Stephen Colbert Proposes Alternate Fox News Slogans After the Network Drops “Fair and Balanced”

After more than two decades, Fox News has dropped its longtime “Fair & Balanced” slogan, and Stephen Colbert has some idea why: “I assume because they finally watched themselves.” According to New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman, the network reportedly dropped the catchphrase, a trademark of the Roger Ailes era, because it had been widely mocked. Colbert can certainly understand that reasoning, given that he personally mocked the slogan regularly during his almost 10 years hosting The Colbert Report, the satirical late-night talk show dedicated to parodying Fox’s then–most famous political pundit. (“I’m sorry,” he mouthed to the camera in his Late Show monologue on Thursday.)

In the meantime, Fox is rolling with another of its taglines: “Most Watched. Most Trusted.” But Colbert had some alternate proposals, including “CNN for Your Angry Uncle,” “Thanks for Watching, Mr. President!” and “You’d Be Pretty if You Smiled More.” Oof.

Watch Barack Obama Induct Jay Z Into the Songwriters Hall of Fame

The Songwriters Hall of Fame didn’t knock the hustle; it honored it. On Thursday, Jay Z was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame—the first rapper to receive the honor.

Jay also made history by presenting us with the greatest Dropbox moment of all time when, after taking to his barely used Twitter account to shout out a list of rappers who inspired him throughout his career, he tweeted out a Dropbox link that led to a now-deleted video of former president Barack Obama—whom he called “the greatest rapper of all time”—inducting Jay into the hall.

In the two-minute video, Obama draws parallels between Jay and himself, pointing out that they both had rougher childhoods, grew up with absent fathers, try to create opportunities for others to find success. “And let’s face it,” Obama continued, “we both have wives who are significantly more popular than we are.”

Obama also highlighted his well-documented love for Jay’s music, going back to his days as a “young and hungry state senator." “I sampled his lyrics to close my speech at Selma," the former president reflected. "I tweeted a reference to ‘My 1st Song’ as I was putting the finishing touches on my final State of the Union address. I had to brush some dirt off my shoulders during a campaign.” The former president also said that he’s pretty sure he’s still the only president to play Jay Z’s music in the oval office. (This is factually incorrect, as Warren G. Harding was known to listen to “Renegade” every morning when he got into the office.)

Jay was absent for the ceremony itself, but his friend Jon Platt was there to give remarks on his behalf. “You see, when it comes to the industry’s biggest honors, the hip-hop community has a very long history of being told ‘You’re not songwriters,’ ‘You’re not quite there yet,’ ‘It’s not your time yet,’ ” Platt said. “Well, to all the songwriters and artists from our community and our generation, Jay would want you to know that this induction is a signal that your time has come and your time is now. He would tell up-and-coming hip-hop artists today that there can be no mistake or question that you are indeed songwriters, and your gift cannot ever be overlooked. And Jay would want you to know that as proud as he is to be the first, he’s even more proud that he won’t be the last.”

Jada Pinkett Smith Says All Eyez on Me’s Depiction of Her Friendship With Tupac Is “Deeply Hurtful”

On what would’ve been Tupac Shakur’s 46th birthday, All Eyez on Me, the eagerly anticipated (but not actually good) biopic about his life that was 20 years in the making, is finally in theaters. Friends and collaborators of the rapper have reportedly approved of the film, including Snoop Dogg and Digital Underground’s Money-B (who appears in the film as himself). Not everyone is happy about it, though. Part of the reason for the feature’s delay is the troubled production behind the scenes that led to a slew of writers and directors cycling in and out, including Poetic Justice filmmaker John Singleton, who has had some less than kind words to say about the film as of late.

Now Jada Pinkett Smith, a close friend of Tupac’s, has also come out against All Eyez on Me, criticizing the creators for the way in which they dramatized their relationship, as performed by Kat Graham and Demetrius Shipp Jr. In a series of tweets, she points out a few inaccuracies, including an early scene in which he reads aloud a poem he wrote for her just before leaving Baltimore to head to California.

Pinkett Smith’s friendship with the late rapper has long been a soft spot for their fans, who have admired their deep love for each other, and so it’s hard not to wonder what her opinion on this subject might do for the film’s box office. (In the comments under that thread, some fans have already taken her words as a reason to skip out on seeing the movie.) In the moving video below, an emotional Pinkett Smith discusses Tupac and calls him a “brother, father figure.”

Sigourney Weaver Is a Futuristic Badass in the New Short Film From District 9’s Neill Blomkamp

Neill Blomkamp’s dark and gritty sci-fi brand is back, this time in the form of a short film from his mysterious and experimental Oats Studio that was released online for free on Wednesday.

Rakka—directed and co-written by Blomkamp—stars Ripley herself, Sigourney Weaver, and Eugene Khumbanyiwa, who had previously starred in Blomkamp’s District 9. The 21-minute short film, which is broken up into three parts, takes place in Texas in the year 2020 in a world that has been ravaged by reptilian aliens with telepathic powers—the Klum—who have destroyed the planets resources, killed off most of the human race like vermin, and enslaved the survivors, using them as surrogate incubators for the alien young and conducting experiments on them. Weaver, in true badass form, plays Jasper, the leader of the ever-dwindling human resistance.

The film is as grimy and gritty as you’d expect a short film from the director of District 9 to be—and perhaps a salve for those still pining over Blomkamp’s failed attempt to collaborate with Weaver on a new Alien movie. It’s also as unhinged and brilliantly unconcerned with mass appeal as you’d expect an independently created sci-fi film to be. At just over 20 minutes, Rakka is a great piece of efficient storytelling, and it leaves us with a cliffhanger and a number of unanswered questions, opening a door for future installments.

Of course, this was the point of the film in the first place. Rakka is the first film released by Blomkamp’s Oats Studio, and Blomkamp’s intention is for the film to get enough buzz and motivate enough people to donate to his studio that they can eventually make more installments in Rakka’s world. For now, according to Den of Geek, more experimental sci-fi films (and some short comedy sketches, apparently) will be released under Oats Studio over the next couple of weeks.

The Book of Life Is Getting a Sequel, Because We Can’t Have Too Many Animated Día de los Muertos Movies

It seems there’s room in the Underworld for more than one upcoming animated Day of the Dead–themed movie: In addition to Pixar’s Coco, which comes out in November, we can also finally expect an official sequel to the visually stunning 2014 film The Book of Life. Director Jorge R. Gutierrez announced on Thursday that studio Reel FX is on board and moving forward with plans for The Book of Life 2. He had previously unveiled a poster for a potential sequel to the film on Twitter.

The original Book of Life centers around former childhood friends Manolo (Diego Luna), Maria (Zoe Saldana), and Joaquin (Channing Tatum), whose love triangle rouses the interest of some otherworldly deities. “I am a big fan of romantic movies.” Gutierrez told Variety, which broke the news of the sequel. “I always want to find out what happens afterwards. That’s one question we will ask during the sequel.”

Of course, since the original Book of Life was released, we’ve gotten our first look at another animated movie centered around the famed Mexican holiday: Coco, which shares many of the same themes and similar visuals to Gutierrez’ film. Even before its first trailer had dropped, Coco stirred some controversy when Disney tried to trademark the phrase Día de los Muertos; fortunately for the new Book of Life sequel, the studio withdrew that request after it inspired a backlash.

Both camps seem amicable about the similarities between the two films:

The Book of Life 2 does not yet have a release date.

Stephen Furst, Flounder From Animal House, Dead at 63

Actor, director, and producer Stephen Furst, best known for playing Flounder in Animal House, died Friday of diabetes-related complications at the age of 63, Variety reports. His sons Nathan and Griffith announced their father’s death a post on his Facebook page.

Furst got his start by slipping his headshot into the pizza boxes he was delivering in the 1970s; one of them found its way to producer Matty Simmons, who cast him as legacy pledge and “real zero” Kent “Flounder” Dorfman in 1978’s National Lampoon’s Animal House. Guest appearances on TV shows led to a long-running role as Dr. Elliot Axelrod on St. Elsewhere in the 1980s.

In the 1990s, he played diplomatic attaché/eventual-emperor Vir Cotto on Babylon 5, directing three episodes of the show’s final seasons.* As a director, he went on to make several independent features and a couple of TV movies for SyFy. Through his production banner Curmudgeon Pictures, he produced a variety of films, including the 2009 Cameron Diaz/Abigail Breslin starrer My Sister’s Keeper. He is survived by his sons and Lorraine, his wife of four decades.*

Here is the full statement from his sons:

Actor and comedian Stephen Furst died on June 16, 2017 due to complications from diabetes.

