Slate's Culture Blog

Nov. 26 2014 9:52 PM

The Honest Trailer That Proves Love Actually Is a Horrible Rom-Com

The holidays are here, which means warm, wonderful traditions like Thanksgiving pies, Cowboys games, and Christmas carols. Another tradition, observed far and wide: a viewing of new rom-com classic Love Actually, which is no longer very new, not very romantic, and never very good. The folks at Honest Trailers agree, and they’ve supplied a spot-on critique of the film’s ensemble mediocrity and spoon-fed bromides.

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Nov. 26 2014 4:46 PM

You’re Doing It Wrong: Rolls

I know, it’s getting a bit late for a Thanksgiving recipe suggestion. (The Times started rolling out its proposed menu weeks ago!) But the recipe I offer to you today consists of ingredients you likely already have on hand—no need to brave the elements to take a trip to the grocery store—and it may very well be easier to assemble than whatever breadstuff you already had planned for tomorrow’s feast. And if you didn’t already have a breadstuff planned for tomorrow’s feast, well, it’s not too late to see the error of your ways and repent.

“Angel biscuits” and “magic biscuits” are two old-fashioned, slightly hyperbolic names for buttermilk biscuits that contain both baker’s yeast and chemical leaveners (i.e., baking powder and baking soda). Typically, baked good contain either yeast or chemical leaveners but not both. The unconventional combination of leavening agents results in biscuits that possess the best qualities of both buttermilk biscuits and yeast rolls: They’re either the fluffiest, most fragrant biscuits you’ve ever tasted or the most tender, buttery rolls you’ve ever tasted.

Nov. 26 2014 3:41 PM

Zounds! French Librarians Hath Discovered a New Shakespeare Folio.

Once there were 800, and two days ago there were 232, and now there are 233. TheNew York Times reports that a previously unknown first folio of Shakespeare playshas arrived out of the historical mists (i.e. surfaced in a library in Northern France), carrying clues to the playwright’s religious leanings and how he intended his works to be performed.

This news calls for the dramatic, dialogic form known as a Q-and-A.

Nov. 26 2014 2:50 PM

Are There Any Plausible Alternative Theories to the Crime on Serial?

There is no new episode of Serial, the investigative podcast from This American Life, arriving tomorrow, thanks to Thanksgiving. So this week on the Serial Spoiler Special we’re discussing things the podcast hasn’t brought up: additional details about the crime and the trial, the latest from the Innocence Project investigation, documents shared by Rabia Chaudry, and more.

Nov. 26 2014 2:21 PM

Bill Cosby Shows Why No Topics Should Be Off-Limits for Comedians

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

It will be ironic if, in the end, Bill Cosby is brought down by a joke. Not only a joke, of course—it’s the testimony of, at last count (and the depressing fact is, you have to keep Googling “Bill Cosby accuser” to keep up with the latest tally), 19 women who’ve now come forward with allegations of rape and sexual assault against Cosby, according to a long and powerful Washington Post piece published Nov. 22. Not to mention this lurid Daily News account from a now-90-year-old ex-NBC employee of the years he spent as Cosby’s illicit fixer. It’s been a slow accretion, then a quick accumulation, of new and renewed allegations and cultural turning points that have led to the apparent toppling of Cosby’s career. And one of those turning points—maybe not the most important one, but certainly the most ironic—is that a young black stand-up comedian dared to tell a joke.

Here’s how Hannibal Buress put it during a show in mid-October in Philadelphia (Cosby’s home town, no less):

“Bill Cosby has the fucking smuggest old-black-man public persona that I hate. He gets on TV, ‘Pull your pants up, black people, I was on TV in the ’80s. I can talk down to you because I had a successful sitcom.’ Yeah, but you rape women, Bill Cosby, so turn the crazy down a couple notches. ‘I don’t curse onstage.’ Well, yeah, you’re a rapist. I'll take you sayin’ lots of motherfuckers on Bill Cosby: Himself if you weren't a rapist.”

Nov. 26 2014 1:47 PM

Kanye West and Sam Smith Sound Beautiful Together

We have yet to get a proper Kanye West-Sam Smith collaboration, but if and when it comes, it could be truly great. Just listen to this new mashup, “Tell Me I’m the Only One,” in which West’s raps flow beautifully over and in between Smith’s lilting vocals.

Soundcloud user serranocarlos' remix gives “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” a decidedly more plaintive feel, especially when the orchestration of “I’m Not the Only One” swells during the bridge. It’s lovely, and beautifully executed.


Nov. 26 2014 12:31 PM

The Teaser for Game of Thrones Season 5 Is Appropriately Mysterious

HBO has released its Game of Thrones Season 5 teaser, and boy, is it a tease. The video was posted yesterday on the show’s Facebook page, along with a link to a new website where fans are asked to sign up in order to receive “visions of the future”:

The Hollywood Reporter plausibly suggests that, in an example of somewhat complicated marketing, this list could be the way in which the official Season 5 trailer is revealed. In the meantime, the 10-second teaser doesn’t appear to tell us much at all—in fact, it may actually confuse those who are caught up with both the show and the books. (Spoilers ahead.)

Nov. 26 2014 11:49 AM

What Are the Origins of Mockingjay’s Haunting Song “The Hanging Tree”?

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

“I knew she didn't love the idea of singing, but I didn't realize how nervous she was until when we started the first take, and she was in tears, said director Francis Lawrence about his star, Jennifer Lawrence, who sings a song in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part I called “The Hanging Tree.” Katniss wants to show off the singing abilities of the Mockingjays, who could not only mimic Rue's four-note birdcall but have “song voices [that] are different from their whistles.” She sits alongside the film crew who escaped the Capitol to help the rebel efforts of District 13. Pollux, an Avox who cannot speak because the Capitol deemed him a rebel and had his tongue cut out, asks her to sing something to the Mockingjays. She begins:

Nov. 26 2014 8:06 AM

Apple Pie Has No Place at Thanksgiving

In 2013, L.V. Anderson took the somewhat controversial position that apple pie should not be served on Thanksgiving. If you ask Anderson, this remains as true today as it was a year ago. Anderson's argument is reprinted below.

It’s practically a law that in late November, every publication must offer a Thanksgiving guide. This year, I would like to draw your attention to two exceptional ones (other than Slate’s). The first is theOnion’s “11 Steps For Cooking a PERFECT Thanksgiving Turkey,” which is full of hilariously bizarre advice (e.g., “Thaw for two or three days by burying the bird in a deep hole in the backyard”).  The second is “Grub Street’s Very Simple Tips for Thanksgiving Dinner,” which is full of hilariously good advice (e.g., “Serve a lot of alcohol”).

Actually, I should say that Grub Street’s list is mostly full of good advice. Everything’s great up until this part: “Put someone else on pie duty and if they show up with anything other than a pumpkin pie and an apple pie, throw them out of your home immediately.”

This is simply wrong. If someone shows up at your Thanksgiving with an apple pie, you should throw them out of your home immediately. Apple pie has no place at Thanksgiving.

Nov. 25 2014 9:04 PM

The Cut SNL Sketch That Skewers Def Comedy Jam and TED Talks

SNL recently began uploading cut sketches online, an interesting trend that, depending on the sketch in question, provides either fodder for haters or a fun glimpse of the show’s weirder, more experimental material. The latest is “Def TED Talks,” a short written by Michael Che and Bryan Tucker that, as the name suggests, parodies both Def Comedy Jam and TED talks.