Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Feb. 22 2017 5:37 PM

Watch an iPhone-Shot Rehearsal of La La Land’s Ambitious Opening Dance Number

Damien Chazelle’s La La Land lets you know right off the bat that what you’re about to watch is a capital 'M' musical. The intricate opening number, Another Day of Sun,” is sung and danced by a group of brightly-attired Los Angeles drivers stuck in traffic on a highway ramp, all ruminating on the sunny-but-disappointing nature of show business.

But before it became the carefully choreographed routine that appears in the movie, the “Another Day of Sun” sequence was rehearsed in a humble parking lot, with Chazelle planning the camera work on an iPhone. A video from USA Today shows the painstaking practice run in action—and even includes an insert so that you can see how the rehearsal lines up with the final result.

Feb. 22 2017 3:03 PM

Netflix Will Premiere Two Louis C.K. Stand-Up Specials

Louis C.K. is taking his stand-up talents to Netflix. The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed that the Emmy-winning comic will film two sets for the streaming service, with the first entitled 2017 and slated for an April 4 premiere. (No details have been revealed about the second special.)

“Louis has been one of the most innovative comedy voices in this new era of stand-up. He has also been a thought leader in the business of comedy,” said Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos. “We have marveled at his creativity and his ability to invent comedically and commercially, and are thrilled that he is bringing his newest specials to Netflix.”

Feb. 22 2017 12:55 PM

Bill Maher Wants You to Thank Him for the Downfall of Milo Yiannopoulos. Don’t.

Bill Maher is taking credit for the swift downfall of former Breitbart senior editor Milo Yiannopoulos. In a conversation with the New York Times’ David Itzkoff, the Real Time host—who interviewed Yiannopoulos live on his show last Friday night—argued, "What I think people saw [on my show] was an emotionally needy Ann Coulter wannabe, trying to make a buck off of the left’s propensity for outrage. And by the end of the weekend, by dinnertime Monday, he’s dropped as a speaker at CPAC. Then he’s dropped by Breitbart, and his book deal falls through." He added, "Sunlight is the best disinfectant," implying that the platform he provided to the alt-right-trafficking provocateur allowed people to see him for who he really is. "You're welcome."

In the days since the Maher interview, Yiannopoulos lost his book deal with Simon & Schuster, had his keynote speaking slot at CPAC revoked, and resigned from Breitbart. He’d previously been banned from Twitter for his racist provocations regarding comedian Leslie Jones.

Feb. 22 2017 12:16 PM

The Honest Trailer for the Oscars Imagines What Trump Would Tweet About the Best Picture Nominees

It’s almost that time of year again, when west coast elites with unpronounceable names compete for Hollywood’s highest honor and trick us all into watching. With nine Best Picture nominees at this year’s Academy Awards, it can be hard to keep track of them all, which is why the team at Screen Junkies took them on collectively in their latest Honest Trailer.

Will Manchesta by the Feckin’ Sea, whose hot-headed main character isn't too much of a stretch for Casey Affleck, take the night’s top honor? What about Hidden Figures, which made a special effort to appease white guilt by having Kevin Costner take a sledgehammer to segregation? Surely not Hell or High Water, “a film that’s so entertaining, straightforward, and unpretentious that it has no chance of actually winning Best Picture.”

Feb. 22 2017 10:30 AM

White House Correspondent Seth Meyers Grills Donald Trump, Gets Much More Honest Answers

Donald Trump used his latest bizarre press conference on Thursday as another chance to critique the media rather than answer any actual questions about his increasingly frightening administration. Fortunately, the newest member of the White House press corps, Late Night host Seth Meyers, already has a knack for getting Donald Trump to tell the truth—with help from a little editing magic, that is.

