Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

June 23 2017 5:19 PM

Listen to Owl City’s Cover of “Waving Through a Window” From Dear Evan Hansen

If ever a Broadway musical was begging for Owl City to cover one of its songs, Tony winner Dear Evan Hansen is that musical. Songwriters Benj Pasek and Justin Paul’s music is already pretty pop-friendly, which makes a new cover of one of their songs by Adam Young, the man behind Owl City, all the more appropriate. Young brings his distinct electro-pop style to a new version of “Waving Through a Window,” now available to stream:

Young told Billboard that while he still has not seen Dear Evan Hansen, he agreed to cover the song originally sung by Ben Platt after getting a call from Pasek, Paul, and music supervisor Alex Lacamoire. “One of the things that Alex, Benj, and Justin mentioned to me in their initial pitch was, conceptually, if there was a radio in Evan Hansen's bedroom, they thought it would be playing Owl City music,” he said. “He’s this outsider, he’s got social anxiety, a lot of things I dealt with as a high schooler myself.”

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Young’s chipper emo sound is a perfect fit for the soaring but still anxiety-riddled song, so we give his version 8,000 out of a possible 10,000 lightning bugs.

June 23 2017 1:54 PM

Watch and Weep at Every Instance of Product Placement From Michael Bay’s Movies

Ah, product placement. The Devil's bargain every blockbuster filmmaker must make peace with in order to finance their loosely plotted deafening destruction orgies.

Michael Bay—director of such hallmarks of American cinema as Transformers, Armageddon, and Pearl Harbor—is one of filmmaking's biggest product placement perpetrators. No Michael Bay film is without its dose of embedded marketing, and, thanks to Matt Singer at ScreenCrush, we now have a compilation of every single instance of product placement in Michael Bay's filmography.

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Some of the examples in the video are pretty forgivable. Fine, every character can be drinking a Pepsi in that scene. Fine, Josh Duhamel can use an HP laptop in that scene. Fine, that XBox 360 can turn into a Transformer.

But some of these examples are unforgivable in their visual aggressiveness. No, a Transformer shouldn't crash into a speeding Bud Light truck in the middle of Manhattan, thus making it explode and scatter hundreds of electric blue aluminum Bud Light bottles onto the street. And then Mark Wahlberg certainly should not then pick up one of the bottles and take a refreshing foamy swig from it.

No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Product placement shouldn't be that unsubtle. Bud Light shouldn't be used that prominently. That's so shameless and such a gross reminder that we live in this oppressive capitalist society run by corporations that stand on the heads of hard-working Americans and will stop at nothing to satisfy their bottom lines.

How dare you, Michael Bay, use the visual art of filmmaking to aid this disgusting corporatism. Watching this video is a maddening experience. It makes me angry. It makes me stressed. It makes my blood boil.

I need to take a breath.

I have a headache.

I need to sit.

Actually, you know what I need?

I need a drink.

I need a nice, tall, aluminum bottle of Bud Li—DAMMIT.

You win, Michael Bay. You win.

June 23 2017 12:40 PM

Seth Meyers Proves He’s as Good at Going After Senate Republicans as He Is at Skewering Trump

Ever since his White House Correspondents’ Dinner performance in 2011, we’ve known that Seth Meyers was highly capable of zinging one Donald J. Trump, and zinging him hard. His “A Closer Look” segments have only bolstered that impression. Meyers and his team at Late Night have made so many jokes about Trump that it’s easy to forget how consistently strong they are across the board, so it’s always refreshing when Meyers sets his sights on other politicians.

The majority of Thursday’s “A Closer Look” segment wasn’t dedicated to poking fun at Trump, but going after Republican senators who finally unveiled their cruel master plan to screwe over lower– and middle–class Americans by taking away their health care in service of providing tax cuts for the rich. Or, as card-carrying Turtle Club member and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put it, tp provide Americans with the better care they deserve while freeing them from Obamacare, which is “teeter[ing] on the edge of collapse.”

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Meyers pointed out that many Republican senators didn’t even know what was in the proposed health care bill because McConnell essentially wrote it behind closed doors. “No one’s ever doing anything good behind closed doors,” Meyers said. “If your teenage son was locked in his bedroom this long, you wouldn’t say ‘Hey buddy! Are you doing extra credit homework in there?’”

Nevertheless, Meyers didn’t those senators use their ignorance as a shield against charges of complicity. “If you’re genuinely appalled by this bill and the process used to write it, you need to actually do something about it,” Meyers said.

