Slate's Culture Blog

Aug. 28 2014 4:45 PM

Hear the Smashing Pumpkins Remix by Diddy That Was Finally Released After 16 Years

In 1998, there were few musicals acts bigger in their respective genres than the Smashing Pumpkins and Diddy—then known as Puff Daddy. And as Jay Z and Linkin Park—and, many years before, Run DMC and Aerosmith, among others—have proven, these are two genres that mesh surprisingly well. So it sort of made sense when MTV reported, way back then, that Puff Daddy had remixed two songs from the Smashing Pumpkins’ fourth album, Adore.

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Aug. 28 2014 4:04 PM

Watch the Trailer for Jon Stewart’s Directorial Debut

Jon Stewart wasn’t looking to direct a movie, he says, but when Iranian Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari was arrested just days after appearing on The Daily Show, Stewart became involved in the story that would lead to his directorial debut. Rosewater, adapted by Stewart from Bahari’s memoir, Then They Came for Me: A Family’s Story of Love, Captivity, and Survival, tells the story of the journalist’s arrest, interrogation, and four-month imprisonment while covering the 2009 Iranian elections.

The Daily Show segment in which Bahari appeared before his arrest, “Persians of Interest,” was used by interrogators as evidence of his alleged “media espionage.” While Bahari doesn’t blame Stewart for the ordeal, he maintains that Stewart likely “felt personally invested in the story because his name came up in a dark interrogation room in a prison in Iran.” He appeared on The Daily Show after his release and, before getting into a more serious discussion, the two engaged in a lighthearted banter. Bahari jokingly wished to retract his permission for Stewart to run the initial interview, and Stewart offered, “Well, they say comedy is imprisonment plus time.”

Aug. 28 2014 3:52 PM

Is Arby’s Meat Mountain a Mountain of Lies? A Skeptic Investigates.

On Monday, the Washington Post published an in-depth article about Arby’s business fortunes and marketing strategies, accompanied by a much shorter article about Arby’s Meat Mountain, an off-menu sandwich that contains eight types of meat—chicken tenders, roast turkey, ham, corned beef, brisket, Angus steak, roast beef, and bacon. Can you guess which story was more popular? The Meat Mountain story went bona-fide viral, garnering salivating coverage everywhere from Time and Business Insider to CNBC and Fox News.

The story of the Meat Mountain as it’s been told in the media thus far has been that it was a grassroots phenomenon—that it went viral all on its own. As Christopher Fuller, Arby’s vice president of brand and corporate communications, told the Post, Arby’s had started displaying a poster featuring a stack of every single meat they serve, and “People started coming in and asking, ‘Can I have that?’” But I was skeptical. Had Arby’s customers really clamored for the Meat Mountain of their own volition? Or had Arby’s headquarters engineered the story to get the low-cost marketing that comes with hundreds of thousands of social media likes and shares?

I decided to dig a little deeper into the Meat Mountain, to mine its mysteries and secrets.

Aug. 28 2014 1:56 PM

The Surprisingly Long Hair of Hollywood’s Female Action Stars

As Caroline Wozniacki demonstrated at the U.S. Open on Wednesday, long hair can pose a challenge when one is engaged in serious physical competition. And she had hers in a braid!

But the men—and they are mostly men—who direct Hollywood’s action movies love to show the hair of their female stars whipping back and forth in the big fight scenes. So long hair it is, sans scrunchies or braids. It doesn’t seem very practical, but it sure looks dramatic.

Aug. 28 2014 12:05 PM

When White Women Discover Their “Inner Black Woman”

Everything about Girlfriend Intervention, Lifetime’s new makeover reality series that premiered last night, feels horribly familiar. For starters, the show is a Queer Eye for the Straight Guy knockoff, in which a quartet of black lifestyle and beauty coaches instruct their dowdy white fixer-uppers how to dress, rap, and do African dance. “Trapped inside every white girl is a strong black woman waiting to bust out!” heralds the series intro, with not a trace of irony to be found. Apparently this is what Lifetime thinks of ascatering to a more diverse audience, after years of showcasing overwrought movies and series about white women.

But of course Girlfriend Intervention is hardly the first show to reduce black women to neck-rolling, attitude-having, innately stylish stereotypes. When Hollywood has bothered to provide roles for black actresses at all, it has often presented them as sidekicks who whip important white protagonists into shape. Sometimes this stereotype is deployed harmlessly; at other times it becomes downright offensive. With that in mind, here is a catalog of notable past instances of the sassy black friend-as-white person’s (usually unpaid, mind you) life coach, from the benign to the egregious, and beyond.

