Slate's Culture Blog

Oct. 22 2014 9:19 PM

The Phone Call Is Twenty Minutes of Pitch-Perfect, Wrenching Cinema

The Phone Call, an elegantly directed short film by Mat Kirkby, has been quietly dominating the festival circuit all year. The short is now available for viewing, and well worth a watch: it’s a wrenching meditation on the small moments that redeem life, and a strong contender for an Oscar nomination.

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Oct. 22 2014 4:10 PM

Skinny Mark Wahlberg Goes for an Oscar: The First Trailer for The Gambler

Like Matthew McConaughey last year and many other Oscar-hungry actors before him, Mark Wahlberg has dramatically slimmed down for his latest movie. But Wahlberg’s Method acting for the crime thriller The Gambler—a remake of the 1974 film starring James Caan as a gambling-addicted literature professor—required more than transforming his body. As Wahlberg told USA Today, "Forget losing the weight. Being believable as a teacher was one of my greatest challenges and most rewarding.” The guy from a working-class Boston background sat in on university lectures and studied “every literary mention” in the script. Could the Oscar-baiting move pay off?

It’s hard to tell from the first trailer, released today, though the Best Actor race is notably crowded in a year that includes raved-about performances from Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Keaton, Steve Carell, and Eddie Redmayne (for which the latter two actors underwent even more dramatic physical transformations than Wahlberg). In a genre flick of this kind, Wahlberg, even with two Oscar nods behind him, seems like a long-shot—though his co-star, a bald John Goodman playing a loan shark, seems to be getting a some buzz himself for Best Supporting Actor. In the brief trailer, it’s Goodman who takes center stage for a menacing monologue that feels inspired by the “Fuck you, pay me” speech from Goodfellas.


The film was written by Oscar-winner William Monahan (The Departed), directed by Rupert Wyatt (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), and also stars Brie Larson, Jessica Lange, and Michael K. Williams. To see whether Wahlberg can dramatically transform himself into a literature professor, we’ll have to wait until The Gambler opens on Dec. 19.

Oct. 22 2014 3:06 PM

Writer William Giraldi Wishes Everyone Would Please Stop Likening Him to a Literary Genius

The comedy event of the fall season has arrived courtesy of novelist William Giraldi, whose cri de coeurCompliments Are Nice, But Enough With the Cormac McCarthy Comparisons” currently sits on the homepage of the Daily Beast. Yes, Giraldi has penned the ultimate humblebrag: a plea that we stop discussing him by invoking one of the country’s greatest living novelists.

It seems that this bothersome comparison has especially pestered Giraldi with the release of his second novel, Hold the Dark. The completely un-McCarthy like novel, Giraldi explains, is a journey “into the gelid wilds of Alaska, into the village-living of a clan forgotten, forsaken by civilization.” Protagonist Medora Slone (“my Medea,” says Giraldi) “summons the wolf scholar Russell Core to investigate” missing children, “and once he arrives at the furthermost reaches of American soil, in this austere and fatal landscape, he must oppose not only the enigma of evil and the indifferent majesty of nature, but his own spiritual banishment.” From these descriptions, it’s hard to see how “well-meaning readers” persist in likening that darkness to the specific grim pitch of our “regnant mafioso of the American masculine … the unrepentant vicar of violence.”

Oct. 22 2014 2:47 PM

Watch the Eerie, Gorgeous Trailer for Joshua Oppenheimer’s Follow-up to The Act of Killing

If you saw The Act of Killing, you probably weren’t surprised when its director, Joshua Oppenheimer, was awarded a MacArthur “Genius Grant” last month. Oppenheimer’s 2012 documentary about the men who carried out a mass murder sanctioned by the Indonesian government five decades ago was not without controversy, but it undeniably pioneered an imaginative, shocking, and totally gripping approach to documentary filmmaking. (Errol Morris, who produced the film along with Werner Herzog, explained some of Oppenheimer’s methods in Slate in 2013.)

Now, Oppenheimer is taking on Indonesia’s massacres again, but from a different angle.

Oct. 22 2014 2:03 PM

Here’s What the Modern-Day Annie Remake Might Sound Like

If you’ve seen the trailer for the upcoming remake of Annie, you know that it will give the musical a substantial update, transplanting Little Orphan Annie (Quvenzhané Wallis) from the original show’s Depression-era setting to the present day. Now we can hear a little more of what that update might sound like: Sia has recorded a drastic reworking of “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” for the soundtrack, and it’s been released today along with an accompanying video.

