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Culture Gabfest

Slate

New York Times critic Dwight Garner says “The Slate Culture Gabfest is one of the highlights of my week.” The award-winning Culturefest features critics Stephen Metcalf, Dana Stevens, and Julia Turner debating the week in culture, from highbrow to pop. For more of Slate’s culture podcasts, check out the Slate Culture feed.

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United States

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Slate

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New York Times critic Dwight Garner says “The Slate Culture Gabfest is one of the highlights of my week.” The award-winning Culturefest features critics Stephen Metcalf, Dana Stevens, and Julia Turner debating the week in culture, from highbrow to pop. For more of Slate’s culture podcasts, check out the Slate Culture feed.

Language:

English


Episodes
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Civil War: What Is It Good For?

4/17/2024
On this week’s show, Slate culture writer (and Very, Very Good Friend of the Show, a.k.a. VVGFOP) Nadira Goffe sits in for Dana Stevens. The three begin with Civil War, writer-director Alex Garland’s (Ex Machina, Annihilation, Men) dystopian travelog starring Kirsten Dunst, Cailee Spaeny, and Wagner Moura that imagines a burned out, bombed out America in the throes of a raging internal conflict. But who is fighting whom? Our panel discusses. Then, they examine Jerrod Carmichael Reality Show, an eight-part series on Max depicting a very different civil war. Here, the exemplary sit-down stand-up comedian goes to war with himself, his public image, and the very nature of “reality.” It’s “Seinfeld meets reality TV meets Sylvia Plath,” and is a painfully naked confessional that begs the question: “Is Jerrod Carmichael trolling us?” (Read Nadira’s fantastic piece, “Who Did People Think Jerrod Carmichael Is?” Finally, the trio turns to “gaslighting,” the pop psychology term up for debate in Leslie Jamison’s essay for The New Yorker, “So You Think You’ve Been Gaslit.” Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Year in 2022, is “gaslighting” a handy term used to describe harmful behavior? Or has “gaslighting” become so ubiquitous, it’s lost all meaning? The panel gets into it. In the exclusive Slate Plus segment, the hosts explore stuffed animals (including but not limited to: Squishmallows, Jelly Cats, and “lovies”), the difference between a blanket and blankie, and the joys of embracing one’s inner child, inspired by Valerie Trapp’s essay for The Atlantic, “Welcome to Kidulthood.” Email us at culturefest@slate.com. Outro music: "200 Dont's" by Conditional Endorsements: Nadira: (1) The Wiz revival on Broadway. (2) Costco! (3) Willow Smith’s new song, “b i g f e e l i n g s” off of her upcoming album, empathogen. Julia: G. T. Karber’s book of puzzles, Murdle: 100 Simple to Impossible Mysteries to Solve Using Logic, Skill, and the Power of Deduction. “It’s a cross between an LSAT logic puzzle and a murder mystery.” Stephen: Becca Rothfeld’s debut essay collection, All Things Are Too Small: Essays in Praise of Excess. (Becca will be on the show next week to discuss! For extra credit, grab a copy of her book and come prepared.) Podcast production by Jared Downing. Production assistance by Kat Hong. Hosts Nadira Goffe, Julia Turner, Stephen Metcalf Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:01:06:27

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Dev Patel Goes John Wick

4/10/2024
On this week’s show, the panel is first joined by Slate business and culture writer Nitish Pahwa to discuss Monkey Man, Dev Patel’s dazzling but muddled directorial debut. The ultra-violent action flick stars Patel as Kid, a young man who works his way into a secret brothel for the super rich, hell-bent on finding the police chief who murdered his mother and exacting his revenge. It’s clearly a political statement of a film, rife with references to real-world controversies and corrupt political, religious, and pedagogical practices (all of which Nitish covers in his piece for Slate, “Monkey Man Has a Bold New Vision”). Then, the three jump into Ripley, a new eight-part Netflix series based on Patricia Highsmith’s master novel, The Talented Mr. Ripley, starring 47-year-old Andrew “Hot Priest” Scott as the titular seductive psychopath. Directed by Steven Zaillian (The Night Of, Schindler’s List, All the King’s Men) and with cinematography by Robert Elswith (Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood, Good Night, and Good Luck), the series is shot in spectacular black-and-white and co-stars Dakota Fanning as Marge Sherwood and Johnny Flynn as Dickie Greenleaf. Finally, Julia Louis-Dreyfus (of Veep, Saturday Night Live, and Seinfeld fame, obviously) has a podcast, Wiser Than Me, which just entered its second season. On it, she interviews iconic older women like Jane Fonda, Carol Burnett, Bonnie Raitt, and Sally Field about the wisdom they’ve accrued and asks the question: “Well, how should I live?” While the show doesn’t fully avoid the pitfalls of the celebrity interview, secrets and things emerge within the course of a conversation and the framework itself gets to the very core of human existence. In the exclusive Slate Plus segment, the panel answers a fittingly existential question from listener Gretel: “Wondering how you, high achievers all, balance ambition with contentment. Do you consider yourselves competitive or is your drive innate? I vacillate between pushing myself harder, striving to achieve more, and being grateful for what I have and where I am. Is contentment a noble endgame in your opinions?” Email us at culturefest@slate.com. Outro music: “Bollywood Star” by Jhukane Bada. Endorsements: Dana: Andrew Scott’s performance as Hamlet in 2017. (The full three-hour production can be watched on YouTube.) Julia: Worn: A People’s History of Clothing by Sofi Thanhauser. An absolutely beautiful and fascinating book about the centrality of textile production throughout history. Stephen: “Lowell, Plath, and Sexton in the Same Room” by Steve Moyer for the National Endowment for the Humanities (Spring 2024, Volume 45.) Podcast production by Jared Downing. Production assistance by Kat Hong. Hosts Dana Stephens, Julia Turner, Stephen Metcalf Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:01:04:29

