Slate's Culture Blog

Dec. 24 2014 11:54 AM

How Accurate Is Unbroken?

Laura Hillenbrand’s biography Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption tells the extraordinary story of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic runner-turned-war-hero. Against nearly impossible odds, Zamperini managed to survive years of extreme deprivation and torture as an Air Force officer, first spending 47 days lost at sea after his plane crashed several hundred miles from Oahu, Hawaii, and then becoming a POW in Japan, where he was targeted by a malevolent, violent commander named Mutsuhiro “the Bird” Watanabe.

Hillenbrand’s bestseller has now been adapted for the big screen, with a screenplay by Joel and Ethan Coen, Richard LaGravenese, and William Nicholson. Angelina Jolie, who befriended Zamperini before his death this past July at the age of 97, directed and co-produced the film, and Jack O’Connell stars as Zamperini. Several film reviews have criticized Unbroken for being “watered-down” in its storytelling; the Hollywood Reporter notes that “the half-hour the film spends at sea simply can't render the sheer, slow agony the book so effectively conveys.” So how closely did the filmmakers stick to Zamperini’s account, as told by Hillenbrand?

Video Advertisement

Dec. 24 2014 11:41 AM

The New York Times’ Viral “What 2,000 Calories Looks Like” Is Unoriginal and Misleading

Shortly after being published on Monday, the multimedia story “What 2,000 Calories Looks Like” shot to the top of the New York Times’ most-read and most-emailed articles lists. That readers would warm to this article, a production of the data blog The Upshot, is unsurprising. After all, it features gorgeous, full-width photographs of appetizing food—both homemade and from chain restaurants—and it relates to the so-called “obesity epidemic,” one of Times readers’ favorite topics. What is surprising is that the Times—usually a bastion of good taste and restraint in an Internet culture fueled by clickbait—would stoop to publish such an unoriginal and intellectually dishonest piece of work.

One problem with the Times article? It is really, really late to the game. Health magazines and general interest websites have published features essentially identical to “What 2,000 Calories Looks Like” for years. BuzzFeed, in fact, made a video showing what 2,000 calories worth of different foods looks like just last March. Business Insider did a nearly identical video just a few weeks later.

Dec. 24 2014 11:07 AM

2014: The Year Women Took Over Punk Music

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Mark down 2014 as the year that women tore down the punk-boy clubhouse and erected a big middle finger in its place. Scrutinize year-end lists and you’ll find an unprecedented number of lady-fronted punk and indie bands. I’m honored to be in the company of bands like Ex Hex and Perfect Pussy on Vulture’s list of the best albums of 2014. Beyond that, look around at other lists and you’ll also see names like Cayetana, Speedy Ortiz, and especially, White Lung, whose third LP Deep Fantasy took 2014 by storm and demonstrated the power and diversity of contemporary punk music. Also, this year we saw the return of iconic bands like the Muffs and Sleater-Kinney, who released music in 2014 for the first time in years. And there is Against Me!, who put out one of the most important records of the century, Transgender Dysphoria Blues. Against Me! was a male-fronted band that I fell in love with as a kid; now they’re a world-storming, woman-fronted punk band of epic proportions. This alone could make 2014 the most important year for punk. 

“Punk is a boys’ club” is something I’ve heard most my life, and there is definitely validity to that statement. Growing up in the punk scene meant I spent a lot of time watching sweaty white dudes expound their frustration to a room mostly comprised of other sweaty white dudes. It wasn’t until I picked up We Gotta Get Outta This Place: The True, Tough Story of Women in Rock from my middle-school library that I could even name more than five lady-fronted punk bands with confidence. While all-woman or woman-fronted bands like the Slits, the Runaways, or L7 have been revolutionizing the punk scene since its inception, people routinely associate the genre with men like the Ramones, Black Flag, or the Sex Pistols. Riot Grrrl is often referenced as the height of “women in punk,” as if we stopped making rock music in the mid-’90s. My band, Chumped, still gets compared to Bikini Kill frequently, and while I’m flattered, I can’t help but think it’s a lazy comparison based on a very narrow scope of woman-fronted punk bands. Historically, women have been always been in the “club,” but for some reason, we’ve been a lot less visible than our male counterparts. That has changed.

