Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

Nov. 23 2017 1:32 AM

Thanksgiving Stress? Maybe This 12-Hour Recording of Turkeys Gobbling Can Help!

Thanksgiving! Is there any other word that so perfectly embodies the spirit of Thanksgiving? If there is, we should change the holiday’s name to whatever that word is, probably. But whatever name it goes by, Thanksgiving can only mean one thing: Playing 12 hours of turkey sound effects at increasingly high volume until your family goes home and leaves you in peace. Say hello to your new favorite holiday record, courtesy of YouTube user “The Twelve Hour Movie Specialist”:

Yes, that’s hens and tom turkeys you’re hearing, gobbling, yelping, cackling and purring in a veritable symphony of Thanksgiving. It’s twelve hours long, though, so it’s very important to think about pacing before the big day begins, in order to minimize your stress and maximize everyone else’s.

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When your guests arrive, the sounds of turkeys gobbling softly in the background should seem like an eccentric but nevertheless seasonally appropriate soundtrack choice. How quickly you increase the volume is up to you, but remember that 85 decibels is the threshold for damaging your guests’ hearing, so you’ll need to reach that level before the conversation turns to politics. Beyond that, the only limits are your own imagination, your speakers, and your neighborhood’s electrical grid. There’s probably no time to install a stadium sound system this year, but even a humble home theater setup can make your guests feel fully surrounded by the ceaseless gobbling of gigantic, deafeningly loud, flightless birds. Talk about having a lot to be thankful for!

Nov. 22 2017 5:00 PM

The Harvey Weinstein Scandal Will Get the Law & Order: SVU Treatment (Sort of)

Law & Order recently experimented with true crime, but the franchise hasn’t given up on their usual practice of taking real news stories and turning them into fictionalized, police procedural entertainment. If anything, it’s almost surprising that it took this long for Law & Order: SVU to announce that an episode addressing the Harvey Weinstein scandal is headed to a TV near you in 2018.

Since you’re probably weary enough of the real-life accusations of predatory behavior against prominent producers, directors, and actors over the past couple of months, SVU is introducing a twist—the episode won’t be about harassment in the entertainment industry. (Dun dun!) Executive producer Michael Chernuchin told Entertainment Weekly that the writers decided instead to explore the “boys club” of airline pilots: “It’s a real important episode about the rape culture in an industry, and we wanted to try stretch the law to criminalize that sort of environment.”

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Most of what Weinstein is accused of doing is already illegal, with no stretching of the law necessary, so maybe the episode will focus on some of the grayer areas of sexual harassment? Between that premise and the focus on an industry that has nothing to do with Weinstein, Chernuchin's claim that “we are hitting Harvey Weinstein head-on” sounds like a more exciting way to say “we are making an episode about rape culture,” which is kind of what SVU is all about anyway.

Nov. 22 2017 12:38 PM

Seth Meyers on Trump’s Refusal to Disavow Roy Moore: “Sexual Predators of a Feather Flock Together”

On Tuesday, Donald Trump finally answered questions about Roy Moore, the Alabama Senate candidate who has been accused of romantically pursuing teenagers while he was in his 30s. (Moore has denied the allegations and even having met some of the women in question, despite a mountain of evidenceagainst him.) Trump, of course, expressed his serious concerns about Moore’s moral qualifications and joined calls for him to step aside so that an investigat—oh wait, sorry. I was imagining a timeline where things are slightly less terrible than they actually are. My mistake.

Nov. 22 2017 12:10 PM

Gayle King Chats With Colbert About the Mood at CBS, Post-Charlie Rose: “We’re All Reeling.”

Charlie Rose’s former co-anchor Gayle King had a long Tuesday. She went from speaking about her feelings regarding allegations made against him on CBS This Morning to a pre-scheduled appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, all on very little sleep.

