Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

July 25 2017 1:53 AM

Seth Meyers Roasts “Human Embodiment of a Double-Parked BMW” Anthony Scaramucci

Seth Meyers was in rare form Monday night, pausing in the middle of his “Closer Look” segment on new Trump advisor/Sean Spicer nemesis Anthony “the Mooch” Scaramucci for an old-fashoned insult comic roast, calling Scaramucci “a human pinky ring,” “the guy who leaves a doo-wop group over creative differences,” and “the only magician you could get on short notice.” After briefly giving Trump the same treatment—the president’s horrifying tennis photo “looks like John McEn-Dough,”—Meyers made avisit to the land of rhyming humor, summing up Scaramucci’s press conference air-kiss as “The Mooch gave us a smooch after Spicey screwed the pooch.” But the real comic highlight is a riff Meyers does on Scaramucci’s ill-phrased statement that he “want[s] to be there to help aid and abet [Trump’s] agenda.”

In fact, you could even say I’m here to be the president’s accomplice. I just want to be an accessory to his agenda both before and after the fact. We are breaking and entering a new era, and if making America great again is a crime, then the president is guilty as charged!
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There’s a glee in Meyers’ delivery as the Scaramucci thing builds to a frenzy that is infectious, and he gets it across in his Jared Kushner impression as well—not that there’s a bad way to deliver the line “I even drew this picture of myself with my father-in-law where he pats me on the head for being a Good-Job-Boy for not talking to Russians.” But as much fun as it is to see Meyers get back in touch with his inner Don Rickles, there’s an ominous subtext here: The last time he leaned into the insult comic thing, we ended up with President Donald Trump.

July 25 2017 12:59 AM

There’s No Last Week Tonight This Week, So Tonight, Here’s That Was the Week That Was

There’s no Last Week Tonight this week, so instead of posting an episode of Last Week Tonight tonight about last week, here’s an episode of That Was the Week That Was. Tonight’s That Was the Week That Was isn’t from tonight, however, it’s from April 20, 1963, a night that hasn’t been “tonight” for many, many weeks. Like Last Week Tonight, new episodes of That Was the Week That Was aired weekly, with each week’s episode covering the last week that was, so the subject of the episode of That Was the Week That Was that we’ve put up tonight was “last week” the night That Was the Week That Was originally aired, which was not tonight.

But even though tonight’s episode of That Was the Week That Was isn’t about last week like Last Week Tonight would have been if there were a new Last Week Tonight tonight, the week that was “the week that was” the night they made tonight’s episode of That Was the Week That Was was a pretty funny week! Like Last Week Tonight, That Was the Week That Was took aim at politicians and celebrities, although if there were a new Last Week Tonight tonight, it would probably not focus on Harold Macmillan or Conrad Hilton the way this week’s That Was the Week That Was does, because both men died many weeks ago. But Last Week Tonight fans will find the segment in tonight’s That Was the Week That Was in which Bernard Levin quizzes celebrity hairdresser Raymond Bessone about his decision to stand for Parliament very familiar—it’s an ambush interview straight out of The Daily Show. Not The Daily Show as it exists today, though—The Daily Show of weeks that were, before The Daily Show’s daily show spawned weekly shows like Last Week Tonight. What’s more, Last Week Tonight scholars searching for the origins of the show’s celebrity cameos and obsession with wax figures will learn a lot tonight from Michael Redgrave’s appearance on That Was The Week That Was, reading a poem about Madame Tussauds’ decision to melt down statues of Marilyn Monroe and Vivian Leigh for a new wax figure of James Hanratty, the A6 Murderer. Plus the host is a pre-Nixon David Frost.

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So tonight, since there’s no new Last Week Tonight this week, we hope you enjoy watching That Was the Week That Was cover a week that was a long time ago, instead of Last Week Tonight covering last week. Next week there will be a new Last Week Tonight, by which point “last week” will refer to this week and “tonight” will refer to a day that, as of tonight, is still nearly a week in our future. Good night, and have a great week!

