Slate's Culture Blog

Dec. 22 2014 10:48 PM

Watch 11-Year-Old Björk Read the Nativity Story On Icelandic TV

Björk, Iceland’s sui generis singer and occasional actress, got her start in music at an early age: she released her first album in 1977, at age 11. The year before that debut, she gave a little-seen reading of the nativity story for Icelandic TV station RUV. A Reddit user has dug up the charming video of this reading, and you can watch it over on RUV’s website.

Björk is accompanied by a soothing, equally precocious orchestra from the Reykjavík Children’s Music School. 

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Dec. 22 2014 8:33 PM

Why Are Christmas Movies Always So Sad? A Video Essay.

Christmas movies are total bummers. It’s a counterintuitive claim—after all, these movies ostensibly reinforce the holiday spirit—but the truth is many of our most cherished Christmas films actively resist yuletide cheer. In their thoughtful video essay for Criterion, Michael Koresky and Casey Moore ponder why this is the case, and their answers are well worth your time.

Dec. 22 2014 4:32 PM

Angelina Jolie on Curse Words, the Coen Brothers, and Her New Movie

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

She's already one of the most famous movie stars in the world, but Angelina Jolie is now poised to become one of our most prolific female directors, too. As she prepares to release Unbroken—her film based on the true story of Louis Zamperini, the World War II hero who endured weeks stranded at sea and then spent years suffering in POW camps, where he endured torture at the hands of a cruel Japanese sergeant nicknamed “the Bird”—Jolie is already finishing up By the Sea, an intimate marital drama she helmed starring her husband Brad Pitt and herself, and prepping her next directorial effort Africa, an epic tale of conservationist Richard Leakey. Still, Jolie managed to carve out some time recently in Los Angeles (before she was felled by chicken pox) to speak to Vulture about how she cast up-and-coming British actor Jack O’Connell to star in Unbroken, why she wooed Joel and Ethan Coen to adapt Laura Hillenbrand’s book of the same name, and the decision to turn Unbroken into a “no-swear” zone.

Dec. 22 2014 3:13 PM

Seven Things You May Not Know About the Movies of Martin Scorsese

Recently Scott Tobias of the Dissolve revisited The Wolf of Wall Street, which came out one year ago, and concluded that it “holds up as a spectacular piece of filmmaking.” Was there any doubt? Few directors have ever exhibited the consistent degree of skill and care on display in the work of Martin Scorsese.

Dec. 22 2014 2:43 PM

Why Annie Shows Quvenzhané Wallis’ True Potential as an Actress

One name that came as a surprise when the Golden Globe nominations were announced earlier this month was Quvenzhané Wallis, who’s up for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy for Annie. To be sure, the 11-year old is no stranger to awards: In 2013, she became the youngest actress ever to be nominated for a Best Actress Oscar. But the critically acclaimed Beasts of the Southern Wild was poised for awards season recognition in a way that the splashy, modernized musical remake, released this past weekend, isn’t. What’s more, that previous nomination prompted a whole debate about whether children could really act, and some seemed inclined to dismiss Wallis’ performance in Beasts as a fluke.

Dec. 22 2014 2:13 PM

Singer Joe Cocker Is Dead at 70

British singer Joe Cocker, famous for his intense, growly performances of songs like The Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends,” died this morning from lung cancer. He was 70 years old.

Cocker’s iconic version of “With a Little Help From My Friends” was a drastic rearrangement of the original, giving the song an extended introduction with wailing organs and guitars, and stretching it out for several minutes. Cocker’s version went to No. 1 in the United Kingdom in 1968 and later became the opening theme for The Wonder Years, though his most famous performance came at Woodstock in 1969.

Dec. 22 2014 12:11 PM

Paul Stanley’s Lost Folgers Commercial Is Finally Online, and It Is Hilariously Bad


KISS co-founder Paul Stanley filmed a commercial for Folgers in 2000, but it never aired. Fourteen years later, the clip has resurfaced online; in it, Stanley, sans makeup—well, sans KISS makeup, anyway—sings passionately about the joys of instant coffee against the backdrop of a trapeze artist under a circus tent.


It’s about as good as that sounds, i.e., hilariously, almost endearingly, terrible.

Dec. 22 2014 1:03 AM

Homeland Really Did Get Good Again. But Let’s Hope It’s Always a Little Bit Crazy.

This season of Homeland was a reconstruction project. After the sins of the last season and a half—which, if you need refreshing, involved one outlandish plot after another revolving around the overblown true love story of Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) and Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis)—the new season began with a sick wink. Corey Stoll, who joined the show as a CIA agent—seemingly taking over Lewis’ spot—was murdered in the very first episode. We will not make the mistake of holding onto a leading man for too long ever again, the show seemed to be promising. With tonight’s extremely anti-climatic finale, Homeland was making another promise: We will never be too ludicrous again. But what if a little bit of ludicrous, just not too much, is Homeland’s essential ingredient?

Dec. 21 2014 11:43 PM

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter: See Four Seasonal Google Doodle GIFs from Eleanor Davis

If you saw Sunday's adorable Google Doodle GIF celebrating the first day of winter, you might have thought the Doodle's colorful, playful style seemed familiar. That's because this is the fourth of cartoonist Eleanor Davis' series of Doodles celebrating the four seasons, which ran throughout 2014. (The summer Doodle didn't run in the Northern Hemisphere.) Davis shared all four with us:


Davis sent us a bunch of her sketches for the Doodle. "Google I had so many good ideas for you," she tweeted. "They did not go for any of my ideas where the OOs were tits."


Courtesy of Eleanor Davis


It really seems like the process was completely fun:


Courtesy of Eleanor Davis


Courtesy of Eleanor Davis

...despite the fact that Google wasn't as into facial hair as she was:


Courtesy of Eleanor Davis


Courtesy of Eleanor Davis


Courtesy of Eleanor Davis

"Haha how about a bunch of straitlaced people get hot & get naked & are secretly covered in tattoos spelling GOOGLE?"


Courtesy of Eleanor Davis

Thanks to Eleanor Davis for letting us reprint these. For goodness' sake, order her fantastic book, How to Be Happy!

Dec. 21 2014 11:42 PM

Did the Finale of The Affair Save the Series or Ruin It for Good? Two Perspectives.


Part 1: Sharan


I like to think of The Affair, Showtime’s he-said-she-said whodunit set in Montauk and Brooklyn, as the guilty pleasure of prestige television—except that the show seems to try as hard as it can to avoid being pleasurable. The pacing can be ponderous, the writing can be self-serious, and the Rashomon-like storytelling often serves no other purpose than to double an episode’s running time. But Sunday’s season finale was invigorating television, and its first five or so minutes marked a series-saving shift in tone.