Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

May 27 2015 3:03 PM

Count All the Extreme Sports in the Trailer for the Entirely Unnecessary Point Break Remake

The bar for remaking classic movies should be high, and Point Break wouldn’t seem to clear it. The 1991 action movie, starring Keanu Reeves as a rookie FBI agent and Patrick Swayze as the enigmatic leader of a gang of surfers who rob banks, is memorable not for a brilliant plot or complexly drawn characters, but for the fine line it walks between hilariously dumb and legitimately thrilling. The magic of Reeves earnestly reporting to his boss, “I caught my first tube this morning, sir,” is not something that can be easily recreated.

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May 27 2015 1:44 PM

The NYT’s Summer Reading List Is All Books From White Writers. That’s Not Its Only Problem.

Janet Maslin’s summer 2015 book recommendations, which the New York Times published last week and which are likely to comprise her final summer reading guide for the paper, have gotten deserved flak for being entirely white. The ballot, an assembly of 17 titles, should never have made it through the NYT’s dense editorial canopy, even if Maslin somehow believed she had compelling reason to confine her search for worthy books to a single racial group.

Unrelenting whiteness is no doubt the biggest problem with the lineup Maslin presents. But her selection finds other ways to be lackluster, too. From a new Stephen King novel to the Fug Girls’ The Royal We, the titles seem chosen in order to pander to an out-of-touch, half-hearted approximation of middlebrow taste. It pretends to comprehend the meaning of a beach read (“smart, funny fluff”) and then nominates, for our mindless delectation, a 300 plus-page biography of the Wright brothers. And a surfing memoir because it’s about water. Even the truly frothy titles don’t look that enticing: The shambolic misadventures of a personal assistant to an LA celebrity? Been there. “Centuries of advice and inspiration” on marriage? A lot of us don’t do that.


If you’re going to pander to middlebrow tastes, might as well pander whole-heartedly. So to beef up Maslin’s limp list—which is not all dross, but could be so much better—here are a few promising alternatives. Note that we’ve declared any book published so far in 2015 eligible, for what are a few chilly weeks to the calm eternity of canon?

The Marriage of Opposites by Alice Hoffman

Because: Hoffman’s lush, seductive prose and heart-pounding subject—a forbidden love affair on the island of Saint Thomas—make this latest skinny-dip in enchanted realism by the author of Practical Magic the Platonic ideal of the beach read.

Delicious Foods by James Hannaham

Because: It is fast-paced, carefully plotted, at times screamingly lurid. Bonus: Some chapters are told from the perspective of illegal drugs.

Girl of My Dreams by Peter Davis

Because: Davis’ first-person thriller, set in glamorous old Hollywood, features murder-suicide, impetuous starlets, and other tropes of artistic-corporate-political intrigue.

Loving Day by Mat Johnson

Because: a comic, poignant father-daughter story that is also about ghosts and being biracial? Sounds like the perfect beachy blend of salt and sunshine.

The Sex Myth by Rachel Hills

Because: It is summer! Of course we want to hear someone smart talk about sex.

The Uncanny Reader: Stories from the Shadows edited by Marjorie Sandor, with stories by H.P Lovecraft, Kelly Link, Steven Millhauser, Shirley Jackson, and more.

Because: Even summer needs a dash of darkness and strangeness. On that note, be sure to check out the new Oxford anthology of Victorian fairy tales, too. Happy reading!

May 27 2015 12:49 PM

Watch Jason Segel Play David Foster Wallace in the First Trailer for The End of the Tour

There are some fans of David Foster Wallace who may never be comfortable with the idea of a movie about the writer. It’s something that DFW certainly wouldn’t have been comfortable with himself: For years he was concerned about how an image of him as a Great Author was being carved into the public imagination—he called this version of himself “the statue”—and then he was concerned with how much he was concerned with living up to the statue.

It might help quiet some of these fears that the new movie The End of the Tour is, in many ways, about precisely this subject. An adaptation of David Lipsky’s book Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, the movie—which I was lucky enough to see at Sundance and which gets its first trailer today—is based on the conversations Lipsky had with Wallace on the book tour in support of Infinite Jest. Lipsky was there to profile the rising literary star, and many of their conversations were about Wallace’s celebrity and the process of profiling an author. Altogether, the movie makes for an appropriately meta portrait of the endlessly self-conscious Wallace.

May 27 2015 12:17 PM

Watch Amy Schumer Play Bill Cosby’s Defense Lawyer in a Literal Court of Public Opinion

The case against Bill Cosby might seem insurmountable, but on Tuesday night Amy Schumer made a commendable attempt to overcome it. In the “Court of Public Opinion,” Schumer dances the iconic Cosby credits dance, hands out some appropriately nostalgic snacks, and makes her case for ignoring the many rape allegations against Cosby. “Let’s remind ourselves what’s at stake here,” she tells the jury. “If convicted, the next time you put on a rerun of The Cosby Show, you might wince a little … and none of us deserve that.”

