Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

May 29 2015 6:11 PM

The Full Kung Fury Is Finally Here, and It’s Free, in All Its Neon, Dinosaur-Riding Glory

Kung Fury, the 30-minute, Kickstarter-funded short film from writer-director Laser Unicorns, also known as David Sandberg, is finally here, and it’s every bit as ninja-filled, ’80s-inspired, and generally bonkers as we hoped it would be. We follow Kung Fury (David Sandberg), a Kung Fu cop prodigy who only works alone, due to a tragic backstory involving a guy splitting in half. Kung Fury must hack his way back in time using clunky computers to take down Adolf Hitler, played by The Lonely Island’s Jorma Taccone.

In addition to this inspired plot, there’s also a dinosaur cop, a police chief with a cigarette perpetually dangling from his mouth, laser raptors, dinosaur-riding Vikings (they really went all in on the dinosaur thing), and robots. That’s basically what the ’80s were like, right? Even if not, from now on, this is how we should all remember the era.

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May 29 2015 5:41 PM

Will Emma Sulkowicz’s Protest Mattress Wind Up in a Museum?

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Emma Sulkowicz’s Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight) concluded this month with her graduation from Columbia University. Now that it’s put to bed, so to speak, a series of questions arises. Among them: What should become of the mattress itself?

She herself told the Times on Class Day: “If some sort of museum wants to buy it, then I’m open to that. But I’m not going to just throw it away.”

Mattress Performance has been admired for, among other things, its ability to catalyze a conversation outside the bounds of art. It has also been controversial for that same reason.

As an art object, it could fit in with a rich lineage of bed-based artworks. In 1955, Robert Rauschenberg arrived upon one of his first so-called “combines” with Bed, an assemblage of a pillow, sheet, and quilt splattered with oils and hung like a painting on the wall. In 1999, there was Tracey Emin’s My Bed, which was literally that, complete with stained sheets, soiled underpants, and condoms strewn about. More recently, by the waterfront in Brooklyn, Carol Bove found the gnarled and nasty box-spring that makes up her 2012 sculpture The Disgusting Mattress.

And other bed works abound, including Yoko Ono and John Lennon’s 1969 Bed-In, currently memorialized at the Ono show at MoMA and, when vacant, the actual Montreal hotel room where the performance piece was staged. (For the record, “It’s $899 for one night, with a set of pajamas similar to theirs,” says a rep for the Fairmont Queen Elizabeth, which rents the suite as a special. “If you don’t want the pajamas, it’s $799—but everyone wants the pajamas.”) And who could forget the image, even it isn’t exactly an artwork itself, of Donald Judd’s self-made bed on the floor of his museum-ified Soho loft with a Dan Flavin light installation glowing all around?

Many have noted that Mattress Performance resonates with historically weighty works by Vito Acconci, Tehching Hsieh, and Marina Abramovic. And these days, props from performances by Acconci, Hsieh, and Abramovic are displayed in museums and, in some cases, sold in galleries.

Whatever its fate in art or social history, Mattress Performance could well live on in objecthood. But would a museum or gallery want it? On the phone from California, where she is visiting a friend in Laguna Beach post-graduation and luxuriating in the distance from the 50-pound mattress she hauled around daily since September, Sulkowicz says no one has approached her about the prospect yet. But the question is in the ether.

May 29 2015 1:31 PM

A Supercut of 101 One-Armed Saves in Movies Set to “I Want to Hold Your Hand”

There’s nothing like falling off a cliff, only to have your best pal—or anyone, really—grab your hand just in time to drag you to safety. This might not have ever happened to you, but it happens all the time in movies, and this video from designer Ryan Holland and the filmmakers at Lucky Treehouse compiles 101 of the best ones. They’re not all successful saves, and sometimes looks can be deceiving, as with Scar digging his claws into his dangling brother Mufasa’s paws from The Lion King, but you get the gist. And I challenge you to think of a better choice for the soundtrack than The Beatles’ “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

May 29 2015 12:09 PM

Download Chance the Rapper and the Social Experiment’s Surf for Free Right Now

Back in 2013, Chance the Rapper had one of the best albums of the year, Acid Rap, even though it was technically only a mixtape. Now he has released his first mixtape since Acid Rap with a new project, The Social Experiment, which was released after a long wait last night. You can stream it below or download it for free from iTunes here.

Surf, the first mixtape from the Social Experiment, a collective of Chance and his collaborators, is led by Donnie Trumpet. But Chance is all over it, providing the leading rhymes and vocals on most of the songs. Not that it’s just the Chance and Donnie Show, either: Other guests include Janelle Monáe, Busta Rhymes, Erykah Badu, Big Sean, J. Cole, King Louie, Quavo from Migos, and Jeremih.

May 29 2015 11:47 AM

Why Are There So Many Movies Where Natural Disasters Save a Failing Marriage?

San Andreas purports to be the disaster movie of the year—but at its core, it’s really a story about a broken family figuring out how to put itself back together. Amid earthquakes, tsunamis and collapsing buildings, Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino’s characters, who are in the midst of a tough divorce, are finally able to communicate and eventually reunite. Despite the fact Gugino had just agreed to move in with another man.

But this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. The estranged couple is a long-standing staple of disaster movies. Something about the end of life as we know it seems to bring everything to the surface, and to trigger a change of heart. Films that focus on catastrophes are chock-full of marriages gone wrong, relationships that can only be repaired by some intense, brink-of-civilization-collapse kind of eros/thanatos fusion.

