Arts/Life

Books
4:57 am
Fri July 13, 2012

Original Fiction In All The 'Shades' Of Fandom

courtesy of Vintage/Anchor Books

Originally published on Tue July 17, 2012 8:17 am

This Friday the 13th, fans of horror films and hobbits, science fiction and fantasy are descending upon the San Diego Convention Center. They're gathering for the annual explosion of pop culture fandom that is Comic-Con. One of the biggest phenomena in pop culture at the moment will be making an appearance, and it's not a man of steel or a boy slinging webs.

It's a 40-something woman who writes... wait for it... steamy romance.

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Television
1:18 am
Fri July 13, 2012

Sigourney Weaver: No Damsel In Distress

In Political Animals, Sigourney Weaver plays Elaine Barrish, a secretary of state and former first lady whom Weaver says is based on many former residents of the White House — not just on Hillary Clinton.
David Giesbrecht USA Network

Originally published on Fri July 13, 2012 9:04 am

There's no culture more distinct than the political circles of Washington, D.C., and Sigourney Weaver is taking it on in Political Animals, a new television series where she plays a former first lady and current secretary of state.

Over the course of a distinguished acting career, Weaver has battled intergalactic aliens and befriended gorillas in the mist. In Political Animals, Weaver's character, Elaine Barrish, finds her biggest adversary in a hyperambitious political reporter by the name of Susan Berg.

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Ask Me Another
7:53 pm
Thu July 12, 2012

You Wouldn't Like Him When He's Angry

Greg Pak visits Ask Me Another at The Bell House in Brooklyn, NY.
Eric Nuzum NPR

Originally published on Fri December 21, 2012 1:19 pm

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu July 12, 2012

Science And The Paranormal, At Odds To The Finish

In Red Lights, Simon Silver (Robert De Niro) is a psychic who comes out of retirement and poses a threat to two academics, Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy), who are wary of all claims to the supernatural.
Millennium Entertainment

Of all the hustlers who present cheap tricks as "magic," few are more shameless than filmmakers. Under the cover of "It's only a movie," directors and screenwriters exhort the gullible to believe in ghosts, telekinesis, extraterrestrials and such.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu July 12, 2012

'The Imposter': Tell Me Lies, Tell Me Sweet Little Lies

Frederic Bourdin, played here by Adam O'Brian in a reenactment, is the subject of The Imposter, a movie about how the French-born Bourdin pretended to be missing Texan Nicholas Barclay, a boy six years younger.
Indomina Releasing

Originally published on Fri July 13, 2012 2:38 pm

On June 13, 1994, 13-year-old Nicholas Barclay went missing from his home outside San Antonio, Texas.

Nearly four years later, his family received a phone call from Linares, Spain, informing them that their son had been found, scared and confused; the U.S. Embassy made arrangements for the Barclays to reunite with him and bring him back home.

And that's exactly what happened: Nicholas' sister hopped on a plane, drove to the orphanage and embraced a reticent teenager who'd been changed profoundly by age and some unknown, unspeakable trauma.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu July 12, 2012

A Humble Servant, Watching As The Throne Totters

Gabrielle de Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen, left) is the close, possibly intimate, friend of Marie Antoinette (Diane Kruger) — and the two are the bane of the approaching revolutionaries in Farewell, My Queen.
Carole Bethuel Cohen Media Group

In 1995's A Single Girl, probably his best known film in the U.S., Benoit Jacquot tracks a young chambermaid through one workday as she ponders a big decision. The French writer-director's smart and ultimately wrenching Farewell, My Queen takes a similar course — only this time the protagonist toils for Queen Marie Antoinette, and the story opens on July 14, 1789.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu July 12, 2012

'Margaret': The Tortured Journey Of A Girl, On Screen

Sarah Steele, Anna Paquin and Matthew Broderick in Margaret. The DVD release of Kenneth Lonergan's long-delayed second film includes the theatrical version and an extended 186-minute cut.
Fox Searchlight Pictures

Originally published on Fri July 13, 2012 10:56 am

"A fiasco with a great first half" is what I called Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret when it was dumped in one New York theater last fall, five years after it was shot, amid a legal battle between Lonergan and a producer.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu July 12, 2012

Whatever The Country, No Such Thing As 'Easy Money'

Mrado (Dragomir Mrsic) is the enforcer for a Serbian drug cartel that controls business in Sweden, and one of three characters who clash in Easy Money.
Weinstein Company

Originally published on Wed July 18, 2012 7:57 am

Easy Money is a fine title for a film, but to truly savor the tang of this top-drawer Scandinavian thriller, try rolling its original Swedish title off your tongue. Say hello to Snabba Cash.