It’s a cynical but accurate—and, as usual for Schumer, hilarious—take on the diehards who won’t let pesky facts stand in the way of their Cosby fandom.

May 27 2015 11:03 AM

Joni Mitchell Recalls Traveling With Wigs and Fake Names in a Charming Animated Interview

“I like to do my own grocery shopping,” says Joni Mitchell in Blank on Blank’s newest animated interview. The audio is from a 1986 conversation between Mitchell and record executive Joe Smith, which covers topics ranging from Mitchell’s naïveté about drugs as a young musician to her refusal to make a purely commercial album. The bulk of the video, however, focuses on Mitchell’s desire to live a normal life in spite of her fame, a desire that led her to wear wigs and use fake names to avoid attention on her cross-country road trip.

May 27 2015 10:04 AM

Here Is the Grilled Chicken Recipe You’ll Be Making All Summer

This post originally appeared on Food52.

Deep within The Breakfast Book, in the glorious “Doughnuts and Fritters” chapter, there is this unimprovable recipe heading: “Dewey Buns are plump squares of light dough filled with vanilla cream. A Dewey Bun business could make someone rich.”

So a couple of things:

1) I regret to say that this is not a column about Dewey Buns. I have never even made the recipe for Dewey Buns, in part because of this recipe heading. What if I made Dewey Buns and realized I had no choice but to found a wildly profitable Dewey Bun business? Every time I read the Dewey Bun recipe I think, but am I ready to upend my life?

2) “A Dewey Bun business could make someone rich” is exactly how I feel about this Thai grilled chicken recipe.

May 27 2015 9:03 AM

Cersei Lannister Is the Queen of Bad Decision-Making

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

This piece originally ran at the beginning of the season. It’s been updated to address Sunday night’s episode of Game of ThronesSpoilers ahead!

Is Cersei her own worst enemy? Now that the queen mother—or the queen regent, depending on the day of the week—has been tossed in a cell, arrested for crimes against the crown, we might want to consider how she got there, and why. How much of Cersei's downfall stems from her own clumsiness as a ruler?

Game of Thrones’ fifth season opened with a glimpse into Cersei's past. As a young girl, she visits a fortune-teller to learn her future and receives a disturbing prophecy instead. Yes, she will be queen one day, but she will have a rival: "Another, younger and more beautiful, to cast you down and take all that you hold dear." She would have children, but they would die. (This fortune-teller was short on specifics—dying is inevitable for almost everyone in Westeros.) Still, these vague forecasts have been enough to haunt Cersei over the years, and explain why she has been so obsessive about some things (ahem, Margaery) and so dismissive of others (just about any legitimate threat to the Seven Kingdoms).

May 27 2015 8:02 AM

Watch “Shake It Off” Rotoscoped Into Technicolor, Surrealist Splendor

The University of Newcastle’s visual communications program has just inadvertently released the best recruitment video ever. Forty-nine first-year animation students at the Australian university were tasked with rotoscoping Taylor Swift’s music video for “Shake It Off.” The technique, in which animators trace over stills of live-action footage, might be most familiar from the Richard Linklater films Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly, and its effects are no less trippy here.

Each student was given 52 frames to animate over, and every few seconds the video jumps from one student’s vision to another: Some minimalist, some Technicolor, some surrealist. Let’s just say that more than a few human-animal chimeras appear in this spectacularly weird homage to last summer’s No. 1 hit

May 26 2015 8:21 PM

The Best Movie Sets Ever Built, Ranked

 Set design should supply as seamless an illusion as possible, making it an art prone to being taken for granted: When you watch Titanic, you don’t think of the hundreds of crew members who labored to erect a 90 percent scale replica of the ship as much as how cool and believable Leo DiCaprio looks running around it. As such, CineFixs latest ranking—an erudite countdown of the best movie sets in history—serves as a much-needed spotlight for one of cinema’s vital crafts.

May 26 2015 5:50 PM

Sundance Favorite Diary of a Teenage Girl Looks Endearing, Earnest, and a Little Twisted

“I wonder if anybody loves me who I don’t know about,” ponders teenage girl protagonist Minnie Goetze in this trailer for The Diary of a Teenage Girl, which enchanted audiences at Sundance this year. It’s a question many girls—and probably boys, I guess—ask themselves growing up. But Minnie’s love life isn’t exactly ordinary: She’s having an affair with her mother’s boyfriend.

The movie is set in 1970s San Francisco, and is based on a graphic novel by the same name. And somehow, it looks pretty charming, despite the somewhat deviant plot. Autumnal hues give the trailer a warm, fuzzy quality, while whimsical animations and jaunty banjo music promise a little quirk. Also, a little Kristen Wiig never hurts.