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Beyoncé’s Country Kaleidoscope

4/3/2024
On this week’s show, the panel is first joined by Slate culture writer (and the Gabfest’s Senior Beyoncé Correspondent) Nadira Goffe to dissect Beyoncé’s latest album, Cowboy Carter. Released on March 29th, Cowboy Carter is a 27-track behemoth with a country soul, packed with archival footage and songs that span multiple genres. To call it a country album would be too simplistic, so we’ll stick with Queen Bey’s own words: Cowboy Carter is a Beyoncé album. Then, the three jump into Do Not Expect Too Much From the End of the World, an avant-garde film from Romanian director Radu Jude that perfectly captures life in the 21st century. Finally, the trio examine Steve! (martin): a documentary in 2 pieces, a new two-part series directed by Morgan Neville (Will You Be My Neighbor?), which analyzes the legendary Steve Martin, an inscrutable human being and American icon. In the exclusive Slate Plus segment, the panel discusses their personal relationships to hotels. Email us at culturefest@slate.com. Outro music: "I Can Still Dance" by Tigerblood Jewel Endorsements: Dana: Critic Nicolas Rapold’s interview with Radu Jude, the director of Do Not Expect Much From the End of the World, on his podcast, The Last Thing I Saw. It’s a great companion piece to listen to after watching the film. Julia: The Fraud by Zadie Smith, a historical novel set in Victorian England. If you’ve read this book and have strong feelings, please email Julia at cultfest@slate.com to dissect the work and discuss. Stephen: Penelope Fitzgerald, the Booker Prize-winning novelist, poet, and essayist. Specifically, her 1995 novel, the Blue Flower. Podcast production by Jared Downing. Production assistance by Kat Hong. Hosts Dana Stephens, Julia Turner, Stephen Metcalf Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:01:02:37

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Jon Stewart Returns

3/27/2024
On this week's show, Slate’s Dan Kois (author of Vintage Contemporaries, How to Be a Family, The World Only Spins Forward, and Facing Future) sits in for Julia Turner. The panel first begins with a reboot: In 1999, when Jon Stewart took over, rather indifferently, the helm of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, he changed the media landscape with his comedic chops, serious outrage, and penchant for pointing out politicians' hypocrisies. He’s since left and returned back to the show (which he hosts once a week), but how effective are he and his trademark bag of tricks in 2024? We discuss. Then, the three dive into Problemista, writer-director-star Julio Torres’ first feature film that can only be described as “a lot.” Torres (Los Espookys, My Favorite Shapes, Saturday Night Live) plays Alejandro, a sweet but naive aspiring Salvadoran toymaker who must navigate the Kafka-esque purgatory known as the U.S. immigration system. He meets Elizabeth, played by Tilda Swinton, a nightmare boss with fuschia-colored hair and a looming presence that often overwhelms the film… but perhaps that’s exactly what it needs? Finally, the trio is joined by The Sporkful host Dan Pashman to discuss his cookbook, Anything’s Pastable: 81 Inventive Pasta Recipes for Saucy People. In 2021, Pashman created the cascatelli, a new pasta shape that went viral, with Time calling it “one of the best inventions of the year.” Anything’s Pastable aims to revolutionize our concept of what pasta sauces can be, with recipes for unique and non-traditional dishes like “Kimchi Carbonara” and “Cacio e Pepe e Chili Crisp.” In the exclusive Slate Plus segment, the panel explores Dana’s book review, “Rejecting the Binary” for Slate. She reviews American philosopher and theorist Judith Butler’s latest book–the first of theirs published with a nonacademic press–Who’s Afraid of Gender. Butler served as Dana’s dissertation adviser at the University of California in the late 1990s. Email us at culturefest@slate.com. Outro music: “Funny Jam” by Gloria Tells. Endorsements: Dana: A feat of artistry and interpretation, nineteen-year-old American Ilia Malinin’s free skate to the Succession theme (composed, of course, by Nicholas Britell). Malinin scored a record 227.79, winning his first world title and executed the best collection of jumps in one program in figure skating history. Dan: The Big Ears Festival held in Knoxville, Tennessee. Stephen: Falling into a Cat Stevens rabbit hole. He recommends starting with “The First Cut is the Deepest” and Stevens’ 2014 Tiny Desk performance. Podcast production by Jared Downing. Production assistance by Kat Hong. Hosts Dana Stephens, Dan Kois, Stephen Metcalf Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:01:03:57

