Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

June 25 2016 10:51 PM

Fashion Photographer Bill Cunningham Has Died

Fashion photographer Bill Cunningham died Saturday at the age of 87, the New York Times reported. Cunningham, who was named a Living Landmark by the New York Landmarks Conservancy in 2009, was known for his bicycle, his blue French work jacket and his ubiquitous presence photographing fashion around New York, from street clothes to couture.

Born in 1929, he began his career as a milliner, selling custom hats under the label “William J.” A collection of 23 examples of his work, ranging from a relatively modest cloche hat to a hat festooned with crystals dangling like anglerfish lures, sold at auction in 2012 for $20,000. After serving in the Korean War, he started writing a fashion column for Women’s Wear Daily on the side. In a typical example from 1962, under the lower-case headline “arrogant coats,” Cunningham took on offerings from Givenchy and Balenciaga, which, he wrote, “are just about to dump the wearers and go off by themselves. … these coats give me the feeling they would bite like a snake if I got too near.” He maintained his sense of humor about fashion for the rest of his life: One highlight of his “On The Street” photo column for the New York Times was 2009’s “The Water Dance,” in which Cunningham positively cackles over photographs of well-dressed New Yorkers and tourists ruining their shoes in the slush-filled gutters of Fifth Avenue.


Cunningham abandoned hat making when women abandoned hats in the 1960s. Though he didn’t begin taking photographs professionally until 1967, by the early 1970s he was working regularly for the New York Times, after stints with the Daily News and the Chicago Tribune. Despite numerous offers to join the staff of the Times, he remained freelance until he was hit by a truck in 1994 and needed health insurance. In 2010 filmmaker Richard Press made a documentary about him, Bill Cunningham New York, which chronicled his career and eccentricities. Throughout his life, Bill Cunningham retained a carefully cultivated distance from his subjects, refusing so much as a glass of water at the galas he photographed and turning down an offer to curate a retrospective of his photographs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He valued his independence above all, telling an interviewer, “Money’s the cheapest thing. Liberty and freedom is the most expensive.”

June 25 2016 8:11 PM

Kanye West Throws the Worst Naked Slumber Party Imaginable in the Video for “Famous”

This post contains nudity.

The video for Kanye West’s “Famous” debuted Friday night at the Forum just outside of Los Angeles and is now streaming exclusively on Tidal. In the video, Kanye and his wife Kim Kardashian West recline in an enormous white bed, joined by the sleeping, nude bodies of George W. Bush, Anna Wintour, Donald Trump, Rihanna, Chris Brown, Taylor Swift, Kim Kardashian West, Ray J, Amber Rose, Caitlin Jenner, and, of course, Bill Cosby. Yes, America, the celebs are at it again.


At first glance, it seems easy to dismiss “Famous” as an empty provocation, but it’s worth bearing in mind the disclaimer on Kanye’s video for “Monster,” warning the audience that, although it might look like a parade of dead models, in reality “it is an art piece and it shall be taken as such.” Seen in this light, it becomes clear that, as Vanity Fair proclaimed, “Famous” is a “moody, quasi-religious tableau of naked, vulnerable, strangely peaceful bodies at rest,” and a “visual manifesto” that “might be his most thought-provoking work yet.” “Famous” arrives complete with contemporary art credibility, since it’s based on Vincent Desiderio’s 2008 mural “Sleep.”

Although West mentioned Desiderio and Matthew Barney in his interview with Vanity Fair, he’s being modest. By taking an existing painting, replacing the original subjects with celebrities—including the naked body of a woman who seems to want nothing to do with him—rendering it in three dimensions, and then filming the results, he is drawing boldly from a much wider variety of artists both classical (Philippe Curtius, Marie Tussaud) and contemporary (Gottfried Helnwein, Jon McNaughton, Lolita Perine, Craig Brittain). In fact, when the video is considered in context—a meditation on celebrity by a celebrity which will immediately be surrounded by meditations on a meditation on celebrity by a celebrity by non-celebrities, until more celebrities weigh in, at which point non-celebrities will meditate on that—it becomes clear that West’s artistic influences stretch all the way back to the 14th century B.C. Don’t worry who the ouroboros is, though: just keep chewing.

June 24 2016 4:34 PM

The Week in Culture, “The Corpse Farts Exuberantly” Edition

Now that it’s really summertime (June 20 being the first official day), let it be known: We are living in the summer of Drake. Chris Molanphy wrote about how Drake’s album Views has been dominating the charts for the past five weeks, despite underwhelming sales and challenges from the likes of Paul Simon, Blake Shelton, and Beyoncé: It’s being propped up by huge streaming numbers, leading Molanphy to observe that what we’re seeing now is the changes Billboard made to its chart methodology in late 2014 converging with the ascent of streaming: “A recent Billboard podcast revealed that streaming is up 62 percent in 2016 over the same period in 2015, and more than 200 percent in just two years. We see the results on Billboard’s Hot 100, where stream-heavy tracks like Desiigner’s ‘Panda’ and Drake’s ‘One Dance’ now routinely command the list.” This new formula allows for albums to reign for multiple weeks on the chart again, the way Purple Rain once spent 24 weeks at No. 1. That means Drake is to 2016’s album charts what Prince was to 1984’s.

