Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

March 5 2015 4:41 PM

The Trailer for the Next Gillian Flynn Movie Looks Like Gone Girl Meets Serial

A few years before Gone Girl became a New York Times best-seller and a cultural phenomenon, author Gillian Flynn published Dark PlacesWhile that similarly dark and mysterious novel may have been overshadowed by its followup, it landed on theTimes’ bestseller list, too—and now it’s getting its own big-screen treatment.

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March 5 2015 4:11 PM

Elena Ferrante’s Paris Review Interview Finally Convinced Me to Stop Caring Who She Really Is 

At this point, it’s been well-documented that—perhaps more than readers enjoy unpacking the friendship at the heart of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels—they like speculating about who exactly Elena Ferrante is.Depending on whom you ask, this speculation is either the product of excellent PR on the part of her publisher, or something that drives Ferrante bonkers. The reclusive Italian writer uses a pseudonym that shares a first name with the celebrated novels’ protagonist, Elena, which is one of many indications that the story might be autobiographical. With bits like that, she is practically encouraging readers to draw their own conclusions.

So, like all fans, hungry for any proof that Ferrante isn’t a figment of my imagination, I was speechless with excitement when the Paris Review revealed they’d be conducting the first-ever in-person interview with her. After all, if there’s any place that could get Ferante to say something—anything!—it’s the Paris Review, master of the longform literary interview. I was ready to call in late to work and read—and reread—the issue looking for clues. Surely there would be some morsels of information to feed my obsession.

March 5 2015 3:41 PM

MoMA’s Björk Disaster

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Without quite meaning to, I seem to have prereviewed the Museum of Modern Art’s current Björk show. I greeted its June announcement with dismay, writing, “Today the Museum of Modern Art crawled deeper into cravenness, announcing the upcoming ‘full-scale retrospective’ of Björk. Don’t get me wrong: I love Björk and her fabulous amaranth persona, her videos, and her music.” I wrote then that all belong in a museum, but added, “MoMA [is] destroying its credibility ... in its self-suicidal slide into a box-office-driven carnival ... Tilda Swinton sleeping in a glass vitrine, Queen Marina staring at smitten viewers in the atrium, the trashy Tim Burton show, last season’s gee-whiz Rain Room, and of course the wrecking ball Diller Scofidio + Renfro is about to swing.” What made me know back then that the Björk show would likely be another embarrassing pop-programming nadir in a string of embarrassing pop-programming nadirs was the way MoMA—more than any major museum in the world—has gravitated to spectacle almost for its own sake. At the same time, the museum is unable to even commit to going all the way with a show like this by giving it a whole floor, or PS1, or multiple galleries in MoMA itself. By now all of these shows feel like the museum trying to boost its numbers, pandering, and at sea. One other thing raised a big red flag: Its curator being Biesenbach, I reasoned that his fan heart was sure to get in the way of this being done in an erudite, historically-contexualizing way, placing the art and the artist in her own time. Back in June I grumbled about Biesenbach being “predictable” and a “showman,” then whined about MoMA being unable to think of any other living or dead artist for such a show.

I wanted to be surprised and proven wrong about the Björk show. Alas, I haven’t been. Housed in the museum’s atrium in a two-story, black-painted wooden-pavilion thing, you wind through lines (very, very long lines), reading handwritten lyrics in books encased in vitrines, hearing snippets of music, and then donning a headset that leads you through a 40-minute tour of the second floor, album by album. It’s a discombobulated mess. The spoken narrative, written by Icelandic poet Sjón and read by actor Margrét Vilhjálmsdóttir, is a pretty silly fable about a “young girl” who ventures into “kingdoms.” As you walk, signals tell the headset that you’ve moved on, and it begins playing the next chapter of the tale. All the while, video clips play here and there, and we look into alcoves containing some of the fantastic costumes and paraphernalia used in some of the music videos, including those wooly yak-creatures. The halls, where you will spend the vast bulk of your time, are lined with pictures from the albums. There is one pillow-laden theater that screens Björk’s music videos. In another, a ten-minute work commissioned by MoMA is displayed. Unfortunately, this work is not yet up to museum or gallery standards. Biesenbach is no idiot, but the show is “sound and fury, signifying nothing.” Even, I venture, for fans.

March 5 2015 2:15 PM

Are Edible Coffee Cups Really a Good Idea? I Made Some to Find Out.

Last week, KFC won the Internet (or at least tons of free press) by releasing several photographs of theedible “Scoff-ee Cups” it plans to release in U.K. stores later this year. (In the U.K., scoff is slang for to scarf down.) According to the Telegraph, the cups are made of a crunchy wafer-like cookie, “wrapped in sugar paper and then lined with a layer of heat-resistant white chocolate to keep the coffee hot and the cup crispy.” They are also infused with scents intended to improve eaters’ mood, such as “coconut sun cream,” “freshly cut grass,” and “wild flowers.” (The designers of the cup were apparently unaware that the smells of cookies and coffee have also been known to lift one’s mood.)