Feb. 22 2017 9:45 AM

Moonlight Director Barry Jenkins on What Scared Him Most About Making Such a Personal Film

Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight tells the story of Chiron, a young boy growing up in a poor, predominantly black neighborhood in Miami. Bullied at school and neglected by his mother, Paula (Naomie Harris), at home, his only stable source of emotional support arrives in the form of a kindly local drug dealer named Juan (Mahershala Ali) and his girlfriend, Teresa (Janelle Monáe). The film unravels through three different periods in his life (as a tween, teenager, and some years later as a young adult) and via three different actors (Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes) as Chiron struggles with his identity within a hypermasculine environment and the heavy consequences that from living under such circumstances.

For the latest episode of the Slate podcast Represent, Aisha Harris chatted with Jenkins in depth about making the film (which was inspired by an unproduced play by Tarell Alvin McCraney, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue), as well as his beloved first feature, Medicine for Melancholy. Below is a transcribed and edited excerpt from that conversation, in which he discusses his personal connection to Moonlight’s heart-wrenching mother-son relationship. You can check out the full episode in the audio player below.

Feb. 22 2017 8:33 AM

Damien Chazelle’s Guide to Beginnings and Endings

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

The director Howard Hawks once said that a good movie has three great scenes and no bad ones. Damien Chazelle, who is Oscar-nominated for writing and directing La La Land, has adapted that old maxim to be a touch more specific. “You’ve got to have a good beginning,” he told Vulture recently, “a good ending, and no shitty scenes in between.”

That may seem like advice so obvious as to be useless until you realize just how few directors craft their beginnings and endings with as much impact as Chazelle. Over the course of only three movies—a brief but potent career that encompasses Chazelle’s indie debut Guy and Madeline on a Park Bench as well as the more widely seen Whiplash and La La Land—the 32-year-old has shown a knack for grabbing audiences from the first frame and then sending them out on an emotional high. Think of that big freeway number that opens La La Land, for example, or the tour-de-force drum solo that closes Whiplash.

“The beginning is when the audience is most susceptible, the most vulnerable, the most fertile,” Chazelle said. “How much do you maximize that moment? And then the other most important moment is when the lights come back on and people exit the theater, because that last scene is going to roll through their heads right afterwards.”

Below, Chazelle shared some of the lessons he’s learned when it comes to creating his beginnings and endings. (So, yes, there will be some spoilers.)

Feb. 22 2017 8:03 AM

Black Actors Could Make History at This Year’s Oscars, but the Roles Matter More Than the Wins

After two years of #OscarSoWhite, this year we have three films with predominantly black casts nominated for Best Picture, four films with black directors nominated for Best Documentary, and a record six black acting nominees. But what those statistics don’t capture is the range and the diversity of roles that the academy singled out for recognition.

In Fences, an adaptation of August Wilson’s play set in Pittsburgh’s predominantly black Hill District in the 1920s, Viola Davis plays Rose Lee Maxson, the long-suffering wife of Troy Maxson (Best Actor nominee Denzel Washington). Davis and Washington bring understated warmth to roles that could have been played stereotypically. There are no extended shouting matches or fists put through walls—they allow Rose and Troy to be flawed human beings.

In Loving, Ruth Negga embodies Mildred Loving, one of the plaintiffs in the court case that struck down prohibitions against interracial marriage, as a woman weary of miscegenation laws, yet her quiet dedication to being the best wife she can be is her own form of civil disobedience. Naomie Harris plays Paula, the emotionally abusive mother of Moonlight’s Chiron—a role that adheres to stereotypes about single black women in urban settings, but there is no denying Harris’ effectiveness in showing the depths of emotion just beneath her cold surface.

These are heartening developments, but the most exciting is Octavia Spencer’s nomination for playing Dorothy Vaughan in Hidden Figures, as a no-nonsense NASA mathematician and supervisor—and, eventually, a self-taught computer programmer—struggling against the overt racism and sexism of 1961. Too often, black women are relegated to the periphery, even in films that are supposed to center their experiences—think of The Help, in which Spencer starred opposite Best Actress nominee Emma Stone. For her to be nominated this year for a role that empowers black women is encouraging.