Steve has a long list of earthly accomplishments. He was known to the world as a brilliant and prolific actor and filmmaker, but to his family and many dear friends he was also a beloved husband, father and kind friend whose memory will always be a blessing.

To truly honor him, do not cry for the loss of Stephen Furst. But rather, enjoy memories of all the times he made you snicker, laugh, or even snort to your own embarrassment. He intensely believed that laugher is the best therapy, and he would want us to practice that now.

If you knew him personally, remember his gift for lighting up a room. And no matter who you are, when you think of Steve, instead of being sad, celebrate his life by watching one of his movies or use one of his bits to make someone else laugh – really, really hard.


His sons Nathan and Griffith Furst

*Correction, June 18, 2017: This piece initially misstated that Furst’s wife Lorraine had died earlier in 2017. She is alive and well and we regret the error. Additionally, it misstated that Furst played Vir Costa on Babylon 5. His character’s name was Vir Cotto.

Beyoncé and Jay Z’s Twins Have Arrived! (Supposedly)

Beyoncé and Jay Z have increased their family by two, according to a report at People. An unnamed source told the magazine, “Bey and Jay are thrilled and have started sharing the news with their family and closest friends.” People, Slate, and the rest of the media are similarly thrilled and have started sharing the news with their readers, despite lacking any information on when the babies were born, where the babies were born, who the babies are, where the babies are now, how big sister Blue Ivy feels about no longer being the center of her parents’ attention, or what will happen to the person who leaked Beyoncé’s big news to People.

The singer got to announce that she and her husband were expecting on her own terms, at least, breaking the news in an Instagram post on Feb. 1. Since her performance at the Grammys a week and a half after announcing she was pregnant, Beyoncé has stayed out of the limelight, dropping out of Coachella at her doctor’s request and missing the Met gala for the first time in years. Jay Z was also MIA at his induction to the Songwriters Hall of Fame on Thursday, leading Variety to speculate that the twins were born around that time. Beyond that, details are still hard to come by, but rest assured that as soon as Bey and Jay share more news with their family and closest friends, their family and closest friends will share it with people, those people will share it with People, and eventually it’ll trickle down to you. Presuming music’s first couple doesn’t track down the leakers or put the news on Instagram first. Flawless!

Update, June 18, 2017: Beyoncé’s father Matthew Knowles has confirmed the twins’ arrival on Twitter, while managing to avoid divulging any other information besides “there are twins,” “they were born,” and “I am their grandfather”:

Would I Cross the Street to Spit on You if You Were on Fire? There’s Always a Trade-Off.

A few days ago, Megan McArdle wrote an op-ed in Bloomberg View warning readers to “Beware of Blaming Government for London Tower Fire.” True, the government chose to install unsafe cladding on the outside of the building instead of a fire-resistant option to save £5,000, ignored residents’ pleas for additional staircases or a sprinkler system, and literally gave the money back to the wealthiest taxpayers, i.e., people who were unlikely to live in a council flat to begin with. But, as McCardle wisely reminded us, “There’s always a trade-off.” Maybe installing fire safety measures in public housing would save a few lives, but it’s also possible that there would be unintended consequences. For instance, she suggests that people might have to move farther from their workplaces to afford pricier fire-safe buildings, leading to their nearly-as-fiery deaths in car accidents on their longer commutes—possibly killing even more people than died in Grenfell Tower! (We’ll never be sure, of course, because the police don’t think they’ll be able to identify all the bodies or give an accurate fatality count.) It really makes you think.

McArdle’s clear-eyed moral and economic analysis (basilisk-eyed, even) came to mind today as I was walking through my neighborhood and saw you spontaneously combust on the other side of the street. On first glance, my reaction—acting as if nothing out of the ordinary was happening as you screamed and flailed your arms and batted hopelessly at the spreading flames—might seem callous to the point of being monstrously evil. But is it really that simple? McArdle suggests it is not.

True, you might have a better chance of surviving if I were to cross the street and make some effort to put out the fire, even if it were by doing something so trivial as spitting on you. But instead, I’m just walking by on the opposite sidewalk, deliberately paying no attention and continuing on my merry way. This does not play well for me.

But before you start hanging me in effigy, there are a couple of things we should consider. The first is that, even if I crossed the street and successfully put out the flames, I might not be fast enough to save your life. Fires are not put out like instant coffee (though they might be put out by instant coffee, if only you had some, ha ha ha!). What’s more, this is a pretty wide street, and it might take me a long time to cross it. From what I can see from this distance (pretty far now, because I’ve continued walking while you’ve continued burning), being on fire has already caused an inflammatory response that is leading to an enormous loss of blood and fluids, so spitting on you to put out the flames might be a case of throwing good bodily fluids after bad ones. And that’s if I put the flames out to begin with: All the political will in the world cannot conjure up enough spittle to save you once your clothing starts wicking fat into the heat like a candle.

This, however, is only a quibble; even if you cannot be saved, there are surely other people who would benefit from a societal commitment to crossing the street to spit on people who are on fire. Must we wait for these deaths before we can say this was a bad calculation?

Well, no. But we should wait until we can establish that it was actually a bad calculation.

It may sound heartless to describe life-saving measures as a calculation. But the fact is that I make these sorts of calculations every day, about myself and others, and especially you, personally. I just don’t like to admit that I’m doing it, because it sounds heartless. So I find it reassuring to assume that everyone else also makes those calculations.

Consider the amount of water you drink in a day. I’m sure you all stay very well-hydrated! Nonetheless, when you are spitting to put out a fire, the margin of error for avoiding an uncomfortably dry mouth is pretty small. To spit on even something as trivial as a burning match is to accept a small risk of feeling thirsty in an hour or so. To try to help you as your hair starts catching is to accept a much higher risk of feeling thirsty, even parched. It’s a calculation: risk versus reward.

I have made that choice, and so I assume all Americans have too: nope, not worth it. I (and I assume, we) are manifestly not willing to exchange “cottonmouth” for lower fire fatalities. Nor, as far as I am aware—and I will do my best to never become more aware—is anyone, anywhere else. (Pro tip: If you’re on fire, or at a higher risk of being on fire due to your economic status, you are in no position to assess the costs and benefits and your opinion should be discounted in favor of objective observers like me.)

When the cost is as personal, as glaring and obvious, as having a slightly dry mouth until you can walk to the corner store to buy a bottle of water, we can see that not all safety trade-offs are worth it. However, when the cost seems to be borne by someone else, we suddenly become safety absolutists: No price is too great to pay.

Unfortunately, “other people’s spit” has a way of ultimately coming out of our own mouths. If we expect we might be asked to spit on a person to prevent him or her from burning to death, then we will drink more water, and the cost of bottled water will rise. People will be forced to drink tap water, perhaps tap water contaminated with lead as the result of a similar cost-benefit analysis made by people who only drink bottled water. Some of the people drinking that lead-laced water, in fact, may be children, who will grow up violent as a result of lead exposure, and then go on to become serial killers. We don’t see these costs in the same way we see you, literally on fire on the other side of the street at this exact moment; we will never know the name of the guy who builds a gigantic murder palace in downtown Chicago 20 years from now because he had to drink lead-laced tap water as a kid because there was a societal expectation to try to save peoples’ lives when they were on fire because I crossed the street to spit on you while you were burning. But that is a distinction for public opinion, not for good policymaking. Good regulations would take into account the very real risk that by inconveniencing myself in even the tiniest way to save your life, I would be unleashing a generation of lead-maddened killers to prey on children yet unborn.

Back to the case at hand: Maybe I should cross the street to spit on you while you’re on fire. It’s completely possible I’m making the wrong call. But I’m thinking about the question in the right way—taking seriously the fact that putting out the flames engulfing your face and hair comes at a cost, which might exceed its benefit. Benefit to me, of course, not to you: You’re on fire! But such calculations have to be made, and taken to absurd lengths, so no one feels like there’s any blame to be had here, no matter how horrified the tut-tutting after the fact. I personally really love making these calculations, for some reason, and the more horrified the tut-tutting, the better. As long as I can make fire safety seem like a complicated debate instead of a moral choice a toddler could get right, I can make sure no one takes any action, and that’s worth more—in monetary terms, because what other way is there to understand the world?—than your petty ideas of “good” and “evil.”

And I am certainly right about one thing: When it comes to many regulations, it is best to leave such calculations of benefit and cost to the market, rather than the government. You can make your own assessment of the price you’re willing to pay to have a chance of surviving this fire, rather than substituting the judgment of some politician or bureaucrat, who will not receive the benefit or pay the cost. I mean, they’re not on fire. How much would you pay me to cross the street and try to save you? Seriously, how much have you got?

