Arts

Arts and culture

Blending up eggs, milk, sugar, booze and with a bit of spice grated on top — sounds like eggnog, right? But use pisco instead of rum; sweetened, condensed milk in place of fresh milk and cream and a special ingredient — and you've got a cocktail de algarrobina. In Peru, it wouldn't be Christmas without it.

In Charles Dickens' famous tale A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge's spectral-induced transformation leaves him with a longing for an old-fashioned Christmas drink.

"I'll raise your salary and endeavor to assist your struggling family," Scrooge promises his much-abused employee, Bob Cratchit, "and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of Smoking Bishop, Bob!"

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

It is time now for a musical equation. Start with the singer best known for this hit from the late 1980s.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHAT I AM")

A Holiday Favorite: David Sedaris' 'Santaland Diaries'

Dec 25, 2015

You might not expect "Santa's helper" to be a career-altering gig, but for David Sedaris, it changed everything. The writer and humorist spent a season working at Macy's as a department store elf. He described his short tenure as Crumpet the Elf in "The Santaland Diaries," an essay that he first read on Morning Edition in 1992. He was brought to NPR by an up-and-coming producer named Ira Glass.

Instantly, a classic was born. Sedaris' reading has become an NPR holiday tradition. Click the "Listen" link above to hear Sedaris read his tale.

Is Santa An Elf? Discuss

Dec 24, 2015

Earlier this week, I tried to describe Santa in a story as an elf. But I ran into some serious opposition from my editor, Rose Friedman, who was convinced Santa was definitely not an elf.

"Think about every Christmas movie you've ever seen," she said. "It's always Santa and the elves. He's like twice their size."

I backed up my argument with literature — just look at the famous Clement Clark Moore poem, "A Visit From St Nicholas":

Depending on your perspective, Quentin Tarantino's career either comes full circle or spins its wheels with The Hateful Eight, a three-hour Western pastiche that combines the single-setting theatricality of his first feature, Reservoir Dogs, with the explosive Civil War politics of his last, Django Unchained.

The business of America is business, to paraphrase a line delivered by Calvin Coolidge four years before 1929's version of The Big Short. But Hollywood, no small industry itself, rarely tells the stories of people like Joy Mangano, inventor of the Miracle Mop and the inspiration for David O. Russell's Joy.

In 2011, the British director Andrew Haigh made Weekend, an achingly wistful chamber piece about a lifetime of unfulfilled longing poured into a brief encounter between two very different gay men. Weekend comes highly recommended, as does Haigh's new film, 45 Years, which also spans a few days, here slogged through by an aging couple forced by startling news to reassess their long marriage. Neither film has a plot in the received sense, nor does either lead us to a foregone conclusion.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Actor Eddie Redmayne won an Oscar last year for playing Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything. Now he's been nominated for a Golden Globe for his role in another biopic, The Danish Girl. The film tells the story of transgender woman Lili Elbe, one of the first people known to have had gender reassignment surgery.

In Latin American cultures, Christmas Eve is Noche Buena and time for a big family celebration, often featuring a pig roast. There are lots of ways to cook a whole pig. But at Noche Buena parties in South Florida and, increasingly, around the country, the preferred method for roasting a pig involves something known as a "China box."

Film critic David Edelstein had no shortage of material to consider when it came time to make his top 10 list this year. He shares his favorites with Fresh Air's Terry Gross:

1. Room
"The story of a woman held captive ... by a sexual psychopath and the child she raises remarkably well in that space."

Recess!

Dec 24, 2015

Host Ophira Eisenberg and house musician Jonathan Coulton ring the bell for recess and take classic games to the next level in "Playground Nationals." Then contestants make some of the silliest sounds ever heard on the Ask Me Another stage in a game called "What's That Sound?"

Heard in Kids' Favorites!

Snack Time!

Dec 24, 2015

Sesame Street's Sonia Manzano and co-star Emilio Delgado joins us to play "The Muppets in Your Neighborhood." Then, the two serenade our audience with the Sesame Street classic, "Hola!" Our next game, "Name That Candy Bar," is sure to make your mouth water. Then make sure to warm up your thumbs for our Ask Me One More Final Round, "Initial This," about texting abbreviations.

Heard in Kids' Favorites!

Arts And Crafts!

Dec 24, 2015

We welcome an unusual VIP to the studio (he couldn't make it to a live taping). Host Ophira Eisenberg, house musician Jonathan Coulton, and puzzle editor Art Chung quiz an 8-and-a-half-year-old fan who's a precocious superhero expert. Then "Be Our Guest" and sing along in "The Disney Wrongbook" before we break out the crayons for "Color Me Badd."

