Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Nov. 30 2016 9:34 AM

An Upcoming Prince Documentary Will Reportedly Feature Mick Jagger, Bono, and More

Screen Daily is reporting that Prince: R U Listening?, an upcoming documentary about the late music legend, has been slated for a spring 2017 release by Swiss distributor Ascot Elite Entertainment Group. The film is directed and produced by Michael Kirk (of the upcoming music doc Find Your Groove) and will apparently focus on the beginnings of Prince’s career and his path to stardom.

It seems that Kirk has gathered an impressive group of collaborators to help tell Prince’s story. In addition to the likes of Bono, Mick Jagger, Lenny Kravitz, and Billy Idol, Prince will bring together the icon’s former bandmates and close friends, inclulding Dez Dickerson, Prince’s first guitar player, and Sheila E.

Nov. 30 2016 8:33 AM

The Heightened Sense of Privilege in Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Gilmore Girls was never an overtly political show. But during its original seven seasons, which aired primarily during the George W. Bush era, the divide between the wealthy, conservative Emily and Richard “friend of Scooter Libby” Gilmore and the slightly less advantaged, liberal-leaning Lorelai and Rory Gilmore certainly echoed the political divide in America. But other divides—specifically economic and racial ones—weren’t always illustrated with quite as much pointed clarity.

Nov. 30 2016 5:45 AM

Why the Emotionally Manipulative Melodrama This Is Us Is Exactly the Show We Need Right Now

In May, the trailer for NBC’s ensemble family drama This Is Us hit it big, netting an estimated 80 million views across digital platforms within just two weeks. The show, which follows a group of interconnected characters who have the same birthday, effectively went viral before it even premiered: While relatively modest in star power (Mandy Moore, Milo Ventimiglia, and The People v. O.J. Simpson’s Sterling K. Brown are the banner names), its trailer cannily tugged on the heartstrings and offered a touch of mystery, too. Its tagline alone was enough to well the eyes: “This is real. This is love. This is life. This Is Us.”

Since debuting in September, This Is Us has steadily accumulated buzz, now pulling in nearly 10 million live viewers per week. (That still doesn’t include the online viewers or binge-watchers who check out the series in chunks.) Similar to Empire a few years ago, This Is Us has emerged as the rare contemporary broadcast drama to really strike a chord across the country. But where Empire and other recent network hits like Scandal thrived in part by reaching an underserved and underrepresented audience, This Is Us has bucked ratings trends in less obvious ways. Dan Fogelman’s series has served as heartwarming counterprogramming to a notoriously difficult year. It’s become the ideal escapist television show for 2016.

Nov. 30 2016 1:58 AM

Hillary Clinton Emerges From the Woods to Honor Katy Perry

On Tuesday, as the government began starving and freezing the Dakota Access Pipeline protestors and Donald Trump continued appointing generals for his war on women, the poor, and Mitt Romney’s dignity, Hillary Clinton made one of her first public appearances since the election, visiting the UNICEF Snowflake Ball to honor Katy Perry. According to Deadline, Clinton’s appearance was a surprise that earned her a standing ovation and moved Perry to tears.

Nov. 30 2016 12:39 AM

The Going Rate for Mitt Romney’s Soul Is Apparently a $215.57 Meal at Jean-Georges

On March 3, 2016, Republican Party elder Mitt Romney gave a speech about Donald Trump in which he listed the then-candidate’s defining characteristics as “the bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics,” called him a “con man,” a “fake,” a “phony,” and a “fraud” who was “playing the members of the American public for suckers,” and, worst of all, said when it came to foreign policy, Trump was “very, very not smart.” As recently as October, here’s how Romney felt about the Republican nominee:

Nov. 29 2016 5:04 PM

Watch Winona Ryder’s Tearful Tribute to Ethan Hawke at the Gotham Awards

Twenty-two years after Reality Bites, Lelaina and Troy are together again—sort of. Winona Ryder and Ethan Hawke, who starred in the 1994 cult slacker hit, shared the stage on Monday when Ryder introduced her former co-star at the Annual Gotham Independent Film Awards. “I had the great pleasure of working with him 20 years ago when we were twentysomethings,” said Ryder of Hawke. “And even back then, it never surprised me that he would go on to be a great screenwriter, novelist, that his craft would continue to grow and astonish.”