It’s possible that by declining to cross the street and make any effort to save you from burning to death, I have prevented untold millions of people from being murdered at the hands of serial killers, which makes me a hero, if you think about it. It’s also possible that my efforts would not have saved your life, even if I’d immediately run across the street instead of blathering on about cost-benefit analysis. Regardless, I certainly can’t save you now, since your arms are already twisting into the characteristic pugilistic posture of burned bodies as your desiccated muscles shrink and contract. It almost looks like you want to punch the people who did this to you, then move onto anyone who reassured those same people that no one was to blame and nothing could be done. Or at least it looks like you’d do that, if you hadn’t died in a fire.

A Los Angeles Theater is Screening The Babadook to Raise Money for LGBT Causes

If you’re in L.A.,
Come take a look,
The Wrap says they’re showing The Babadook!

If you’re really a clever one,
And you know what it is to see,
You can go to Arena Cinelounge,
To raise money for LBGT.

A rumbling sound, then three sharp knocks,
That’s when you’ll know the film’s begun,
You can watch it if you look.

The monster’s now a gay icon,
It’s funny, don’t you think?
Attend these shows June 23–25,
And you won’t sleep a wink.

I’ll soon take off my funny disguise,
(Take heed of what you’ve read …)
And if you miss this fundraiser,

With Orange Is the New Black Season 5, Jenji Kohan Leaps Into the Unknown and Finds a Thrilling New Footing

Orange Is the New Black’s fifth season is shadowed by a sense of pending doom. Breaking with its typical format, the Netflix series’ latest batch of episodes is compressed into a 72-hour timeframe. The prisoners of Litchfield Penitentiary are suddenly in charge; the guards are hostages, abused and degraded. The prison is surrounded by a media horde. Inmates dig into a vibrant collection of stolen outfits to replace their vomit-brown uniforms with costumes that drag the show’s characters into pop culture–tinged fantasies: reality competitions modeled on American Idol, prisonwide disputes settled in the court of Law & Order, slasher-film homages. The season is an outlier that frequently acknowledges itself as such, as if to comment on its experimental positioning. “This is all going to be over soon,” Pennsatucky (Taryn Manning) says tenderly near the end of Episode 6, as she awaits a meaningless “trial” verdict. “It’s all going to go back to the way it was, anyhow—none of this is for long.”

It’s difficult to stand out in this oversaturated TV market, especially for a show in its fifth season, and Orange Is the New Black has indeed drifted a bit from its phenomenon status of years past. But from the first episode to the last, its new season emerges as something thrillingly, radically different from what preceded it—and from everything else on TV. The “13-hour bottle episode” is easily the show’s riskiest and most ambitious gambit to date, disowning the narrative beats and character dynamics that viewers had grown accustomed to. It’s messy, frequently exhilarating, occasionally misguided, and always fascinating. Most importantly, though, the season is classic Jenji Kohan.

Kohan’s first show, Showtime’s Weeds, was a major innovator in the half-hour space, the first non-HBO cable series to be nominated for an Outstanding Comedy Series Emmy and a crucial benchmark in the development of the half-hour “dramedy.” Its first three seasons smartly blended crime drama with suburban satire before Kohan literally burned down her setting, wrote out her supporting ensemble, and started testing the audience’s patience. The series relocated to Mexico in Season 5, where it leaned into telenovela conventions and re-invented itself every year from there—a devil-may-care strategy partly anchored by Kohan’s sharp writing and strong core cast.

In the five years she’s been working on OITNB, Kohan has broken plenty more ground, popularizing the point-of-view episodic construct now common across acclaimed dramas and launching the careers of such gifted actors as Uzo Aduba and Danielle Brooks. Orange Is the New Black played with structure regularly over its first four years—its second season introduced a seasonal big bad in Lorraine Toussaint’s Vee, while the fourth was constructed as a slow-burn tragedy—but it fundamentally remained the same show, juggling a massive ensemble while telling intimate character studies that doubled as damning institutional critiques. Yet embedded in its DNA was the potential for a structural explosion, for Kohan to once again transform her creation and demand wholly a new reading of everything within it. Season 4’s cliffhangers—the death of a beloved inmate; Daya (Dascha Polanco) pointing a loaded gun at a guard; the entire prison rioting—all but confirmed that Kohan was about to take such a leap.

Her goal of dismantling the status quo creates problems OITNB didn’t have before—the superfluousness of its trademark flashbacks, to take one example—but it invigorates many of its storylines at the same time. Taystee views the prison’s uprising and the publicity surrounding it as an occasion to tell the world about her best friend’s murder. But as one of Litchfield’s smartest and most pragmatic denizens, she also assumes a leadership role, mourning, negotiating, and seeking vengeance at the same time. It’s a searing character arc that grounds the season and balances its emotional volatility—a quiet point of devastation amid the chaos.

Like OITNB, Weeds lost consistency after abandoning its original formula and evolving into a more straightforward antihero story. But the outlier, its sixth season, was arguably the most thoughtful, emotionally rich stretch of Weeds’ entire run—a family tragicomedy meditating on how its characters and their relationships had changed over five seasons. It was as if, after two years of border-crossing crime pulp, Kohan had stumbled back onto the right track with newfound passion and direction. In many ways, OITNB’s fifth season progresses as an accelerated version of a similar journey: It’s filled with bizarre detours and is never able to fully click into place, until it suddenly, beautifully does—and then soars above everything that came before it.

The season finale, in that sense, might just be the most brilliantly Kohan-esque episode of Orange Is the New Black to date. It recalls, fittingly, the Weeds Season 6 finale, when Nancy (Mary-Louise Parker) finally turned herself in and the show, through a freeze-frame, implicitly asked an open-ended question: What now? It’s a question that generally energizes Kohan, and she returns to it as she concludes this season of OITNB—a show with wider appeal and grander political significance. By the finale, the season’s hazy dream has already turned into a nightmare; over its final hour, it gradually moves toward a bleak new normal. Some characters hold hands as the prison’s doors are blown down; others are randomly bussed to surrounding facilities. It’s another point of no return for Kohan to end on, a despairing but game-changing cliffhanger that leaves her story’s future in the unknown. It’s strange, disorienting, and exhilarating—Kohan at her best.

Why the Queer Characters in Rough Night Feel So Refreshing

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

In 2015, GLAAD made a supercut of homophobic and transphobic jokes from recent studio films. Most were from mainstream comedies’—like Horrible Bosses, Pain & Gain, and The Other Woman—attempts at humor that aren’t so much offensive at this point as they are boring clichés.

If lesbian characters show up in mainstream films, it’s often in small parts, either as butch stereotypes (Sisters, Pitch Perfect) or creepy predators (Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates). Sometimes, they’re a phantom presence, reflected in insults made about two straight women (Bridesmaids). Perhaps that’s what makes the new comedy Rough Night so refreshing: It’s the rare studio film to have not one but two queer characters in leading roles—and even better, they feel like real people.

Directed by Broad City’s Lucia Aniello (who wrote the script with Paul Downs), Rough Night follows four college friends who reunite for a bachelorette party. Scarlett Johansson is Jess, an aspiring politician who is taking a weekend off from campaigning to celebrate her upcoming nuptials alongside her overbearing BFF Alice (Jillian Bell), free-spirited activist Frankie (Ilana Glazer), and the bougie Blair (Zoë Kravitz). The beginning of the film is a flashback to a college frat party, where Frankie and Blair turn down a leering lothario by cluing him in: “We’re together.” In most movies, this would be a trick—a move pulled to get rid of unwanted male attention or, as in Hot Pursuit, distract a horny guy. But here, the two women are clearly into one another, as friends and strangers alike point out throughout the film.

When Blair and Frankie reunite for the main action, it’s the first time they’re seeing each other in years, and they flirt a bit before sharing an embrace that is neither melodramatic nor played for awkward laughs. Their chemistry is built on history and mutual attraction, and it shows. They share an affinity that’s common for real-life queer women who break up but maintain a bond. Sometimes it’s completely platonic; at other times, it’s an indication that maybe the timing just wasn’t right the first time around. (Aniello says she based the characters on women she knew in real life, and she gets these little things so right I suspect she has some queer women in her crew.)

As Frankie, Glazer is playing a similar character as she does on Broad City. Like TV’s Ilana, Frankie is an outspoken progressive, though she’s a bit more dedicated to the cause. (She’s been arrested several times.) She uses phrases like “heteronormative” and “cis male” in regular conversation, and while that’s funny, it doesn’t make her the butt of the jokes. She’s enlightened, but not annoying.

