. — Jonathon Sturgeon, Literary Editor

Jess Row, author, "Your Face in Mine" (Riverhead, 2014)

Jess Row’s Post-Apocalyptic Story, “The Empties” in the New Yorker

With Ebola panic hitting New York just a few days ago, a short story about a Northeastern town and how its residents fare after power outages and disease have wiped life as we know it off the map feels very apropos. This tale underscores how fragile contemporary life is, and how dependent we are on forces beyond our control. Maybe we should all move to the country and start living off the land, like, now? Much better prose than Tom Hanks had to offer, too.  — Sarah Seltzer, Editor-at-Large