Feb. 21 2017 11:59 PM

Netflix Acquires Martin Scorsese’s Next Movie, The Irishman

Remember when hiring Martin Scorsese to direct a Robert De Niro movie was the kind of risk studios took all the time? Netflix does! Indiewire reports that they have acquired Martin Scorsese project The Irishman. The film, an adaptation of Charles Brandt’s book I Heard You Paint Houses in which De Niro will play mob hitman Frank Sheeran, had been set up at Paramount but reportedly became too risky now that chairman Brad Grey is leaving.

The Irishman will be the first collaboration between Scorsese and De Niro since 1995’s Casino, if you don’t count their 2015 ad for Macau Studio City Casino The Audition (you probably shouldn’t). To play Sheeran in his younger years, De Niro will be digitally de-aged, hopefully with more lifelike results than Jeff Bridges in Tron: Legacy.

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It was inevitable that Netflix would eventually produce the kind of A-list, prestige project that was long the exclusive domain of major studios, but it’s still a shock that they got Scorsese, whose well-known love of 35mm doesn’t seem to jibe with a streaming service. Still, it’s been a long time since Scorsese films have been released on 35mm, regardless of how they were shot—The Wolf of Wall Street, a Paramount movie, was the first major studio film to be distributed entirely digitally. Netflix didn’t comment on the deal, but they've done small theatrical releases for projects like Beasts of No Nation, so they might send The Irishman to a few theaters in major cities. But if you live in a small town, you may never get the chance to see the new Scorsese in a movie theater.

Upcoming films from Paramount include Baywatch, Ghost in the Shell, and Transformers: The Last Knight.

Feb. 21 2017 11:17 PM

With Castle Rock, Hulu Gives Stephen King the Cinematic Universe Treatment

So it’s come to this: a trailer for a cinematic universe (even one on television) that consists entirely of diagrams of the links between different intellectual properties. True, Stephen King has been linking his novels into one semi-coherent multiverse for decades, even writing an entire series about the elaborate metaphysics that link his fictional universes. Still, even if this teaser for Hulu’s J.J. Abrams production Castle Rock seems like a natural next step from “Oh my God, Spider-Man is in Captain America: Civil War” marketing, there’s something to be said for giving the audience some idea of what the show might be like, instead of what is essentially a list of elements from Stephen King novels and short stories that might appear on it.

Or they might not! While most of the words and phrases in the teaser come from works that are set in or directly related to King’s fictional town of Castle Rock, Maine, some of the connections aren’t so obvious. Although there are other characters who have distant ties to the town (a few people are mentioned doing time at Shawshank State Prison, for example) here’s the only place Castle Rock is directly mentioned in It:

“It can’t be!” Beverly cried. “I would have read about it in the paper … seen it on the news! When that crazy cop killed all those women in Castle Rock, Maine … and those children that were murdered in Atlanta …”
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The “crazy cop” Beverly Marsh is referring to appears in The Dead Zone, set in Castle Rock. And yet, to hear the trailer tell it, Castle Rock will feature Pennywise, Pennywise victim George Denbrough, Pennywise sort-of-victim Henry Bowers, Pennywise conquerors The Losers Club, and many more. And that’s with a feature adaptation of It on its way to theaters this fall, to say nothing of this summer’s film of The Dark Tower. And then there are all the characters from ’Salem’s Lot (1975) and The Shining (1977); King never mentioned Castle Rock at all until The Dead Zone, in 1979. In short, it’s an intellectual property lawyer’s bonanza—or it’s just designed to remind us how much we love Stephen King characters. Either way, it’s a lot to promise for a 10-episode show. We can only hope this this trend toward fleshing out the Stephen King Expanded Universe will eventually lead to the Stephen King TV adaptation we really want to see: Swim the Crocodiles, the self-explanatory game show briefly mentioned in The Running Man.

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