Kravitz’s Blair recently split up from her husband and is going through a custody battle, but her bisexuality is never a point of contention, not from her ex nor anyone else. When a neighbor couple (Ty Burell and Demi Moore) share an interest in her, she takes one for the team and has a threesome with them so she can destroy some evidence on their security camera. Some viewers might roll their eyes at yet another bisexual character having a threesome, but at least here Blair isn’t shamed by her friends, and she seems to quite enjoy her time with Moore’s tongue talents. (“She was inside of me, and then she was outside of me, and then she wasme,” she recalls.)

Without getting too spoilery, Blair and Frankie’s friendship takes a turn toward the end of Rough Night, as the women acknowledge how much they care for each other. Their love story is one of the movie’s central romances, second only to Jess and her groom-to-be, a development that’s all the more exciting because of how matter-of-fact it is. The film comes with a neatly wrapped-up ending that offers the message that close friends can inspire you to be yourself, without having to keep up expectations or appearances. For queer women, that lesson is essential to self-acceptance. Surrounding yourself with friends that support and love you is survival—that’s the kind of friends Jess, Alice, and Pip are to Blair and Frankie, and vice versa.

In a world where the typical studio comedy at best might include one LGBTQ sidekick, or a token same-sex couple on the margins, Blair and Frankie are an incredible anomaly. The most recent GLAAD Studio Responsibility Index gave Sony, the studio that released Rough Night, a failing grade for 2016, noting only two of the studio’s 21 films that year included LGBTQ characters. (Oddly, both were animated: Angry Birds: The Movie and Sausage Party.) GLAAD made a special note about not counting Sony’s Ghostbusters: Despite McKinnon’s Jillian Holtzmann pinging a lot of fans’ gaydar, the movie’s “refusal to confirm Holtzmann as a canonically lesbian or bisexual character” deterred them.

Sony is hardly the only studio that’s dropping the ball when it comes to LGBTQ inclusion. In 125 films released by the six major studios and their subsidiaries last year, GLAAD identified only 70 LGBTQ characters, but noted even that number was likely a little too forgiving, as 14 characters came in a single musical number in Popstar. The mere fact that Rough Night has two out characters who are in almost every scene of a film and are highly visible in posters, trailers, and billboards is very exciting for queer women, who for so long have had to wade through subtext to see themselves onscreen at the local multiplex.

Rough Night is only one movie, but I’m hopeful it leads to Sony and other major studios bringing more queer characters to the front of their films, to the point where their sexual identities are a nonissue. Every comedy works better when the characters are well-rounded people, not just types.

See also: Rough Night Is a Self-consciously Naughty Lost Weekend

The Mysterious 4:44 Is a New Jay Z Album, Coming Soon

It looks like Jay Z had a busy weekend. First, he became a father to twins, and then he officially announced his 13th solo album, 4:44. The news about the new album was announced via Tidal’s official Twitter account and a press release shortly after midnight on Monday. The album will be officially released right after midnight on June 30 and will be available exclusively to Sprint customers and Tidal subscribers.

For the past couple of weeks, billboard and subway ads in New York City emblazoned with what he now know is the album’s title have been leaving people both intrigued and confused, and both feelings were intensified when Sprint and Tidal ran an ominous ad featuring Lupita Nyong’o, Mahershala Ali, and Danny Glover during the NBA Finals.

Late Sunday night, Jay released another video relating to his new project, which once again featured Ali and Glover and also included a couple of bars from a new track apparently titled “Adnis.”

4:44’s rollout capitalizes on the Tidal and Sprint partnership that was announced back in January, which saw Tidal sell a 33 percent stake in the company to Sprint for $200 million. Earlier in June, Sprint announced that it would be giving its customers six months free access to Tidal. This is the second Jay Z album rollout in a row where the hip-hop mogul has partnered with a mobile company. Back in 2013, Jay partnered with Samsung for the release of his album Magna Carta Holy Grail. That rollout was similar to this in that a trailer was released during the NBA Finals and some Samsung customers were treated to an early release. However, the road to Magna Carta’s release was a rocky one, as the Samsung release was panned as an invasion of privacy and was even subject to an investigation from a private advocacy group.

Hopefully, Jay and Sprint have learned from that mistake.

To Overflow Every Division Between Human Beings

The run-down Delhi graveyard where the two women whose stories run through Arundhati Roy’s second novel finally meet is a surprisingly convivial necropolis. The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, Roy’s long-awaited follow-up to her celebrated Booker-winning debut The God of Small Things—published 20 years ago—follows Anjum, who has a complex gender history (she was born intersex, with both male and female genitals, and in her prime lived within a community of transgender women), as well as Tilo, an illustrator who wanders through the world as a mostly solitary observer.

The Muslim cemetery is where Anjum, “like a fugitive absconding from herself,” withdrew from the bustling, gossipy world of the Khwabgah—a sort of dormitory for hijra, an officially recognized “third gender” with an established, if marginal, role in Indian culture. At first Anjum is little better than a specter inhabiting a tin hut built near her relatives’ burial sites, but over time old admirers and new friends (including an open-minded imam) begin to coax her out of her desolation. She expands the shed into a small house and then adds rooms on to that. She calls the place Jannat, or paradise, and rents to a motley assortment of outcasts. This is the ministry of the novel’s title, a home where each room contains not only a bed but also a grave.

Social boundaries and the importance of transgressing them have long fascinated Roy. In the luxuriantly Faulkner-esque God of Small Things, tragedy, but also hope, hinges on a forbidden affair between a Dalit (or untouchable) servant and a higher-caste woman. It’s one thing to defy an unjust taboo, but that novel also ends with the tender, incestuous union of its two central characters, a twin brother and sister. Roy is not the sort of author who likes to let her readers get too comfortable. In The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, it’s the living and the dead who sleep together, although only in the most literal sense of the word. This is a weird but also very Arundhati Roy vision of domestic (and political) bliss: to overflow every division between human beings, even the most profound division there is.

What first drives Anjum out of the Khwabgah and into the graveyard is trauma. While making a pilgrimage to a Muslim shrine in North India, Anjum and a friend get caught up in the infamous Gujarat riots of 2002. Hindu nationalists, a rising force led by the state’s chief minister, whipped up anti-Muslim fury to such a pitch that the violence lasted for three days and killed as many as 2,000 people. So terrible was Anjum’s own experience during the riots (her friend did not survive) that she refuses to talk about it but instead renounces her hijra finery and adopts unisex clothes in drab, penitential colors.

Brutal sectarian violence, especially when perpetrated by the powerful, plagues Roy’s novel as well as her nation. For her part, Tilo travels to Kashmir, where she meets up with an old love, Musa, a local man whose wife and 3-year-old daughter have just been shot in another riot. He tells her that soon she, like him, will support the Muslim separatist insurgency in Kashmir, which fights to overthrow Indian rule. “When you see what you see and hear what you hear,” he says, “you won’t have a choice.” Much of Tilo’s half of the novel, the second half, is taken up with what she learns about the atrocities of the Indian occupation of Kashmir, particularly those committed by a sadistic army major in charge of counterinsurgency efforts there.

Like The God of Small Things, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness is full of chronological switchbacks. Characters brood over events that haven’t yet been explained or refer to people before Roy introduces them. This is the novel’s greatest weakness, because unlike The God of Small Things, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness isn’t knit together by the tight bonds of kinship. Longer and looser, it ranges across the past two decades of Indian history, taking in politics and several momentous events. Probably this breaking of the ordinary sequential style of storytelling is another of Roy’s willful transgressions, and possibly it’s meant to suggest the cyclical nature of human cruelty and the exploitation and neglect of the poor by the rich. But even if that’s her intent, the result is confusing and oddly discordant with Roy’s own activist outlook.

Between The God of Small Things and The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, Roy published five volumes of nonfiction, all of them in support of political causes: anti-nuclear campaigns, environmentalism, land rights, and anti-globalization. To demand political change is to endorse the logic of cause and effect; Anjum’s traumatization isn’t inevitable but the consequence of an intolerance that Roy clearly believes can be stemmed. If she didn’t, she wouldn’t be agitating against it. Perhaps Roy, raised by a Syrian Christian feminist in a culture infused with Hindu cyclicalism, feels that this tension between activism and fatalism defines her work. She wouldn’t be the only crusader to grapple with the dispiriting knowledge that injustice can’t be conclusively defeated, that she can’t save everyone. Even the New Testament says that the poor will always be with us. But if the scrambled chronologies of The Ministry of Utmost Happiness are meant to communicate this paradox—that we must go on fighting for change even as we accept that we can never entirely win—the effect is merely confusing, and doubly so for readers unfamiliar with recent Indian politics.

