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Slate's Culture Blog

Aug. 29 2016 12:58 PM

The Villain in Ben Affleck’s Solo Batman Movie Will Be Deathstroke, Not Affleck’s Own Deep Malaise

Deathstroke will be Batman’s main foe in the upcoming standalone movie directed by Ben Affleck, according the Wrap. The news comes after Affleck posted a cryptic video on Twitter Monday morning of the DC villain walking toward the camera:

Deathstroke, also known as Slade Wilson, is a DC fan favorite. An ex-soldier–turned–assassin who debuted in a 1980 issue of New Teen Titans, Deathstroke has since appeared in several Batman-related projects, along with the CW series Arrow, on which he has been portrayed by New Zealand actor Manu Bennett. There is no word yet on casting or on whether Bennett will reprise the role opposite Affleck.

Aug. 29 2016 11:54 AM

The Night Of Finale Was the Perfect Ending for This Show—Beautifully Crafted, Ambitious, and Hollow

“You’re gonna be fine.” The last words spoken in The Night Of were somewhere between an empty promise and an outright lie. John Stone (John Turturro), the dogged if undistinguished lawyer who helped free the wrongly accused Nasir Khan (Riz Ahmed), knows that he’s always selling prospective clients on the other end of his telephone a bill of goods, mainly trying to keep them calm so they don’t blab anything to the cops before he can arrive. But we believe that promise even though it’s not true, because the alternative is too dark to face.

For all its prestige-TV trappings and eczema-riddled subplots, The Night Of is a procedural at heart, but where shows like Law & Order purport to show us how the system works, Steven Zaillian and Richard Price’s miniseries showed us how it doesn’t, at least not to its intended purpose. The wheels of justice turn just as smoothly when they’re sending an innocent man to prison, and he’s saved only by what amounts to a spanner in the works: a deadlocked jury, split six to six, which is like escaping a firing squad because the gun jammed. Nas is free, yes, but he’s returned to a community that’s turned its back on him and a mother he knows came to doubt his innocence, his body marked by prison tattoos and still craving the drugs he took to using in prison. Inside Rikers Island, the cellblock power broker Freddy (Michael K. Williams) offered Naz a copy of The Call of the Wild as a survival manual, and though Naz refused it then, Freddy has i

Aug. 29 2016 10:51 AM

Never Fear, John Oliver Is Here to Save Hollywood From Its Superhero Movie Problem

Last Week Tonight is off until Sept. 25, but John Oliver used his weekly web exclusive to do “the most internet thing imaginable”: complain about superhero movies. Sick of Marvel and DC’s monopoly on the market, Oliver pitched a superhero of his own creation—his (very cute) childhood alter ego, Johnny Strong, out to fight the evils of bedtimes, clarinet teachers, and devious pet cats.

As charming as Johnny Strong may be, the project will probably be stuck in development hell for a few more decades. Until he gets his time in the spotlight, you can check out Slate’s superhero movie calculator and find out how many more superhero movies you’ll see in your life before we ever get to see a feature-length version of John Oliver’s childhood dislike of clarinets.

Aug. 29 2016 9:45 AM

The Millennial Whoop: The Simple Melodic Sequence That’s Showing Up All Over Contemporary Pop

This article originally appeared at the Patterning.

This week, the Lonely Island released a music video for a song that was cut from their new movie, Popstar. The deleted scene for the song, “Fuck Off,” shows Conner4Real (Andy Samberg’s Bieber-esque teen idol character) joyfully belting out the most over-the-top expression of teenage angst possible.

The song is an incredible parody, not least because Samberg and company have caught onto a melodic phenomenon that has plagued the airwaves for the past several years, which they use to great effect at the song’s 40-second mark.

I like to call this melodic snippet the “Millennial Whoop.” It’s a sequence of notes that alternates between the fifth and third notes of a major scale, typically starting on the fifth. The rhythm is usually straight eighth-notes, but it may start on the downbeat or on the upbeat in different songs. A singer usually belts these notes with an “Oh” phoneme, often in a “Wa-oh-wa-oh” pattern. And it is in so many pop songs it’s criminal.

The musical figure is probably best exemplified by Katy Perry’s 2010 song “California Gurls” (featuring Snoop Dogg):

Aug. 29 2016 8:32 AM

What André 3000 Taught Frank Ocean

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Did André 3000 Diss Drake on Frank Ocean’s New Album, Blonde
Is André 3000 Calling Out Drake for Using Ghostwriters?
André 3000 Alleged Shaded Drake on His Blonde Verse and Twitter Went Wild
André 3000 Was Definitely Talking About Drake

This is what you see—perhaps when you die—but also if you Googled André 3000 yesterday.

The context: the 10th track of Frank Ocean’s new independently released album, Blonde, is “Solo (Reprise).” André 3000 is not simply on the song; he is the song, rapping for one straight minute. The verse-long track ends with this thought from André:

After 20 years in, I’m so naïve

I was under the impression

That everyone wrote they own verses

It’s comin’ back different and yeah that shit hurts me

I’m hummin’ and whistlin’ to those not deserving

I’ve stumbled and lived every word

Was I working just way too hard?

This is the part that started the Drake tizzy. The assumption: After a year of speculation surrounding Drake’s use of ghostwriters, André chimes in—with a diss.

