Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Feb. 26 2017 11:10 AM

Aliens, Big Love Actor Bill Paxton Is Dead at 61

Industry trade papers are reporting the death of veteran actor Bill Paxton at age 61, due to complications from surgery.

Paxton, whose most recent project was the CBS drama Training Day, first made his mark in the mid-1980s, with small but indelible roles in movies like Aliens and Weird Science. His roles in movies like Twister, Apollo 13, and Titanic could have made him a leading man, but he took a turn towards more subdued projects like A Simple Plan, opting for quality over quantity and character over stardom.


Paxton excelled at playing ordinary Joes with unexpected, sometimes surprising depths, a skill that reached its apex with the HBO series Big Love, in which he played a genial, easygoing Mormon who happened to be the head of a polygamist household. It’s hard to think of another actor who could have made that arrangement feel both decent and unnerving at the same time, or so deftly embodied the TV patriarch while simultaeously turning the archetype inside-out.

Paxton was so good at playing ordinary, in fact, that it was easy to think that he was ordinary himself. But if his square jaw and Texas twang made him a snug fit for playing grunts and rednecks, he had a far more diverse history than his onscreen roles suggested: He played in a New Wave band called Martini Ranch, was tight with Sire Records’ legendary Seymour Stein, and directed the video for the cult classic novelty song, “Fish Heads.” He also directed two feature films: 2001’s Frailty and 2005’s The Greatest Game Ever Played.

Paxton will also be seen in the movie The Circle, which is scheduled to be released on April 28. A representative for Paxton’s family released this statement:

It is with heavy hearts we share the news that Bill Paxton has passed away due to complications from surgery.  A loving husband and father, Bill began his career in Hollywood working on films in the art department and went on to have an illustrious career spanning four decades as a beloved and prolific actor and filmmaker.  Bill’s passion for the arts was felt by all who knew him, and his warmth and tireless energy were undeniable.  We ask to please respect the family’s wish for privacy as they mourn the loss of their adored husband and father.

Feb. 26 2017 12:05 AM

Sound Mixer’s Oscar Nomination Revoked For Breaking Academy Campaign Rules

When will Hollywood stop spitting on the forgotten warriors of Michael Bay’s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi? Variety reports that the latest casualty to left coast political correctness is sound mixer Greg P. Russell, who, along with his brothers-in-arms Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush, and Mac Ruth, is nominated for an Academy Award for his courageous sound mixing on the film. Or at least he was nominated, before those lefty loons at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences decided that Russell’s self-starting campaign for the award violated their precious regulations. According to a press release the Academy sent their lapdogs in the liberal media:

The decision was prompted by the discovery that Russell had called his fellow members of the Sound Branch during the nominations phase to make them aware of his work on the film, in direct violation of a campaign regulation that prohibits telephone lobbying.

Campaign regulations? When the fate of 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is at stake? It’s easy for Hollyweirdos to blather about the rules from their safe, expensive neighborhoods back home. But the real heroes are people like Greg P. Russell, manning the wall, mixing the sounds of freedom even while they’re hamstrung by the Academy’s regulatory state and its cowardly officials. The film’s other sound mixers remain eligible for the award, but no one is being named to take Russell’s slot. This is going to require a lot of congressional hearings.

Feb. 25 2017 11:18 PM

Nick Kroll and John Mulaney Roast Trump and Steve Bannon at the Spirit Awards

The 2017 Film Independent Spirit Awards were held in Santa Monica, California on Saturday afternoon, and, as expected, the show offered a preview of the Academy Awards tomorrow. Not of the awards themselves—Moonlight won six Independent Spirit awards, including Best Feature, Best Director, and Best Screenplay, making a La La Land sweep on Sunday all but inevitable—but for the rare glimpse the ceremony afforded of Hollywood’s political side.

