Slate's Culture Blog

Nov. 23 2014 3:10 PM

Spoiler Special: Mockingjay Part 1

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. Below, Slate movie critic Dana Stevens and TV critic Willa Paskin discuss The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, the latest film installment of Suzanne Collins’ dystopian fantasy. How does it compare with the other films? Is it actually good, or does Jennifer Lawrence merely redeem it with her steely performance? And was the abrupt ending earned, or just an arbitrary decision?

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Nov. 23 2014 2:43 PM

The Stunning 9/11 Conspiracy Behind Anna Kendrick’s Pitch Perfect

On face, there isn’t much overlap between Pitch Perfect, Anna Kendrick’s hit a cappella comedy, and Room 237, the 2013 documentary detailing kooky fan theories about Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. But “Pitch Perfect 237,” a short but vital video by YouTube user CookStProductions, combines the themes of both films to show that Kendrick is an “expressionist genius,” a low-key auteur whose masterpiece, Pitch Perfect, is underneath its feel-good façade a parable “about, and in protest against, 9/11.”

Nov. 23 2014 1:07 PM

Kyle Mooney and Beck Bennett Prove That SNL Is Stranger Than Ever

It’s rarely mentioned, but SNL is weirder today than it’s ever been. That’s one of the best and most defining aspects of this so-called “rebuilding” phase—its increasingly avant-garde identity, its move away from the punch line and toward the more amorphous pleasures of tone, performance, and premise. The best skits from last night’s episode, a serviceable installment hosted by Cameron Diaz, didn’t traffic in the laugh-out-loud moment, but in the off-kilter, Kids in the Hall-like absurdist humor that has become the backbone of the show’s sensibility.

Nov. 22 2014 4:10 PM

Fred Armisen Does a Set Imitating Every New York Accent His Audience Suggests

In his long tenure on SNL, Fred Armisen displayed a preternatural knack for accents, a talent that was so disarming and hilarious that it would often cause comic heavyweights like Kristen Wiig to break character. In a recent performance at a charity benefit, Armisen put his peerless mimicry to good use, doing a four-minute segment on every single New York accent he could muster.

Nov. 22 2014 2:42 PM

Tina Fey and Ellie Kemper’s Doomsday Cult Comedy Moves From NBC to Netflix

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, a half-hour comedy produced by 30 Rock gods Tina Fey and Robert Carlock, was supposed to be one of NBC’s best new comedies. The show never aired, but, in the latest coup for our streaming service overlords, Netflix has bought the series’ rights and will premiere all 13 episodes of its first season in March.

Nov. 22 2014 12:40 PM

You’re Doing It Wrong: Thanksgiving

In the past week, Brow Beat has been providing all the essential recipes you need to celebrate Thanksgiving with culinary aplomb. (See our recent entries on turkey, pumpkin piesweet potatoesmashed potatoes, and cranberry sauce, plus earlier entries on biscuits, Brussels sprouts, and stuffing.) But recipes only go so far: They tell you, in a piecemeal fashion, what ingredients to buy and how to cook them. They don’t tell you how to coordinate an eight-course meal for a dozen people—i.e., how to do it right.

Cooking a Thanksgiving meal is a somewhat masochistic enterprise. It’s rewarding, for sure, and fun if you like cooking. But perfectly coordinating the timing of several dishes—nearly all of which taste best hot, many of which require oven time, and some of which begin deteriorating in quality shortly after you finish cooking them—is, well, impossible.

Nov. 22 2014 11:15 AM

Beyoncé’s New Music Video Stars Her Backup Dancers, Some Bathroom Dancing, and a Selfie Stick

Many have danced to Beyoncé in the bathroom; few have done it like Queen Bey herself. The singer has a new, unusually candid music video, and it dropped in the most Beyoncé way possible—on a Friday, at night, without any announcement at all. The video is for “7/11,” one of two bonus tracks on the deluxe release of her most recent record. But don’t expect the intricate, lavishly produced feel of that “visual album”—this video looks more like what the biggest pop star in the world does on a free Friday with her friends, family, a few drinks, and a selfie stick.

Nov. 22 2014 9:03 AM

What Happened? Why Is Every Character on Parenthood the Worst Now?

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

I was so relieved when NBC announced that Parenthood would return for a farewell season. The dignity of a proper good-bye, I thought. The mere memory fills me with shame, because this season of Parenthood has made me so damn excited for this show to end. Get away from me, Bravermans! You are all terrible! You are all so terrible, and I hate all of you so much, and I will not miss any of you at all. Except for Adam and Kristina's dog, who has done nothing to elicit my ire. Everyone else, though—I have grown to loathe all of you.