Even so, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness remains a deeply rewarding work, if you can let the novel wash over you rather than try to force it into shape. First, there is Roy’s justly lauded prose style, which manages to be lush without pretense or affectation: “a wispy man with a prayer cap striped like a bee’s bottom.” Specific images in The Ministry of Utmost Happiness—like a crow tangled in a nearly invisible kite string, dangling in midair and circled by distressed, cawing comrades—wedge themselves in the mind like memories of lived experience. Then there is Roy’s humor, which ranges from the fond—her depictions of the soap-operatic life within the Khwabgah—to an irony so pitch-dark it’s barely detectable: The chief detention and torture center in Kashmir is a commandeered movie theater where prisoners are checked in at the former concession stand, under advertisements for Cadbury bars and popsicles.

And sometimes Roy’s sequence-swapping works beautifully. Two particularly strong chapters are narrated by a former college friend of Tilo’s, now an Indian intelligence officer with a drinking problem. Like a Graham Greene hero, he delivers his own jaded take on Tilo’s history as he sorts through a cache of documents she abandoned in the flat he rented to her. One of the papers is a “Psycho-Social Evaluation” written by a California social worker on behalf of a middle-age Indian couple seeking asylum in the U.S. The wife relates a heart-rending tale of being terrorized and tortured by Kashmiri police and suffering post-traumatic stress disorder in California, where she believes “Muslim terrorists” have tracked her family down. The narrator reviews this account with an amused cynicism that seems inhuman. Only later is it revealed that the husband is the novel’s chief villain and that the tortures his wife relates as part of her own past have actually been stolen from the lives of his victims. The reader has been played, just like the American social worker.

In the face of all these horrors—and Roy does not spare her readers much in that department—The Ministry of Utmost Happiness offers the counterpoint of love, the repository of all Roy’s faith. Love, particularly maternal love, which in The Ministry of Utmost Happiness has less to do with blood ties than with an irresistible desire to protect and nurture the vulnerable, is the only force capable of resisting the tide of stupidity and hatred. Roy’s story is full of abandoned babies and of women (not all of them born women) who scoop them up and cherish them. She still writes with unabashed beauty about romantic love, as well:

They had always fitted together like pieces of an unsolved (and perhaps unsolvable) puzzle—the smoke of her into the solidness of him, the solitariness of her into the gathering of him, the strangeness of her into the straightforwardness of him, the insouciance of her into the restraint of him. The quietness of her into the quietness of him.

While protest and political action are how the activist in Roy responds to the injustice and inequality she sees all around her, the novelist in Roy seems less sure. Tilo’s lover worries that defeating the Indian occupation will require that Kashmiris unite by reducing themselves to the most simplified form of their own identity: “this standardization, this stupidification. … First it will be our salvation and then … after we win … it will be our nemesis.” A politics of identity, even when imposed upon a people, tends, over time, to fracture them into smaller and smaller opposed groups. The only force capable of subverting this Catch-22 is as fragile, and as indomitable, as the butterfly residents of the Khwabgah, those keepers of paradox and contradiction, those leapers over all the divisions that hold us so cruelly apart.

The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy. Knopf.

Read all the pieces in the Slate Book Review.

John Oliver and a Talking Squirrel Want Donald Trump to Stop Lying About Coal Jobs

Considering that the coal industry employs just over 50,000 Americans—and that the entire industry’s prospects for growth are smaller than those of a single company, Tesla, making cars that don’t directly consume fossil fuels at all—Donald Trump has been bewilderingly fixated on getting out-of-work coal miners their old jobs back. It’s obvious that Trump’s emphasis is more a matter of politics than economics, the same way that pitting Pittsburgh against Paris as a rationale for pulling out of the climate accords has more to do with the historic image of Pittsburgh as a blue-collar steel town than its present-day reality as an eco-conscious city whose residents voted overwhelmingly for Hillary Clinton. But even so, as John Oliver pointed out on Last Week Tonight, Trump’s coal-pushing platform represents a substantial departure from reality.

First off, Oliver suggested that Trump “needs to stop lying to coal miners.” Even a fossil-fuel magnate like Murray Energy CEO Bob Murray, who blames the coal industry’s falling fortunes on “Barrack Obama and his Democrat followers” admit that the best-case scenario involves stemming the rate of job loss rather than actually bringing jobs back. Contacting Murray Energy for further comment led to what Oliver says was the first cease-and-desist letter in Last Week Tonight history.

Naturally, that threatening C&D has the effect on Oliver that waving a red rag in front of a bull would, but even Oliver stops short of buying into the possibly apocryphal story that Murray has said he got into the coal business after being advised on the matter by a talking squirrel. Good news, though: If Murray had never been spoken to by a talking squirrel before, Oliver and a special guest called Mr. Nutterbutter made sure he can now say in good faith he’s heard it right from the squirrel’s mouth.

Praise Lorde

About two-thirds of the way into the three-minute “Homemade Dynamite” from New Zealand pop star Lorde’s second album, Melodrama, there’s a moment that captures both (a) what makes the 20-year-old Ella Yelich-O’Connor such a unique and special artist and (b) why chart pop seems like an odd field for this particular young visionary to have stumbled into.

I’d easily nominate Melodrama as the best pop album of the year so far, perhaps the best we’re likely to get. It’s also a better album than her first, 2013’s Pure Heroine. But in what will surely be the long arc of Lorde’s career, I’m guessing it will be an outlier, and this flash in “Homemade Dynamite” can stand for my reasons.

It’s part of a set of songs (intersecting with another cycle about personal heartbreak) that portray starry-eyed but risky young partying—this one raises the hazard of winding up “painted on the road/ red and chrome/ all the broken glass sparkling.” The central metaphor, sung in a kind of Bee Gees disco coo, is “blowin’ shit up with homemade d-d-d-dynamite.” After one of the later choruses, the backing synths and beats drop out, and Lorde sings a delicate, falling, a cappella cadence, “Now you know/ it’s really/ gonna blow”—and adds a little “pkusshh” explosion effect with just her mouth.

It’s a dry sound, without much reverb. It’s funny and even menacing in its cool understatement. It undercuts the song’s overall romantic celebration of sensual, pharmacological peer bonding with a tiny, ironic, realistic gesture. It’s what someone arriving late and sober to the party might observe if the music accidentally shut off—objectively, just some kids shouting and staggering around an apartment. However significant to their lives their current hyperstimulated states might be.

That contrast is a key to what Lorde’s trying to depict on Melodrama: how her perspective has changed in the four years since she released Pure Heroine at age 16, making her a global phenomenon with the stately, skeptical single “Royals.” Plus the general tumult of transitioning into adulthood. Unlike packs of former teen pop stars, she only casually addresses attaining mature sexuality. She’s more interested in mature personality.

But that point is also where any producer who was trying to make a pop hit would have put in a digital explosion effect instead, and a bass drop, to kick the final repeats of the chorus to a new high. Here, that never comes. The chorus just keeps floating along.

“Homemade Dynamite” is one of many songs on Melodrama that flirt with the elements of chart-pop style but refuse in various ways to consummate the relationship. That dynamic has already come up around the lead single “Green Light,” which was released in March. The chart-pop Merlin of the 21st century, Max Martin, advised Lorde and her producer Jack Antonoff that the song was built wrong, that its “melodic math” didn’t add up: The pre-chorus section downshifts the tone and modulates the key instead of ramping up to the anthemic bit that gives the song its pop appeal.

If you pay attention to the words of that pre-chorus—“I hear sounds in my mind/ Brand new sounds in my mind”—that twist seems deliberate and artful. But it’s not how hits are made. “Green Light” didn’t rise above the bottom of the top 20 on the Billboard chart, and subsequent advance tracks “Liability,” “Sober,” and “Perfect Places” so far haven’t charted at all.

Aside from “Royals,” a global No. 1, this was true of most of the songs from Pure Heroine, too. “Royals” was a fluke, left-field hit that slaked some kind of audience thirst at the peak of diva-pop hegemony for a song that broke rules and even specifically expressed anti-pop ambivalence (“We don’t care/ We’re not caught up in your love affair”). There’s a lot to say about the commercial and cultural reasons that diva-pop dominance has faded, but they don’t have much to do with Lorde. The stranger thing about the Max Martin story is how his opinion came to seem relevant to a Lorde song at all.

Given the ways that the climax of “Green Light” recalls Kate Bush’s Hounds of Love (namely “The Big Sky” or even “Running up That Hill”) and the outright Bush imitation on the chorus of “Writer in the Dark,” I’m reminded what a fluke Bush’s early “Wuthering Heights” was as a hit in the U.K. and Europe in the late 1970s. And I hope that an eccentric Commonwealth artist such as Lorde, coming from a similarly artistic family (her mother, explicitly referenced in “Writer,” is an acclaimed New Zealand poet), is more likely to follow Bush’s willful, quasi-commercial path.

