Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Feb. 11 2016 4:46 PM

Running on Fumes: Slate Writers Discuss the Serial Season 1 Bonus Episodes

In this special episode of Slates Serial Spoiler Special, Gabe, Katy, and producer Sam Dingman discuss Serial’s recent series of mini-episodes covering the Baltimore retrial hearings for Adnan Syed. Katy’s largely negative review of those episodes appeared on Slate on Feb. 9.

As always with Slate’s Spoiler Specials, this is meant to be heard after you’ve caught up with the work under discussion. We’ll be discussing new episodes of Serial each week, and we hope you’ll join us. After you’ve listened, let us know what you think about this season of Serial by emailing


You can subscribe to this podcast on iTunes and find previous episodes in our archive. You’ll also find them—along with additional writing and commentary about the show—at

Feb. 11 2016 4:17 PM

Watch the Stylishly Old-School Trailer for the New Spy Thriller Our Kind of Traitor

Reviewing John Le Carré’s 2010 novel Our Kind of Traitor for the New York Timesnovelist Chelsea Cain noted that the book, despite being set in the present day, had “a jaunty midcentury feel”: “Characters go on tennis holiday. Spies sing from “La Traviata” while cooking. Everyone speaks French. … Spies wear berets and fedoras.” The plot, too—involving a mysterious Russian mobster seeking asylum in Britain—harkens back to the Cold War.

It’s fitting that the film adaptation of Our Kind of Traitor, directed by Susanna White and starring Ewan McGregor, looks like an old-fashioned thriller in a new trailer: With the exception of a pivotal flash drive, the trailer is mostly devoid of the trappings of modernity. At one point we even see some enigmatic names and numbers written on a slip of paper rather than typed on a computer—talk about old school!

A long-haired McGregor plays an unsuspecting British teacher who goes on vacation with his wife (Naomie Harris) and meets a Russian money launderer (Stellan Skarsgård attempting a Russian accent with mixed success) who asks the couple to deliver a flash drive to the MI6. Back in England, the couple are met with suspicion by the Secret Service and find themselves drawn into an intelligence plot. Damian Lewis plays an inscrutable intelligence agent stylishly clad in tortoiseshell glasses and ribbed cardigans, and Mark Gatiss—who is accustomed to this sort of intrigue from playing Mycroft Holmes on Sherlock—also makes a brief appearance. Our Kind of Traitor comes out in the UK in May but doesn’t have an official U.S. release date—yet.

Feb. 11 2016 4:06 PM

Watch The 1975’s Spaced-Out, Jazzy Cover of Justin Bieber’s “Sorry”    

Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” just got its latest cover from across the pond—this time, from the British alternative rock band The 1975. If you haven’t heard of The 1975 before, there’s a good chance you will soon, as their sophomore album is due to drop on Feb. 26. 

The band’s self-titled debut album, a highly addictive hit, doesn’t fit comfortably into any one genre’s box—and neither does this cover, which fuses halting vocals with smooth jazz-inspired instrumentals, all offset by spacey electronic additions. The cover’s strange, hypnotic success won’t surprise any 1975 stans, however—it’s not their first foray into the pop cover game. 

Feb. 11 2016 2:38 PM

Larry David Could Learn a Thing or Two From Jimmy Fallon’s Bernie Sanders Impression    

Jimmy Fallon has already proven his chops as a Donald Trump impersonator, but on Wednesday night he showed he can do a bang-up Bernie Sanders, too. In a skit for The Tonight Show, Fallon delivered a wizened, huffing performance that gives Larry David a run for his money.

As he re-enacted Sanders’ victory speech from the New Hampshire primaries, Fallon-as-Sanders said that he’s trying to keep his campaign positive: “In fact, I even asked Marco Rubio to help me with my speech tonight, but he just handed me a piece of paper with the words, ‘Good evening,’ written on it 800 times.”

Feb. 11 2016 1:40 PM

Kanye West Loves to Boast About His Upcoming Albums. Are His Boasts Usually Right?