Hawke, whose more recent credits include The Magnificent Seven, In a Valley of Violence, and Born to Be Blue, was one of the recipients of three career tributes at the Gothams, alongside Amy Adams and Oliver Stone. In his acceptance speech, he looked back at his career, including the years after his film with Ryder.

“I was absolutely 100 percent convinced that I was completely washed up,” said Hawke. “Reality Bites was passé. The whole poster-boy-for–Gen X thing was done. Nobody was interested in that anymore.” Obviously, things worked out for Hawke, who, in addition to his tribute at the Gothams, has been nominated for four Oscars, plus a Tony. But Hawke noted that he finds the accolades that come with his work “unnecessary,” because he loves what he does: “I hope the next time I’m washed up that it won’t be the last time, because there are so many people here tonight that I want to work with again, who I’ve already worked with, people who I love.”

And then, just to send your Gen X nostalgia into overdrive, he topped the whole thing off with a smooch from Ryder.

Nov. 29 2016 3:05 PM

Trump’s Supporters Are Right: We Must Reform Rotten Tomatoes

Monday night, the man who will, in less than two months, become the president of the United States, used his Twitter feed to disseminate baseless claims of voter fraud originating from a handful of obscure accounts, one of which belonged to a 16-year-old Anaheim Ducks fan. As he did during the campaign, when manual retweets of conspiracy theories from neo-Nazi accounts were a common occurrence, Trump showed no apparent concern for the credibility of his sources, but with @HighOnHillcrest, he inadvertently struck gold. The HighOnHillcrest tweet Trump chose to spread to his more than 16 million followers attacked CNN’s Jeff Zeleny for failing to prove that Trump did not “suffer from millions of FRAUD votes,” one of more than three dozen in a row attacking the news network, along with a wide assortment of journalists and publications. But scroll back a few days, and you’ll find HighOnHillcrest going after the real big game: Rotten Tomatoes. “Pls fix @RottenTomatoes Tomatometer,” he tweeted at the site’s editor-in-chief, Matt Atchity. “Percentages are misleading & don’t give REAL review summary. ADD rating percentage avg!” (Naturally, he tagged CNN as well.)

HighOnHillcrest may be wrong about the likelihood that millions of fraudulent votes were cast in the last election, and he’s certainly confused about where the burden of proof lies. But where movie review aggregation sites are concerned, he has a point. Rotten Tomatoes’ iconic Tomatometer is misleading, or at least it doesn’t convey what most people think it does, and the site does little to combat that misperception. We naturally interpret percentages the way we learned in grade school: Something in the mid-80s is a solid B, and 100 percent is absolutely flawless. But Rotten Tomatoes’ rating system doesn’t distinguish between a rave review and a lukewarm one. No matter how weak a critic’s thumbs-up is, it counts as “Fresh.” It’s the review-aggregation equivalent of the Electoral College, where winning by one vote or by millions produces the same end result.

As with the Electoral College, the rules by which the Tomatometer operates are clearly defined, so there’s no real excuse for misinterpreting the results, whether it’s thinking that a “100% Fresh” rating means critics passionately love a movie rather than that none of them dislikes it, or claiming that the third-narrowest Electoral College win since 1980 and a popular vote loss of more than 2 million constitutes a “landslide.” The problem is that what the Tomatometer actually reflects is less useful than what many people think it reflects. If you’re trying to choose what to see, you don’t really want to know how many critics think a movie is basically OK. You want to know if they love it and how much, in which case Metacritic, which draws from a more selective pool of critics and scores their reviews for content, not a simple thumbs-up or -down, is a far more effective tool. (Caveat: Both sites reflect the institutional biases of contemporary criticism, which is to say they’re heavily tilted toward white males and underrepresent women and people of color, and it’s always better to rely on the voices of individual critics than a numerical aggregate.)