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Kristen Stewart Pumps Iron

3/20/2024
On this week’s show, Slate culture writers Nadira Goffe and Dan Kois fill in for Julia and Stephen. First up, the panel dissects Love Lies Bleeding with What’s Next producer Madeline Ducharme. Writer-director Rose Glass’ second feature stars Kristen Stewart and Katy O’Brian as beefed up, star-crossed lovers, in a twisted and gory love story about two unhealthily enmeshed women. (You can read Madeline Ducharme and Christina Cauterucci’s detailed review of the sex scenes in Love Lies Bleeding here!) Then, the trio explores The Regime, a weird and tonally bizarre Max limited series by showrunner Will Tracy (The Menu, Succession), in which Kate Winslet–in a commanding performance–plays the fictional dictator of an unnamed European country. Finally, can a book published posthumously do more harm than good? The panel discusses renowned author Gabríel Garcia Márquez’s latest novella, Until August, which was published ten years after his death–and without his consent. In the exclusive Slate Plus segment, Nadira, Dan, and Dana chew over the rise and fall of food trends, inspired by Kim Severson’s piece for The New York Times, “The Coolest Menu Item at the Moment Is… Cabbage?” Recipes mentioned by Dan: Gilgeori Toast (Korean Street Toast with Cabbage and Egg) by Darun Kwak for The New York Times. Vegan Bunny Chow by Meera Sodha for The Guardian. Somen Salad by Sheldon Simeon. Email us at culturefest@slate.com. Outro music: "Funk Wife Punk Life" by L. M. Styles Endorsements: Dana: Extreme Friend of the Pod (EFOP) Isaac Butler’s Substack, Complete Works. Specifically, his most recent post: “It Ain’t Me, Babe: Complicity and consequences, from sitcoms to Gaza.” Nadira: Two albums – World Wide Whack by Philadelphia rapper, Tierra Whack, and Brittany Howard’s What Now. Dan: Radiant: The Life and Line of Keith Haring by Brad Gooch. A beautiful chronicle of the artist’s life. Podcast production by Jared Downing. Production assistance by Kat Hong. Hosts Dana Stephens, Nadira Goffe, Dan Kois Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:57:21

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The Oscars Are Back, Baby!

3/13/2024
On this week’s show, the panel is first joined by Mark Harris, cultural historian and the author of Pictures at a Revolution: Five Movies and the Birth of the New Hollywood, to discuss the 96th Academy Awards: a fun, glitzy return to form filled with surprisingly political moments. Then, the three review FX’s Shōgun, a massive epic set in 17th century Japan that many are calling “the new Game of Thrones.” But does it live up to the hype? Finally, the trio examines “Behind F1’s Velvet Curtain,” Kate Wagner’s spellbinding 5,000-word piece about the world of Formula 1 racing that Road & Track published then promptly yanked from the internet without explanation. Although Wagner’s piece is no longer live on Road & Track, you can still read it on Wayback Machine’s internet archive. In the exclusive Slate Plus segment, Mark Harris returns to talk about his New York Times essay, “How Bad Can It Get for Hollywood?” which details what we can expect from movies in 2024 (spoiler alert: it’s not looking good). Email us at culturefest@slate.com. Outro music: “8-Bit Hop” by Ash Sculptures Endorsements: Dana: HINT.FM’s Wind Map, which illustrates “the delicate tracery of wind flowing over the US.” Julia: Tejal Rao’s recipe for Kale Sauce Pasta, adapted from Joshua McFadden. Steve: “What Physicists Have Been Missing” by theoretical physicist Sabine Hossenfelder. Podcast production by Jared Downing. Production assistance by Kat Hong. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:01:00:32

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Timothée Chalamet Rides the Worm

3/6/2024
On this week’s show, the panel returns to Arrakis! First up, the trio reviews Dune: Part Two, the (as the title suggests) second part of Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s 1965 science fiction epic. In it, Timothée Chalamet plays Paul Atreides, the supposed “messiah” of Arrakis, a hostile desert planet rich in spice, in a fantastic feat of world building and worm-riding. Then, they examine God Save Texas, a three-part docu-series streaming on Max that follows three Texan filmmakers (Richard Linklakter, Alex Stapleton, and Iliana Sosa) as they return to their respective hometowns and chronicle the state’s complex history with the prison system, oil business, and border laws. Finally, the panel is joined by Paul Schnee, an acclaimed casting director whose credits include Spotlight, Winter’s Bone, and The Help, to discuss the Academy Awards’ most recent addition: an Oscar for Casting. In the exclusive Slate Plus segment, the panel answers a listener question from Eliot: What are some pieces of culture that your children have introduced to you? Email us at culturefest@slate.com. Outro music: “Last Sunday” by OTE Endorsements: Dana: Werner Herzog’s 2011 documentary, Into the Abyss. The film examines America’s capital punishment system. Julia: The Lady and the Tramp, which is still great and bizarre, and somehow, makes the dogs… hot? Steve: Australian novelist Helen Garner’s 2014 non-fiction book The House of Grief, which follows a man and his broken life, a community wracked by tragedy, and the long and torturous road to closure. Podcast production by Jared Downing. Production assistance by Kat Hong. Hosts Dana Stephens, Julia Turner, Stephen Metcalf Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:58:17

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J.Lo’s This Is… What Now?

