Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Aug. 25 2016 12:24 AM

Samara Enters the Flat-screen Era in the Trailer for Rings

On its face, you’d think a horror series about a viral video would be the least affected by the technological changes of the last decade. Virtually all of those changes, after all, were driven by our desire to watch viral videos. And yet there hasn’t been an American sequel to The Ring since 2005’s lackluster The Ring Two. Ringu, the original Japanese film, has five sequels and a video game for the Sega Dreamcast and has now entered the land of insane crossovers, but for a Japanese series, that’s practically nothing. There was something about the original film that stayed tied to the analog era: this was a horror movie with not only a plot thread about developing photographs, but an entire set piece about videocassette tracking. (Ok, it was a set piece based on a completely made-up version of videocassette tracking, but since its made-up technology seemed to have been inspired by the sprocket holes in the Zapruder filmanalog—we’ll allow it.) But now Paramount is finally going back to the well, with Rings scheduled for a Halloween release. And as the trailer shows, its adjustments to modern technology have been, let’s say, uneasy.

Aug. 24 2016 5:10 PM

Daveed Diggs Goes From Broadway to the Milky Way in the Futuristic New Music Video for “Air ‘Em Out”

Daveed Diggs has traded in his 18th-century breeches for a spacesuit in the futuristic new music video for “Air ‘Em Out.” The video, which features Diggs rapping in what appears to be a spaceship as gravity starts to shift, is the latest from Clipping, the experimental hip-hop group made up of Diggs, William Hutson, and Jonathan Snipes.

Aug. 24 2016 1:01 PM

The Trailer for Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea Hints at an Emotionally Searing Experience

The degree of anticipation surrounding Manchester by the Sea rivals that of almost any other movie set for release this year. Marking the directorial return of Oscar nominee Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count on Me, Margaret), the film received outstanding reviews after its Sundance premiere, with special notice—and, naturally, premature Oscar talk—going the way of stars Casey Affleck and Michelle Williams. Making good on the movie’s buzz, Amazon ultimately paid a hefty $10 million to secure rights for domestic distribution.

Aug. 24 2016 12:33 PM

Whether You Play Ariana Grande or Village People, These Dancing Pokémon Are Always on Beat

The Pokémemes keep on coming: The latest addition to this great saga is a video going around of Charizard and Dragonite dancing to a choreographed routine. In the tradition of Baby Groot or Oscar Isaac, fans have paired these dancing Pokémon with random songs to prove that no matter what song is playing, the dragon dancers are always on beat.

Aug. 24 2016 11:37 AM

Amid Controversy, the American Film Institute Has Canceled a Screening of Nate Parker’s Birth of a Nation

The fallout of the controversy surrounding Nate Parker has begun. The American Film Institute announced Tuesday that it has canceled an upcoming screening of The Birth of a Nation—Parker’s Sundance-winning sensation about slave rebellion leader Nat Turner—as well as a Q&A event with the director that was planned to follow. This would have marked Parker’s first major public appearance since his involvement in a 1999 rape case became widely known.

Aug. 24 2016 10:51 AM

Werner Herzog Loves This Chef’s Homemade Salt So Much He Blurbed About It

Italian blacksmith Angelo Garro is also a well-known chef who spends his time hunting and foraging for ingredients, curing salami, and, most importantly, making his own salt. So good is Garro’s spiced salt, apparently, that German auteur Werner Herzog is among its fans—the filmmaker narrated and co-edited a mini-documentary about the salt for Garro’s Kickstarter campaign. “Angelo is like a medieval man,” Herzog says in his inimitable style.

Aug. 24 2016 9:41 AM

The Jungle Book Honest Trailer Reminds Us It’s Basically Just a Kid Running Around in His Underwear

The Honest Trailer for Jon Favreau’s Jungle Book calls it “the year’s best film about talking animals”—which is saying something, since there have been a lot of talking animal movies in 2016, including Finding Dory and Zootopia. But it’s true that even though Jungle Book was just another live-action remake on Disney’s master spreadsheet, it was full of enough stunning visuals and great characters to make you forget that it was basically a kid running around in his underwear in front of a blue screen the whole time.

Aug. 24 2016 8:33 AM

Why Were the Rio Olympics Ratings So Bad?

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

American athletes cleaned up at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, dominating the games in a way no Olympic team has done in decades. But all that winning didn’t translate into ratings gold for NBC: After getting off to a rocky start with the lowest-rated opening weekend of Summer Olympics coverage in at least 20 years, Sunday’s closing ceremony appear to have delivered the smallest Nielsen numbers for an Olympics capper since at least 1972, and most likely ever. Worse for the Peacock, despite a plethora of gold-medal performances from superstars such as Gabby Douglas, Michael Phelps, and Katie Ledecky, the Rio games rank as the lowest-rated summer Olympics since Sydney 2000. The preliminary final score: a 14.4 household rating and 25.4 million viewers, down about 18 percent from London’s 17.6 rating and 31.1 million viewers. Given NBC’s commitment to spending roughly $8 billion for U.S. rights to the games through 2032, it’s hard to imagine anyone at NBC is overjoyed by how audiences responded to Rio. And yet, it would also be an overstatement to declare what happened a complete catastrophe for the network. Let’s break down what we do know about NBC’s Rio ratings:

Not even the Olympics are immune to audience erosion.
 Broadcast networks have been dealing with sizable linear ratings declines for more than a decade now, prompted first by time-shifting technologies and more recently by the advent of streaming and video on demand. NBC’s Olympics coverage seemed to be defying the trend, with overall ratings for summer Olympiads increasing anywhere from 8 to 9 percent every four years, starting with the Athens games in 2004. Per Advertising Age, NBC Sports executives had actually been predicting the upward trend would continue with Rio, perhaps a sign Peacock officials believed the lure of such a huge near-live sporting event would function as a sort of protection spell against the various forces driving down ratings elsewhere. It didn’t. Not only did the numbers not improve, the declines were so steep—Sunday’s closing ceremony brought in roughly half the young-adult audience as the end of London—NBC has had to offer extra airtime to its advertisers to make up for the shortfall, according to Ad Age.

