Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

March 28 2017 12:09 PM

A Sheet-Covered Casey Affleck Stars in the Trailer for A Ghost Story

David Lowery’s A Ghost Story is both literally and figuratively haunting, a work of minimalist cinematic lyricism that probes the lingering effects of loss with delicate audacity. Although it could easily have been an experimental toss-off wedged between bigger projects, a way for the director of Pete’s Dragon to keep faith with his indie roots before heading off to shoot the heist thriller The Old Man and the Gun and a planned remake of Peter Pan, it turned out to be Lowery’s best movie to date, an audacious experiment that succeeds with nearly every risk it takes. Also, Casey Affleck spends approximately nine-tenths of the movie in a white sheet with cut-out eyeholes. (And yes, according to Lowery, that really is Affleck under there, at least most of the time.)

Hopefully, that, and the incandescent reviews A Ghost Story received out of Sundance, is enough to make you want to see it when it opens July 7. But if you need a little more encouragement, distributor A24 has released the first trailer for the film, and it’s a corker. Given that A Ghost Story is not a traditional narrative and that much of the thrill of watching it for the first time is the unexpected ways it moves through space and time, gives away a good number (though by no means all) of the film’s surprises.

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If you’re already sold on the film, it’s best to simply bottle up that anticipation and save it for July, when a movie as odd and uncommercial as A Ghost Story will need your box-office support. But if not, feast your eyes on a sheet-covered Affleck pining over an oblivious Rooney Mara, or a gregarious Will Oldham spieling on the nature of art and the cosmos. Have we mentioned that Kesha plays a character called “Spirit girl”?

There’s no big twist for the A Ghost Story trailer to ruin, so it doesn’t, but genuine surprises are rare enough, and worth preserving until you can see them in the proper context. Here’s the trailer. Watch it, and then forget everything but your desire to see the movie.

March 28 2017 12:00 PM

Stephen Colbert Has Some Advice for Jared Kusher, Head of “the Bureau of Obvious Nepotism”

Donald Trump has tapped his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to lead the White House’s “Office of American Innovation”—or as Stephen Colbert called it Monday night, “the Bureau of Obvious Nepotism.” Kushner’s role as the head of what is being described as “a SWAT team of strategic consultants” is just one of the many hats he wears in the Trump administration, also advising on domestic and foreign policy, personnel decisions, and adviser on relations with countries that include Mexico and the Middle East.

With all that already on his plate, you would think Trump could find another family member to give the new “innovative” position to. (Tiffany, maybe?) But Kushner was evidently tapped to uphold Trump’s promise to run the country like a business, and that makes him the right man for the job—at least in Trump’s eyes. After all, notes Colbert, we all know Kushner has great business ideas, like “being born into a wealthy real estate family, or marrying into a wealthy real estate family. Why hasn’t the government tried that?”

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Never mind that Trump has had plenty of businesses fail, which doesn’t bode well for our new U.S.A. Corporation. But there’s a larger problem with the country-as-business mindset, chiefly that Kushner views the American people as customers: “Our hope is that we can achieve successes and efficiencies for our customers, who are the citizens.”

But that's not an accurate analogy at all, and it raises questions about who exactly Kushner considers himself accountable to. “We’re not customers,” pointed out Colbert. “We’re citizens, which means we own the store. You work for us, buddy. While we’re on the subject, break time is over. We got a clean-up in Aisle 5, because somebody took a dump in health care.”

March 28 2017 11:23 AM

The Daily Show Team Knows Who Really Defeated Obamacare Repeal

On Monday night, The Daily Show’s “Best F#@king News Team” got in on the blame game over the spectacular failure of the American Health Care Act. Just as there is in Washington, there was a whole lot of finger-pointing without any real consensus.

The correspondents’ initial targets ranged from Steve Bannon to Barack Obama—“If he hadn’t given 20 million people healthcare, there wouldn’t be anybody to take it away from”—before Roy Wood Jr. found a new, surprising scapegoat: the Geico “lizard,” whose simple descriptions of purchasing insurance allegedly fooled President Trump. The debate then devolved into a convoluted, lengthy disagreement over whether the Geico mascot is a lizard or a gecko, British or Australian—par for the course, essentially, of the state of American policy discourse. At least nobody was ridiculous enough to try to blame the Democrats.

March 28 2017 8:03 AM

Why Female-Led Projects Like Feud and Jackie Are Unfairly Labeled Camp

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

With his latest FX anthology series, Feud, showrunner and television powerhouse Ryan Murphy sets an ambitious goal: to wrest Hollywood icons Bette Davis and Joan Crawford from the camp spectacles their legends have morphed into. It may be an impossible aim, particularly for Crawford. During her lifetime, she was a legend with a knack for changing her looks to fit the times; the image people hold of her now, however, is not really her at all, but rather Faye Dunaway’s snarling, madcap performance as her in Mommie Dearest, the over-the-top film adaptation of Crawford’s adopted daughter’s memoir, which went on to become a camp classic. It’s a hit piece so thorough, it has come to define the totality of Crawford’s image for contemporary audiences.