On Jan. 25, 2016, weeks before Kanye West’s new album’s planned release date, he wrote the first review: “So happy to be finished with the best album of all time,” West tweeted, accompanied by a photo of a track list. A day later, he would add: “This is not album of the year. This is album of the life.” And, with uncharacteristic modesty, he backpedaled—slightly:

We already know that Kanye West is America’s foremost critic when it comes to other people’s work, but what about his own? He’s long admitted to being arrogant—but are his boasts justified?

To figure this out, I’ve scoured the Internet to find West’s pre-release assessments of all his solo albums. Below, what he said, and whether he was right.

Feb. 11 2016 11:43 AM

If Terrence Malick Directed Zoolander, It Would Be Really, Really, Ridiculously Good Looking

Terrence Malick loves Zoolander. Or so legend has it. The director of Days of Heavenand Tree of Life  apparently grew to adore the Ben Stiller-Owen Wilson comedy by watching it whenever he needed to relax. Seeming to confirm the rumor, he eventually programmed it as guest curator of an Oklahoma film festival, and Stiller reportedly recorded a message in character for the director’s birthday one year.

As Zoolander 2 finally ventures toward theaters, we wonder: Is this pair of silly studio comedy and mysterious art-house director really so unusual? 

Feb. 11 2016 11:18 AM

Two Dancers in Wigs Crush a Dance Contest in Sia’s Retro “Cheap Thrills” Video

The music videos for Sia’s This Is Acting songs are growing increasingly different from those for 1000 Forms of Fear. First, we had “Alive,” which centers on a little girl—specifically, Mahiro Takano, a Japanese child star—doing karate while wearing a blunt-bobbed wig. This marked a bit of a departure from Sia’s usual videos, which tend to star Dance Moms star Maddie Ziegler. But those of us who thought Takano could be the next Ziegler might have been mistaken. Sia has a new lyric video out for “Cheap Thrills,” featuring a new verse from Sean Paul and, more notably, no Takano.

Instead of Sia’s usual sparse, artsy style, this video goes retro—and weird. The entire thing is framed as a 1950s-era black and white broadcast, where a new song—Sia’s “Cheap Thrills”—gets played on "Dance Stage U.S.A.," a faux American Bandstand-style show.

Feb. 11 2016 10:20 AM

Watch Ben Schwartz Explain How He Helped Create BB-8’s Adorable Voice in The Force Awakens

The Force Awakens added plenty of fascinating characters to the Star Wars universe, and BB-8 was easily the most adorable. The droid’s speech is mostly a combination of bleeps and bloops like R2-D2, but those noises are delivered in a distinct voice from its predecessor. Ben Schwartz and Bill Hader were the vocal consultants behind BB-8’s charming audio identity, and Slate spoke with Schwartz following the film's opening to find out what the process was like. Now, Schwartz dishes even more details about recording BB-8’s dialogue, and what it was like to join the Star Wars family, in a Reddit Original video.

Feb. 11 2016 9:32 AM

Mad Max: Fury Road Is the Best Picture of the Year. Witness!

Today we’re kicking off a new series, “The Best Case for Best Picture,” in which Slate staffers and critics mount their strongest argument for the movie they think should win the Oscars’ biggest prize. It won’t be easy: They’ll also have to contend against the counterarguments of Slate culture editor Dan Kois.

First up: Aisha Harris makes the case for why Oscar should ride eternal, shiny, and chrome.

Feb. 11 2016 8:33 AM

Paula Poundstone Explains How She Started Telling Pop-Tart Jokes

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

A new generation of fans has discovered Paula Poundstone as a regular on NPR’s panel game show Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!, but her success as a stand-up stretches back to the early days of the 1980s comedy boom. Her 1990 HBO special Cats, Cops and Stuff is a perfect embodiment of her style, a mix of observational stand-up and audience improvisation. I caught up with Poundstone to talk about her history with prebaked pastries and how Robin Williams changed the game.