Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

May 26 2015 8:21 PM

The Best Movie Sets Ever Built, Ranked

 Set design should supply as seamless an illusion as possible, making it an art prone to being taken for granted: When you watch Titanic, you don’t think of the hundreds of crew members who labored to erect a 90 percent scale replica of the ship as much as how cool and believable Leo DiCaprio looks running around it. As such, CineFixs latest ranking—an erudite countdown of the best movie sets in history—serves as a much-needed spotlight for one of cinema’s vital crafts.

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May 26 2015 5:50 PM

Sundance Favorite Diary of a Teenage Girl Looks Endearing, Earnest, and a Little Twisted

“I wonder if anybody loves me who I don’t know about,” ponders teenage girl protagonist Minnie Goetze in this trailer for The Diary of a Teenage Girl, which enchanted audiences at Sundance this year. It’s a question many girls—and probably boys, I guess—ask themselves growing up. But Minnie’s love life isn’t exactly ordinary: She’s having an affair with her mother’s boyfriend.

The movie is set in 1970s San Francisco, and is based on a graphic novel by the same name. And somehow, it looks pretty charming, despite the somewhat deviant plot. Autumnal hues give the trailer a warm, fuzzy quality, while whimsical animations and jaunty banjo music promise a little quirk. Also, a little Kristen Wiig never hurts.

May 26 2015 2:57 PM

The Secret History of Ultimate Marvel, the Experiment That Changed Superheroes Forever

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

A reboot is a delicate thing. When a once-profitable franchise of characters becomes stale, outdated, or overly complex, there will always be voices calling for the slate to be wiped clean: to take the characters back to their basics, retell their origin stories, make them contemporary. But all too often, those rebooting efforts are laughable, pandering failures. Ultimate Marvel was the rare exception. It was a compendium of stories that saved the company that launched it, revolutionized the comics medium, and became the foundation of the multi-billion-dollar Marvel cinematic empire.

It began as a Hail Mary maneuver. Ultimate Marvel was a publishing experiment launched by Marvel Comics—the superhero-comics company that had invented the Avengers, Spider-Man, the X-Men, and countless other icons—during its darkest hour. The idea was simple: Launch various comics series where all the famous Marvel characters are young again and just starting their superhero careers in the modern day. Give the series flashy titles like Ultimate Spider-Man and Ultimate X-Men and make sure no reader will have to go back and read decades’ worth of comics to understand what’s going on. Return to core principles. Make these icons fresh again.

There were many reasons the initiative could have failed, but it instead succeeded beyond its creators' wildest dreams. Indeed, the world of Marvel movie adaptations—including this summer's megahit Avengers sequel and upcoming Fantastic Four—owe more to the Ultimate imprint than any other single Marvel Comics initiative. And yet, 15 years after the Ultimate line’s birth, Marvel just killed it. Last week, a five-issue miniseries called Ultimate End debuted, and when it's done, there will be no more Ultimate Marvel. There is little mourning, even among die-hard comics fans who once loved the imprint.

What happened? Why dispose of something so successful? To find the answers, we must look at the secret history of Ultimate Marvel. It's a story of desperate ambition, shocking triumph, and fevered imagination. But it's also a cautionary tale: one about pushing limits too far, holding on too long, and learning to accept the forces of entropy. Here, then, is the tale of Ultimate Marvel, one of entertainment's greatest reboots—but also living proof that all reboots can become victims of their own success.

May 26 2015 12:59 PM

Amy Schumer Schooled Contestants on The Bachelorette in the Art of Stand-Up Comedy

Amy Schumer appeared on The Bachelorette Monday night to help coach the guys in time for their stand-up comedy group date. And although she hit it off with bachelorette Kaitlyn Bristowe, some of the guys apparently left something to be desired—according to Schumer, “charisma, and humility, and a sense of humor.” In this clip, she sits down with a few lucky bachelors to help them decide which of their features are most ripe for riffing. It seems that some of the guys made a better impression than others: While one gets away with only a couple jokes at the expense of his shirt, another manages to convince Schumer that he’s a total “turd.”

May 26 2015 10:49 AM

This Week’s Worst Person in Westeros: Cersei Lannister


After each episode in Game of Thrones Season 5, we’ll be discussing a crucial question: Who is currently the worst person in Westeros? This week, Slate assistant editor Miriam Krule is joined by Slate contributor Chris Wade.



Miriam Krule: Chris! Thanks for joining me to chat about “The Gift.” We got payoff for two big things this episode—the multiseason wait for Gilly and Sam to FINALLY just do it is over (with the added bonus of the oh so perfect “oh my” from Sam) and Cersei, no stranger to worstness in Westeros, got what we all knew was coming—aka being bested by the Sparrows (even if she did get the last, threatening word in this episode). Before we jump into who takes the crown this week, can I posit that the Gilly and Sam story is turning very Bran-ish. I care so very little about them, even if this baby, Little Sam, is clearly destined for ... something? Aemon calling him “Egg” because he’s reminded of his brother Aegon is pretty wonderful (is there a better nickname on Game of Thrones?), and obviously there’s a reason he’s being compared to a former king. But I hope we find that out why sooner rather than later—I’d much prefer some Brienne and Pod.


