Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Dec. 9 2016 12:33 PM

Horace and Pete, Louis C.K.’s Experimental Web Series, Is Now Streaming on Hulu. Here’s Why You Should Watch It.

In January, Louis C.K. unveiled an unusual experiment on his website: Horace and Pete. It was around an hour in length, set in a bar, filled with great actors—namely Steve Buscemi, Edie Falco, Jessica Lange, Alan Alda, and C.K. himself—and filmed in a multi-camera style, with the talky nature of the drama further bolstering its retro feel. It cost $5. It featured references to events that had taken place only days earlier. What exactly the money was for, either a TV pilot or a standalone special (or something different altogether), was unclear. Whether and how it would continue was left unstated.

As C.K. began communicating with fans via newsletter and releasing Horace and Pete episodes on weekly basis, the reality of his project became clear: He’d self-financed a star-studded drama series with impressive secrecy (and, apparently, at the risk of going into deep debt), fresh off of his hiatus from Louie. The finished product was a 10-episode drama series of surprising depth and ambition, but at a relatively hefty total cost of $31. As of Friday, however, Horace and Pete has finally been made more accessible: It’s now streaming on Hulu.

Dec. 9 2016 12:15 PM

The Eighth Fast and the Furious Movie Will Be Called The Fate of the Furious, Obviously

The title of the eighth Fast and Furious movie has been announced, and it’s everything a person who loves sweet cars and terrible puns could hope for.

The trailer for The Fate of the Furious—yes!—won't debut until Sunday, but the series’ official Twitter account shared a brief snippet that also served as the official announcment of the movie’s title, and it is glorious. Watch very closely to catch a brief glimpse of Charlize Theron’s new villain, Cipher.

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Frankly, it's a little disappointing that after Fast Five, Fast & Furious, and Furious 7, the ampersand didn't get its own spinoff franchise, but perhaps we’ll get an installment called FasTen a few years hence. Let us begin to dream.

Here’s a teaser trailer with no new footage, in which Vin Diesel calls it “our fastest and most furious adventure yet.” The word “family” is used.

Dec. 9 2016 11:43 AM

Taylor Swift Shares Her First New Song in Two Years, a Zayn Collaboration From the Fifty Shades Darker Soundtrack

Taylor Swift and country music are never getting back together.

Like, ever.

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Last night, Swift took to social media to share a snippet of “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever (Fifty Shades Darker),” her first new recording since the release of 1989 two years ago.

As one might gather from its subtitle, the song, a collaboration with former One Direction member Zayn Malik, is taken from the soundtrack to the Fifty Shades of Grey sequel, Fifty Shades Darker, the clip features plenty of (literally) steamy action as well as all the elevator-based panty removal a person could ask for, although it’s a little short on riding crops. The song had not been announced before hitting iTunes at midnight last night, and if anything, it’s even poppier than Swift’s Nashville-spurning last album. It was co-written by Swift with Jack Antonoff, who co-wrote 1989’s “Out of the Woods” and “I Wish You Would,” and Sam Dew, a hip-hop artist who’s written songs for Rihanna and Mary J. Blige.

Have a listen.

Dec. 9 2016 10:33 AM

Trevor Noah Wants to Know What’s Up With the Electoral College, So He Asked a Tiny Thomas Jefferson

The Electoral College is a uniquely American institution, and one that can be a little confusing: Why don’t we just count every vote and let the person with the most be president? The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah had the same question, so naturally, he conjured the spirit of Thomas Jefferson—who in this incarnation bears a striking resemblance to Jordan Klepper—for answers.

Jefferson explains that the whole idea behind having electors was “to ensure America would never elect a dangerous, charismatic lunatic” or a “populist demagogue.” But as Noah points out, that didn’t work out so well this time around, considering the electoral college secured the victory of “a racist white guy” over a far more qualified woman who recieved more than 2.5 million more votes than her opponent.

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“Sounds like it’s working perfectly,” replied Jefferson.

Noah will have a chance to debate the matter with another president—this one decidedly alive—on Dec. 12, when Barack Obama is a guest on the show for the first time since Noah began hosting. Obama's last Daily Show appearance was in July of 2015.

Dec. 9 2016 10:23 AM

Michael Moore Says That Donald Trump Still Might Not Be President

Back in July, Michael Moore predicted that Donald Trump would be elected President, zeroing in on four states that would move in his favor: Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Ohio. And despite the odds being heavily stacked against him at the time, Moore turned out to be right.