Especially Adam and Kristina, and especially-especially Kristina. Kristina has never been qualified to run a school—if anyone could do it, don't you think more people would?—and now her incompetence has become dangerous negligence. Max was harassing Dylan, and Kristina and Adam appear to have given up on any kind of therapies for their son. Max’s behavior is explainable, but it’s not excusable, and his parents’ ongoing refusal to recognize that is as bad for him as it is for everyone else. Kristina’s constant “sweetheart,” “babe,” “honey” lingo is grating in her home, but at school, directed at her students, it’s inappropriate and degrading. That girl in a toga isn’t your “sweetheart.” She’s a student who deserves to be educated by someone who is a qualified educator. Sucks for you, toga girl, but that’s what you get for going to a school started by a former shoe salesman, a former political consultant, and an egregious sense of entitlement.

Nov. 21 2014 7:50 PM

A Complete List of the Women Who Have Accused Bill Cosby of Sexual Assault

The following women have alleged as a matter of public record that Bill Cosby sexually assaulted or raped them. They are listed in the order their allegations became public.

1. Lachele Covington. Covington, an actress who was 20 at the time, filed a police report alleging that Cosby pushed her hand toward his penis after inviting her to his New York home on Jan. 25, 2000 to give her career advice. The New York Post reported that authorities "decided no crime had been committed because until the very moment Covington pulled her hand away, all actions had been consensual." A Cosby spokesperson called the story "not true."


2. Andrea Constand. Constand told Ontario police in January 2005 that a year prior, when she was 31, she had visited Cosby at his home in Pennsylvania seeking career advice. (Constand, an Ontario native, worked at the time for Temple University, Cosby's alma mater.) Constand alleges he gave her "herbal" pills for anxiety, then “touched her breasts and vaginal area, rubbed his penis against her hand, and digitally penetrated” her. The Pennsylvania prosecutor who looked into the case has said that while he didn't bring charges because the available evidence was not sufficient, he found Constand "credible" and found Cosby "evasive." After prosecutors declined to charge him, Constand filed a civil suit against Cosby for $150 million; her suit cited, anonymously, 13 other women who alleged that he had sexually assaulted them. (Some of those women, referred to as "Jane Does" in legal language, have since identified themselves publicly and are mentioned below. The identities of Jane Doe witnesses are disclosed to defendants so their testimony can be fairly researched and challenged, but they are not ID'd by name in court or in public records.) Cosby's attorney called Constand's claims "utterly preposterous." The suit was settled for an undisclosed amount in 2006.

3. Tamara Green. In February of 2005, Green, a retired trial attorney, appeared on The Today Show and told Matt Lauer that Cosby had drugged and assaulted her in the '70s. Green was working as a model and met Cosby through mutual friends, she says, and he once offered her what he told her was cold medicine when she was ill. When she began to feel incapacitated, she alleges, he offered to take her home, where he began groping and undressing her; when she struggled, he left, leaving behind two $100 bills on her table. Cosby's attorney issued the following response (which referenced Green's maiden name, Lucier): "Miss Green’s allegations are absolutely false. Mr. Cosby does not know the name Tamara Green or Tamara Lucier, and the incident she describes did not happen." Green was one of the Jane Does cited in Constand's lawsuit.

4. Beth Ferrier. In June 2005, Ferrier, 46 at the time, told the Philadelphia Daily News that Cosby drugged her coffee when she visited him before a performance in Denver when she was 25. Ferrier, who worked as a model, had been in a consensual relationship with Cosby that ended before the alleged assault; she met him through mutual acquantainces and had believed he would help her with her career. Ferrier was also a Jane Doe.

5. Barbara Bowman. In 2006, Bowman publicly identified herself as one of Constand's Jane Does via an article in Philadelphia Magazine, though she didn't discuss details of her accusation at the time. In October of this year—after comedian Hannibal Buress called Cosby a rapist during a performance—Bowman, now 47 and an artist, spoke about her experience to the Daily Mail. When she was 17 and pursuing a career as a model and actress, she says, she met Cosby, who she says pursued a mentor-mentee relationship with her and drugged and assaulted her multiple times. (While the Daily Mail can be unreliable, Bowman later vouched for its version of her account in a Washington Post piece.) Bowman's account mentions that during their first encounter he asked her to wet her hair and pretend to be drunk while he stroked her, an incident similar to those recounted by other accusers.

