Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

March 3 2015 12:18 PM

Will Forte on His Unusual New Sitcom, The Last Man on Earth

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

About 20 minutes into my conversation with Will Forte, his publicist tells him it’s time to move on to the next scheduled interview in this particular brick of publicity for his new Fox series, The Last Man on Earth. I press for a quick quote but tell him not to worry if he can’t get back to me.

“Oh, no, you’re getting a callback,” Forte says. “Don’t even think you’re not.” Forte, who has a reputation as one of the friendliest and most engaging folks in Hollywood, calls back a few hours later, at the time he said it would.

The Last Man on Earth stars Forte as Phil Miller, a 40-something loser who finds himself alone on earth in 2020 after a virus wipes out the planet’s population. The new series is the product of a partnership between Forte—who also acts as showrunner and writer on Last Man—and Lego Movie directors and old pals Phil Lord and Chris Miller. It takes an unconventional approach for a sitcom: Forte’s character is often onscreen alone for long stretches of time, and a lack of dialogue is accounted for by the show’s visual imagination. Vulture spoke with Forte about Last ManMacGruber 2, and his SNL 40 after-party experience.

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March 3 2015 8:45 AM

What Hitting “Rock Bottom” Looks Like in the Movies

Hollywood loves a dramatic downfall. The formula is as old as the movies: after a series of bad decisions and wrong turns, a protagonist reaches his or her most debilitated, wretched state—that is, they hit “rock bottom.” Sometimes that moment can be terrifying to witness, as it was in Requiem For a DreamDrugstore Cowboy, and The Basketball Diaries. And yet this scene isn’t always such a downer: AsBridesmaids and Anchorman prove, it can also be mined for great comedy.

To honor the many different forms of cinematic existential crisis, we’ve put together a montage of some of the most memorable “rock bottom” moments in film. 

March 3 2015 8:02 AM

What Has Downton Learned From Reality TV? We Discuss the Latest Episode.

Each week, Slate culture critic and Outward editor June Thomas will join frequent contributor Seth Stevenson to dissect the latest developments on the new season ofDownton Abbey.

In this installment of the podcast, Thomas and Stevenson discuss the Dowager Countess’ romantic past with Prince Kuragin, how Rose’s quick thinking earned Lord Sinderby’s trust, and what lessons Downton Abbey has learned from reality TV.

Spoilers for Episodes 4 to 9 will be made available to Slate Plus members on Sundays at 10 p.m. Eastern, at the conclusion of the PBS broadcast—and to non-members on Tuesdays morning. (Want early access? Join Slate Plus!)

Note: As the name implies, this podcast contains spoilers, and is meant to be listened to after you watch each episode.

March 2 2015 10:14 PM

Bob Dylan Gets Stuck in a Noir Love Triangle in the  “Night We Called It a Day” Music Video

In February, Bob Dylan released his 36th studio album, Shadows in the Night, which comprises 10 Frank Sinatra ballads that Dylan aimed to reinterpret and bring “into the light of day.” Now one of those songs, “The Night We Called It a Day,” has a music video, and like the album it’s a lovely, idiosyncratic tribute to a bygone era.

The video is shot in the classic film noir style—faces cloaked in shadow, rooms hazy with cigarette smoke—and it follows the story of an ill-fated love triangle. Dylan, of course, is a third of that triangle, and it’s good fun to see the 73-year-old engage in some hard-boiled hijinks.

March 2 2015 6:26 PM

Is Kanye West’s New Song Based on This Obscure, 45-Year-Old Outtake From Paul McCartney?

After months of leaked snippets, a flamethrower-assisted performance at last week’s BRIT Awards, and the widespread circulation of a radio rip earlier this afternoon, you can finally hear the complete, studio version of Kanye West’s “All Day” below, via iHeartRadio. (You can also purcahse is on iTunes.)

While the studio version, for the most part, closely matches the live version, it departs most dramatically in the last minute. While the song seems designed to be this album’s “Ni**as in Paris”-like club favorite (it even reprises that hit’s “ball”/“mall” rhymes and “that shit cray” refrain), the last minute takes an abrupt left turn into acoustic strumming and whistling. Though it’s the last thing you’d expect on a track like this, it actually comes courtesy of new frequent collaborator Paul McCartney (as confirmed by rapper and singer Theophilus London, who also features on the track), from back when McCartney had his own first child with his wife Linda.  

You can listen to Paul tell the whole story below, but here’s the gist.

March 2 2015 3:17 PM

Spock’s Struggle Was His Fans’ Struggle, Too

“It hasn’t been easy on Spock,” the half-breed scientist’s mother tells Captain Kirk in the 1967 Star Trek episode “Journey to Babel”: “Neither human nor Vulcan…at home nowhere except Starfleet.” And being Spock wasn’t easy on Leonard Nimoy, either—for much of his career, the actor, like his character, was trapped between two worlds and never quite comfortable in either.

