Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

March 5 2015 12:05 PM

The Americans’ Keri Russell on the Best (and Worst) Parts of Spying for the KGB

Each week on Slate’s TV Club Insider podcast, the creators, cast, and crew of The Americans reveal behind-the-scenes details about the making of the FX drama’s third season. 

In this installment about the sixth episode, “Born Again,” Keri Russell, who stars as Russian spy Elizabeth Jennings, joins script coordinator Molly Nussbaum and executive producers Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg to discuss on-set challenges, the best (and worst) part of wearing so many disguises, and her own personal contributions to the crafting of a scene.

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March 5 2015 9:02 AM

This Year’s MTV Movie Awards Might Be Better Than the Oscars

On April 12, the MTV Movie Awards will dole out a “golden popcorn” statuette for “Best Shirtless Performance.” There will be no acknowledgments for cinematography, writing, or directing. That is to say: these are not Serious Film Awards and don’t pretend to be. But this year, I’d argue that the MTV Movie Awards somehow stumbled into a better lineup than the 2015 Oscars.

The list of MTV Movie Award nominees, announced yesterday, includes nods to Ellar Coltrane of Boyhood and David Oyelowo of Selma, both unforgettable performances that were overlooked by the Oscars. The Academy famously shut out people of color from all 20 acting nominations this year. MTV’s much longer list of acting nominees is pretty white, too, but it includes not just Oyelowo, but Chris Rock, Kevin Hart, Zoe Saldana, Rosario Dawson, and J. Lo. And there are plenty of new faces, too, including apparently real people named “Dylan O’Brien” and “Halston Sage.” Oh, and Meryl Streep, too—it’s still an awards ceremony, after all.

March 5 2015 8:32 AM

Your TV Small-Talk Is Ruining Dinner Parties

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

I must not be the only one who dreads that turn around the table at a dinner party when someone fills a minor silence with the go-to question of our time. “Have any of you been watching Walking Dead?” he’ll ask, unless it’s, “Have any of you been watching Downton Abbey?” or, have any of you been watching any other show that people like to like? If you take the bait — and someone always does — the night soon descends into palaver. No more news about your friends, no more funny anecdotes or gossip, no more open, honest sharing of the soul. Once you and your friends have started down the track of TV talk, there’s rarely any change of course, except to shift the target of communal praise from one amazing show to another, even more amazing one. “Yeah, but have you been watching Homeland?” “Yes, oh my God, SO GOOD.”

March 4 2015 9:59 PM

Ian McKellen Makes a Very, Very Good Old Sherlock Holmes

A new Sherlock Holmes adaptation is rarely surprising: Guinness World Records once deemed the detective history’s most portrayed literary character, with over 200 film and TV appearances by over 70 actors. Those actors each approached the character differently, and most played Holmes in his middle-aged prime. But whither old Sherlock? According to Arthur Conan Doyle’s canon, Holmes retires to a sleepy English town and takes to beekeeping, a delightful career coda that never gets screen treatment.

Enter Sir Ian McKellen. In Mr. Holmes, the actor plays an ageing Sherlock befriended by his housekeeper’s son and consumed by one last mystery.

March 4 2015 4:12 PM

The Best Teen Movie Ever Made About Cyberbullying? The Duff.

In the new teen film The Duff, Bianca (Mae Whitman) walks down the hallways of her high school, surrounded by gawking classmates. They snicker at their smartphones, watching a video of Bianca swooning over her crush, Toby. Then the camera cuts to a short scene in which two girls on the high school’s front lawn discuss how embarrassing this video must be for Bianca with convincing sympathy—only to turn to each other and quickly agree to send it to everyone they know.


The movie, which stars Mae Whitman, Robbie Amell, and Bella Thorne, seems to have a good chance of becoming a new teen classic. It cast YouTube stars in cameos and campaigned heavily on Twitter. It raked in 10.8 million on its opening weekend, and the buzz among the high school demographic has steadily built since then. And the reason for this, at least in part, is a simple one: The Duff is offering the most realistic, interesting depiction of cyberbullying we’ve ever seen.

March 4 2015 3:00 PM

The Action-Packed New Avengers: Age of Ultron Trailer Unveils a New Character

If you watch enough these Avengers: Age of Ultron trailers, they can really start to blend together. But this one definitely has its surprises. First, it has a bunch of new action footage, with the Avengers fighting off Ultron’s army of drones in increasingly absurd configurations. (Is anyone else getting an unpleasant Matrix: Reloaded, army-of-Agent-Smiths vibe from those scenes? Hopefully they’re more like that crazy sequence in Endhiran.)

The other surprise comes at the two-minute mark, where we see a major new character. I can’t pretend to know the comics, but it seems pretty clear that it’s Vision, the already-announced android character to be played by Paul Bettany. (Vision is a member of the Avengers in the comics.) This will mean nothing to some readers, and a lot to others, but I’ll just say that, because Bettany’s deadpan performance as JARVIS has quietly been one of the very best parts of the Marvel movies since the very beginning, I’m excited to see him finally kick some ass.

March 4 2015 1:35 PM

The Legend Is True: Prince Was a Basketball Star

While low-res versions of Prince’s middle school basketball photo have been quietly circulating on fan message boards for a while now, the shot is finally going full-blown viral. The catalyst? Journalist Libor Jany, from Prince’s home paper the Minneapolis Star Tribune, has dug up a zoomed-in version of the pic from the paper’s archives. Finally, we can see middle school Prince in all his glory:

March 4 2015 10:55 AM

The Oscars Are So Much Better Without Dialogue

If, like pretty much everyone else, you were more than a little disappointed by Neil Patrick Harris’ hosting duties at this year’s Oscars, this video highlighting all of the moments of silence will at least make you chuckle. YouTube user Bill Smith has created a fun, short montage of the show, sans all of Harris’ embarrassingly lame banter.

His performance is made instantly better—and the highlight is certainly viewing his stripped-down Birdman-inspired moment on stage without so much as a word, only the boisterous roar of approval from the glamorous audience.

(Via Digg.)

March 4 2015 8:46 AM

Can You Tell If Your Favorite TV Show Is Secretly Sped Up? Take Our Quiz.

With viewers flocking to streaming services, TV executives have racked their brains to figure out how to make up for lost revenues by jamming in even more commercials. Their solution? Speed up the programming. Cable networks like TBS and TNT have used video compression technology to speed up shows to a barely perceptible degree. But somebody noticed; a video circulated online last month showing that broadcasts of Seinfeld on TBS were accelerated by about 8 percent, shaving nearly two minutes off of each episode. Here’s a side-by-side comparison showing the subtle change:

March 4 2015 8:16 AM

These Fake Stock Photos Made to Promote Vince Vaughn’s New Movie Are Brilliant

In a brilliant marketing move, 20th Century Fox has released a series of stock photos starring the cast of the not-very-good-looking office comedy Unfinished Business. Stock photos, of course, are staged photos intended to illustrate abstract ideas that various media outlets might want to convey. They usually feature unknown, blandly good-looking models smiling, frowning, yelling, or otherwise conveying emotions as cartoonishly as possible. The Unfinished Business shoot was a chance for Vince Vaughn, Tom Wilkinson, and Dave Franco to put their hammiest acting to good use—let’s examine their performances, starting with the best.