Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

May 22 2015 7:05 PM

All the Disney References Hidden Around Tomorrowland    

Brad Bird’s new Disney movie Tomorrowland shares its name and logo with one of the many themed “lands” at the company’s theme parks, but it borrows from much more than just that one section. Those who’ve been to Disney World dozens of times, as I have, will also notice elements of Space Mountain, Cinderella’s castle, Epcot’s Spaceship Earth, and more. Below, we break down what we noticed.

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May 22 2015 4:51 PM

Spoiler Special: Tomorrowland

On the Spoiler Special podcast, Slate critics discuss movies, the occasional TV show, and, once in a blue moon, another podcast, in full, spoiler-filled detail. In this episode, Slate’s movie critic, Dana Stevens, and Slate senior editor Forrest Wickman discuss Tomorrowland, writer-director Brad Bird’s new Disney sci-fi adventure film about the future starring George Clooney. Is this Bird’s first artistic failure or one of his best movies yet? Is the movie’s message about the future naive or just refreshingly optimistic? And can we really sort out its mind-bending plot?

Listen to them discuss these and other questions below. You can also check out past Spoiler Specials in our archive, and you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. Note: As the title indicates, each installment contains spoilers galore.


May 22 2015 4:04 PM

Finally, Someone Remade Mad Max: Fury Road With Mario Kart Special Effects

There’s only one thing scarier than cruising through the desert while being chased by a biker gang—and that is being chased through the desert and then encountering a row of multicolored boxes with question marks. This video mash-up of Max Max and Mario Kart special effects, called Mario Kart: Fury Road, looks even better than the actual movie. Fury Road, meet Rainbow Road. 

May 22 2015 1:11 PM

The Best Movies to Watch on Netflix This Weekend Before They Expire in June

Every month, Netflix adds dozens of new titles to its growing collection of streaming movies and TV series. At the same time, it rotates out some of its older titles. Below we’ve chosen the best movies to watch before they’re removed from Netflix streaming in June. (All movies expire June 1 except where otherwise noted.)

May 22 2015 11:49 AM

Bill Murray Is Getting His Own Christmas Special on Netflix

Here’s one reason to get excited already for the holiday season: Netflix just announced that Bill Murray and Sofia Coppola are teaming up for a Christmas special. The teaser for A Very Murray Christmas shows a glum Murray waiting around in an empty hotel room, worried that the frightful weather outside will prevent his friends from making guest appearances on his TV show. The special will be star-studded: Amy Poehler, Paul Shaffer, Michael Cera, George Clooney, Chris Rock, Maya Rudolph, Jason Schwartzman, and Miley Cyrus all make appearances. Until then, the sight of Bill Murray wearing reindeer antlers will have to tide us over.

May 22 2015 11:12 AM

All Men Must Sing in Coldplay’s Full Game of Thrones Musical    

Coldplay finally unveiled the full-length version of that (fake, sadly) Westerosi rock opera they’ve been teasing all week for the Red Nose Day charity campaign, and it does not disappoint.

Jon Snow’s rocker about Wildlings is sung to the tune of exactly the right Troggs song. There’s an unsettlingly jaunty ditty about the Red Wedding. Daenerys Targaryen takes a stab at reggae. Jaime Lannister actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s incest-inspired ballad puts Michael Bolton to shame. But Peter Dinklage’s musical tribute to Tyrion, “A Man for All Seasons (Still Goin’ Strong),” is definitely the one you’ll want on your iPod.

May 22 2015 9:17 AM

It’s Time to Stop Praising Authors for Being “Good at the Internet”

Last week the Guardian published a piece lauding 10 authors who “excel on the Internet,” “finding imaginative ways to negotiate the new era of electronic intimacy with readers.” According to the Guardian, these Web laureates—Margaret Atwood, Gary Shteyngart, Teju Cole, Ursula K. Le Guin, David Mitchell, Neil Gaiman, Paulo Coelho, Haruki Murakami, Veronica Roth, and Salman Rushdie—perform impressive Internet feats such as posting on Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, sometimes in ways that relate to their livelihood as writers, often in ways that don’t. And these names surely do deserve our admiration. But the lists can prove nettlesome when they praise authors who, quite frankly, are not very good at the Web at all.

The Guardian isn’t the first publication to compile such a list. Mashable has anointed the “best authors on Twitter”; Flavorwire wrote about the writers that “run the literary internet.” But what does it mean for an author to be good at the Internet, anyway? Lists like these tend to devolve into patronizing congratulations to anyone who has a Twitter account or knows what a GIF is. They’re unenlightening: In general, an author is effective online in the same way that anyone is effective online—by posting clever or provocative updates, viral arguments, and/or appealing photos. Yawn. So the Guardian celebrates Rushdie for his “quick wit and satisfying unrestraint” on Twitter; Le Guin for her perceptive blog posts; Coelho for his crackling Facebook feed; Cole for his mesmeric vacation Flickr stream.


It can all feel like a big, dumb exercise in “Authors! They’re just like us!”. In addition to operating a keyboard without significant loss of life and limb, some literary lights get celebrated for using the Internet to foster connections with readers. For example, Gaiman makes fans feel involved in his creative process by soliciting short story ideas via Twitter. Coelho crowdsources his research on Facebook. Murakami pens a sporadic online advice column. Shteyngart uploads charming images of his dachshund pups to Instagram and promotes new work in self-deprecating promotional videos featuring “James Franco in a pink dressing gown.” Margaret Atwood is said to have “disrupted literature” by designing superhero avatars for potential fans.