6. Joan Tarshis. On Nov. 16 of this year Joan Tarshis, a 64-year-old music industry publicist and journalist, told Hollywood Elsewhere that Cosby raped her twice in 1969 when she was 19 years old and pursuing a career as a writer in L.A. Tarshis says Cosby first assaulted her after he invited her to work on material with him in his bungalow and made her a drink that caused her to lose consciousness.

7. Linda Joy Traitz. Now 63, Traitz wrote on Facebook on Nov. 17 that Cosby assaulted her when she was 19 and working as a waitress at a restaurant that he partially owned. Traitz alleges that Cosby offered her a ride home from the restaurant but instead drove her to a beach and tried to force her to take pills to help her "relax." Traitz told CNN he then groped her chest, pushed her down, and tried to lie on top of her. Traitz has a criminal record that includes imprisonment on a drug trafficking conviction; in a response to her allegations, Marty Singer, an attorney representing Cosby, cited her troubled past and said she lacks credibility.

8. Janice Dickinson. On Nov. 18, model and reality TV personality Janice Dickinson, now 59, told Entertainment Tonight that Cosby sexually assaulted her in 1982. At a dinner in Lake Tahoe at which they were to discuss her career, she says, she asked him for a pill for period cramps, and that "the last thing I remember was Bill Cosby in a patchwork robe, dropping his robe and getting on top of me. And I remember a lot of pain." Singer, Cosby's attorney, called Dickinson's story "a fabricated lie." Dickinson says Cosby's attorneys kept her from including a description of the alleged assault in a 2002 book, but Singer says she never wrote such a description and was never contacted by Cosby representatives.

9. Therese Serignese. The Huffington Post printed allegations made against Cosby by Serignese, a 57-year-old nurse in Boca Raton, Florida, on Nov. 20. She says she encountered Cosby in 1976 when she was 19 years old; he was headlining a show at the Las Vegas Hilton, she alleges, and approached her in the hotel gift shop. Backstage in the green room, he allegedly gave her drugs, and when she came to he was having sex with her in a bathroom, she says. Serignese subsequently stayed in contact with Cosby and accepted money from him—which he had promised to give her if she pursued an education and received good grades. She told the HuffPo that at one point in their relationship (it's not clear when) he asked her to wet her hair and pretend to be an actress.

10. Carla Ferrigno. Carla Ferrigno, an actress and the wife of Incredible Hulk star Lou Ferrigno, told Rumorfix on Nov. 20 that in 1967 Cosby grabbed her and forcefully kissed her at a party while his wife was in another room.

11. Louisa Moritz. Moritz, a 68-year-old lawyer and onetime actress who appeared in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, told TMZ in a story published Nov. 20 that in 1971, Cosby forced her to perform oral sex on him in the greenroom of The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Singer responded by saying allegations against Cosby have "reached a point of absurdity" and alleging that Moritz has been the subject of professional sanctions: "Mortiz is a lawyer who was disciplined by the California State Bar and ordered not to practice. We pulled the documents -- she can't practice because she didn't report certain quarterly reports."

12. Renita Chaney Hill. Hill, now 47, says she met Cosby when she was 15 and he was filming an educational TV segment in Pittsburgh. Hill says they stayed in touch for four years—that Cosby flew her to meet with him in various cities and kept in touch with her parents, asking them about her grades in school. On Nov. 20 a Pittsburgh CBS affiliate broadcast an interview with Hill in which she said she believes Cosby drugged and sexually assaulted her on more than one occasion during their relationship. 

13. Michelle Hurd. Actress Michelle Hurd, known for her roles on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Gossip Girl, among others, described Bill Cosby as being “very inappropriate” with her when she was doing stand-in work on the Cosby Show. “It started innocently, lunch in his dressing room, daily, then onto weird acting exercises were he would move his hands up and down my body, (can’t believe I fell for that) I was instructed to NEVER tell anyone what we did together,” Hurd reportedly wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday. “I dodged the ultimate bullet with him when he asked me to come to his house, take a shower so we could blow dry my hair and see what it looked like straightened... I then started to take notice and found another actress, a stand-in as well, and we started talking….. A LOT …. turns out he was doing the same thing to her, almost by the numbers, BUT, she did go to his house and because I will not name her, and it is her story to tell, all I’ll say is she awoke, after being drugged, vomited, and then Cosby told her there’s a cab waiting for you outside.”

14. Angela Leslie. On Nov. 21, the New York Daily News reported that a 52-year-old former model-actress named Angela Leslie says that Cosby sexually assaulted her in Las Vegas in 1992. Leslie alleges Cosby fixed her a drink, asked her to wet her hair and pretend to be intoxicated, and masturbated using her hand while she was "in shock."