The segment really took a turn when Meyers started to go after McConnell. Meyers played a clip of Sen. Chuck Schumer’s fruitless pleading with McConnell to allow bipartisan deliberation before the bill was put to a vote, and juxtaposed it with McConnell’s now obviously hypocritical statements from 2009 and 2010 about how the passage of the ACA—which was far lengthier and more open than the process of crafting the AHCA—was rushed and secretive.

“What we’re seeing right now is a breathtakingly cynical process to produce a breathtakingly cruel bill.” Meyers said.

Thursday night’s “A Closer Look” had a Jon Stewart-esque quality to it, albeit slightlier cheerier. Meyers’ jokes went hard, but he has yet to really take the gloves off. However, if the Republicans’ health care bill that is projected to take healthcare away from so many Americans actually does pass, we could probably expect to see a side of Meyers that we haven’t seen before, one that’s angrier and more relentlessly savage.

June 23 2017 11:41 AM

Johnny Depp Alludes to Trump Assassination, Joins Kathy Griffin in the Shush Club

Slate is proud to award Johnny Depp an honorary membership to the Shush Club with a special distinction in You’re Not Helping after the actor joked about the assassination of Donald Trump during an appearance at Glastonbury Festival in England on Thursday. Depp was there introducing his 2004 film The Libertine when he was asked about the U.S. president during an audience Q&A.

Here are his comments, via the Guardian:

“When was the last time an actor assassinated a president?” he asked in reference to the death of Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth in 1865.
“I want to qualify, I am not an actor. I lie for a living. However, it has been a while and maybe it is time,” he added.
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There’s really no good time to joke about a Trump assassination, but Depp’s comments are especially egregious after a gunman opened fire on Republican representatives during a congressional baseball practice just last week. Depp may also be trying to capitalize on misguided outrage over the Public Theater’s staging of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, which includes the stabbing of a very Trump-like version of the Roman politician. Depp preceded his remarks by warning the audience, “By the way, this is going to be in the press. It will be horrible. I like that you are all a part of it,” because just saying “I’m about to be needlessly provocative to make headlines” would have been overkill.

But provoke he did, and the backlash was swift, with some comparing Depp’s comments to Kathy Griffin posing for a photo with a bloodied Trump head.

June 23 2017 8:02 AM

A More Outspoken Jay Z Seems to Have Taken Harry Belafonte’s Criticisms About Celebrity Activism to Heart

Before he was bailing out imprisoned fathers and producing socially conscious documentaries, Jay Z had a decidedly different take on activism and his role in uplifting society. In 2012, Harry Belafonte stated that the rapper and other high-profile artists had “turned their back on social responsibility, and Jay Z’s response was … not great. There was the call out on his 2013 album Magna Carta Holy Grail, where he rapped, “I’m just trying to find common ground/ Before Mr. Belafonte come and chop a nigga down/ Mr Day-O, major fail.” And then not long afterward, in an interview with XXL’s former editor-in-chief Elliott Wilson in 2013, he defiantly said, “I'm offended by that because first of all, and this is going to sound arrogant, but my presence is charity. Just who I am.”

They were bold and foolish statements to make, ones that put the rapper at odds with a burgeoning Black Lives Matter movement and the civil rights generation that preceded him. When he and Beyoncé appeared at a vigil for Trayvon Martin that same year, his presence alone wasn’t enough for some, who called him out for not taking a more outspoken position on the issues affecting the black community. A few years later, however, Jay Z is no longer staying mum, and the rapper has shown a sense of public activism that deviates strongly from his previous stances on how to use his wealth and influence to help others.

June 23 2017 7:33 AM

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the New Transformers

To borrow a phrase from Robert Warshow (via Roger Ebert): A man goes to the movies, and the critic must be honest enough to admit he is that man. Sometimes, that man must also be honest enough to admit that he loved Transformers: The Last Knight.

Perhaps “loved” is too strong a word, but nothing else accurately describes the sound of pure, incredulous joy that escaped my mouth when, after two incessantly clangorous hours of Mark Wahlberg doing battle with world-threatening robots, the piece of animate metal coiled around his swollen bicep magically transformed itself into a giant sword. I don’t say “magically” lightly, either. This is a movie about giant robots in which Merlin, played by a bearded Stanley Tucci, plays a pivotal role. Remember the classic Simpsons scene where Xena: Warrior Princess’ Lucy Lawless explains to nit-picking fans that any apparent gaps in the fantasy show’s plausibility can be explained by the fact that “A wizard did it”? In Transformers: The Last Knight, an actual wizard did it.

