Staff Picks: ‘The Stand-Ups,’ Louise Bourgeois, and Vintage Westerns

The books, movies, and TV we're currently thankful for.

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 feature, our staffers recommend the cultural object or experience they’ve enjoyed most as of late. Scroll through for our picks below.

Hour of the Gun and Gun Fury on Blu-ray

I know both titles sound like alternate titles for the year 2017, but these semi-obscure vintage Westerns (both recently out on Blu-ray from Twilight Time) have proven refreshing diversions from everyday woes. Hour opens with about the most inspiring series of credits I can imagine – “JAMES GARNER AS WYATT EARP / JASON ROBARDS AS DOC HOLLIDAY / ROBERT RYAN AS IKE CLAYTON” – accompanied by a rousing Luicen Ballard score. And in fact, producer/director John Sturges begins with the gunfight at the OK Corral; that’s how confident he is. It’s not a circle-back; this compelling frontier drama is concerned with that event’s aftermath, beginning as something of a Trial of the OK Corral before becoming the (rather more intriguing) Revenge for the OK Corral. Whatever it may be, it’s a blast to watch, and its stellar cast really delivers.

Gun Fury not only boasts starring turns for Rock Hudson, Lee Marvin, and Donna Reed (under the sure hand of the great Raoul Walsh), but it’s also restored to its original 3D presentation, which means some traditional Western touches get an extra jolt – I particularly dug the stagecoach driver’s POV shots and the climactic fight of people heaving things at each other (and, thus, the camera). Hudson plays a noble good guy who we know is in trouble when he announces, “I’ve had it with killing, I’m sick of violence and force”; his newfound pacifism is tested with unsurprising speed. It’s gimmicky, sure – but also surprisingly explicit in its post-Civil War soul-searching. Plus, y’know, 3D snakes! – Jason Bailey, Film Editor


Louise Bourgeois: An Unfolding Portrait at MoMA

I’m grateful for MoMA’s exhibition Louise Bourgeois: An Unfolding Portrait, because I think late-period artworks are not as highlighted as they should be—especially artworks by women. Bourgeois constantly revisited her past, making her later pieces just as essential. I appreciated this Hyperallergic interview with curator Deborah Wye who spoke on this subject:

“Studying Bourgeois’s prints, most of which were made when she was in her eighties and nineties, got me interested in late artistic styles generally — the styles of artists like Titian, Rembrandt, Monet, de Kooning. But all of these artists died at different ages, and Bourgeois lived the longest — until 98. A lot of the art-historical literature about late styles talks about similarities found among different artists — characteristics like loose brushwork, a sense of spontaneity, and a tendency toward abstraction. These have been interpreted as evoking spirituality and transcendence. Bourgeois created this particular project when she was 96 and it felt to me like it fit into this general discussion of late artistic styles. Here, she seems to be going back to a primordial state; some see the series as representing the life cycle, from birth to death.”

The show is on view through January 29, 2018. – Alison Nastasi, Culture Editor 


The Standups on Netflix

When every day feels like you’re going to read something terrible in the news, you really need something to help you balance out those bad vibes. For me, that’s been Netflix’s The Standups, released this summer. It’s six stand-up shows, each featuring 30 minutes of solid, below the radar comedy talent. For a casual comedy fan like myself, it’s been great for discovery of “new” talent. And the variety in style and content is huge – giving something for everyone. If you’re looking for a way to decompress after a long day of work and / or troubling world events, this is for you. – Nate Hageman, VP of Media


  

Psychological Commentaries on the Teaching of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky by Maurice Nicoll

For the better part of this year, the first information I take in every morning is a short passage from this book, the initial volume in a collection of five, which is the closest thing I’ve found to an instruction manual for the mind-body-spirit.  A student of Jung, Gurdjieff, and Ouspensky, Nicoll does a masterful job of distilling essential truths of human nature and puts them into forms that are digestible, giving day-to-day lessons to help us wake up.  Starting with the proposition that we are all effectively walking around asleep and living mechanical lives, he spells out clues for how to gain clarity – via brilliant metaphor and scholarly discussion of important esoteric texts, often revealing dynamic insights through etymological study, parsing the nuanced meanings intended in the original works.

The work is dense, with each chapter giving more than enough brilliance for the mind to try and digest each day.  As I come upon the final pages of the first volume, I can’t wait to get into the next five. – Mark Mangan, Co-Founder 


Arbitrary Stupid Goal by Tamara Shopsin

Having no idea what the book is about, the title humored me. I became more intrigued upon learning it is a memoir of growing up in 1980s NYC. What could be more entertaining than reading about your own city back in the day, from a native’s perspective? The book tells of an unconventional childhood growing up in the West Village with quirky parents running a grocery that evolves into a restaurant, which continues to thrive today in Essex Market.

Sprinkled with illustrations and photography, along with frequent appearances by noteworthy actors and writers, Arbitrary Stupid Goal almost reads as a collection of wandering short stories and memories. At times it feels random and doesn’t flow like a typical narrative, but Shopsin manages to reign it in and maintain a subtle yoke. That is the charm – and that is New York. – Maureen Hoffmann, Freelance Writer