King had originally been set to appear on the Late Show for a light-hearted conversation about Oprah's latest “Favorite Things” installment, in her capacity as an editor-at-large for O. Instead, thanks to the fortuitous timing of a Washington Post exposé on Monday in which eight women accused Rose of sexual harassment, her chat with Colbert took on a much more somber tone. (Rose issued a statement apologizing for his “inappropriate behavior,” though he also said, “I do not believe that all of these allegations are accurate.”)

Nov. 22 2017 9:22 AM

Every Movie Is Better With Kenneth Branagh’s Mustache From Murder on the Orient Express

Sure, Murder on the Orient Express gave us a talented ensemble cast with the likes of Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, and Derek Jacobi, but we all know who the real scene-stealer was: Kenneth Branagh’s glorious mustache. Those magnificent tufts of hair proved to be 2017's biggest breakout star, and now they’re in talks for what we can only assume will be an equally bushy role in the sequel.

That got us thinking: What other movies could be improved with the facial hair of famed detective Hercule Poirot? In the spirit of “Everything Is Better With Seneca Crane’s Beard From The Hunger Games,” we decided to find out for ourselves.

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Nov. 22 2017 8:33 AM

Why Marvel’s Runaways Is the Future of Superhero TV

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Talk to enough people in the superhero industry and you’ll wish you could erase the word grounded from the English lexicon. Movie directors, comic-book writers, TV actors—they’ll all tell you over and over that their goal is to make sure their tales of metahuman derring-do are grounded. Rarely do you get an explanation as to what they mean, but one can infer that they want their characters to feel less like Adam West’s Batman and more like Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight. More often than not, though, those attempts to ground a story just mean taking the fundamentally implausible setups of superhero-dom and grafting some cheap pathos onto them—a dead girlfriend to avenge, a simplistic trolley-problem quandary, an overwrought love triangle, and the like. Attempts to tie such endeavors down are typically feeble, and they often float away into stupidity despite their shepherds’ best intentions.

Runaways, on the other hand, earns that word. Lord knows it needed to. The latest Marvel Television outing, debuting November 21 on Hulu, could have easily become an exercise in eye-rolling camp. It has more than its share of potentially silly elements: disaffected teens, scheming parents, real-estate pornography, and assorted secrets and lies of the rich and famous. Throw in some uncanny abilities and you’ve got a recipe for cheese. But Runaways creators Stephanie Savage and Josh Schwartz, the brain trust behind Gossip Girl and The O.C., manage to take threads of comic-book grandiosity and prime-time soap drama and weave them into a subtle, clever, and moving work that feels less like Marvel than it does like magical realism. It does so most potently in its pilot, which is an hour-long vision of what the future of superhero TV can look like.

Nov. 22 2017 7:33 AM

Ben Mendelsohn Is Hollywood’s New Favorite Villain, But Which of His Roles Are Most Menacing?

It may be hard to believe for anyone who’s been keeping track of Ben Mendelsohn’s career only since his international breakthrough with 2010’s Animal Kingdom, but the man who now rivals Mark Strong as Hollywood’s hired bad guy du jour rose to fame in his native Australia as the star of much lighter fare. Teen movies and rom-coms like The Year My Voice Broke were once the order of the day, but thanks to his terrifying performance in David Michôd’s ferocious crime drama, the actor has since carved out a niche as one of cinema’s premier bastards.

To celebrate the release of Joe Wright’s Darkest Hour, in which Mendelsohn plays an antagonistic King George VI to Gary Oldman’s Winston Churchill, we’ve ranked Mendelsohn’s roles in order of menace, from a more general scumbagginess to straight-up homicidal sociopathy.

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Mississippi Grind—Gerry

One of few non-threatening characters Mendelsohn has played since recalibrating his career with Animal Kingdom, Mississippi Grind’s Gerry is still no hero. He may be the focus of Anna Fleck and Ryan Boden’s gambling drama, but Gerry’s an antagonist; it’s just that his compulsion to bet away every last penny makes him a danger to himself more than anyone else. Otherwise Gerry is rather endearing, a dorky, superstitious sad sack who forms an easy bond with happy-go-lucky fellow gambler Curtis (Ryan Reynolds), as they together tour casinos and gambling dens along the Mississippi river looking to make their fortune.

