Staff Picks: Margot Martindale, ‘Variety’ and Emily Schultz’s ‘The Blondes’

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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Margot Martindale

Margot Martindale has one of the most expressive faces of anyone in television; her ability to portray empathy beneath layers of highly trained impassiveness is consistently one of the most gorgeous aspects of The Americans. As I recently mentioned, I was late to The Americans, but I refuse to let that stop me from continuing to Staff Pick different components of the series, as it hasn’t ceased to present, episode by episode, more and more to be enamored with; currently, my character crush is, indeed, Claudia — Martindale’s steely, ruthlessly devoted and occasionally compassionate KGB higher-up character. (I’ll admit I clearly have a tendency to like similar characters). A friend who’s likewise behind on the show recently mentioned how fun it is to imagine her — by whatever life-threatening turn of events The Americans offers up — going into hiding and eventually evolving into the Denver letter carrier that Martindale plays in Paris, je t’aime (she appears in the last short, and is undeniably its the highlight of the movie). My friend’s has overwhelmed me, and I cannot stop imagining how her staunchly American French pronunciations are all just a cover for her actual, Soviet roots. — Moze Halperin, Associate Editor


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The Blondes by Emily Schultz

I just started reading Emily Schultz’s newly-released The Blondes, a dystopian novel about a future disease that turns only blonde-haired women into insane killing machines. It’s like haircolor-selective, gender-selective rabies. With a lively sense of danger already established only 50 pages in, and an absurdist but compelling feminist premise, the book has the enviable qualities of a smart page-turner. I’m looking forward to a few long commutes so I can read more. — Sarah Seltzer, Editor-at-Large


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The House in Alex Garland’s Ex Machina

Ex Machina is some kind of movie. It is a terrifying look into the minds of our current selves and their ability to produce future human/robot selves who are, in one way or another, hideous. But the film is anything but ugly. It’s probably the most beautiful movie of the year, thanks mostly to the hotel in which it was partly shot. The Juvet Hotel is in — but, of course —Norway’s Valldal valley, and its easy intermixing with the organics of the area are perfectly suited to show the full insanity of the film’s villain(s). Oscar Isaac’s dance moves are worth the price of admission, sure, but the architecture? It’s the real star. — Shane Barnes, Editorial Apprentice


 

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Belly Dancing at Brooklyn Airspace

Although I haven’t taken a dance class since I quietly stopped taking tap lessons in eighth grade, the beginner belly dancing classes at the Brooklyn Airspace in Williamsburg caught my eye this weekend. Taught by instructor Brooke Borg, the two hour class was easy to follow by an absolute beginner like me, but also useful for the professional dancer in my group. Everyone could do the moves on their own level, so unlike my tap experience, it was still a workout without being scary. Brooklyn Airspace also has beginner Aerial Silk, Ballet, and Pilates. — Ona Abelis, Editorial Apprentice


 

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Variety (dir. Bette Gordon)

Cult author Kathy Acker’s surreal screenplay, John Lurie’s creepy score, and the old, sleazy Times Square are the stars of this 1983 film, though lead actress Sandy McLeod is also perfect as a beautiful young woman who takes a job selling tickets at a porn theater. It doesn’t take much time — or encouragement — for McLeod’s Christine to become entirely engrossed in the world of sex, crime, and general darkness that surrounds the place. Acker’s script, filled with lurid lapses into monologue, captures Christine’s psychological state without getting too literal. And with Nan Goldin and Cookie Mueller among the cast, plus locations that include Asbury Park, Yankee Stadium, and Chinatown, it’s a must-see for anyone interested in ’80s New York. I saw it as part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s excellent series “The Vertigo Effect,” which traces echoes of the Hitchcock classic throughout cinema. — Judy Berman, Editor-in-Chief


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Sufjan Stevens’ Carrie and Lowell Tour

Sufjan recently kicked off his tour in support of Carrie and Lowell, a collection of the most stunning confessions likely to be heard this year. Given the intimate nature of these songs chronicling familial dysfunction and loss, Stevens often takes the stage alone during this tour, with just a piano or acoustic guitar to accompany his voice. Because much of the album is sparse and Stevens brought a full band on tour, many of the new songs are reworked into grandiose arrangements that swallow the listener whole in the overwhelming intensity of Stevens’ stories. Catch him — or rather, them — if you can. — Jillian Mapes, Music Editor