Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Sept. 1 2015 11:32 AM

Eddie Redmayne Plays Transgender Artist Lili Elbe in the First Trailer for The Danish Girl

It’s hard to imagine a better year for the release of Tom Hooper’s upcoming biopic The Danish Girl than 2015. Coming on the heels of the groundbreaking depictions of trans protagonists in shows like Transparent and Orange Is the New Black—not to mention the real-life, high-profile coming out of Caitlyn Jenner—trans issues have never been so discussed in the media and popular culture. When could be better, then, to bring to the big screen the true story of one of the first people to undergo gender confirmation surgery?

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Sept. 1 2015 8:02 AM

Quentin Tarantino: The Complete Syllabus of His Influences and References

This article originally appeared in New York magazine.

Quentin Tarantino is undoubtedly one of the (if not the) most influential American film directors of the last quarter-century. His gritty, ultraviolent, fast-paced, and impeccably hip writing style and visual eye have made a mark on both underground and mainstream film like no other. Following the one-two punch of 1992’s Reservoir Dogs and 1994’s Pulp Fiction, Hollywood was (and arguably still is) flooded with style-aping films that could be referred to as Tarantino-esque. Indie filmmakers of all stripes have surely benefited from the increased exposure that his quick ascension gave to subterranean cinema.

The weird thing about Tarantino’s influence, though, is that it is derived from his own pop-cultural cherry-picking: Every film he’s directed or written has been loaded with countless homages, lifts, and references to books, movies, TV shows, and music that coalesce into a pop-cultural galaxy of their own. When these references and influences are considered as a whole, it’s easy to see the connections that exist between stylistically opposite corners of Tarantino’s filmography. In a 1994 Los Angeles Times profile that ran shortly before the release of Pulp Fiction, Tarantino professed an artistic impulse to “steal from every movie I see,” and although the discussion regarding what “stealing” is in relation to his catalogue still rages on today, his giddiness when it comes to expressing his omnivorous taste through film is more than apparent.

We’ve put together a comprehensive-as-possible encyclopedia, organized chronologically by film and alphabetically within each (and lumping together both volumes of Kill Bill), of every homage and direct reference to pop culture that Tarantino’s put in his work—as well as an addendum of general influences on his career that he’s acknowledged over the years. Some notes before you dive in:

  • We included the two screenplays authored solely by Tarantino—Tony Scott’s True Romance and Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk Till Dawn—but films that he worked on but didn’t have final credit on, like Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers, where he opted for a “story by” credit after his script was rewritten significantly, have been excluded.
  • There are a lot of notations regarding which elements of scores from other films have appeared in Tarantino’s films, but one composer whose work has been featured hundreds of times over is Ennio Morricone. Morricone is mentioned in this encyclopedia, but every instance of him has not been catalogued for reasons of length (this list would be twice as long as it already is—and as it is, it’s pretty long).
  • There’s a huge difference between stated influences and influences derived from film-criticism theorizing, so for the sake of coherence, we’ve stuck to the former and ignored the latter, with very few minor exceptions.
  • Unless referenced otherwise, a sizable amount of the interviews cited here were taken from Gerald Peary’s compendium of Quentin Tarantino interviews—and not to be a shill or anything, but if you’re a fan of Tarantino (or just interested in the way the guy talks about film), it’s a must-read.

Aug. 31 2015 8:55 PM

Here’s Hannibal in the Style of Friends’ Opening Credits

Hannibal, Bryan Fuller’s sublime take on everyone’s favorite man-eating serial killer, aired its last episode on Saturday. There are whispers about a follow-up movie, but until then fans will ponder a world where the critically acclaimed drama had won the popular audience it deserved. Enter YouTube user Andrew Kuhar, who, by remaking the show’s title sequence in the style of Friends’ opening credits, lends a mainstream appeal—and comically chipper tone—to Lecter’s grotesque exploits.

Aug. 31 2015 4:58 PM

With Horror Master Wes Craven (1939–2015), It Was Never “Only a Movie”

This article originally appeared in New York magazine.

The director Wes Craven, who died at age 76 of brain cancer, did primitive things in sophisticated ways. He spent nearly half a century drilling for fresh nerves. Sometimes—surprisingly often—he hit them. The howls of pain were heard around the world.

He was a man of various and unresolved impulses, which could be a prerequisite for making “personal” horror films. At the end of the ‘50s, he abandoned his strict Baptist upbringing for a liberal-arts education and dabbled in academia. He left a job as a humanities professor at Clarkson for New York City—and hard-core porn. He made the leap to the (relative) mainstream the way many do—via the grindhouse.

The Last House on the Left was a seminal ‘70s torture, rape, and revenge flick, an unholy revision of Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring. (Did Craven teach it? He might have.) The movie had two female victims instead of one. Its rape and murder scene was prolonged. The parents’ revenge was sweet and icky instead of stoic. And the religious finale was axed. No spring gushed from the spot where the head of the murdered virgin lay. Craven remained a Baptist in having a far more developed sense of hell than heaven. Actually, he had no sense of heaven at all. In The Hills Have EyesA Nightmare on Elm Street, and other films, the act of vanquishing demons gave birth to demons.

