Val Lewton was a producer who, in a sense, made a bargain unheard of in the history of Hollywood ego, trading prestige for freedom. He took a job as head of the horror department at RKO, and was given only three restrictions: The movies had to be cheap, relatively short, and the studio would provide titles (so, for example, we have a revisionist take on Jane Eyre and scathing critique of colonialism titled…I Walked with a Zombie). Other than that, he had free rein. The apex of this period was 1942’s Cat People, a stylish psychosexual noir directed by Jacques Tourneur that was much more about repressed trauma and existential dread than monsters…but there were enough horror movie trappings to make it a hit.
The 1944 follow-up is a direct sequel, focusing on two of the original’s main characters and their daughter, but in tone, it’s wildly divergent. A ghost story of sorts, the young girl is haunted, literally, by her parents’ past, but the threat is more emotional than physical. It’s a wonderful, and wonderfully humane, treatment of deeply damaged characters, all of whom are worthy of empathy (living or dead). Director Robert Wise (West Side Story, The Sound of Music, The Haunting, etc., etc., etc.) and company also build some stunning set-pieces, making the most of the film’s barely existent budget. I can only imagine the reaction of 1944 audiences who paid to see a horror movie about curses and cat people only to get a dark but big-hearted, fantasy. Surely the greatest trick Val Lewton ever played.
Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel is set in a dystopian 2045 and follows Wade Wyatt, whose obsession with a global virtual reality game is primed to pay off when he learns of an Easter egg that will grant its finder the keys to the entire kingdom. Finding the necessary clues requires a deep knowledge of games and movies, and Wade is well-prepared. It’s sort of a wish-fulfillment scenario in which all that otherwise useless knowledge will finally pay off. Likewise, Steven Spielberg’s film adaptation includes dozens, if not hundreds, of pop culture callbacks: references to Back to the Future, The Iron Giant, Gundam, The Shining, Jurassic Park, Batman, etc. So many, in fact, that the movie could likely never have gotten made without Spielberg-level pull in getting all of the rights’ clearances. In the world of the OASIS, four-quadrant multi-billion-dollar global franchises are, apparently, niche concerns, and only the nerdiest of nerds would ever be able to identify.
I have been a peanut butter and pickle sandwich truther for about a decade now. I don’t know where I initially read or heard about the depression-era sensation, but I know that it was love at first bite. In fact, the very first article I was ever paid to write (for the now defunct xoJane), was an elaborate peanut butter and pickle taste test with a wide variety of pickles.
It would be unfair to say that I owe my entire career to the combination, but it certainly set the tone for my future oeuvre, for better or worse. As such, I am always down to try “out there” peanut butter sandwiches. People from the United States have a tendency to think of peanut butter as a sweet ingredient, best baked into cookies or paired with with jelly or chocolate, but that’s a mistake. (Think Pad Thai, peanut stew, and a whole bunch of other fine dishes from Asian and African cuisines.)
To test the limits of the peanut butter sandwich, and hopefully find a new favorite, Joel and I began our flavor excursion with the classic PB & pickle (to ease Joel into this genre of sandwich). We then progressed to PB & lettuce and PB & kimchi. Making this video was a journey across textural peaks and valleys, with bold flavor combinations that surprised us both. (Well, mostly Joel. I wasn’t that surprised because I’ve been “into this kind of stuff” for a while now.)
I encourage you to taste along with us, and I encourage you to let these sandwiches inspire you to create your own unique and interesting peanut butter delicacies. (If you need even more inspiration, I’ve got more suggestions here.)
Another movie based on a European import, Dredd comes from the British comics anthology 2001 AD, the character having been created by John Wagner, Carlos Ezquerra, and Pat Mills. It’s, of course, the second go at bringing the character to the big screen and, while the Sylvester Stallone version has its proponents, this is the one that gets it right. It’s a dark, dystopian, and very effective action thriller in the style of The Raid, and yet somehow made no money and was seen by no one.
In the video above, we share some ways old socks can be made useful again—like making your very own heating pad (just add rice!) or packing a drinking glass. And who needs to buy dog toys when a tennis ball and an old sock will do?
This article was originally published on June 12, 2019, and updated on July 1, 2021.
