Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

April 16 2015 7:45 PM

A Complete Taxonomy of “Time 100” Blurbs

On Thursday Time published its fourscore and twenty movers and shakers: the 100 most influential people in the universe. 2015’s crop includes an eminence of Titans (Kanye, Janet Yellen, Tim Cook), Pioneers (ballerina Misty Copeland, New Orleans educator Kira Orange Jones), Artists (Kevin Hart, Julianne Moore, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie), Leaders (Angela Merkel, Vladimir Putin, Jeb Bush), and Icons (Bjork, Haruki Murakami, Pope Francis). Additional famous people wrote the bios. Rand Paul, for instance, advances the Koch brothers’ status as twin Titans, like Epimetheus and Prometheus. (Does that make corporate political spending Pandora’s Box?) Martha Stewart suggests that the Kardashians represent “today’s Brady Bunch.” Leaders (such as Hillary Clinton and Tom Friedman) blurb other Leaders (such as Elizabeth Warren and Ebola crusader Joanne Liu), and Icons (such as Taylor Swift) blurb other Icons (such as Ina Garten)—though it seems that Icons do not blurb Pioneers, Pioneers do not blurb Artists, and Artists do not blurb anyone.

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April 16 2015 5:33 PM

Ben & Jerry’s Will Begin Serving Ice Cream Burritos on 4/20

Have you ever gotten high, eaten a Choco Taco, and wished it were bigger? If so, Ben & Jerry’s is thinking of you with its BRRR-ito, which the ice cream chain announced with a parody of Apple’s famous 1984 Super Bowl ad. Here’s the original, featuring an athlete who hurls a hammer through a screen on which an Orwellian Big Brother figure is propagandizing. The ending: “On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like ‘1984.’ ” And here’s Ben & Jerry’s version, which promises that “4.20 will be exactly like ‘4.20.’ ”

Ben & Jerry’s has made a very targeted pitch here, but count me among the many non-stoners who will surely line up to try the BRRR-ito. Granted, it’s not a revolutionary idea—it consists of two scoops of ice cream, “topped with a fudge drizzle and cookie crumbs, all wrapped up in a soft and chewy waffle wrap.”  It doesn’t even look that much like a burrito, since one end remains open. But the open end seems like a smart tactical move—biting into a true ice cream burrito would be a recipe for tooth pain. I’ll plan on attacking my BRRR-ito with a spoon.

April 16 2015 4:13 PM

David Hasselhoff Made the Weirdest ’80s-Inspired Music Video You Will Ever See

Today David Hasselhoff debuted his new song, “True Survivor,” an ’80s earworm par excellence. The video features every kind of ’80s nostalgia: lots of neon, old computers, some dude wailing on a keytar. Also: Nazis.

This perfect storm of action-movie tropes and ’80s kitsch comes to us via Kung Fury, a Kickstarter-funded Swedish martial arts film written and directed by David Sandberg. Set in Miami in, unsurprisingly, the 1980s, the movie follows a high-kicking cop who goes back in time to defeat Adolf Hitler, who is apparently a notorious master of kung fu. Kung Fury will be released soon on YouTube, and the ’Hoff’s pump-up song headlines the soundtrack.

April 16 2015 3:56 PM

Robert Durst Biographer Matt Birkbeck on What The Jinx Got Wrong

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Fifteen years before Robert Durst became a celebrity of sorts thanks to HBO’s The Jinx, People reporter Matt Birkbeck began following the case, interviewing friends, family, investigators, and others about the strange real-estate tycoon and the disappearance of his wife Kathie. Following the dismemberment of Morris Black and the shooting of Susan Berman, Birkbeck wrote the 2003 book A Deadly Secret: The Bizarre and Chilling Story of Robert Durst, chronicling the case and Durst’s links to other murders. Now, for the second time since its initial release, the book is being reissued with updates to reflect Durst’s latest arrest: for the Berman murder, in New Orleans, where he was found with a latex mask, five ounces of marijuana, thousands in cash—and two copies of A Deadly Secret. We recently caught up with Birkbeck to discuss the cases, the recent events, and his views on how The Jinx presented several parts of Durst’s life falsely, while also omitting plenty of chilling details.

What have the last few months been like for you, with the show and the arrest?
Andrew Jarecki and I, we first met back in 2005. He was working on a Durst project. He wanted to just talk about what I knew. We spent some time together. And then he emailed me in 2011—this was after his movie came out, All Good Things—and he told me he was working on a documentary and that Bobby had agreed to an interview with him, so I was pretty shocked when I heard that. He told me he already had several interviews in the can, and that he had said some things that were somewhat incriminating. His movie in 2010 wasn’t a favorable portrayal of Durst, but it was trying to understand him, and I had already had my own distinct opinion of [Durst] by then. [Jarecki] asked me to interview for his program, and I declined.