May 26 2015 8:32 AM

Leading Men Age, But Their Love Interests Don’t

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Yesterday, Kristen Stewart fell out of the con-artist comedy Focus after Will Smith replaced Ben Affleck as the male lead; according to Variety, she was nagged by "the feeling that the age difference between the two would be too large a gap." For the record, Smith is a mere four years older than the 40-year-old Affleck, and if it seems a little odd that either of them would be considered a romantic partner for the 23-year-old Stewart in the first place … well, welcome to Hollywood. It seems like time and time again, male movie stars are allowed to age into their forties, fifties, and even sixties while the ages of their female love interests remain firmly on one side of the big 4-0, but is this a perception borne out of reality? To find out for sure, Vulture has analyzed the data of ten middle-aged leading men and the ages of the women they've wooed onscreen; you'll see the results in the charts below.

How'd we arrive at our conclusions? For each of our leading men, we tried to pick a representative sample of films — usually ten — where that A-lister had a notable love interest or wife, then we plotted the age gaps on our charts over the course of that star's career. (Because production dates for older movies can be hard to come by, we measured the stars' ages on the day the film in question was released.) The results confirmed our suspicions: As leading men age, their love interests stay the same, and even the oldest men on our list have had few romantic pairings with a woman their own age (or even one out of her mid-thirties). If our actor was sharing the screen with an A-lister of commensurate star power like Julia Roberts or Angelina Jolie, the age difference would drop somewhat, but in movies that relied solely on our guy's big name, the lesser-known love interests would nearly always be decades younger.

Scroll down to check out our findings in-depth.

May 26 2015 8:02 AM

When Did Sidewalk Café Chalkboards Start Trying So Hard to Make Jokes?

“There is alcohol in this establishment. You love alcohol!”

These words recently greeted me from a chalkboard sign at a bar a few blocks away from my apartment. The sheer cheekiness nearly knocked me over. If I’d been about to enter that bar, I might have turned on my heels and walked away. The commercialism mixed with annoying solicitousness mixed with elbow-in-ribcage jokiness—it all felt so familiar. When did bar and café chalkboards start reading like some kind of cross between a pick-up line, “neg,” and Internet meme?

Long after the printing press rendered town criers obsolete, that other ancient form of information dissemination, the sidewalk sandwich board, quietly persists. Sometimes these chalkboards—you can find them standing outside certain not-corporate-and-proud-of-it businesses like bars, coffee shops, and boutiques—list the day’s specials or when happy hour is. But perhaps you too have lately noticed a certain creep away from the practical toward a softer sell: jokes, puns, quotations, drawings, and other creative expressions of branding. Too often, the results are cringeworthy.

May 25 2015 2:16 PM

Veep’s Most Creative, Profane, Flat-Out Hilarious Insults

There are many praiseworthy aspects to Veep’s comedy, but the easiest to admire are the insults. Much like In the Loop, or really anything departing showrunner Armando Ianucci has made, the series is a pioneer in profanity, with characters routinely blurting ingenious slurs, wacky put-downs, and maledictions of bracing hilarity.

Many have attempted to showcase the best of these insults, but the folks at Fast Company, I think, have done an especially good job with their compilation. My personal favorite: Selina Meyer responding to some inane advice with “I’d rather set fire to my vulva, so that’s a no.”


May 25 2015 9:32 AM

Are Daenerys Targaryen and Tyrion Lannister Finally a Game of Thrones Power Couple?

Daenerys Targaryen’s ancestors are getting mentioned more and more frequently on Game of Thrones, suggesting that there are parts of her family’s past that Dany could stand to learn from. Who was Baelor the Blessed? Who was “Egg” that Maester Aemon called out to from his death bed? On this week’s House Slate, Amanda Marcotte and Marc Faletti dig into two of Daenerys’ ancestors to decide whether she’s reliving their mistakes.

Also, Tyrion Lannister seems awfully sure that Dany will be happy to see him. But her family and his have a lot of bad blood between them. Will she be able to get over that to give her would-be friend a chance?  

May 24 2015 1:05 PM

Sting Joined Jimmy Fallon’s Ragtime Gals for a Barbershop Rendition of “Roxanne”

Sting made the late night rounds last week, and the highlight was his performance with Jimmy Fallon’s barbershop quartet, the Ragtime Gals, who regularly churn out hilarious, old-timey covers of modern classics.

This time around, they gave the a cappella treatment to “Roxanne,” with Sting’s inimitable wail tamped down to a velvet croon.