Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Feb. 21 2017 4:35 PM

The Trailer for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Is Guy Ritchie at His Guy Ritchie–est

Legend tells of a director who, it has been prophesied, will one day make the true, definitive film adaptation of the legend of King Arthur, freeing a grateful populace from having to see it remade every few years. Guy Ritchie wants to be that director, but don’t expect him to tone down any of his Guy Ritchiness to do so. A new trailer for Ritchie’s proposed Arthurian epic, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, promises plenty of high-octane action—with an anachronistic soundtrack to go with it—to accompany his story of the mythical British king, played in this version by a rough-and-tumble Charlie Hunnam.

“Why does the sword reveal itself now?” asks Jude Law, playing sneering warlord Vortigern. Why now, indeed. Maybe studio executives saw Excalibur, or First Knight, or the spectacularly lackluster King Arthur, and thought, You know what we really need? Another one of these. Maybe Guy Ritchie fell asleep while watching A Knight’s Tale, and then the idea of adding Zeppelin to this particular medieval myth came to him in a dream. Maybe strange women lying in ponds and distributing swords are now also writing spec scripts.

We may not know for sure until the sword finally does reveal itself on May 12.

Feb. 21 2017 2:48 PM

Taking a Bite Out of “S--- Sandwich”

This post originally appeared on Strong Language, a sweary blog about swearing.


These are the best of times for the hard-working shit- prefix. Last week, here on Strong Language, Ben Zimmer investigated the origins of shitgibbonan epithet that has attached itself to the current occupant of the White House—and plumbed its deeper history in a follow-up post on Slate’s Brow Beat blog. This week, the merde du jour is shit sandwich, which surfaced Thursday afternoon in a tweet from CNN anchor Jake Tapper about Robert Harward, a retired vice admiral, refusing the post of national security adviser.

Feb. 21 2017 12:08 PM

Watch the Rogue One VFX Team Bring Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin Back to Life in New Behind-the-Scenes Video

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story scored an Oscar nomination for Best Visual Effects, and a new video from the George Lucas–founded visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic makes a compelling case for why the film should take home the prize. Actor Peter Cushing died in 1994, but he was able to reprise his role as Grand Moff Tarkin in the 2016 movie, with ILM digitally recreating the character on screen. The VFX reel shows Guy Henry stepping into the role on set, providing Tarkin’s voice and a motion capture performance onto which ILM painstakingly superimposed Cushing’s likeness.

While Cushing’s estate consented to Disney using the late actor’s likeness in Rogue One, the move has raised certain legal and ethical questions about digitally resurrecting dead performers. The late Robin Williams, for instance, left his likeness to a trust with a condition that protects his image for 25 years after his death, effectively preventing him from being digitally recreated for movies or advertisements. Rogue One also recreated a young Princess Leia, but Disney has said that the studio has no plans to replace Carrie Fisher using computer-generated imagery in future Star Wars films, even after her death late last year.

ILM also released a VFX reel showing off the studio’s methods for creating a space battle above Scarif:

Feb. 21 2017 11:40 AM

Richard Linklater Made an Ad Opposing Texas’ Anti-Trans Bathroom Initiative

Lone Star State native Richard Linklater has filmed an advertisement for I Pee With LGBT, the organization formed in response to Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s anti-transgender bathroom initiative SB6. Better known as the Texas Privacy Act, the bill would ban trans people from using the bathroom corresponding to their gender identity.

The bill was announced in early January and has been met with intense resistance in the month since then. Both the NFL and the NBA have condemned its potential passage, with the latter organization warning that potential events in the state could be preemptively canceled, as happened in North Carolina. In total, North Carolina—which passed a similar law last March—was estimated to have lost over $500 million in business as of Jan. 6 due to the business community’s backlash.

Linklater’s ad features plenty of delightful wordplay—“You’ve got to take a seat to make a stand,” “You’ve got to spray it to say it”—and stays fairly light in tone, bringing together a rainbow of individuals to advocate for a pretty basic human right.

You can learn more about I Pee With LGBT and Texas’ SB6 here.  

Feb. 21 2017 10:15 AM

Stephen Colbert Asks That We “Never Fjorget” the People We Did Not Lose in the Sweden Terror Attack That Never Happened

President Trump loves to talk tough about putting an end to radical terrorist groups, but when it comes to identifying “the enemy of the American people,” the news media pushes into first place.

Stephen Colbert, for one, found that some people were feeling left out. “You know who I feel bad for? ISIS,” the Late Show host joked Monday night in response to Trump’s latest Twitter tirade. “They try so hard. Sorry, ISIS—if you want to get on the list, you’ve got to publish photos of Trump’s inauguration crowd.”

