Arts

Arts and culture

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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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.

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.

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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.

A lone figure on stage, making people laugh: That solitude is what makes stand-up tougher and riskier than other kinds of comedy.

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Actress Gabourey Sidibe — you've seen her in Precious, American Horror Story and Empire — admits she's a bit of a shut-in. "I really wish I wasn't, but I am," she says with a laugh. And while she's "puttering around" the house she listens to all sorts of stories via podcast. "In a strange way, listening to podcasts helps me meet people," she tells NPR's Ari Shapiro.

Starring in the Hunger Games was the opportunity of a lifetime, but when the role of Katniss Everdeen was offered to her, Jennifer Lawrence hesitated.

"A yes-or-no question very rarely changes your entire life," Lawrence tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. But in this case, she knew it would. The Twilight movies had just come out, catapulting its young actors into an extreme level of fame; Lawrence sensed that the Hunger Games series would do the same for her.

Is that a trolling headline? Is it intended to bring several million people here to shout "I DON'T NEED TO KNOW ANYTHING!" between sips of something organic and single-sourced?

Oh, maybe. Welcome, appalled people.

Panettone may have once sounded exotic, but these days, the dome-shaped Italian fruit bread is readily available on American grocery store shelves. And if you're ready to expand your repertoire of global holiday breads, there are many more yeasty, doughy traditions to nibble on. And they all remind us how expensive, imported fruits — like Greek currants and Italian candied citrus peel — have long been a part of our most treasured Christmas foods.

Here, a brief tour of five other fruited holiday breads from around the world.

Julekake

I first came across the work of F. Scott Fitzgerald through his collection Six Tales of the Jazz Age and Other Stories. The slim volume, with its bright purple cover, called to me from the cluttered end cap of a secondhand bookshop. I cracked it open, sat, and read through "The Jelly-Bean" right there on the dusty floor.

Just in time for the holiday travel season, the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum has an exhibit about one aspect of flying that most of us ignore: airport control towers. Those beacons of the landscape — where landings and takeoffs are orchestrated — are now the stars of some dramatic photographs.

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The Best Of The Worst: Christmas Films

Dec 20, 2015
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(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MEET SANTA CLAUS")

UNIDENTIFIED CHILDREN: (Singing) S-A-N-T-A C-L-A-U-S. Hooray for Santa Claus. You spell it...

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

NPR's Weekend Edition has been chatting with TV critics about shows that they believe flew a little too far under the radar in 2015 — Maureen Ryan talked about The 100 last weekend, and Alan Sepinwall talked about Review.

When NBC announced The Wiz -- the African-American version of The Wizard of Oz, presented as a hit Broadway musical and a movie — would be produced as a live television production, some TV watchers may have groaned.

Previous live telecasts of other musicals have gotten attention mainly as a target for hate-watching. But The Wiz Live! seems to have broken that spell: When it aired earlier this month, it earned 11.5 million viewers — and more if you count DVR replays.

It was the best of pies, it was the worst of pies. I have baked many, many, many pies.

And when I first began making pumpkin pies this autumn, my results were at best inconsistent and, at worst, disastrous.

Lee Child is the author behind Jack Reacher, America's favorite tough guy. And after 20 novels and one Tom Cruise movie, Child knows a thing or two about best-sellers. But what about worst sellers? We've invited him to play a game called "I know I sold at least one copy ... unless Mom lied?" Three questions about books that sold really, really badly.

Kurt Masur, the German conductor whose career spanned from leading an orchestra in East Germany to more than a decade of reshaping the New York Philharmonic, has died at age 88.

Sometimes an aging movie star must sit and watch as a charismatic newcomer steals the spotlight — even inanimate ones. R2-D2, the adorable little robot — or droid — first appeared in Star Wars in 1977. And over the years he's faced cute competition from Yoda, and the Ewoks. But the latest Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, brings us what might be an even cuter new droid: BB-8.

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