Arts/Life

Monkey See
9:05 am
Fri December 7, 2012

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Second Acts And Party People, Or Not

NPR
  • Listen to Pop Culture Happy Hour

Our first topic on the show this week follows indirectly from a correction we received about the current status of Andrew McCarthy: we talk about second acts (they do exist in American lives, you know), from child actors who now make cool videos and write great books to the complex question of whether going from

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Food
3:58 pm
Thu December 6, 2012

In A Family's Lost Cookie, Lots Of Love, And Molasses

NPR's Lost Recipe project helped Pavlos re-create her great-grandmother's jumble cookies.
Courtesy of Nancy Baggett

Originally published on Fri December 7, 2012 12:09 pm

Frederick Rickmeyer, our hats are off to you and your note-taking ways.

Shortly after the turn of the last century, Frederick started documenting his wife's recipes on the blank memoranda pages of a cookbook. He included titles like My Wife's Own Original Spanish Bun and comments like "as good as ever," along with the ingredients and dates.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu December 6, 2012

'Playing For Keeps,' But Without Much Panache

In Gabriele Muccino's romantic comedy, a former pro soccer player (Gerard Butler) starts coaching his son's soccer team — and reconnects with his ex-wife (Jessica Biel).
Film District

As Hollywood movies increasingly strive for immaculate blankness, they have come to resemble Rorschach ink blots. For example, Playing for Keeps, a new movie about a divorced couple who just might reunite: Is it a heartwarming romantic drama? Or a cynical sex and sports comedy? There is no wrong answer, dear ticket buyer.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu December 6, 2012

A Relationship Drama That's A Little Too 'Cheerful'

On the day of Dolly's (Felicity Jones) wedding, a former flame returns to stir up doubts about her decision.
IFC Films

Originally published on Fri December 7, 2012 8:24 am

Something like deja vu takes hold during the opening shots of Donald Rice's debut feature, Cheerful Weather for the Wedding. With the insistent, urgent push of orchestral strings in the background, he offers up establishing shots of a bucolic English country manor, early 20th-century automobiles, and a bell ringing down in the servants' hall. That feeling of anticipation rising in many viewers' chests may be their hearts readying themselves for the tense post-Victorian drama of the popular TV series Downton Abbey, which is what that opening rather too directly recalls.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu December 6, 2012

'Deadfall': Sibling Mischief In The Michigan Woods

Addison (Eric Bana) and Liza (Olivia Wilde) run for the Canadian border after a casino heist gone wrong.
Jonathan Wenk Magnolia Pictures

Everyone gets roughed up pretty bad in Deadfall, a pop-Freudian thriller set in Michigan's north woods. But nobody comes off worse than the out-of-towners: Australian star Eric Bana and Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu December 6, 2012

A Historical Comedy That Hangs On The Details

Franklin Roosevelt (Bill Murray) greets Britain's Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) and King George VI (Samuel West).
Nicola Dove Focus Features

In Hyde Park on Hudson — a sly, modestly subversive dramedy about a crucial weekend meeting between England's King George VI and American President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the eve of World War II — the diffident young monarch (Samuel West) confides his frustration over his lifelong stutter while the two men enjoy a postprandial drink expressly forbidden by their womenfolk.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu December 6, 2012

Examining The Legacy Of A Legend In 'Wagner & Me'

Stephen Fry takes in the view from Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, one of the stops on a pilgrimage to explore his complicated feelings about the life and work of Richard Wagner.
First Run Features

British actor, writer and bon vivant Stephen Fry has loved the music of Richard Wagner since he first heard it played on his father's gramophone.

"It released forces within me," he explains early on in Wagner & Me, an exuberant and deeply personal documentary about the allure and the legacy of the German composer's work.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu December 6, 2012

'Fitzgerald Family' Does Dysfunction A Disservice

Nora (Connie Britton) and Gerry (Edward Burns) pursue a fledgling romance amid a chaotic holiday homecoming in The Fitzgerald Family Christmas, another home-for-the-awkward-holidays film.
Tribeca Films

There's nothing particularly special about Edward Burns' wry family drama The Fitzgerald Family Christmas –-- but that makes it something of a relief amid the avalanche of overlong, big-ticket prestige films that comes tumbling into theaters this time of year.