Most villainous moment: Having made a stopover at his ex-wife’s place in Little Rock, Gerry is caught trying to sneak a fistful of bills from the sock drawer. There’s no fear on her part, just pity and relief that she got out of that marriage when she did.

Menace-O-Meter: 2

Darkest Hour—King George VI

Mendelsohn’s catalogue of low-rent scumbags makes him seem like a strange choice for a monarch, but considering that George VI, who only took the throne after his brother abdicated, wrote that he “broke down and sobbed” the day before his coronation, the fact that Mendelsohn doesn’t quite fit makes him strangely perfect for the role. His George isn’t a foe to Gary Oldman’s Winston Churchill so much as an X factor, one who could throw the balance of power to Churchill’s Parliamentary enemies who want to appease Hitler rather than waging war. When Colin Firth played George VI in The King’s Speech, he leaked vulnerability all over the screen, but Mendelsohn’s quiet deliberateness lends the king just the slightest menace.

Most villainous moment: During a tense lunch, their first as monarch and Prime Minister, George marvels at Churchill’s prodigious appetites, and especially his ability to drink alcohol during daylight hours. He’s tweaking the insecurities of an inferior, or would be if Churchill weren’t so cannily deaf to social norms.

Menace-O-Meter: 2

The Place Beyond the Pines—Robin Van Der Hook

Playing the twitchy, nicotine-stained getaway driver who convinces Ryan Gosling’s pretty-boy bank robber to break bad in the first place, Mendelsohn surprisingly emerges as one of the more likeable figures in Derek Cianfrance’s lush familial saga. Sure, Robin is an unapologetic criminal, but he’s also warmly paternal towards Gosling’s self-consciously iconic “Handsome” Luke Glanton, providing the drifter rebel with the kind of warped father figure you suspect he never had.

Most villainous moment: Worried his buddy is going to attempt a recklessly dangerous heist on his own, Robin has a brain wave, and breaks out the power tools to cut Luke’s favorite bank-robbin’ bike into useless scrap.

Menace-O-Meter: 4

Killing Them Softly—Russell

Andrew Dominik’s nihilistic anti-thriller, set in a Boston crime scene that’s so far from organized, is packed to the rafters with lousy bad guys, but Mendelsohn’s verbose junkie thief Russell is quite probably the lousiest criminal of the bunch. A small time crook in the game primarily to fund his smack habit, Russell is a character to be repulsed by rather than afraid of, boastful of unhinged sexual encounters and perpetually glazed in an opioid sweat. Less a functioning adult than an overgrown adolescent, Russell like partner-in-crime Frankie (Scoot McNairy) might be capable of really doing bad if only he wasn’t constantly fucking up.

Most villainous moment: Wielding a shotgun with the barrels sawn off so low the shells are visible, Russell holds up an underground card game that will get poor low-level mobster Markie Trattman (Ray Liotta) whacked for his suspected involvement.

Menace-O-Meter: 4

Exodus: Gods and Kings—Viceroy Hegep

Enlivening Ridley Scott’s turgid biblical tale as an ingratiating viceroy to Joel Edgerton’s affected Ramses, Mendelsohn allows himself a rare moment to indulge. A sultan of camp lacquered in fake tan, Mendelsohn’s Hegep is dangerous only by birthright, in command of a fiefdom and personal militia but otherwise too cowardly and obsequious to be intimidating on his own terms. So spoiled he’s almost bored of his own villainy, Hegep would rather “thin the herd” of the thousands of Hebrew slaves he’s responsible for than have to spend another day watching over their increasing number.

