Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

March 27 2017 4:18 PM

David Milch Comes on Board for a Potential True Detective Season 3

Like it or not, a third season of True Detective may be on the way.

According to Entertainment Weekly, creator Nic Pizzolatto has completed “at least two” scripts for a potential third season of the HBO anthology, more than a year and a half since the end of its poorly received second season.

Given the lackluster reception to True Detective Season 2, which failed to lived up to the expectations set by its watershed first season and was never even as entertaining as the hashtag game it spawned, even fans of the show, to say nothing of Pizzolatto himself, seemed happy to let it die. But the news that David Milch, the creator of NYPD Blue and Deadwood, is also climbing aboard the True Detective train makes it difficult to suppress at least a faint glimmer of enthusiasm.

Of course, Milch is also supposed to be working on the Deadwood movie that will finally bring closure to his revered but short-lived HBO series, which has been off the air for more than a decade, during which time none of Milch’s projects have run longer than a single season. But as the Hollywood Reporter laid out last year, Milch has gambled away most of what was once a $100 million fortune, so you can’t blame him for taking on some extra work, but those bloody floors in the Gem aren’t going to scrub themselves.

March 27 2017 2:35 PM

Barry Jenkins Goes From Best Picture to Binge-Watch, Adapting Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad for Amazon

It’s become fairly common for directors to follow up their first breakout success with a turn on the not-so-small screen: Ava DuVernay went from Selma’s Best Picture nomination to OWN’s Queen Sugar, and Robert Eggers celebated The Witch’s box-office fortunes by signing to do a miniseries about Rasputin. But Moonlight’s Barry Jenkins could be the first to go directly from winning an Oscar to TV land, as the series he was developing based on Colson Whitehead’s novel The Underground Railroad has landed at Amazon Studios. Jenkins has also directed episodes of the forthcoming Netflix series Dear White People, developed by Justin Simien from his film of the same name.

“Going back to The Intuitionist, Colson’s writing has always defied convention, and The Underground Railroad is no different,” Jenkins told Variety. “It’s a groundbreaking work that pays respect to our nation’s history while using the form to explore it in a thoughtful and original way.”

The project, developed with Brad Pitt’s Plan B, who also produced Moonlight, is conceived as a “limited series,” according to TVLine, meaning that it will have a finite end in mind, although the number of episodes has not yet been determined.

Jenkins’ Underground Railroad is still in development, so there’s not much more to report, but Whitehead has already started fan-casting it. Walton Goggins, call your agent.

March 27 2017 1:56 PM

Drake’s More Life Debuts at No. 1 and Breaks His Own Streaming Record

Drake is breaking more records with the release of More Life. In the week following its March 18 release, the album’s songs are estimated to have been streamed 384.8 million times according to Billboard, breaking the record set by Drake’s previous album, Views. Launching with 505,000 album unit sales in total and debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, More Life is easily the biggest new album of 2017 so far and could stand to maintain that title barring any surprise major releases.

More Life didn’t perform as well in traditional album sales, however, with less than half of the units sold accounted for under that metric—a clear reflection of recent industry trends. (This refers to digital downloads only; physical retailers are not yet carrying the album.) More Life is currently second to Ed Sheeran’s Divide in digital sales for 2017, which bowed with more than 300,000 copies sold and is far behind Drake’s own Views, which exceeded 800,000 in its debut. In fact, overall, Views launched with a little more than a million units sold—combining digital sales and streaming—which is nearly double the total of More Life’s reported haul.

Nonetheless, More Life is another huge success for Drake, who has made a habit of shattering music records lately. To close out 2016, he tied Lil Wayne’s Hot 100 record and has shown no signs of slowing down in the months since.

March 27 2017 1:34 PM

Liam Neeson, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Anna Kendrick, and More Audition to Be the New Voice of Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking has used the same iconic computerized voice for more than 30 years, but it’s time for a change. In a video from U.K. charity Comic Relief, Hawking, whose speech is limited due to ALS, held auditions to see who would provide his new voice, a part so coveted that the auditions drew everyone from Stephen Fry to Anna Kendrick to Miss Piggy.

Some celebrities chose to make use of their special talents in their auditions, with Lin-Manuel Miranda rapping and Andrew Lloyd Weber singing a Hawking-themed version of “Memory” from Cats. Others decided to make their case by appealing to the theoretical physicist’s scientific side, with mixed results. “Listen to my voice,” said Liam Neeson, moments before launching into his famous Taken monologue. “It’s deep, it’s sexy, it’s got a tinge of … physics.”

