Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog

May 24 2016 4:59 PM

Paul McCartney Tells the Story Behind His Collaborations With Kanye West

When Kanye West first released the studio version of his raucous 2015 single “All Day,” I noted the surprising inclusion of elements of an obscure, 45-year-old outtake from Paul McCartney. Remembering that McCartney wrote the song after the birth of his first child, I wondered: “Did West and McCartney, who also recorded the parental ballad ‘Only One’ together, bond over memories of having their first children—and end up with this?”

It turns out that I wasn’t far off the mark. During a new Q&A with BBC Radio 4 for their Mastertapes series—which you can watch in full here—an audience member asked McCartney, “Who in current music inspires you to keep writing?” McCartney mentioned Rihanna, Ed Sheeran, and James Bay (who was in the audience), and then said, “I love Kanye.” Thus began his explanation of how two of his collaborations with West—“All Day” and “FourFiveSeconds”—came together.

May 24 2016 12:35 PM

The Top 10 Rule-Breaking Films of All Time, in One Video Countdown

There are certain aspects of filmmaking that we take for granted: Some are just expectations—a movie that starts off as a crime drama typically won’t suddenly turn into a horror movie halfway in—while others are actual rules, like the 180-degree rule, which keeps the camera on one side of a scene’s action. CineFix’s newest Top 10 video countdown celebrates the renegade filmmakers who flouted these conventions and instead took risks with nonclassical editing, nonlinear plots, and bizarre visuals.

Among those honored are Alfred Hitchcock, who makes the list for breaking the rule that you can’t kill off the protagonist before the final act (a twist that was much more shocking in a pre–George R. R. Martin era) and Jean-Luc Godard, who flaunts the artifice of editing where most try to disguise it. But their top pick is a tough call between some of the most rebellious directors of all time.

May 24 2016 11:31 AM

The New Finding Dory Trailer Will Remind You of Pixar’s Secret Weapon: Crushing Sadness

The first couple of trailers for Finding Dory have been cute and bubbly, playing up the titular character’s memory loss and her journey to find her family for child-friendly laughs. The newest trailer, however, gets a bit more emotional—and reminds us that one of the key ingredients to Pixar’s success is its ability to go straight for the tear ducts.

There are also some good gags throughout, but at one point during their adventure, Nemo looks to his dad Marlin and asks hesitantly, “Does this mean we have to say goodbye to Dory?”

May 24 2016 10:55 AM

How Could That Chewbacca Mask Video Get Any More Joyful? Add Autotune.

Last week, Texas woman Candace Payne recorded herself cracking up while trying on a noisemaking Chewbacca mask—and a viral video was born. Now with more than 140 million views, Payne’s gleeful unboxing is the most-watched Facebook Live video ever and has caught the attention of everyone from Kohl’s to Star Wars director J.J. Abrams.

Like any good viral video, Payne’s soon got the autotune treatment from the Gregory Brothers, the masterminds whose other “songified” viral hits include the nearly-as-joyful double rainbow and thundersnow freakouts (not to mention the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt theme song). Their Chewbacca remix captures all the elation of the original—except now it will be stuck in your head for a week.

May 24 2016 8:32 AM

The Story Behind Game of Thrones’ Children of the Forest

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

Spoilers ahead for the most recent episode of Game of Thrones and A Song of Ice and Fire.

In one of Bran’s three visions on Sunday, he discovers the origin story of the White Walkers: The not-quite-so-innocent Children of the Forest created them. His lesson is a bit rushed, and he doesn’t get all the answers he’d like. For instance, did they know what they were doing when they shoved what appears to be an obsidian blade (aka dragon-glass) into the chest of their first test subject, the man who would become the Night’s King? Did they ever have the means to control their Frankenstein creatures? And why did the White Walkers turn against their makers?

We don’t have all the answers, either, but we can fill in the blanks for some based on what we know from the books. When Leaf tells Bran, “We were being slaughtered. We needed to defend ourselves,” she’s referring to the coming of the First Men across the Narrow Sea to Westeros. In what would be considered the prehistoric period of Westeros—the Dawn Age—one of the original inhabitants of the land were the Children of the Forest. (“Before your Old Tongue was ever spoken, we had sung our songs 10,000 years,” one says.) Some compare the Children to elves, fairy folk, or land spirits, since their spirits and memories become part of the trees after death. The Children worshiped the old gods (the gods of the forest, stream, and stone) and were peaceful, at least until they were threatened by the invasion of men some 12,000 years ago.

May 24 2016 8:02 AM

This Giant Sculpture of Kafka’s Head Perfectly Encapsulates His Strange Relationship to Prague

Franz Kafka had the distinct fortune of growing up twice-alienated from his hometown of Prague, given that he was a German-speaking Jew in a Czech-speaking city full of anti-Semites. And yet, outside of a year or two in Berlin toward the end of his life, he never managed to wrest himself from the “claws” of the moody, mesmerizing “city of a thousand spires” that now counts him among its most famous inhabitants.

In death, Kafka’s relationship to the Golden City has been almost as complicated—indeed, it seems primarily monetary, as his mystique works quite well to part hordes of tourists from their korun at the museum, bookshop, cafes and stores that bear his name or his gaunt, sharp-eyed visage. For the Czechs, however, claiming Kafka has always been something of a burden—and not just because Czechs rarely crack a smile for anything other than an ovocny dort.

