Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

July 7 2015 9:09 PM

If Ant-Man Were a ‘50s Horror Movie

Ant-Man, Marvel’s much-delayed movie about Scott Lang and his miniature heroics, finally hits theaters later this month. But an enterprising collaboration between Louis Plamond and Vulture retrofits the film with some good old-fashioned B-movie goodness, reimagining Lang’s adventures as “the most spine-tingling horror spectacle of 1955.”

Appropriately, the video is narrated by Vincent Price, whose deep, ominous voice is practically synonymous with monster movies of yore. Mix in some savvily retooled footage from The Fly and The Incredible Shrinking Man, and you’ve got the summer’s spookiest superhero. 

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July 7 2015 6:01 PM

Watch Jim Carrey Fall Down Over and Over—and Over—Again

What with his recent embarrassing, harmful rants against vaccination, it can be easy to forget that Jim Carrey was once the guy who made his name by making us all laugh. But he did—to the tune of millions of dollars at the box office—and one of his trademark funny moves was the pratfall, as Shawn Kohne points out in his supercut “Jim Carrey Falls Down.”

The video, which comprises examples from Carrey’s early stand up career and breakout turn on In Living Color all the way up to last year’s Dumb and Dumber To, is four minutes of non-stop tumbling. This reiterates two things: 1) The dude really likes pratfalls. And 2), As far as physical comedians go, he’s among the best to ever grace the screen.

July 7 2015 5:20 PM

It’s Official: Han Solo Is Getting His Own Star Wars Movie

Looks like everyone’s favorite scruffy-looking nerf herder is getting his own movie. According to an official announcement from StarWars.com, the new stand-alone film will be helmed by Christopher Miller and Phil Lord (The LEGO Movie, 21 Jump Street), and it will be (though the press release avoids this term) a prequel:

The story focuses on how young Han Solo became the smuggler, thief, and scoundrel whom Luke Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi first encountered in the cantina at Mos Eisley.
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Lawrence Kasdan, who wrote and directed Raiders of the Lost Ark and co-wrote the screenplays for the final two installments of the original Star Wars trilogy, will co-write the screenplay with his son, Jon Kasdan (The First Time, In the Land of Women). And while the announcement of another Star Wars prequel might make some fans think “I have a bad feeling about this,” Lord and Miller are famous for turning bad ideas into good movies: “This is the first film we’ve worked on that seems like a good idea to begin with,” the co-directors joked. They added:

We promise to take risks, to give the audience a fresh experience, and we pledge ourselves to be faithful stewards of these characters who mean so much to us. This is a dream come true for us. And not the kind of dream where you’re late for work and all your clothes are made of pudding, but the kind of dream where you get to make a film with some of the greatest characters ever, in a film franchise you’ve loved since before you can remember having dreams at all.

The movie already has a release date: May 25, 2018.

July 7 2015 4:58 PM

What Amy Schumer Was Really Thinking During Her Glamour Cover Shoot

Amy Schumer pulled no punches during her acceptance speech for Glamour’s Trailblazer Award in June, so it won't surprise those familiar with the comedian that she had a lot to say during her photo shoot for the magazine’s August cover. In an on-set video, a Schumer voiceover narrates her experience at Pier 59. “What a dream day,” she begins. “This is your dream, Amy.” So far, so good.

But Schumer’s shoot turns out to be less glamorous than she imagined—apparently having to smile while strangers touch and photograph you is less than fun. The worst part, though, is the wind. “Why didn’t they just do the shoot on a tarmac?” Schumer says. As Lindsay Zoladz has pointed out: “Maybe the most revolutionary thing about Schumer’s comedy right now is that she’s speaking truthfully from the inside of success—but still candidly reporting on its disappointments and the ways in which achievement is never simple when you’re a woman.”