On Metacritic, a score of 100 indicates not only unanimous critical approval but uniform adulation, a feat so rare that only three movies in the site’s history have achieved it. Rotten Tomatoes, by contrast, lists four movies with “100% Fresh” scores in 2016 alone. But Rotten Tomatoes has so dominated the discourse of review aggregation that you often see Metacritic’s ratings followed by a percent sign, even though that’s not what Metascores represent. Studios, naturally, prefer the more lenient Tomatometer—who wouldn’t opt to bill, say, The Jungle Book, as a movie that’s 94-percent fresh rather than one with “generally favorable reviews” and a Metascore of 77—and their use of the Rotten Tomatoes logo in ads and on DVD boxes further cements the site’s prominence. In other words, at least as far as the practice of aggregating reviews and converting them into a numerical value, HighOnHillcrest has a solid point. Now, about that voter-fraud thing …  

Nov. 29 2016 2:47 PM

Manchester by the Sea Wins National Board of Review Award for Best Film

Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea was named Best Film by the National Board of Review on Tuesday, a small but significant boost to its Oscar chances as awards season kicks into high gear. The movie also won for Best Original Screenplay (Lonergan) and Best Breakthrough Male (Lucas Hedges), and in addition, Oscar front-runner Casey Affleck followed up on his Gotham win from Monday night with another Best Actor victory.

Nov. 29 2016 12:16 PM

Hamilton Brings In a Record-Breaking $3.3 Million in Ticket Sales After Mike Pence Showdown

We’ll skip the Hamilton puns for once and get straight to the news: Just a week after being harshly criticized by President-elect and soon-to-be theater critic–in–chief Donald Trump, Hamilton broke (yet another) record, bringing in more money in a single week than any Broadway show in history. The musical grossed $3.3 million for its eight performances last week, according to the New York Times, beating out the record previously set by Wicked in 2013.

You may not have been following the feud between a man who will soon have the nuclear codes and a Broadway show that contains the actual lyric “I’m a general. Whee!” so let’s recap: Last Friday, Vice President–elect Mike Pence was booed by audience members while attending a performance of Hamilton, and at the curtain call, actor Brandon Victor Dixon, the show's current Aaron Burr, read a statement expressing the cast's concerns about the upcoming administration. Trump expressed his displeasure on Twitter (naturally), calling for the “rude” cast to apologize and attacking the show itself as “overrated.” This led some Trump supporters to call for a boycott of the musical.

Depending on your point of view, it’s either extremely easy or extremely difficult to boycott something that is already as exclusive as Hamilton. (Tickets for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s last performance in July sold for thousands of dollars on the secondary market.) What are you going to do, not buy a ticket for a show that it’s already impossible to get tickets for? But Hamilton saw the value of its premium tickets, which vary according to demand, actually rise last week, with some seats going for $998—and that's just the official box office value.

That boost isn’t necessarily an endorsement of the show itself or any particular jab at boycotters, since tickets are sold way in advance and the record coincided with a holiday weekend. Still, Trump supporters must be feeling pretty—yeah, I’ll say it—helpless.

Nov. 29 2016 10:57 AM

Larry Wilmore Signs Multiyear Development Deal With ABC Studios

Larry Wilmore, host of the recently canceled Nightly Show, has signed a multiyear development deal with ABC Studios. Under the terms of the deal, Wilmore will develop his own series in addition to supervising and working with other creators.

Wilmore’s relationship with ABC goes back to Black-ish, Kenya Barris’ Emmy-nominated family sitcom now in its third season. Wilmore was set to executive-produce and helm the writer’s room, but he left to get The Nightly Show off the ground after it was picked up to series by Comedy Central. He also co-created and consults on Issa Rae’s HBO series, Insecure, and created The Bernie Mac Show, and his history stretches back through some of the most successful and influential TV shows of the last three decades, including In Living Color, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and The Office.

“I’m excited beyond words to be back at ABC and look forward to this creative partnership,” Wilmore said in a statement. “Disney took a chance on me as a young writer years ago, and so I’m thrilled to return to the Mouse House. I hope my room still looks the same.”

Wilmore established himself in front of the camera as The Daily Show With Jon Stewart’s “Senior Black Correspondent,” a role he occupied for nearly 10 years. He then segued to hosting The Nightly Show, a late-night series that boldly took on matters of race and politics but failed to connect with viewers. This ABC deal indicates Wilmore will be redirecting his focus toward the scripted TV realm, which given his résumé, likely means more good things to come.

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