Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

April 26 2017 12:11 PM

Hollywood Mourns Legendary Director Jonathan Demme

Reactions to the sudden death of Jonathan Demme (Philadelphia, The Silence of the Lambs) are steadily coming in from actors and filmmakers. Whether he worked with them personally or not, the director’s reputation and generosity evidently touched those across his community. Understandably, his peers are grieving the loss of such a major and influential talent. Below is a roundup of reactions, to be updated as more come in throughout the day.

April 26 2017 11:33 AM

Why Jonathan Demme Was Our Greatest Director of Concert Films

Jonathan Demme died on Wednesday at 73. In 2016, Sam Adams wrote about why Demme was our greatest director of concert films.

Part of what makes Jonathan Demme the greatest director of performance films the movies have ever known is the breadth of the performances he’s captured. He brings as much inventiveness and visual intelligence to the wooden table and microphone that comprise the entirety of the set for Spalding Gray’s one-man show Swimming to Cambodia as he does the elaborate pageantry of Talking Heads in Stop Making Sense.

But you could also boil it down to a single moment in Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids, which was released via Netflix this week. The movie captures the last shows on Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience World Tour, in front of an adoring audience at Las Vegas’ MGM Grand. But despite the victory-lap setup, Demme frames the concert as just another day on the job, especially for musicians and dancers in Timberlake’s expansive retinue. Timberlake is the movie’s center, but it often seems more interested in the people off to either side. During “Let the Groove Get In,” Timberlake strides out onto a transparent catwalk stretched over the audience, the better to show off his impressive dance moves. But when it’s his turn to hold the spotlight, Demme cuts back to the stage, framing a distant Timberlake between a horn player and a guitarist whose bodies dominate the frame, as if to remind us who’s really responsible for that all-important groove.

April 26 2017 11:07 AM

Beyoncé’s Lemonade Was the World’s Best-Selling Album in 2016

The Recording Academy may have (wrongly) deemed it a runner-up, but when it comes Beyoncé’s Lemonade, the people have spoken: The album has officially been named the worldwide best-seller of 2016. The announcement was made on Tuesday by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, in a market report that also cited Drake’s “One Dance” as 2016’s top single globally and the rapper himself as the biggest recording artist of the year.

It’s sweet timing for Lemonade, too: The album dropped just over a year ago, on April 23, 2016, and to mark the anniversary, Beyoncé recently launched a scholarship program to help young women attend college. According to the IFPI, Lemonade sold 2.5 million album units globally—a respectable if surprisingly low number, which, as Variety notes, serves as a reminder of the influence of streaming and the digital marketplace. Nonetheless, it’s still No. 1. As for the other top-selling albums globally, Lemonade was notably joined by Drake’s Views, David Bowie’s Blackstar, and—coming in second this time, if only by a hair—Adele’s 25.

April 26 2017 10:05 AM

Paul Verhoeven’s Next Movie Will Be About a Lesbian Nun, Because the Universe Is Good

The decade after 2006’s Black Book was a dark time for Paul Verhoeven fans, with only the crowdsourced Tricked keeping the Starship Troopers auteur from slipping into apparent retirement. But last year’s Elle showed that the 78-year-old director still has bombs to throw, and he’s already lit the fuse for his next one. With a tweet from his account, producer Saïd Bin Saïd made it official: Verhoeven’s next movie will be Blessed Virgin, the story of a 17th-century lesbian nun.

Despite the softcore logline, Blessed Virgin has roots in scholarly history: the basis for the film is Judith C. Brown’s 1986 book Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy, which uncovered the story of a 17th-century abbess named Benedetta Carlini who claimed to have married Jesus Christ in a mystical vision. A subsequent investigtion revealed that not only had Carlini faked stigmata to buttress her claims of holy visitation but she was involved in an affair with another nun.

