Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

May 26 2016 1:03 PM

Watch Spoon Perform New Song “I Ain’t the One,” Cover David Bowie and Prince

Spoon has been keeping a low profile since They Want My Soul, but over the weekend the band’s vocalist-guitarist Britt Daniel and keyboardist Alex Fischel played Festival Marvin in Mexico City. There they debuted a new song, “I Ain’t the One,” their first since premiering “Satellite” in Houston in late 2014.

Even as an acoustic set, “I Ain’t the One” has that distinctive, brooding Spoon sound. Daniel and Fischel also paid tribute to two of their musical inspirations who died this year, David Bowie and Prince, with covers of “I Can’t Give Everything Away” and “Under the Cherry Moon,” below:

I Can’t Give Everything Away:

Under the Cherry Moon:

May 26 2016 11:56 AM

The New CollegeHumor Show Bad Internet Is Like Black Mirror for Millennials

They’ll be there for you—or else. The first episode of CollegeHumor’s new series Bad Internet, now available on YouTube Red, imagines a terrifying dystopian future in which all of society is divided into categories based on BuzzFeed’s “Which Friends Character Are You?” quiz. Irene Choi plays Sarah, the fresh-faced heroine just waiting to find out whether she’s a Monica, a Chandler, or even—gasp!—a Gunther, while Cheri Oteri plays the “head Rachel” who must quell the revolution Sarah sparks when her quiz results fall outside of the Friends universe.

The first episode is obviously littered with Friends references, including some spot-on impressions and deadpan gems like “Our jobs were a joke, we were broke … and a nuclear holocaust wiped out most of humanity.” But the show also mines the entire dystopian young adult genre for clichés, with clear parallels to Divergent and to Black Mirror, which Sam Reich singled out as an inspiration for the series. It’s very funny stuff, and it’ll be interesting to see how future episodes manage to handle a post-Friends society.

May 26 2016 11:42 AM

Nashville Wasn’t Just a Mediocre Show About Country Music. It Was a Great One About Addiction.

Barring an unexpected encore, Wednesday night’s Season 4 finale was the last we’ll see of Nashville, and I’m not going to cry in my beer about it. Despite a powerful cast and an inspired premise, the ABC drama was weighed down by unrealized storylines and desultory supporting characters, and its plot managed to drag even as it careened from one implausible crisis to the next.

May 26 2016 8:32 AM

The Rise of the British Thriller on American Television

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

The 2016 Emmy race has begun, and Vulture will take a close look at the contenders until voting closes on June 27.

When it premiered on the BBC last winter, The Night Manager became a full-blown cultural event. Director Susanne Bier’s John le Carré adaptation reached over 8 million viewers—roughly 12 percent of the British population—and helped make its star, Tom Hiddleston, the odds-on favorite to don James Bond’s bow tie after Daniel Craig retires. It’s certainly difficult to imagine better Bond-bait than the role of a charming hotel night manager recruited to infiltrate an international arms dealer’s inner circle.

In its current U.S. run on AMC, where the miniseries’ finale airs Tuesday night, The Night Manager’s ratings victories have been somewhat less dramatic. It has, however, become the most visible in a new wave of British TV thrillers landing on American shores. The past several months have also brought us London Spy on BBC America and The Last Panthers, a collaboration between U.K. network Sky Atlantic and France’s Canal+ that aired its finale last week on Sundance.

This isn’t an entirely new phenomenon. In 2014, the Telegraph traced the roots of a vogue for thrillers on U.K. television to the popularity of Denmark’s The Killing. Some of these shows, like The Missing and The Fall, made it to America, where the explosion of networks and streaming services hungry for original programming has made space for foreign series that never would’ve reached us before. But by the time The Night Manager arrived, it had an unusual amount of support behind it: AMC programming head Joel Stillerman called it “an event show” and said the network planned to “market it as aggressively as we market any other originals.”

May 26 2016 8:02 AM

A Spycraft Expert on How to Perfectly Search a Room, as on The Americans

Each week on Slate's TV Club Insider podcast, June Thomas sits down with the creators, cast, and crew of The Americans as they reveal behind-the-scenes details about the making of the FX drama's fourth season. 

In this installment about Episode 411, “Dinner For Seven,” H. Keith Melton, author and co-founder of the International Spy Museum, joins June Thomas and showrunners Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg to discuss his collection of KGB spy gear and how he advises the show on everything from lock picking techniques to what type of camera the characters should be using.