Director Daniel Espinosa starts his splendid crime story all in a rush, throwing us right into the middle of a trio of chaotic situations.

Introduced first is Jorge, a Chilean living in Sweden — in fact in a Swedish prison. Making his escape, Jorge promptly goes into hiding, as much from other local bad guys as from the police.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu July 12, 2012

In A Conflicted India, A Doomed Romance Unfolds

Trishna (Freida Pinto) is the titular character in Michael Winterbottom's adaptation of Tess of the D'Urbervilles, which lends the novel's deteriorating romance a feeling of inevitability.
Marcel Zyskind IFC Films

"Do you think you'll have to pay a high price for your mistakes?"

That line is spoken on an Indian game show watched by Trishna, the title character of Michael Winterbottom's subcontinental rethink of Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'Urbervilles.

The penalties for mistakes on the game show are only monetary in nature, of course. For Trishna, the costs of her errors in judgment are measured on an entirely different scale. This being a Hardy story, you can count on this: They'll be high, and they'll be unpleasant.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu July 12, 2012

For The Grieving, A Thin Lifeline To The Departed

Mont Blanc (Aris Servetalis) leads a group of people who offer a peculiar service: the replacement of departed loved ones. Imitating hairstyle and favorite quotes is normal, though some in his group go so far as to re-enact more private events.
Kino Lorber

Alps, the tightly controlled burn from Dogtooth director Giorgos Lanthimos, begins with a simple image: a girl twirling a ribbon. Practicing her routine in a large gym, the rhythmic gymnast (Ariane Labed) moves powerfully, spinning and tumbling across the mats in choreography set to "O Fortuna." She finishes, but as she complains to her coach, a middle-aged track-suit-wearing type (Johnny Vekris), the routine just isn't working — she'd rather be doing a pop song. She's ready for pop, she insists.

The coach disagrees.

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Movie Reviews
3:03 pm
Thu July 12, 2012

Two Fractious Sisters, Reunited But Still At Odds

In Union Square, Jenny (Tammy Blanchard, left) gets a surprise visit from her estranged sister, Lucy (Mira Sorvino), an emotional train wreck whose outsize personality clashes with Jenny's carefully constructed self-image.
Gerardo Somoza Reunion Pictures

The Mira Sorvino who won an Oscar for her full-bodied twist on the hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold type in Woody Allen's Mighty Aphrodite resurfaces in Union Square, a micro-budget indie that calls for a similar brand of New York brassiness.

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The Salt
2:44 pm
Thu July 12, 2012

Three Secrets To Crispy Pickles, And A 'Lost Recipe' Found

Pickling spices, ready for their close-up
Marissa McClellan Food In Jars

Originally published on Thu July 12, 2012 4:10 pm

Whether you're a veteran canner or you've just discovered this hot trend and want to get in on National Can It Forward Day this weekend, you know that the ultimate test of a good pickle is whether it's got some crunch to it.

As part of All Things Considered's Lost Recipes series, host Melissa Block talks with listener Joanie Vick, of Nashua, N.H., today. (You can hear the full interview above.)

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Music Interviews
10:03 am
Thu July 12, 2012

Fresh Air Celebrates Woody Guthrie At 100

Woody Guthrie
Smithsonian Folkways

Originally published on Thu July 12, 2012 10:52 am

Lots of people know Woody Guthrie's classic 1940 ballad "This Land Is Your Land," but the story behind the tune may not be as familiar.

Guthrie, who would have turned 100 this week, wrote "This Land" as a response to Irving Berlin's "God Bless America," a song he felt was overly patriotic and not directed at ordinary Americans like himself.

