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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Silver Screen Fiend by Patton Oswalt

“This will be either the most interesting or the most boring addiction memoir you’ve ever read,” Patton Oswalt promises in the introduction of his new book Silver Screen Fiend, and the warning is understandable—this is not the story of his years in the thrall of the bottle or the needle or the crack pipe, but of celluloid. For four years in the mid-to late-‘90s, the recent Los Angeles transplant mainlined new and classic cinema at the city’s many repertory houses, ostensibly as a kind of film school at the service of becoming a filmmaker himself, but ultimately finding his expeditions into the dark a simultaneous escape, addiction, and ritual. He’ll certainly find a sympathetic ear among those of us who find movies to be both a richly satisfying obsession and a mystery we’ll never quite solve, but there’s also plenty here for those who see film as “an enhancement… the way a glass of wine complements a dinner.” As with his previous volume Zombie Spacecraft Wasteland, Oswalt proves himself a skilled wordsmith and evocative scenarist, adroitly capturing both the draw of the cinema, and the need to eventually come out of the dark. — Jason Bailey, Film Editor


 I Love You Honeybear by Father John Misty

Our formidable music editor Jillian Mapes will certainly have more to say about it closer to its release date of February 10, but the new Father John Misty album I Love You Honeybear is magnificent and easily equal to if not better than 2012’s Fear Fun. His lyrics, in particular, are this really potent mix of hilarious and heartfelt, able to say the truth and wink in a single line: “maybe love is just an economy based on resource scarcity.” “Bored in the U.S.A.,” which he performed on Letterman months ago, should be a millennial anthem, with its exquisitely timed and truly brilliant laugh track mocking his angst every step of the way. I only listen to this album and D’Angelo’s Black Messiah now and music is saved forever. — Elisabeth Donnelly, Nonfiction Editor


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Carry the One by Carol Anshaw

I am immersed a novel that was a hot and much discussed release — in 2012. Carol Anshaw’s Carry the One ended up on my e-reader because I wanted to “read for craft” and thought its structure would help me untangle some knots in my own writing process. The novel opens with a tragedy and then braids a group of characters, mostly three siblings, together over years and years as the trauma of that initial night follows them through life. Anshaw’s reach includes a delightful dissection of progressive American politics, tenderness for her queer characters, and a devastating portrait of addiction. This is further proof that yesterday’s new releases can be today’s relevant reads. — Sarah Seltzer, Editor-at-Large


franzeselookingDaniel Franzese and Bears on HBO’s Looking 

HBO had its big Sunday premieres this weekend, one of which was Looking, the show that was billed as the gay Girls but was really, in its first season, a bunch of gay guys sitting around and hooking up in idyllic San Francisco. The show had its problems, but by the first season’s finale, it had smoothed things out and become something worth watching for more than its “gay” tagline.

The second season’s premiere was good, but what stands out to me is the introduction of Daniel Franzese as the HIV-positive bear, Eddie, who kind of hooks up with Agustín. If this character is done well, it’ll work twofold to represent two underrepresented groups, both bears and those with HIV. Okay, okay: I know it seems absurd to hope for an even representation of a gay subgroup that identifies itself, at least superficially, by body type, but my god, as someone who pays very close attention to the bear community, something other than Bear City needs to enter the pop culture lexicon as the go-to “bear” thing. — Shane Barnes, Editorial Apprentice


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Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll by Peter Bebergal (and Brian de Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise)

Aside from guitars and groupies, what ties together rock acts as different as Black Sabbath, David Bowie, and Throbbing Gristle (as well as rappers like Jay Z and pop stars like Madonna) is a fascination with some aspect of the occult. Peter Bebergal weaves their stories together in a book that traces rock and roll’s dalliance with the devil — as well as magic, witches, aliens, and countless other outré beliefs and practices — from early 20th-century blues musicians through the present. But what makes Season of the Witch so valuable isn’t its collection of crazy stories so much as Bebergal’s clear-eyed approach to the material. Neither a church lady nor a disciple of Crowley, the author is able to explore rock’s connection to the occult without scolding or fawning. He also delves deep into musicians’ mystical and aesthetic influences, from ancient cults to obscure 19th-century tomes, creating an alternate history of art and spirituality that reaches back much farther than a century. (As an added bonus, while I was familiar with most of the bands in Season of the Witch, it did introduce me to a new film: Brian de Palma’s Phantom of the Paradise, a bonkers 1974 glam-rock mash-up of Phantom of the Opera, Faust, and The Picture of Dorian Grey that really deserves to be a classic midnight movie.) — Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief


 

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“Iowa,” the Girls Season 4 Premiere

In case you haven’t heard, an epic butt-eating scene got the premiere of Girls’ fourth season off to a rollicking start. But rim jobs aside, “Iowa” was great. As much as I appreciate Girls’ rather bold decision to depict a group of friends that is drifting apart — the way that real friend groups sometimes do — by the end of the third season, I had started to lose interest in the acerbic sniping of four women who seem to kind of hate each other. “Iowa” restores their friendship, at least a little bit. The crew turns out to support Marnie during a performance. Jessa is clearly shattered over Hannah’s imminent departure to the Midwest.  And, most notably, Marnie takes some time out from being insufferable to see Hannah off on her new MFA adventure. The bond between these two was — for a while — the driving force of the series, and I’m looking forward to seeing how their friendship evolves throughout the season. — Brigit Katz, Editorial Apprentice


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Pretending to Be Done with Girls After the Season 4 Premiere

This week, after the premiere, I said goodbye to the Girls of Girls. As they chemistry-lessly sat at brunch and watched Marnie and buttmunch whine their way through an acoustic guitar ditty, I similarly sat watching thinking, “yes, we’ve gotten to this moment. This is the end. They have no reason to be here, and I have no reason to be here. Finally, I am at one with the Girls. Finally, I am done with the Girls.” When Jessa got to address the woman whose suicide she attempted to assist, I felt nothing. And when Adam stared out the window as Hannah left for Iowa, I felt nothing. Obviously I’m looking forward to next week. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor


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Broad City’s Season 2 Premiere

This week I pick… the return of Broad City, because of course I do. I haven’t even watched it yet and I have absolutely no doubt that it will be many kinds of awesome, and since you’re asking, yes, I probably would marry Ilana Glazer for visa purposes. — Tom Hawking, Deputy Editor