Most villainous moment: Humiliated by Moses’ decision to inform Ramses that the Viceroy has been stealing from the public purse, Hegep takes revenge by ratting out Moses out as a Hebrew, thereby currying favour with Ramses and making Moses persona non grata in Egypt.

Menace-O-Meter: 5

Slow West—Payne

Always chewing on a fat cigar and draped in a comically gigantic bear-skin coat, Mendelsohn manages to exude ruthless authority with hardly a word in John Maclean’s patient pastiche western. As bounty hunter Payne, on the trail like our mismatched heroes Jay (Kodi Smit-McPhee) and Silas (Michael Fassbender) of a fugitive father and daughter pair, Mendelsohn adopts an insouciance that suggests killing has become second nature. In this land of violence, that doesn’t make Payne unique; the reason he’s this story’s villain is he just happens to be better at it than most.

Most villainous moment: Payne watches as a rival bounty hunter kills his latest quarry, before emerging from hiding to casually shoot his competitor in the back, the hard work already done.

Menace-O-Meter: 5

The Dark Knight Rises—John Daggett

In a trial run before later promotions to chief blockbuster antagonist, Mendelsohn in 2012 took the minor role of wealthy benefactor to colossal Bat-villain Bane. Mendelsohn is one of many performers jostling for space in Christopher Nolan’s unwieldy superhero epic, given only minimal screen time as the suit unleashing a supervillain on Gotham as part of his plan to take over Wayne Enterprises, even in a handful of scenes he still manages to paint a detestable picture of Daggett’s entitlement, sneering out over his turtleneck at a world he’s certain is beneath him.

Most villainous moment: Still under the impression he’s the film’s mastermind and not another disposable henchman, the odious industrialist chews Bane out for his lack of progress on securing him Bruce Wayne’s company. Suffice to say Daggett doesn’t leave this meeting alive, but points earned for standing up to 225 lbs. of sheer evil without breaking into a sweat.

Menace-O-Meter: 5

Bloodline—Danny Rayburn

In an Emmy-winning performance, Mendelsohn elevated Netflix’s trashy sunshine noir as Danny Rayburn, the black sheep of a wealthy Florida Keys family that would prefer to see the back of its most difficult son. It’s an anxiety that Danny is happy to exploit when he returns home after years away with murky intentions, and we understand why Danny’s father and siblings want him gone: Mendelsohn is disconcertingly inscrutable in the role, Danny at times apparently magnanimous but so self-destructive his initial good intentions sour, in other moments barely masking his smirking desire to just blow up the family he feels betrayed him as a young man.

Most villainous moment: Urged to leave town by his detective brother John, Danny takes John’s daughter out on a boat alone and gifts her a seahorse necklace, a hint at the Rayburns’ troubled past that John knows to be a serious threat.

Menace-O-Meter: 6

Starred Up—Neville Love

When first we meet the long-incarcerated Neville Love, he’s squaring up to newbie jailbird Eric (Jack O’Connell) in the yard of Starred Up’s anonymous British prison with a foul-mouthed warning to avoid any “dramas” during his stay. Only later do we realize that these two are father and son, and what was intended as advice only sounded like a threat because, after years on the inside, dead-eyed Neville’s forgotten what diplomacy and sensitivity even sound like. The elder Love gets a redemption in the final act, relentlessly cutting down inmates and guards to rescue his boy from a forced suicide, but by the stage in life in which we meet him Neville has already almost had all trace of humanity extinguished.

Most villainous moment: Goaded into action by his son’s taunts about the close relationship he keeps with his cellmate, Neville lays into Eric with a few disciplinary slaps, kicking off a royal father-son melee that ultimately puts the prison on lockdown.