Dec. 24 2014 8:32 AM

A Better—and Lazier—Way to Poach Your Chicken

This post originally appeared on Food52.

This is the time of year when I catch myself thinking things like, “For my next life, I want to come back as a person with two ovens.”

And until that comes to pass, it is the time of year when the slow cooker, which failed to justify its existence all summer long, becomes a supremely useful appliance. To help you hold on to your holiday sanity, we reviewed some of those uses last time: beans umpteen ways, chili, Southern choucroute. This time, a time-honored function of the slow cooker: Cooking, with excruciating tenderness, a large hunk of meat.  

But not in the way you might think.

Dec. 23 2014 8:50 PM

The Original, Unused Score for 2001: A Space Odyssey Is … Not As Good

There are few moments in cinema more embedded in cultural memory than the opening of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The scene is simple enough—the sun rises over a crescent earth—but Kubrick sets the shot to Richard Strauss’s Thus Spake Zarathustra, a bombastic and now instantly recognizable piece of music. It’s a perfect pairing of sound and image, but it almost never happened: Kubrick initially hired Alex North, a renowned film composer, to write the film’s music. Below is the opening act of the movie set to North’s score; we've included the actual scene for comparison.

Dec. 23 2014 5:10 PM

The Top 10 Producers of 2014

It’s no secret that in 2014, popular music is often as driven by the producers as it is by the songwriters and performers. This is not a bad thing: Some might long for the singer-songwriter days of the late ’60s and a few surrounding years, but they’re unlikely to complain if you put on the best of Phil Spector, Rick Rubin, Quincy Jones, or The Corporation. Besides, even the Beatles had George Martin.
So who were the producers who shaped the best sounds of the last 12 months? In the same spirit of collaboration used to make these records, we polled some of the best thinkers who write for us about music and came out with the list below. While we’re still hoping to see more women behind the mixing boards, we agreed on almost everything.

Dec. 23 2014 4:31 PM

The Whole Gang Is Back in the First Trailer for the Entourage Movie

The boys are back. Three years after the series finale left Vince, E, Ari, and co. on the tarmac in the series finale—their lives inexplicably perfect across the board, per usual (Turtle a millionaire! Vince engaged! Sloan pregnant!)—the trailer for the long-awaited Entourage movie is finally here.

Dec. 23 2014 1:29 PM

Kanye West’s Yeezus Reimagined as a Christmas Album Is Even Better Than It Sounds

At this time last year, critics were anointing Kanye West’s Yeezus as the best album of 2013. This December, Sketch comedy trio Local Business Comedy apparently saw something different in the album—its holiday potential. And lo, unto us Kreezus was born: a parody Christmas album that is even more ridiculous than it sounds.

Dec. 23 2014 12:31 PM

Banana Bread Is a Blank Slate for All Your Wildest Baking Dreams

When you picture banana bread in your mind’s eye, what do you see? A golden loaf, perhaps, or a delicious snack? That’s not what my colleague Jamelle Bouie sees. When he visualizes banana bread, he sees an empty canvas on which he can express his creativity with chocolate chips, peanut butter, even extra bananas.

“Banana bread is one of those things where it seems like it should be more precise than it is,” says Jamelle. Watch the video below for more details, and check out Slate’s banana bread recipe for one of many possible variations.

Dec. 23 2014 11:43 AM

Before He Died, Robin Williams Helped a Co-Star Ask a Girl to Prom

It’s been four months and most of us are still mourning the loss of Robin Williams this past summer. Since then, we’ve seen and heard countless accounts of Williams’ kindness throughout his career that have kept his memory alive. The latest comes from his Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb co-star Skyler Gisondo, who plays Ben Stiller’s son in the franchise.