Staff Picks: Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s ‘Crashing,’ The Original ‘Beguiled,’ Selenis Leyva on ‘OITNB’, 3Blue1Brown on YouTube

The cultural tidbits we've devoured this week, from math videos to non-queerbait.

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. Scroll through for our picks below.


The 1971 Version of The Beguiled 

Seeing the Sofia Coppola/Cannes news about The Beguiled, her adaptation of Thomas P. Cullinan’s novel and Don Siegel’s 1971 film, inspired a rewatch of the latter. Clint Eastwood stars as an injured Union soldier who is taken in by the young women of a Confederate all-girl boarding school in Mississippi. He manipulates them in an erotic game that, of course, ends badly. And then the body horror starts, as our own Jason Bailey discussed in his recent review of the film.

In The Beguiled, Eastwood eschews his tough-guy persona to play a smarmy predator. A few years later, Eastwood would cast himself in the traditionally female role of a victim and object of obsession in his directorial debut, Play Misty for Me. The Beguiled was released a few months before the iconic Dirty Harry, which cemented his fame.

The movie’s sexism aside, The Beguiled is an interesting snapshot of Eastwood’s evolution as an actor and is as complicated as Eastwood himself. It calls to mind the weird disconnect and tension between his screen image as the stoic hero/antihero/public servant and his reputation as a family man — who was also known for his many affairs (often with much younger co-stars) and illegitimate children. — Alison Nastasi, Weekend Editor


“The Shadow Cinema of the ‘70s” at Quad Cinema

In last week’s interview with author Charles Taylor, I mentioned how I’d seen embarrassingly few of the movies he analyzes in his excellent new book Opening Wednesday at a Theater or Drive-In Near You. Luckily, I live in New York, where the newly reopened (and thoroughly excellent) Quad Cinema hosted a weekend of those films; I saw five, and all were varying degrees of great. Walter Hill’s Hard Times (available on Amazon Video) is a lean, mean, minimalist character study, with a terrific central performance by Charles Bronson, who too often, in the years that followed, had no reason to bother acting at all. Prime Cut (only available on disc) is a shockingly hard-edged item about corruption and exploitation in the Midwest, with Lee Marvin in fine form and Gene Hackman doing one of his chillingly good-natured bad guy turns. He’s similarly, desperately scary in Cisco Pike (disc only) a shambling meditation of the end of the ‘60s, with one of Kris Kristofferson’s first, and still best, performances. But the series highlights were Citizens Band, Jonathan Demme’s wise and witty portrait of small-town oddballs, and American Hot Wax, a staggeringly joyful celebration of creativity, youthful rebellion, and rock and roll. Neither of those films have ever been released on DVD or Blu-ray, which is downright shameful, though Citizen’s Band is available for rental or purchase on Amazon Video – and you didn’t hear it here, but torrents and YouTube rips of Hot Wax are not too hard to find. Happy hunting! — Jason Bailey, Film Editor


3Blue1Brown

For some reason, I’ve been watching a lot of math videos on YouTube of late, which sounds like the most insanely nerdy activity imaginable — and, let’s face it, it is the most insanely nerdy activity imaginable. But math has that reputation — of being irredeemably nerdy, and of being the last thing that anyone would do for fun — at least in part because of its inscrutability. And the videos on 3Blue1Brown — a channel run by former Khan Academy instructor Grant Sanderson — aim to ameliorate that very inscrutability by presenting their subject matter in a form that focuses on the geometric beauty of topics we don’t really associate with either geometry or beauty.

Sanderson’s videos are animated with software he writes himself on the fly, along with music of his own composition (and adorable animated anthropomorphic pi creatures), and they’re both simple and profound. I remember studying, say, calculus at school, and wondering why the derivative was the opposite of an integral, and why an integral gave the area under a curve, and why any of it mattered anyway. It’s these questions that Sanderson’s videos excel in addressing; he presents his material in a manner that’s easy to follow and easy to understand, but also gets at the truths and concepts that underlie the things we’re often presented at school as faits accompli that just need to be memorized and applied. They’ve gotten me interested in math for the sake of math, 20 years after I finished high school. Who’d have thought it? — Tom Hawking, Editor-in-Chief


Selenis Leyva as Gloria Mendoza on Orange Is the New Black 

Full disclosure: I am not yes finished with the 5th season of OITNB, so if I say anything that turns out to be contradicted in later episodes, my apologies. Thus far, though, this time/narrative-encased (yet somehow still dizzyingly meandering, and somewhat uneven) season — about a riot at Litchfield that takes place over the course of three days — revels in giving into chaos. The power structures within the prison have been thrown askew, and the characters are rapidly rebuilding, then just as quickly dismantling, new structures, as leadership in the riot gets passed around in the form of a gun. The audience has to adapt to new narrative structures, and new character alliances, just as quickly.

As Gloria Mendoza, Selenis Leyva manages to bring a grounding performance into the mix, resisting chaos (at least for now) as much as she can. Yet somehow this doesn’t make Gloria in any way a boring character, but actually one of the more interesting ones. Ever so slightly older than a many of the inmates (especially those within the “Spanish Harlem” section of Litchfield), Gloria bears the burdens of being just a little more rationally driven (unless it involves her kid, as we saw in her plot line with Burset). She thus of knowingly watches as utopic ideals crumble around her, as the lovely notion of a Litchfield without abusive guards turns into its own squalid, often amoral playground, full of its own abuses. Leyva is a commanding actor, effortlessly thrusting viewers into the rhythms of her multilayered emotional experience — particularly in a scene where she calls Aleida Diaz to tell her about how Daya might be in major trouble, but then instead convincingly holds back, quickly spinning a personal excuse for the call. There’s a lot of twisted stuff that happens on this show — and the type of hardened warmth Gloria exudes is always refreshing. — Moze Halperin, Senior Editor


Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Crashing 

As a huge fan of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag (and one who’s also hugely excited about her upcoming series starring Sandra Oh as a spy hunting a psychopathic assassin), I was a little less excited about the premise of Crashing. It sounded — and in many ways, is — a lot like a more traditional ensemble sitcom, following the lives of a gaggle of semi-bohemian 30-somethings. (The catch of the premise is that they all live in an abandoned hospital.) But Bridge is an expert at quickly writing characters with weird, hilarious mean streaks and, often, big hearts hidden beneath their very particular, Londoner jadedness. One of the things that surprised me most about my enjoyment of the first season was that I wasn’t annoyed by its seemingly typical queerbait-y plot — which (light spoiler), it turns out, actually goes somewhere non-bait-y at all! Anyway, the short first season is a completely enjoyable three-ish hours of TV, with a pack of “unlikable” characters who also happen to be damn endearing. — Moze Halperin, Senior Editor