July 24 2017 5:17 PM

Someone Turned Donald Trump Jr.’s Emails Into a Surprisingly Beautiful Folk Song

Music makes us feel nostalgic for days long gone. “Teenage Dream” makes us yearn for our first loves. “Harlem Shake” takes us back to a time that we all regret. And “One Time” reminds us of when we all thought Justin Bieber was just a harmless Canadian boy. Now, thanks to a Soundcloud musician who goes by “spiritgiants,” we now have a song to remind us of the days, way back when, when Donald Trump Jr. was the absolute biggest story in America because of the revelation that he held a secret meeting with Russian operatives.

The folksy song, “I Love It (Especially Later in the Summer),” is quite literally a mashup of the transcript of two of the emails that Donald Trump Jr. sent Rob Goldstone, the music publicist who set up the controversial meeting between Trump Jr. and the Russians. Remember those emails? The ones that journalists had chased for a year and Trump Jr. just ... tweeted it out like it was just another Tuesday?

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According to Vox, “I Love It” was written for a subreddit called “Song of the Week,” which has songwriters create original songs based off of a particular theme. The theme apparently was “satire.” “spiritgiant” posted his song last Wednesday.

Here’s a sample of “I Love It (Especially Later in the Summer)”:

If it’s what you say, I love it
Especially later in the summer
If it’s what you say, I love it
Especially later in the summer.
 
It will likely be
Paul Manafort,
Campaign boss, my brother-in-law, and me
Great.
It will likely be
Paul Manafort,
Campaign boss, my brother-in-law, and me

You can’t listen to this song and not feel nostalgic for that time that now feels so long ago. Those glorious summer days when O.J. Simpson was in the news because he was the subject of a Jay-Z song, Doctor Who was still a man, Sean Spicer was employed, and there was no reason to think that Taylor Swift shoving herself into a suitcase would ever be a thing. Those were the days, no?

Listen to “I Love It (Especially Later in the Summer)” below.

July 24 2017 5:06 PM

Attention, Handmaid’s Tale Fans: The First Teaser for Netflix’s Adaptation of Alias Grace Is Finally Here

The first teaser for Netflix’s adaptation of Alias Grace is making a strong appeal to fans of the book by using words lifted directly from Margaret Atwood’s novel, a fictional account of the real-life accused murderess Grace Marks. “I think of all the things that have been written about me,” says Marks (Sarah Gordon) in a voiceover. “That I am an inhuman female demon. That I am an innocent victim of a blackguard, forced against my will, and in danger of my own life. That I am cunning and devious. How can I be all these different things at once?”

The real Marks was a maid convicted of murder in 1843 in connection with the death of her employer and his housekeeper. She was later exonerated. The timing of the new six-hour miniseries makes it a strong candidate to fill the void left behind after the end of The Handmaid’s Tale’s gripping first season. While Alias Grace is a historical narrative rather than a bleak portrait of a dystopian future, it explores many of the many of the same themes, including gender politics. “I’d rather be a murderess than a murderer, if those are my only choices,” says Marks.

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Alias Grace is written and produced by Sarah Polley, the filmmaker behind Take This Waltz and Stories We Tell, and directed by Mary Harron. All six episodes will hit Netflix on Nov. 3.

July 24 2017 4:54 PM

Girls Trip’s Box-Office Success Should Give Its Stars the Overdue Opportunities They Deserve

This past weekend was a great one at the box office for new, non-franchise releases—well, some of them, anyway. Christopher Nolan’s stunningly shot World War II epic Dunkirk debuted on top with an unexpected $50.5 million, while Malcolm D. Lee’s R-rated comedy romp Girls Trip came in second place, with $30.4 million. Girls Trip especially overperformed: it only cost $19 million to make; received a rare A+ Cinemascore—data from a market research firm that polls major movie releases on opening night (for comparison, even the tears of joy-inducing Wonder Woman only scored an A)—and became the highest-grossing live-action comedy of the year so far, following a string of R-rated summer comedies that failed to land with audiences.

