Slate's Culture Blog

Jan. 29 2015 1:30 PM

A Dog Movie Star Demonstrates the Art of Canine Acting

Check out all Slate’s interviews from the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

In the upcoming movie White God, which won the Un Certain Regard award at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, canine actor Bodie plays Hagen, a mutt that—after he is separated from his owner—leads an uprising of hundreds of dogs against the men who mistreat and abuse them.

The film is made with virtually no CGI, and Bodie’s naturalistic performance (this is no Uggie) takes his character from sadness to ferocious anger to, ultimately, triumph. We asked Bodie and trainer Teresa Ann Miller to show us how Bodie gets into character.

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Jan. 29 2015 12:16 PM

Lily Tomlin and Director Paul Weitz on Grandma’s Frank Approach to Women’s Issues

Check out all Slate’s interviews from the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

In Paul Weitz’s Grandma, Elle (Lily Tomlin) bonds with her teenaged granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner) when she comes to her seeking financial assistance for an abortion. Like last year’s indie hit Obvious Child, the film, which recently premiered at Sundance, deals honestly with this once-taboo subject and sensitively unpacks the way it affects many women today.

We spoke to Tomlin and Weitz about Grandma’s approach to women’s issues and how the cinematic conversations around abortion have changed.

Jan. 29 2015 11:39 AM

North West Stars in the Touching Video for Kanye West’s “Only One”

Kanye West is a family man. He always envisioned that future for himself, most notably on the song “New Day,” alongside Jay Z. With his wife, Kim Kardashian, and daughter, North, that future is now, to a certain extent, fully realized. And, yet, there’s still something missing: his late mother, Donda West. For Kanye’s first collaboration with Paul McCartney, “Only One,” he breaks down about the pain of not being able to share his newfound happiness with the most important woman in his life. For its video, premiered on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, he visualizes those conflicting feelings of heartache and euphoria.

Jan. 29 2015 11:22 AM

How the Oscars Work, Explained in Under Three Minutes

It’s no secret that the Oscars, while a glamorous Hollywood schmoozefest, are also a complex business of awarding the year’s best in film. Who the academy decides to nominate and later pick to win is often controversial, disagreeable, and, on rare occasion, right on the nose. But how does the voting process work? AJ+ have come up with a concise video explainer that’s both fun and knowledgeable—just in time for this year’s ceremony.

Jan. 29 2015 9:35 AM

In Praise of the Original Wet Hot American Summer Trailer

The new teaser for the Wet Hot American Summer eight-episode miniseries, the movie reboot that will hit Netflix this summer, is pretty straightforward.  It’s a laundry list of the series’ bold-faced names—the likes of Elizabeth Banks and Bradley Cooper and Janeane Garofalo and Amy Poehler—projected over footage of little red cabins and sunny camp lawns. The camera cruises slowly toward one of the bunks, zooming in on a wall where the words “Camp Firewood ’81” are scrawled in chalk. The teaser has the same faded, summery tint that longtime WHAS fans will recognize from the original, and it makes sense that Netflix would focus squarely on the star power of the cast. After all, part of what makes this small film seem immortal a decade and a half later is that so many of these cast members have since skyrocketed to fame. The reboot, also directed by David Wain, will most likely be great. But this teaser should make us nostalgic, too, for an unheralded cultural gem: the original Wet Hot American Summer trailer.

Jan. 28 2015 9:05 PM

The Stunning, Geometric Style of Akira Kurosawa

Tony Zhou’s sharp, erudite video essay series, “Every Frame a Painting,” is a must-watch for any film fan. The latest installment is actually something of an outtake—it's a discarded snippet of a longer piece on director Akira Kurosawa—but Zhou makes even its short three minutes teem with insight.

The subject is The Bad Sleep Well, which sees Kurosawa use wildly inventive compositions to keep conversation scenes interesting.

Jan. 28 2015 7:45 PM

Lily Tomlin on the Art of Maintaining a Long, Successful Career

Check out all Slate’s interviews from the 2015 Sundance Film Festival.

In Paul Weitz's Grandma, Elle (Lily Tomlin) has just broken up with her girlfriend when her granddaughter Sage (Julia Garner), comes to her in desperate need of help. Over the course of a day, the two clash and connect as things they've long kept hidden about themselves rise to the surface.

The film features a tour-de-force performance from Tomlin, as well as a great cast of mostly women. All this week, Brow Beat is doing interviews from the Sundance Film Festival, and we asked Tomlin about her experience being a woman in entertainment, and how she's maintained such a long, successful career.

Jan. 28 2015 2:36 PM

Why Do Some People Hate Drynuary? I’ve Got A Few Theories.

This is one in an occasional series of posts about Drynuary, the practice of not drinking alcohol in January.

When we started doing Drynuary nine years ago, my wife and I didn't know anyone else who took the entire month of January off of booze like we did. As recently as five years ago, the word Drynuary didn't exist outside of my household (you're welcome, and sorry?). Today, we know that there are participants around the world, including Anne Hathaway and Kathie Lee and Hoda.

As Drynuary's popularity and visibility have grown, one of the most fascinating byproducts is the emergence of Drynuary detractors—people who go out of their way to rail against Drynuary and its participants. My doing Drynuary affects no one other than me, my family, and the proprietor of my local wine shop. Yet I've aroused in some people the need to drop whatever they were doing and cast aspersions on me and everyone else who takes a break from drinking in the first month of the year. They write comments, publish thinkpieces, and troll the #Drynuary hashtag on Twitter, looking for opportunities to call participants names. They probably heckle marathon runners, too.

I’ve come to think of Drynuary detractors as coming in several distinct types.

Jan. 28 2015 2:02 PM

Watch Stephen Colbert’s Final Second City Show From 1994

Stephen Colbert is an expert in epic farewells: Last December, we watched him send off the Colbert Report with a celebrity-packed sing-along. But long before he helmed his own Comedy Central show, he was a regular at the famous Second City comedy club in Chicago. Thanks to Splitsider’s weekly Second City Archives series, we now have footage from his final show there, recorded in May 1994—and it’s just as charming as you might expect.

Jan. 28 2015 12:06 PM

Jay Baruchel on the “Dream Logic” of Man Seeking Woman

Man Seeking Woman, which airs its third episode on FXX Wednesday night, tells the story of Josh Greenberg (Jay Baruchel), a sad-sack young loser looking for love after being dumped by Maggie (Maya Erskine), his longtime girlfriend. Created by Simon Rich, based on his book of short stories The Last Girlfriend on Earth, it’s the kind of absurdist comedy in which Maggie can be romantically involved with Adolf Hitler (he was hiding in Argentina), and Josh can go on a blind date with a troll (Gorbitchka, who lives in a dumpster).

I discussed the show with Jay Baruchel at the recent Television Critics Association gathering in Los Angeles.