Star Wars star John Boyega had an even more compelling argument. “I feel like I’m the best man for the job. The reason being, I’ve been to space before,” he said. “You talk about space. I’ve lived it.”

But despite the number of eager candidates, Hawking was very selective about who gets to speak for him—even Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne, stars of the actual movie about Hawking’s life, didn’t get the part. And while the acclaimed scientist did manage find a worthy, famous voice in the end (you’ll know it when you hear it), he missed a major opportunity to recruit the most obvious choice: Morgan Freeman. C’mon, Stephen.

March 27 2017 11:56 AM

What Missy Elliot Is Really Saying in “Work It,” According to Karaoke Lyrics

People are freaking out after figuring out what Missy Elliott was actually saying in “Work It.” Don’t believe it? Check out BuzzFeed’s “People Are Freaking Out After Figuring Out What Missy Elliott Was Actually Saying in ‘Work It’” for proof.

Now, a careful reading may reveal that the number of people freaking out over this particular revelation is, not counting replies to the original tweets that make up most of the post, precisely two, which is to say the minimum number necessary to qualify as “people.” But it’s obviously a real phenomenon. Why else would the Huffington Post, Refinery29, Uproxx, and Metro, to name only a few, all be posting more or less the same thing?

It may come as a surprise to learn that “people” are “finally figuring out” something that has been widely known for 15 years, which is that the line after “Put my thing down, flip it and reverse it” is just the same line run backwards—which is to say that Ms. Misdemeanor actually did put her thing down, that thing being the recording of her voice, then flipped it and reversed it. (Technically, both flipping and reversing would be the equivalent of a double negative, but we’ll chalk it up to poetic license and the song being a stone-cold classic.) Every generation gets the chance to discover things for themselves, but “Young People Learn Thing People Older Than Them Have Known for a Long Time” isn’t the most click-inducing of headlines.

More to the point, how is one to proceed with this information, especially in that most pertinent of arenas: doing karaoke in a crowded bar on a Saturday night? Should knowing what Missy is actually saying change your approach, or should you continue to go at those mystery bars like you're cosplaying  Twin Peaks’ Man From Another Place? To settle this nettlesome question, we turned to the most authoritative of sources: karaoke lyrics videos.

Our first example straight-up punts, simply writing “backwards 2x” in lieu of actual lyrics. That’s better than the one that just writes “Put my thing down ...” twice, which is some amateur-hour, my-friends-made-me-come-up-here ish, but either way, the aspiring karaokist is left to his or her own devices.

Ws start to make progress with this karaoke lyrics video, which renders the lyric as “Fwod pilf ti dan esrever ti/ I tup ym gnith,” although it makes the mistake of reversing each word individually, and for some reason seems to think that “down” backwards is “fwod.” (Genius writes the lyrics as “Ti esrever dna ti pilf, nwod gniht ym tup.”) But while this version makes it clear where the line comes from, it doesn’t sound anything like the song, because the process involves reversing Elliott’s phonemes and not the letters in the words themselves.

For true karaoke guidance, then, turn here:


“It’s your femme neppa venette” doesn’t quite nail the whoosh of Elliott’s reversed voice, but it’s fairly close, enough to impress a room full of strangers waiting for their chance to butcher “Sweet Caroline.” Of course, it does open up a whole different line of questions about whether Missy is really, really saying “Barely assist Venice” in Norwegian, but that’s an internet freakout for another time.

March 27 2017 11:01 AM

S Is for Sia Singing About Songs on Sesame Street

S is for Sia, Sesame Street, singing, and “Smile while you watch this very fun video that incorporates all those things I just mentioned.” The multihyphenate pop star–songwriter–music producer can now add “Sesame Street musical guest star” to her CV, joining a very respectable club that includes the likes of Feist, John Legend, and Stevie Wonder. Sia appeared on the children’s television show to introduce the letter S in a lively music video that sees Elmo, Cookie Monster and more dance around her as she expresses her love of music: “S is for songs, and I love songs/ Don’t know what we’d do without ’em/ I love songs so much I wanna sing a song about ’em.”

The video shows more of Sia’s usually obscured face than we’re used to seeing in recent years, with only a red clown nose concealing her as she sings about “jazzy songs and funky songs/ Get-up-and-dance-like-a-monkey songs.” But even with her bangs raised, her signature wig was ever-present—and the Muppets even got to wear matching ones.

