Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Oct. 9 2015 10:14 AM

Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood Announces New LP, Shares PT Anderson-Directed Video for “Roked”

In August, we learned that Paul Thomas Anderson was bringing a new documentary, Junun, to New York Film Festival. The doc follows frequent Anderson collaborator Jonny Greenwood (of Radiohead fame), as he travels to India to record a new album with Israeli composer Shye Ben Tzur, and screened to largely positive reviews. The movie will stream on Mubi for one month starting Friday.

Now, Greenwood has announced the title for his new LP, also Junun, and shared an Anderson-directed album trailer featuring one of the tracks, “Roked.” The trailer gives us an inside look at how the music was made, and also follows one of the musicians into Jodphur, India, as he takes his instrument in to be tuned. The album is due out Nov. 13.

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Oct. 9 2015 9:17 AM

The Week in Culture, “You Are in Heaven” Edition

What would your version of culture heaven look like? This week’s roundup offers several possibilities.

On a trip to Japan, Slate movie critic Dana Stevens visited the bathhouse said to have inspired Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, where messages on the tile walls read, “YOU ARE IN HEAVEN.” Is Japan heaven for cinephiles? Dana sought answers at the Studio Ghibli Museum, Toho Studios, and the hotel from Lost in Translation.


For Steve Jobs, heaven probably meant an equal mix of capitalism and techno-utopianism. With the release of the Aaron Sorkin–written biopic, Will Oremus reveals what the movie gets wrong about the man. (Aisha Harris thinks Seth Rogen might earn an Oscar nod for the movie.)

Or perhaps your version of heaven is a little more freaky, in which case American Horror Story: Hotel might be the show for you. Willa Paskin says its new season could be a return to form after two years of lackluster serial-killing clowns and witches.

And for book lovers, heaven is a new issue of the Slate Book Review! The October collection features Molly Fischer charting Elizabeth Gilbert’s divine rise from magazine writer to spiritual guru; Laura Miller investigating both pickup artist Neil Strauss and do-gooders via Larissa MacFarquhar’s Strangers Drowning; Katy Waldman on Sloane Crosley’s sparkling The Clasp; and Lydia Kiesling on the elegant bigotry of Michel Houellebecq. And more!

A few more stories that had us looking heavenward this week:

Oct. 9 2015 8:32 AM

Danny Boyle on Steve Jobs, The Social Network, and “Owning” Sorkin’s Dialogue

In the four years since his death, there has been no shortage of literature mythologizing Steve Jobs, and the latest incarnation arrives on Friday abound with plenty of Oscar buzz. With an A-list cast that includes Michael Fassbender as Jobs, Kate Winslet (original Mac team member Joanna Hoffman), Seth Rogen (Steve Wozniak), and Jeff Daniels (former Apple CEO John Sculley), Steve Jobs stages behind-the-scenes drama around three critical tech launches: the 1984 announcement of the Macintosh, the 1988 introduction of NeXT, and the 1998 unveiling of the iMac.

On the eve of its screening at the New York Film Festival last weekend, I spoke with director Danny Boyle by phone about what it’s like to work with Aaron Sorkin’s storied dialogue, the act of mythologizing powerful figures, and what Jobs’ troubled relationship with his daughter, Lisa, means to him.

Oct. 9 2015 8:02 AM

Fact-Checking Steve Jobs: Was “The Customer Is Always Right” Really Coined by a Customer?

In the new movie Steve Jobs, written by Aaron Sorkin, a nonbeliever questions the Apple guru’s wisdom by reminding him of the saying “the customer is always right.” Jobs, played by Michael Fassbender, shoots back, “I guarantee whoever said ‘the customer is always right’ was a customer.” Was “the customer is always right” really coined by a customer?

Oct. 9 2015 7:30 AM

Can Seth Rogen Compete for an Oscar as Steve Wozniak in Steve Jobs?