2/28/2024
On this week’s show, the panel is first joined by Wesley Morris, New York Times’ critic at large, to dissect This Is Me… Now: A Love Story, Jennifer Lopez’s bizarre, nutty, yet utterly delicious self-funded vanity project that cost the singer $20 million to produce. (Wesley wrote a brilliant piece about it for the Times.) Then, the three explore 20 Days in Mariupol, the Oscar-nominated documentary by Ukrainian journalist Mstyslav Chernov that depicts the atrocities of the Russia-Ukraine war through on-the-ground footage and harrowing accounts of civilians. Finally, in a new oral history of the Village Voice, entitled The Freaks Came Out to Write: The Definitive History of the Village Voice, the Radical Paper That Changed American Culture, author Tricia Romano tells the iconic alt-weekly newspaper’s history through 200 interviews with its legendary writers, editors, and photographers. We discuss. In the exclusive Slate Plus segment, we share an impromptu conversation between the hosts and Wesley Morris. Email us at culturefest@slate.com. Outro music: "Zero Gravity" by ELFL Endorsements: Cameron: Longtime Culture Gabfest producer, Cameron Drews, is moving onto his next project but came on one last time to endorse! He endorses movie theater subscriptions and is a big fan of Alamo Drafthouse’s season pass. Dana: The Criterion Channel’s new “Gothic Noir” series. Julia: An algorithm-recommended bop, UNTZ UNTZ by Inji. Steve: The Milk Carton Kids’ cover of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” and a performance of their song, “All of the Time in the World to Kill,” featuring some lovely on-stage banter. Podcast production by Jared Downing. Production assistance by Kat Hong. Hosts Dana Stephens, Julia Turner, Stephen Metcalf Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:01:03:50

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Mr. & Mrs. Smith: Remarried

2/21/2024
On this week’s show, the panel begins by dissecting Mr. & Mrs. Smith, the episodic remake of Brangelina’s 2005 espionage film. The Prime Video series stars Donald Glover and Maya Erskine as the titular Smiths, spies who become “married” as a part of the job, and explores partnership in the gig economy in a quieter, smaller, and less glamorous version of the original. Then, they review The Color Purple, a movie-musical adapted from Alice Walker’s seminal novel. The film stars Fantasia Barrino and Taraji P. Henson, as well as Danielle Brooks, who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Sofia. Finally, it’s the viral scam that rocked the internet: “The Day I Put $50,000 in a Shoe Box and Handed It to a Stranger” is a first-hand account written by The Cut’s financial-advice columnist, Charlotte Cowles, about the time she fell for an Amazon scam call. Our panel reviews the piece and explores its ethics. In the exclusive Slate Plus segment, Julia discusses her big life changes, including a new fellowship at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Email us at culturefest@slate.com. Outro music: “Pull Me Out” by Mike Stringer Endorsements: Dana: Dance Life on Prime Video, a five-episode series that follows the students at Brent Street Academy, the southern hemisphere’s most prestigious dance academy. Julia: The Hobonichi Techo Planner Book, a planner that’s descended from the heavens. The book uses thin and light yet durable paper and employs the same thread-stitch binding as a dictionary, allowing it to lay flat open for glorious, comfortable writing. Steve: A two-part endorsement: Listen to his playlist of cover songs, Let’s Dance, while making hand-made pasta with a Marcato hand-crank machine. Podcast production by Jared Downing. Production assistance by Kat Hong. Hosts Dana Stephens, Julia Turner, Stephen Metcalf Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:55:57

