Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Dec. 2 2016 4:46 PM

Amy Schumer Will Be a Barbie Girl in a Live-Action Barbie World

Amy Schumer is reportedly set to star as Barbie in an upcoming live-action feature from Mattel and Sony.

I repeat: Amy Schumer is reportedly set to star as Barbie in an upcoming live-action feature from Mattel and Sony.

Perhaps your first thought upon hearing this news is, Has Amy Schumer, notably self-deprecating feminist, officially sold out? Or maybe it’s just, Whaaa?? Both responses are fair and understandable. This seems weird. But then, maybe it’s actually a cool idea—after years of declining sales numbers, Mattel has finally begun embracing that pesky little way of doing business (and life) known as inclusion, expanding its line of dolls to include an array of different body shapes, hairstyles, and skin tones. Lo and behold, the strategic marketing strategy has worked and Barbie sales this year have “soared.” What better way to milk this new era for all its worth by getting one of the most famous and lucrative feminists to further rehab Barbie’s image?

Dec. 2 2016 3:48 PM

Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away Is Coming Back to the Big Screen This Weekend. You Should Go See It.

Spirited Away, the Oscar-winning animated film from acclaimed Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki, will return to theaters on Saturday to celebrate its 15th anniversary. Fathom Events, which in the past has coordinated limited theatrical runs for other beloved, nostalgia-drenched movies like The Iron Giant and Space Jam, originally teamed up with distributor GKIDS to bring the Studio Ghibli movie to theaters this Sunday and Monday only. But ticket sales for the event were so promising, they decided to add an additional date, with an extra screening coming on Thursday.

That means you have three chances to see Spirited Away on the big screen, and you should absolutely take advantage. A staple of Japanese cinema, Spirited Away is revered both in Japan, where it still holds the record for highest-grossing movie of all time even after 15 years, and abroad, having won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature (the only anime ever to do so).

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Miyazaki’s films are consistently excellent, but none more so than his enchanting tale of a 10-year-old girl trapped in a bathhouse vacation spot for spirits, some of whom are amoral and grotesque in ways that your average Disney movie just won’t allow. That doesn’t mean the film isn’t beautiful—the animation is truly stunning, and the score by Joe Hisaishi is a marvel. But like most of Miyazaki’s work, Spirited Away eschews lazy characterizations (such as that ugly = evil) and instead offers a more complicated outlook on themes like greed, selflessness, and unlikely heroism.

The English-dubbed version of Spirited Away will hit theaters on Dec. 4 and 8, with the original Japanese version showing on Dec. 5 with English subtitles. The three-night engagement will also include the U.S. debut of an animated short film, Ghiblies: Episode 2, which chronicles the adventures of Studio Ghibli’s animators. So what are you waiting for? You can buy tickets on the Fathom Events website here.

Dec. 2 2016 12:38 PM

Queen Sugar Spent Its First Season Becoming the Most Political Show on TV

Before the premiere of Queen Sugar, creator Ava DuVernay spoke about the way she intended to depict Black Lives Matter in the domestic sphere. “With the Black Lives Matter movement, a lot of the focus is on the protest and dissent,” she explained. “I’m hoping to dismantle the public notion—for folks outside of the community—of what Black Lives Matter means. It’s really about saying that black lives matter, that humanity is the same when you go inside people’s homes.” It’s a sentiment that resonated across Queen Sugar’s first season. A Southern-set drama sharply attuned to the politics of race and gender, the series debuted on OWN in September to record ratings and remained a strong commercial performer over its debut run, which concluded Wednesday.

It introduced itself as a deeply-felt exploration of the Bordelon family in rural Louisiana, with languid pacing and gorgeous imagery inviting viewers to dig deeper into its world. The political content was initially subtle, infused into the drama. But something changed along the way. As Queen Sugar built in confidence—as its storylines came into focus and as DuVernay, a filmmaker tasked with running a series for the first time, settled into the unique demands of making TV—the series seized an opportunity. With an audience ready to listen and ideas ripe for discussion, Queen Sugar used its platform to directly address and expand on conversations surrounding gender, criminal justice, and property rights. It did so in a way that modified the very function of scripted TV.

