Arts

Arts and culture

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

The mediocre animated comedy The Secret Lives of Pets is based on an original idea by Chris Meledandri, the head of Illumination Entertainment, the studio responsible for the Despicable Me movies and their popular spinoff Minions. That idea?

On the surface Our Little Sister, a new film from Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda, feels like nothing much is going on. Three grown sisters travel from their pretty seaside town in rural Japan to attend the funeral of their father, who had abandoned them to marry another woman. The young women end up taking their half-sister, Suzu Asano (the enchanting Suzu Hirose), who's just entering her teens, back to live with them in the family home they've shared for years.

A Television Giant Comes Into Focus

Jul 7, 2016

If Norman Lear hadn't invented Archie Bunker, someone else would have had to. The caustic, bigoted blue-collar worker ruled television throughout the 1970s on All in the Family, sitting in his easy chair and vocalizing many of the most abhorrent thoughts that, until then, most Americans kept to the privacy of their own easy chairs. Archie's old-world mind was the dying star around which the bright new Lear comedy universe could orbit.

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

Underground Airlines will start a lot of conversations. A lot.

The book's narrator is an African-American man living in a near-future United States in which slavery has never been entirely eliminated ("Big Abe," meaning President-elect Lincoln, was shot early in his campaign, and several Southern states amended the Constitution to retain it).

Tough love, interventions and 12-step programs are some of the most common methods of treating drug addiction, but journalist Maia Szalavitz says they're often counterproductive.

"We have this idea that if we are just cruel enough and mean enough and tough enough to people with addiction, that they will suddenly wake up and stop, and that is not the case," she tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

When we think about the good life, art and food rank pretty high in importance. (OK, we at The Salt might be a little biased.) So it seems only natural that the two mix. Foods crop up in all kinds of art — from ancient Egyptian tomb walls to European still life paintings.

But in art, an apple isn't always just an apple. Many foods carry specific meanings for different global artistic traditions, and those meanings can change over time.

How well do you understand the secret language of foods in art? Take this quiz to find out.

In Chile, 'Marraqueta' Is The Daily Bread

Jul 7, 2016

Invoking the expression "to be born with a marraqueta under his/her arm" in Chile is to speak of a child that has their future assured. It's a little more common than a silver spoon in one's mouth, and far more democratic, as the marraqueta, pan batido or pan francés — as it's called outside of the capital city of Santiago, where I live — is a staple food eaten sometimes as many as three times a day.

There is a myth that the most worshipped woman in popular culture is the one perceived as most perfectly beautiful, but that's not so. What's worshipped the most is the one who threads the needle most precisely such that she is almost impossibly beautiful, but something about her brings her toward you and into focus, close enough that you feel like you could touch her.

'I Am No One:' Feels Like Somebody's Watching Me

Jul 7, 2016

Patrick Flanery's new novel I Am No One asks whether it is more delusional to think you are being watched, or to think you are not being watched. Conventionally a mark of mental illness, it has more recently come to mean you're just well informed.

You are not, maybe, being particularly watched, but it is now obvious that a vast and impersonal state apparatus hovers perpetually just outside the boundaries of visibility, waiting to be triggered by that infelicitous internet search, that email from relatives abroad, that unlikely bank transfer.

Fresh Air producer John Sheehan discusses The Radio Adventures of Eleanor Amplified, a new adventure podcast for kids featuring an intrepid radio reporter who foils plots and outwits crafty villains.

Her name is Riri Williams. She reverse-engineered her own version of the Iron Man battlesuit in her MIT dorm room, got kicked out, and struck out on her own to do the superhero thing. Clumsily at first, but she's learning fast. So fast she's impressing Tony Stark, who's questioning his status as the Marvel Universe's go-to, super-powered Campbell's soup can. Readers first met her in the March issue of Invincible Iron Man.

'Faith' Makes Fat A Force To Reckon With

Jul 6, 2016

It's got to be said: The costume is ... not great. Faith, the plus-sized superhero starring in her debut volume from Valiant Comics, is a "psiot" who fights crime armed with the powers of flight and telekinesis. Unfortunately, she does it wearing a sort of half-coat, half-smock in the toothpastey palette of white with blue trim. Her matching white pants and plain white boots evoke a snowsuit. Faith's costume is so graceless, it almost seems like the work of an artist who's channeling unspoken fatophobia.

