Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Oct. 19 2016 4:05 PM

Why ABC’s Speechless Feels Like Such a Revolutionary Depiction of Disabled People

Early in the pilot of the new ABC comedy Speechless, Maya DiMeo (Minnie Driver) finds out that her son’s J.J.’s new school has a less-than-stellar entrance for students in wheelchairs. She is, shall we say, displeased. The ensuing monologue paints her as a hard-charging, relentlessly fierce advocate for J.J. (Micah Fowler), who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair to get around and a light board to communicate, but is otherwise a typical smart-assed teen.

Oct. 19 2016 3:52 PM

Here’s Our First Peek at the Guardians of the Galaxy Sequel, and, Yes, Baby Groot Is in It

Director James Gunn has given us our first glimpse at the sequel to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, the appropriately-titled Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, with a stylish new teaser. The sneak peek is light on plot, but according to the official synopsis, the movie will feature the guardians traveling through the cosmos, investigating Star-Lord's true parentage, and listening to some sweet tunes, probably. The teaser is instead focused mainly on showcasing the return of characters from the 2014 hit, with Chris Pratt as Peter Quill, Zoe Saldana as Gamora, Dave Bautista as Drax, and Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket.

But what about Vin Diesel, you ask? Yes, he’s back too, and playing arguably the most important character of all: Baby Groot, who Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige has confirmed is the same as the full-sized Groot, only now he’s tiny and adorable. “He remembers. He’s not mentally a baby, he is still Groot,” Feige told Collider in July. “The amount of heart that you get out of this trash panda raccoon and now this little twig baby Groot is actually awe-inspiring.”

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 hits theaters May 5.

Oct. 19 2016 1:30 PM

Amy Schumer Responds to the People Who Walked Out of Her Tampa Show With a Blistering, Sarcastic Open Letter About Trump

Approximately 200 people booed and walked out of Amy Schumer’s show in Tampa, Florida on Sunday after the comedian insulted Donald Trump, calling him “an orange, sexually assaulting, fake-college-starting monster” and asking victims of sexual assault to stand up. On Tuesday, Schumer used her Madison Square Garden show as a chance to respond to critics, reading a blistering open letter to those who objected to her comments.

“Dearest Tampa,” Schumer began. “I’m sorry you didn’t want me, a comedian who talks about what she believes in, to mention the biggest thing going on in our country right now. How could I think it was okay to spend five minutes having a peaceful conversation with someone with different views?”

Oct. 19 2016 11:52 AM

Trevor Noah Mocked Trump’s Disastrous Attempts to Bond With Black Children

Donald Trump’s African American outreach program hasn’t been going so great: Recent national polling has found the Republican presidential nominee receiving less than 10 percent of the black vote, and he’s begun targeting (without evidence) majority-nonwhite cities like Philadelphia and Baltimore as sites of widespread voter fraud. But Trump isn’t giving up hope on gaining their support just yet.

On Tuesday night’s Daily Show, Trevor Noah exposed Trump’s recent (and unfortunate) photo-op initiatives with black children, in all of their staggering awkwardness. Noah started with an image of Trump with Little Miss Flint, the latter’s uncomfortable face indicating that “she knows that danger is coming.” And as the segment’s focus shifted to Trump’s repeated, cringeworthy attempts at kissing, it only got worse. Noah, equally amused and stunned by Trump’s persistence and the girls’ disgust, summed it up nicely: “Donald Trump is so repulsive to little girls, they dodge him like Floyd Mayweather.”

Oct. 19 2016 11:38 AM

Laura Benanti Revived Her Withering Melania Impression to Discuss Trump’s “Boy Talk” with Colbert

Melania Trump has, for the most part, been keeping out of the spotlight since her much-mocked, seemingly plagiarized speech at the Republican National Convention in July. Now, following the leaked Access Hollywood video that revealed her husband making lewd remarks about groping women, Melania is speaking to the press once again, which is great news for Laura Benanti, who had the opportunity to dust off her spot-on, impeccably contoured Melania impression once more on The Late Show.

In an interview with Anderson Cooper on Monday, Melania suggested it was unfair that her husband’s sexual assault boasts had been picked up on a hot mic and blamed Billy Bush for egging him on. “Now I know why they were on a bus,” quipped Colbert. “It’s easier to throw Billy underneath it.”

Benanti and Colbert wasted no time in lampooning Melania’s reasoning, with Colbert asking a pouting Benanti how she could possibly forgive her husband. “Boys, men—it’s the same. No matter how nice they seem, secretly they’re all foul-mouthed, Billy Bush-grabbing pigs,” Benanti lamented, before arriving at the inevitable conclusion: “If only a woman could be president!” But the funniest part might be the running joke that ... someone else was in the room telling Melania what to say. When Colbert asked whether she had forgiven her husband, her panicked, paranoid eyes said everything we needed to know.