Oct. 22 2014 12:35 PM

IKEA’s Shining Spoof Admits Its Stores Can Feel Like the Overlook Hotel

IKEA’s megastores are known for their unsettling, maze-like design, where couples bicker endlessly over plates and curtain sets while struggling to find the exit. Now, in a new ad from IKEA Singapore, the furniture company seems to be poking fun at its reputation, by doing a spin on Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining.

Perhaps they were inspired by last year’s brilliant IKEA parody that imagined the shopping experience as akin to the lost-in-space conundrum of Gravity? Either way, it’s certainly true that anyone who’s ever gone to their local IKEA store knows that it can feel reminiscent of the Overlook Hotel.

Oct. 22 2014 9:19 AM

Nine Actors Remember Their Famous Horror-Movie Deaths

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

As part of Vulture’s Horror Week, we spoke to actors who each had memorable movie deaths. Two of the stars from Carrie, Ray Liotta, Rose McGowan, the Final Destination tanning-bed girls, and several others looked back on their gory demises.

Betty Buckley


Buckley plays Carrie’s gym teacher, Miss Collins, who is killed during the film’s climactic, blood-soaked prom-night massacre. 

We all gathered to watch each other’s death scenes, and we’d go out and party afterwards to celebrate that a character had been bumped off. But in the days before that, the whole prom construction took quite a while. This contraption they built for Ms. Collins’s death scene was a basketball backboard that was on a pendulum. There was a foot of balsam wood that would take the hit against the body. They planned it so that we shot four takes with the pendulum falling and then stopping it right before it hit me. That was very scary. So what you’re seeing on film is not acting at all. I’m absolutely terrified because they had not tested out the machine. So they didn’t know [if] they calculated the balsam properly in terms of the amount and, you know, [if they] could stop it on a dime right before it hit me. Thankfully, it worked. We were all absolutely terrified.

My stunt lady was dressed like me with a wig and everything. They put her in the shot and she took the hit. But it didn’t hurt her, and thankfully, Brian [De Palma] told me to watch the movements she made and to duplicate those. They removed her from the contraption, inserted me again, and I then imitated all her behavior when she took the hit, and they shot the close-up of my dying. I had [fake] blood in my mouth that I was supposed to vomit out. They just give you a swig, then you spit it out and they bring you water.

Oct. 21 2014 9:42 PM

The All The President’s Men Scene That Perfectly Captured Ben Bradlee’s Genius

Benjamin C. Bradlee, the legendary editor whose stewardship of the Washington Post lasted more than two decades, passed away Tuesday night. Perhaps Bradlee’s signature accomplishment was the Post’s coverage of the Watergate scandal, and perhaps the best depiction of that coverage is the 1976 thriller All The President’s Men, which cemented in the popular imagination Bradlee’s freewheeling, debonair, and razor-sharp reputation.

Oct. 21 2014 1:47 PM

The Best Way to Fry an Egg (Video)

Like boiling water and slicing bread, frying eggs is often categorized as a kitchen chore that’s so easy a small child could do it. This reputation is not quite fair—it’s actually pretty easy to mess up a fried egg. You can cook it over too high heat, making it rubbery, as I did in one of the takes for the video above. You can accidentally break the yolk while attempting to nudge it over easy. You can tear up the white while loosening the egg from the pan, giving it a ragged look.

The worst mistake, in terms of the final eating experience, is overcooking the bottom of the egg while leaving the top raw. But there’s a way to avoid this mishap, and it’s even easier than flipping the egg, as I demonstrate in this video.

Oct. 21 2014 11:34 AM

Germans Really Are More Punctual. Just Ask Angela Merkel.

You may not agree with Angela Merkel politically—although honestly it’s a bit hard to analyze her ideology in its proper context, given the unfamiliarity to Americans of Germany’s multi-party system; I mean, there are two different kinds of Socialistsand a Pirate contingent. But you have got to love German Chancellor’s style. (And I don’t just mean the spectacular Bell-Biv-Devoe-esque tunic she’s been wearing to every opera since shortly after the Wall fell.) Last week, when pocket-sized despot and notorious tiger-misplacer Vladimir Putin was late to a meeting with Merkel in Milan, she straight-up bailed on him, because Angela Merkel, not unlike the immaculate Berlin-to-Frankfurt InterCity Express, operates on a tight schedule.