Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Aug. 27 2016 10:14 PM

Beyoncé May Give a Surprise Performance at Sunday Night’s MTV Video Music Awards

Though she’s not on the schedule, Beyoncé may be performing at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards Sunday night, Billboard reports. The Los Angeles Times also reported the possibility, pointing to secret rehearsals in anticipation of MTV’s annual awards show. Whether she performs or not, it’s a safe bet she will be attending: she has eleven award nominations, more than any other artist.

Britney Spears, Future, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj, Nick Jonas with Ty Dolla $ign, and the Chainsmokers with Halsey will definitely be performing Sunday night, with or without Beyoncé. Rihanna will give the night’s opening performance and receive the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard award, MTV’s version of a lifetime achievement award, given, under various names, to acts ranging from the Beatles to Kanye West.

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If Beyoncé does perform, she’ll have to go to considerable lengths to top the elaborately-choreographed “Freedom” performance she gave at the BET Awards. The MTV Video Music Awards will air live from New York’s Madison Square Garden at 9:00 PM Eastern Sunday on MTV, but will be tape-delayed on the west coast.

Aug. 27 2016 9:34 PM

Don Cheadle Calls Trump a “POS,” Urges Him to “Die in a Grease Fire”

Donald Trump’s compassionate and sincere outreach to black voters seems to have failed with at least one of them: Academy Award-winning actor, producer, and director Don Cheadle. Cheadle, who won a Best Picture Oscar for producing Crash and was nominated for Best Actor for his performance in Hotel Rwanda, was incensed at Trump’s wildly offensive response to the death of NBA star Dwyane Wade’s cousin, which, according to Trump, was “just what I have been saying,” whatever that means. Cheadle responded to the tweet by calling the new face of the Republican Party “truly a POS.”

(The Donald Trump tweet Cheadle links to above is no longer there—Trump deleted it because, in addition to sounding unusually sociopathic even for the avatar of the Republican Party’s white nationalist base, he misspelled Wade’s name.  He immediately reposted a corrected version.) Cheadle may have moved beyond insults into the realm of Secret Service investigations in his next tweet, however, encouraging Trump to “die in a grease fire.”

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Cheadle then spent the next few hours engaging with Twitter users coming to Trump’s defense, from wildly inaccurate estimates of his net worth:

To speculations about his diet:

To straightforward racism:

While the utility of talking to Trump supporters on Twitter is, let’s say, questionable, Cheadle’s tweets are an example of the increasingly frank descriptions Donald Trump is inspiring. Last Sunday, Cher called him “a fucking idiot” at a Clinton campaign event; in June, Senator Elizabeth Warren called him a “thin-skinned racist bully.” Nevertheless, as Trump assured his mostly-white audience, he anticipates winning 95 percent of the black vote in his 2020 re-election bid, which, given the polls, will presumably take place in a Good Bye, Lenin!-style Oval Office mock-up built in the basement of Trump Tower by his children.  

Aug. 27 2016 4:40 PM

Nate Parker Addresses Consent and Male Privilege in Ebony Interview

After a screening of The Birth of a Nation Friday night at the Merge Summit, a conference about the intersection between faith and entertainment, Nate Parker gave his first interview about the rape charges he faced seventeen years ago since the disastrous Variety and Deadline interviews that sparked a furor. Sitting down with Britni Danielle for Ebony, Parker spoke at length about his past, his understanding of consent, and the culture of toxic masculinity that enabled both the alleged rape and his initial, defensive response to the conversation about his past. The whole interview is worth reading; both its tone and its content are markedly different from Parker’s first attempts to address the issue—and different from the ham-handed approach his Penn State classmates took on Thursday. Parker was blunt about the way he discussed the rape accusations two weeks ago:

You asked me why I wasn’t empathetic? Why didn’t it come off more empathetic? Because I wasn’t being empathetic. Why didn’t it come off more contrite? Because I wasn’t being contrite.