While some of both Davis and Crawford’s work could arguably be described as camp (for the former, King Vidor’s Beyond the Forest; for the latter,later-era films such as Strait-Jacket and aspects of the wondrous Nicholas Ray film Johnny Guitar), that their entire careers and places within film history are defined as such does a disservice to their artistry. But they aren’t alone in representing what has become a troubling trend when it comes to women’s work. As camp entered the mainstream lexicon, especially after Susan Sontag’s landmark 1964 essay, “Notes on ‘Camp,’” the term has been increasingly tied to work featuring women who disregard societal norms. Camp is often improperly and broadly applied to pop culture that features highly emotional, bold, complex, cold, and so-called “unlikable” female characters. I’ve seen films and TV shows such as the witty masterwork All About Eve; the beguiling Mulholland Drive; the stylized yet heartwarming Jane the Virgin; Todd Haynes’ Patricia Highsmith adaptation Carol; the blistering biopic Jackie; the deliciously malevolent horror film Black Swan; Joss Whedon’s exploration of girlhood and horror, Buffy the Vampire Slayer; the landmark documentary Grey Gardens (which inspired the 2009 HBO film starring Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore); and even icons such as Beyoncé and Rihanna be described as camp. Look at any list of the best camp films and you’ll see an overwhelming number of works that feature women and don’t actually fit the label. Usually, What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, the film whose behind-the-scenes story provides Murphy’s launching pad for Feud, will be at the top of the list.

March 27 2017 11:49 PM

Dance on Trumpcare’s Grave with Seth Meyers

Watching the Republicans play chicken with everyone’s health last week was extraordinarily stressful—so much so that, now that Paul Ryan’s dreams of catfood-eating-seniors have imploded, we could all probably use a little break. So this victory lap from Seth Meyers is much appreciated, not least because it emphasizes the grassroots activism that killed Trumpcare: ordinary citizens standing up at town halls and suggesting their representatives commit biologically improbable sexual acts, just like the founders intended.

It’s fish-in-a-barrel to cut together footage of Trump denying he made promises about overhauling health care with footage of Trump making exactly those promises, and, given how little anyone in the Republican party cares about being called hypocritical, it’s usually a waste of time. But Meyers gets a pass this time, because it’s so satisfying to watch right after the Republicans lost a massive battle on the basis of policy. It’s good to be reminded that enough constituent outrage can still derail at least a few of Trump’s most transparently phony cons. Let’s hope a few more of his plans go astray between now and the time global warming kills us all.

March 27 2017 11:00 PM

Adam Sandler’s Character From His Next Movie Is Giving Away a Role in an Adam Sandler Movie

America’s got a lot of extraordinarily weird talent that, especially since The Gong Show went off the air, desperately needs an outlet. That’s just what Netflix, fresh off another four-picture deal with Adam Sandler, intends to provide. As the video above explains, Sandler will be running a talent contest in-character as Sandy Wexler, the hapless talent manager he’s playing in his upcoming film. Whoever submits the best talent video gets to join Wexler’s fictional stable of, in his words, “superstars, mega-stars, and up-and-coming future stars in every branch of the show business tree.” There’s also a prize outside of the Sandy Wexlerverse—a walk-on role in the next Adam Sandler movie.

To enter, go to WexlerManagement.com and upload a one-minute video discussing why Adam Sandler’s fictional manager should fictionally manage your very real talent, whatever it may be, before April 7. On April 9, 20 finalists will be announced; then the public will vote to decide which talented American they’d like to briefly see in the next Adam Sandler movie. So far, judging from the entries already on the site, the field seems to be pretty much open, although the guy whose talent is watching Sandler’s Just Go With It over and over—a film that Slate’s Dana Stevens called “so noxious it seems the product of deliberate malignity”—is probably the current frontrunner. (He claims to have seen it 67 times in 2017 alone, so even if he wins, he’s already lost.) No signs so far of a breakout star like Megan Amram, whose legendary 2011 Glee tryout (embedded below) remains the gold standard in internet audition videos, but these are early days. Good luck!

March 27 2017 4:18 PM

David Milch Comes on Board for a Potential True Detective Season 3

Like it or not, a third season of True Detective may be on the way.

According to Entertainment Weekly, creator Nic Pizzolatto has completed “at least two” scripts for a potential third season of the HBO anthology, more than a year and a half since the end of its poorly received second season.