July 7 2015 4:14 PM

Hannibal Buress Leaked His Own Secret” Daily Show Audition Tape

If Hannibal Buress’ “secret” audition tape for the Daily Show is to be believed, the comedian is not at all cut out for late-night comedy. He flubs lines, slouches with his feet on the desk, and is shocked to find out the show films every day. “Do you think Barack Obama’s secretly a germophobe, and just fighting through it every day?” Buress wonders.

Of course, this is all just promotion for his new show, Why? With Hannibal Buress, which premieres Wednesday. Here’s hoping that, like Buress’ failed Daily Show attempt, it features a segment called “Moment of Ben.”

July 7 2015 2:59 PM

John Green Is a Hero of the Teen Internet. Is He to Blame for the Controversy Around Him?

John Green, author of the hit young adult novels The Fault in Our Stars and Paper Towns, recently found himself at the center of another swirling Internet controversy. Here’s the Sparknotes summary: A girl posted on Tumblr that Green creeped her out.

i bet john green thinks people don’t like him because he’s a “dork” or a nerd or whatever
when in reality it’s because he’s a creep who panders to teenage girls so that he can amass some weird cult-like following. and it’s always girls who feel misunderstood, you know, and he goes out of his way to make them feel important and desirable. which is fucking? weird?
also he has a social media presence that is equivalent to that dad of a kid in your friend group who always volunteers to “supervise” the pool parties and scoots his lawn chair close to all the girls.
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The original user didn’t tag Green, who maintains a lively Tumblr account, but a lot of other users, reblogging or commenting on her post, did. Inevitably, the note wafted onto Green’s radar screen. He parried with his own Tumblr cri de coeur.

“You want me to defend myself against the implication that I sexually abuse children?” he wrote.

Okay. I do not sexually abuse children.
Throwing that kind of accusation around is sick and libelous and most importantly damages the discourse around the actual sexual abuse of children. When you use accusations of pedophilia as a way of insulting people whose work you don’t like, you trivialize abuse.
I’m tired of seeing the language of social justice–important language doing important work–misused as a way to dehumanize others and treat them hatefully.

Green blamed the “complicated dopamine rush that comes with righteous indignation” for fueling endless, meaningless cycles of Web outrage. He took care to ID that urge in himself, nodding as well toward his “various shortcomings.” Then, he announced that he would henceforth do less Tumblr interacting, more Tumblr posting-and-ghosting. “I’m not angry or anything like that,” he explained. “I just need some distance for my well-being.”

Maybe the simplest observation to make here is that an expert writer expertly defused a potential hit to his brand. In his reply, which reads as conversational, clear, and sympathetic, Green says he doesn’t so much mind that someone insulted him—he’s not even mad!—he just dislikes 1) the trivialization of “the actual sexual abuse of children” 2) the misuse of language (be still our bookwormy hearts) and 3) dehumanization and hate. (Well, who doesn’t?) He says that, while there’s an interesting scientific explanation—dopamine!—for all the abuse we throw at each other online, he’s ready for a break; he hopes fans “will continue to be open and collaborative and constructive” while he’s gone. “DFTBA,” Green concludes, signing off with the uplifting acronym—“Don’t forget to be awesome”—that he coined with his vlogging brother, Hank.

I don’t know what a better alternative would look like, but the suavity of this PR seduction makes my skin crawl a little bit. (And I’m a John Green fan! I once wrote 2,500 words in defense of the sentimentality in The Fault in Our Stars.) Elsewhere on social media, literary bright lights rallied around Green. Rainbow Rowell, Patrick Ness, Maureen Johnson, and Maggie Stiefvater blogged or tweeted their support for the author (named one of Forbes’ “highest-paid celebrities” in 2015). Some declared their disgust with his detractor. Only one outlet, the Huffington Post, posited that maybe famous and respected adult writers should stop piling on a young girl for voicing her opinion.

John Green is very likely a lovely, not-creepy guy. And the user “virjn”’s beefs with him seem dumb and unfair: Since when do we fault authors for imagining kids’ worlds so vividly that they make fans out of actual kids? (Tolstoy did a great job with Natasha, and his reputation’s fine.) A lot of people would further dispute the “leering dad” characterization of Green’s social media presence. He’s active, yes, but not inappropriate or over-solicitous. Obviously, virjn doesn’t like Green, and she chose to cast her disdain in sharply insulting terms—by insinuating that he does what he does in bad faith, to flatter his ego.