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We’re Saving Our Own Lives

2/14/2024
On this week’s show, the panel returns to 1985 and reviews The Greatest Night in Pop, Netflix’s star-studded documentary about how “We Are the World” (a charity single performed by USA for Africa, a supergroup comprised of the most popular artists not only of the time, but arguably, ever) came to be and the legendary night it was recorded. Although it features cameos from Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Diana Ross, Paul Simon, Tina Turner, Cyndi Lauper, and more, the documentary manages to be quite modest in its ambition. Then, the three discuss Rustin, director George C. Wolfe’s biopic about Bayard Rustin, an advisor to Martin Luther King Jr. whose legacy has often been glossed over. Rustin stars a fantastic Colman Domingo as its titular lead and is a celebratory example of the importance of telling gay/queer stories with queer creatives above and below the line of production. Finally, it’s the Slate True-Crime Canon! Cheyna Roth, contributor to the Canon and author of Between Two Wars: A True Crime Collection: Mysterious Disappearances, High-Profile Heists, Baffling Murders, and More joins to break down the monstrous endeavor. (Roth’s other book is Cold Cases: A True Crime Collection) In the exclusive Slate Plus segment, the panel discusses Super Bowl LVIII and analyzes the advertisements, Usher’s half-time performance, and the Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce love story at the center of it all. Email us at culturefest@slate.com. Outro music: "Self Made Woman" by Katharine Appleton Endorsements: Dana: Her perfect plane movie, Dumb Money, which features a superstar cast that’s always in-sync. Julia: Small Mercies by Dennis Lehane, an “all-consuming tale of revenge, family love, festering hate, and insidious power, set against one of the most tumultuous episodes in Boston’s history.” Steve: A liquidus piano album by Mary Lou Williams, Zodiac Suite. The 1945 album seamlessly mixes classical and jazz influences throughout 12 pieces, each named for a different astrological sign. Podcast production by Jared Downing. Production assistance by Kat Hong. Hosts Dana Stephens, Julia Turner, Stephen Metcalf Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:49:08

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Why Zone of Interest Is Dividing Critics

2/7/2024
On this week’s show, Extreme Friends of the Pod and co-authors of The World Only Spins Forward, Isaac Butler and Dan Kois, fill in for Dana Stevens and Julia Turner. The hosts begin by dissecting The Zone of Interest, filmmaker Jonathan Glazer’s audacious movie about the Holocaust that’s told through the lens of Nazi commandant Rudolf Höss and his wife Hedwig as they live their somewhat ordinary lives in a compound outside of Auschwitz. The film has garnered both praise and severe critique from critics, many of whom are split on Glazer’s detached aesthetic and imaginative approach to depicting genocide. The Zone of Interest has racked up five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. Then, the three dive into Nyad, the (maybe?) true story of marathon swimmer Diana Nyad, as she attempts to swim unassisted from Cuba to Florida. Annette Bening stars in the titular role alongside Jodie Foster, both of whom are up for Oscars (Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively). Finally, what is a good director, anyway? What does it look like, what does it mean, and is there a difference between producing, screenwriting, and directing – or is it some strange amalgamation of all three? These questions come from a listener, Emily, and the panel attempts to answer them. In the exclusive Slate Plus segment, the panel discusses their film preferences while airborne, inspired by David Mack’s essay for Slate, “What Makes a Perfect ‘Plane Movie’?” Email us at culturefest@slate.com. Outro music: "Pull Me Out" by Mike Stringer. Endorsements: Isaac: Dheepan (2015), an exquisitely directed movie from filmmaker Jacques Audiard. In it, three Tamil refugees must pose as a family to flee war-torn Sri Lanka but land in a Paris suburb blighted by drugs. Dan: For anyone in or heading to New York, check out Cole Escola’s play “Oh Mary!” The comedian stars as a miserable, suffocated Mary Todd Lincoln and takes place in the weeks leading up to Abraham Lincoln’s assassination. (You can also find Escola’s episode of Slate’s Working podcast here.) Steve: Rebecca Solnit’s meditation on the Bay Area, loneliness, and the human impulse towards succession: “In the Shadow of Silicon Valley” for the London Review of Books. Podcast production by Cameron Drews and Jared Downing. Production assistance by Kat Hong. Hosts Isaac Butler, Dan Kois, Stephen Metcalf Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:56:07

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Life and Art, from FT Weekend: Comfort Watch: Something’s Gotta Give (2003)

2/2/2024
From our friends at Life and Art, a culture podcast of the Financial Times: This week, we return to an old comfort classic: the 2003 Nancy Meyers romcom Something’s Gotta Give, starring Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson. In it, two middle-aged people fall in love, but only after one heart attack, two younger lovers, some unexpected midnight pancakes and ample bickering. Does the movie still work today? How has the way we depict aging in film changed? And do we miss Nancy Meyers movies? Joining host Lilah Raptopoulos is comedian Negin Farsad, host of the podcast Fake the Nation, and FT senior corporate finance correspondent Eric Platt. This is one of his favourite movies. https://podcasts.apple.com/lu/podcast/life-and-art-from-ft-weekend/id1179847741 Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:28:58

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American Fiction, Oscar Contender?