Dec. 2 2016 11:33 AM

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child May Have Found Its Burrow on Broadway

The creators of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child are in talks to bring the West End play to Broadway’s Lyric Theater. The show, a continuation of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series (perhaps you’ve heard of it?), opened in London in July to critical acclaim, and now is one step closer to making an American debut.

The Lyric Theater is currently home to Cirque du Soleil’s Paramour, but the Ambassador Theater Group, which owns the Lyric, have reportedly made it worth their while financially to cede the space. Scott Zeiger, chief executive of Cirque’s theatrical division, told the New York Times, “They made us an offer we couldn’t refuse.”

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Though no formal commitment has yet been announced between ATG and Cursed Child, the theatre is planning major renovations in preparation for the show beginning in May, with Cursed Child producer Colin Callendar telling the Times that the production team had been seeking a theater smaller than the Lyric’s sprawling 1,900 seats. The show’s designer will reconfigure the theater, cutting about 400 seats for a more intimate space.

If all goes well, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will arrive on Broadway in spring 2018.

Dec. 2 2016 10:33 AM

Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, and Shailene Woodley Star in the First Trailer for HBO’s Big Little Lies

HBO is headed into the new year with a fresh star-studded project: Big Little Lies, a seven-part limited series helmed by David E. Kelley (The Practice) and Jean-Marc Vallée (Wild). After dropping a fairly ambiguous teaser trailer back in October, the pay cabler is now amping up its promotional efforts in advance of the series’ 2017 premiere.

Adapted from Liane Moriarty’s novel of the same name, Big Little Lies stars Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Shailene Woodley as a group of mothers whose idyllic West Coast lives slowly begin to unravel—to the point of murder. Our first glimpse of the series kept details to a minimum, but the new footage showcased here gives us a better idea of what to expect: dark comedy, high stakes, and a few scene-stealing supporting performances from the likes of Laura Dern, Adam Scott, and Zoë Kravitz.

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Big Little Lies premieres Feb. 19 on HBO.

Dec. 2 2016 10:18 AM

Beyoncé’s Lemonade Makes Sight & Sound’s Best Films of 2016

The Sight & Sound poll is one of the most venerable of film institutions. Its once-in-a-decade survey of the greatest movies of all time, last conducted in 2012, is the most widely accepted benchmark of what’s in the canon and what’s out, and its annual survey of the year’s best films, alongside the like-minded polls conducted by Film Comment, the Village Voice, and Indiewire, serves as a powerful indicator of where a movie stands in the first draft of film history.

This year’s top 10 includes Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea, movies already to familiar to film fans keeping tabs on the awards race, and it’s topped by Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann, a two-and-a-half-hour German comedy (no, that is not an oxymoron) that was named Best Foreign-Language Film by the New York Film Critics Circle just yesterday. But it also contains movies like Andrea Arnold’s American Honey, Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake, and Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson, that haven’t gotten much in the way of critical laurels so far—and, due to the poll’s focus on European release dates, a few movies, like the Kristen Stewart-starring Personal Shopper, that U.S. audiences won’t even see until 2017.

The biggest surprise, though, is the inclusion of Beyoncé’s “visual album” Lemonade, which by most conventional standards doesn’t even qualify as a movie. Sure, it had one-off screenings in a handful of movie theaters, but nothing close to a traditional theatrical run, and the vast majority of viewers experienced it either on TV, on DVD, or online. Granted, you could say the same thing about Ezra Edelman’s five-part, eight-hour documentary O.J.: Made in America, which was made for ESPN and aired on ABC, but it premiered at Sundance, was shown in numerous film festivals, and is officially qualified for the Oscars.

Nonetheless, Sight & Sound’s 163 critics and curators have spoken, and they’ve declared Lemonade not only a movie, but one of 2016’s best. “Does Lemonade deserve to be on this list?” writes critic and programmer Ian Mantgani. “I’m not sure, but I can’t deny its energiizng rush, its lightning effect on the culture, its blur of the lines between cinema, music video and album, and how explosively it digested the influence of black cultural history.”

Here’s the complete list, which includes several ties.

