Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Feb. 11 2016 11:43 AM

If Terrence Malick Directed Zoolander, This Is the Delightful Movie We’d Get


Terrence Malick loves Zoolander. Or so legend has it. The director of Days of Heavenand Tree of Life  apparently grew to adore the Ben Stiller-Owen Wilson comedy by watching it whenever he needed to relax. Seeming to confirm the rumor, he eventually programmed it as guest curator of an Oklahoma film festival, and Stiller reportedly recorded a message in character for the director’s birthday one year.


As Zoolander 2 finally ventures toward theaters, we wonder: Is this pair of silly studio comedy and mysterious art-house director really so unusual? 

Feb. 11 2016 11:18 AM

Two Dancers in Wigs Crush a Dance Contest in Sia’s Retro “Cheap Thrills” Video

The music videos for Sia’s This Is Acting songs are growing increasingly different from those for 1000 Forms of Fear. First, we had “Alive,” which centers on a little girl—specifically, Mahiro Takano, a Japanese child star—doing karate while wearing a blunt-bobbed wig. This marked a bit of a departure from Sia’s usual videos, which tend to star Dance Moms star Maddie Ziegler. But those of us who thought Takano could be the next Ziegler might have been mistaken. Sia has a new lyric video out for “Cheap Thrills,” featuring a new verse from Sean Paul and, more notably, no Takano.

Instead of Sia’s usual sparse, artsy style, this video goes retro—and weird. The entire thing is framed as a 1950s-era black and white broadcast, where a new song—Sia’s “Cheap Thrills”—gets played on "Dance Stage U.S.A.," a faux American Bandstand-style show.

Feb. 11 2016 10:20 AM

Watch Ben Schwartz Explain How He Helped Create BB-8’s Adorable Voice in The Force Awakens

The Force Awakens added plenty of fascinating characters to the Star Wars universe, and BB-8 was easily the most adorable. The droid’s speech is mostly a combination of bleeps and bloops like R2-D2, but those noises are delivered in a distinct voice from its predecessor. Ben Schwartz and Bill Hader were the vocal consultants behind BB-8’s charming audio identity, and Slate spoke with Schwartz following the film's opening to find out what the process was like. Now, Schwartz dishes even more details about recording BB-8’s dialogue, and what it was like to join the Star Wars family, in a Reddit Original video.

Feb. 11 2016 9:32 AM

Mad Max: Fury Road Is the Best Picture of the Year. Witness!

Today we’re kicking off a new series, “The Best Case for Best Picture,” in which Slate staffers and critics mount their strongest argument for the movie they think should win the Oscars’ biggest prize. It won’t be easy: They’ll also have to contend against the counterarguments of Slate culture editor Dan Kois.

First up: Aisha Harris makes the case for why Oscar should ride eternal, shiny, and chrome.

Feb. 11 2016 8:33 AM

Paula Poundstone Explains How She Started Telling Pop-Tart Jokes

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

A new generation of fans has discovered Paula Poundstone as a regular on NPR’s panel game show Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!, but her success as a stand-up stretches back to the early days of the 1980s comedy boom. Her 1990 HBO special Cats, Cops and Stuff is a perfect embodiment of her style, a mix of observational stand-up and audience improvisation. I caught up with Poundstone to talk about her history with prebaked pastries and how Robin Williams changed the game.

Feb. 11 2016 7:32 AM

I’mma Let You Finish, but Kanye West Is the Greatest Critic of Our Time 


Before we even had a name for Kanye West’s long-awaited new album, we had his review of it. “So happy to be finished with the best album of all time,” he tweeted in late January. “This is not album of the year. This is  album of the life.” In fact, we had two of them: He later re-evaluated his previous assessment and issued a second one, concluding, “Out of respect for Q-Tip, Puff, Hov, Lauren, Pharcyde, Mary, Stevie, Michael, Hendrix, James, Pete Rock, Pac, Marvin…. this new album is ONE of the greatest albums not the greatest just one of …” Before that, as 2015 drew to a close with no sign of the overdue LP, Kanye obsessives were given two words to tide them over: “Saint West.” It was a birth announcement that doubled as an op-ed, and though it may have been his collaborator Kim Kardashian on the mic, tweeting the news, the baby’s name was clearly a Kanye West production. If you’re the guy who gasconaded “I am a God,” naming your kid after a heavenly caste is a no-brainer.