1/31/2024
On this week’s show, Slate culture writer Nadira Goffe and Sam Sanders, host of Vibe Check fill in for Dana Stevens and Julia Turner. The hosts begin with a subversively brilliant Oscar contender, American Fiction, which is Cord Jefferson’s adaptation of Percival Everett’s 2001 novel Erasure. The filmmaker’s debut racked up five Oscar nominations, including Best Picture, and stars Jeffrey Wright as Thelonius “Monk” Ellis, a frustrated writer, in this heartfelt family melodrama encased in biting satire. (Catch Sam’s conversation with Cord Jefferson here.) Then, the three tread into familiar territory and dissect In the Know, Mike Judge’s (Beavis and Butthead, Silicon Valley, King of the Hill) latest show on Peacock which satirizes the world of public radio, specifically NPR, through the stop-motion animated lens of its third most-popular host, Lauren Caspian (voiced by Zach Woods). Finally, Oscar season is officially upon us, and with Oscar nominations, comes invariably, Oscar snubs. The panel explores this year’s nominees, and who may or may not have gotten the short end of the stick. In the exclusive Slate Plus segment, the panel discusses a fun interactive from The New York Times, “The Menu Trends That Define Dining Right Now.” Email us at culturefest@slate.com. Outro music: “Bloody Hunter” by Paisley Pink Endorsements: Sam: An album he loves and owns on vinyl, Chameleon (1976) by the American singing trio Labelle. It’s pure R&B funk dazzle. Nadira: A threefold music endorsement: Midnight Dancer (1979) by the Philly soul group Silk, Spotify’s “create radio” function, and a compilation of Barbara Ackland’s greatest hits. Steve: A gorgeous, lofi home recording of Sandy Denny singing her classic, “Who Knows Where the Time Goes.” Podcast production by Cameron Drews. Production assistance by Kat Hong. If you enjoy this show, please consider signing up for Slate Plus. Slate Plus members get an ad-free experience across the network and exclusive content on many shows. You’ll also be supporting the work we do here on the Culture Gabfest. Sign up now at Slate.com/cultureplus to help support our work. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:57:28

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True Detective’s Coldest Case Yet

1/24/2024
On this week’s show, Jamelle Bouie (Opinion columnist at The New York Times) sits in for Julia Turner. The hosts first begin with a trip to Ennis, a fictional Alaskan town at the heart of True Detective: Night Country, and review the fourth installment of the HBO Max anthology series. There’s a new showrunner at the helm, Issa López, who brings a desperately needed fresh take on the Lovecraftian True Detective format, along with the series’ two leads, played by Jodie Foster and Kali Reis. Then, the three dissect Origin, director Ava DuVernay’s ambitious feature film adapted from the nonfiction book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by the American journalist Isabel Wilkerson. In the film, we accompany Wilkerson (played by Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor) as she develops her theory of formalized subordination based on race in America through the lens of the caste system. Finally, Pitchfork, the rockstar’s digital paradise and essential music review site, announced that it would be laying off most of its senior staff and be folded into fellow Condé Nast publication, GQ. What does that mean for both Pitchfork and the future of music criticism? Slate’s music critic, Carl Wilson, joins to discuss. In the exclusive Slate Plus segment, it’s the 25th anniversary of The Sopranos, and the panel discusses the series’ incredible legacy along with what it means for the stories of Tony, Dr. Melfi, Carmela, and more, to hit a quarter of a century. Email us at culturefest@slate.com. Outro music: “Ruins” by Origo. Endorsements: Dana: Blood in the Machine: The Origins of the Rebellion Against Big Tech by Brian Merchant, a nonfiction book about the “all-but-forgotten class struggle that brought nineteenth-century England to its knees.” Jamelle: G-Man: J. Edgar Hoover and the Making of the American Century, historian Beverly Gage’s biography of FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. Steve: Two reviews of Elon Musk, Walter Isaacson’s biography of the SpaceX/Tesla CEO: “Ultra Hardcore” by Ben Tarnoff for The New York Review and “Very Ordinary Men” by Sam Kriss for The Point. Podcast production by Cameron Drews. Production assistance by Kat Hong. If you enjoy this show, please consider signing up for Slate Plus. Slate Plus members get an ad-free experience across the network and exclusive content on many shows. You’ll also be supporting the work we do here on the Culture Gabfest. Sign up now at Slate.com/cultureplus to help support our work. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:57:06

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When Mean Girls Sing

1/17/2024
On this week’s show, Nadira Goffe sits in for Julia Turner. The hosts first begin by exploring an updated cult classic: Mean Girls, the movie musical version of the Broadway show based on the iconic 2004 film. The 2024 iteration stars Reneé Rapp as Regina George and Angourie Rice as Cady Heron. Then the three head to 17th century Edo-era Japan and review Blue Eye Samurai, an animated Netflix series about an ambiguously gendered, half-Japanese, half-white samurai (voiced by Maya Erskine) hell-bent on exacting revenge on the man responsible for their “monstrous” existence. Finally, consider the plight of January, a recent New York Times essay implores. The panel debates the merits of America's least-loved month and whether they agree with the assertion that the first 31 days of the year are the best. In the exclusive Slate Plus segment, the panel discloses what books to read for self-reinvention, including Letters to a Young Poet and Nadira’s favorite Toni Morrison work. The conversation is based on Chelsea Leu’s piece for The Atlantic, “What to Read If You Want to Reinvent Yourself.” Email us at culturefest@slate.com. Outro music: “Lonely Calling” by Arc De Soleil Endorsements: Nadira: Embracing her tradition of endorsing music favorites, Nadira’s been loving Depression Cherry by Beach House, the indie duo’s 2015 studio album that’s dreamy, surreal, and comforting, and Cynthia Erivo’s sensational cover of “Alfie,” performed live at the Kennedy Center Honors for 2023 honoree Dionne Warwick. Dana: At the onset of every year, Dana chooses a mammoth book assignment for herself, and in 2024, that book was Middlemarch by George Eliot. She especially enjoys listening to the audiobook while hiking, which is narrated by the English actress Juliet Stevenson. Steve: Steve learned to Travis pick on the guitar! Thanks to a wonderful YouTube tutorial by Mike’s Music Method for the song “Blues Run the Game” by Jackson C. Frank. (And maybe if enough listeners request it, he might perform it for us…) Podcast production by Cameron Drews. Production assistance by Kat Hong. If you enjoy this show, please consider signing up for Slate Plus. Slate Plus members get an ad-free experience across the network and exclusive content on many shows. You’ll also be supporting the work we do here on the Culture Gabfest. Sign up now at Slate.com/cultureplus to help support our work. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:59:21