It’s already way past time to cease being “surprised” by the box office success of low- to moderately-budgeted movies targeted at black American audiences. Over the past few years, several movies ranging from comedies to thrillers to dramas have proven that established black actors, strong stories, and perhaps, most importantly, enthusiastic word of mouth, can do wonders for such films being seen by large audiences. The well-reviewed Girls Trip is no different. With beloved stars who understand the power of social media (Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Regina Hall), an established director with no shortage of credit within the black community (Lee helmed both Best Man films and the underrated satire Undercover Brother), and a breakout star, Tiffany Haddish, whose uproarious performance makes others want to see what all the fuss is about, the comedy was basically a slam dunk in the midst of this summer’s fare.

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The cultural benefits of the movie’s success are obvious—as with Hidden Figures earlier this year, black women have been lucky enough to see themselves portrayed in a different light than what they are used to on screen, and this will hopefully encourage studios to continue thinking outside the box when green lighting movies about people of color. But just as encouraging is what Girls Trip demonstrates for its leading ladies, who range in age from 37–47 and are at varied points in their careers. In the cases of Pinkett Smith and Hall, their filmographies boast impressive works—Pinkett Smith made a name for herself first in the later years of Cosby Show spin-off A Different World, as well as Menace II Society, Set It Off, and The Matrix sequels; Hall broke through in The Best Man, Scary Movie, and Think Like a Man franchises. Still, there’s no denying that when compared with white peers like Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, they haven’t been afforded the same opportunities for meaty, three dimensional roles—or the other benefits that often come with being a movie star, such as hosting Saturday Night Live. (“I’m not a new face, but to some people, I am,” Hall once observed about her career.) Queen Latifah has had arguably the biggest career of the Girls Trip ladies, having hosted SNL (2004), been nominated for an Oscar (for Chicago), and previously opened a number one comedy sold in large part on her star power (Bringing Down the House). (That’s not to mention her early beginnings as a rapper and star of a hit ’90s sitcom.) Still, it’s been a while since she’s had a hit of this nature, and this proves she’s still a star.

Girls Trip serves as a corrective for these three stars, especially Hall, whose character Ryan anchors  the main storyline and who gets to have the movie’s climactic epiphany as well as its climactic speech. It does for them what Hidden Figures did for Taraji P. Henson and Octavia Spencer, giving them roles that were long-overdue for actors of their caliber and experience while putting them, and not their white co-stars, front and center. And because of the excellent reviews and its placement as summer counter-programming to big-budget franchises, its crossover success—white audiences made up 38 percent of ticket buyers, according to one industry metric—may help open doors for them that weren’t previously available before.

Haddish is the youngest of the bunch, and until now was the least known, but she undoubtedly stands to gain the most, garnering rave reviews for her performance across the board, charming audiences with stories about how out of touch with “normal” people Will and Jada are, and an upcoming standup special that is sure to get a lot of eyeballs in the wake of Girls Trip. At 37, she’s having a late career breakthrough, but whereas 20 years ago or so that wouldn’t have necessarily translated into more and/or even greater opportunities—just look at the early careers of Angela Bassett and Viola Davis, who have been at this for decades and are only recently getting consistent, quality high-profile onscreen work—it seems like she could easily parlay this into a budding career on par with Melissa McCarthy’s or Amy Schumer’s.

It’s not that any of these women have lacked the talent or even the film reel highlights to be bigger stars than they are—black audiences have recognized and celebrated them long before non-black ones did, and will continue to do so, even if Hollywood does wind up failing on the uptake. But maybe it’s the big wins such films have seen recently, both in box office and in awards attention, that makes it seem more likely than ever before that Girls Trip will be more than a blip on the radar. Something about it and the climate it currently inhabits seems different—and it’s not (entirely) the grapefruit.

