Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Sept. 1 2015 3:18 PM

The Danish Hit Show Borgen Is Finally Available to Stream in Its Entirety in the U.S. Go Watch It!

The hit Danish political drama Borgen, often compared to The West Wing, topped many critics’ best-of lists in 2013, and is finally available in full in the U.S. thanks to iTunes just in time for your Labor Day binge. The show was available for awhile via Los Angeles’ KCET, but never all at once and never for on-demand streaming.

Borgen, which means castle in Danish, is the nickname of the country’s parliamentary building. The show explores what it means to have power and manipulate influence, but instead of a ruthless leader like Francis Underwood in House of Cards, it follows the extraordinary Sidse Babett Knudsen as Birgitte Nyborg, the country’s first female prime minister. It has all the political savvy and liberal superiority of the Aaron Sorkin classic, but as Slate’s TV critic Willa Paskin wrote about the show—while naming it her favorite of 2013—it also has tinges of an “Eric and Tami Taylor–level good marriage” (that’s beloved couple Coach and Mrs. Coach in Friday Night Lights). Not to mention the scheming political fixers and their super smart erstwhile journalist girlfriends who would take Olivia Pope any day. As June Thomas noted in her Slate post also praising the show, it’s almost perfectly plotted, “with enough twists and turns to be surprising, but never so many that they become tiresome.” It’s also a nice peek into Danish life, where politicians bike to work and vicars wear Hamlet-like neck ruffles.

The Danish show seems to take all the best parts of some of the U.S.’s greatest shows and combine them into the Platonic ideal of a political drama. There are only three seasons, or 30 episodes—just enough for you to spend the last days of summer pretending you’re in a far-off country instead of on your couch. Don’t believe me (or the other critics who are obsessed with the show)? Try it for yourself at no cost—the pilot is streaming for free.

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Sept. 1 2015 2:49 PM

Was Kanye West’s Presidential Announcement Inspired by This Shout From the Audience?

Kanye West shut down this year’s MTV Video Music Awards with a ten-minute-and-forty-five second acceptance speech that ended with an announcement: “I have decided in 2020 to run for president.”

It’s possible that the speech was painstakingly written down and memorized, word by word, before West received the Video Vanguard Award on Sunday, but given West’s penchant for “visionary streams of consciousness” (West’s name for the extemporaneous speeches he gave on the Yeezus tour and has delivered at other shows), it seems more likely that he made it all up on the spot. For anyone on the fence about whether West’s mic-drop of a conclusion was serious and planned out, there’s now this video posted by a fan who was standing close to West. Seconds before West announces his presidential bid, the fan screams, “Kanye for President!”

Sept. 1 2015 1:40 PM

Idris Elba Just Got Called “Too Street” to Play Bond. Here’s Why That’s Even Crazier Than it Sounds.

A man named Anthony Horowitz has thrown his two cents into the long-running debate over who should play the next James Bond after Daniel Craig, and he says that Idris Elba is “a bit too ‘street’” to take on the role. “For me, Idris Elba is a bit too rough to play the part. It’s not a colour issue … Is it a question of being suave? Yeah.”

Anthony Horowitz is the author of the latest James Bond novel, Trigger Mortis, so obviously he’s qualified to assess the British actor’s chops for the role. And yet …

Prior to playing the legendary spy, Craig was known to play “street”—or whatever we call it when working-class white people are involved—in movies like Layer Cake and The Mother. He was even pretty “rough,” some would say. Original Bond Sean Connery, son of a truck driver, was in the Royal Navy, where he got two—two!—tattoos.

Sept. 1 2015 12:56 PM

“Screams” Is the Blood-Curdling Supercut Tribute Wes Craven Deserves    

The world lost legendary horror director Wes Craven on Sunday to brain cancer at the age of 76. With movies like A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Hills Have Eyes, and, of course, Scream, Craven gave us some of horror’s most memorable icons.

This supercut honors that legacy by compiling some of the best screams from Craven’s scream-packed movies. Highlights include Drew Barrymore’s startled sobs in Scream and Amanda Wyss’s guttural, mid-levitation cries in A Nightmare on Elm Street.

Sept. 1 2015 12:35 PM

The Top 10 Movie Villains of All Time, in One Video Countdown

At this point, we’re well aware that CineFix knows how to put together a fun, analysis-driven countdown. Their latest top 10 ranking is no different, in which they take on a list of monstrous proportions: The greatest movie villains of all time.

There are some nice obvious choices here (the late, great Robert Mitchum makes two appearances on the list) and a couple of pleasant surprises (Li’l Zé from City of God). Alas, the list is solely male, though there are shout outs to Annie Wilkes in Misery and Alex Forrest in Fatal Attraction. As usual, come to argue about their picks and stay for the smart, detailed explanations for why they picked them—you may not end up agreeing, but you’ll definitely enjoy revisiting many of your favorite harrowing movie characters.

Sept. 1 2015 11:32 AM

Eddie Redmayne Plays Transgender Artist Lili Elbe in the First Trailer for The Danish Girl

It’s hard to imagine a better year for the release of Tom Hooper’s upcoming biopic The Danish Girl than 2015. Coming on the heels of the groundbreaking depictions of trans protagonists in shows like Transparent and Orange Is the New Black—not to mention the real-life, high-profile coming out of Caitlyn Jenner—trans issues have never been so discussed in the media and popular culture. When could be better, then, to bring to the big screen the true story of one of the first people to undergo gender confirmation surgery?

