Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Jan. 24 2017 11:21 AM

How Should We Understand Mel Gibson’s Surprise Oscar Nomination?

Mel Gibson attends the 20th Annual Hollywood Film Awards in Beverly Hills, California, on November 6, 2016.
Mel Gibson attends the 20th Annual Hollywood Film Awards in Beverly Hills, California, on November 6, 2016.


Come home, Mel Gibson. All is forgiven.

In a year in which the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences nominated an unprecedented number of nonwhite actors, Oscar voters also showered six nominations on Gibson’s Hacksaw Ridge, including nominating Gibson himself for Best Director. The actor has been a virtual non-presence in Hollywood since he was pulled over for drunk driving in 2006 and unleashed a sexist and anti-Semitic tirade at the arresting officer, who was Jewish. But he’s been easing his way back into movies with roles in films like The Expendables 3, and now his intensely gory World War II drama has gotten Gibson his first Oscar nominations since 1996, when he won Best Director for Braveheart, which was also awarded Best Picture.


Also among the academy’s nominees is Casey Affleck, who has settled sexual harassment suits from two female crew members, one of whom said that he crawled into bed with her as she was sleeping, while The Birth of a Nation, which at this time last year was being touted as a major awards contender, came up with nothing, likely due in no small part to director Nate Parker and co-writer Jean Celestin’s having been charged with sexual assault in 1999. (Celestin was convicted but his conviction was later overturned, Parker was cleared of the charges.) That’s not the only explanation for Birth’s absence from the Oscars: Once the ecstasy of the film’s Sundance reception had cooled, critics were decidedly mixed on the film, and whether one believes Parker is innocent or guilty, his handling of the issue on the campaign trail was unquestionably tone-deaf. But it’s hard not to look at the list of nominations and muse on which sins Hollywood is willing to forgive, and which not, and from whom.

Although most Oscar-watchers did not predict Gibson’s nomination, they did predict some momentum for Hacksaw Ridge, due in large part to the older male voters IndieWire’s Anne Thompson calls “steak eaters.” But even the steak eaters couldn’t muster significant support for Gibson’s Apocalypto or The Passion of the Christ. In the last decade, Gibson has been captured on a terrifying 2010 recording in which he screamed racist invective at his then-girlfriend, who also filed domestic violence charges against him, and he also has a long history of making homophobic remarks. But he’s kept a relatively low profile in recent years, and that’s apparently been enough for the statute of limitations on being convicted for hitting a woman and allegedly hoping she gets “raped by a pack of n-----s” to expire. Given that the academy hasn’t shied away from giving nominations to Roman Polanski and Woody Allen, it’s clear that, as a group, they’re determined to maintain the firewall between the art and the artist, and even what the artist does on the set and what he does off it. But it’s also clear that status is only awarded to a select few, and now Gibson is back among their number.   

Jan. 24 2017 10:29 AM

The Seven Biggest Surprises of the 2017 Oscar Nominations

For the most part, the 2017 Academy Award nominations went according to script: La La Land dominated, Moonlight and Manchester by the Sea were right behind, and #OscarsSoWhite could finally be put to rest ... for now. But as ever, there were a few major snubs (Annette Bening!) and surprises (Mel Gibson?) that had us scratching our heads. Below are seven that shocked us—for better or worse.

Jan. 24 2017 10:00 AM

Finally, the Academy Acknowledges Black Stories Don’t All Have to Be About Oppression or Slavery

After two years of all-white acting nominees and hardly any recognition for stories about people of color (save for Selma’s Best Picture nomination in 2015), the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has done a complete 180, with the most nominations for black artists and filmmakers it’s ever seen in a single year. The bigger feat, while not so surprising considering the Oscar predictions made in the months leading up to today, is that they are spread across not one or two, but several movies—including Moonlight, Fences, O.J.: Made in America, 13th, Fences, and I Am Not Your Negro. And most impressive of all is the fact that, aside from their shared racial demographics, none of these films look exactly like the other. Finally, diversity at the Oscars isn’t just a numbers game—it’s a storytelling coup.