Speaking of throwbacks, this week brings the opening of Independence Day: Resurgence, the sequel to the 1996 blockbuster. Slate doesn’t have a review yet, however, because the studio declined to screen the film for critics, and Sam Adams explains the implications of that decision: “The running assumption is that movies held back from press must be stinkers, and that’s often true, but not always,” Adams writes, adding that the film’s director, Roland Emmerich, “may not be too kindly disposed to critics right now, given that his last movie, Stonewall, was savaged for telling the story of the birth of the modern LGBT rights movement through the eyes of a white cis man.” Watch this space for a review of Resurgence, and in the meantime, check out Jeffrey Bloomer’s take on Swiss Army Man, yes, the farting corpse movie, but also so much more: He calls it “hilarious, deranged, and always alive with possibility.” Also read Rebecca Onion’s piece on Free State of Jones, the Matthew McConaughey civil war movie that turns out to be more than another white savior story.


While we’re recommending things, have you checked your Amazon account for store credits yet? What about Ticketmaster? You may be pleasantly surprised. Or not: Here’s a list of concerts you can use your Ticketmaster vouchers on—hope you like the ’90s!

A few more culture links to take you into the weekend:

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June 24 2016 4:20 PM

These Cocktails Inspired by Game of Thrones Are as Delicious as They Are Ingenious

Game of Thrones is the kind of show that inevitably makes you want to drown your sorrows in booze. As we approach the series’ sixth season finale—and look toward its eventual conclusion—we figured it was time we stepped up our drinking game of thrones. To that end, we turned to Chantal Tseng, one of Washington, D.C.’s best and most innovative bartenders, and asked her to assemble a menu of cocktails inspired by the season.

June 24 2016 2:35 PM

Listen to the Surprise Debut Album From Jenny Lewis’ New Band, Nice as F--k

Indie singer-songwriter Jenny Lewis has a new band, Nice As Fuck, and they just unexpectedly released their first album. Lewis, who is the ex-frontwoman for Rilo Kiley, joined forces with Erika Forster of Au Revoir Simone, and Tennessee Thomas of the Like earlier this year at a Bernie Sanders benefit, making their suprise debut. Now, the trio have pulled off a similar feat in dropping their first album without much warning:

The self-titled album has nine tracks, all with a punk feel and a strong bassline. The last song is the brief “NAF Theme,” which consists of all three women repeatedly shouting “We’re nice/ as fuck/ Wish you/ good luck.” Much like the album as a whole, it’s peppy, edgy, and a lot of fun to listen to.


You can hear Nice As Fuck below through Apple Music:

June 24 2016 1:38 PM

Lil Wayne, Wiz Khalifa, Imagine Dragons, and More Get Twisted in the Video for Suicide Squad Anthem “Sucker for Pain”

On the heels of the awful new Ghostbusters theme comes another musical movie tie-in: Suicide Squad now has its own anthem, “Sucker for Pain.” The rap-rock blend features Lil Wayne, Wiz Khalifa, Logic, and Ty Dolla $ign contributing verses while Dan Reynolds of Imagine Dragons sings the appropriately twisted chorus: “I wanna chain you up/ I wanna tie you down/ I’m just a sucker for pain.” Sam Harris of X Ambassadors also chimes in at the end for the song’s outro, begging for more pain.*

The accompanying music video features all of the artists involved in various states of agony—including some pretty literal interpretations of the lyrics. (It seems that those are actual, rather than merely metaphorical, chains they’ve been singing about.) It also includes some new footage from Suicide Squad, which comes out Aug. 5. The film’s soundtrack will also feature music from Eminem (of course), Panic! at the Disco, and Grimes:


1. “Purple Lamborghini” by Skrillex & Rick Ross
2. “Sucker For Pain” by Lil Wayne, Wiz Khalifa & Imagine Dragons (ft. Logic, Ty Dolla $ign & X Ambassadors)
3. “Heathens” by Twenty One Pilots
4. “Standing In The Rain” by Action Bronson & Dan Auerbach (of The Black Keys) (ft. Mark Ronson)
5. “Gangsta” by Kehlani
6. “Know Better” by Kevin Gates
7. “You Don’t Own Me” by Grace (ft. G-Eazy)
8. “Without Me” by Eminem
9. “Wreak Havoc” by Skylar Grey
10. “Medieval Warfare” by Grimes
11. “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Panic! At The Disco
12. “Slippin’ Into Darkness” by War
13. “Fortunate Son” by Creedence Clearwater Revival
14. “I Started a Joke” by ConfidentialMX (ft. Becky Hanson)

*Correction, June 25, 2016: This post originally misstated that both Dan Reynolds and Sam Harris sing the chorus of “Sucker for Pain.” Reynolds sings the chorus, but Harris sings the song's outro.