Oct. 19 2016 9:00 AM

Big Bottom Line: Harry Shearer Files $125 Million Lawsuit Over This Is Spinal Tap Profits

Harry Shearer, who created rock band Spinal Tap along with Michael McKean and Christopher Guest, filed a federal suit on Monday against Vivendi and StudioCanal for fraud and breach of contract, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Shearer is seeking $125 million in punitive and compensatory damages for what he alleges are decades of underreported profits on the 1984 mockumentary about the band, This Is Spinal Tap. According to his complaint, StudioCanal and Vivendi, which acquired and currently control the rights to This Is Spinal Tap, were bound by the 1982 contract between the film’s creators and original producers Embassy Pictures. That contract assigned 40% of net profits from the film and all related licensing, including music, to Spinal Tap Productions, a joint venture owned by Shearer, McKean, Guest, and This Is Spinal Tap director Rob Reiner. Given Spinal Tap’s decades-long popularity, not only on film, but in music, on t-shirts, and out-of-print Criterion Collection DVDs, this section of the lawsuit is damning on its face:

Oct. 19 2016 8:32 AM

Thor: Ragnarok Has the Potential to Break the Marvel Mold

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

It would probably be hyperbolic to say the 13 existing movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe are an aesthetically indistinguishable mush. But let’s be honest: It’s not that hyperbolic. As I’ve argued before, that baker’s dozen of hit flicks have turned the global entertainment economy on its ear in no small part because they’ve found a winning aesthetic and, more often than not, stuck with it. The MCU is largely about tales of noble-but-flawed misfits in brightly colored outfits tossing out quips with audience-surrogate sidekicks while combatting megalomaniacal baddies. The movies make eye contact with us while cracking a little half-grin in the sunlight and putting their dukes up playfully.

Oct. 19 2016 6:17 AM

Celebrity Get-Out-the-Vote Videos Are Garbage, Says Celebrity in Get-Out-the-Vote Video

Stand-up comic and actor Aziz Ansari is skeptical of the very idea of celebrities encouraging people to vote—not because there’s anything wrong with encouraging people to vote, but because deciding to vote based on a celebrity’s say-so is stupid. And, as he points out,  that’s doubly true when the celebrity is Aziz Ansari: Robert Downey Jr., Leonardo DiCaprio, and Jennifer Lawrence already want you to vote, so it beggars belief that a former Parks and Rec star would be the deciding factor. In fact, Robert Downey Jr. shouldn’t make a difference either; the very idea is kind of insulting:

There’s a fucking guy running who says he hates brown people. That’s not enough? He doesn’t believe in climate change. Do you realize how dumb you have to be to not believe in climate change? At this point?

Still, the celebrity voting video has a long and storied history, going back to Madonna threatening to spank non-voters in her 1990 Rock the Vote spot. (If she kept this promise, people who sat out the 1990 election have kept quiet about it.) Ansari’s contribution to the genre comes from NextGen Climate, a PAC dedicated to youth voter registration and battling climate change. Its founder is Tom Steyer, a hedge fund manager-turned-philanthropist who’s said to be considering a run for the governorship of California.

The company that made Steyer a billionaire, Farallon Capital, is described as “a successful California business” with no further elaboration on NextGen Climate’s website, which says something about the reputation hedge funds have in progressive circles. But Steyer has put enough money behind left-wing causes that the Republicans have tried to paint him as a shadowy, Koch-brothers-style villain, so he’s got the right enemies. And the right friends: Aziz Ansari was willing to give up his lunch break to make this video, even if he was cranky about it. Only time will tell if ruining Ansari’s lunch was a good use of Steyer’s money, but one thing is clear: Americans who were planning to ride out a Trump presidency with bumper stickers reading “I WOULD HAVE VOTED IF AZIZ ANSARI HAD ONLY ASKED” are gonna need a backup plan.

Oct. 18 2016 2:34 PM

Well This Is the Darkest, Most Devastating Short Pixar Animators Have Ever Produced

Pixar’s existential ruminations tend to be just light enough to appeal to a younger audience, from the crotchety wit of Up to the buoyant wonder of Toy Story to the sheer curiosity of Wall-e. A new animated short made by two of the company’s animators, however, is hardly so accessible. Borrowed Time is a pained, at times harrowing, meditation on guilt and loss, near-silently tracking one man’s anguish as he wanders around a desolate, dusty Western landscape.

The film, streaming on Vimeo for a limited time, also features a shockingly bleak twist and is left without even a hint of resolution, the devastating emotional effect laid bare as the credits roll. And according to the film’s creators, Pixar animators Lou Hamou-Lhadj and Andrew Coates, this is precisely the point. “A goal for us was to make something that kind of contested the notion of animation being a genre and one for children specifically,” Hamou-Lhadj says in a behind-the-scenes featurette (posted below). “We really wanted to make something that was a little bit more adult in the thematic choices and show that animation could be a medium to tell any sort of story.”

The two directors certainly achieve this—a few particularly dark moments in the short make clear that Borrowed Time could never screen as a warmup for a G-rated animated feature. But even though Hamou-Lhadj and Coates have worked on several richly subversive movies for Pixar, from Toy Story 3 to last year’s acclaimed Inside Out, this is still pretty shocking. Indeed, the unyielding sadness of Borrowed Time should be enough to keep the kids away—and probably a fair share of misery-averse adults as well.

Oct. 18 2016 1:59 PM

Colbert Helped Obama Fine-Tune His Résumé for Life After the White House

No matter who winds up winning on Nov. 8, President Obama is going to be out of a job in January. Fortunately, Stephen Colbert—as Randy, the mustachioed office manager—is ready to help the president make the transition to unemployment by helping him polish his résumé and practice his interview skills. Randy posed some tough questions, like why the president was leaving office and why he hadn’t been promoted in eight years. “Honestly, there wasn't a lot of room for advancement in my last job,” Obama told him. "The only one with a more powerful position was my wife.”

The interview was a good opportunity for Obama to list his in-office accomplishments—like climate change initiatives, Obamacare, and reopening relations with Cuba—while also poking fun at himself, like when Colbert asks why he won his Nobel Peace Prize. “I still don’t know,” the president deadpanned. And even though they were on network television, where political endorsements are forbidden, Colbert did get the president to choose his favorite snack, a “fiber-nutrient bar,” over a bile-filled, shriveled tangerine with hair. Very subtle.