Yet nowhere in her post does she accuse Green of sexually abusing teenage girls. It feels disingenuous and slimy that Team Green decided to conflate her subjective evaluation that he panders to his target demographic with a charge of pedophilia.

For context on this whole weird wreck, think of Tumblr as a marsh lit by the eerie flare-ups of fan and antifan obsession. Think of John Green as the methane generated by organic decomposition. He’s inspired pages devoted to his quotes, libraries of GIFs, reams of fan art, and a game, the “is that john green” game, because random Tumblr users so often find themselves unwittingly bantering with him after they mention him online. Lines from John Green books, most of which concern alienated, supersmart teenagers on the hunt for Meaning, get blogged and tagged and meme’d and tattooed on body parts and photographed and uploaded and reblogged. (The best example of this is perhaps the inescapable “If people were rain, I was drizzle and she was a hurricane,” from Green’s 2005 novel Looking for Alaska. A different soulful quote—“I’m in love with cities I’ve never been to and people I’ve never met”—was so widely attributed to Green that he himself sold posters of it in his online store, before realizing that its true creator was a 13-year-old girl from Wisconsin. “I suppose instead of blindly assuming I’d written something the Internet said I wrote, I should’ve done some research,” the author confessed, charmingly, on YouTube.)

He’s a bit of a teenage girl whisperer. Sweetly earnest, intellectual, and generous, he’s a fantasy wrapped in a poem stuffed into the sleeve of a John Mayer CD. In her wonderful profile of Green, Margaret Talbot gleaned that he signed the entire first printing—150,000 copies—of The Fault in Our Stars, “which took ten weeks and necessitated physical therapy for his shoulder.” And he’s mastered the tone of smart whimsy I, at least, found irresistible when I was 12. He named his Tumblr “Fishing Boat Proceeds” in wry homage to an IRS form that struck him as strangely plangent. In his Tumblr’s FAQ section, he playfully refers readers to the joke site “Let Me Google That For You.”

But the JG backlash is thriving. For every legend of a fan’s parent rescuing her worn copy of TFIOS moments before a tornado, Tumblr spits out a rant about Green’s reliance on manic pixie dream girls to beguile and instruct his male characters, or a list of “problematic shit” he’s done (e.g. “Defended Laci Green despite countless racist, transphobic, fat-shaming comments”), or a YouTube video delving into why TFIOS is formulaic and tacky. There are John Green hate blogs and ironic counter-movements—after the brothers Green started an online bloc of “nerdfighters” to “increase awesome and decrease suck” in the world, a “nerdfighters fighters” community formed to make fun of them. Whether or not Green “panders” to teenagers, there’s no question that he writes for a demographic with a unique capacity for ardent opinions.

Enter virjn, who, in demonstrating the fickleness of Internet celebrity, shived Green where it hurt. She called him a phony in an environment where that’s a fair point: Everyone on Tumblr is selling and buffing and shining and shaping their image. Virjn is also right that, whatever his intentions, Green could not craft a persona more precision-tuned for online adoration than the one he has. Channeling the same queasiness that suffuses our understanding of Upworthy, or body-positive soap commercials, or anti-corporate blockbuster movies about Legos—she cried creepy.

So we … what? Aligned her with dehumanization, hate, the misuse of language, and “the actual sexual abuse of children.” Green’s swift and hyperbolic response to virjn—now reblogged or liked more than 57,000 times—feels doubly unfair, in that it told her she was wrong while revealing that she was at least partly right. It used rhetorical dazzle and intuition—the very things that made virjn suspicious—to disarm and shame her. And Green’s influential supporters made it worse.