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Much Ado About Anyone But You

1/10/2024
On this week’s show, the hosts are first joined by Slate’s Heather Schwedel to discuss Anyone But You, a paper-thin adaptation of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, starring Sydney Sweeney and Glen Powell, whose combined good looks and star wattage aren’t enough to save the flimsily written rom-com. (Although, despite the film’s rocky start, it’s become a sleeper smash at the box-office.) Then, the panel explores Hayao Miyazaki’s The Boy and the Heron (which premiered under the name, How Do You Live?, in Japan), a beautiful and astoundingly thematic film made by one of the world’s greatest living animators, as he reflects on his life, work, and the nature of creation. Finally, the Golden Globes returned on Sunday, January 7th. The hosts ask: with a beefed up voting body and new network home, did the disgraced awards show manage to overcome its many scandals and untarnish its reputation? In the exclusive Slate Plus segment, the panel answers a listener question from Scott: are there any movies, TV shows, novels, books, albums, etc., that impacted you at a pivotal time in your life (not necessarily childhood) that you will not revisit due to the fact that it may not hold up? Email us at culturefest@slate.com. Outro music: “I Want a Change” by The Big Let Down Endorsements: Dana: Inspired by his incredible essay in The Intelligencer last week, Dana endorses Tom Scocca’s Substack, Indignity, which covers internet culture, the distortions of fame and identity, nature, the weather, daily news, and more. Julia: Do you use the right salt when you cook? The best fancy salt, according to Julia, is Carmargue Fleur de Sel, an exceptional French salt that comes in a sweet little tub with a cork lid. Steve: The earlier works of Dave Brubeck, one of the greatest jazz artists of all time, particularly the albums Interchanges ‘54 and Jazz Goes to College. Steve made a short playlist of his favorites, which can be found here. Podcast production by Cameron Drews. Production assistance by Kat Hong. If you enjoy this show, please consider signing up for Slate Plus. Slate Plus members get an ad-free experience across the network and exclusive content on many shows. You’ll also be supporting the work we do here on the Culture Gabfest. Sign up now at Slate.com/cultureplus to help support our work. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:59:41

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Willy Wonka, Naive Sweetheart?

1/3/2024
On this week’s show, the hosts begin by jumping into the fantastical world of Wonka, a prequel to Roald Dahl’s enduring novel that explores the origins of its famously impish character, Willy Wonka, portrayed here by a wide-eyed, sugary sweet Timothée Chalamet. The musical film, directed by Paul King (Paddington, Paddington 2) isn’t the kind of movie you want to pick on–it undoubtedly has a warm heart–but has the effect of watching a lucrative homework assignment. Then, the three switch gears and review Maestro, a biopic (if you can even call it that) about one of America’s greatest cultural luminaries and public educators, Leonard Bernstein. Directed by and starring Bradley Cooper as “Lenny,” the film explores Bernstein’s complicated marriage with Felicia Montealegre (played spectacularly by Carey Mulligan) and the couple’s struggle to balance Lenny’s public genius with his life as a closeted gay man. (For more on Cooper’s prosthetic nose, read Mark Harris’ comprehensive essay for Slate, “The Bradley Cooper ‘Jewface’ Controversy Isn’t Really About That Nose.”) Finally, the panel is led by ringmaster extraordinaire, Dana Stevens, through Slate’s 2023 Movie Club, an annual digital roundtable featuring conversations between prominent film critics and writers as they look back through a year in film. This year, Bilge Ebiri (film critic for New York Magazine and Vulture), entertainment writer Esther Zuckerman, and film historian Mark Harris contribute, along with features from Nadira Goffe, Sam Adams, and the project’s editor, Dan Kois. In the exclusive Slate Plus segment, the panel embraces a post-holiday theme and discusses memorable gifts: their favorites and the ones that got away, inspired by a recent episode from the podcast Scriptnotes. Email us at culturefest@slate.com. Outro music: “Spinning the Wheels” by Dusty Decks Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:57:51