Last year, I wrote of my disappointment that Ryan Coogler’s Creed, highly favored to land nominations in several of the main categories, including Best Picture, had failed to secure all but one nomination. (And for its white co-star, Sylvester Stallone, natch.) It wasn’t just that Creed was an exceptional film that took a dead franchise and invigorated it with a new, fresh perspective, but that it could’ve broken with academy tradition to only nominate films about black people that had to do with The Struggle. Unlike 12 Years a Slave, Precious, and other heavy Best Picture nominees, here was a movie in which the son of Apollo Creed, played by Michael B. Jordan, had to overcome personal trials and tribulations, but didn’t have to carry the burden of an entire race on his back.


Jan. 24 2017 8:57 AM

Here Is Your Complete List of 2017 Oscar Nominations, Including a Record-Tying 14 for La La Land

The nominations for the 89th Academy Awards were announced Tuesday morning, with La La Land leading the pack at 14, tying it with Titantic, Ben-Hur, and All About Eve for most-ever nominations.

The complete list of nominees is below. You can check out more of Slate’s Oscar coverage here.

Jan. 24 2017 5:55 AM

Here’s Your 2017 Oscar Season Pronunciation Guide

Ever since John Travolta introduced the world to Adele Dazeem in 2014, each Oscar season has seen another mispronunciation go viral. In 2015, the Academy nominated the cinematography of “Dick Poop.” In 2016, Dennis Quaid announced that the Golden Globes were recognizing the performance of “Sheesha” Ronan. And twice at this year’s Golden Globes, reporters and presenters paid tribute to “Hidden Fences.”

To help you avoid your own “Adele Dazeem,” we’ve prepared this handy pronunciation guide, complete with video tutorials from many of the expected nominees themselves.

Jan. 23 2017 11:43 PM

Watch Shia LaBeouf Shut Down a White Supremacist (Without Punching Him)

He Will Not Divide Us,” the four-year-long anti-Trump participatory art installation from Shia LaBeouf, Nastja Säde Rönkkö, and Luke Turner, was the site of a showdown between actor LaBeouf and an unidentified white supremacist on Sunday, Raw Story reports. The project, at the Museum of the Moving Image in New York, invites visitors to say the words “He will not divide us” into a camera for a 24-hour livestream which can be seen on the web.

The problem was that not everyone wanted to say “He will not divide us.” To be more specific, a Nazi showed up who wanted to say “1488,” instead. (Calling people Nazis can sometimes be hyperbolic, but this guy was literally wearing a SS M43 field cap, though he at least was ashamed of himself enough to remove the Totenkopf.) “1488,” of course, is a white supremacist code number that combines white supremacy’s fourteen word creed with a reference to “Heil Hitler,” “H” being the eighth letter of the alphabet. It was created by white supremacist murderer David Lane, the same charmer who invented the “white genocide” myth. (Saying “Heil Hitler,” even in code, is another cutoff point where it probablyought to be ok to call someone a Nazi.)

LaBeouf, who was there at the time, sensed that a man wearing the uniform of a losing army of racists might not be in the spirit of the thing, and, as can be seen in a video posted to the project’s Twitter feed, successfully shut the guy down:

Jan. 23 2017 6:21 PM

Stephen Colbert Will Host the 2017 Emmys, His First Major Awards Show

CBS has tapped Stephen Colbert to host the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards. The Sept. 18 ceremony will be the first time the Late Show host has hosted a major awards show, thoughhe has nine Emmys of his own for his work on the Daily Show and the Colbert Report.

Between his comedy chops and his suprising musicality, Colbert seems like a solid choice. And though September is a ways away, it’s safe to say Colbert of all people won’t be afraid to get political. In a statement, he said: “This will be the largest audience to witness an Emmys, period. Both in person and around the globe,” a jab at Donald Trump’s press secretary claiming the same for his boss’ inauguration.


If only Colbert could bring his similarly named alter ego to the stage as well.