June 24 2016 12:55 PM

The Trailer for the Movie Adapation of American Pastoral Is Depressing If You Love Philip Roth’s Novel

The trailer for the movie adaptation of American Pastoral is out, and if you know the book—to many people’s minds, including mine, Philip Roth’s greatest novel—you might have been wondering how first-time director Ewan McGregor was planning to adapt it. How would he attempt to mimic the gentle dissolution of the book’s framing narrative, in which Roth alter ego Nathan Zuckerman constructs the story from childhood memories and a conversation at a high school reunion? Would the film, which premieres Oct. 21, find within the tragedy of high school baseball star Seymour “Swede” Levov the whole history of Newark and its suburbs and, indeed, of the American middle class? What cinematic equivalent would McGregor find for Roth’s meticulously impressionistic evocation of an entire golden life, somehow at once vividly immediate and saturated with nostalgia and tragedy?

If the trailer is any indication—well, who knows? They cut the trailers to get people into the theaters, I guess, and maybe Roth’s achievement, the simultaneous conjuring of present experience and mnemonic hyperrealism and self-consciously novelistic reflection, isn’t what sells tickets. Maybe what sells tickets is what this trailer points to: the story of an ordinary man, his daughter, and the bombing of a small-town post office set against the backdrop of an America spiraling out of control at the end of the ’60s. Which is almost what the book is about, kind of, if you squint.


That first shot, though. You’re not supposed to see the post office blow up. Zuckerman imagines Levov imagining the post office blowing up. Not the events themselves but the way they manifest to us.

So, if the trailer is any indication, this will be a nicely shot period drama with some meaty scenes for McGregor and costars Dakota Fanning and Jennifer Connelly to show off their acting chops. With a Pulitzer Prize–winning source novel to give it some real luster! A few people could end up getting Oscar noms out of this, at least, if it doesn’t totally tank.

June 24 2016 10:32 AM

What It Really Means That Independence Day: Resurgence Isn’t Being Screened for Critics

Opening this weekend: A sequel to one of the highest-grossing movies of all time, and a movie in which Blake Lively fights a shark. Guess which one isn’t being screened for critics?

Okay, that’s not quite fair: Independence Day: Resurgence, the 20th-anniversary sequel to the movie that ranks 55th on the all-time box-office list, is screening for reviewers in some cities. It’s just that it’s doing so at a Friday morning “courtesy screening,” approximately 15 hours after it opens in multiplexes. And that’s only in the U.S.: Critics in the U.K. and Australia were shown the film earlier this week, and their reviews were posted on Tuesday. But American publications, at least those without critics based in London or Sydney, won’t get a look until tonight—it’s doubtful many will wait until Friday when they can just buy a ticket for an evening showing—which means reviews won’t run until around midnight on the East Coast, and, more importantly, won’t make tomorrow’s print newspapers at all.

June 24 2016 8:32 AM

Is Game of Thrones Going to Give Us a Second Red Wedding?

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Man, everything’s getting a sequel these days. First Now You See Me, then Finding Nemo, and now the terrible massacre in Game of Thrones’ third season that killed off most of the Stark family and their army. Yes, that’s right: A scene in the trailer for the season-six finale has some fans convinced we’re about to get a second version of the Red Wedding.

They’re not getting the idea out of nowhere. The possibility of a Red Wedding sequel is a popular theory among Song of Ice and Fire fandom, thanks to a bunch of characters and circumstances that haven’t been included in the show. Even if you’re not a book reader, you’ve likely heard of Lady Stoneheart, the zombified version of Catelyn Stark who leads the Brotherhood Without Banners on a brutal campaign of vengeance throughout the later books of the series. So far, Stoneheart and the Brotherhood have confined themselves to killing anyone even slightly involved in the Red Wedding (and threatening the life of one major character), but there are hints they’ve got something bigger in the works.

June 24 2016 8:02 AM

Daniel Radcliffe’s Farting Corpse Movie Is Just the Culmination of These Directors’ Bizarre Videos

Swiss Army Man, a movie in which a desperate man stranded on a deserted island gets a new lease on life after a “magical” corpse washes upon shore, is a weird movie. Directed by Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (known collectively as Daniels), it flows narratively like a stream of consciousness, as if arriving at enthusiastic answers to the recurring query, “Wouldn’t it be stupid if insert-crazy-idea-here happened?” It’s also been dubbed as the “Daniel Radcliffe farting corpse movie”—but as a longtime fan of the duo’s short films and music videos, there's much more to it than just that. For me, Swiss Army Man is the culmination of years’ worth of clever techniques and inexpensive practical effects that have come to define Daniels’ signature style, their wild ideas amplified delightfully in long-form.

Below, a look at some of their best work, and how it influenced their bizarre, fantastical first feature.