On this week's show, we dive into Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Glen is an extra-extra-expert, Stephen and I are novices, and Trey is somewhere in between when it comes to Tolkien, so what happens when we all see the same movie? What about the super-crisp technical side? And what does this have to do with Les Miserables?
This interview was originally broadcast on October 10, 2011.
Can people really change? That's the question Laura Dern and Mike White ask in their HBO series Enlightened, the second season of which begins Jan. 13. The show features Dern as Amy Jellicoe, an ambitious executive who has a nervous breakdown at her workplace. She goes to a rehabilitation center in Hawaii, where she experiences an awakening.
In light of last Friday's mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, all explanations and ruminations for why Adam Lanza opened fire are on the cable-news pundits' table. Was it the lack of gun control? Untreated mental illness? Or was it an Aurora-style pop-culture revenge fantasy writ large? Did Hollywood's culture of raging, gun-slinging entertainment help fuel the mayhem? Nobody knows the shooter's motive, and yet the conversation and pontification remains incessant and unabated.
If you're running out of time for holiday shopping and you can't stand to buy another gift card, there's still hope.
Over the last few holiday shopping seasons, I've become something of a specialist in hunting down specific DVD and Blu-ray sets that will most appeal to friends and family on my list. I usually have a pretty good inkling of these things: My sister gets the art-house movies. My uncle gets the old-school sitcoms. My nephew gets anything that involves baseball, superheroes and/or ice road truckers (don't ask).
The Christmas season is when retailers make the bulk of their profits, Hollywood blockbusters rake it in, and Broadway theaters are filled to capacity. In recent seasons, Broadway has even staged special limited-run holiday musicals — among them, adaptations of A Christmas Story and Elf — to take advantage of the hordes of tourists in New York looking for entertainment. But with production costs so high, how can these shows make their money back? The answer, it turns out, is complicated.
It's high season for pie-making. And when we came upon this touching story about a bunch of women gathering to bake fresh apple pies for the people of Newtown, Conn., it warmed our hearts here at The Salt. Truly.
For more than 35 years, riders on the New York City subways and buses during their daily commute were graced with posters of beaming young women. While the women featured in each poster — all New Yorkers — were billed as "average girls," they were also beauty queens in the nation's first integrated beauty contest: Miss Subways, selected each month starting in 1941 by the public and professionally photographed by the country's leading modeling agency.
Whenever James Stewart played a character, he was always a little bit James Stewart; that's a good thing. Cary Grant was always a little bit Cary Grant — also a good thing. But Tom Cruise, through a career that's spanned some 30 years, is almost always very much Tom Cruise. And that, particularly in Jack Reacher, can be a very tiresome thing.
Starring flying debris and surging walls of water, The Impossible takes the template of the old-timey disaster movie, strips it to the bone and pumps what's left up to 11.
Decades ago, perched in front of Earthquake and The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno, audiences were rewarded with thrills that depended on fleshed-out characters (Steve McQueen as a fire chief!) and multiple interconnected storylines. How pampered we were.
Basically, Not Fade Away is the saga of a 1960s teenager who plans to become a rock star, but slowly realizes he won't. The movie is set mostly in the New York suburbs. So why does it open in South London, where two lads — you may know them as Mick and Keith — bond over imported blues LPs?
Consider the premises of writer-director Judd Apatow's first three comedies:
* A lonely tech salesman (Steve Carell) seeks to end a lifelong romantic drought in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. * A mismatched couple (Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl) gets pregnant after a regrettable one-night stand in Knocked Up. * A popular but self-centered comedian (Adam Sandler) finds perspective after a grim cancer diagnosis in Funny People.
Christian Petzold's Barbara, set in 1980 East Germany, is a film about watching and being watched. Its central character, the Barbara of the title — played, in a covertly spectacular performance, by the German actress Nina Hoss — is a doctor who's just been transferred by the government from Berlin to the provinces, as punishment for some undefined but easy-to-guess transgression.
Originally published on Thu December 20, 2012 11:17 am
We think of It's a Wonderful Life as a great American movie, a great Jimmy Stewart movie, a great Frank Capra movie — and, of course, as a great Christmas movie. We don't think of it as a great Italian-American movie.
This was a strange and wonderful year for young adult fiction — but also a confused and divisive one. We learned that 55 percent of young adult fiction was read by adults. Debates raged over what constituted a young adult novel versus an adult novel. Apologetic grown-ups sneaked into the teen section of the bookstore, passing subversive teens pattering into the adult paranormal and literature and mystery shelves.
For decades, Hollywood has been in the business of selling violence. But in the aftermath of Friday's school shooting in Connecticut, it's time to prove it's sensitive, too. NPR's Mandalit Del Barco reports that movie studios, TV networks and radio stations have shifted some programming and high profile premieres.
MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Quentin Tarantino's new spaghetti western "Django Unchained" stars Jamie Foxx as a freed slave in the Deep South working with a bounty hunter to find his wife.