The story’s prurient appeal to the director of Showgirls and Basic Instinct is obvious. But Verhoeven also spent several years after the release of Black Book working on a book about the historical Jesus of Nazareth, and Blessed Virgin could give him a unique chance to pursue his interest in both the sacred and the profane. It’s hopefully too early to talk about Verhoeven making his final movie, especially with the late-career resurgence sparked by Elle’s Oscar nomination, but the project does have the potential to make a definitive statement on many of Verhoeven’s pet themes. The movie also marks a reunion with his longtime screenwriter Gerard Soeteman, who was responsible for Verhoeven’s great Dutch-language films, including The 4th Man and Soldier of Orange, and represents only their second collaboration in 32 years.

Blessed Virgin will be filmed in French and will star Elle's Virginie Efira—Isabelle Huppert’s devout Catholic neighbor—as Benedetta Carlini.

April 26 2017 9:31 AM

Stephen Colbert’s Alex Jones–Like Alter Ego Is Also at War With Chobani Yogurt

Stephen Colbert’s gift for playing right-wing blowhards led to an excellent new creation last week: Tuck Buckford, an unhinged radio show host modeled closely after InfoWars’ Alex Jones. On Tuesday night, the Late Show host revived the new character, just in time for him to weigh in on Jones’ apparently not-made-up war with Chobani Yogurt.

“I’m not gonna roll over for Big Yogurt—the Illumi-Chobani,” Buckford exclaimed. In a rant as scattered, raging, and nonsensical as some of Jones’ most infamous, Buckford tried at various points to change the subject, whether to his (supposedly) lengthy history with women or his unusual problem with dentists. Conspiracy theorist that he is, however, Buckford couldn’t help but return to the most fascinating and urgent of all topics: yogurt. “George Soros doesn’t want you to know the real value of yogurt, OK?” he explained to his audience. “It’s a natural, protein-rich, gamma ray shield to keep the Clinton Foundation from reading your dreams.” Just don’t buy Chobani, Activia, or anything fruit-flavored. (“Why is it at the bottom? What is it hiding?”)

At least it’s better to have conspiracy theorists targeting yogurt companies than the fabric of our democracy.

April 26 2017 8:33 AM

The No-Knead, No-Fuss Recipe That Will Get You Baking Bread Every Week

This post originally appeared in Genius Recipes on Food52.

This is it: the bread recipe so simple and good, it will get you baking bread every week—even if you’ve never made a loaf in your life. It’s the comforting, no-knead peasant bread that’s ready in as few as two hours, unlike other no-knead breads that are ready ... tomorrow.

It’s the bread that, despite its relatively short rising time, has plenty of flavor and a lovely, moist crumb checkered with little nooks and bubbly pockets. And—my favorite part, and soon to be yours—a thin, crisp, buttery crust sheltering it all.

April 26 2017 8:03 AM

Residents of So-Called S--- Town Are Conflicted About S-Town

This article originally appeared in Vulture. This story contains spoilers about S-Town.

Ann Stone, the Woodstock, Alabama, town librarian, rarely misses church. Yet a few weeks ago, on a fluke, she did. Driving to work the next day, Stone, who taught grade school in Woodstock for 30 years before switching professions, caught an NPR interview featuring someone discussing Alabama. Her ears perked up. Then she heard a voice she recognized but couldn’t place. By the time she pulled into the gravel parking lot of the library, she heard the producer say something about Bibb County, where Woodstock is located.

“I rushed inside to Google it,” she recalls. She discovered the voice belonged to John B. McLemore, who lived in Woodstock until he committed suicide two years ago. “I called a friend of mine, who I go to church with, about it,” says Stone. “And she said, ‘Oh you’re talking about Shit Town.’” Knowing that her friend didn’t listen to NPR, Stone asked how she knew. Her friend told her, “They were talking about it at church yesterday.”

“Remind me never to miss church again,” Stone says with a rueful grin.

April 26 2017 7:30 AM

On The Americans, the Spies Are Getting Younger and More Committed

Each week on Slate's Americans podcast, June Thomas sits down with the creators, cast, and crew of The Americans as they reveal behind-the-scenes details about the making of the FX drama's fifth season.