But arguably that quasi-commercial zone no longer exists in 2017. Or at least, to the degree that it does, Lorde was signed to a label contract much too young (at 13) ever to access it, for instance with an independent, grassroots touring band. I’m not asking her to retreat to a bohemian hovel—videos of her performance at Bonnaroo earlier this month, for example, show how capable she is of enthralling masses. Nevertheless, this is an artist who knows where she wants to go.

In an interview with the Guardian last week, she pounded the table saying—while not at all claiming she’s there yet—that she aimed to be in the company of Paul Simon, Leonard Cohen, and “Joni. Fucking. Mitchell.” Considering the talent she commands at 20, that doesn’t seem too immodest. But in this way, Melodrama seems like kind of a detour. It’s not like these are the heroes usually ticked off by Katy Perry, Miley Cyrus, or even Lorde’s close friend Taylor Swift. (And trust me, I regularly lapse into reveries that Swift is about to enter her Joni phase, only to be disabused by smarter critics.)

Pure Heroine was written with those lofty ambitions in full view, and not much else: Every song was basically a teenage art manifesto. Melodrama contains a lot more life experience and more craft, with songs that teem with dramatic scenarios and storytelling. But bending to the plainspoken vernacular of pop has also domesticated Lorde’s vocabulary a little. To realize her dreams of Mitchell- or Cohen-esque genius, she might have to backtrack and recover a few of her former pretensions.

Working with Jack Antonoff (along with valuable side contributors such as beat-maker Frank Dukes and Frank Ocean producer Malay) was a healthier option for Lorde’s songwriting autonomy than signing up with Martin’s tracks-by-committee model. But there are influences through Antonoff—and Swift, who Antonoff’s worked with so closely—that seem not entirely like Lorde. The songs are never without her distinct touch, but the best tracks here, such as “The Louvre” and “Supercut,” map too directly, musically and in attitude (note the wry, half-spoken asides), to 1989 tracks like “Blank Space” and the Antonoff-produced “Out of the Woods.” Melodrama might be the most 1989-influenced major album since that juggernaut surfaced in 2014. But Lorde’s not the pop operator Swift is, and in some ways the febrile and minimalist arrangements she created with her New Zealand collaborator Joel Little gave her more expressive space, even if the songs were underdeveloped.

I should stress again that Melodrama is an extraordinary album. Every single song is worthwhile in context, and most of them are stirring and memorable. Given all the talk about the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s in its 50th-anniversary month, notice how Melodrama likewise uses late-album, stage show–style reprises—of “Sober” and “Liability”—to reinforce its loose conceptual framework. The latter even offers a kind of closing summary: “Maybe the tears and the highs we breathe/ Maybe all this is the party/ Maybe we just do it violently,” a broad forgiveness extended to everyone going through similar self-recriminations. (Admittedly, the following closer, “Perfect Places,” is no “A Day in the Life,” but what is?)

Part of Melodrama’s magic is that Lorde’s royal “we”—her “Royals” we—has opened up. On Pure Heroine, it mostly meant her New Zealand crew, her “Team,” with its inner-suburb, nonconformist sensibility, but beyond that a more extensive, underground-youth “we” available to anyone who wanted to join up. Here it can also be the “we” of a romantic pair, or of several different romantic pairs, as well as the “we” of Lorde in “Liability,” when she sings (evoking Robyn) about dancing on her own, “swaying alone/ stroking her cheek.” It can even be a meta-“we” on “Sober II (Melodrama),” perhaps the POV of her and Antonoff together: “We told you this was Melodrama.”

On Pure Heroine, Lorde didn’t write love songs, because, as she said on her Tumblr page in 2013, “[I] just haven’t found a way of doing it which is powerful and innovative.” Looking back on that sentiment in a conversation last week with Tavi Gevinson on the Rookie podcast, she laughed, “Oh right, there was a time not that long ago when … that didn’t feel like the most enduring, complex puzzle in the world!” Maturity has provided new subjects, but Lorde remains willing to serve in part as the voice of her generation—or, to quote her producer’s life partner, “a voice, of a generation.”

I particularly love the way that the instrumental coda at the end of “The Louvre” summons up the riff from Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” with its masculine overtones of car engines and heedless romantic escape. Lorde’s take is a much more grounded, disillusioned account of “blow[ing] all my friendships/ to sit in hell with you”—yet also succumbs to her own version of riding through mansions of glory: “We’re the greatest/ They’ll hang us in the Louvre/ Down the back, but who cares?/ Still the Louvre.”

There lingers a trace of the anti-pop brattiness of Pure Heroine in the closing of the otherwise painfully exposed ballad “Liability” (where she rebukes her doubters by saying, “You’re all gonna watch me disappear into the sun”) and the line in “Perfect Places” when Lorde sings, “If they keep tellin’ me where to go/ I’ll blow my brains out to the radio,” which reminds me of Pure Heroine’s “I’m kind of over gettin’ told to throw my hands up in the air/ So there.” Watching her play arena shows today, one wonders whether that line ever haunts her when she’s trying to pump up a crowd.

The title Melodrama is partly teasing, as Lorde tells tales about her first big breakup (with a New Zealand photographer) and emotional group adventures. By turns it becomes more self-critical, as when she sings about “all of the things we’re taking/ ’cause we are young and we’re ashamed.” But she’s also invoking a form, what the scholar Lauren Berlant calls a segment of “women’s culture”—though Lorde is making a case for a specific young women’s variety—that suggests an “intimate public.” As Berlant puts it, it’s “a world of strangers who would be emotionally literate in each other’s experience of power, intimacy, desire, and discontent, with all that entails.”

Those forces are definitely, rousingly on display in Melodrama. But Berlant also argues there’s an exclusivity to any such intimate public—the partying teens and twentysomethings of this album are not worried about their house parties and drug experiments resulting in jail terms, and the “violence” Lorde relishes and rebukes is finally about hurt feelings and glass-smashing, not about being gunned down in the street. (Indeed, one of her erotic threats in “Writer” is “I’ll love you till you call the cops on me.”) Anytime you have someone eager to throw around the pronouns we or us, there’s a missing they and them, and those who lack Ella’s cultural privilege—as much as the more deserving olds and normals—are left out of Lorde’s narrative here.

It’s one of the virtues of pop that it has a way of juxtaposing, for instance, Katy Perry and Rihanna as peers and equals. Lorde hasn’t much to say about that. But when she reduces her world down to a microcosmic, subjective, internal explosion, that’s something every human can understand.

From Lawyer Meltdowns to the Panama Canal, Seth Meyers Recaps Trump’s Weekend Madness

Once again, the Trump administration spent the weekend doing a sort of Gish Gallop of absurdity and incompetence, making so much ridiculous news that Monday’s late-night shows had no chance of covering all of it. But this weekend Trump also made a fatal error: The news was funny enough that Seth Meyers was able to get laughs just by laundry-listing it. You don’t need a take or an angle on an administration where aides announce their strategy going forward is “Keep him away from Twitter, dear God, keep him away from Twitter,” because come on, that’s hilarious. Similarly, Jared Kushner’s voice is funny in its own right, the comedy routine Chris Wallace and Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow did on Sunday couldn’t have been more perfectly crafted if they’d given it to Abbott and Costello, and that’s before even getting to Trump’s bizarre Panama Canal boast. All Meyers really had to do Monday night is roll the tape.

But perhaps because Trump’s antics need so little comedic embellishment, Meyers goes to stranger and more interesting places than usual. Instead of using the “dear God, keep him away from Twitter” quote to make the millionth joke about Trump’s childish behavior, Meyers goes after his aides’ language, saying they sound “like frontier farmers praying for rain,” before imitating one, beseeching heaven, “Oh, please, Dear God, we need this barley somethin’ awful!” And the joke in Meyers’ line, “He’s got layers and layers of lawyers—and you need layers of lawyers when you’re a liar,” is entirely about the sound of the words, a much more difficult thing to pull off than just pointing out we’re headed off a cliff. The Trump administration’s inadvertent attempts at comedy turned out to be surprisingly funny this weekend, and seem to have inspired Meyers and his staff to go to great lengths to outdo them. If we’re lucky, this comedy arms race between Trump and Late Night With Seth Meyers will continue to escalate, keeping us entertained until the nuclear arms race kills us all.

