Each week, The Daily Beast scours the cultural landscape to choose three top picks. First up: James Gandolfini in a hilarious political satire.
Laughing Away the Bush Years
After eight years of the Bush administration, it's taken a cadre of Brits to successfully lampoon the ineptitude that led up to the second Iraq war. Director Armando Iannucci’s political satire In the Loop, released in select theaters this weekend, is being hailed as a brilliant sendup of the miscommunication and petty exploitations coursing through politics. The fictional president and prime minister are jonesing for a war and when a government minister, played by Tom Holland, calls a war in the Middle East “unforeseeable,” it sets off a chain reaction of double-talk and bureaucracy. The push-and-pull of underlings—including a comically adept James Gandolfini as a blustering Pentagon general—trying to talk themselves into a war is hilarious, if not terrifying because of its realistic origins. Instead of taking a heavy-handed courtroom approach to the recent wars like stateside releases—Robert Redford’s Lions for Lambs was insufferable to everyone but stars Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep—it takes a more sly approach. In the Loop premiered at Sundance in January, but The Daily Beast’s Caryn James writes that it “plays better today than it did in the early days of the Obama administration” and its “superbly sharp cast” makes it worth watching. In the Loop is a perfect marriage of a still-controversial topic and a director not afraid to remind everyone exactly how we got here.
The Original Moonwalk
One rare treat amid this week’s 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing is a coffee table book so pricey—and undeniably cool—it can’t rest on any piece of plywood from IKEA. Norman Mailer's Moonfire, a 350-page tome compiling Mailer’s articles on Apollo 11 written for Life magazine, includes scans of the original manuscript, Of a Fire on the Moon, developed from the epic feature pieces. Dramatic, never-before-published photographs of NASA’s development and the eventual historic landing fill out the rest of the $1,000 book. Candid shots of Neil Armstrong doing something as simple as eating breakfast are followed by gorgeous photographs of him taking that giant leap on the moon, and seeing the families of astronaut Buzz Aldrin gives a private glimpse of an event that was so public. Taschen is only printing 1,969 copies—get it?—of the book, all hand-signed by Aldrin, and it’s available for pre-order before its release next month. A bonus for those who wait until the last minute—the last 12 books printed will be accompanied by rare moon rocks. If your bank account can’t handle the steep price tag, view our gallery of some of Moonfire’s most fantastic pages.
The Mercury Short List—Long on Indie Rock
Unlike the predictable Grammys, the Brits try to choose their favorite musical artists based more on talent than how “of the moment” a group is. (No Jonas Brothers nominations here.) The shortlist for this year’s Mercury Prize award, rewarding the best British release of last year, was released on Tuesday. Disregarding the obvious snubs of Lily Allen and Doves, two artists edged out by lesser-knowns, the eclectic list cobbled together by industry experts, including journalists and musicians, aims to chose the best album of the year regardless of radio play and sales. Friendly Fires, a four-piece electronic band whose self-titled album still feels fresh a year after its release could trump Bat for Lashes and Kasabian for a win—and deservedly scoop up the £20,000 award. Their dramatic songs pulse with energy and the lead singers’ epic vocals elevate the pop-heavy songs to anthem status. Their song “Paris” was earlier named by The Guardian and NME as a single of the week, and Gossip Girl recently featured their synth-heavy music. The Hertfordshire-based group might just vault into the list of past winners, including Portishead, PJ Harvey, and Arctic Monkeys, during the announcements in London on September 8. In the meantime, get lost in the perfect kind of summertime album.