Jan. 23 2017 1:45 PM

Listen to Early Drafts of Eight Hamilton Songs, With Lin-Manuel Miranda Playing Every Character

As an artist, Lin-Manuel Miranda is unusually transparent about his creative process, and he’s shared unpolished demos of his songs with fans before. He’s been doing it since before the Hamilton phenomenon made him a household name, back in his In the Heights days, and it’s a tradition he’s kept up with, with two early drafts from Hamilton on the Hamilton Mixtape: “Cabinet Battle #3,” which was cut from the final musical completely, and “Valley Forge,” which is so different from “Stay Alive,” the track it would eventually become, that the two are essentially different songs.

But he’s never released as many at once as he did on Friday, when he dropped a batch of eight “Hamildemos,” rough cuts of songs from the musical, performed by Miranda, on Twitter. Two of these, “My Shot,” and “Satisfied,” are demos he had previously released, but there’s still plenty to appreciate for ravenous Hamilton fans among the other six tracks.


Among the new demos is Miranda singing “Congratulations,” a song that didn’t ultimately make the final show—though Angelica Schuyler actress Renée Elise Goldsberry debuted it at a #Ham4Ham performance back in August, and it found its way onto The Hamilton Mixtape with a cover by Dessa. But for the most part, this new batch of demos features Miranda singing more familiar tunes. He battles himself as both Burr and Hamilton on “Your Obedient Servant,” which includes extra lyrics about their feud, with Burr citing “a letter from Dr. Charles Cooper who was kind enough to give me his approval to reprint a letter that he sent in confidence” as the source of his grievance. Miranda acts as both the seductress and the seduced on “Say No to This” and barks orders and takes them on “Right Hand Man.”

Listening to the tracks, it’s as though writing, composing, and starring in Hamilton wasn’t enough for Miranda—on the demos, he finally is the entire musical. At the very least, the demos should tide fans over until The Hamilton Mixtape, Vol. 2.

Jan. 23 2017 12:09 PM

New Star Wars: Episode VIII Title Raises the Galaxy’s Largest “Singular or Plural?” Question

Disney announced the official title of Star Wars: Episode VIII this morning, and it seems unlikely to provoke as many snickers as The Force Awakens:

Instead, the title seems likely to mark the return of one of the Star Wars universe’s oldest debates: What is the plural of Jedi? Many dictionaries accept both Jedi and Jedis for the plural, and there are plenty of instances of characters in the films using Jedi as a plural noun. (See, e.g., Yoda, who—though his approach to grammar is undoubtedly unconventional—calls arrogance “a flaw more and more common among Jedi.”)


The question, then, is are we talking about one last Jedi, or more? If it’s just one, The Last Jedi could refer to Luke, for example, or it could refer to Rey, implying that Luke is going to die. If The Last Jedi is plural, on the other hand, it could refer to Luke and Rey, or it could refer to a whole bunch of “last Jedi”: Leia? Finn? A redeemed Kylo Ren? BB-8?!

There is some precedent for this kind of ambiguity. In the titles of Return of the Jedi and Revenge of the Sith, Jedi and Sith could be taken as either singular or plural, leading to different interpretations. (And I should also note that while there is a Star Wars novel called The Last Jedi, it seems unlikely to have any relation to the upcoming movie, given that the book is not about Rey or Luke or Leia or any of the other Skywalkers.)

In sum, while no one should base their expectations for a movie on its title (even The Phantom Menace, it should be said, isn’t bad), this one both raises intriguing questions and sets itself up for what could be a satisfying payoff. As William Shakespeare once said, “Good title.”

Jan. 23 2017 8:00 AM

I Went to Woody Harrelson’s Curious Live-Streamed Movie, Lost in London

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

On Thursday night, when I made my way to a Times Square theater to see Woody Harrelson’s live-streamed movie Lost in London, I felt myself hoping that something would go wrong. Maybe Woody would flub a few lines somewhere in the nearly two-hour set piece, which was being filmed live in a single take. Maybe a camera operator would trip, compromising the single camera that was transmitting Harrelson’s misadventures to theaters across America. Maybe one of the cars, used in the film’s smattering of chase scenes, would make a wrong turn and the project would grind to a halt, actually lost in London. Shouldn’t you want every live event to fail in at least one small, but obvious, way? It certainly makes for a better story.