Moore has been visibly resistant since Trump’s surprise victory, helping organize protests and campaigning for an end to the electoral college. Earlier this week, he stopped by Late Night With Seth Meyers to have another go at that prediction game he turned out to be so good at. Invoking the “genius” of Alexander Hamilton—a somewhat popular topic these days—Moore explained the “stop-gap” and the fact that nothing is set in stone just yet:

He’s not President of the United States yet. He’s not president, right? He’s not president until noon on Jan. 20, 2017 … That’s more than six weeks away. Would you not agree, regardless of what side of the political fence you’re on, that this has been the craziest election year? Nothing anyone predicted has happened. The opposite has happened. So is it possible, just possible, that in these next six weeks, something else might happen? Something crazy. Something we’re not expecting.
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So far, however, no luck: Unprecedented conflicts of interest, unhinged Twitter rants, and generous swamp-refilling don’t quite qualify as that “something crazy.” But as Moore said, we’ve still got several weeks to go.

Dec. 9 2016 9:19 AM

School Sucks and the World Needs Saving in the First Trailer for Spider-Man: Homecoming

If every generation gets the Spider-Man they deserve, this one must be doing something right. The first trailers for next year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming make the movie, look like a major improvement over the Amazing Spider-Man series. Even better, several shots of Tom Holland’s Peter Parker fighting crime—specifically Michael Keaton’s Vulture—in his iconic suit without the mask feel like deliberate homages to Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, which remains the greatest comic-book movie of all time. (The comments are open for you to disagree.)

Holland’s Peter is a high-school student again, albeit one who’s finding it hard to settle into life as a normal teen now that he’s fought alongside the Avengers, who show up, sort of, in the trailer’s opening shots, in the form of cheap masks worn by a group of bank robbers whose operation Spidey then proceeds to foil. We get a few glimpses of Peter’s new love interest, played by Zendaya, and his new best pal, played by Jacob Batalon, as well as a few choice moments with Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark, continuing to play the gruff surrogate uncle. “I know school sucks,” he tells Peter. “I know you want to save the world.”

World-saving may, for once, not be on the agenda, but between dodging helicopters from the top of the Washington Monument and fighting the Vulture, who threatens to kill Peter’s family and everyone he loves, it looks like the poor boy will have his webbed hands full.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is scheduled to open on July 17, 2017.

Dec. 9 2016 8:33 AM

How Did ABC’s Speechless Make Life With Disability Funny? By Hiring the Right People.

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Speechless actors John Ross Bowie and Micah Fowler are working through a scene for a January episode of the ABC comedy on the Fox lot. In it, we see JJ’s (Fowler) mischievous side for the first time: During a stop at a crafts fair during a family road trip, somebody mistakenly assumes the DiMeos are selling water from their car, which gives JJ an idea to peddle off the family’s junk—yoga pants, a curling iron, among other items—out of their truck. Impressed by his son’s initiative, the father (Bowie) and son start conspiring.

Between takes, director Ben Lewin stands up from his seat and walks over to the actors. “Micah, don’t smile this time,” he tells the 18-year-old newcomer. “Just think.”

Dec. 9 2016 8:21 AM

Move Over, Die Hard. Three Days of the Condor Is the Christmas Classic No One’s Watching

Los Angeles, where I live, is not the ideal setting for a Christmas enthusiast. Drinking hot cider is an act of willful self-delusion when it’s 80 degrees outside. But Christmas is never better than it is on the big screen, and LA’s not short on those. A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life will be playing all over town, of course, but I have my eye on Quentin Tarantino’s New Beverly Cinema, which has been showing a December double feature of Die Hard and Three Days of the Condor for the past several years. (This year, they're split up: Three Days is screening with the Chuck Norris movie Invasion U.S.A., and Die Hard with the obscure Canadian thriller The Silent Partner.) Die Hard already has a place in the Christmas canon, but Three Days of the Condor remains more cult than classic. I hope that Tarantino’s evangelism will begin to change that, however, because Three Days of the Condor is the Christmas spy thriller that no one ever asked for, but that everyone needs to see.

Sydney Pollack’s 1975 film opens in a lovely Manhattan townhouse that is serving as a front for a distinctly literary branch of the CIA. Joe Turner (Robert Redford) works as an analyst for this organization, scouring new publications for material that might be of use to U.S. intelligence. This work is Joe’s life, and his office has the intimate rhythms of a family home. But almost before the credits have finished rolling, the entire office is wiped out—killed while Joe is out to lunch. With all of his loved ones now dead or presumably under surveillance, Joe is left to his own devices as he attempts to recover some degree of trust, unravel the deepening conspiracy, and navigate a budding romance with his hostage (whoops!) Kathy Hale (Faye Dunaway).

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The only way Joe can survive is by finding help, but every time he extends a hand he risks his life. He is a walking symbol of the isolation that we all have to confront at some point. It sounds like an existential predicament because it is. Max von Sydow, in the role of the assassin Joubert, pursues Joe with the relentlessness of Death itself. And when Joe kidnaps Kathy—in a sequence that Steven Soderbergh would lovingly update in Out of Sight—he finds himself in the company of someone who suffers a more metaphorical version of his own plight: she can’t even seem to trust herself. So this is a spy thriller, yes, but it’s also an allegory for the post-Watergate world, where trust in others represents a dangerous act of naivety. Which brings us to Christmas.