Aug. 26 2016 5:55 PM

The Week in Culture, “Rosy Haze of Hagiography” Edition

One summer day some 25 years ago, a Chicago lawyer went on a date with a summer associate at her firm. Well, there was some disagreement about whether it was a date or not. But that couple went on to fall in love, get married, and much later on, live in the White House, and now there is a movie about that fateful day in 1989 when it all began. When she wasn’t bemoaning the reality of the Obamas’ imminent departure from the White House, Slate movie critic Dana Stevens found Southside With You tender, intelligent, and refreshingly lacking in traditional suspense: “Though it’s barely 84 minutes long, this buoyant yet reflective movie captures the ever-shifting mood of a daylong encounter that changed both its protagonists’ lives.”

Dating sure worked out well for Barack and Michelle, but if you’re a Christian who grew up in the ’90s, you might remember I Kissed Dating Goodbye, Joshua Harris’ best-selling book that urged young people not just to practice abstinence but to avoid dating altogether. This week Ruth Graham caught up with the author, who’s now married with teenagers of his own. “And these days, he’s having very mixed feelings about the book that turned him into a Christian celebrity,” Graham writes. Or as Harris himself put it, “It’s like, well, crap, is the biggest thing I’ve done in my life this really huge mistake?”

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Nostalgia radiates through Endless and Blond (or is it Blonde?), the two new Frank Ocean albums Slate’s Carl Wilson reviews this week, one about “a past but never-forgotten love affair” and the other with a “running theme of memories of faded teenage summers and the first stirrings of desire.” In the anti-pop moment that’s coming to define this year in music, neither album is really suited for background listening—“Settle in with headphones and the lyrics, though, and it’s the confidential closeness—not to mention the teasing withdrawals—that can make them seem like exactly what you need to hear right now.”

A few more links to send you into the weekend:

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Aug. 26 2016 5:20 PM

The Best Movies to Stream on Netflix Before They Expire in September

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 Instant in September. (All titles expire Sept. 1 except where otherwise noted.)

Must Watch

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

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Good Watch

The Color Purple (1985)
Crocodile Dundee (1986)
Defending Your Life (1991)
Gimme the Loot (2012) (Sept. 17)
The Kids Are All Right (2010) (Sept. 16)
Open Water (2004) (Sept. 28)
Primal Fear (1996)
Roman Holiday (1953)
Simon Killer (2012) (Sept. 17)
Sins of My Father (2009)
Something, Anything (2014) (Sept. 20)
Traffic (2000)
The Wood (1999)
Zoolander (2001)

Fast and Furious Watch

2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

Cruise Watch

Days of Thunder (1990)

Nostalgia Watch

A Walk to Remember (2002)

Family Watch

The Aviators (2008) (Sept. 30)
The Emperor’s New Groove (2000) (Sept. 9)
Hachi: A Dog’s Tale (2009)
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014) (Sept. 11)
Lilo & Stitch (2002) (Sept. 9)
My Babysitter’s a Vampire: The Movie (2010) (Sept. 6)

If You’re Bored

666 Park Avenue: Season 1 (Sept. 30)
Alias: Seasons 1­ to 5 (Sept. 25)
Another Gay Movie (2006) (Sept. 30)
Anywhere but Here (1999)
Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher (2014)
Bob Saget: That’s What I’m Talkin’ About (2013) (Sept. 15)
Call Me Crazy: A Five Film (2013)
Double Jeopardy (1999)
Everybody Loves Raymond, Seasons 1­ to 9
Exporting Raymond (2010)
Flight of the Intruder (1991)
Fringe: Seasons 1 to ­5
The Forbidden Kingdom (2008) (Sept. 24)
Gabe the Cupid Dog (2012) (Sept. 5)
Girl Rising (2013)
Gridiron Gang (2006) (Sept. 16)
Hardball (2001)
The Haunting (1999)
Hollywood Homicide (2003) (Sept. 6)
Jobs (2013) (Sept. 25)
League of Super Evil: Season 1 (Sept. 30)
The Lost Medallion (2013) (Sept. 23)
Melissa & Joey: Seasons 1­ to 4 (Sept. 4)
Nick Cannon: Mr. Showbiz (2011)
Open Water 2: Adrift
(2006) (Sept. 28)
Our Man in Tehran (2013)
Roboshark (2015)
Shanghai Knights (2003) (Sept. 4)
S.W.A.T. (2003)
Spanglish (2004)
The Weather Man (2005)
We Were Soldiers (2002) (Sept. 30)
Wolf (2013) (Sept. 30)