Aug. 24 2016 8:03 AM

The Real Problem With the BBC’s 100 Best Movies Poll Isn’t the Movies. It’s That It’s a Poll.

The critics have spoken—177 of them, to be precise—and they’ve named David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive the best movie of the 21st century. That’s according to a new poll by BBC Culture, which also names There Will Be Blood, Spirited Away, and No Country for Old Men to the top 10.

Lists are made to be fought over, but this one is hard to argue with, in part because so many of the arguments have already been had. Its top two slots go to Mulholland Drive and In the Mood for Love, the only movies from 2000 or later to place in in the latest edition of Sight & Sound’s decennial best-of poll, the most storied of critical bellwethers. (Pedants might point out that the 21st century actually began in 2001, and further that the proper screen title of the winning movie is Mulholland Dr., but let’s set those more granular arguments aside for now.) In fact, if you read a good amount of film criticism, there’s not much that’s surprising here at all. The list as a whole leans heavily on art-house favorites and is light on genre films, comedies, and documentaries. There are 12 movies with a credited female director or co-director, and while about a fifth are by directors of color, Spike Lee’s 25th Hour is the only movie by a black American.

In other words, same critical biases, different poll. From Sight & Sound and Film Comment to the Village Voice and Indiewire, these sorts of film polls tend to draw from slightly different areas of the same pool and produce similar results—to the extent that one might well ask why we need another one, or any of them. By nature, polls iron out the idiosyncrasies of individual taste and produce what amounts to conventional wisdom. Vertigo is the greatest movie of all time? You don’t say. Varying the roster of voters can mix things up a bit: When Sight & Sound polled directors instead of critics, Tokyo Story jumped into first place, with Vertigo dropping to seventh. But it takes a concerted effort to produce something like Sight & Sound’s directors’ poll or the 2008 American Cinematographer poll in which Amélie edged out There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men as the best-shot movie of the previous decade.* (Slate’s Black Film Canon is another example of how varying the methodology can produce more distinctive results.)

Disclosure, or maybe a mea culpa: I contributed to the BBC poll, and eight of my top 10 made the final list, which makes me the critical equivalent of the Phantom Tollbooth family with 2.58 children. There are no female directors on my list—although there was one until Claire Denis’ Beau Travail was ruled ineligible (though it wasn’t distributed to theaters until 2000, it first premiered on the festival circuit in 1999)—and only one comedy, if The Grand Budapest Hotel counts. There are a lot of the former and a few of the latter that just missed the cut, but it turns out 10 is an insanely small number of movies, even if you’re only drawing from the last 16 years. (It’s not even enough space for the best movie of every year!) It’s important to remember when looking at the BBC’s top 100 movies, which is actually 102 due to a three-way tie for the last spot, that no one chose, for example, Before Sunset as their 73rd-favorite movie. The relevant metric isn’t if, say, Edgar Wright’s The World’s End is among the best 100 movies of the 21st century (it is) but whether it’s the kind of movie that multiple critics would put in their 10 best. You’d almost certainly get a more diverse and interesting result if you asked 177 critics for their top 100 films, but you’d also still be waiting for ballots when the last trump sounds.

The argument against lists such as the BBC’s is that they not only reflect critical conventional wisdom but institutionalize it.

Aug. 23 2016 11:39 PM

Cher: Donald Trump Is “a F---ing Idiot.”

Cher’s feelings about Donald Trump have not been a secret to anyone familiar with her Twitter feed. But on Sunday, at a Clinton campaign event in Provincetown, Massachusetts, the pop star took a more combative tone than one usually finds in political speeches, even from celebrity campaign surrogates. Specifically, she called Trump, the new face of the Republican Party, “a fucking idiot,” and compared him to the pigtailed sociopath played by Patty McCormack in The Bad Seed.

Cher told the audience that she feared for the LGBT community under a Trump presidency, “because I know what they will try to do: They will try to turn back every clock, they will try to take away every one of your rights.” About Trump’s success, she said, “No one’s more surprised than him. He wants the crowds, he wants the adulation—he doesn’t give a shit about the work.” Warming to her subject, she made a somewhat puzzling comparison to the 1977 George Segal and Jane Fonda movie Fun with Dick and Jane (or possibly its 2005 Jim Carrey/Téa Leoni remake):

I’ve been watching him speak, you know, with teleprompters, and it’s like, not many people are going to know this, but do you remember Fun With Dick and Jane? It’s like Racist Fun with Dick and Jane. “We’re going to build walls! We’re going to keep—” and he doesn’t mean, “We want to make America great again,” he means “We want to make America straight and white.”

She had kinder words for Hillary Clinton, telling the crowd, “I know she will work every moment of every day.” Watch her complete remarks, as filmed by an attendee, below.