During the pandemic, ChiChi Anyanwu made the bold decision to start her own talent management company, Chi Talent Management, managing the careers of actors in theater, film, and television. Her company is part of a small number of Black woman-owned agencies, so I chatted with ChiChi to see just how she makes it all happen.
How did you come to the decision to start your own company?
I was interviewing at different agencies [and] it got to a point where [I got] tired of working for people. I’m in my 30s now, I’m just tired of working for folks. And the sad part is, I don’t really see a lot of [Black] managers or agents that have their own companies in New York, unfortunately. There’s a whole bunch of people in LA, but in New York, I can probably count on my hand [how many are] Black-owned.
How do we actually have a stake in the game if we continue to make other people money? With everything that’s happening in the world, ownership is something that I’ve always thought about. I didn’t know if I was quite ready, because in my mind I want[ed to first have] five series regulars, five people on Broadway. You want established income coming in, because it is a bit of a risk. It was definitely hard because I also get very impatient.
What’s an average day in the life of ChiChi?
I have a bad habit of not eating breakfast. I’ll check my phone [first thing], and once I check my phone, my day gets started. I’m now going to practice shutting my phone off and maybe exercising, eating breakfast. It is a busy day of getting back to messages, checking in with clients, and making sure everyone has their tapes in on time. I have an intern now, which is making my life so much easier, so checking in with my intern and making sure things are being done daily. Making sure I’m submitting all of the projects, I’m doing a day of pitching. I’m now adding in a few consultations per day. I just get started pitching my clients and finding them work.
What was it like pivoting during the pandemic to start your own business?
Because Broadway was shut down at that time [and] there weren’t really television and film sets, it was really slow for a while. There were projects that would release the breakdown then [say] oh we have to delay this because of COVID. So it was a bit of a gamble, but at the same point, [I felt] well, let me just do this because there’s not a lot of people that look like me doing this.
That’s also what set me apart from everybody else. Being a Black female-owned management company is [relatively] unheard of. I know one Black female manager in New York that has her own company; she’s the only one that I know. I’m one of very few; let me just do it.
What challenges have you met as a Black woman in the industry?
The thing that frustrated me in the past— some people will say “oh I only have this number of slots for this type of actor.” Let’s say someone has five African American actors in their 20s. They have this whole thing about filling certain types. I wanted to be that company that’s not about the types, it’s about, how do I get the best actor [from] a diverse group of actors? Most of my clients are African-American, but there’s so much diversity within African-Americans. Everyone has different backgrounds. I don’t want to feel like I only have to have one type of client.
If a person doesn’t have a big resume, it can be kind of a name game. Sometimes I will pitch my clients and someone will say they are looking for bigger names. The reality is when you’re selling a new show, it’s about selling ads—what actors are also going to bring in the ad money. My job is to pitch my clients but also make sure we have the marketing materials [to say] hey, I know she doesn’t have a really good resume, but check out her work. I have been luckily able to get a lot of the folks who don’t necessarily have a lot of experience into top offices because of the work I’ve been doing to help develop them.
What do you say to entrepreneurs who also wear a lot of hats?
It does help to have focus. If I knew [then] what I know now, I would have gotten into representation a little bit earlier. I was bouncing all over the place. I actually did casting for quite some time before I got into representation and management—I decided to get an assistant job at an agency, then eventually work at a management company. So it definitely helps to figure out what you want to do then focus on that. But ironically all those contacts I made from casting I’m still in contact with today; they’ve hired my clients. I had to work in casting first to get those contacts I need now as I pitch my clients. I still have a lot of contacts I met in college, I met directors while working at different companies in Pittsburgh, I networked a lot when I worked at the McArthur Theater, I met all these amazing Black directors at this internship I did 10+ years ago. Even though it took me a while to get to where I am, it helped being someone who did a little bit of everything.
How important is it for you to highlight the resources for people of color?
I think it’s really important. People will complain about there not being opportunities for [actors] of color, but what about people behind the scenes? I’m part of this diverse representation group and it’s beautiful because they provide you with publicists of color, [and] entertainment lawyers. There are literally resources now that we can share where you can find people who look like you.
It’s not all about what we see on screen—it’s also about what’s happening behind the scenes. Even with Broadway. People are complaining there’s not enough diversity in Broadway. Who are the producers? Do you know the top five Black producers? Do you know the top five Black directors on Broadway? It’s also about making sure people have access to that information.