April 16 2015 3:02 PM

Rihanna’s New Music Video Uses Unforgettable Images to Sell a Forgettable Song

Rihanna is many things: Hip, witty, captivating, savvy at choosing amazing producers and writers to work with. One thing she hasn’t been since her breakout hit “Umbrella” eight years ago, however, is boring. Until now, that is.

With “American Oxygen,” a song that first arrived in a March Madness promo, the pop star has made her first big bid for political awareness-raising through music—and in the process, she’s startlingly made herself forgettable, if only for the span of approximately five and a half minutes. With lame, heavy production and lame, cliché lyrics (“You can be anything at all in America, America / I say, can’t see, just close your eyes and breathe”) the tune feels more like a throwaway track at the end of an album, not a single vying for heavy radio airplay.

April 16 2015 2:48 PM

The New Trailer for Star Wars: Episode VII Is Here

Almost six months after the first teaser for Star Wars: The Force Awakens gave us our first look at Episode VII, the new trailer is here, and it was worth the wait. “The force is strong in my family,” we hear Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker say, as we see a shot of what looks like Darth Vader’s corroded helmet. “My father has it, I have it, my sister has it,” he says, in a callback to Return of the Jedi, before adding, “You have that power, too.”

Cut to a lightsaber being handed over. Also a quick shot of our villain’s face. And, of course, plenty of TIE fighters and explosions and more of that new spherical droid. Finally, to cap it off, we get our first look at Han Solo in his golden years. “Chewie, we’re home,” Harrison Ford says, with a look of pure joy on his face. It’s hard not to share the feeling.

April 16 2015 12:20 PM

An Inside Look at the Most Important Part of The Americans: the Wigs

Each week on Slate’s TV Club Insider podcast, the creators, cast, and crew of The Americans reveal behind-the-scenes details about the making of the FX drama’s third season. 

In this installment about the twelfth episode, “I Am Abasing Zadran,” Peggy Schierholz from the show’s hair and makeup department joins script coordinator Molly Nussbaum and executive producers Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg to discuss arguably the most important part of The Americans—the wigs. Spoiler: She hates Clark’s wig. Plus, a quick check-in with actress Alison Wright about her character Martha’s shocking discovery.

April 16 2015 11:56 AM

Watch the Trailer for the Next—and Maybe Last—Movie From Studio Ghibli

If you’ve loved movies like My Neighbor TotoroSpirited AwayHowl’s Moving Castle,Ponyo, and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, you’ll be excited to know that Studio Ghibli’s newest movie, When Marnie Was There, is finally coming to theaters in the U.S. on May 22. But you might also be sad to know that this might be the studio’s last film.

April 16 2015 8:33 AM

David Chase Lends New Credence to the “Tony Is Dead” Interpretation of the Sopranos Finale

Less than a year removed from the last great controversy over whether David Chase had confessed to killing Tony Soprano, the creator ofThe Sopranos has left more bread crumbs for those still seeking a definitive interpretation of the show’s maddeningly ambiguous final scene.

He did so in a shot-by-shot walkthrough of that final sequence for the Director’s Guild of America that acknowledges key elements of the mostdeeply analyzed and celebrated “Tony is dead” theory without directly confirming or refuting it. The latest comments from Chase will presumably reignite the perennial discussion about what he meant by that sequence, and whether it even matters.

The last such flare-up occurred in August when Vox reported that Chase had told their writer Martha Nochimson that Tony wasn’t dead, only for the showrunner to issue a statement saying that his words had been “misconstrued” and that the quote was “inaccurate.” The exchange sparked a debate about the meaning of art and the value of obsessing over textual analysis and author’s intent when dealing with ambiguous works.

Chase’s newest comments actually mirror much of the analysis in the famous interpretation laid out on the Master of Sopranos blog, which argues that Tony is killed and that the final shot cut to black is a point-of-view shot showing his demise. But they also seem to negate one crucial element of that interpretation.

April 15 2015 9:25 PM

The Best Movie Monologues of All Time, in One Video Countdown

There are few movie tropes as predictable—and as predictably satisfying, when done right—as the monologue. Witty banter and repartee are nice, but it’s a singular delight to see an actor eat up the screen with a powerfully delivered, impeccably inflected speech. The folks at CineFix, with typical care and intelligence, have selected what they believe to be the 10 best such moments in movie history.