You've probably seen some version of this story before: A crotchety and unreliable old man, long estranged from most of his family, attempts desperately to reconnect with them on Christmas Day. It's urgent, because he's harboring a Secret with a capital S.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu December 6, 2012

A Sin City Comedy That Comes Up Snake Eyes

Jeremy (Joshua Jackson) and Beth (Rebecca Hall) enjoy the sun and sin of Las Vegas.
Frank Masi Radius, TWC

Based on Beth Raymer's memoir, Lay the Favorite has a cheeky, double-meaning title that sets up the story and the irreverent tone with impressive efficiency; the reference is both to the gambling practice of betting for the favorite and to the heroine's generous sexual proclivities.

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Movie Interviews
10:27 am
Thu December 6, 2012

In 'This Is 40,' Family Life In All Its Glory

"Were going to blink and be 90," Debbie tells Paul. "We have to make a choice to make things different."
Suzanne Hanover Universal Studios

Originally published on Fri December 7, 2012 3:22 pm

Since earning a cult following for his acclaimed television show Freaks and Geeks, writer, producer, and director Judd Apatow has become a brand name. He has a new movie out this month — This Is 40 — and also guest-edits the January "Comedy Issue" of Vanity Fair.

He's an executive producer for the HBO show Girls and previously wrote, produced and directed the 2005 comedy The 40-Year-Old Virgin.

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Best Books Of 2012
5:03 am
Thu December 6, 2012

Time Passages: The Year's Best Historical Fiction

Originally published on Thu December 6, 2012 10:04 am

Long dismissed as genre fiction, the historical novel has now established itself in the literary mainstream, thanks in part to heavyweight authors like two-time Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel. For me, more than any other medium, historical fiction brings the past to life and makes it matter.

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Movies
1:44 pm
Wed December 5, 2012

Revisiting, Reappraising Cimino's 'Heaven's Gate'

Jeff Bridges as John L. Bridges, Isabelle Huppert as Ella Watson and Kris Kristofferson as James Averill in the 1980 Western Heaven's Gate, a director's cut of which was released in November.
Criterion Collection

Originally published on Fri December 7, 2012 7:38 am

The director Francois Truffaut once remarked that it takes as much time and energy to make a bad movie as to make a good one. He was right, but I would add one thing: It takes extraordinary effort to make a truly memorable flop.

The best example is Heaven's Gate, the hugely expensive 1980 movie by Michael Cimino that is the most famous cinematic disaster of my lifetime. It's part of that film's legend that it not only took down a studio, United Artists, but was the nail in the coffin of Hollywood's auteur filmmaking of the 1970s.

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Monkey See
10:22 am
Wed December 5, 2012

The Spatter Pattern: Does All The Good Television Have To Be So Bloody?

Aaron Paul plays Jesse Pinkman on AMC's Breaking Bad.
Ursula Coyote AMC

[This piece contains information about the plots of lots of contemporary TV dramas, probably most notably a context-free discussion of an incident during the most recent season of Breaking Bad, as well as general comments on the plot of the film The Grey.]

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The Salt
9:19 am
Wed December 5, 2012

Why Drinking Tea Was Once Considered A Dangerous Habit

Tea a dangerous habit? Women have long made a ritual of it, but in 19th century Ireland, moral reformers tried to talk them out of it. At the time, tea was considered a luxury, and taking the time to drink it was an affront to the morals of frugality and restraint.
iStockphoto.com

Given tea's rap today as both a popular pick-me-up and a health elixir, it's hard to imagine that sipping tea was once thought of as a reckless, suspicious act, linked to revolutionary feminism.