Personally, I like to share information. Even if I’m not going to necessarily represent you as an actor, I want to help to be a resource. I do consultations with actors, because sometimes it’s about having another person take a look at your material [and give] you feedback.
What advice would you give people when it comes to developing a work ethic in media?
I definitely think you have to be okay with working long hours. Honestly, I’ll work until I’m done, or actually until I fall asleep. I multi-task. I’m probably doing a lot of different things as I’m working. If you really want to be in the industry you have to be okay with working those long hours. When you book your television show it’s going to be a 12-hour day for a scene that might only be like five minutes. You’ll be surprised when people finally get what they want, how they don’t want to put in the work. Even when you do finally have what you want it’s still going to be a process. I respect all the kids on Broadway because you’re doing eight shows a week—that’s a lot of work.
I’ll be quick to recommend a therapist, because you’re going to need something to help you out. There’s a lot of rejection. I have a few clients that get frustrated when they go in for so many projects and [don’t get callbacks]. If you’re not getting callbacks you gotta go back and do the homework. Let’s find you a new coach, let’s find out what’s not landing. Sometimes you’re just not right for the role, but sometimes it comes down to the work and how hard you’re working.
Just make sure you want it. Make sure you’re at a good place [and] that you have time to handle the workload and handle [the] auditions. Some people can’t handle juggling both and honestly, as a manager I can’t wait to get [them to] quit their survival job. My goal is to have everyone quit their jobs so they can focus 100% on acting.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Neither dad in 1978’s Superman gets a ton of screen time, but Jonathan (Glenn Ford) raises Clark and, with Martha, helps instill in him the values that he’ll need in order to use his incredible powers for the benefit of others. Marlon Brando’s Jor-El gets credit as well, not only for creating and building the oddly tiny rocket that sent his son to Earth but also for showing up to offer advice from beyond the grave. Kal-El was the sole survivor* of that doomed planet, and that’s almost entirely thanks to his dad, who sent along an interactive virtual dad for Kal to talk to when the young Superman needed a morale boost, or just a Kryptonian history lesson. I’m saying it took two dads (and a couple of great moms, as well) working together from across the universe to shape Clark.
(Between salary and profit points, Marlon Brando earned around $20 million in 1978 dollars for fewer than 20 minutes onscreen, making him not just one of the best, but also one of the best-paid dads on the list.)
*Or one of dozens, including at least one dog, depending on which version of the story we’re talking about.
This week’s out-of-touch guide is a snapshot of a sleepy week in youth pop culture. Nothing too groundbreaking went on, just a great new show about an all-Muslim, all-female punk band, a debate over popcorn buttering, and an Xbox branded mini-fridge.
This week in streaming: This is Lady Parts
I don’t know if it’s a trend or what, but all-female punk rock bands are popping up all over lately. There’s the awesome The Linda Lindas, the less-awesome Tramp Stamps, and now the all-Muslim band in Peacock’s We Are Lady Parts.
The six-episode British import take us inside both Muslim and punk rock cultures and upend the expectations and stereotypes of both. Main character Amina’s parents don’t want their daughter to drop punk rock and her studies to get married. The Parts’ mysterious manager Momtaz wears a full nijab with spiked bracelets and works in a lingerie store. The band’s songs that actually sound like punk rock and have titles like “Ain’t No One Gonna Honour Kill My Sister But Me.” Check out the This is Lady Parts trailer here, then download Peacock for the whole shebang. It’s delightful.
Are you buttering your popcorn wrong?
Have you been buttering your movie theater popcorn wrong all these years? TikToker Colleen Lepp thinks so, and she has a solution. The problem, according to Lepp, is that the butter is only distributed over the top of the corn, leaving most kernels dry. The solution: Stick a straw in the bucket and send that butter to the bottom.
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Over six million people have viewed Colleen’s corn-hack, with commenters praising her or pointing out that positioning the stream of molten butter into the straw can be messy. I like this video because it indicates that people are allowed to go back to the movies and have silly arguments about popcorn again.