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Given the lackluster reception to True Detective Season 2, which failed to lived up to the expectations set by its watershed first season and was never even as entertaining as the hashtag game it spawned, even fans of the show, to say nothing of Pizzolatto himself, seemed happy to let it die. But the news that David Milch, the creator of NYPD Blue and Deadwood, is also climbing aboard the True Detective train makes it difficult to suppress at least a faint glimmer of enthusiasm.

Of course, Milch is also supposed to be working on the Deadwood movie that will finally bring closure to his revered but short-lived HBO series, which has been off the air for more than a decade, during which time none of Milch’s projects have run longer than a single season. But as the Hollywood Reporter laid out last year, Milch has gambled away most of what was once a $100 million fortune, so you can’t blame him for taking on some extra work, but those bloody floors in the Gem aren’t going to scrub themselves.

March 27 2017 2:35 PM

Barry Jenkins Goes From Best Picture to Binge-Watch, Adapting Colson Whitehead’s Underground Railroad for Amazon

It’s become fairly common for directors to follow up their first breakout success with a turn on the not-so-small screen: Ava DuVernay went from Selma’s Best Picture nomination to OWN’s Queen Sugar, and Robert Eggers celebated The Witch’s box-office fortunes by signing to do a miniseries about Rasputin. But Moonlight’s Barry Jenkins could be the first to go directly from winning an Oscar to TV land, as the series he was developing based on Colson Whitehead’s novel The Underground Railroad has landed at Amazon Studios. Jenkins has also directed episodes of the forthcoming Netflix series Dear White People, developed by Justin Simien from his film of the same name.

“Going back to The Intuitionist, Colson’s writing has always defied convention, and The Underground Railroad is no different,” Jenkins told Variety. “It’s a groundbreaking work that pays respect to our nation’s history while using the form to explore it in a thoughtful and original way.”

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The project, developed with Brad Pitt’s Plan B, who also produced Moonlight, is conceived as a “limited series,” according to TVLine, meaning that it will have a finite end in mind, although the number of episodes has not yet been determined.

Jenkins’ Underground Railroad is still in development, so there’s not much more to report, but Whitehead has already started fan-casting it. Walton Goggins, call your agent.

March 27 2017 1:56 PM

Drake’s More Life Debuts at No. 1 and Breaks His Own Streaming Record

Drake is breaking more records with the release of More Life. In the week following its March 18 release, the album’s songs are estimated to have been streamed 384.8 million times according to Billboard, breaking the record set by Drake’s previous album, Views. Launching with 505,000 album unit sales in total and debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, More Life is easily the biggest new album of 2017 so far and could stand to maintain that title barring any surprise major releases.

More Life didn’t perform as well in traditional album sales, however, with less than half of the units sold accounted for under that metric—a clear reflection of recent industry trends. (This refers to digital downloads only; physical retailers are not yet carrying the album.) More Life is currently second to Ed Sheeran’s Divide in digital sales for 2017, which bowed with more than 300,000 copies sold and is far behind Drake’s own Views, which exceeded 800,000 in its debut. In fact, overall, Views launched with a little more than a million units sold—combining digital sales and streaming—which is nearly double the total of More Life’s reported haul.

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Nonetheless, More Life is another huge success for Drake, who has made a habit of shattering music records lately. To close out 2016, he tied Lil Wayne’s Hot 100 record and has shown no signs of slowing down in the months since.

March 27 2017 1:34 PM

Liam Neeson, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Anna Kendrick, and More Audition to Be the New Voice of Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking has used the same iconic computerized voice for more than 30 years, but it’s time for a change. In a video from U.K. charity Comic Relief, Hawking, whose speech is limited due to ALS, held auditions to see who would provide his new voice, a part so coveted that the auditions drew everyone from Stephen Fry to Anna Kendrick to Miss Piggy.

Some celebrities chose to make use of their special talents in their auditions, with Lin-Manuel Miranda rapping and Andrew Lloyd Weber singing a Hawking-themed version of “Memory” from Cats. Others decided to make their case by appealing to the theoretical physicist’s scientific side, with mixed results. “Listen to my voice,” said Liam Neeson, moments before launching into his famous Taken monologue. “It’s deep, it’s sexy, it’s got a tinge of … physics.”

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Star Wars star John Boyega had an even more compelling argument. “I feel like I’m the best man for the job. The reason being, I’ve been to space before,” he said. “You talk about space. I’ve lived it.”

But despite the number of eager candidates, Hawking was very selective about who gets to speak for him—even Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne, stars of the actual movie about Hawking’s life, didn’t get the part. And while the acclaimed scientist did manage find a worthy, famous voice in the end (you’ll know it when you hear it), he missed a major opportunity to recruit the most obvious choice: Morgan Freeman. C’mon, Stephen.

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