Transformers: The Last Knight is, by the standards of the head and not the heart, an objectively terrible movie. Its plot, concocted by four credited writers and who knows how many other uncredited ones, is both absurdly convoluted and absurdly simplistic: You could spend the equivalent of the movie’s entire 146-minute running explaining what happens, or you could sum it as “Good robots fight bad robots, and also King Arthur.” Michael Bay, who has directed all five (!) films in the series, is not just uninterested in but actively hostile to narrative logic, to the point that the Village Voice’s Bilge Ebiri gave up trying to write about the movie in coherent sentences and styled his review as a string of keyboard-smashing gibberish. Great chunks of story are disgorged and then disregarded, and other apparently crucial developments take place off screen or are leaped over entirely. The movie obliterates any sense of conventional storytelling structure; it might have one act, or it might have 14. There was a point somewhere in the middle where I was no longer sure if it was the same day as it had been when I started watching.

June 22 2017 2:16 PM

A Coal Baron Is Suing John Oliver for “Character Assassination” Over Last Week Tonight’s Talking Squirrel Segment

On Sunday, John Oliver predicted that his Last Week Tonight segment on the coal industry would probably result in a lawsuit, and voilà: His Last Week Tonight segment on the coal industry has resulted in a lawsuit. Robert Murray, the CEO of Murray Energy, is suing Oliver and others after Oliver used Murray as an example of “the divide that can exist between a coal company’s interests and those of its workers” during Sunday night’s show.

During the segment, which was critical of the coal industry and Donald Trump’s promises to revive it, Oliver explained that Last Week Tonight had contacted Murray Energy for comment—and received the show’s first ever cease-and-desist letter in reply. In response, Oliver doubled down on criticism of Murray and his company, even seizing on a satirical article in the United Mine Workers of America journal, which attributed Murray’s inspiration to a conversation he held with a squirrel—yes, a squirrel. (Murray Energy denies this.) At the very end of the segment, Oliver brought out a giant talking squirrel of his own. “Hey, Bob! Just wanted to say, if you plan on suing, I do not have a billion dollars,” said the aptly named Mr. Nutterbutter. “But I do have a check for three acorns and eighteen cents.” The check was then revealed to be made out to “Eat Shit, Bob!”

June 22 2017 1:35 PM

The First Trailer for Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later Is Here, and It Looks Insane

Netflix has announced a premiere date and released the first trailer for its upcoming series, Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later, featuring Amy Poehler, Elizabeth Banks, Paul Rudd, Michael Ian Black, and many, many other returning cast members from the original movie and 2015’s Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp. The eight-episode series takes place in 1991, ten years after Wet Hot American Summer—which, as Slate’s Forrest Wickman has previously noted, somehow makes a lot more sense as a premise than Netflix’s very funny prequel ever did. Newcomers to Camp Firewood this time around include Dax Shepard, Alyssa Milano, and Adam Scott.

June 22 2017 11:28 AM

Samantha Bee Takes the Catholic Church and New York State Senate to Task for Failing to Help Child Abuse Victims

New York has the shortest statute of limitations for child abuse victims in the country, and as of Wednesday night, that’s not going to change. Samantha Bee dedicated a segment of Full Frontal to shaming the New York state senate after they wrapped up their 2017 legislative session without voting on the Child Victims Act, which would allow adult victims of child abuse to seek justice up to the age of 28 in criminal cases, and age 50 in civil cases.

June 22 2017 11:12 AM

Ron Howard Is Officially Taking Over the New Han Solo Movie

Following the surprising news that directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller had been fired from the upcoming Han Solo movie spin-off mid-production, Disney has officially announced that Ron Howard will step in to finish the job. The Lego Movie team had seemed like an odd but exciting choice to helm a Star Wars franchise film—and based on reports this week, it turns out they were a little too odd. The Hollywood Reporter described a mismatch of sensibilities between Lord and Miller’s comedic, improvisational style and co-writer Lawrence Kasdan’s “strict adherence to the written word,” among many other problems. (Kasdan also wrote Raiders of the Lost Ark, and it appears Lucasfilm’s president Kathleen Kennedy sided with her longtime collaborator.)

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