Sept. 1 2015 8:02 AM

Quentin Tarantino: The Complete Syllabus of His Influences and References

This article originally appeared in New York magazine.

Quentin Tarantino is undoubtedly one of the (if not the) most influential American film directors of the last quarter-century. His gritty, ultraviolent, fast-paced, and impeccably hip writing style and visual eye have made a mark on both underground and mainstream film like no other. Following the one-two punch of 1992’s Reservoir Dogs and 1994’s Pulp Fiction, Hollywood was (and arguably still is) flooded with style-aping films that could be referred to as Tarantino-esque. Indie filmmakers of all stripes have surely benefited from the increased exposure that his quick ascension gave to subterranean cinema.

The weird thing about Tarantino’s influence, though, is that it is derived from his own pop-cultural cherry-picking: Every film he’s directed or written has been loaded with countless homages, lifts, and references to books, movies, TV shows, and music that coalesce into a pop-cultural galaxy of their own. When these references and influences are considered as a whole, it’s easy to see the connections that exist between stylistically opposite corners of Tarantino’s filmography. In a 1994 Los Angeles Times profile that ran shortly before the release of Pulp Fiction, Tarantino professed an artistic impulse to “steal from every movie I see,” and although the discussion regarding what “stealing” is in relation to his catalogue still rages on today, his giddiness when it comes to expressing his omnivorous taste through film is more than apparent.

We’ve put together a comprehensive-as-possible encyclopedia, organized chronologically by film and alphabetically within each (and lumping together both volumes of Kill Bill), of every homage and direct reference to pop culture that Tarantino’s put in his work—as well as an addendum of general influences on his career that he’s acknowledged over the years. Some notes before you dive in:

  • We included the two screenplays authored solely by Tarantino—Tony Scott’s True Romance and Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn—but films that he worked on but didn’t have final credit on, like Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers, where he opted for a “story by” credit after his script was rewritten significantly, have been excluded.
  • There are a lot of notations regarding which elements of scores from other films have appeared in Tarantino’s films, but one composer whose work has been featured hundreds of times over is Ennio Morricone. Morricone is mentioned in this encyclopedia, but every instance of him has not been catalogued for reasons of length (this list would be twice as long as it already is—and as it is, it’s pretty long).
  • There’s a huge difference between stated influences and influences derived from film-criticism theorizing, so for the sake of coherence, we’ve stuck to the former and ignored the latter, with very few minor exceptions.
  • Unless referenced otherwise, a sizable amount of the interviews cited here were taken from Gerald Peary’s compendium of Quentin Tarantino interviews—and not to be a shill or anything, but if you’re a fan of Tarantino (or just interested in the way the guy talks about film), it’s a must-read.

Aug. 31 2015 8:55 PM

Here’s Hannibal in the Style of Friends’ Opening Credits

Hannibal, Bryan Fuller’s sublime take on everyone’s favorite man-eating serial killer, aired its last episode on Saturday. There are whispers about a follow-up movie, but until then fans will ponder a world where the critically acclaimed drama had won the popular audience it deserved. Enter YouTube user Andrew Kuhar, who, by remaking the show’s title sequence in the style of Friends’ opening credits, lends a mainstream appeal—and comically chipper tone—to Lecter’s grotesque exploits.

Aug. 31 2015 4:58 PM

With Horror Master Wes Craven (1939–2015), It Was Never “Only a Movie”

This article originally appeared in New York magazine.

The director Wes Craven, who died at age 76 of brain cancer, did primitive things in sophisticated ways. He spent nearly half a century drilling for fresh nerves. Sometimes—surprisingly often—he hit them. The howls of pain were heard around the world.

He was a man of various and unresolved impulses, which could be a prerequisite for making “personal” horror films. At the end of the ‘50s, he abandoned his strict Baptist upbringing for a liberal-arts education and dabbled in academia. He left a job as a humanities professor at Clarkson for New York City—and hard-core porn. He made the leap to the (relative) mainstream the way many do—via the grindhouse.

The Last House on the Left was a seminal ‘70s torture, rape, and revenge flick, an unholy revision of Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring. (Did Craven teach it? He might have.) The movie had two female victims instead of one. Its rape and murder scene was prolonged. The parents’ revenge was sweet and icky instead of stoic. And the religious finale was axed. No spring gushed from the spot where the head of the murdered virgin lay. Craven remained a Baptist in having a far more developed sense of hell than heaven. Actually, he had no sense of heaven at all. In The Hills Have EyesA Nightmare on Elm Street, and other films, the act of vanquishing demons gave birth to demons.

The Last House on the Left was probably best known for its ingenious ad campaign: plainly sadistic men staring down at what was presumably a woman (we were gazing up from her point of view) and the line, “Keep repeating: ‘It’s only a movie ... It’s only a movie ... It’s only a movie ...’” That line captured everything about the nihilist early ‘70s, post-Vietnam, end-of-the-countercultural horror genre. And it would pretty much define Craven’s best work.

Aug. 31 2015 3:50 PM

The Best Movies to Watch on Netflix Before They Expire This Month    

Every month, Netflix adds dozens of new titles to its growing collection of streaming movies and TV series. At the same time, it rotates out some of its older titles. This month, it’s losing an especially strong crop of movies, because Netflix is ending its partnership with Epix—the same partnership that allowed them to stream movies like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

Below we’ve chosen the best movies to watch before they’re removed from Netflix streaming in September. (All movies expire Sept. 1 except where otherwise noted.)