It turns out many of the attendees have already formed opinions on the tenure of newly-elected president Donald Trump and his chief advisor Steve Bannon: uncharitable opinions. Co-hosts Nick Kroll and John Mulaney gave voice to the crowd’s sentiments in their opening monologue, in which Mulaney said of Bannon, “I disagree with him.” “Steve Bannon’s so hot, he looks like if Nick Offerman drowned,” added Kroll.

Feb. 25 2017 9:36 PM

Listen to Remy Ma Dismantle Nicki Minaj on “Shether,” Her New Diss Track

A new Muſickal Entertainment of great Wit and Viciouneſs was unveil’d to the publick Saturday by REMY MA, late of the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, in which the acclaimed ſongſtreſs makes great ſport of the flaws and foibles of NICKI MINAJ. The fractious ſongbirds have quarrel’d since 2007, when Minaj’s freeſtyle record “Dirty Money” was widely perceiv’d to impugn Remy Ma’s COMPETENCE and MORAL FIBRE. Now, the chanteuſe ſtrikes back with “ShETHER,” releaſed via SoundCloud, a work of notable Lyrickal Invention, deſpite ignoring all the cuſtomary courteſies commonly afforded to fellow followers of Euterpe. Tongues acroſs the young continent are WAGGING over this ſcandalous ſtanza, most cruelly alleging Miss Minaj’s celebrated callipygian carriage is COUNTERFEIT:

Feb. 24 2017 4:06 PM

Great British Bake Off Winner Nadiya Hussain Is Getting Her Own BBC Show, and Our Stomachs Are Already Rumbling

Here’s some wonderful news to cap off a difficult week: Nadiya Hussain, winner of the 2015 season of reality baking competition The Great British Bake Off, is getting her very own show. The BBC announced on Thursday that Hussain will star in an eight-part BBC Two series, Nadiya's British Food Adventure, that follows her on a road trip around Britain to learn about different regional culinary specialties.

A largely self-taught baker known for her animated facial expressions and good humor, Hussain was a favorite on her season of Bake Off, finally winning for her iced buns, raspberry millefeuille, and a gorgeous wedding cake. Her victory was an especially sweet one after racist and Islamophobic backlash to her appearance on the show. (Hussain is Muslim and the daughter of Bangladeshi immigrants.) “I’m never gonna put boundaries on myself ever again,” she said at the time in a moving acceptance speech.


Ever the chef, Hussain sounds as though she’ll do more than just sample the foods and techniques she encounters on her new show: “I can't wait to meet these local food heroes, to find inspiration in the most unusual food stories and unlikely ingredients and then come up with some brand new recipes in the kitchen, adding my own special twist,” she told BBC.

She previously starred in a two-part documentary exploring Bangladeshi cuisine, called—no kidding—The Chronicles of Nadiya.

Feb. 24 2017 1:06 PM

Calvin Harris’ Soothing New Song “Slide,” Featuring Frank Ocean and Migos, Is Now Available

Calvin Harris has been teasing his collaboration with Frank Ocean all week, and it’s finally arrived in the form of “Slide,” a seductive new song also featuring Migos. Harris had confirmed the collaboration on Tuesday by providing a list of credits—complete with the description “Frank Ocean appears courtesy of Frank Ocean,” confirming his unsigned status—as well as the single’s cover art, which depicts a still, sunny California day.

For Ocean, this is his first output since last year’s Endless and Blonde albums, and he contributes the sultry hook “Do you slide on all your nights like this?/ Do you try on all your nights like this?” (He’s also a co-writer alongside Harris and Migos’ members Quavo and Offset.) The song itself is a light, calming ride, the perfectly soothing (not to mention star-studded) listen as we head into the weekend.