Jimmy Kimmel Has an “Exclusive First Photo” of Beyoncé and Jay Z’s Twins

When you’ve really only got one punchline, like this bit from Monday night’s Jimmy Kimmel Live does, the thing to do is to draw out the lead-up as long as you can possibly get away with, building anticipation to the point that it’s almost uncomfortable. That’s what Kimmel does here, spending a full 53 seconds of a one-minute-15-second–bit making the audience wait for the joke. It’s obvious that whatever the “exclusive first photo” Kimmel is going to show actually turns out to be, it won’t be a picture of Beyoncé and Jay Z’s twins. So is Kimmel’s big payoff worth it?

Wait for it …

Wait for it …

Wait for it …

Aw, jeez. Just fuckin’ rickroll us next time, all right?

The Book of Henry Is About What?! An Explanation.

This post contains spoilers for The Book of Henry, if “spoils” is a word that can be said to apply here.

The Book of Henry is being trashed by critics—and it probably deserves it. But if you’re curious about the movie critics are calling “insidiously terrible” and “truly wrongheaded, and yet not masochistic enough to actually purchase a ticket, there’s no reason you should be left out of the discussion. Herein, we attempt to answer some questions about The Book of Henry’s messy and confounding strangeness.

So what is The Book of Henry about?

I’m … still not really sure I can explain.

Give it a shot.

Here goes.

It’s about an annoyingly precocious, disrespectfully snarky, and incredibly unlikable 12-year-old kid named Henry who, despite being kind of a condescending jerk to most of the other characters, is well-liked by the people in his life. He also basically takes care of his little brother (Jacob Tremblay) and his mother, Susan (Naomi Watts), who depends on him to run her life.

Henry has a crush on the girl next door, Christina (Maddie Ziegler), whom he discovers is being abused by her stepfather, Glenn (Dean Norris), who is also the town’s well-respected police commissioner. Henry quickly realizes that no figure of authority—his school’s principal, the child protective services officer, his mother, etc.—is willing to help Christina.

Halfway through the movie, Henry is diagnosed with a tumor and dies but not before telling his little brother that he has to give their mom Henry’s red notebook. That red notebook also comes with a tape and, together, those two things meticulously outline a foolproof plan for how his mother will—not can, will—murder Glenn. Like, with a rifle, an act of homicidal vengeance in service of an incredibly twisted sense of justice.

The Book of Henry is a tonal mix of My Dog Skip and Rear Window. It is the banana and mayonnaise sandwich of movies. It mixes two things that should never be mixed, and it is the whitest thing you will come into contact with on whatever day you happen to consume it.

God, that sounds nuts! What’s the weirdest part of the movie?

It might be when Naomi Watts’ character says, “We are not murdering the police commissioner, and that is final!” to her young child.

That’s the weirdest part of the movie?

Unless you count three places toward the end of the movie where the Volvo logo is featured prominently on the screen (because who wouldn’t want to associate their product with a story of child abuse and murder).

So that’s the weirdest part of the movie?

No. The weirdest part is when you realize that Susan, a single mother who works as a waitress at a diner, can afford to raise two young boys and live in a beautiful home in an idyllic suburb because her 12-year-old son takes care of all the finances and is a genius stock investor.

Wow. That’s the weirdes—

No. The weirdest part of 2017’s The Book of Henry is when Henry’s mother’s co-worker and best friend, Sheila (Sarah Silverman), kisses Henry full on the lips while he is on his deathbed.

But is that the wei—


The way you’ve described the movie makes it sound like a mess. Is there any kind of consistent throughline?

Yes. At one point or another, every major character in the film sits on the floor in despair or in deep thought.

What’s the snarkiest and most disrespectful thing the well-liked Henry says to his mother who is trying her best to raise two sons?

After Henry and Susan find Sheila sleeping outside after a long night of drinking, he remarks, “It’s really great how you enable her alcoholism.”

Are there any competent characters in the movie?

Bobby Moynihan plays Naomi Watts’ boss at the diner. He seems to have some semblance of common sense.

How are the performances?

Jacob Tremblay, who is an adorable kid, is great at playing an adorable kid. Naomi Watts gives it her all as the frustratingly inept Susan.

Are there any parts of the movie you liked?

If I had to pick one, relative to the rest of the movie, there’s a sequence toward of the end of the film that isn’t bad. In this sequence, we see Susan going to execute the plan devised by her 12-year-old deceased son to murder their neighbor by shooting him in the head with a sniper intercut with a middle school talent show.

So is there, like, a message to The Book of Henry? Some reason for its existence?

There probably is, but it’s almost impossible to figure out. There’s something in there about being an adult and something else about helping others. However, I submit that the real message of the film is revealed in its climax.

During the aforementioned talent show–slash–incipent murder mashup, Christina, the abused girl next door, performs an emotionally tortured ballet. It is through this dance and the raw emotion it conveys that the school’s principal—who, if you’ll remember, was of one of the figures of authority who didn’t step in and help Christina before—realizes that this young girl really does need help and decides to give child protective services a call.

So, really, The Book of Henry is about the power of dance.

Does Susan end up killing Glenn?

No. She has a moment of realization that what she’s doing is wrong and that she can trust her own judgement, not that that of her deceased 12-year-old son.

Kudos, Susan, for not murdering a man just because your 12-year-old son who was pretty good at playing the stock market and could make some Rube Goldberg–esque machines told you to.

Is The Book of Henry the worst movie you’ve ever seen?

Probably not.

Even after it made you witness Sarah Silverman kiss a young boy?

Please never remind me of that ever again.

Seeing as how this and Jurassic World both suck, would you say Colin Trevorrow doesn’t deserve to direct Star Wars: Episode IX?*

Hey, I liked Jurassic World. But no one deserves anything.

*Correction, June 20: This post originally suggested that Colin Trevorrow is directing Star Wars: Episode XI. He is directing Star Wars: Episode IX.

After Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman, Gina Prince-Bythewood Has Got Next

This article originally appeared in Vulture.

On May 25, the same day it was announced that Gina Prince-Bythewood would be directing the Spider-Man spinoff Silver and Black, she went to the premiere of Wonder Woman. “I remember there was a point in the movie where I was staring up at the screen, just letting the feeling wash over me that I’m watching a woman leading the film and she’s the hero and she’s badass,” Prince-Bythewood told Vulture. “It just felt good. I lived in that feeling for a couple days.”

And then, like so many of the female moviegoers who’ve powered Wonder Woman’s record-breaking box office, Prince-Bythewood went to see it again. “The second time, I think I appreciated Gal Gadot’s performance even more,” she said. “And the way that they were able to balance the heroism and the humor … I mean, there is zero cursing in the entire thing, but it never felt soft.”

For navigating that tricky tonal tightrope, Prince-Bythewood praised Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins, only the second woman to helm a blockbuster with a budget over $100 million. Most box-office watchers expect Wonder Woman to finish its domestic run with a tally over $300 million, potentially topping the other DC movies released to this point and vaulting Jenkins to the top of any studio’s wish list. “I’m proud of her,” said Prince-Bythewood. “Knowing the incredible pressure that was on her as the first, she stepped up and she did it, and she did it so well.”

Soon, Prince-Bythewood will have her own shot. With Silver and Black, which centers on Spider-Man characters Silver Sable and Black Cat, Prince-Bythewood will likely become the next woman to claim sole directing credit on a big-budget comic-book film and the first woman of color to do so. Alongside Jenkins, Anna Boden (who will co-direct Captain Marvel with Ryan Fleck), Thor: Ragnarok helmer Taika Waititi, and Ryan Coogler, whose Black Panther dropped a hot trailer this past week, Prince-Bythewood is part of a new wave of comic-book filmmakers, whose ranks had mostly been comprised of white men until now.

“There’s definitely a sea change,” Prince-Bythewood told Vulture. “It’s small, if you look at the sheer volume of movies they make—the numbers are still pretty dismal. But it really feels like within the last two to three years, it’s not just talk anymore. People have been refusing to shut up about it, and studios and production companies are listening and understanding that it’s really a problem they can’t ignore.”

Many female filmmakers echo that language when hailing Wonder Woman’s success as a watershed moment. “This one is impossible to deny,” director Nancy Meyers said last week, though when it comes to women behind the camera, Hollywood has tried for too long to pretend they don’t exist. Year after year, studios will hire only men to make their movies, and the producers and executives who could be employing women offer flimsy excuses why they don’t. Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy, herself one of the most powerful women in Hollywood, has said that few female filmmakers have the “experience” necessary to direct one of her Star Warsfilms, though men with slim resumes are often given a shot at making big-budget blockbusters. One of those men, Jurassic World director Colin Trevorrow, will helm Kennedy’s Star Wars: Episode IX and drew ire when he claimed in 2015, “Many of the top female directors in our industry are not interested in doing a piece of studio business for its own sake.” Trevorrow had leapt to the studio big leagues after just one indie, Safety Not Guaranteed, the sort of move rarely afforded to women. When asked about that gender gap, Trevorrow attributed it to women’s lack of interest in “superheroes or spaceships or dinosaurs,” the subjects of Hollywood’s most successful tentpoles.

