Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Sept. 26 2016 12:20 PM

The Trailer for Ava DuVernay’s Netflix Documentary Promises a Damning Look at Mass Incarceration

Ava DuVernay keeps pretty busy these days. Just this month already, the Selma director has debuted a new short film at the official opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African-American History and Culture, created and executive produced the acclaimed new drama series Queen Sugar, and continued work on A Wrinkle in Time, the first film ever to be budgeted at over $100 million and be directed by a woman of color.

Before all that, however, DuVernay somewhat secretly directed The 13th for Netflix, a sweeping documentary that tackles the interlinked history of racism and mass incarceration in the United States. Drawing on interviews from figures across the political spectrum—from Trump surrogate Newt Gingrich to The New Yorker’s Jelani Cobb—and spanning over 150 years, the film aims to be both a penetrating polemic and a nuanced, interpretive take on history. Accordingly, anticipation is awfully high. The 13th will premiere Sept. 30 at the New York Film Festival, becoming the first documentary to ever open the event, before an Oct. 7 launch on Netflix.

Sept. 26 2016 11:42 AM

Tig Notaro’s One Mississippi Is Funniest When It’s Most Painful

Tig Notaro’s new Amazon original series One Mississippi is funny and engaging in direct proportion to the sensitivity of each scene’s subject matter: There are ingenious scenes about death and rape that innovate comedy; there are scenes about mental illness and bullying that feel at once uncomfortably real and brilliantly absurd; but then there’s the rest of the show—tired tropes and formulas that glue the good parts together into coherent half-hour episodes with plots and character arcs.

The show is based on Notaro’s own painful true story: having recently received a double mastectomy to treat her breast cancer, Tig returns to her Mississippi hometown, Bay Saint Lucille, to be at her mother’s death bed, while she herself tries to recover from a potentially deadly infection. But the series’ central narratives and relationship arcs are not grounded in the unique specifics of her trauma. Instead, they seem designed to make Tig’s life into a recognizable story, like the kinds we see on TV. The prodigal daughter returns to her hometown with the intention of staying for only a short while when she realizes she has more ties here than she thought: Will she decide to stay or leave as she had planned? She’ll stay. Will her uptight and emotionally unavailable stepfather eventually warm up to her? He will, but he’ll show it in his own way. Will her brother go for the hot blonde? He will, but then he will realize that his dorky female friend who genuinely liked him was a better match all along.

Sept. 26 2016 11:29 AM

Watch Kanye and Chance the Rapper Inspire Mayhem, Perform “Ultralight Beam” at Chance’s Festival

Over the weekend, Chance the Rapper treated his hometown fans with the Magnificent Coloring Day Festival in Chicago, featuring performances from John Legend, Tyler the Creator, Alicia Keys, Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz, and more. By pretty much all accounts, the event was a success, with audiences celebrating and enjoying the show on a beautiful day. But it seems safe to say that the crowd of tens of thousands was most hyped when Kanye West made a surprise guest appearance to perform a medley of songs, including “Black Skinhead,” “Gold Digger,” and the rappers’ Life of Pablo collaboration “Ultralight Beam.”

As the New York Times described it, Kanye’s arrival triggered “mayhem”: “On the left side of the stage, a row of porta-potties became a makeshift staircase supporting scores of young people who hopped the guard rail, landed atop the stalls, then slid their way down to the field.” Eventually, the security guards, who were supposed to keep fans in their designated sections, began to help those who fell down in the swarm toward the stage. The Chicago Reader compared it to a Michael Jackson concert, as some folks apparently fainted or were carried out on stretchers.

Kanye-surprise mayhem

A video posted by joncaramanica (@joncaramanica) on

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When West and Chance performed “Ultralight Beam,” he barely had to sing a word on stage, as the audience screamed the chorus rapturously. It was a charming performance, as the young protégé and the legendary vet, both proud Chicago natives, basked in each other’s beaming glows.