But interacting with the people you want to buy your books isn’t in itself an act of inspired imagination, especially when it involves dispatches as random (yet predictably treacly) as dachshund snaps. I’d argue that what really makes an author good at the internet is the same thing that wins any paperbound plotter legions of adoring fans: the element of surprise. And by this metric, the most brilliant internet practitioner in the literary world is Jonathan Franzen.

Franzen’s emphatic absence from social media earns him tons of relevant publicity, cementing his image as the curmudgeonly champion of an old-school world of letters. “Jonathan Franzen Hates the Internet,” marveled Slate in 2013. Vulture: “Jonathan Franzen Still Doesn’t Like the Internet.” Salon: “Novelist Jonathan Franzen hates the Internet.” The New Yorker: “Come on in, Mr. Franzen! The water’s fine.” Meanwhile, tweeting at Franzen’s stony, implacable back as he disavows all things digital has become its own cottage industry. The only way he could possibly effect a more forceful presence online would be if he removed all traces of himself from Google.

Therefore, I propose we cease celebrating in our authors the following webby traits: uncreatively peddling one’s brand on social media; putting stories online that would be perfectly fine, if not better, off-screen; playing with the web’s quirks and peculiarities in ways that feel calculatedly endearing. Instead, maybe we should limit future lists of web-conquering authors to one name: Jonathan Franzen, ruler of the Literary Internet without doing anything at all.

May 22 2015 8:32 AM

I’ve Given Up on Healthy Desserts. Now I Make My Kids Cookies That Taste Like Candy.

This post originally appeared on Food52.

In the beginning of this column about cooking for children, with children, and despite children, there were no desserts. Because if you gave a child dessert, he might like it. And then where would you be? That was followed by a thaw, in which there were child-friendly desserts, and by child-friendly desserts I mean an apple and maybe a raisin if you were good. Of course not! I mean desserts that were mostly low on sugar, if not mostly low on fat, and even though there was nothing obviously child-friendly about said desserts, a conscientious parent called to account could justify each individual ingredient. They weren’t wholesome desserts, because wholesome desserts are terrible, but they were respectful and never raucous, and you could let your daughter date them, if your daughter was into that sort of thing.

We have now reached the land of adult-friendly desserts. And sweet lord is it good to be here.

May 22 2015 8:02 AM

Someone Mashed Up Mad Max and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Because Females Are Strong As Hell

You’ve undoubtedly heard by now that Mad Max: Fury Road is a gloriously feminist movie that follows abused women throughout their escape from captivity and eventual triumph. But the movie doesn’t just deliver an ass-kicking message—it’s also very funny. If all of this sounds familiar, it might be because Tina Fey created a similar story—except hers is titled Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and instead of escaping a patriarchy obsessed with riding eternal, shiny, and chrome, her characters escape a cult leader fixated on the end of the world. And, Fey being Fey, the show also manages to be hilarious. Sure, the two are stylistic opposites and come from different genres, but this mashup shows just how well their central points align.

May 21 2015 4:57 PM

How David Letterman Changed Comedy, According to Comedy Bang! Bang!’s Scott Aukerman

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Beyond changing late night, David Letterman shifted what America found funny. With him saying good-bye tonight, Vulture asked Scott Aukerman, host of the Comedy Bang! Bang! TV show and podcast, to say a few words about his comedy idol. Dan Reilly spoke with Aukerman for this as-told-to piece.

I remember when David Letterman first had an impact on me. It was 1984. He had already been doing the show for a couple years, and I was in high school, trying to figure out my own personality and where I fit in. What I had learned up to that point was that people didn't like the person who was out there trying really hard. They didn't like theater geeks. They didn't like the people who put on a show. And I remember seeing his show and really responding to it because up until that point, show business was very much about the pageantry of show business. Carson's show was very much ensconced in that, where it had "show-business tradition" written all over it. "You're in safe hands. Please don't change the channel."

With Letterman, it was interesting to see a guy who, No. 1, didn't look like he should be in show business. He didn't look like a guy who cared as much about the way he looked as much as other people did. He didn't have a million-dollar smile—in fact, his smile looked like he maybe owed his dentist a million dollars. But also, he didn't seem to be trying that hard, and he didn't seem to care whether you changed the channel or not, or whether you thought this show was too weird. If you thought the show was too weird, maybe you should change the channel and find something that was more up your alley. There was nothing else on at the time, so if you changed the channel, it was pretty much that you were going to turn off the TV and never watch him again. And if he got kicked off the air, he would probably say, "Oh, well. Who cares? I'll go back to the Midwest."

Here was a guy who was being sarcastic about everything and showing you that these show-business traditions were bullshit, and that everything I had grown up with and been shown on television was stupid. I was a young teenager and I looked at it and said, "Yeah, he's right! I do hate everything!" For a teenager to realize there was a guy out there who also hated everything was really powerful to me. So, I embraced my personality as a guy who was super sarcastic about everything and started acting like Letterman all the time. I would sarcastically embrace the cheesiness of things and treat everything like it was a big joke.