Christmas remains in the background throughout, playing a supporting role, but it’s as important to the film’s overall impact as Tiny Tim is to A Christmas Carol. It makes itself known through three popular carols: “Good King Wenceslas” lingers behind Joe as he’s reporting the murder of his colleagues; “Joy to the World” plays in concert with the electronic soundtrack of hospital equipment; and carolers sing “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” over the film’s final scene. The emotional tenor of each of those episodes shifts as Joe’s outlook changes—taking him from devastation to cynicism to determination—but taken together these carols transform the movie into something like a dirge, a lament not only for the specific circumstances of Joe Turner’s bereavement, but also for the loss that we will all someday come to know: the loss of everything. (Merry Christmas!)

It’s that melancholy that makes Three Days of the Condor such a welcome addition to the Christmas canon, which is rich with doleful material: Take “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” a song that’s typically performed in a minor key and, like many other carols, carries with it the ghosts of a more somber and religious Christmas past. Many of our favorite holiday movies are similarly dark, relying on a redemptive last act to save their Scrooges, George Baileys, and Charlie Browns from despair. But that redemptive polish is like so much tinsel on Jimmy Stewart's head; it can’t erase the underlying sadness. And there’s a pleasure to be had in finally embracing that reality, in going underground with Joe Turner and looking at the underside of this over-decorated day. It may be a heavy nog, but it’s still delicious.

Christmas movies now span almost every genre, including romance, action, horror, and the greatest genre of all, the siege comedy. And Christmas movies clearly benefits from these reiterations. So when we tire, as we occasionally do, of the familiar, easy morals, Three Days of the Condor is there, reminding us of another of the true meanings of Christmas: that we’re never so lonely as when everyone else appears to be so happy together.

There’s only one proper way to celebrate in light of this: alone and in the dark. I’ll see you at the movies.

Daniel Harmon is a contributing editor at FLOOD Magazine and the co-author of the book Plotted: A Literary Atlas. Follow him on Twitter.

Dec. 8 2016 1:09 PM

Jennifer Hudson Single-Handedly Turned Hairspray Live! Into a TV Musical Tour de Force

Despite the decidedly rocky start, NBC’s resurrection of the live televised musical has emerged as one of broadcast TV’s more effective gambits in recent years. It can be easy to read the stunt as a cynical ratings ploy, a line of glitzy productions with big names attached for expensive ad buys. But the transporting power of musical escapism—particularly well-done escapism, as was the case with last year’s The Wiz Live!—can be similarly difficult to deny.

NBC’s choice of Hairspray for its next live event turned out to be more prescient than was likely intended. John Waters’ original 1988 cult film was relatively surreal, a spoof of ‘60s progressivism and culture; but it has since evolved, churned through the Broadway and Hollywood machines into a sort of utopian dream. Hairspray as it stands today unabashedly conflates fatphobia with racism, and envisions an integrated society, with people of all shapes and sizes and complexions coming together to sing, dance, and fall in love. It deliberately shies away from harsher truths, ignores more realistic paths to progress. Considering the divisive political climate we’re currently living through, such a tidy formula can either—depending on the execution—make for the perfect sweetened cocktail, or the latest unwarranted attempt to try to get the country to forget its troubles.

Dec. 8 2016 1:07 PM

Watch the (Funny!) First Trailer for the Baywatch Movie, Starring Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron

Here’s what you need to know:

  1. They’re making a Baywatch movie.
  2. It stars Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson and Zac Efron.
  3. It’s a comedy. (Yes, really!)
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On the surface, a Baywatch movie seems like pretty lazy nostalgia-bait, but based on the trailer, this ain’t your ’90s Baywatch. The leads may be wearing swimsuits, but with all this talk of dead bodies washing up on the beach and bullets flying, this looks an awful lot like a buddy-cop movie, and not just any buddy-cop movie, but a 21 Jump Street-style reimagining that finds the humor in the qualities of Baywatch, like danger, romance, and (of course) running in slow motion.

It will certainly be fun to watch Johnson and Efron solve beach-crimes and crack jokes about their testicles while wearing next to nothing. And between his performances in Neighbors 1 and 2 and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, Efron has proven a gift for frat-bro comedy, making him perfectly cast as a dim-witted former Olympian. (Remind you of anyone?) But it would also be nice if some of the movie’s female characters got to do more than just act as jiggling eye candy, considering that the film also stars Alexandra Daddario, Priyanka Chopra, and Kelly Rohrbach.

The stars of the original TV show, David Hasselhoff and Pamela Anderson, are expected to make appearances in the film, in theaters May 26.

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