Sept. 26 2016 11:03 AM

Stream David Bowie’s Long-Lost Album From 1974, The Gouster

David Bowie’s obscure, long-lost The Gouster is finally seeing the light of day. The album was originally recorded in various studio sessions in 1974 and has now—after four decades—been released for legal streaming via Parlophone Records, as part of a broader compilation dedicated to Bowie’s work in the mid-’70s. The Gouster follows last year’s release of David Bowie—Five Years (1969–1973) and comes in anticipation of Bowie’s final recordings, set for an Oct. 21 release.

Sept. 26 2016 10:47 AM

John Oliver Explains, With Raisins, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s Totally Equivalent Scandals

Monday night will see the first debate of the 2016 presidential campaign, or as John Oliver calls it, “The Electoral Equivalent of Seeing Someone Puking, So You Start Puking, and Then Someone Else Is Puking, and Pretty Soon Everyone Is Puking.” But after a brief hiatus, even an abundance of metaphorical vomit won’t keep Oliver from getting into the nitty-gritty of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s ethical and political shortfalls.

The Last Week Tonight host has been accused in the past of leaning too far to the left, but Oliver actually dedicated the majority of last night’s episode to the scandals of Hillary Clinton, from Whitewater to Benghazi to the oft-forgotten Swiss File Transfer. (OK, so that one was actually fake, but the point is that the level of hysteria surrounding Clinton might lead you to believe just about anything at this point.) Oliver pointed out that while Clinton has been the subject of many scandals over the years, like the controversy surrounding the Clinton Foundation or her use of a private email server while secretary of State, Trump’s ethical failings have still been “quantifiably worse.”

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To put it another way: “Ethical failings in a politician are like raisins in a cookie—they shouldn’t be there, they disgust people—but most politicians have a few raisins.” Trump, on the other hand? “A fucking raisin monsoon.”

Sept. 26 2016 8:04 AM

Marion Cunningham’s Fresh Ginger Muffins Are Indeed Genius—Here’s Why

This post originally appeared in Genius Recipes from Food52.

This is how I learned—blogs like Orangette and Lottie & Doof spread the word. Nozlee Samadzadeh and Sarah Jampel, two of the smartest cooks I know, told me to make it. I’d pause on it every time I pulled out my squat, sticky copy of The Breakfast Book to hunt for something comforting to bake.

Sept. 25 2016 10:23 PM

Hurry and Sign Up for Apple Music If You Want to Watch Drake’s New Film at Midnight

Following in the footsteps of Beyoncé, Rihanna, and Michael Jackson, Drake is releasing a film based on his music Sunday night at midnight, Billboard reports. The film, which will be released on Apple Music, is called Please Forgive Me and was directed by frequent Rihanna-video-director Anthony Mandler. Drake’s been teasing it on Instagram:

Tonight

A photo posted by champagnepapi (@champagnepapi) on

The teaser says it was inspired by his new album Views, but also that it was scored by Drake’s producer Noah 4 Shebib, so it remains to be seen whether it will be a Beyoncé-style visual album or something different. Whatever it turns out to be, one thing is certain: there will be guns:

@lejonhjerta

A photo posted by champagnepapi (@champagnepapi) on

Sept. 25 2016 9:57 PM

Watch Hamilton Creator Lin-Manuel Miranda Sing About Star Wars with “Weird Al” Yankovic

Over the years, Slate has been carefully analyzing our traffic and video statistics in search of ever more irresistable clickbait, and we are pleased to announce that Sunday, Sept. 25, our ever-more-ethically-dubious experiments have concluded. We have video, actual video, of Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda singing “Yoda,” a song about Star Wars, with none other than UHF star “Weird Al” Yankovic. You saw the tweet. You saw the headline. You clicked on it. And here we both are.