Everyone knows Steve Jobs. By virtue of his genius marketing skills, self-promotional savvy, and visionary ideas for the way in which technology could better fit our lives, it’s him we think of first when we think Apple. Four years after his death, he remains a favorite dramatic subject in books, documentaries, and feature films.

Steve Wozniak, Jobs’ Apple co-founder, is also a pioneer, but he’s long stood in the shadow of his former business partner. This is true even though it’s no secret that he, much more than Jobs, made game-changing products like the Apple and Apple II possible. Jobs was the star; Wozniak was the also-ran.


When it comes to the Aaron Sorkin–penned Steve Jobs and the early Oscar buzz surrounding it, the dynamics of their real-life relationship seem eerily to be playing out all over again. Michael Fassbender is by most accounts an early frontrunner for Best Actor for his role as Jobs, in which, as has been duly noted in the press, he’s on “every single page of over 182 pages of dialogue.” Meanwhile, Seth Rogen, playing Wozniak, has yet to garner the sort of intense press and awards speculation that has accompanied Fassbender (or, for that matter, co-star Kate Winslet, who plays Macintosh developer Joanna Hoffman). But the role of the embattled Wozniak is perfectly tailored to Rogen’s talents as an actor. Get ready: Seth Rogen has a real shot in the race for Best Supporting Actor.

In each of the film’s three acts, Wozniak’s desire is, on the surface, simple: He wants Jobs to publicly acknowledge the brainy Apple team members who were responsible for putting the company on the map. But as time passes and the folklore surrounding Jobs grows, so does Wozniak’s desire to get his due. Rogen traces this arc convincingly by reaching to one of his go-to character traits—befuddled exasperation in the face of extreme circumstances, as seen in a movie like Pineapple Express or The Interview—and tailoring it for Sorkin’s script. Here, that frustration comes not from a character’s foolishness—instead, it’s delivered by an incredibly smart and self-assured character, one who is resentful of his partner’s arrogance and the public’s willingness to lap up the myth. In a way the role is just as heightened and theatrical as any of Rogen’s big budget comedic roles—again, this is Sorkin—but with a serious, moody shading that works fantastically.

Throughout Danny Boyle’s movie, it’s Woz’s scenes that resonate the strongest and feel the most satisfying. In Act II, set during the 1988 launch of NeXT following Jobs’ fallout with Apple, the two characters trade verbal jabs; Jobs is unrelentingly mean and condescending to Wozniak, refusing to honor his former collaborator’s request or even acknowledge his efforts face to face. Rogen’s Woz is clearly hurt, but he also pushes back, acting as a sort of stand-in for the audience: “Why does everyone keep saying Steve Jobs is a genius?” he laments.                              

By the third act, with Jobs back at Apple for the 1998 launch of iMac, Woz gets one more showdown with his former colleague. The explosive climax is carried out in front of a full auditorium, including, presumably, young Apple techies raised on the Jobs myth. Woz is at his angriest, his most exasperated, and Rogen makes every takedown of the dispassionate Jobs count. After several minutes of back and forth, in which Woz deems himself the John Lennon of the team—rather than the Ringo, as Jobs treats him—his final line is a satisfying and well-earned mic drop. It’s the most engrossing moment of the film, and Rogen carries it.

And this shouldn’t be a surprise. Since his debut in Apatow’s Freaks and Geeks, Rogen’s made a specialty of characters whose dramatic travails surprise you, even within a comedy. His showcase episode on that series, “The Little Things,” had his character uneasily grappling with his own sexuality when he learns that his girlfriend was born intersex. Since then, he’s found raw, complex humor in films both big and small, facing his own shortcomings in Knocked Up or supporting a friend with cancer in 50/50. Rogen may not be on everyone’s awards season radar quite yet, but should the film strike a chord with audiences (it opens in limited release Friday, and nationwide on Oct. 23), don’t be surprised if Rogen’s climactic scene is what everyone talks about. And the academy loves a great turn as a foil who turns out to be a little bit more, like Edward Norton in Birdman and Christian Bale in The Fighter.