July 24 2017 3:06 PM

Linkin Park on Chester Bennington’s Death: “Each of Our Lives Was Made Better by You”

Linkin Park has issued a statement following the death of lead singer Chester Bennington last week at age 41 in what has been confirmed by the Los Angeles County coroner as a suicide. “Dear Chester, our hearts are broken,” the band wrote on their website. “The shockwaves of grief and denial are still sweeping through our family as we come to grips with what has happened. You touched so many lives, maybe even more than you realized.”

The statement went on to address Linkin Park's uncertain future without Bennington. (Their North American tour has been cancelled.) “Our love for making and performing music is inextinguishable,” the statement reads. “While we don’t know what path our future may take, we know that each of our lives was made better by you. Thank you for that gift. We love you, and miss you so much. Until we see you again.”

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Linkin Park founder Mike Shinoda also posted an early photo of the band on Instagram.

Shortly after Bennington’s death was announced, Linkin Park's website added a page containing resources for those in need of support, including the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 1-800-273-TALK, and Crisis Text Line, 741-741.

The band’s full statement is below.

Dear Chester,
Our hearts are broken. The shockwaves of grief and denial are still sweeping through our family as we come to grips with what has happened.
You touched so many lives, maybe even more than you realized. In the past few days, we’ve seen an outpouring of love and support, both public and private, from around the world. Talinda and the family appreciate it, and want the world to know that you were the best husband, son, and father; the family will never be whole without you.
Talking with you about the years ahead together, your excitement was infectious. Your absence leaves a void that can never be filled—a boisterous, funny, ambitious, creative, kind, generous voice in the room is missing. We’re trying to remind ourselves that the demons who took you away from us were always part of the deal. After all, it was the way you sang about those demons that made everyone fall in love with you in the first place. You fearlessly put them on display, and in doing so, brought us together and taught us to be more human. You had the biggest heart, and managed to wear it on your sleeve.
Our love for making and performing music is inextinguishable. While we don’t know what path our future may take, we know that each of our lives was made better by you. Thank you for that gift. We love you, and miss you so much.
Until we see you again,
LP

July 24 2017 1:41 PM

Game of Thrones’  Latest Sadistic Villain Arrives on the High Seas

In this recap of the second episode of season 7, Slate critics discuss how Daenerys is growing up, Arya's reunion with a few old friends, and the nasty nautical battle led by the latest sadistic villain in the series.

This is a TV Club series that’s just for Slate Plus members. If you are not yet a member and would like to listen along this season, learn more at Slate.com/GameofThrones.

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July 24 2017 1:06 PM

Sonequa Martin-Green’s Discovery Character Is Spock’s Sister, and Other Star Trek News Out of Comic-Con

San Diego Comic-Con has been a regular treasure trove of information about Star Trek: Discovery, CBS’ 15-episode Star Trek series that will air in September, with casting announcements, character revelations, and even a new trailer. Here’s the latest we learned about the show, which takes place 10 years before The Original Series.

A new trailer gives us more Klingons, more destruction, and a cameo from Rainn Wilson as Harry Mudd.

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Details on Discovery’s plot are still a little vague, but the gist of this trailer, as with the last one, is that Starfleet officer Michael Burnham (Sonequa Martin-Green) will somehow be involved in reigniting the conflict between Starfleet and the fractured Klingon Empire. Jason Isaacs, who plays the captain of the titular ship Discovery, also gets some screen time in this new trailer, telling Martin-Green, “You helped start a war. Don’t you want to help me end it?”

Rainn Wilson, who guest stars as The Original Series character Harry Mudd, makes an appearance, too, although the character seems much more sinister than the con man we remember from The Oringal Series, where he was played by Roger C. Carmel.

Sonequa Martin-Green’s character, Michael Burnham, is revealed as Spock’s adopted sister.

When the first trailer for Star Trek: Discovery was unveiled, one of the biggest mysteries was the relationship between Martin-Green’s human character and Sarek (James Frain), father of the most famous Vulcan of them all, who seemed to take a paternal interest in her. Martin has since elaborated: “I was raised on Vulcan by him and my mother, Amanda” after the death of her character’s parents, she explained during the Star Trek: Discovery panel at Comic-Con.