Aug. 29 2016 12:56 AM

Watch Drake Confess He’s Been in Love With Rihanna Since He Was 22

Drake has been in love with Rihanna since he was 22, which is not news to anyone who’s ever seen Drake interact with Rihanna. What is news, though, is that he finally admitted it, while presenting Rihanna with a Video Vanguard Award at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday night.

Drake was the perfect person to present the most major award of the night to Rihanna, because the two have been friends and collaborators for years. They have also inspired persistent rumors that they are an item—he the emo rapper dude always chasing her, she the playerette who won’t settle down. Drake’s speech presenting Rihanna with the award was catnip for any fans who harbor hopes that those two crazy kids will be able to work it out some day. It was heartfelt, it was sweet, it will make you want to get you a man who can write a similar speech for you when you win the Video Vanguard Award.

Drake won an early award at the show, but he wasn’t there to accept it. Puff Daddy claimed he was stuck in traffic, but really he was probably waiting backstage like a nervous groom, pacing back and forth, and getting ready to present the award to his one true love Rihanna. To further the groom analogy, he wore a tux for her. He took this seriously! Afterward, peanut gallerists Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele joked that they thought Drake might propose, and they weren’t far off! To harken back to a VMA moment of yore, a Michael Jackson–Lisa Marie Presley–style kiss certainly wouldn’t have been out of place, though considering how that turned out, maybe it was better avoided.*

In his speech, Drake spoke admiringly of the singer, who he first met in 2005 when he had no rapping career to speak of. The two exchanged cute glances throughout. And then when Rihanna’s turn to speak, she joked about how the mic needed to be raised for her, because she’s taller than Drake. That feistiness is probably why he loves her … even if it means he’ll never actually catch her.

*Correction, Aug. 29, 2016: This post originally misspelled Lisa Marie Presley's last name.

Aug. 29 2016 12:43 AM

Here Are All of Rihanna’s 2016 Video Music Award Performances

Rihanna was the recipient of the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award at MTV’s 2016 Video Music Awards Sunday night, which meant she had the prime performance spots, from the opening number to the very last note. Check out all four of her performances below:

Aug. 29 2016 12:36 AM

The Best Moments From Key and Peele’s Hashtag-Happy Alter Egos at the VMAs

Sunday night’s Video Music Awards had more than a few rough patches, but Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, as the night’s announcers, were not one of them. While other hosts generally fell flat with lame jokes, the comedy duo had a much higher hit rate. They adopted internet-famous, social media-savvy alter egos LizardSheeple and TheShamester to give up-to-the-minute commentary on what they called “an extended Rihanna concert, featuring the VMAs.”

Key and Peele’s attempts to keep the VMAs “resonant” were the best part of the night, and they knew it, with their repeated refrain of “That’s the tweet, that’s the tweet” perfectly summing up a ceremony that was dominated by meme-able moments. Here are a few of our favorites:

When Key and Peele created more memes in a single segment than even meme master (and VMAs co-host) DJ Khaled.

Aug. 29 2016 12:26 AM

The Cutest Part of the VMAs Was Definitely When the Olympic Gymnasts Met Beyoncé

Going all the way to the VMAs and not meeting Beyoncé would probably be a lot like going all the way to the Olympics and not winning gold. The dashed hopes, the so-close factor! Luckily the Team USA gymnasts wouldn’t know anything about such things. After nabbing a team gold earlier this month in Rio de Janeiro, Sunday night at MTV’s Video Music Awards they presented the award for Best Female Video to the one and only Beyoncé.

Laurie Hernandez, Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, and Madison Kocian traded in their usual leotards for cute cocktailwear for their appearance on the Madison Square Garden stage. (Teammate Gabby Douglas, who’s lately had to deal with a lot of criticism, was home sick, Biles announced.) The four giggled through their spiel and announcing the nominees, before realizing at the same time as all of us watching at home that they really and truly would get to meet Moonman winner Queen Bey. It’s go time, ladies! They may be able to execute incredibly difficult tumbling passes under enormous pressure, but the prospect of meeting Beyoncé is enough to transform anyone into a sputtering dork.

So how’d they do? Beyoncé towered over the tiny gymnasts, but in a nonthreatening way, like Glinda the Good Witch meeting the munchkins and benevolently offering to outfit them in Ivy Park activewear. Just like when they met Zac Efron, Laurie Hernandez was the first to go in for a hug. But everyone got her moment to bask in Beyoncé’s glow. I think that’s called sticking the landing.

Aug. 28 2016 11:44 PM

Watch Beyoncé Slay Her 15-Minute Lemonade Medley at the VMAs, End With the Female Gender Symbol

Beyoncé, leading the pack with 11 nominations, did indeed perform at the MTV Video Music Awards on Sunday, after intense rumors earlier this week that she would grace the stage with her glorious presence. With a medley of various songs from Lemonade, including “Sorry” and “Hold Up,” Queen Bey gave a typically confident—if slightly subdued—performance that offered an array of striking visuals.

Continuing with her current theme around the Black Lives Matter movement, she concluded the first song of the night, Lemonade opener “Pray You Catch Me,” with dancers adorned in predominantly white, angel-like outfits, falling to the ground to a sound that resembled startling gunshots. Briefly, she was also enveloped in an embrace by a black performer wearing a black hoodie—the imagery, combined with the song’s very blatant lyrics about infidelity, felt a bit incongruous; but then, Lemonade as a whole walks a fine line between such similar themes, of Beyoncé’s individualism versus the collective experience of black women in America.

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