There aren't many lucky people in the fictional Jamaican town of River Bank, the setting for Nicole Dennis-Benn's debut novel Here Comes the Sun. A long drought has robbed many residents of their livelihoods, and their homes are being threatened by developers who want to build yet another huge resort, one where rich, white tourists can sequester themselves away from the reality of the poverty-stricken villages that surround it.

If you were a Soviet spy, chances are you knew your way around the menu at the restaurant Aragvi, in Moscow. That's where Stalin's security chief held court, and where KGB spooks met for power lunches. Movie stars ate there, too, as did cosmonauts. It was the place to be seen for Moscow's elite.

After the Soviet Union collapsed, Aragvi shut down. It stayed shuttered for many years. But it's just reopened.

Photographer Binh Danh spends his summers tooling around various national parks in a distinctive white van that doubles as a darkroom. "I nicknamed it 'Louis' after Louis Daguerre," the 38-year-old says, smiling from behind his professorial glasses. Louis Daguerre invented the daguerreotype in the 1830s, and Binh Danh has reinvented it for today. Using handmade materials, Danh coats sheets of copper with silver, polishes the plates to a blinding gleam and synthesizes them with iodine to create crystals that act as pixels.

Robert F. Kennedy is often remembered as a liberal icon who worked to heal racial strife, decrease poverty and end the war in Vietnam. But biographer Larry Tye says the New York senator was actually a political operative whose views changed over time.

"Throughout his life, [Kennedy] paid attention to what went right and wrong," Tye tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies. "He grew by actually seeing things up close; he took things to heart in ways that few politicians do."

Thrillers have a long, honored tradition of turning germs into monsters. But from Michael Crichton's The Andromeda Strain on up, such novels have speculated about microorganisms in a way that pales compared to the monstrosities that humans inflict on each other — especially when faced with the threat of lethal infection, one of the most primal fears we have. Dana I. Wolff — also known as mystery author J.E. Fishman — toys with this dynamic in his new novel The Prisoner of Hell Gate.

What is a queer kitchen? Is there a recognizable queer style or sensibility that can be expressed through food?

These questions and more were at the heart of a recent conversation hosted at the Williams Sonoma flagship store in San Francisco's Union Square during the city's Pride Weekend. The gathering was organized by the New York-based gay men's food magazine, Jarry, a twice-yearly print publication launched last fall.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Nicole Dennis-Benn's debut novel takes readers to a Jamaica that tourists rarely visit. "This is no paradise. At least not for us," she writes.

The characters in Here Comes the Sun are working-class women. They struggle with money, sexuality and the pressures of tourism squeezing their small community of River Bank.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

Michael Cimino, the Academy-award winning director of The Deer Hunter, has died at the age of 77 in Los Angeles.

Cimino received broad critical acclaim for the 1978 Vietnam War epic The Deer Hunter, which was nominated for nine Oscars and won five. He then followed it up with Heaven's Gate, one of the most famous flops in film history.

The Los Angeles County Coroner confirmed Cimino's death, but said the cause is not yet known.

As Chinese, Iranian and Indonesian As Apple Pie

Jul 3, 2016

The fireworks are stacked high, the beer is on ice, and lumps of charcoal glow hot under the grill in anticipation of hot dogs and hamburgers. Fourth of July is a holiday celebrated through food. There's potato salad, popsicles, watermelon slices — and, of course, apple pie.

There was a time, around 1975, when all the most-watched TV shows — All in the Family, Maude, The Jeffersons, Good Times — had one thing in common: They were produced by Norman Lear. Now, at the age of 93, Lear is featured in a new documentary about his life and career called Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You.

Click the link above to listen as we quiz Lear on Learjets, the private planes that became the must-have accessory for the very rich starting back in the 1960s.

For most of her career, Carmen Herrera's paintings of brightly colored geometric shapes went unnoticed, while her male counterparts — Barnett Newman, Ellsworth Kelly and Frank Stella — got plenty of attention for similar work. Herrera finally made her first sale at 89. And now, at 101, it seems she's getting her due at last. The Cuban artist's work can be seen at the Tate in London, MoMA in New York, and she has an exhibition coming to the Whitney Whitney Museum of American Art in September.

"We are a very 100-percent-or-nothing culture," says Robin Ha, the author of a new graphic cookbook Cook Korean! Cold noodles may be served with ice to keep them frosty. Hot soups are served from a still flaming burner. Fish are often air dried or fermented.

Pages