May 26 2016 12:35 AM

Kate Mara and Toby Jones Have Terrible Research Ethics in the Trailer for Morgan

No one says “disreputable scientist” like Toby Jones, so it’s no mistake the first trailer for Morgan features him prominently. It looks like it’s going to be one of those Twilight Zone–type films, set in a world almost exactly like our own, except for one little detail that throws everything into creepy disarray. In this case, of course, the change is that no one has read or watched Frankenstein, to say nothing of A.I., Splice, WarGames, or All About Eve. How else to explain the fact that it seemed like a good idea to the film’s characters to build some sort of artificial human?

While it may not be the freshest premise, the slow track in to Mara with off-screen footsteps is genuinely creepy, so with any luck this will be at least as good as Ex Machina, even if it doesn’t have Oscar Isaac dancing.

May 25 2016 11:43 PM

Blunder Your Way Through the Art of Cinema With These Hilariously Inaccurate Video Essays

Video essays started off so well, with critics like Matt Zoller Seitz using video clips to, well, craft an essay: an argument about a filmmaker’s work, illustrated with the work itself. Since then, the form’s fallen on hard times, because most other video essayists suffer from a limited set of stylistic tics and a limited set of cinematic interests. When Tony Zhou—whose video essays are wonderful—has to explicitly tell viewers he’s not making a Wes Anderson video essay, but here are 19 other video essays about Wes Anderson plus lots of other resources so please stop asking, things are clearly headed for the cliff.

Cameron Carpenter’s Why Is Cinema series, then, gives the whole form a well-earned kick off the edge. Above, you’ll find his incisive survey of director cameos, which range from the merely mislabeled (Werner Herzog’s role in Jack Reacher, which he did not direct) to the neither-of-these-people-are-even-in-this-movie-and-certainly-didn’t-direct-it (M. Night Shyamalan’s sexy shoulder kiss with Julianne Moore in The Others). But Why Is Cinema isn’t just a collection of lies: Carpenter perfectly captures the bad writing and awkward delivery that plague the form. There’s even a nonsensical fan theory.

Carpenter has made several of these, from career retrospectives like “Sidney Lumet Should Have Tried Harder,” to the mandatory Ghostbusters trailer response video, and they’re all worth checking out, but after the jump, you'll find two of the most essential.

May 25 2016 6:04 PM

There’s a Twitter Account Dedicated Entirely to Oscar Isaac Dancing to Random Songs

You may remember a certain dance scene in Ex Machina in which Oscar Isaac tears up the dance floor with Sonoya Mizuno to Oliver Cheatham’s “Get Down Saturday Night”—heck, it might even be the moment when you first fell in love with Isaac. What you may not realize is just how versatile Isaac’s sweet moves can be. Fortunately, Twitter user oscardances is on a mission: to pair that memorable dance with as many random songs as possible.

May 25 2016 4:00 PM

This Hodor Doorstop Is the Perfect Gift for Still-Weeping Game of Thrones Fans

If you’re still reeling from Games of Thronesmost heartbreaking episode yet, there may be one way to heal the hole in your heart—or at the very least, to acquire a pretty clever piece of homeware. In light of the revelation that the origin of Hodor's name is “Hold the door" and in tribute to him following that tragic turn of events, fan-made Hodor doorstops have been popping up everywhere.

May 25 2016 1:07 PM

A Fascinating Video Essay Explores the Key Reason Why Calvin and Hobbes Remains So Beloved Today

It's probably safe to say that Calvin and Hobbes, Bill Watterson’s daily comic about the adventures of a precocious young boy and his wise stuffed tiger, is one of the most beloved and influential comic strips of all time. A new video essay, courtesy of Kristian Williams, aka YouTube’s KaptainKristian, examines the comic’s resonance and the reasons for its enduring legacy.

Calvin & Hobbes: Art Before Commerce” argues that Watterson’s urge to explore big ideas, rather than mint a marketable brand, was the essential quality by which the comic transcended the trappings of its medium. With such a sincere, imaginative approach in place, anything was possible: The duo’s cartoonishly-rendered visual reality became an opportune point of contrast to Calvin’s richly detailed internal life; the industry-standard 2-by-2-inch flat boxes became an excuse to show characters defying the boundaries of publishers and life alike. As Williams makes clear, it’s no wonder that Calvin and Hobbes continues to inspire new audiences more than two decades after Watterson put down his pen. 

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