Read more in Slate:

March 27 2017 10:05 AM

The Casting JonBenet Trailer Hints at a Hybrid Approach to a Decades-Long Mystery

Netflix is gearing up for the release of Casting JonBenet, a hybrid documentary from Kitty Green that revisits the infamous 1996 murder of JonBenét Ramsey in Boulder, Colorado. In the genre-bending film, Green returns to Boulder and enlists local residents to audition for key roles in the Ramsey family, capturing their attempts to get into character—and their passing thoughts on the long-passed case—while also filming re-enactments of pivotal moments from before and after Ramsey’s death. The result looks like an engrossing reconstruction of events that mixes commentary with performance, investigation with interpretation.

The film premiered to a rapturous response at the Sundance Film Festival in January, praised for its innovative and unconventional approach to the small-town mystery. Indeed, if it lives up to the hype, this could be Netflix’s newest true-crime phenomenon, a more literal approach to Making a Murderer. We’ll find out when Casting JonBenet begins streaming on April 28.

March 27 2017 7:33 AM

How Nicole Kidman, David E. Kelley, and Others Prepared for Big Little Lies’ Domestic Violence Story Line

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Nicole Kidman is having a hard time shaking her Big Little Lies character. Nine months after production ended, the Oscar winner and first-time TV star’s voice quavers when discussing the filming of Celeste’s violent and highly sexual marriage to Perry (Alexander Skarsgård). “I feel weird talking about it,” she says over the phone from the Philadelphia set of Untouchable. “I’m not comfortable because I feel like I want the work to speak for itself, and I don’t like dissecting it too much. It’s one of the hardest roles I’ve had to talk about because I’m still very raw about it. It’s weird.”

Not when you consider the intensity of Celeste and Perry’s story line. From controlling Celeste’s schedule to pushing her around, grabbing her forcefully, and beating her, Perry is a classic abuser. And yet Celeste is, on some level, addicted to her husband’s rage and the sexual energy it unleashes between them, adding gray areas to an alarming domestic situation not usually examined in this way on television.

March 26 2017 10:55 PM

A Look Back: Here’s How the Trailer for Justice League Was Originally Advertised

It’s hard to remember it now, but in the days before its Mar. 25 release, no one knew exactly what the first trailer for Justice League would look like—including, it seems, the people Warner Bros. hired to cut the trailers for the trailer! When the promotional campaign for the Justice League trailer began, the studio’s marketing department—working from very limited approved footage from the trailer to use in the trailer for the trailer—was faced with the difficult task of selling audiences on the trailer for Justice League without spoiling any of its secrets. So how did Warner Bros. pull it off? To answer this question, we’ve dug up all of the original trailers used by Warner Bros. way back on Mar. 23 and Mar. 24. It’s an extraordinary series of trailers for trailers for a superhero movie that, taken as a franchise, rivals legendary one-off trailers for trailers like the Apr. 6, 2016, teaser trailer for the teaser trailer for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. So forget everything you know about the trailer for Justice League, set the Wayback Machine for Mar. 23, 2017, and take a look at the very first glimpses audiences got of the trailer that, in many ways, defined the aesthetic for superhero movie trailers for the entire weekend of Mar. 25 and Mar. 26.

March 26 2017 5:50 PM

Aaron Sorkin Shocked to Discover Hollywood Might Not Be a Gender- and Race-Blind Meritocracy

In a scene that could have come straight from an Aaron Sorkin show, a middle-aged white guy had a revelation onstage at a Q&A on Saturday. The name of that middle-aged white guy? Aaron Sorkin. According to Variety, Sorkin, appearing at the Writers Guild Festival at the Pickford Center for Motion Picture Study in Los Angeles, was shocked, shocked to discover that Hollywood has a problem with diversity. The Academy Award–winning screenwriter behind The Newsroom reportedly reacted with disbelief when asked about the challenges women and people of color face in the film industry.

“Are you saying that women and minorities have a more difficult time getting their stuff read than white men and you’re also saying that [white men] get to make mediocre movies and can continue on?” the creator of Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip asked the audience, apparently rhetorically. He then went on to claim ignorance of Hollywood’s diversity problem, and it seems the word meritocracy was used, since moderator Elvis Mitchell suggested he’d confused the word with meretricious. “You’re saying that if you’re a woman or person of color, you have to hit it out of the park in order to have another chance?” Sorkin later added.