Can an Apatovian comedian turn a serious performance into an Oscar nomination? It’s happened before. Eight years ago, it would have seemed a laughable notion to think that a schlubby dude who broke out in a high school comedy could wind up getting nominated for an Oscar. Twice. And yet here we are, living in a world where Jonah Hill can oscillate quite easily between making hilariously dumb sequels and working with Martin Scorsese. How’d he do it? By bringing a light touch to the role of the foil in an Aaron Sorkin–written drama. Sound familiar?

Oct. 8 2015 4:55 PM

Svetlana Alexievich’s Nobel Prize Is a Huge Win for Nonfiction Writing 

Something momentous has happened in the history of literary genre: A nonfiction writer has been awarded the Nobel Prize in literature. She is Svetlana Alexievich, a Belarusian journalist whose books document the suffering of everyday Russians in the wake of World War II, Chernobyl, the Soviet-Afghan war, and the collapse of the USSR. Alexievich practices an idiosyncratic type of nonfiction. Her subject is feeling as much as fact, her technique polyphonic. After conducting hundreds of interviews, she arranges people’s intimate testimonies into a choir of almost impersonal witness; the resulting works have been called “novels-in-voices,” immersions in experience that are governed by a fierce, purposeful intellect. 

Oct. 8 2015 3:25 PM

The Season 2 Trailer for Catastrophe Makes New Parenthood Look Amusingly Dystopian

The trailer for Catastrophe’s second season drops you into the amusing, occasionally dystopian reality of new parenthood: sleeplessness, attempting to pump while high, and, apparently, black nipples. Also in store for the show’s central couple, Rob and Sharon—whose tryst in London ended with a pregnancy—is, in the words of the trailer, a “sexual meltdown.”

Slate’s Willa Paskin described the British sitcom as “hilarious, dirty, quick, and very satisfying—not unlike the sex lives of its protagonists.” From the looks of it, the show’s second season will deliver the same wry charms. No word yet from Amazon on when the season will debut for American audiences, but returns to Channel 4 across the pond on Oct. 27.

Oct. 8 2015 1:09 PM

Emma Stone Cavorts Around a Haunted Ship in the New Music Video for Will Butler’s “Anna”  

In “Anna,” Will Butler (of Arcade Fire fame) sings, “Ooh, sharpen a stone. Cause you got to get money.” In this new alternate video for the single off Butler’s first solo album, Policy,  one of the world’s most famous stones, Emma, tosses around some bills, and dances around the supposedly haunted RMS Queen Mary.

In a white dress and deep magenta lipstick, Stone begins by gracefully pacing the ship, then breaks into an elaborately choreographed dance routine, with the help of some sailors. Sia choreographer Ryan Heffington worked on this video, which might explain the theatrically contorted expressions on Stone’s face.

Oct. 8 2015 12:45 PM

A Brilliant Technique for Brighter, More Glamorous Lentil Salad

This post originally appeared on Food52.

Claiming to make vegetable stock and lentil salad in one fell swoop sounds like the mark of an infomercial, or what happens when the pages of a cookbook get stuck together.

It’s neither—rather, it’s the genius work of Deborah Madison: cookbook author, demystifier of both vegetable and vegetarian cooking, and the creator of brighter, more purposeful lentil salads for all of us.     

As Madison shows us, by chopping up the vegetables finely, they cook just as quickly as the lentils do (roughly 20 minutes), creating a quick vegetable stock without turning to mush. This means they also get to stay put and become part of the salad. It sounds so obvious—why don’t we always do this?

Oct. 8 2015 11:24 AM

Lady Gaga Is the Best Thing About American Horror Story: Hotel

Given the persistence with which FX has advertised Lady Gaga’s participation in season five of American Horror Story, you’d be forgiven for reading her presence in this new “Hotel” chapter of the series as something of a desperate PR grab. (Last season’s bland and unfocused “Freak Show” story left many fans, this one included, wondering if Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk’s previously riveting creation had run out of screams.)