Menace-O-Meter: 6

Lost River—Dave

If there’s one person who makes Ryan Gosling’s sub-Lynchian wotsit worth sitting through (other than alchemist cinematographer Benoit Debie), it’s Gosling’s Place Beyond the Pines co-star in another scuzzy supporting role. Like most everyone else involved, Mendelsohn doesn’t seem entirely sure what Gosling’s dim fable is aiming at, but as a crooning, dad-dancing nightclub owner who wants to manipulate Christina Hendricks’ struggling single mother into sexual subservience, he at least fully commits to the irredeemable slimeball persona.

Most villainous moment: With Hendricks’ Billy encased in a Perspex shell inside his freaky fetish club, Dave commences suggestively boogying in her general direction, and all she can do is watch him get down in frozen terror.

Menace-O-Meter: 7

Black Sea — Fraser

Reunited with his Killing Them Softly co-star Scoot McNairy, Mendelsohn plays his role in submarine thriller Black Sea with considerably less skeezy charm. With Kevin Macdonald’s underwater Treasure of the Sierra Madre short on characterization, the uncertain motivation for Mendelsohn’s paranoid submariner to start picking off his fellow crew of treasure seekers makes his actions even more unsettling. Is it simple greed driving him, Fraser knowing fewer crewmembers means a larger share of sunken Nazi gold for him, or plain insanity?

Most villainous moment: In a fit of rage bolstered by his xenophobia, Fraser stabs a vital Russian crewmember to death, needlessly plunging an already perilous mission into further danger.

Menace-O-Meter: 8

Una—Ray Brooks

Ray is outwardly one of Mendelsohn’s more normal characters, a boring everyday bloke with a wife, decent job and cosy suburban life in leafy southern England. He’s also a convicted pedophile. Beyond that, there’s uncertainty over whether Ray is a sick man who once upon a time gave into baser urges, or a crafty predator who uses his apparent normalcy as a front to manipulate those around him. Was Una (Rooney Mara), the young woman who in Benedict Andrews’ film confronts him about the relationship he entered into with her when she was just 13, really an exception as he claims? A poker-faced Mendelsohn doesn’t tell, but Ray’s lack of remorse and ability to convince himself that a 13-year-old was so preternaturally mature as to be able to consent is chilling enough.

Most villainous moment: Ray assures the adult Una that the only underage girl he ever had designs on was her, calmly insisting that he feels nothing for the pre-pubescent daughter-in-law from his new marriage.

Menace-O-Meter: 8

Rogue One—Orson Krennic

Something of an anomaly in the Star Wars universe, Mendelsohn’s Director Krennic, the Imperial architect of moon-shaped doomsday device the Death Star, isn’t one of the sci-fi franchise’s cackling, black-clad uber-villains. While his bosses—Darth Vader, Grand Moff Tarkin and an unseen Emperor—are more outwardly sinister, Krennic a bright, ambitious bureaucrat who just happens to be working for the Nazis, and more disturbing for it. A paid-up subscriber to the Empire’s twisted ideology, Krennic believes that his apocalyptic superweapon can bring peace to the galaxy, and that if committing planetary genocide is what it takes to end the ongoing war between his side and its Rebel enemies, so be it.

Most villainous moment: Testing the newly operational Death Star’s capabilities, Krennic wipes out the holy city of Jedha and its inhabitants with a single energy blast, pausing only to marvel at how “beautiful” he finds the destructive potential of his passion project.

Menace-O-Meter: 9

Animal Kingdom—Pope Cody

In the barrel of bad apples that is Animal Kingdom’s crime family, eldest brother Andrew “Pope” Cody is the most rotten of the bunch. A textbook sociopath with a propensity for “funny how?”-style ribbing and an unhealthy interest in his tearaway nephew J’s school-age girlfriend, Pope is the reason why Mendelsohn now seems to be landing every high-profile villain gig going: the actor is nauseatingly unpredictable in his breakout role, as a hollow, awkward figure who superficially appears human but can barely seem to imitate one in between acts of animal violence.

Most villainous moment: Worried that J’s girlfriend Nicky will talk to the police about the family’s crimes, Pope injects Nicky with heroin and then suffocates her, before dumping her body out on the streets of Melbourne.