Feb. 24 2017 12:29 PM

Girls’ Episode With Matthew Rhys Proves This Show Is Still Brilliant at Stoking Controversy

The third episode of the final season of Girls, “American Bitch,” is an installment with a strut. Just see if you can let it saunter by without tossing an opinion at it. A self-contained pas de deux between Hannah Horvath and a famous writer and alleged sexual predator named Chuck Palmer (Matthew Rhys), the episode is a provocation, Girls wading into Bill Cosby– and Woody Allen–infested waters. (Chuck has a painting of Allen, holding a water gun to his haloed head, on the wall of his palatial Central Park West apartment.) The episode is manna to the think piece gods, and it is designed as such. A hot take, Hannah’s own, precipitates the plot, which, as in the controversial “One Man’s Trash,” exclusively concerns what happens between Hannah and a hunk. There are surely those who feel downright eye-rolly about any controversy involving Dunham or her show at this point, but “American Bitch” stokes opinions with undeniable artistry: Girls has still got it.

Feb. 24 2017 11:22 AM

TV’s Crime Dramas Are Playing Into Donald Trump’s Agenda, but Audiences Aren’t Buying It

The premiere of 24: Legacy, Fox’s heavily hyped successor to the Emmy-winning 24, began by rubbing salt in the country’s wound. The series opened on a brown-skinned group of terrorists invading a home on American soil, with blood spattered on the walls and the (white) family living inside shot to death. Airing in the plum post–Super Bowl timeslot, the sequence was jarring, an unnervingly inflammatory depiction of a religious group that had just been put under siege by the Trump Administration. It was catering to the stripe of fear that had just manifested into devastating, unconstitutional policy. As with many television shows premiering around this time, the 24: Legacy pilot was likely produced on the assumption of a predictable Clinton victory, expected to coast as exciting escapism from a boring political continuance. But as more than half of Americans have learned, you can’t always choose your president.

Hence the backtracking. Sensing mounting controversy and unease, the producers of 24: Legacy insisted it was all part of a plan—that they were intentionally being “jingoistic” by way of welcoming their audiences into a more nuanced, tolerant exploration of terror and culture. “I like to say the series begins as if it was written by Trump,” co-creator Manny Coto explained. “But it ends as if it were written by Hillary [Clinton]. It’s not going where you think it’s going.” Yet the second episode of 24: Legacy only pushed the envelope further, advancing the troubling—and baselessly fear-mongering—story of a teenage Muslim woman being recruited and sent to mix with young Americans at a local high school. In Episode 4, which aired Feb. 21, she reluctantly killed the dopey white guy crushing on her, as instructed—a symbol of her cell’s corrupting influence.

For Americans looking for relief from the daily deluge of alarming headlines, TV is an obvious destination. But politics is everywhere these days, and in the beginning months of 2017, we’re seeing broadcast networks churn out crime dramas that intend to mindlessly entertain, yet can’t seem to help but stoke fears and confirm biases that are partly responsible for where we are now, and that continue to imperil communities.

Feb. 24 2017 9:43 AM

Stephen Colbert Says We Should Have Seen Trump’s Anti-Trans Order Coming

Stephen Colbert opened Thursday’s Late Show by explaining that we probably should have expected President Trump’s rollback of transgender rights—and not just because he’s proven to be a serial liar. “If there’s one thing Trump is famous for,” Colbert began, “it’s telling people where to pee.”

Feb. 24 2017 8:33 AM

In Get Out, Allison Williams Makes the “Good White Person” Terrifying

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Warning: This post contains major spoilers for Get Out.

Get Out is the directorial debut of comedian Jordan Peele, and it’s also the first film role for Girls’ Allison Williams. The 28-year-old actress plays Rose, the girlfriend of our hero Chris (Daniel Kaluuya), who’s about to go on a weekend trip to meet her parents. A child of privilege, Rose has never brought a black man home before, but she assures Chris that there’s nothing to worry about: Her parents are the good kind of white people, nice suburban liberals who would have voted for Obama a third time if they could.

As soon as he arrives at the bucolic family home, Chris senses that something is amiss, and his suspicions only grow as the weekend unfolds. Because this is a horror movie, we know that Rose’s family is up to no good, but as the tension builds, viewers are left parsing whether or not Rose herself is in on their scheme.