The review preceded the record; instead of a first name, West gave his son a first impression. In other words, West is a critic at heart. What else would we expect from a man so constitutionally incapable of holding his tongue, whose pronouncements and opining have had a cultural impact equal to his art, maybe more? West has emerged as one of those rare, benighted artist-critics, like Randall Jarrell, Renata Adler, David Foster Wallace, maybe even George Orwell, who turn our heads more easily with their essays than their art. Think of the artists who might fit that bill today—Michael Richards, Bill Burr, and lately Charlotte Rampling—and even as you consider, a figure rises, snatches the mic and says: I’mma let you finish, but Kanye is the greatest critic of our time.

Feb. 10 2016 11:39 PM

These Three Videos Might Offer Some Clues About the New Season of The Americans

FX’s Cold War spy drama The Americans may not return for its fourth season until March 16, but until then, the episode titles provide some intriguing clues to what’s coming. The show’s exquisite Season 3 finale, “March 8, 1983,” was built around Ronald Reagan’s address to the National Association of Evangelicals that day—the “Evil Empire” speech. Although episode titles like “Glanders”—an infectious bacterial disease in horses, once used as a bioweapon—and “Chloramphenicol,” a drug used to treat, well, bacterial infections, are perhaps best researched as little as possible (seriously, don’t image search “glanders”), several of the other episodes are worth doing a little homework on. Here are three videos you can watch right now to prepare for the fourth season of The Americans:

Feb. 10 2016 7:12 PM

Watch Larry David Crack Up in Rehearsals for His Silliest SNL Sketch

When Larry David hosted SNL this past weekend, most coverage focused on his two Bernie Sanders-related sketches—a great Curb Your Enthusiasm parody and a survival debate on a sinking ship. Less remarked upon was a fun little sketch in which an FBI cadet played by Keenan Thompson must distinguish lethal threats from harmless civilians in an elaborate firearms-training simulation. The “lifelike target dummies” were all played by real people, including Larry David as a fake civilian named Kevin Roberts whose neon hair, orange attire, and loud, annoying interjections blurred the line between benign and target-worthy.

If you had trouble keeping a straight face when David called himself “the coolest bitch in town” and exhorted “Can a bitch get a donut?,” you weren’t alone. The rehearsal footage shows David cracking up at every turn, totally unable to read his lines. His voice gets higher and his face grows redder the harder he tries to get the words out. Even seasoned comedy pros have their breaking points, and David’s, apparently, is having to yell, “Breaking news: Kevin Roberts just got to second base with a lady!”

Feb. 10 2016 4:37 PM

Watch Christiane Amanpour Investigate the Late Show With Stephen Colbert in a Charming, Funny Sketch

Stephen Colbert knows how to draw the comedic potential out of reporters. In short promos for The Late Show, Colbert’s brought out Ted Koppel’s best deadpan with a video of fake news stories, and he sentSlate’s own John Dickerson on a whimsical road trip with Abraham Lincoln. This week, Colbert and his writers gave CNN’s Christiane Amanpour a chance to land a few punch lines in an even longer bit—a charming investigation into the working conditions of the Late Show offices.

Feb. 10 2016 2:15 PM

Watch Johnny Depp Play Donald Trump in Funny or Die’s Surprisingly Sharp Spoof    

Johnny Depp has played many a goon and buffoon from behind a mask of makeup, but his latest role along those lines may be his best (and hugest) yet: Donald J. Trump. In a new, 48-minute video from Funny or Die, filmed secretly in December, Depp plays Trump circa 1988 in a would-be TV movie adaptation of the mogul’s 1987 bestselling memoir, Trump: The Art of the Deal. The spoof’s central conceit is that Trump wrote and directed the lost film himself; naturally, the final product is filled with ridiculous, self-serving braggadocio.

Depp embodies Trump amazingly throughout, with a pitch-perfect accent, impressive prosthetics, and a wig that nicely captures Trump’s late-‘80s helmet hair (i.e., before it devolved into a twisted bed of follicular confusion worthy of an Escher print). His dialogue melds racism, sexism, and various other –isms with aplomb, and includes many lines written with Trump’s recent real-life quotes in mind: “I want my daughter to grow up to be someone that I would totally have sex with”; “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall—I can build you a much nicer one”; and, in response to a child’s mention of his father’s heroic death in the Vietnam War, “I would say it’s a little bit more heroic … not to get killed.” The famous faces—Patton Oswalt, Henry Winkler, Alfred Molina, Jack McBrayer, Jacob Tremblay, and more—who appear throughout as bit players in Trump’s life help to move the story along, and manage to contribute some chuckle-worthy moments of their own. And though not every joke and gag works, that’s almost beside the point: This particular spoof’s best feature is its surprisingly substantive, incisive criticism.