Slate's Culture Blog

Oct. 21 2014 9:25 AM

The Brilliant Fake Novels of Listen Up Philip

In her review of Listen Up Philip, the new Alex Ross Perry movie about a young writer, the older writer who takes him under his wing, and the women they both antagonize, Dana Stevens writes: “The brilliantly designed book covers for their combined works—with pompous titles like Necessity Never Rests, Madness & Women, or I, Zimmerman—stand among the best jokes of the movie, sending up in a few choice images the whole institution of the macho literary novelist.”

I agree, and so, over email, I asked Perry and Teddy Blanks, who designed the book covers, how these terrific literary jokes came to be. Listen Up Philip is available on-demand starting Tuesday, and opens in a number of theaters across the country this weekend.

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Oct. 20 2014 9:13 PM

The Smart, Talented, and Utterly Hilarious Leslie Jones Is SNL’s Newest Cast Member

The latest dispatch from Lorneland involves an auspicious promotion: Leslie Jones, an SNL writer for the past year, has been hired as the show’s newest cast member. Jones will be a featured player beginning with this week’s episode, hosted by Jim Carrey.

Oct. 20 2014 6:32 PM

Taylor Swift’s Pro-Gay “Welcome to New York” Takes Her Further Than Ever From Nashville 

As jarring a departure as “Shake It Off” may have seemed for Taylor Swift only two months ago, in retrospect it was relatively conservative, and meant to ease us into her new sound. Whereas that dance-pop No. 1 featured mostly acoustic instrumentation, last week’s “Out of the Woods” was a breakup ballad built over an electronic beat. The latest song available to hear off 1989, which leaked this afternoon and hits iTunes later tonight, takes her further than ever from her Nashville roots: It’s a soaring, synth-pop anthem of the kind you could imagine being sung by Katy Perry.

The song’s lyrical conceit is clear from the title—the song is about Swift’s move earlier this year to New York City—and musically it gets a heavy boost from songwriter and anthem-meister extraordinaire Ryan Tedder, who has written and co-written songs for the likes of fellow superstars Beyoncé (“Halo,” “XO”) and Adele (“Rumour Has It”). With its synth handclaps and highly sing-along-ready chorus, the song seems made to convey how big and bright the city can feel to a newcomer.

Oct. 20 2014 5:03 PM

Marcel the Shell Is Back and as Endearing as Ever

Earlier this month in Los Angeles, Jenny Slate joined the Slate Culture Gabfest on stage and explained the murky origins of Marcel the Shell With Shoes On, her adorable stop-motion character, who has just returned for a third installment (directed, as always, by Slate’s husband Dean Fleischer-Camp). The story was almost as endearing as Marcel himself (it helped that Slate happily did the voice). 

Oct. 20 2014 4:42 PM

An Oral History of A Nightmare on Elm Street

“Great horror films don’t win Academy Awards,” says horror auteur Wes Craven. Instead, they make money. Thirty-odd years ago, Craven, who’d eventually go on to direct Scream, had an unusual idea for a movie, inspired by a newspaper story about a boy who suffered from horrible nightmares and then died mysteriously in his sleep

After all the major studios passed on his script, Craven met New Line Cinema’s Bob Shaye, an erudite film-industry hustler. Their A Nightmare on Elm Street, released in November 1984, would become one of the most important and lucrative franchises in film history: It helped restore the evil monster—in this case, the striped-sweater-wearing, dream-haunting, pizza-faced killer Freddy Krueger—to top billing in fright films; spawned eight sequels that, along with the original, grossed a cumulative $370 million; turned New Line into an industry powerhouse; and even launched the career of a young actor named Johnny Depp.

Here, the film’s principals recount its ignominious beginnings, mishap-plagued production, and, of course, unkillable afterlife.

Oct. 20 2014 4:13 PM

Tom Hanks Has a Short Story in The New Yorker. It’s Not Very Good.


Tom Hanks has a short story in this week’s New Yorker. It’s kind of like how Forrest Gump shows up where you least expect him—except, because he’s Forrest Gump, you start to expect him. Anyway, “Alan Bean Plus Four” concerns the moon voyage of four friends—the narrator, MDash, Anna, and Steve Wong—in a homemade spaceship they’ve called the Alan Bean, after the Apollo 12 astronaut. They don’t want to land on the moon, just inscribe a figure eight around it. And that’s what they do, helped along by the magic of 21st-century technology.


I don’t have a lot to say about the story, which basically sums itself up in the first sentence: “Travelling to the moon was way less complicated this year than it was back in 1969, as the four of us proved, not that anyone gives a whoop.”

Oct. 20 2014 3:30 PM

Every Google Glass Ad Should Be This Good

In the two years since FKA Twigs first caught the Internet’s attention with her eye-popping video for “Hide,” she’s established herself as one of the most visually creative musicians going. All of her videos—most recently, “Two Weeks”—are high-concept works of art. Her latest creation, #throughglass, a short film Twigs directed in collaboration with Google Glass, puts the goofy-looking tech device to the best use I’ve seen so far.

Oct. 20 2014 2:39 PM

Gwen Stefani Does Her Best Rihanna Impression on New Song

Gwen Stefani hasn’t released a solo album since 2006’s The Sweet Escape, the underwhelming follow-up to her polarizing 2004 solo debut Love. Angel. Music. Baby. 2012’s No Doubt reunion album, Push and Shove, was the first new material she’d released in six years. But despite her sporadic absences from the studio, she’s obviously kept an ear close to the ground (she’s currently a judge on The Voice), which the just-released “Baby Don’t Lie,” from her forthcoming third solo album, makes very clear.

Oct. 20 2014 1:26 PM

This $248 Denim Jumpsuit Is the Latest Example of a Horrible Fashion Tradition

The Sundance Catalog, as its founder Robert Redford puts it, sells “the kinds of things that we have been privileged to collect, many of them handcrafted exclusively for Sundance.” Named for Redford’s Utah resort and film festival—which were in turn named after his iconic role as the Sundance Kid—the catalog has been burnishing its particular vision of the American West since 1989. Its vision is now earnestly artisanal, grandly scenic, and vaguely Buddhist: high-cheekboned models in distressed leather jackets wear silver jewelry inscribed with sayings like “See Beauty” and “Infinite Love.” Like Redford himself, the Sundance West is both attractively weather-beaten and perfectly turned out. It knows how to build a fire and ride a horse bareback, but it’s innocent of guns, off-road vehicles, mine waste, clearcuts, and subdivisions.

The Sundance West looks, in short, like a pretty nice place, but I've never been able to find it.

Oct. 20 2014 1:10 PM

The Simpsons Pays Tribute to Stanley Kubrick and Gives Us Homer as Sterling Archer

Sunday night’s Treehouse of Horror XXV” episode of The Simpsons featured a section called “A Clockwork Yellow.” While the focus was, of course, on one Stanley Kubrick movie in particular, the writers worked in allusions to several of Kubrick’s films. You can watch a particularly reference-rich segment below, courtesy of Vulture.