May 24 2016 7:32 AM

The Best Movies to Stream on Netflix 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 Instant in June. (All titles expire June 1 except where otherwise noted.)

May 23 2016 11:19 PM

NBC’s Least-Popular Upfront Trailer Actually Looks Kind of Awesome

The upfronts are over, the new shows have been announced announced, and all that’s left is data journalism. Variety tracked the total number of viewers for each network’s new show’s trailers, and the results were, mostly, not surprising. Shows that look like they might be good, like Designated Survivor, drew a lot of eyeballs, shows that look terrible, like Pure Genius and Imaginary Mary (seriously, try to make sense of that Pure Genius trailer), remained mostly unwatched. But there was one anomaly: NBC’s The Good Place, which somehow managed to be the network’s least-watched trailer.

That’s bizarre, because a lot of people should be interested based on pedigree alone: it’s from Michael Schur, who wrote for The Office and co-created Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It stars Kristen Bell and Ted Danson, neither of whom is exactly untalented. The pilot was directed by The Cabin in the Woods director Drew Goddard, of all people. And based on the trailer, it looks funny: Kristen Bell is a good-for-nothing who ends up in heaven by mistake and decides to stay. It clearly draws a lot from Defending Your Life, but consider this: Defending Your Life is excellent. It’s true that NBC only had two other new shows, and one of them has a zeppelin, but their most watched trailer is clearly a Subaru ad in disguise, so that can’t be it. Besides, everyone can relate to secretly being a bad, petty person constantly surrounded by insufferably cheerful tryhards, right? Right?

May 23 2016 9:45 PM

Save Yourself the Cost of a Ticket by Watching the Trailer to Independence Day: Resurgence

Want to see literally every imaginable plot point in Roland Emmerich’s upcoming Independence Day: Resurgence but can’t wait until June 23? You’re in luck, because the new extended trailer for the summer blockbuster/military recruitment drive seems to be pretty comprehensive. From expository scenes of Liam Hemsworth on a moon base to a 2001: A Space Odyssey–lite trip to an alien relic to third-act chaos—anyone who couldn’t re-engineer a 90-percent-accurate screenplay from this isn’t paying attention.

Compare that to the original teaser for Independence Day back in 1996, which raised more questions than it answered. Forget mapping out all of the character relationships: It doesn’t even have any of the film’s stars. Still, in this day and age of rising ticket prices and stagnant wages, we should all be grateful 20th Century Fox is giving us the theatrical experience for free. 

May 23 2016 12:57 PM

Why Justin Timberlake Said Bye Bye Bye to R&B and Went Back to the Top of the Charts

Maybe you can go home again. Maybe the world would actually prefer that you went home again.

That’s the conclusion one draws from the explosive debut at the top of the Hot 100 by “Can’t Stop the Feeling!”—a buoyant pure-pop single by Justin Timberlake. It’s his lightest confection since the peak of his boy-band days with ’N Sync, and his first No. 1 in more than nine years. With this out-of-nowhere chart-topper, Timberlake rains all over the “got my first No. 1 hit!” parade of Drake, King Sad Boy, halting the penthouse run of his “One Dance” at just one week. (Maybe putting “One” in the title of Drake’s song wasn’t such a hot idea. We chart nerds call this “pulling a Barenaked Ladies.”)

At the ripe old pop star age of 35, Timberlake improbably scores the biggest-opening single of his career, either solo or with ’N Sync. First-week sales of 379,000 downloads—the best weekly sales of any 2016 song—made the No. 1 debut of “Feeling” a near-foregone conclusion; its lead was also padded by instant–Top 10–level airplay and more than 15 million first-week streams, including millions of views of the song’s music videos: one (above) featuring Justin’s famous friends and a second featuring strenuously quirky unfamous people. “Feeling” is the 26th song in Hot 100 history to start its chart life at No. 1, a feat that’s still impressive if somewhat commonplace lately—in the last nine months, three other hits have pulled it off: one song by that other Justin, former teen star Justin Bieber (“What Do You Mean?”); one by blockbuster balladeer Adele (“Hello”); and one by another ex-boy-bander, former One Direction member Zayn Malik (“Pillowtalk”). But what’s remarkable about Timberlake debuting at No. 1 is he’s about a decade older than all of these twentysomethings, none of whom were releasing music the last time he topped the charts.

How’d this happen? Sure, “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” is catchy as hell—given the May release, it’s clear Timberlake has decided to try to get a head start on this year’s Song of the Summer competition. (For those of you who enjoy that horse race, last week’s pre–Memorial Day numbers won’t count for Billboard’s annual Summer Songs tally, but assuming “Feeling” keeps piling up data into June, one has to consider it 2016’s prohibitive favorite.) As my colleague Forrest Wickman noted in Slate, “Feeling” is basically Timberlake crassly getting some of that sweet, sweet “Happy” action. Like Pharrell Williams’ 2013 single—Billboard’s No. 1 song of 2014—“Feeling” is an up-with-people feel-good ditty written expressly for an animated film (Despicable Me 2 in Pharrell’s case, the forthcoming Trolls in Justin’s case), and both hits were promoted by videos of regular joes and Hollywood stars alike toe-tapping in the streets and down the aisles of grocery stores.

Still, on paper at least, it would have been hard to predict Timberlake’s song would open quite this well.