Is an edible coffee cup a good idea? It’s certainly not a new idea. Italian coffee company Lavazza developed a “Cookie Cup” for espresso in 2003 but never marketed it widely. A Los Angeles coffee shop called Alfred Coffee & Kitchen began serving espresso from chocolate-dipped waffle cones last fall. Although there are many good theoretical reasons to embrace edible dishware—the New York Times and other outlets note that they address “consumer concerns about the environmental impact of packaging”—edible coffee cups haven’t yet become widely available. Why? Safety? (Is this a prudent way to carry around steaming hot liquid?) Hygiene? (Do you really want to put this thing in your cup holder?) Taste? I can’t yet test-drive KFC’s model—no one can, except the model who was cast in the photo shoot—so I decided to try making some to find out.

March 5 2015 2:00 PM

Spoiler Special: House of Cards Season 3

On the Spoiler Special podcast, Slate critics discuss movies, the occasional TV show, and, once in a blue moon, another podcast, in full, spoiler-filled detail. Slate’s Willa Paskin, J. Bryan Lowder, Katy Waldman, and Miriam Krule discuss the entire third season of House of Cards, including the show’s transitioning focus from political drama to relationship drama, Frank’s sexuality, and whether or not that was the best mid-urination international diplomacy ever seen on TV.


March 5 2015 12:05 PM

The Americans’ Keri Russell on the Best (and Worst) Parts of Spying for the KGB

Each week on Slate’s TV Club Insider podcast, the creators, cast, and crew of The Americans reveal behind-the-scenes details about the making of the FX drama’s third season. 

In this installment about the sixth episode, “Born Again,” Keri Russell, who stars as Russian spy Elizabeth Jennings, joins script coordinator Molly Nussbaum and executive producers Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg to discuss on-set challenges, the best (and worst) part of wearing so many disguises, and her own personal contributions to the crafting of a scene.

March 5 2015 9:02 AM

This Year’s MTV Movie Awards Might Be Better Than the Oscars

On April 12, the MTV Movie Awards will dole out a “golden popcorn” statuette for “Best Shirtless Performance.” There will be no acknowledgments for cinematography, writing, or directing. That is to say: these are not Serious Film Awards and don’t pretend to be. But this year, I’d argue that the MTV Movie Awards somehow stumbled into a better lineup than the 2015 Oscars.

The list of MTV Movie Award nominees, announced yesterday, includes nods to Ellar Coltrane of Boyhood and David Oyelowo of Selma, both unforgettable performances that were overlooked by the Oscars. The Academy famously shut out people of color from all 20 acting nominations this year. MTV’s much longer list of acting nominees is pretty white, too, but it includes not just Oyelowo, but Chris Rock, Kevin Hart, Zoe Saldana, Rosario Dawson, and J. Lo. And there are plenty of new faces, too, including apparently real people named “Dylan O’Brien” and “Halston Sage.” Oh, and Meryl Streep, too—it’s still an awards ceremony, after all.

March 5 2015 8:32 AM

Your TV Small-Talk Is Ruining Dinner Parties

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

I must not be the only one who dreads that turn around the table at a dinner party when someone fills a minor silence with the go-to question of our time. “Have any of you been watching Walking Dead?” he’ll ask, unless it’s, “Have any of you been watching Downton Abbey?” or, have any of you been watching any other show that people like to like? If you take the bait — and someone always does — the night soon descends into palaver. No more news about your friends, no more funny anecdotes or gossip, no more open, honest sharing of the soul. Once you and your friends have started down the track of TV talk, there’s rarely any change of course, except to shift the target of communal praise from one amazing show to another, even more amazing one. “Yeah, but have you been watching Homeland?” “Yes, oh my God, SO GOOD.”

March 4 2015 9:59 PM

Ian McKellen Makes a Very, Very Good Old Sherlock Holmes

A new Sherlock Holmes adaptation is rarely surprising: Guinness World Records once deemed the detective history’s most portrayed literary character, with over 200 film and TV appearances by over 70 actors. Those actors each approached the character differently, and most played Holmes in his middle-aged prime. But whither old Sherlock? According to Arthur Conan Doyle’s canon, Holmes retires to a sleepy English town and takes to beekeeping, a delightful career coda that never gets screen treatment.

Enter Sir Ian McKellen. In Mr. Holmes, the actor plays an ageing Sherlock befriended by his housekeeper’s son and consumed by one last mystery.

March 4 2015 4:12 PM

The Best Teen Movie Ever Made About Cyberbullying? The Duff.

In the new teen film The Duff, Bianca (Mae Whitman) walks down the hallways of her high school, surrounded by gawking classmates. They snicker at their smartphones, watching a video of Bianca swooning over her crush, Toby. Then the camera cuts to a short scene in which two girls on the high school’s front lawn discuss how embarrassing this video must be for Bianca with convincing sympathy—only to turn to each other and quickly agree to send it to everyone they know.


The movie, which stars Mae Whitman, Robbie Amell, and Bella Thorne, seems to have a good chance of becoming a new teen classic. It cast YouTube stars in cameos and campaigned heavily on Twitter. It raked in 10.8 million on its opening weekend, and the buzz among the high school demographic has steadily built since then. And the reason for this, at least in part, is a simple one: The Duff is offering the most realistic, interesting depiction of cyberbullying we’ve ever seen.