But while Trump has been relatively quiet on ISIS, he and his administration have sounded the alarm bells on, in Colbert’s words, “not-a-terrorist-attacks.” Indeed, the Trump White House has now called attention to three instances of terror that never actually occurred, most recently in Sweden. “Sweden is the third not-a-terrorist-attack that has not-shocked the world in the last month—first there wasn’t the Bowling Green Massacre, then no one was lost in Atlanta, and now it’s not Sweden’s turn,” Colbert quipped. “When will it begin? Just because this attack didn’t happen, folks, doesn’t mean we don’t stand in solidarity with all the people who did not suffer.”

And indeed, Colbert and his Late Show team put together a commemorative video—aptly titled “Never Fjorget”—for those Swedes who were not lost in the noncarnage. Maybe Trump just wanted to give us an opportunity to appreciate Ikea more?

Feb. 21 2017 8:03 AM

Why Are American Directors So Bad at Sex?

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

It may sound like cinematic blasphemy to suggest this, but one of the best movies of the year, the Sundance sensation Call Me by Your Name, has a whole lot in common with one of the most critically derided, Fifty Shades Darker. Both films are romantic stories about a sexual neophyte who falls for a wealthy, wary hunk, and even the way that Call Me by Your Name’s Oliver (Armie Hammer) exits every situation with a blithe “Later” recalls the impossibly dorky sign-off of Fifty Shades’ Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan), “Laters baby.”

There’s one key difference, though. One of these films presents its coming-of-age story in a way that’s actually sensual, and the other is Fifty Shades Darker. Or, to put a finer point on it, Call Me by Your Name was made by a European and Fifty Shades Darker was directed by an American. The latter never stood a chance.

Feb. 21 2017 7:33 AM

Moonlight Editor Joi McMillon on That Pivotal Diner Scene and Showcasing the Love of Cooking

Joi McMillon made history in January when she became the first black woman (and only the second black person in nearly half a decade) to be nominated in the Best Editing category at the Academy Awards for Moonlight. McMillon got her start in the industry by working in the reality TV world, eventually making her way into assistant roles on a string of features, including the 2007 film Talk to Me and, more recently, Sausage Party.

In the latest episode of the Slate podcast Represent, Aisha Harris spoke with her about how she crafts a scene, navigating and making connections in the industry, and working alongside co-editor Nat Sanders on Barry Jenkins’ Oscar-nominated film. Below, a transcribed and edited excerpt from that conversation, in which McMillon breaks down a pivotal piece of the film. You can check out the full episode in the audio player below.

Feb. 20 2017 9:36 PM

Every U.S. Presidents Day, Ranked From Worst to First

Regardless of political orientation, every American has strong opinions about the best and worst Presidents Days in our nation’s history. People who dedicate their lives to the study of the past feel even more strongly than civilians—you can’t put a group of U.S. historians in the same room for more than five minutes before they start bickering over their favorites. But which Presidents Days were empirically the greatest? To answer that question, Slate polled* billions of academics, historians, pundits, and car dealers and compiled their thoughts on the most historically significant, influential, and all around greatest Presidents Days into this ranking, which runs from the worst Presidents Day in American history all the way to the very best. (We started with 1880, back when it was called Washington’s Birthday—which, technically, it still is.) Where do your favorite Presidents Days land?

Feb. 20 2017 4:10 PM

John Oliver Eviscerates Donald Trump’s Ties to Vladimir Putin

When news broke last Monday that national security adviser Michael Fylnn had resigned over his communications with Russia, it was a sure thing that John Oliver would lead this fat, juicy story to the slaughter—and he did not disappoint. Sunday night Oliver positively eviscerated the administration’s complicated relationship with Vladimir Putin.

Oliver opens by taking allegations of Russian influence over Trump associates like Paul Manafort and stunning them with a captive bolt pistol of truth. Next, the waggish host skewers the trotters of a montage of Trump saying nice things about Putin with a piercing gambrel of logic, suspending it upside down and using his razor-sharp wit to sever its carotid artery and jugular vein. Before the troubled administration’s murky web of foreign business and personal relationships is even fully exsanguinated, he submerges it—along with Russian pop song “A Man Like Putin”—in a scalder, loosening the hairs of hypocrisy with the boiling water of reason.

Feb. 20 2017 12:19 PM

#OscarsSoWhite Creator April Reign on Hollywood’s Progress and What Work Still Needs to Be Done

One of the narratives that will dominate the Academy Awards ceremony this Sunday is how white or not-so-white the winners will ultimately end up shaking out to be. Already this year has made history, particularly as seen with the number of nonwhite nominees spread out amongst all of the acting categories.

A huge reason—perhaps the primary reason—we’ve gone from such paltry representation at the Oscars for two years in a row to a greater leap forward this year is April Reign, the activist who first started the influential #OscarsSoWhite hashtag and reignited a movement towards inclusion in Hollywood. In a recent episode of the Slate podcast Represent, Aisha Harris had a conversation with Reign about her thoughts on this year’s nominees, her collaboration with other activists, and what needs to happen in order for progress to continue. Below is a transcribed and edited excerpt from the interview. You can check out the full episode in the audio player below.