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Monkey See
8:42 am
Wed December 5, 2012

40 Years After 'Free To Be,' A New Album Says 'It's Okay To Do Stuff'

Rooftop Comedy Productions

Originally published on Thu December 6, 2012 8:29 am

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Monkey See
7:43 am
Wed December 5, 2012

Jimmy Fallon And The Roots Help Restore The Charm Of Mariah Carey's Christmas Classic

Originally published on Wed December 5, 2012 10:40 am

You'd really think that last year's weird, distasteful Mariah Carey/Justin Bieber video-slash-Macy's-commercial that made a creepy slop out of "All I Want For Christmas Is You" would have killed that number for good.

But you'd be leaving out the Jimmy Fallon and The Roots factor.

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PG-13: Risky Reads
5:03 am
Wed December 5, 2012

Feminism Turns Fatal In A 1970s Classic

Mary Stewart Atwell is the author of Wild Girls.

This may be an exaggeration, but as I remember it, I spent all of the early '90s on the living room couch, drinking Diet Coke and diving into one book after another. I was 13, then 14, then 15, but even as the years progressed, the grown-up world made no more sense to me than it ever had.

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Best Books Of 2012
5:03 am
Wed December 5, 2012

The Year's Best Sci-Fi Crosses Galaxies And Genres

Nishant Choksi

Originally published on Thu December 13, 2012 6:01 pm

This was a good year for cross-genre pollination. It was packed with brilliant books that stretched the boundaries of what counts as science fiction and fantasy — and even what counts as fiction itself. Authors like Ken MacLeod and G. Willow Wilson spun tales that begin as near-future dystopian science fiction, only to turn abruptly into fantastical tales of supernatural creatures. Call it magical cyberpunk realism.

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Books
12:21 am
Wed December 5, 2012

Susan Straight: One Home Town, Many Voices

Courtesy of McSweeney's

Originally published on Wed December 5, 2012 7:09 am

Think of all the great writers who have made their hometowns literary history — William Faulkner, Zora Neale Hurston, Thomas Wolfe, to name a few. Now, Susan Straight is getting the same praise for her portrayal of Riverside, Calif. It's a small town at the foot of the San Bernardino Mountains, an hour east of Los Angeles.

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Kitchen Window
12:08 am
Wed December 5, 2012

Learning To Cook Under Pressure

Dave Scantland for NPR

Depending on your age and how much time you spent in the kitchen with your mother or grandmother, you may remember a big scary pot on the stove with what looked like a small weather vane on top. As it heated up, the top would begin spitting, hissing and wheezing like an asthmatic cobra.

At that point in my mother's kitchen, she'd warn us, "Stand back, just in case the top blows." What? I thought. Pots exploding in the kitchen? Cooking was that dangerous?

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Monkey See
3:20 pm
Tue December 4, 2012

Home Video Review: 'Lawrence Of Arabia' On Blu-Ray

Peter O'Toole was nominated for an Academy Award for his role as the titular Lawrence of Arabia.
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Originally published on Tue December 4, 2012 4:50 pm

Time now for some home-viewing advice from our movie critic, Bob Mondello. This week, a 50th-anniversary Blu-ray release of the ultimate sand-and-sandals picture: Lawrence of Arabia.

Sand dunes for days, armies astride camels, and 29-year-old newcomer Peter O'Toole as British Army Lt. T.E. Lawrence, leading Bedouin warriors on a charge that would shake the Ottoman empire and shake up moviemaking for decades.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Tue December 4, 2012

An Aging 'Quartet,' Still Polishing Their Legends

Even after her final curtain, a diva is always a diva — as demonstrated by the flamboyant retired soprano Jean (Maggie Smith) in Quartet.
The Weinstein Co.

"Wrinklies," a widely accepted British term for elderly people, is by a generous margin more affectionate fun than the anodyne euphemisms we use here in the United States, where many of us fear crow's-feet almost as much as we do death. It's no accident that Americans have no equivalent term of endearment beyond the horribly neutered "senior citizen." Or that Hollywood movies mostly ignore the old — or consign them to the demeaning Siberia of crazy old coots (Jack Nicholson) or wacky broads (Jane Fonda, Betty White and so many more).