Aug. 26 2016 4:31 PM

Here’s Our First Look at Mariah Carey as Kitty in the Empire Season 3 Trailer

After a long period of intrigue, speculation, and denials, it was finally confirmed at the Television Critics Association press tour earlier this month that Mariah Carey would be guest starring on Empire. Now, in a new trailer for the show’s third season, we get our first look at mega-superstar Carey’s role as mega-superstar Kitty, who joins Empire to help Jamal (Jussie Smollett) work on a new song. In her split-second appearance in the trailer, Kitty tells Cookie (Taraji P. Henson), “You’ve always got a trick up your sleeve.”

Carey’s part is minor in the grand scheme of the season—the actress won’t appear on the Oct. 5 episode—and trailer spends most of its time on the season’s other major plot threads, including teasing a confrontation with Tariq (Morocco Omari). The role of a pop diva isn’t exactly a stretch for Carey. Still, her potential involvement has been rumored for so long, it’ll be exciting to see if she delivers.

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Empire returns Sept. 21.

Aug. 26 2016 3:02 PM

Tim Kaine Looked Like a Dad, Played the Harmonica on The Late Show  

Former hottie and current Hillary-Clinton-running-mate Tim Kaine has made an impression on the national stage with low-key southern charm, general affability, and madcap harmonica-playing. As a politician, he’s familiar in the best way—so familiar, in fact, that he’s inspired a wave of fans to refer to him, simply, as “dad.”

On Thursday night’s Late Show, Stephen Colbert enlisted his colleague Mark Spada—a former Colbert Report contributor and undeniable Kaine lookalike—to pose as the Democratic Vice Presidential candidate on the streets of New York. Spada nailed that Kaine-as-dad role: sporting his goofy smile, expertly replicating his love for harmonicas, and intermixing Spanish and English just a smidge too often. Observers were so taken with their meeting with “Tim Kaine,” in fact, that they asked him to pose for photos and even hold their babies.

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Kaine could only laugh as he watched Spada’s killer impersonation. To close out his time on the Late Show, he naturally pulled out his own harmonica, grooving dad-style with Jon Batiste as the clock ran out.

Aug. 26 2016 1:45 PM

Bruce Springsteen Just Played His Longest U.S. Concert Ever, and My God It Was Exhausting

On Thursday night, Bruce Springsteen broke his own record for the longest E Street band show ever played on American soil, at the MetLife Stadium in Jersey. It was endless. Four hours, to be exact. But by the time Nils Lofgren rounded the corner of his multi-minute guitar solo in “Because The Night,” it felt a lot longer. At least for me it did. This was my first Bruce concert ever, which I attended as wingwoman for the lifelong Bruce fan I’m marrying. It was great, I’m told! The thing about Springsteen songs is that to me they sound almost note-for-note the same—specifically, like they are all going to burst into the chorus of “Born to Run,” and yet only one ever does.

Here’s what I do know: this show was long. Somewhere around the saxophone crescendo in “Rosalita,” my vision blurred; my limbs drooped; I lost track of how many hours I had been swaying in the shadow of fifty thousand exuberant middle-aged women fist-pumping to the heavens.

Aug. 26 2016 1:25 PM

Why Is the Chainsmokers’ “Closer” the Biggest Song in the Country?