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Television
8:03 am
Thu July 12, 2012

The 'Political Animals' Running Washington, D.C.

In Political Animals, Sigourney Weaver plays Elaine Barrish, the current secretary of state and a former first lady.
USA Networks

Originally published on Thu July 12, 2012 1:36 pm

If you only knew about America from watching TV, the last few months might lead you to think that women here wield enormous political power. First you had Game Change, the story of Sarah Palin's attempt to become vice president. Then you had Veep, in which Julia Louis-Dreyfus's character has accomplished just that. Now comes Political Animals, a new USA network series about a strong female secretary of state who I suspect even a Martian would realize is based on Hillary Clinton.

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Book Reviews
5:04 am
Thu July 12, 2012

How He Became A Bat: Once More, With Feeling

Originally published on Thu July 12, 2012 2:26 pm

Seventy-three years after he first appeared, Batman is beginning again. That is to say, yet again. Still. Some more.

Back in 1939, readers of the very first Batman adventure in Detective Comics No. 27 weren't privy to his origin. For that, they had to wait six months for Detective No. 33 and the two-page, 12-panel story, "The Legend of the Batman — Who He Is And How He Came To Be!"

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Movie Interviews
1:06 am
Thu July 12, 2012

Watch This: Lisa Kudrow Recommends Golden Oldies

Lisa Kudrow, seen here in 2010, stars in Showtime's Web Therapy, a show she also created.
Jason Kempin Getty Images

Originally published on Thu July 12, 2012 10:21 am

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Pop Culture
2:23 pm
Wed July 11, 2012

Revisiting Shakespeare's Sonnets With Peter O'Toole

Originally published on Wed July 11, 2012 3:33 pm

Peter O'Toole announced his retirement from show business on Tuesday. The actor is best known for the title role in Lawrence of Arabia 50 years ago. Melissa Block spoke to O'Toole in 2007 and offers this look back.

Movie Interviews
10:47 am
Wed July 11, 2012

'Margaret:' Inside The 'Fall' Of A Teenager

In Margaret, Lisa (Anna Paquin) distracts a bus driver, which leads to an accident in which a pedestrian is run over and dies.
Fox Searchlight Pictures

Originally published on Wed July 11, 2012 11:32 am

Kenneth Lonergan's critically acclaimed film Margaret was completed in 2006, but because of several lawsuits, it wasn't released until last year.

Called "nothing short of a masterwork" by The New Yorker, the film stars Anna Paquin as Lisa, a Manhattan teenager who tries to make sense of a bus accident she may have caused — one that resulted in a woman's death. Lonergan tells Terry Gross that he wrote the film because he was interested in how teenagers transition into an adult world.

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Book Reviews
10:40 am
Wed July 11, 2012

'A Door In The Ocean' Leads To Dark Depths

Originally published on Mon July 16, 2012 12:23 pm

Many of the key scenes in David McGlynn's striking new memoir, A Door in the Ocean, take place at the beach or in swimming pools. McGlynn was a surfer and competitive swimmer in his school days and still squeezes into his Speedos for races like the annual 5K "Gatorman" off the coast of La Jolla, Calif. Ocean swimming, in particular, transports McGlynn to another realm, and he does a terrific job of dramatizing the allure of solitary swims in open water. Midway through his book, he writes:

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Book Reviews
5:03 am
Wed July 11, 2012

One Last Werewolf On The Prowl In 'Talulla Rising'

Glen Duncan is the author of several other novels, including The Last Werewolf, to which Talulla Rising is a sequel.
Courtesy of Knopf

Besides the glittery, brooding vampires (and its author's inability to, in Stephen King's withering opinion, "write worth a darn"), Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" series is notable for its protagonist's lack of innate survival skills. Bella Swan is perpetually shielded from harm by stronger male characters. True, these studs have the benefit of being vampires and werewolves, but were all those years of bra burning for nothing? Couldn't Bella at least, you know, have taken a jiu-jitsu class?