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Television
11:06 am
Tue December 4, 2012

Boxes Of TV Fun, Old And New, For The Holidays

The new five-DVD, one-CD box set The Incredible Mel Brooks is crammed full with comedy gold — and includes Brooks and Carl Reiner (above) doing their iconic skit "The 2,000-Year-Old Man."
William Claxton Demont Photo Management, LLC

I'm biased, of course, because I'm a television critic — but to me, giving someone a gift of a TV show you yourself enjoyed tremendously is somehow very personal. You're giving something that you love, and that in many cases will occupy many hours, if not days, of their time. And during that time, they'll occasionally be reminded of you.

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Author Interviews
11:06 am
Tue December 4, 2012

'Inventing Wine': The History Of A Very Vintage Beverage

iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Tue December 4, 2012 11:40 am

Wine is our original alcoholic beverage. It dates back 8,000 years and, as Paul Lukacs writes in his new book, Inventing Wine: A New History of One of the World's Most Ancient Pleasures, was originally valued more because it was believed to be of divine origin than for its taste. And that's a good thing, Lukacs tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross, because early wine was not particularly good.

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The Salt
10:33 am
Tue December 4, 2012

From Humors To Self Control: The Evolution Of A Well-Balanced Diet

How a wealthy table set with a second course in the month of January would look, according to Mary Smith of Newcastle, in her 1772 book, The complete house-keeper and professed cook.
British Library

Originally published on Tue December 4, 2012 1:11 pm

Chances are you're familiar with the phrase "a well-balanced diet." Two to three servings of meat, poultry or fish; three to five servings of vegetables — you know the drill. When we talk about being "well-balanced" today, we're usually talking about the specific nutrients we put into our body.

While this might seem like a relatively new development — a product of the past 50 years of fitness programs and diet regimes — as it turns out, this idea goes back much further.

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Monkey See
7:51 am
Tue December 4, 2012

Sundance 2013: Who Cares About Ashton Kutcher? Bring On Jesse And Celine!

Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs in jOBS, directed by Joshua Michael Stern, which will close the Sundance Film Festival in January.
Glen Wilson Sundance Film Festival

The headline out of yesterday's announcement of the films that will premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2013 had to do with jOBS (if it is up to me, I will never obey that silly typography again), the Steve Jobs biopic starring Ashton Kutcher wearing '70s facial hair.

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New In Paperback
5:03 am
Tue December 4, 2012

New In Paperback Dec. 3-9

Carola van Wijk AP

Fiction and nonfiction releases from Alex Berenson, Calvin Trillin, Beth Raymer, Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Best Books Of 2012
5:03 am
Tue December 4, 2012

Recipe Rebellion: A Year Of Contrarian Cookbooks

Nishant Choksi

Originally published on Tue December 25, 2012 2:20 pm

"Just throw the whole lemon in the food processor for lemon bars."
"Don't just soak your dried beans — brine them!"
"You don't need a whole day (or two) to make a good sauce."

Some of the things this year's cookbooks said to me as I tested them were downright contrarian. But that's the brilliant thing about cooking in a global, crowdsourced, Web-fueled world: People no longer cook according to some received wisdom handed down by a guy in a white toque. They figure it out as they go along, and if they stumble on a shortcut, it's blogged and shared in no time flat.

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Art & Design
2:25 pm
Mon December 3, 2012

Street Art Brings Life To A Miami Neighborhood

Greek artist B. calls his mural "a sea of objects." It was added to Wynwood Walls in 2011.
Greg Allen NPR

Originally published on Mon December 3, 2012 4:08 pm

One of the nation's largest art fairs, Art Basel, opens this week in Miami. But days before the fair launches in Miami Beach, the party had already started across the bridge, in Miami's Wynwood neighborhood.

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Monkey See
2:07 pm
Mon December 3, 2012

PBS Remixes 'Reading Rainbow,' Delights Map And Book Nerds Everywhere

LeVar Burton and 7 year old Shane Ammon exploring the all Reading Rainbow adventure app at the "Reading Rainbow Relaunch" event in June.
AP

Originally published on Tue December 4, 2012 2:48 pm

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