If I were to further analyze my own feelings of ickiness, I’d observe that the objects of teen girl hysteria are often sexualized. I’m rattled, maybe unfairly, to see so much devotion funneled toward an older author who, though never in danger of presenting himself as a romantic hero, knows exactly how to write one. Green needn’t apologize for his creative skills, of course. But for someone who wants to encourage strong young women, he sure has them eating out of his hand.

On the other hand, the Web gives readers a form of power over him, too. In her defense of Green, bestselling YA author Maggie Stiefvater pointed out that virjn’s post wasn’t just festering in some cesspool somewhere, but delivered to its target’s doorstep. “He was tagged in it,” she wrote. “It was placed in his feed for his perusal.” If retaliating against a hater soliloquying on some lonely Internet perch is one thing, perhaps an intimate attack on your turf demands a different response. But what’s the best way to understand how kids use Tumblr now? Is it a network of communications sent back and forth, like email, or more like a diary other people happen to have access to? Maybe Green’s reply to this whole hot mess is reasonable, but I can’t help feeling that he forgot to be awesome.

July 7 2015 2:38 PM

Excellent: Harry Shearer—Voice of Mr. Burns, Flanders, More—Is Coming Back to The Simpsons

Looks like The Simpsons won’t have to make do without the original voice of Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, and more after all. According to Entertainment Weekly, voice actor Harry Shearer has agreed to come back to the show. From EW:

Shearer has signed the same contract as did the other five primary voice actors—Dan Castellaneta, Yeardley Smith, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, and Hank Azaria—keeping the show’s original cast fully intact …
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When Shearer tweeted that he was leaving the show back in May, showrunner Al Jean released a statement saying that his characters would not be retired, as others had in the past when major voice actors left, but instead that they would be “recast with the finest voiceover talent available.” Luckily, Shearer’s return was quick enough to avoid that scenario, meaning that his characters will sound the same as they always have when the show returns on Sept. 27.

July 7 2015 1:55 PM

The Best Movie Costumes of All Time, in One Video Countdown    

It might sound shallow, but sometimes the clothes really do make the movie. Costume design is often the key to conveying authenticity, whether the film is imagining a future, gazing into the past, or selling the latest concept of “cool.” If done well, a character’s wardrobe can also be one of the most memorable parts of a movie—as with Marilyn Monroe’s iconic ivory dress from The Seven Year Itch.

Here, the folks from CineFix—who are exceptionally thoughtful about these kinds of movie countdowns—round up the most memorable and meaningful duds in film history. Even if you don’t agree with every choice, their thinking is well argued, and it’s hard to disagree with their pick for No. 1.

July 7 2015 12:21 PM

Should You Buy Pizza Scissors?

Stores like Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table are full of gadgets that purport to solve all manner of culinary problems. Often, these gadgets look stupid. Sometimes, they look promising. But are they actually worth buying? To help you answer this question, Slate presents “Should You Buy This Thing?”, a video series in which we test kitchen gewgaws and rate them based on effectiveness, cost, and the clutter factor (i.e., how much space they take up in your kitchen).

This week’s thing is Chef’n’s pizza scissors, which are pretty much what they sound like: a pair of scissors specifically designed to cut pizza. Do they do the job better than an old-fashioned pizza wheel? Watch the video below to find out.

 

July 7 2015 11:28 AM

In Key & Peele, Telemarketer Hangs Up on You

For anyone who’s ever dealt with a relentless telemarketer, it’s almost too farfetched to imagine: What if they were the ones hanging up on you? In Key & Peele’s new sketch, Keegan-Michael Key gets an unsolicited call from a faceless telemarketer, but before he can even finish expressing his lack of interest, the line disconnects. When he repeatedly calls back to confront the rude telemarketer who refuses to hear him out, the sketch starts to look more like a horror movie, complete with ominous music and a creepy stress doll the faceless telemarketer won’t stop squeezing. Telemarketers, take note: This gimmick might just be crazy enough to work! (Or maybe it won’t, but if it doesn’t, your customers were probably never going to buy the vacation package anyway.)

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