Slate's Culture Blog

April 14 2014 1:46 AM

Is Sterling Cooper & Partners About to Enter the Space Race?

The season premiere of Mad Men Sunday night began with a pitch, not for Sunkist or Ford or any of the other accounts that generated so much excitement for Sterling Cooper & Partners last season, but for the Bulova Accutron. Why did “Time Zones” spend so much time on a wristwatch?

The answer may lie in the Accutron’s connection to perhaps the biggest event of 1969, the year in which this season (at least so far) takes place: The Apollo 11 space mission and man’s landing on the moon.

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April 14 2014 12:12 AM

Sheesh, Lannisters, You Hire Sigur Rós as Your Wedding Band, What Do You Expect?

"It was a lovely wedding. The band was a bit gloomy so we skipped out early. Did anything exciting happen at the end?"

April 13 2014 10:09 PM

Did Mad Men Just Pay Homage to The Graduate?

We noticed something familiar in the opening minutes of Mad Men’s season premiere Sunday night. As the drama followed Don Draper disembarking at Los Angeles International Airport, it used the same airport conveyor belt tracking shot that previously appeared in the opening sequences of Mike Nichols’ The Graduate (1967) and, later—in an apparent homage to The Graduate—in the opening sequence of Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown (1997). (Jackie Brown even used the same LAX people mover, with its tile mosaic background—the mosaics were completed in 1961.)

Was Matthew Weiner paying homage to those films? We’ve tracked down the previous two sequences so you can compare.

Read all of Slate's coverage of Mad Men.

April 12 2014 3:02 PM

Philip Seymour Hoffman Is an Obsessed German Spy in A Most Wanted Man

It’s been a little over two months since the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman’s passing, but thankfully his singular talent will be on display in several forthcoming films. One of those movies is A Most Wanted Man, a John Le Carré adaptation that released its first trailer yesterday.

Like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and really any adaptation of Le Carré's work, A Most Wanted Man looks to be an intricate, layered spy thriller grappling with all the usual moral conundrums of high-stakes espionage. Hoffman plays Gunter Bachmann, a German spy who runs a counter-intelligence unit intent on infiltrating the jihadist network involved in 9/11; Rachel McAdams is his foil, an impassioned human rights attorney committed to protecting a suspect's due process. Robin Wright and Willem Defoe fill out the rest of the cast.

April 12 2014 10:20 AM

Outkast Reunites at Coachella for Their First Show in Years

Late last year, rumors started circling that Outkast may be reuniting. The group hadn't toured since the 2003 release of Speakerboxxx/The Love Below—one of only two hip-hop records to win a Grammy for Album of the Year—and skepticism was rightfully rampant: André 3000 had expressed discomfort with tour life, Big Boi seemed committed to furthering his solo career, and since their hiatus in 2007 the duo has appeared uninterested in reviving one of the most legendary acts in the genre. But the reunion was confirmed—in honor of their 20th anniversary, the pair would be playing almost 40 gigs in 2014 to adoring festival audiences around the world.

The first of those concerts came last night, when Outkast stormed through a 90-minute set at Coachella that included appearances from Future and Janelle Monáe.

April 12 2014 8:46 AM

Introducing the Don Draper Doomsday Clock

The specter of death has always loomed over Mad Men, from the moment we first saw that funereal suit flapping in the wind as it plummeted toward Madison Avenue in the show’s opening sequence. Nearly every season since has featured a noteworthy death, and by Season 5—which ended with the death of Lane Pryce—the death imagery had become so dense that it was compiled into supercuts and video essays. It didn’t slow down from there, and by the end of Season 6, something as simple as a bowl of citrus could send prognosticators into a morbid frenzy.

With the premiere of the first half of the final season upon us, an all-too-familiar question hangs about the proceedings: Will this prestige drama end with the death of our antihero? Last year, recappers were predicting that Don Draper’s death could come as early as at the end of last season. Now that the end of the series is nigh, the ghoulish speculation (both serious and not so much) is already heating up.

In anticipation of the coming flood of conjecture about Don’s fate as the season unfolds, we’re unveiling our handy tool for keeping track of it all. With a little inspiration from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, we present to you The Don Draper Doomsday Clock. Every time there’s the slightest suggestion the bell is tolling for Don, we’ll update the clock. The more certain it seems that the show will end with Draper’s demise, the closer we’ll set the clock to midnight.

April 11 2014 3:50 PM

You’re Doing It Wrong: Bananas Foster

In 1951, New Orleans restaurateur Owen Brennan became an innovator in the field of back-scratching when he named a dessert after his buddy Richard Foster from the New Orleans Crime Commission. Bananas Foster became a customer favorite and was Brennan’s most-ordered item until the French Quarter institution closed last summer. The dessert’s popularity is easy to account for: It is sweet, boozy, sticky, creamy, and flammable. Even if you don’t like bananas, you just might make an exception for bananas Foster.

There are only two problems with Brennan’s recipe, which was actually invented not by Brennan himself but by chef Paul Blangé. The first is that it calls for banana liqueur. Have you ever had banana liqueur? If not, rest assured that it’s just as terrible as it sounds. It belongs to the family of cloying flavored brandies that, like Dan Bern’s “Marilyn,” I loved when I was a teenager but now have serious qualms about. Unless you’re (a) preparing to throw a rager while your parents are out of town, (b) planning to make a Platanos en Mole Old Fashioned, or (c) both of the above, you have no business being in possession of a bottle of banana liqueur.

So what should you use instead?

April 11 2014 2:17 PM

Watch Jon Stewart Congratulate Stephen Colbert on His New Gig

While many of us are undoubtedly a bit sad that Stephen Colbert will be leaving behind his beloved satirical persona to take over the Late Show, the outpouring of support from his peers has been unwavering. Last night, Jon Stewart wished the comedian a heartfelt congratulations, complete with a funny flashback to Colbert’s earlier days as a senior correspondent for The Daily Show.

And on his own show, Colbert also chimed in on his new gig and Letterman’s retirement, in his own quintessentially "Colbert" way:

April 11 2014 1:02 PM

Watch the Trailer for the New Nas Documentary, Time Is Illmatic

On April 19, one of hip-hop’s most universally celebrated albums, Nas’ debut Illmatic, turns 20. As part of the anniversary festivities, Nas plans to play the album cover-to-cover on a brief spring tour—including a set at Coachella on the anniversary—as well as release Illmatic XX, a special edition reissue featuring remastered versions, demos, remixes, and unreleased material.

Additionally, Nas will pay tribute to the landmark album with Time Is Illmatic, the One9-directed documentary slated to open the Tribeca Film Festival on April 16. As previewed in its trailer, premiered today by Vulture, the film aims to shed some light on Nas’ beginnings as a rapper, including the story behind Illmatic, its cultural impact, and lasting legacy 20 years later. And from the looks of it, the documentary will be required viewing for hip-hop fans.