For the first 10 seconds, the song sounds like it’s building to something monumental: thundering piano chords, sweeping synth washes, and a swelling echo like you’re down in a vast ravine. And then, at 0:11 … click. It all switches off like a lamp—a finger-snap and a meek “Hey,” as the melody downshifts to two-finger keyboard notes. In a near-murmur, the singer offers confessional lyrics in therapy-speak: “I was doing just fine before I met you/ I drink too much, and that’s an issue/ But I’m okay.” There is no “drop”—the thunderous climax of club-rattling electronic dance music—and there never will be one.

The EDM duo who call themselves the Chainsmokers have done something even more bro-tastic than dropping the bass. You’ve just been punk’d.

“Closer,” the new No. 1 song on Billboard’s Hot 100, opens with this musical head-fake. It’s reminiscent of the Chainsmokers’ entire career to date, which reads as one long con. The New York–based duo of Andrew Taggart and Alex Pall—smirky deejay–producers who broke less than three years ago with the crass, sexist novelty hit “#Selfie” and subsequently made asses of themselves on American Idol—are now not only one of top 40 radio’s most consistent purveyors of mass-appeal melodic pop, they have recast themselves as credibly emo electro-bros. (One of “Closer’s” verses cites actual emo-punk band Blink-182.) Either these dudes have uncovered hidden depths as songwriters just this year, or they are gaslighting us with a simulacrum of human feeling. Probably both.

Assisting the dudes in their emotional rescue is featured singer Halsey, who duets on the track with Taggart, the Chainsmokers’ primary songwriter. Her yearning vocal deepens “Closer’s” brooding ambiance. Even in a year where it seems every other hit is oddly wistful, “Closer” stands out for its tone of small-scale regret writ large.

The song’s protagonists are a guy and gal four years out from a short-lived romance, now reencountering each other in a hotel bar. (Better that than a hotel lobby, which as we all know leads to moral turpitude.) This is a hit song in 2016, so of course the pair are eager for a sweaty hookup—each sings, “I can’t stop/ No, I can’t stop,” and by the chorus they’re in the “backseat of your Rover… Bit[ing] that tattoo on your shoulder.” But it’s the song’s asides that color in the sincere melancholy of the romance: “I know you can’t afford” the aforementioned Range Rover, the singer notes, adding that they should take their coupling to “the mattress that you stole/ From your roommate back in Boulder.” With these details the vocalist manages to both dress down the paramour and warmly recall their earlier, ramen-for-dinner–era romance. The chorus finally builds to a piercing, desperate mantra: “We ain’t never getting older/ No, we ain’t never getting older.” In essence, this cannily timed song—dropped in late July and topping the charts in late August, in time for back-to-school and the moment when America’s Danny Zukos recall their Sandy Olssons—is Don Henley’s “The Boys of Summer” for the age of Snapchat.

Timing aside, it’s fair to ask how a musical Polaroid this minimalist —seriously, those synths on the verses sound like the preset on a 1982 Casio keyboard—scaled the charts so fast.

Aug. 26 2016 11:47 AM

Britney Spears and James Corden, in Pigtails, Sang “Baby One More Time” on Carpool Karaoke

Britney Spears’ new album is out Friday, and thus the inevitable has arrived: a Carpool Karaoke session. The Glory singer hopped in the passenger seat of James Corden’s car for some surprisingly candid conversation, explaining how she wants more children (three, to be exact) and that’s she’s done with men (but not with French kissing). She also introduced the Late Late Show host to the wonder of tickling fetishes, much to Corden’s horror.

Of course, this being Carpool Karaoke, there was also quite a bit of singing involved, including renditions of Spears’ classic hits “Toxic” and “Oops! ... I Did It Again.” But the ridealong’s showstopper was surely “…Baby One More Time,” which saw the pair recreate Spears’ pigtailed schoolgirl days by donning the iconic outfit themselves.

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