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Encore: Barbenheimer Blockbuster Bonanza

12/27/2023
This week, we revisit one of our favorite episodes of 2023! The panel begins by examining Barbie, Greta Gerwig’s hot pink, record-breaking movie about the iconic Mattel doll. Then, the trio dives into Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, which chronicles the life of the “Father of the Atomic Bomb,” and explores whether the film achieves its aims. Finally, they are joined by Slate’s Chris Molanphy to discuss the controversy behind country singer Jason Aldean’s latest song, “Try That In A Small Town.” In the exclusive Slate Plus segment, the panel is once again joined by Chris Molanphy to discuss all things Summer Strut. With the annual show just weeks away, the four pull back the curtain to detail their processes, weird observations, and more. Email us at culturefest@slate.com. Endorsements: Dana: In line with her theme of the week, “Yay movies and go, go, go to the theater,” Dana highly recommends Theater Camp, a delightful film by Ben Platt and Molly Gordon. Julia: Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipe for zucchini pasta with crispy capers and pistachios isn’t the sort of thing Julia would normally endorse (for one, it’s extremely laborious and you will need to fry individual basil leaves), but it’s vegan, a showstopper, and completely worth it. Stephen: In honor of the late singer, Stephen recommends two Tony Bennett albums: “The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album” (1975) and “Tony Bennett at Carnegie Hall” (1962). Outro music: “Last Sunday” by OTE. Podcast production by Cameron Drews. Production assistance by Kat Hong. If you enjoy this show, please consider signing up for Slate Plus. Slate Plus members get an ad-free experience across the network and exclusive content on many shows. You’ll also be supporting the work we do here on the Culture Gabfest. Sign up now at Slate.com/cultureplus to help support our work. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:57:38

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Annual Call-In Show 2023

12/20/2023
This week, it’s the yearly call-in episode! Steve, Dana, and Julia dive into questions submitted by Culture Gabfest listeners. Outro music: “Forbidden Love” by OTE Podcast production by Cameron Drews. Production assistance by Kat Hong. If you enjoy this show, please consider signing up for Slate Plus. Slate Plus members get an ad-free experience across the network and exclusive content on many shows. You’ll also be supporting the work we do here on the Culture Gabfest. Sign up now at Slate.com/cultureplus to help support our work. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:01:04:08

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Emma Stone’s Horny Frankenstein Movie

12/13/2023
This week, the panel is joined by Slate writer and senior editor Sam Adams to dissect Poor Things, director Yorgos Lanthimos' horny, steampunk Frankenstein tale about Bella Baxter (played by Emma Stone), a pregnant woman who commits suicide then is brought back to life by a brilliant scientist (Willem Dafoe), with an eccentric caveat: She now has the brain of her unborn fetus. Then, the three remember Norman Lear, the late television pioneer and American icon who died at the age of 101 and who was responsible for ushering in a new era of character-driven, comedic, topical, and morally serious TV with hit sitcoms like All in the Family, The Jeffersons, Maude, and One Day at a Time. Finally, they are joined by Slate’s books and culture columnist, Laura Miller, who shares her top ten books of the year, and along with Dana, discusses the joys and challenges of year-end listmaking. In the exclusive Slate Plus segment, the panel reunites with Sam Adams to spoil Poor Things, detailing what is arguably the film’s weakest portion: the final ten minutes. We’re also accepting submissions to our yearly call-in show, where Dana, Julia, and Stephen answer questions from Culture Gabfest listeners. Get in touch! Submit a question by calling (260) 337-8260 or emailing us at culturefest@slate.com. The deadline to submit is Wednesday, December 13. Outro music: “The Red Light Special” by Matt Large Endorsements: Dana: It’s clear that Norman Lear was working in the heyday of television title sequences. And although Dana may have been born a bit late to catch All in the Family in real time, what she remembers are the theme songs. So, go on YouTube and call yourself up some of the most indelible introductory sequences (All in the Family, Good Times, One Day at a Time, The Jeffersons, etc.) and you’ll have a good time. Julia: An endorsement that doubles as a one-item gift guide. If you would like to give someone a fancy, overpriced, but delicious-smelling body wash, Julia has found the best one: NO Green by Corpus, a luxurious plant-based cleanser with notes of bergamot, pink lemon, orange blossom, and cardamom. Snap it up if you have some last-minute gifts to buy. Steve: A quote by Søren Kierkegaard, gifted to Stephen by his eldest daughter: “Should philosophy, among its other conceits, imagine that someone might actually want to follow its precepts in practice, a curious comedy would emerge.” (Fear and Trembling, 1843.) Podcast production by Cameron Drews. Production assistance by Kat Hong. If you enjoy this show, please consider signing up for Slate Plus. Slate Plus members get an ad-free experience across the network and exclusive content on many shows. You’ll also be supporting the work we do here on the Culture Gabfest. Sign up now at Slate.com/cultureplus to help support our work. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Duration:00:56:20