Not so, says Prince-Bythewood: “I love those movies and I see them all.” Though she’s best-known for directing acclaimed dramas like Love & Basketball and Beyond the Lights, Prince-Bythewood had been itching to take on a big-budget blockbuster for some time, and recently directed the pilot for Cloak & Dagger, an upcoming Marvel TV show. At 48 years old, she boasts a bigger directorial portfolio than many of the men who are gifted superhero movies and she’s got comic-book experience, to boot. “This is absolutely where I wanted to go with my career,” she said. “It’s a specific thing I had been charting.”

And now, thanks to Jenkins and her success, that path will be easier. “She’s so cool and warm,” said Prince-Bythewood, who met Jenkins for the first time at a meeting for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, where both women sit on an executive committee. After snapping a selfiewith Jenkins and two of the other female powerhouses present—Selmadirector Ava DuVernay, who just wrapped the big-budget A Wrinkle In Time, and The Kids Are All Right helmer Lisa Cholodenko—Prince-Bythewood hit up Jenkins for advice. “She dropped a couple gems for me, which I will keep to myself for now,” said Prince-Bythewood. “But it was just an immediate connection.”

The two of them have scheduled a lunch for Jenkins to share more stories, and in the meantime, Prince-Bythewood will dive into script revisions on Silver and Black. “The strange thing is, I knew I was the best person for this,” said Prince-Bythewood, who had originally set a different project to shoot until the Silver and Black screenplay was sent her way. “Normally I get nervous regardless of what it is when I go into a meeting but with this, I saw the movie in my head as I was reading it, and it’s an exciting thing as a director when you know what you want to do with it. I was able to be so specific, so it was exciting in those meetings because everything I was talking about, they loved. We were feeding off each other.”

Though Silver and Black doesn’t yet have a release date, Prince-Bythewood hopes to cast it soon and go into production this fall. “I go to bed thinking about it, I wake up thinking about it, and during the day, I have my notebook where I’m jotting down ideas and visuals and music,” she said. “It’s so up my alley in terms of these two female characters and who they are and what they’re about. It’s the perfect way for me to dive into the Marvel universe, to focus on these two women who I really respect and can’t wait to bring to life.”

And who knows? Maybe when Silver and Black premieres, Prince-Bythewood will be able to inspire the same feeling in other female filmmakers that she felt while watching Wonder Woman. “Every once in a while, I have to remind myself, ‘Wow, I’m really doing this,’” she said. “It’s an incredible opportunity, but one that I’m absolutely ready for.”

See also: Wonder Woman Worked Because It Was Self-contained

Lost in Adaptation

“The slaves left.” In three words, Sofia Coppola’s new film The Beguiled casually dispenses with one of the great shames of the American republic. Coppola’s film is an elegant Southern Gothic tale of masculine charms and feminine vengeance, completely stripped of its historical and racial context. While not every period genre picture need grapple with the “peculiar institution,” this is a film set during the Civil War, unfolding between Southern women and a Northern soldier, and it goes so far as to cut both black characters from the novel upon which it was based.

Based on a 1966 novel by Thomas P. Cullinan, and previously adapted into a film in 1971 by Don Siegel and starring Clint Eastwood, The Beguiled tells the story of an injured Union fighter who seduces several of the women at Farnsworth Seminary, a Southern school for girls, only to breed jealousy and become the subject of their collective wrath. It’s hard not to see Coppola’s attraction to the material. Her body of work regularly focuses on privileged characters—particularly women—cut off from the world, their sexuality repressed, longing for an escape, but ultimately doomed to their lonely circumstances.

I felt like I had to give these women a voice,” Coppola told Film School Rejects about her reason for making the film. A noble cause, though a little less urgent when you consider that the novel itself (if not the Eastwood film) is narrated, chapter by chapter, from each woman’s perspective. “You always see stories about men at war, but I don’t think I’ve seen what happens to the women left behind,” Coppola continued. “I’ve always loved the women in the South, and the South in general; it’s so exotic and different.”

Exotic is a word Coppola used again in an interview with Vanity Fair, and it signals her aesthetic interest in the story. The chance to film the remnants of the antebellum South, with its grand houses, stately furnishings, and beautiful dresses must have been an alluring prospect for a director so visually minded and so interested in the lives of the wealthy. But aesthetics are not apolitical, and those grand houses and beautiful dresses didn’t emerge out of a vacuum.

In a 2006 article for Vanity Fair, author Antonia Fraser wrote about the experience of having her biography of Marie Antoinette adapted into a film by Sofia Coppola. According to Fraser, Coppola asked her, “Would it matter if I leave out the politics?” to which Fraser “replied with absolute honesty, ‘Marie Antoinette would have adored that.’ ”

While the way that Marie Antoinette mostly omitted class struggle from a story about the French Revolution was arguably an appropriate reflection of its protagonist’s worldview, the excuse wears thin across her career, especially as it pertains to the erasure of people of color. In The Bling Ring, also based on a true story and itself a sort of tale of class struggle, Coppola fictionalized the gang of teenage celebrity robbers, making them mostly white, and cutting out one member of the real life bling ring, a young undocumented immigrant from Mexico named Diana Tamayo.

In The Beguiled, Coppola cuts out the enslaved housemaid Mattie (called Hallie in the 1971 film), and she also turns the character Edwina, who was a free mixed-race teenager in the novel, into a white teacher played by Kirsten Dunst. Asked why she cut out the enslaved woman from the original film, Coppola told BuzzFeed News, “I didn’t want to brush over such an important topic in a light way. Young girls watch my films and this was not the depiction of an African-American character I would want to show them.” Perhaps her intentions were pure, but it’s hard not to see this as part of a larger pattern.

This is even more bothersome when you consider that the original text provided Coppola with ample material for complex depictions of strong black characters. In the novel, both Mattie and Edwina are given first-person chapters that explore their unique experiences and psychologies. The book also astutely depicts both characters’ places in Southern society. Edwina is a troubled child who keeps her parentage a secret despite it being obvious to everyone around her that she must have gotten her darker skin from her mother. Only Mattie is open about the truth, telling one of the women of the house, “She’s got black blood in her,” to the woman’s horror. Edwina is suckered in by the Union corporal, John McBurney, who knows of her heritage and manipulatively speaks to her acute feelings of otherness.

Mattie, meanwhile, is the book’s most clear-eyed character. She knows precisely where she stands in relation to not only her enslavers at the school but also to Corporal McBurney, whom she quickly sizes up as a deceitful man despite his suiting up for the army that would supposedly free her. In Don Siegel’s exploitation-influenced film, too, the enslaved Hallie, played by the outstanding Mae Mercer, is easily the strongest character. While everyone else falls into games of seduction and deceit, Hallie sees right through the charade and stands up for herself with a ferocity drawn from any number of black women in the blaxploitation genre. “You better like it with a dead black woman,” she says to McBurney after he threatens to rape her, late in the film, “because that’s the only way you’ll get it from this one.”

Coppola’s erasure of history is evident even in the period-accurate choice of filming location: Madewood Plantation House, where Beyoncé shot parts of Lemonade. The cast of The Beguiled were so excited to be shooting at the same location that Elle Fanning and Kirsten Dunst re-created a shot from Beyoncé’s film for Instagram.

There’s something deeply perverse about seeing Beyoncé’s groundbreaking work of black female historical reclamation appropriated by two white actresses in 1860s Southern dress. But it’s perfectly in keeping with the attitude of the film, in which black people barely merit mention. While the film’s production design and costumes evince a commitment to authenticity, the movie itself has no interest in the people on whose backs that lavish lifestyle was built.

While The Beguiled doesn’t bother addressing the politics of the war, its whitewashing of slavery and its fetishization of the antebellum South place it squarely within the lineage of films like the original The Birth of a Nation and particularly Gone With the Wind, which sought to imbue the old Southern way of life with false nobility and perpetuate a “Lost Cause” view of the Confederacy. Through Coppola’s eyes, that way of life is rendered “exotic.”

Even “the slaves left” is a gross misrepresentation of history, making easy the struggle faced by enslaved people during the Civil War, which wasn’t so simple as merely “leaving” their enslavers. Many struggled, fought, and escaped, but many didn’t for fear of violence and death, while others couldn’t risk separation from their families. For all the violence that occurs between McBurney and the women of the Farnsworth Seminary, it pales in comparison to the real-life violence of slavery, which Coppola chooses, simply, to ignore.