Normally, we’d use this space to contextualize the video you are probably already watching, so: “Yoda,” a slightly-speeded up parody of the Kinks’ “Lola,” was first released on Weird Al’s seminal 1985 LP Dare to Be Stupid. It’s not his only Star Wars song: “The Saga Begins” tells the story of The Phantom Menace to the tune of “American Pie.” Miranda, a long-time Weird Al fan, tweeted a story about a long ago concert and a picture with his idol Saturday:

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Lin-Manuel Miranda and Weird Al is pretty good. You’d probably want to know more about that story. But by inviting Miranda on stage during the performance of “Yoda,” Weird Al has helped us craft the most irresistible headline in our 20-year history. Lin-Manuel Miranda, Weird Al, and Star Wars? And there’s video? It’s crystalline. Pure. A new breed. The equivalent of James O. Incandenza’s Infinite Jest for the same demographic that loved David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. We may just run it on every story from now on, from budget negotiations to civil wars. At least until Beyoncé gets Werner Herzog and the cast of Game of Thrones onstage.

Sept. 25 2016 8:57 PM

The Good Girls Revolt Trailer Shows the Dangers of Sexism and Sort-Of-True Stories

Amazon just released the trailer for their upcoming series Good Girls Revolt, a fictionalized drama based on Lynn Povich’s The Good Girls Revolt, about the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint filed by female staffers at Newsweek in 1970. The show’s cinematography may give a clue to its approach to history: it looks faded like an old color photo—not the way the 1970 looked at the time, but the way we might imagine it today. Newsweek has become News of the Week magazine, headed by “William ‘Wick’ McFadden” (Jim Belushi) instead of Osborn “Oz” Elliot; Katharine Graham is nowhere to be seen. But real people are there too: the complaint is being handled by Eleanor Holmes Norton (Joy Bryant), and Nora Ephron (Grace Gummer) is there in the thick of things, despite having worked at Newsweek years earlier (by 1970 she’d done a five-year stint as a reporter at the Post for years and moved on to Esquire and New York).

It’s easy to see why the story was so heavily fictionalized: News of the Week seems to have an extraordinarily sexually-charged office environment, complete with sex on credenzas, and workplace sexism is much easier to understand when male editors are failing to acknowledge Nora Ephron’s talent. The show will inevitably be compared to Mad Men, and it’s true, a lot of advertising agencies were less interesting places to work than Sterling Cooper. But unless you feel strongly about Conrad Hilton, Mad Men didn’t do much with Young Indiana Jones-style cameos from real people, and none of their anachronisms quite rose to the ridiculousness of having Eleanor Holmes Norton ask, “You good with that?” Audiences will get to see if Good Girls Revolt dramatizes its source material in more interesting ways than the trailer implies when it’s released on Oct. 28.

Sept. 24 2016 11:40 PM

Watch Obama’s Moving Speech at the Opening of the National Museum of African American History

President Obama spoke today at the opening ceremonies for the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the newest addition to the National Mall, which opened Saturday. Former president George W. Bush, who signed the bill to create the museum, also addressed the crowd, describing slavery as America’s original sin and noting that “a great nation does not hide its history.” But the first black president speaking at the opening of a national museum dedicated to African American History was bound to be a historic moment in its own right, and Obama did not disappoint. He opened with a heartbreaking example of the ways America has chosen to tell its own story over the years, describing a block of stone that is now on display in the new museum:

On top of this stone sits a historical marker, weathered by the ages, and that marker reads “General Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay spoke from this slave block during the year 1830.” I want you to think about this. Consider what this artifact tells us about history, about how it’s told, and about what can be cast aside.
On a stone where day after day, for years, men and women were torn from their spouse or their child, shackled, and bound, and bought, and sold, and bid like cattle, on a stone worn down by the tragedy of over 1,000 bare feet. For a long time, the only thing we considered important, the singular thing we once chose to commemorate as history, with a plaque, were the unmemorable speeches of two powerful men. And that block, I think, explains why this museum is so necessary, because that same object reframed, put in context, tells us so much more.

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