Aug. 27 2014 9:02 PM

David Chase Responds to Vox’s “Tony Soprano Didn’t Die” Article

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Tonight, in response to a Vox piece headlined, “Did Tony die at the end of The Sopranos?,” David Chase sent the following statement through his publicist:

“A journalist for Vox misconstrued what David Chase said in their interview. To simply quote David as saying, “Tony Soprano is not dead,” is inaccurate. There is a much larger context for that statement and as such, it is not true. As David Chase has said numerous times on the record, “Whether Tony Soprano is alive or dead is not the point.” To continue to search for this answer is fruitless. The final scene of The Sopranos raises a spiritual question that has no right or wrong answer.”

It’s a compliment to The Sopranos and its creator that the show’s final episode aired seven summers ago and we’re still arguing about the meaning of that cut-to-black ending in Holsten’s diner. I don’t think the Vox piece, or this piece, or any piece ends the discussion. And not to get all Death-of-the-Author on you, but I don’t think Chase’s statement ends it, either. And I say that without disappointment, even though I hate the chorus that keeps chanting “Tony died” over and over as if it were a mantra. 

I wish this question didn’t keep getting asked, because I think it’s the wrong thing to ask about The Sopranos. It may, in fact, be the last question anyone should ask about The Sopranos. The fact that a great many people keep asking it is depressing.

Aug. 27 2014 8:24 PM

Here’s Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert Singing “The Obvious Song” in 1993

There’s something strangely satisfying about watching famous people before their heyday. That’s the appeal of Second City Archives, a Splitsider feature that unearths clips of comedy’s brightest stars when they were making their bones in Chicago's famous comedy club. Their latest find: a very funny video of Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert singing “The Obvious Song” in 1993.

Aug. 27 2014 5:59 PM

Zach Galifianakis Will Play a Clown in the TV Series He Wrote With Louis C.K.

Back in January we learned that Louis C.K. was writing a TV show for FX with Zach Galifianakis. The latter was set to star, but we knew nothing else about the show.

Good news: The network just ordered 10 episodes of the series, having apparently seen and loved the pilot.

Aug. 27 2014 4:40 PM

Watch the Trailer for Amazon’s Already Acclaimed New Show Transparent

Next month, Amazon will release the full first season of Jill Soloway’s new series Transparent, whose pilot debuted back in February to rave reviews—including from Slate TV critic Willa Paskin. On the surface, it’s a comedy about a seemingly normal Jewish family living in L.A. whom we’re introduced to character by character in the show’s new trailer: two divorced parents (played by Jeffrey Tambor and Judith Light), and their three adult children (played by Amy Landecker, Jay Duplass, and Gaby Hoffmann). But, deeper than that, it’s a show that explores their individual “little private kinks” (as the mother puts it) and how they intertwine.

Aug. 27 2014 4:14 PM

Tyler Perry on Gone Girl's Ending and Not Knowing Who David Fincher Was  

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Tyler Perry doesn’t step in front of another director’s camera often, but he’s glad he did so for David Fincher. “He’s brilliant,” says Perry, who stars in the exacting filmmaker’s adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl as the magnificently named Tanner Bolt, lawyer for Ben Affleck’s character, a man accused of his missing wife’s murder. Perry spoke with Vulture about the process.

David Fincher showed Neil Patrick Harris a rough cut of the film around 1:30 a.m. after a Hedwig performance, so it sounded like he was just beginning to share it with all of you. Have you had a chance to see it yet?
I have! But David’s idea of a “rough cut” is pretty damn incredible. The only thing was there were still a couple of green-screen shots [that needed to be filled in], but I didn’t notice anything, to my eye. To me, it looked great. I was beyond impressed, blown away. I laughed and I was moved and I just thought the performances were amazing. It’s incredible. He’s brilliant. It’s pretty awesome. He nailed it. I didn’t read the entire book, because I didn’t want to take in a lot of the backstory of the characters if it wasn’t in the script for the film. I didn’t want to have a lot of that in my head. But I think he nailed it, though.

David originally courted you for the role of Tanner Bolt because of Alex Cross?
Yeah, isn’t that something? He called and said, “I’ve got this role that I’d love for you to do,” and I was like, “Are you sure?” And he was like, “Yeah, yeah, I really want you to do this.” We spoke about it, and I said, “I’d love to.”