Heard in Kids' Favorites!

Last year filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu won the best picture, best director and best screenplay Oscars for Birdman. His new film, set to open Christmas Day, is already getting Oscar buzz. The Revenant is a Western, set in the American frontier in 1823. It stars Leonardo DiCaprio as legendary explorer Hugh Glass. In the harsh, icy American wilderness, he gets mauled by a grizzly bear. A fellow fur trapper murders Glass' son and then buries Glass alive, leaving him to die. The movie chronicles the hero's struggle to survive, bent on revenge.

Cooking gadgets seem to be a solid go-to when you're not sure what to give someone. Who wouldn't be charmed with a laser-guided pizza cutter? A one-click butter dispenser? An electric bacon-bowl maker?

If you are eating turkey this Christmas out of some sense of tradition, food historian Ivan Day says, put down that drumstick. After studying English cookbooks hundreds of years old, Day says the giant bird isn't even that traditional. Besides, he says, "It's a dry wasteland of flavorless meat."

Sure, the first turkey came to England in the 1600s. It was an exotic "treat" from the New World. But a time traveler from Shakespeare's time wouldn't understand why everyone in the modern world was having the same dull bird on Christmas night.

A short story about a long marriage — "In Another Country" by David Constantine — provided source-material for Andrew Haigh's breathtaking marital drama, 45 Years, but it's been enhanced and sharpened in its transition to the screen. What was once a story that harked back to WWII, and was loosely based on a real incident, has become a devastatingly intimate tale about a couple unsettled late-in-life, by an unexpected revelation.

When it came to new programming, broadcast TV didn't impress critic David Bianculli much this year. But if you add in cable and streaming services, then the story changes.

All told, cable and streaming made it "another great year for TV," Bianculli tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. The year was so good, in fact, Bianculli says he could have made a Top 20 or even a Top 30 list, but in keeping with tradition, he has narrowed it down to 10 — OK, fine, 11 — picks:

Back in 2006, before Brooklyn had its own artisanal mayonnaise store and craft beef jerky company, there was Mast Brothers chocolate.

With their impressive beards and lumberjack aesthetic, the Mast Brothers were the epitome of Brooklyn hipsters, part ZZ Top and part Brawny paper towel guy. Their chocolate was quintessentially New Brooklyn, made with a small-batch process called bean-to-bar, in which the chocolate maker oversees every aspect of the production process.

In Madrid, Museo del Jamón, which isn't a museum but a chain of bars, sells special ham backpacks, for carrying a whole ham leg — hoof and all — around town at the holidays. Spanish airports have special luggage rules for them. A leg of ham is the most popular family gift at Christmas. Every self-respecting Spanish household has a jamonera — a kitchen countertop rack on which to mount and cut slices off a ham leg.

For many American Jews, Christmas Day means Chinese food and movies. But how do American Muslims spend their time on Christmas?

Jesus is also revered as a prophet in Islam. "Muslims and Christians believe that Jesus is the only messiah," explains Hisham Mahmoud, an Arabic teacher at Harvard University. He points out that Jesus' mother, Mary, is considered by Muslims to be a saint. "In fact, there's an entire chapter in the Quran called 'Mary,' and the story of Jesus' birth is recounted in that chapter," he says.

Actor Will Smith says at first he was conflicted about his latest movie, Concussion.

"I'm a football dad," he tells NPR's David Greene. "[I] grew up in Philly with my Eagles, and there was a part of me that did not want to be the guy who said playing football could cause brain damage."

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Contains spoilers. No, really: contains spoilers.

When we talked about Star Wars: The Force Awakens on last week's full episode, we were sadly without our pal Glen Weldon. Plus, we were (as always) as absolutely careful as we could be about spoilers.

Copyright 2015 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Anomalisa, a new film about an emotionally stifled, middle-aged customer service expert, tackles existential questions about what it means to be alive. But unlike other movies that raise similar issues, the characters in Anomalisa are doll-size puppets.

Duke Johnson, who co-directed the film with Charlie Kaufman, explains that everything the characters do in the film — from speaking to showering to having sex — is shot frame-by-frame using stop-motion animation.

Christmas is a time for coming together with family and loved ones. Some 200 years ago, it was also a time to get stinking drunk in public.

You know the Christmas routine: Decorate the tree, wrap gifts and leave out treats for Santa on Christmas Eve.

Marketers and Hollywood reinforce that cookie tradition for us year after year.

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