Hashtag of the week: #2018vs2021
Only young people would make #2018vs2021 a trendy hashtag. The point of it is to imagine your 2018-self fighting your 2021-self by comparing pictures. Personally, I’m a tiny bit fatter and a little bit balder than I was a few years ago, but essentially the same basic, old white dude. But kids really are different! They have a different idea of how time passes too—to me, 2018 just happened, but the time between 16 and 19 was a lifetime.
Anyway, check out the videos and project yourself back to a time when three years seemed like forever, and you were confident/deluded enough to think anyone would care about the changes you’re going through.
This week in video games: It’s E3 week…It just doesn’t feel like E3 week
This is E3 week, but you might not even know it. With large gatherings still verboten, the video game world can’t get together in a convention center to show off new games and products, so the hype isn’t what it used to be. Still, there were some cool announcements of upcoming games and products delivered through streaming video, of course.
There’s a sequel coming to my personal favorite game of 2019, Plague Tale: Innocence. Plague Tale: Requiem will be released at some point in 2022.
The biggest video game announcement this E3, by far, is the Xbox Mini-Fridge. Playing on their new console’s blocky look and slogan, Microsoft promise gamers “the world’s most powerful mini-fridge” that will feature “Xbox Velocity Cooling Architecture” and will no doubt hold all the Monster energy drink you need. Also: It’s not a joke. I mean, it is kind of a joke, but you’ll really be able to buy one this holiday season.
Viral video of the Week: Lumberjack
This week’s viral video comes from rapper/virtuoso Tyler, The Creator, a musician whose work I do not understand. I’m way outside his target, but I recognize a genius when I hear one. In the just-over-a-minute LumberJack video, Tyler raps about…something (I’m not really sure what) over provocative images that look like super-8 film and depict…something.
A true product of the online world, Tyler has been creating unique and not-aimed-at-me art since the days of MySpace, and I’m happy he’s out there doing whatever it is he does, and I’m happy that millions are still sharing and enjoying his videos. Tyler, The Creator is proof that the online world’s unrelenting quest for likes and shares doesn’t always result in bland, terrible, lowest-common-denominator art; it sometimes leads to inexplicable awesomeness like Lumberjack. If you’d like to try to understand Tyler, check out this feature length explainer video. But if you’re anything like me, you still won’t get it.
If running gives you blisters on your heels, or if your heels tend to slip around in your shoes when the trail gets rocky, there’s an easy solution. You know that extra weird shoelace hole at the ankles of your running shoes? You can use it to tie a lace lock.
A lace lock, or heel lock, creates some extra friction between the laces at your ankle so you can keep the ankle and heel area tight without having to tighten the whole shoe. This video from Harry Runs on YouTube shows you how to do it:
You should notice a huge improvement in heel slippage and stability right away, but if it’s not enough, try pulling the tongue of your shoe forward so the entire lace lock system is behind the tongue. This extra-snug variant eliminates tongue slippage and lets you cinch the shoe collar snugly around your foot. If you have especially narrow feet and ankles—or just wear shoes with slippery tongues—it can be a lifesaver.
The lace lock also works on shoes that don’t have the extra hole; just use the top regular hole instead. Try it with your hiking boots, your climbing shoes, or any other lace-up pair that could use a snugness enhancement. If you’ve been over-compensating for heel slippage by lacing your shoes way too tight in the toe and midfoot region, or have sized up your too-tight shoes to avoid getting black toenails and are now finding them a bit too big in the heel area, don’t be afraid to loosen things up a bit—the lace lock will still keep your heel in place, and your toes will be much more comfortable.
This article was originally published on February 13, 2015. It was updated on June 10, 2021 with a new photo, active YouTube video link, a description of the extra-snug lacing technique, and updated links to related stories.
Matteo Lane comes in hot, proclaiming his gayness by singing on the high notes; if that isn’t Pride material, I don’t know what is. He immediately announces, “If you didn’t know I’m gay,” then asks if anyone else in the crowd is gay too, then asks for a date. The special offers a brief taste of Lane’s style, and it’s fast and full of laughs. He makes fun of his voice and the stereotypical views of gayness that others place upon him, and finds a way to poke fun at the pain of a drive-by slur shouted his way while on a visit to Columbus, Ohio. Then there’s his bit about pitching a new Grindr app called “Fruit by the Foot,” amid other exaggerated stories.