The Impossible, a feature film opening Dec. 21, is about a family swept away by the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean. It's based on the true story of a Spanish family.
In the movie, they're British — a couple and their three young sons, on vacation in Thailand. It looks like paradise. Then, the earth trembles, and the ocean roars in, bringing with it catastrophe and heartbreak.
The mother is played by Naomi Watts, who spoke with NPR's Melissa Block about the film and its retelling of a grimly familiar story.
If there was a recipe for the best-selling writer Rick Riordan, it would go something like this — start with a love of storytelling, fold in more than a decade of teaching middle school English, combine that with two sons of his own who don't quite share their dad's love of literature, and marinate all of that with a deep passion for mythology.
Riordan has sold tens of millions of kids' books. He hit pay dirt with the Percy Jackson series — it's about an everyday kid who has superhero powers because he's the secret son of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea.
In some ways, the film Not Fade Away is an extension of the friendship between the film's writer and director, David Chase, and its executive producer and musical supervisor, Steven Van Zandt.
Chase, the creator of The Sopranos, first encountered Van Zandt on TV, when Van Zandt introduced the Rascals to the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. Chase soon cast Van Zandt as Silvio Dante on The Sopranos, and the two became close, bonding in particular over their love of pop music from the 1960s.
Originally published on Wed December 19, 2012 8:56 am
Mean girls and their ingenious female creators top my mysteries and thrillers list this year. Maybe it takes the special discernment of a female writer (who's presumably suffered through the "Queen Bee and Wannabee" cliques of middle school) to really capture the cruel mental machinations that can hide behind a pair of shining eyes and a lip-glossed smile.
Adam Mansbach is the author of the forthcoming novel Rage is Back.
Stealing my 9-year-old nephew's copy of The Pushcart War by Jean Merrill was the best thing I did last summer. I was his age the first time I read it, and twice his age the last time I went back to it. I'm twice that old again now, but as soon as I dove into this intimate, majestic tale of war writ small — of a battle between the pushcart peddlers and the truckers of New York City — I realized how timeless, and how deeply a part of me, the story was.
They used to call it the "vanity press," and the phrase itself spoke volumes. Self-published authors were considered not good enough to get a real publishing contract. They had to pay to see their book in print. But with the advent of e-books, self-publishing has exploded, and a handful of writers have had huge best-sellers.
Kathryn Bigelow became the first woman to take home the Oscar for best director for her film The Hurt Locker in 2010. Mark Boal walked away with a statue for writing the film, and the duo shared the honor of taking home the award for best picture later that evening.
Originally published on Wed December 19, 2012 9:39 am
My family's holiday traditions are simple but consistent: Wake up Christmas morning, drink lots of coffee, eat a good breakfast, and wish each other happy happy. If the weather is nice, we postpone the present opening and pile into the car to head directly to the beach for a walk — a sunny December day along the Northern California coast is something to celebrate. Later, we cook a delicious dinner and sit around the table with a fire glowing in the fireplace nearby.
With the screen pitch-black at the start of Zero Dark Thirty, we hear the confusion and alarm of Sept. 11, 2001: News reports that a plane has hit the World Trade Center, then the voices of a 911 operator reassuring a frightened trade center worker that she'll be OK, though she won't.
When the screen finally brightens, it's for a grim "black site" interrogation half a world away — a nephew of Osama bin Laden (Reda Kateb) strung up from the ceiling, bruised and bloodied, finally cut down only so that he can be waterboarded and stuffed into a tiny crate.
Originally published on Wed December 19, 2012 9:22 am
We know from the outset that there's a death coming in Michael Haneke's Amour, a magisterial study of mortality that carried off the Palme d'Or at this year's Cannes Film Festival — and currently tops best-picture lists all over the world. But when we first meet Anne (Emmanuelle Riva) and Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant), retired Paris music teachers in their 80s, they're in the pink and enjoying a piano recital given by one of Anne's former pupils.
When Christoph Waltz auditioned for the role of SS officer Hans Landa in Quentin Tarantino's 2009 film Inglourious Basterds, he read the passage assigned for the audition, then kept going until he had gone through the entire role as Tarantino himself filled in for the other parts.
"It was partly hilarious, partly just fabulous, partly scary," Waltz tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "And we arrived at the end and then we parted and I said to the casting director, 'If this should have been it, it was definitely worth it,' and, well, then they called me back."
You may remember Danica McKellar as Winnie Cooper in The Wonder Years. Today, the actress is also a math advocate and the author of Girls Get Curves: Geometry Takes Shape. In Tell Me More's 'In Your Ear' series, McKellar talks about the songs that helped her beat stress as a teen and inspire her as an adult.
Originally published on Tue December 18, 2012 11:23 am
Just as there are purebred dogs and purebred horses, there is also purebred poultry. Since its founding in 1877, the Poultry Club of Great Britain has been the main organization in the U.K. dedicated to safeguarding "all pure and traditional breeds" of chicken, ducks, geese and turkey.