Take 2012, in which John Cusack and Amanda Peet are reunited after a very brief nod to their prior marital disputes. All it takes, it seems, is the foretold Mayan apocalypse, followed shortly by the disposal of Peet’s second husband. In TwisterBill Paxton visits Helen Hunt just to get her to sign the divorce papers—but that’s when the storm hits. They only come to understand that they still have feelings for each other once they’ve braved an F5 tornado together, strapped to irrigation pipes.

The Day After TomorrowOutbreak—the list goes on and on. If there’s a hero struggling against overwhelming natural disaster, there’s a pretty good chance that he’s been married before, that he and his ex will be thrown together by the vicissitudes of the end-times—and, just as soon as the smoke clears, that they’ll kiss feverishly or stare meaningfully into each other’s eyes, realizing all that they nearly lost.

May 29 2015 8:40 AM

Matthew Weiner’s Revealing—and Largely Unfulfilled—Wish List for Mad Men’s Final Episodes

More often than not, the most satisfying stories are those that end neatly—every plot resolved, each character’s arc completed. In this regard, Mad Men, which aired its final episode on May 17, surely frustrated many of its longtime admirers. Over the course of its seven seasons, the series accumulated more plots and characters than its creators could manage. Or at least more than they could incorporate into the show’s surprisingly meditative conclusion.

If you left the finale frustrated by its omissions, you may not be alone. Indeed, the show’s own writers may have been right there with you. Reporting from a Writer’s Guild Foundation panel with the show’s writers, Entertainment Weekly’s Anthony Breznican tweeted a picture of what he described as Mad Men showrunner “Matthew Weiner’s ‘Wish List’ of plot points to cover before the finale.” If it’s real—and nothing about Breznican’s Twitter feed suggests it isn’t—the list offers a trove of insights into the process behind one of television’s most important shows.

May 29 2015 8:32 AM

When Did Books Get So Freaking Enormous? The Year of the Very Long Novel.

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

When Doubleday editor Gerald Howard acquired Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, a 736-page novel about a New Yorker with a hellish past, he told her they’d have to cut it down by a third. She countered that Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries and Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, both longer than her book, were poised to do pretty well that year. She also emailed a list of successful long novels, as well as a “passive-aggressive picture” of her manuscript beside a 900-page issue of Vogue and a paperback copy of Vikram Seth’s 1,400-page classic, A Suitable Boy.

Howard lost the fight, and Yanagihara turned out to be prescient. The Goldfinch went on to win the Pulitzer, and The Luminaries became, at 864 pages, the longest novel ever to win the Booker prize.  “I don’t know if it’s a real trend or just some statistical clutter,” says Howard, “but there’s definitely something going on.”

Like most “trends” in publishing, it’s been going on more or less forever, with cyclical variations here and there. In fact, Garth Risk Hallberg, one of this year’s most notable high-page-count writers (whose 944-page novel, City on Fire, will be Knopf’s most important literary debut next fall), wrote a story for the Millions way back in 2010 titled “Is Big Back?” Arguing that big books’ success complicates simplistic narratives about our collective ADD, he marshaled ample evidence, including Joshua Cohen’s Witz, Roberto Bolaño’s 2666, and thousand-pagers by Jonathan Littell, Adam Levin, and David Foster Wallace that were widely read (or at least discussed). Perhaps Hallberg was just being savvy, laying the groundwork for the multi-million-dollar sale of another doorstop—his own.

May 29 2015 8:02 AM

Here’s Why You Should Put Cornstarch in Your Scrambled Eggs

There are so many decisions confronting scrambled egg lovers: Do you loosen the beaten eggs with milk or cream (or water or stock) or is all of that anathema? Which pan, what spatula? And what about cheese?

But the most vexing—and the most likely to draw a wide chasm between what I might gently call scrambled egg snobs and the rest of us—is whether you insist on cooking them low and slow for custardy, creamy eggs, or do something a little more efficient with your morning. You can tell which direction I lean.

What Mandy at Lady and Pups has done for all of us, especially the impatient types, is speed up the beautifully soft scrambled egg from something like 15 minutes of constant stirring (or upwards of an hour in a double boiler, if you follow Laurie Colwin) to 15 seconds. Not only that, but Mandy has made the whole process more forgiving, too.

May 28 2015 5:30 PM

Jesse Eisenberg Is the Stoner Jason Bourne in the Trailer for American Ultra    

The weirdly perfect on-screen couple of Jesse Eisenberg and Kristen Stewart is getting together once again, but this time they’re facing a lot more than customers trying to cheat at the ring toss. In American Ultra, Eisenberg plays a stoner who’s just L-I-V-I-N until he gets activated as a Jason Bourne–caliber killer. With his newly acquired skills as a super soldier, Eisenberg must rescue his fellow-stoner girlfriend (Kristen Stewart) who, to her credit, also appears to be able to hold her own in cannabis-fueled combat.

The supporting cast, which includes Connie Britton, Topher Grace, and John Leguizamo, ups the comedic potential—though the real star of this trailer might be that cast iron skillet. The movie is due out on Aug. 21.

May 28 2015 2:26 PM

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah Will Premiere in September. Here’s the Trailer.

The Daily Show will bid farewell to Jon Stewart in August, and now we have a start date for new host Trevor Noah: He will take the helm on Sept. 28, according to a tweet from Dave Itzkoff, an entertainment reporter for the New York Times.

Months after those controversial tweets kicked up a firestorm shortly after Noah was named as Stewart’s replacement, Comedy Central’s newly released trailer features Noah testing out Stewart’s chair and honing his hosting voice. The trailer is slight on details, but promises something “new and sexy.”

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