Menace-O-Meter: 11

Nov. 22 2017 5:31 AM

Finally: A Genius, Fully Make-Ahead Thanksgiving Turkey

This post originally appeared in Genius Recipes on Food52.

What if you could wake up on Thanksgiving morning and not have to roast a turkey? (This isn’t a trick question—you still get to eat turkey.)

The oven would be free to churn through pies and stuffing and whatever unexpected casseroles might show up. You wouldn’t need to worry about maneuvering and babysitting a 15-pound roast beast while the kitchen is full of other bustle. And best of all, there would be no fear of the bird drying out, whether mistimed or forgotten—thanks to some very clever advance planning.

Nov. 22 2017 1:07 AM

Good News! Good Show The Good Place Gets New Season, Should be Good

Mike Schur’s good show The Good Place did good and should return, reports a reporter at the Hollywood Reporter. Showrunner Schur started the show in 2015; the third season of the thirty minute comedy, like the two that preceded it, will be 13 episodes long. Thrilling!

Schur’s show shows the story of Eleanor Shellstrop (Kristen Bell), who succumbs to shock from a shopping cart smash-up, and whose soul subsequently suffers in “the Good Place,” a suspiciously shitty Sartrean state supervised by a spirit named Michael (Ted Danson). William Jackson Harper, Jameela Jamil, Manny Jacinto, and D’Arcy Carden round out the excellent cast; the writing staff includes former Gawker editor Cord Jefferson and comedian/failed Glee auditioner Megan Amram.

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The Good Place, which has already explored philosophy and produced an epic list of punny restaurant names appropriate for a hypothetical afterlife where things are not all that great, returns Jan. 4.

Nov. 21 2017 11:42 PM

Partridge Family Star David Cassidy Has Died at 67

Partridge Family star David Cassidy died Tuesday at the age of 67, the New York Times reports. The cause of death was organ failure, according to his publicist.

Cassidy was born in New York City in 1950. He debuted as an actor on Broadway in a short-lived 1969 musical called The Fig Leaves are Falling, which lasted long enough to earn him a screen test in Los Angeles. After moving to California, Cassidy booked small roles on several TV shows before being cast as Keith Partridge, the oldest of five children in a family musical act, on ABC’s The Partridge Family. (His stepmother Shirley Jones played his mother on the show.)

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The show, which ran for four seasons and turned Cassidy into a teen idol, was produced by Screen Gems Television, the same company behind The Monkees, and as with that other show about a fictional band, merchandising and record deals were very much part of the package. In the case of The Partridge Family, none of the cast members were originally supposed to do more than lip-sync their songs, but Cassidy talked his way into the recording sessions and he and his stepmother became the two members of the Partridge Family who actually sang.

The Partridge Family yielded several hit records, including the 1970 #1 hit “I Think I Love You,” and Cassidy launched a solo career, charting in his own right with “Cherish” in 1972. By the time his television show was cancelled after four seasons, he’d played sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden and Wembley Stadium. But he was uneasy with the commercialization of his own image, telling one interviewer, “I’m exploited by people who put me on the back of cereal boxes.”

After The Partridge Family ended, Cassidy stopped touring and worked as a recording artist only. He eventually returned to acting, picking up an Emmy nomination in 1978. In his later years, he faced struggles both with money and with alcohol, even as he began performing again was involved with several successful Las Vegas shows. He was married and divorced three times and is survived by a son and a daughter.

Here’s how Cassidy described being a teen idol in a 1972 Rolling Stone interview:

It’s a high going out on that stage. You look around and it’s all there for you, people loving you like that. My friends are there with me, I’m doing what I love to do most, singing and I’m singing for people who would rather have me sing than anybody else in the world.
“There's one song I do, ‘I Woke Up in Love This Morning,’ and I find a little place where I can sort of point to them. And they each think I mean them, and I do.

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