This week, Thomas talks to Tracey Scott Wilson, who wrote Episode 508, “Immersion,” about the psychological underpinnings of the show. Then Costa Ronin, who plays Oleg Igorevich Burov, talks about his character’s evolution and the thrill of filming in Moscow.

Note: This podcast contains spoilers and is meant to be enjoyed after you watch the episode. New episodes air Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.

Podcast production by June Thomas.

April 26 2017 12:10 AM

Disney Sets Release Dates for Untitled Disney Fairy Tale (Live Action), Untitled Marvel (3D)

In a move that, Variety reported, “will likely have ripple effects throughout the industry,” Disney announced new released dates Tuesday for a slate of highly anticipated upcoming films, including Untitled Disney Fairy Tale (Live Action) and Untitled Marvel (3D).

Untitled Disney Fairy Tale (Live Action) will now open on Aug. 3, 2018, while Untitled Disneytoon Studios remains locked in for an April 12, 2019, release date. Disney fans can also look forward to seeing Untitled Disney Fairy Tale (Live Action) on March 29, 2019, Untitled Disney Fairy Tale (Live Action) on Nov. 8, 2019, Untitled Disney Fairy Tale (Live Action) on April 3, 2020, and, on March 12, 2021, the long-awaited release of Untitled Disney Fairy Tale (Live Action). On the superhero side of things, the studio will release Untitled Avengers (3D) on May 3, 2019, Untitled Marvel (3D) on May 1, 2020, Untitled Marvel (3D) on Aug. 7, 2020, and Untitled Marvel (3D) on Nov. 6, 2020. Meanwhile, Pixar will be bringing Untitled Pixar Animation (3D) to theaters on March 13, 2020, while Untitled Pixar Animation (3D) opens on June 19, 2020, and Untitled Pixar Animation (3D) on June 18, 2021.

Of course, the biggest dates for sci-fi aficionados are the upcoming releases of Untitled Han Solo Star Wars Anthology Film (3D) on May 25, 2018, and Star Wars: Episode IX (3D) on May 24, 2019. Finally, for people who like their adventure movies with a little less outer space, Untitled Indiana Jones will July 10, 2020. There’s no doubt about it: At Disney, the future is untitled!

Here’s the full release schedule:

April 25 2017 4:58 PM

Sony Is Ending Its Deal With Dr. Luke, but That Might Not Be Good News for Kesha

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Sony Music is cutting its business ties to Lukasz Gottwald, better known as Dr. Luke, the hitmaking producer who is more recently famous for being sued for sexual assault and emotional abuse by Kesha, who is signed to his Kemosabe imprint. Since 2014, when Gottwald countersued Kesha Rose Sebert for defamation and breach of contract, she says she has been unable to release new music, since doing so would require working with the man who allegedly drugged and raped her. Gottwald, to quote Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s New York Times Magazine profile of Kesha, denied through his representatives “that he had created an image for Kesha outside the one she originally crafted for herself; that he had pressured her to put only party songs on ‘Animal’; that he had dictated lyrics to her; or that he had emotionally abused her in any way.”

Given that Sony now says that the ousted Gottwald “no longer has authority” to act on Kemosabe Records’ behalf, Kesha might seem to be in a better position. But as the Reporter makes clear, it’s not so simple:

First, in her own court papers, she previously cited reports that Sony's deal with Dr. Luke was imminently about to end and warned the judge that she'd no longer have Sony as a go-between, making her situation worse. Second, Dr. Luke's defamation claims against her are still pending, and in advance of the trial, his attorneys have been collecting evidence about how his career has suffered as a result of her rape allegations.

In other words, the end of Gottwald’s deal with Sony could be used by him in court to prove material damages from her alleged defamation. Meanwhile, Kesha’s own suit remains stalled in court, where in March, a judge ruled that Gottwald’s alleged abuse could not be used to void their contract because “Kesha has admitted that Gottwald's alleged abuse began at the outset of their relationship in 2005”—in other words, according to the courts, she should have known what she was getting into.

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