15. Kristina Ruehli. The 71-year-old was one of the Jane Does in the Andrea Constand case that was settled out of court. In 1965, Ruehli worked as a secretary at a talent agency in Los Angeles that represented Cosby. Ruehli told Philadelphia Magazine on Friday that Cosby asked her to a party at his home, but it turned out she was the only guest. Cosby poured her a drink that she says must have been drugged. “There is just one point at which I was having a drink and feeling normal and the next I was somehow passed out completely,” Ruehli says. “It was all foggy, and I woke up in the bed. I found myself on the bed, and he had his shirt off. He had unzipped his pants. I was just coming to. He was attempting to force me into oral sex. He had his hand on my head. He had his cock out, and he had my head pushed close enough to it—I just remember looking at his stomach hair. And the hair on his chest. I had never seen a black man naked before. And it never went past that. I immediately came to and was immediately very sick. I pushed myself away and ran to the bathroom and threw up. I was feeling really ill. And I never got sick like that from alcohol, at least not that small of an amount. Once I threw up—it was five in the morning by now, I think—I left the bathroom and he wasn't there. I don't know where he went. But I left right away. I was able to drive myself home.”

16. Victoria Valentino. In September 1963, at the age of just 19, Victoria Valentino was picked as Playboy’s Playmate of the Month. Years later, battling depression after the drowning death of her young son in 1969, a friend introduced Valentino to Bill Cosby. In early 1970, Valentino had dinner with Cosby, and an aspiring actress named Meg Foster, when Valentino says Cosby offered them red pills. All three took a pill and went back to Cosby’s house, according to Valentino's account. Valentino, now 71, says she recalled pulling Cosby off of Foster as he tried to rape her. “The room was spinning, and Valentino said she remembered feeling as if she was going to throw up,” she told the Washington Post. “[Cosby] came over to me and sat down on the love seat and opened his fly and grabbed my head and pushed my head down. And then he turned me over. It was like a waking nightmare. She protested but could not stop him, she said.”

17. Joyce Emmons. Former comedy club manager Joyce Emmons told TMZ on Saturday that she ran in the same crowd as Cosby in the late 1970s, and that he kept "a drawer full of drugs.” Emmons says “one night she got a bad migraine and Cosby offered her a white pill which he said 'was a little strong' but could cure a headache,” according to TMZ. “She says she took the pill, blacked out, and the next thing she knew she was nude in bed in Cosby's suite with one of his friends—a guy who had unsuccessfully tried hitting on her earlier in the evening. Emmons says she confronted Bill and demanded to know what drug she took, and he laughed and said it was ‘just a Quaalude.’ ”

Correction, Nov. 21, 2014: This post originally misspelled Hannibal Buress' last name.

*Nov. 23, 2014: This post has been updated with new information.

Nov. 21 2014 6:06 PM

YA Dystopian Films Have Become Everything They Hate

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

The Hunger Games continues to wend its way towards a conclusion with this weekend’s awkwardly titled The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1. That a Part 2 arrives next year to wrap up the franchise is enough to render this installment in Katniss Everdeen’s uprising saga somewhat less than wholly consequential. Yet even more problematic for Part 1 is that it’s a thoroughly been-here, done-that type of entertainment. In just over a year, movie theaters have been besieged by six dystopian science-fiction films designed for young adults, all of them adapted from best-selling novels: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Ender’s Game, Divergent, The Maze Runner, The Giver, and now Mockingjay – Part 1. More depressing still is the fact that while these films can claim a distinct literary lineage, each one, in making the transition to the big screen, has been cut from a matching cloth, hewing to such a rigorous narrative, aesthetic, and casting template that they’ve become the very thing their stories so vehemently decry: conformist instruments of the ruling modern-Hollywood machine.

The fact that futuristic movies about heroes revolting against conventionality are themselves completely conventional is an irony apparently lost on (or ignored by) the filmmakers themselves, as well as the audiences who voraciously consume them. Of course, each of the five aforementioned films/franchises take their own approach (and social-commentary angle) to the genre. Nonetheless, they share so many similarities that they not only resemble disposable facsimiles of each other, but they negate the very rebel-yell messages they purport to champion. Taking their cues from Logan’s Run, Star Wars, and decades’ worth of other science-fiction stories in which a group of plucky do-gooders band together to stage an insurgency against baddies who seek to control through oppressive uniformity, they recycle familiar material in virtually the same ways—thus calling attention to their own dreary indistinctness.