That makes her an adopted sister to Spock himself, raising the obvious question—why haven’t we heard of her before? All will be explained, promised executive producer Alex Kurtzman, citing the production’s attention to detail and preserving the canon. In all fairness, this wouldn’t be the first time that Spock had a previously unknown sibling suddenly arrive on the scene: Sarek’s other biological son, Spock’s half-brother Sybok, basically came out of nowhere in the much-maligned movie The Final Frontier.

The cast and crew respond to the diversity backlash.

Discovery is continuing Star Trek’s long tradition of breaking down barriers and celebrating diversity, giving us at least two major milestones: Our first Star Trek installment led by a woman of color and two openly gay crewmembers on a Star Trek television series. (While The Original Series character Lt. Hikaru Sulu was retroactively—and controversially—revealed to be gay in the new reboot films, and though there have arguably been other explicitly LGBTQ characters in Star Trek over the years, Anthony Rapp and Wilson Cruz’s characters still represent a major landmark for gay visibilty in the franchise.)

Because the internet can be a sad place full of angry people, a small but vocal group has objected to Discovery’s inclusive casting. George Takei has already addressed some of the criticism levied at the series by invoking Star Trek’s guiding principle, Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, something that Martin-Green echoed at Comic-Con: “Star Trek has always been a pictorial of diversity,” she reportedly said at a press panel. “If you say you love the legacy of Star Trek but you don't love [the diversity], then you've missed it. I encourage you to join us, come on the journey with us.”

Cruz, for his part, spent some time on Monday playing, as he calls it, “Whack-a-Troll.”

July 24 2017 12:18 PM

Hey, Elizabeth Warren, We Heard You Like Ballers, So We Recapped the Season Premiere for You

Sunday night saw the highly-anticipated season three premiere of Ballers, HBO’s R-rated comedy set in the world of professional sports. Or, more accurately, Sunday night saw the narrowly-anticipated season three premiere of Ballers. The series has exactly one famous fan, but she’s a very famous and very enthusiastic fan: Senator Elizabeth Warren. As Uproxx documented and Samantha Bee further explored, Senator Warren has unaccountably taken every opportunity to promote the spiritual successor to Entourage, mentioning it in her new book, working it into a Facebook post about WGA contract negotiations, and even exchanging tweets about it with series star Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson:

July 24 2017 11:34 AM

On Game of Thrones, Dany’s War Council Proved You Don’t Need a Penis to Run Westeros

Did you notice something unusual about Daenerys Targaryen’s first major war council since touching down in Dragonstone in Game of Thrones’ “Stormborn?”

Girls! We run this mother (yeah).

As Dany is gearing up for her takeover of Westeros, she’s marshalling her armies, and nearly all of them are run by women. Houses Martell, Tyrell, Greyjoy, and Targaryen were all represented by badass bitches, accompanied by three eunuchs, a handmaiden, and, to use the epithet once thrown at Tyrion Lannister, a “half-man.”

In other words: a conspicuous (near-)absence of cock. A 9:1 person-to-penis ratio, in fact.

Game of Thrones has never been a show to shy away from dick, from Theon’s to Hodor’s, but “Stormborn”—named for Daenerys’ occasional title, taken from the torrent that raged during her birth—was defined by penile absenteeism.

It was a powerful sight to behold, not least because for six seasons of Game of Thrones, government cabinets have tended to skew heavily male. Robert Baratheon’s small council had more dudes than a Donald Trump photo op, with Jon Arryn/Ned Stark, Maester Pycelle, Littlefinger, Varys, and the Baratheons, Renly and Stannis. Joffrey’s original council included one woman, Cersei, to four men—six if you count the absent Tywin and Jaime—while Tommen’s was 5–1 female–male, and after the death of his grandfather and imprisonment of his mother, 4-0. Even Daenerys’ early councils were certified dudefests, with the queen seeking counsel from her herd of male admirers.

Not so anymore.

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