Slate's Culture Blog

Jan. 29 2015 3:58 PM

The Cast of Don Verdean on Working With the Creators of Napoleon Dynamite

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

One of the very best casts at this year’s Sundance Film Festival belongs to Don Verdean, the new movie from the creators of Napoleon Dynamite (husband-and-wife team Jared and Jerusha Hess), which stars Sam Rockwell, Amy Ryan, Danny McBride, Jemaine Clement, and Leslie Bibb.

We sat down with the group of actors to discuss the inspirations for their characters (Rockwell describes his title character as “If Andy Dick and Indiana Jones had a baby”), the experience of making a movie with Mormons (the movie was shot in Utah), and what it was like to do comedy without relying on going blue. The resulting conversation was a little less family-friendly than the movie.

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Jan. 29 2015 2:57 PM

Watch the Trailer for the Next Three Episodes of Beloved Stoner Web Series High Maintenance

High Maintenance isn’t just the most universally-acclaimed current Web series; it’s one of the most universally-acclaimed current TV series, period. The acclaim is well-deserved: As Slate’s Willa Paskin wrote when Episodes 14, 15, and 16 were released in November, High Maintenance does “in minutes what most sitcoms can’t do in hours: make guest stars full-bodied, familiar, funny, and heartbreaking.” (And since the only constant from episode to episode is the Brooklyn-based weed dealer known as “The Guy,” played brilliantly by Ben Sinclair, there are a lot of guest stars.)

Now, Vimeo has given us an exclusive peek at the episodes that will be released on Feb. 5, which are, in the series’ tradition of cryptic one-name titles, called “Esme,” “Sufjan,” and “Sabrina.” The trailer promises more gorgeous cinematography, intimate character studies, and dialogue that continues to pack dense meaning into few words. (Man: “We live in an apartment, not a mansion.” Woman: “Well, it’s really nice, though.”) Plus, Yael Stone, best known as Lorna from Orange Is the New Black, guest stars as a member of an “all-female collective, the Cannabitches.”

Best of all, if you’ve already paid for the most recent batch of episodes in bulk, you’ll get the new batch for free next week. (And if you haven’t already paid for the most recent batch of episodes, well, you’re in for a treat.)

Jan. 29 2015 2:05 PM

Why the Parenthood Finale Won’t Give Us Any Closure

No matter what happens on tonight’s Parenthood series finale, there will definitely be crying. If Braverman patriarch Zeek (Craig T. Nelson) survives his surgery, there will be tears of happiness—plus a signature shot of the hospital room with the entire cast cozily snuggled in and some mellow Bob Dylan tune wafting in the background as everyone looks at each other affectionately. If he dies—as many are speculating—there will be tears of sadness, but, in true Parenthood fashion, these will also somehow be tears of happiness. That’s because nothing truly bad ever happens on Parenthood— and this has been the show’s most frustrating flaw.

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.

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.

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