Slate's Culture Blog

Jan. 25 2015 12:42 PM

SNL Sends Up Ballghazi and The Bachelor 

Country musician Blake Shelton hosted SNL last night, and the episode followed his lead: earnest, charming, and likable enough, but not very funny. We did get the inevitable Deflategate sketch, in which Beck Bennett dons Bill Belichick’s rolled-up dress shirt and gruff manner while Taran Killam plays a very dim-witted version of Tom Brady. Many ball jokes are made, but I’m not sure this is funnier than the actual press conference:

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Jan. 24 2015 11:57 PM

Michael Shannon and Ramin Bahrani on How Shannon Improvised His Last Line in 99 Homes

Check out all Slate’s interviews from the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

In Ramin Bahrani’s new movie 99 Homes, Michael Shannon delivers one of his most frightening performances yet as a real estate shark who preys on a construction worker (Andrew Garfield) and his mother (Laura Dern) in the midst of the 2007 to 2009 housing crisis. We sat down with Bahrani and Shannon at the Sundance Film Festival this week to discuss how they drew upon Wall Street’s Gordon Gekko and why Bahrani dedicated the movie to Roger Ebert.

In our last video segment from the interview, Bahrani and Shannon talk about how Shannon improvised his last line for the movie’s closing scene.

Jan. 24 2015 8:31 PM

Rihanna, Kanye West, and Paul McCartney Go Country in “Four Five Seconds”          

Earlier this week, Kanye West made a surprise appearance at the iHeartMedia Music Summit to preview a new duet with Rihanna. That song, “Four Five Seconds,” has arrived online, and though it’s unclear whether it will feature on West or Rihanna’s new album, it marks a striking departure for both artists.

(via Tumblr)

Paul McCartney supplies some gentle acoustic strumming as West and Rihanna belt out a deeply personal, hugely melodic, and country-tinged tune about heartbreak and redemption. It’s only the second new Kanye song we’ve heard, but it’s worth noting that it shares a few traits with “Only One”—sensitive, confessional songwriting, sparse and acoustic instrumentation, and not a drum beat in sight. The track can be streamed above or downloaded on Rihanna’s website.

Jan. 24 2015 3:26 PM

Ramin Bahrani on Why He Dedicated His New Movie to Roger Ebert

Check out all Slate’s interviews from the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

There was no greater champion of writer-director Ramin Bahrani than Roger Ebert. In 2009, the movie critic called Bahrani “the new great American director” and “the new director of the decade.” In 2013, published the last interview Ebert conducted, which was with Bahrani.

It was in that interview that Bahrani revealed the title of his new movie, 99 Homes, which Bahrani dedicated to Ebert at the Venice Film Festival. For the next week, Brow Beat is doing interviews from Sundance, and we asked Bahrani how the late movie critic has influenced his work.

Jan. 24 2015 2:43 PM

Once Again, the NFL Gets a Very Funny Bad Lip Reading

Perhaps my favorite Bad Lip Reading tradition is their annual and hilarious work with the burly, boisterous players and coaches in the NFL.

This year’s edition doesn’t disappoint, though it’s worth noting that we don't really need dubbing to find incredibly surreal, bizarre things coming out of a football player’s mouth.


Jan. 24 2015 12:56 PM

Just About Every Famous Detroit Rapper Stars in Eminem’s “Detroit vs. Everybody” Video

Back in November, Eminem put out Shady XV, an album that ostensibly paired some new songs with the greatest hits of his label, Shady Records. Put simply, it was not that good a record, with the “greatest hits” mostly comprising mediocre Shady deep cuts and 50 Cent favorites. But “Detroit vs. Everybody,” a fun anthem featuring an array of Motor City rappers, was an album highlight, and it now has a video that’s worth watching just for the star power on display.

Big Sean, Danny Brown, Royce Da 5’9”, Trick Trick, and “Try Me” sensation Dej Loaf all join Eminem on the track, celebrating their city over a circular piano riff and boom bap beat. It’s a rousing posse cut, and a rare bright spot in Eminem’s subpar recent work.

Jan. 24 2015 12:33 PM

Michael Shannon and Ramin Bahrani on Creating the Gordon Gekko of Real Estate

Check out all Slate’s interviews from the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

In 99 Homes, the new thriller from acclaimed director Ramin Bahrani (Chop Shop, Man Push Cart, Goodbye Solo), Michael Shannon portrays a real estate shark who preys on the victims of the 2007 to 2009 housing crisis, including a construction worker (Andrew Garfield) and his mother (Laura Dern).

One of the sources Bahrani drew upon for Shannon’s character was Wall Street’s Gordon Gekko, the devilish creation with whom Oliver Stone and Michael Douglas meant to villainize greedy traders but unwittingly inspired a generation of new ones. All this week, Brow Beat is doing interviews from the Sundance Film Festival, and we asked Bahrani and Shannon how they created such a frightening and fully realized character without glamorizing him.

Jan. 23 2015 3:51 PM

The Trailer for Peter Bogdanovich’s Long-Shelved Rom-Com Is Finally Here

Peter Bogdanovich has been working on his latest film She’s Funny That Way for nearly 20 years. He and Louise Stratten co-wrote the romantic comedy (formerly titled Squirrel to the Nuts) back in 1998 and, years later, first attempted to make the film with John Ritter and Cybill Shepard, two stars of his previous films. Tragedy derailed those plans when Ritter died in 2003 after experiencing chest pains during rehearsals for an episode of his sitcom 8 Simple Rules.

Bogdanovich eventually shelved the project and didn’t revisit it until a decade later after meeting Owen Wilson through mutual friend Wes Anderson. The film now stars Owen Wilson and Imogen Poots, and Yahoo has its first trailer.