Dec. 2 2016 8:03 AM

A Simple Guide to Westworld’s Multiple Timelines

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

By now, it’s clear that Westworld has carefully manipulated its audience through clever editing and narrative sleight of hand. The HBO show is a Russian nesting doll of stories with flashbacks within flashbacks, often cut together in time-jarring sequences, so ahead of next Sunday’s season finale, let’s pull those pieces apart. It’s time to put the chronology of Westworld together, in order, from the very beginning.

First, the basics: Westworld tells its story through multiple timelines. The through line between most of those timelines is Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), the park’s oldest functioning host. She plays a consequential role with virtually every character in the park, human and host alike, so the show’s chronology is best understood through her story line. Except for a few flashbacks, such as the one where the Man in Black kills Maeve and her daughter, Dolores is key to the show’s major timelines.

Dec. 2 2016 7:33 AM

Jacques Pépin’s Genius, Very-Last-Minute Appetizer—Two Ways

This post originally appeared in Genius Recipes from Food52.

Consider this blessedly simple recipe your instant holiday contingency plan: your on-call snack, your hungry people parachute, the thing you can always provide, even when you have nothing in the fridge, and nothing in mind.

Because this is how, following the lead of living legend Jacques Pépin, you can turn the leftover odds and ends in your cheese drawer into a sultry hors d’oeuvre. Two, actually.

Dec. 1 2016 2:00 PM

La La Land Waltzes Past Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea to Win New York Film Critics Circle’s Best Picture

We’re still fairly early into the awards season, but we should just get used to Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea dominating the conversation and the accolades in the coming months. The New York Film Critics Circle voted on their annual awards today, and gave three apiece to each movie: Best Director (Barry Jenkins), Best Cinematography (James Laxton), and Best Supporting Actor (Mahershela Ali) for Moonlight; Best Actor (Casey Affleck), Best Supporting Actress (Michelle Williams, who also won for Certain Women), and Best Screenplay (Kenneth Lonergan) for Manchester.

But lest we forget that there is a beloved modern-day musical starring charming actors Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling also campaigning vigorously for critical attention, Damien Chazelle’s La La Land snuck in at the tail end of voting to win Best Picture. The NYFCC has a tendency to align with closely with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences—since 2000, all but five of the films named Best Picture here have gone on to be nominated in the same category at the Oscars. (Most recently, Carol’s win last year did not translate to a Best Picture Oscar nod.) While it may not be surprising that La La Land’s odds are pretty good for Oscar recognition—a movie about Hollywood; a director who’s already captured the hearts of academy voters before—the NYFCC win makes it even more of a sure bet.

Dec. 1 2016 11:46 AM

Watch the Hamilton Mixtape Concert, Featuring Live Performances by the Roots, Ashanti, Ja Rule, and More

Remember when live #Ham4Ham shows were supposed to be a thing of the past? Yeah, me neither. On Thursday, ahead of the midnight release of The Hamilton Mixtape, the musical will revive its weekly pre-show tradition to hold a special live concert featuring artists from the album, which offers new takes on the revolutionary musical’s songs.

According to a tweet from the official Hamilton account, we can expect performances from the Roots, Busta Rhymes, and Joell Ortiz on the already-released “My Shot” remix as well as Ashanti and Ja Rule on their cover of “Helpless.” New music that will debut at the concert includes Andra Day on “Burn” and Regina Spektor on “Dear Theodosia.”

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You can view the full Mixtape tracklist here. Bookmark this page so you can watch the concert’s livestream when it begins at 1 p.m. EST.

Update, Dec. 1, 2016, 2 p.m. EST: The live stream has now ended, and the video is at least temporarily unavailable to rewatch due to a copyright claim from SME and UMG, i.e., the record company who staged the event in the first place.

Update, Dec. 1, 2016, 4 p.m. EST: The video is back up.

If you’re in or around New York City, and you just can’t wait to relive Andra Day killing it on “Burn,” you’re in luck: Lin-Manuel Miranda, appearing via a pretaped video from London (where he’s filming Mary Poppins Returns), announced that copies of The Hamilton Mixtape are now available to purchase at the Richard Rodgers Theater or across the street at the Hamilton merch store. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of counting the minutes until the mixtape drops at midnight.

Missed the concert completely? Relive it a portion of it with Miranda himself, who live-streamed his reactions (read: close-ups of his face while freaking out) to Ashanti and Ja Rule’s collab. We can relate.

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