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Kitchen Window
2:00 am
Wed July 11, 2012

Making The Case For Beets

Susan Russo for NPR

Originally published on Tue July 17, 2012 10:56 am

Two years ago, cilantro haters were vindicated. The New York Times ran a story, Cilantro Haters, It's Not Your Fault, in which Harold McGee, respected food scientist and author, explained why cilantro really does taste like soap to many people. Turns out, some folks "may be genetically predisposed to dislike cilantro."

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Movies
1:18 am
Wed July 11, 2012

In High-Def Shift, Are Studios Blurring The Picture?

Alfred Hitchcock, seen here in 1969, is one director whose classic movies are being digitized and given high-definition re-releases — a process some argue can alter the original in significant ways.
Harry Benson Getty Images

Originally published on Wed July 11, 2012 2:45 am

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NewsPoet: Writing The Day In Verse
3:13 pm
Tue July 10, 2012

NewsPoet: Paisley Rekdal Writes The Day In Verse

Paisley Rekdal visits NPR headquarters in Washington on Tuesday.
Ebony Bailey NPR

Originally published on Wed July 25, 2012 12:10 pm

Today at All Things Considered, we continue a project we're calling NewsPoet. Each month, we bring in a poet to spend time in the newsroom — and at the end of the day, to compose a poem reflecting on the day's stories.

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New In Paperback
1:07 pm
Tue July 10, 2012

New In Paperback July 9-15

Fiction and nonfiction releases from Colson Whitehead, Donald Ray Pollock, Ben Mezrich and Mark Hertsgaard.

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

Monkey See
10:40 am
Tue July 10, 2012

How Should You Watch And Read And Listen? However You Want

Marcelo Poleze iStockphoto.com

However you want to watch Breaking Bad is fine with me.

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Monkey See
9:06 am
Tue July 10, 2012

The Beginning Of The End Of Walter White

Bryan Cranston as Walter White on AMC's Breaking Bad.
Gregory Peters AMC

CAUTION: This piece contains information about the first four seasons of Breaking Bad, as well as about the finales of The Sopranos and The Wire.

On July 15, the latest "how will it end" game begins for TV viewers — this time drawn out over two years. I'm talking, of course, about the Season 5 premiere of Breaking Bad, a show firmly placed, along with The Wire and The Sopranos, on the "TV is damn good art" podium.

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Critics' Lists: Summer 2012
5:03 am
Tue July 10, 2012

What's The Big Idea? 5 Books To Inspire Innovation

Harriet Russell

Originally published on Tue July 10, 2012 11:33 am

The human brain is a piece of meat, a few pounds of pale pink jello inside the skull. It's also the wondrous source of consciousness and creativity, the place from which our emotions and insights emerge.

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Book Reviews
5:03 am
Tue July 10, 2012

'Witches' Sequel Casts A Complex Spell

Shadow of Night book cover

The first book in the All Souls trilogy, A Discovery of Witches, was a tour de force, an artful and unusually skilled blending of hard science, history and the supernatural. Deborah Harkness, a historian of science at the University of Southern California, was the perfect person to pull off a mix that some readers called "Harry Potter for intellectuals."

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Theater
1:23 am
Tue July 10, 2012

A One-Man Madhouse, With Murder On His Mind

Alan Cumming plays Macbeth, Lady Macbeth, Banquo and many other characters in a one-man adaptation of Shakespeare's tragedy set in a psychiatric ward. The show plays as part of the Lincoln Center Festival in New York through July 14.
Manuel Harlan Lincoln Center

Originally published on Thu July 12, 2012 12:25 pm

The lights come up on a large hospital ward, its green institutional tiles slightly mildewed around the edges. An ominous white noise hums underneath.

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All Songs Considered Blog
10:02 am
Mon July 9, 2012

Aliens Have Landed, Hoping To License All Of Humanity's Music

Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Mon July 9, 2012 12:13 pm

  • Hear John Hodgman read the first chapter of 'Year Zero' by Rob Reid

This just in: Aliens from pretty far away have been listening to music from Earth for the past 35 years. As it turns out, the planet's only redeeming quality is our music. From a legal standpoint this is great news, the biggest copyright violation since forever. That's the first thing you want to know about Rob Reid's smart and wacky novel Year Zero, out this week.

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