Jan. 23 2015 1:06 PM

The Best Movies and TV Shows Coming to Netflix in February

Every month, a number of movies and TV series leave Netflix streaming, sometimes only temporarily, usually because licensing deals have expired. Several new titles arrive in their place. So what’s coming next month, and which of these new arrivals should you watch? Below, we’ve chosen the best new movies and TV shows coming to Netflix instant streaming in February 2015. Plan your weekend marathons accordingly.

The Brothers Bloom
Feb. 1
From the director of the next next Star Wars, a caper comedy! The Brothers Bloom is not a perfect movie, but it is an entertaining one, and one full of the same kinds of narrative twists and loop-de-loops the director of Brick and Looper has become known for. If you haven’t seen those two Rian Johnson movies (he only has three), start with them first. (I especially recommend Brick.) If you’ve seen both and loved them, this con man picture with Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo should help hold you over until Johnson tries his hand at something just a wee bit bigger with Star Wars: Episode VIII. —Forrest Wickman, senior editor


Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead
Feb. 7
Do you like zombies? Do you hate Nazis? Then go watch Dead Snow, the definitive Scandinavian zombie-Nazi action horror comedy. Then, watch its sequel Dead Snow: Red vs. Dead, which is crazier, funnier and zombie-Nazier. And with 100% more Martin Starr, who makes everything better. —Chris Wade, video producer

Hawaii Five-0: Seasons 1-4
Feb. 28
I doubt there was much pent-up desire for CBS to revive Hawaii Five-0, but since the show is still on the air five years later, it was clearly a sound business decision. Hawaii Five-0 is the perfect show for people who watch television with the sound off: The scenery is gorgeous; the actors are TV beautiful, unusually diverse, and prone to parading around in swim gear; and for a crime show, the vibe is oddly goofy. Turn up the volume, and the plot lines are frequently nonsensical, but if you’re looking for the TV equivalent of easy-listening music, Steve McGarrett and the gang are good company.​ —June Thomas, Outward editor

House of Cards: Season 3
Feb. 27
If by now you haven't met Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), star of Netflix's award-winning political drama, House of Cards—and one of the best villians on television—now's the time. The show's third season drops next month and, as its trailer suggests, it'll pick up right where it left off with Frank assuming the presidency and further losing his mind. Even if you don't have time to catch up, HoC doesn't really require that you know the full backstory; you'll likely get all the necessary details in season 3's first couple episodes. —Dee Lockett, editorial assistant

Mako Mermaids: Season 2
Feb. 13
I can't say I truly understand Mako Mermaids. But I am glad that the second season of this Australian series for tweens is coming to Netflix this month, because my daughters are insane about it. I think that it is about three mermaids in the human world? And there is something about a kid with, like, Avatar: The Last Airbender powers? Beats me. But everyone's teeth are so perfectly gleaming white and the accents are adorable. —Dan Kois, culture editor

The Overnighters
Feb. 17
The Overnighters, Jesse Moss’s verité-style documentary about the socioeconomic fallout of the oil boom in the tiny North Dakota town of Williston, was one of 2014’s most outstanding and hardest-to-find documentaries. It’s an empathetic and keenly observed portrait of both a complicated man—the Lutheran pastor who struggles to care for the town’s population of marginal drifters—and an entire community in a moment of crisis. The Overnighters also has that element a documentary filmmaker can only fall upon by chance: an unforeseeable and perspective-changing narrative twist. —Dana Stevens, movie critic

Bonus! What Not to Watch

Feb. 21
DO NOT watch this turgid, self-serious remake of 1987's dystopian meditation on humanity, law and order and Kurtwood Smith. Besides some pretty awesomely unsettling images of what Robocop looks like with his armor removed (a brain, face and a stomach connected by a gooey tube) and a training montage inexplicably set to Focus' progressive rock/yodeling opus "Hocus Pocus," this movie only succeeds in finding brave new ways of making a superpowered robot cop super dull.  Instead watch the original Total Recall, which is on Netflix and remains the best movie about vacation planning ever made. —Chris Wade, video producer

Jan. 23 2015 12:16 PM

Is Custom-Sliced Pizza the Latest Trend in Tableside Service? I Hope Not.

A few weeks ago, I went to a newish Italian place in my new neighborhood in Brooklyn. Lea is one of those moderately upscale pizzerias, with a wood-burning oven, more than one menu item containing beets, and menu subsections written in Italian (with the flatbread portion labeled “Pizze”). I ordered the white pizza with roasted Brussels sprouts, ricotta, and Parmesan, which was just as delicious as it sounds.

There was just one hiccup during an otherwise delightful meal: My pizza arrived in an intact circle. “How many slices would you like?” asked the waitress, wielding a pizza wheel. I had never given much thought to the ideal number of pizza slices, but I settled on four, because I thought it would take her less time to cut four slices than six or eight. It did, but it still took a good minute or two before everyone’s pizza—there were four of us at the table—had been cut. (Perhaps needless to say, it’s more challenging to cut a pizza on a curved plate than on a flat cutting board.)

I like Lea a lot, but I found this particular flourish distracting, unnecessary, and baffling. (Were they afraid that I’d think my pizza was cobbled together from disparate slices of other pizzas if they didn’t cut it before my eyes?) I often feel this way about tableside service, which, according to the Wall Street Journal, was “making a comeback” as of late 2013. No longer content with merely grinding pepper over salads and pasta, restaurateurs are carving ducks, smoking oysters, and flambéing veal chops in front of their patrons—and now, apparently, slicing pizza, too.