The Last House on the Left was probably best known for its ingenious ad campaign: plainly sadistic men staring down at what was presumably a woman (we were gazing up from her point of view) and the line, “Keep repeating: ‘It’s only a movie ... It’s only a movie ... It’s only a movie ...’” That line captured everything about the nihilist early ‘70s, post-Vietnam, end-of-the-countercultural horror genre. And it would pretty much define Craven’s best work.

Aug. 31 2015 3:50 PM

The Best Movies to Watch on Netflix Before They Expire This Month    

Every month, Netflix adds dozens of new titles to its growing collection of streaming movies and TV series. At the same time, it rotates out some of its older titles. This month, it’s losing an especially strong crop of movies, because Netflix is ending its partnership with Epix—the same partnership that allowed them to stream movies like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.

Below we’ve chosen the best movies to watch before they’re removed from Netflix streaming in September. (All movies expire Sept. 1 except where otherwise noted.)

Aug. 31 2015 2:24 PM

How Show Me a Hero Was the Anti-True Detective

Despite its monumental themes, David Simon’s recently concluded HBO miniseries Show Me a Hero is remarkable for its narrow focus. It takes on questions of race relations that are, if anything, more urgent now than they were in the series’ late ’80s and early ’90s, but for the most part, it remains focused on local struggles and private emotions. Only once, when, in its closing moments, a title card notes that the theories one of its characters, Oscar Newman, propounds about public housing “are now widely accepted” does it address itself directly to the larger implications of its plot.

It’s worth comparing Show Me a Hero to HBO’s other recent drama series, the second season of True Detective, despite the obvious differences between the two shows. Both take a microscopic interest in the knotty logistics of city governance and the procedural details of their characters’ jobs. (Pizzolatto has said that he’s read the entire 1,000-page Practical Homicide Investigation handbook.) But while Show Me A Hero is based on a true story, developed from a nonfiction book of the same name by the journalist Lisa Belkin, True Detective is a work of fiction about works of fiction, inspired by defunct pulp magazines. Like its source material, the series deems itself “true” with a wink. The only true thing it offers is a promise that truth will elude us, buried in the absurdly dense folds of its narrative. See, for example, Willa Paskin’s precise and thorough explanations of the second season’s plot and finale, without which I might not have understood what I was watching at all.

Aug. 31 2015 1:12 PM

Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet Could Usher in an Era of Blockbuster Shakespeare    

At times in Lyndsey Turner’s production of Hamlet, the hottest London theater ticket in at least a decade, Benedict Cumberbatch is suddenly spotlighted. The actors around him, now dimly lit, remain onstage but move in pronounced slow motion, choreographed by the show’s movement director, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. Cumberbatch turns to the audience and delivers one of Hamlet’s soliloquies. After he has finished, minutes have passed for us but only moments have passed for the characters onstage. What we have just heard is a flood of Hamlet’s thoughts—and Hamlet is a character saturated by thoughts—that occurred to him in an instant.

If you’re a fan of Cumberbatch and his TV show Sherlock—and, it’s clear from the response in the house, most of the audience members in the Barbican are—the onstage treatment of those monologues will sound very familiar. It’s a carefully choreographed theatrical re-creation of the trademark moments in Sherlock when he pauses and text flashes across the screen too fast to read. The other characters fall away as Sherlock’s eyes dart and his rapid mind assimilates and analyzes information at a speed beyond the “funny little brains” of those around him.

Aug. 31 2015 12:56 PM

Watch Nic Cage Move on From His Old Arch Enemy (Bees) in the Trailer for Pay the Ghost    

Professional kook Nicolas Cage is back with yet another movie—this time a horror flick in which his son gets kidnapped by an evil spirit at a carnival on Halloween. Sounds about right. Cage, of course, gradually becomes unhinged, struggling to explain his son’s disappearance to his estranged wife (Sarah Wayne Callies, aka Lori from The Walking Dead), and soon he’s pinning up his own wall o’ crazy to assemble his theory about children who go missing on All Hallows’ Eve.

This isn’t the first time Cage has been tasked with tracking down a missing child, but then again last time he tried it didn’t end well for anyone involved—and if he can’t even handle a few bees, who knows how Cage will tackle a kidnap-happy ghost. If you, like me, can’t wait to find out, the movie comes out in limited release and VOD on Sept. 25.

Aug. 31 2015 11:56 AM

Will Smith’s Concussion Looks Like The Insider, Except With Football Instead of Cigarettes

Football fans, as a rule, prefer not to think about the danger the sport poses to the health of its players—so it will be interesting to see how they respond to a biopic about the man who exposed the deadly effects of the game that stars one of Hollywood’s biggest names. Think of Peter Landesman’s Concussion, whose first trailer was released today, as The Insider for football.

Aug. 31 2015 11:02 AM

John Oliver Likes Lying About History Almost As Much As He Likes Lying About Geography

“Lying is incredibly fun,” says John Oliver in his latest Web exclusive. “In fact, the only thing that feels better than lying to someone”—and we already know how much Oliver loves lying about geography—“is lying to someone, then regaining their trust, and then lying to them again.”

In that spirit of deception, Oliver has announced that a book you probably thought was fake, Stranger Than Truth: John Oliver’s 101 Favorite History Lies, is actually becoming a reality. As a preview, he rattles off several zany history non-facts that you only hope were true. The last lie that Oliver reveals is by far the most crushing.