By the time Star Trek was in its second season, the Boston-born theater actor with a Method background was already imprisoned in a gilded science-fiction cage. At 36, after more than a decade of acting and teaching, Nimoy was suddenly the breakout star of NBC’s hit show, receiving more fan mail than the rest of the cast combined. Meanwhile the “official” star of the series, William Shatner, resented that he was not the center of attention, famously counting lines of dialogue to ensure that Spock didn’t get more screen time than Captain Kirk. But it made no difference: Spock was the show’s lightning rod, even though the actor who played him viewed the character and its cultish impedimenta as a detour in a more serious career that was permanently forestalled.

March 2 2015 1:33 PM

Watch the Short Film That Became Whiplash

One of the surprises of this past Oscar season was Whiplash’s nomination in the Best Adapted Screenplay category, as opposed to Best Original Screenplay. The academy’s apparent rationale for this: Chazelle filmed an early scene from his feature-length screenplay and premiered it at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013—in order to drum up support and funding for a feature-length film—thus making the final version of Whiplash an “adapted” screenplay. (Strangely, the 2008 film Frozen River was also financed in this way, though the academy still classified it as an original screenplay.)

Now that the Oscar season is officially over for now (Whiplash lost out in the category to The Imitation Game), that short film has finally surfaced online. The scene involves the first time aspiring young drummer Andrew Neiman (played here by Johnny Simmons) participates in his first practice session with the manipulative Dr. Fletcher (J.K. Simmons). For fans of the feature or Simmons’ biting, Oscar-winning performance in particular, it’s certainly worth a watch. It’s clear that, with this scene at least, little changed in the film’s transition from short film to feature: The dialogue from the final product remains in tact almost word for word, and Simmons is just as terrifying and unsettling here.

March 2 2015 12:57 PM

Watch Pussy Riot’s Very Pussy-Riot Cameo on House of Cards

In the third episode of the new season of House of Cards, Russian feminist protest group Pussy Riot makes one of the the series’ most memorable cameos yet. Playing themselves, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina square off against Victor Petrov, the not-so-fictional Russian president, at a state dinner in Frank Underwood’s White House. Petrov, aka Putin, attempts to bury the hatchet with the band, but Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina criticize his policies before walking out on the various Russian and American dignitaries present.

The episode closes with Pussy Riot’s new English-language song, “Don’t Cry Genocide,” written by Pussy Riot and Le Tigre. You can watch the video below.

March 2 2015 9:42 AM

John Oliver Created a Summer Blockbuster to Make You Care About Our Infrastructure

John Oliver is a virtuoso at making entertaining and enlightening television out of our most unsexy issues—judicial election, predatory lending, student debt—and this week he took on the granddaddy of unsexy issues: our very poor infrastructure.

How will Oliver make you care about this issue, which almost everyone agrees on but almost no one is doing anything about? As Oliver notes, “every summer [at the movies], people flock to see our infrastructure threatened by terrorists or aliens, but we should care just as much when it’s under threat from the inevitable passage of time.” So Oliver brought together Ed Norton, Vincent D’Onofrio, and other movie stars to make a trailer for an action blockbuster that’s all about the United States’ D+ infrastructure. He also manages to slip in a pretty good Bill Cosby joke along the way.

March 2 2015 8:32 AM

Did Amazon Sink the Queen of Online Erotica?

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Jaid Black, the “queen of steam,” isn’t feeling well, so she’s dispatched Christian, a muscular, handsome 40-something, to greet me at the front door of her West Hollywood home. It’s tempting to refer to Christian as a manservant, because a beefcake butler whose modeling bio boasts of a knack for finding G-spots would fit tidily into this story (and he does ask if we need anything), but in fact, he’s an aspiring actor and personal trainer to A-list talent agent Kevin Huvane. He’s also a friend of Black’s who’s willing to fetch the chocolate-caramel creamer for her coffee. 

Black, 43, whose real name is Tina Engler, sits outside on this sunny day in November near a half-filled pool with a fountain that recycles murky water, a casualty of the state’s epic drought. An author and the founder of Ellora’s Cave, a digital-first publishing company that specializes in women’s erotic literature, she rises from the table to greet me wearing a Jimi Hendrix tee and black lounge pants, her dirty-blonde hair arranged in cornrows with electric-blue extensions. An orange-and-white tabby extends his regards as well. “Henry,” snaps Engler, as the cat jumps onto the table beside me, “she does not want your butthole in her face.”