Originally published on Mon December 10, 2012 2:26 pm
Since this was an election year, NPR's Backseat Book Club decided to hold an informal poll to identify the best-loved children's books of 2012. We know that "kid lit" is a big category, stretching from baby-proof board books all the way to young-adult titles with fetching werewolves on the covers. But we're interested in books that hit the sweet spot for backseat readers β kids between 9 and 14 years of age. So we reached out to booksellers and one librarian to find out which books bowled them over this year.
Earlier this summer, I looked for Edward Hopper's Morning Sun at its home in the Columbus Museum of Art in Ohio. In the painting, a woman sits on a bed with her knees up, gazing out a window. She's bare, but for a short pink slip. The iconic Hopper is a must-see, but on the day I visited, it was on loan to an exhibition in Madrid.
Justin Lee was raised in a conservative Southern Baptist home. He had two loving parents, and was deeply committed to his faith. In school, classmates even referred to him as "God Boy" because of his devotion.
But, as he was entering high school, Lee's whole world began to change, as he came face-to-face with feelings that he'd tried for many years to suppress.
"I didn't know I was gay at first, because I was the kid who was preaching against folks accepting themselves as gay," he tells Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered.
A young intelligence officer during the Second World War survives life in a Nazi concentration camp. A music producer in the 1970s falls in love with a young bohemian singer who breaks his heart. A lonely Italian neuroscientist makes a revolutionary discovery: Humans have no souls. These are some of the stories Sebastian Faulks weaves together in his latest novel, A Possible Life.
On-air challenge: Every answer is a six-letter word containing "QU" somewhere inside it. You'll be given anagrams of the remaining four letters. You name the words (No answer is a plural or a word formed by adding "s.").
Last week's challenge from listener Adam Cohen of Brooklyn, N.Y.: Name two articles of apparel β things you wear β which, when the words are used as verbs, are synonyms of each other. What are they?
Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina has been adapted for TV or film at least 25 times. It's a title role made great by screen legends Greta Garbo and Vivian Leigh, and now, it's Keira Knightley's turn.
Knightley reunites with Pride and Prejudice director Joe Wright in a new adaptation of the book. Here, she talks to Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered,about bringing the title character to life.
America is obsessed with Downton Abbey, the British series about a family so wealthy that they can't feed, clothe or care for themselves. Hugh Bonneville plays the patriarch of the family, and we've invited His Lordship to play a game we're calling, "Welcome to America, Lord Grantham."
In one of the greatest movies of all time, a World War I-era Englishman played by Peter O'Toole stops with his Arab guide at a well in the desert. As they drink, they look into the distance and see a lone figure in black, galloping toward them on a camel. The Arab man recognizes him and draws a gun. The lone figure brings him down with a single musket shot. Now that's an entrance.
The man on the camel was Omar Sharif as Sherif Ali.
Hollywood can make any actor look imposing by shooting from a low angle or building sets with short door frames. But the fact is that we want our heroes big and our villains bigger, and the average male actor is about the same size as the average American male β roughly 5 foot 9 1/2. And some very "big" stars have been a good deal less than that.
Bag-in-the-box wine doesn't have the classiest of reputations. It's usually cheap and in the past at least, has been aimed at less sophisticated consumers. But in recent years, boxed wine has tried to buck the stereotype, whether by gussying up the product packaging or simply putting higher-quality wine in the box.
In stories by four noted authors, this year's edition of Hanukkah Lights showcases some of the program's most touching and insightful moments: Two teenagers find the formula to bridge a bitter family divide; the life of a cynical young reporter is changed by a single mysterious encounter; a reluctant grade-school student stands up for his heritage, and is wounded in the line of duty; and a despairing mom reconnects with her distant yet devoted daughter. Susan Stamberg and Murray Horwitz bring these generation-spanning tales to life.
Our first topic on the show this week follows indirectly from a correction we received about the current status of Andrew McCarthy: we talk about second acts (they do exist in American lives, you know), from child actors who now make cool videos and write great books to the complex question of whether going from
Frederick Rickmeyer, our hats are off to you and your note-taking ways.
Shortly after the turn of the last century, Frederick started documenting his wife's recipes on the blank memoranda pages of a cookbook. He included titles like My Wife's Own Original Spanish Bun and comments like "as good as ever," along with the ingredients and dates.
In Hyde Park on Hudson β a sly, modestly subversive dramedy about a crucial weekend meeting between England's King George VI and American President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the eve of World War II β the diffident young monarch (Samuel West) confides his frustration over his lifelong stutter while the two men enjoy a postprandial drink expressly forbidden by their womenfolk.
There's nothing particularly special about Edward Burns' wry family drama The Fitzgerald Family Christmas β-- but that makes it something of a relief amid the avalanche of overlong, big-ticket prestige films that comes tumbling into theaters this time of year.
You've probably seen some version of this story before: A crotchety and unreliable old man, long estranged from most of his family, attempts desperately to reconnect with them on Christmas Day. It's urgent, because he's harboring a Secret with a capital S.
Based on Beth Raymer's memoir, Lay the Favorite has a cheeky, double-meaning title that sets up the story and the irreverent tone with impressive efficiency; the reference is both to the gambling practice of betting for the favorite and to the heroine's generous sexual proclivities.
Everyone gets roughed up pretty bad in Deadfall, a pop-Freudian thriller set in Michigan's north woods. But nobody comes off worse than the out-of-towners: Australian star Eric Bana and Austrian director Stefan Ruzowitzky.
As Hollywood movies increasingly strive for immaculate blankness, they have come to resemble Rorschach ink blots. For example, Playing for Keeps, a new movie about a divorced couple who just might reunite: Is it a heartwarming romantic drama? Or a cynical sex and sports comedy? There is no wrong answer, dear ticket buyer.
Originally published on Fri December 7, 2012 8:24 am
Something like deja vu takes hold during the opening shots of Donald Rice's debut feature, Cheerful Weather for the Wedding. With the insistent, urgent push of orchestral strings in the background, he offers up establishing shots of a bucolic English country manor, early 20th-century automobiles, and a bell ringing down in the servants' hall. That feeling of anticipation rising in many viewers' chests may be their hearts readying themselves for the tense post-Victorian drama of the popular TV series Downton Abbey, which is what that opening rather too directly recalls.
Since earning a cult following for his acclaimed television show Freaks and Geeks, writer, producer, and director Judd Apatow has become a brand name. He has a new movie out this month β This Is 40 β and also guest-edits the January "Comedy Issue" of Vanity Fair.
He's an executive producer for the HBO show Girls and previously wrote, produced and directed the 2005 comedy The 40-Year-Old Virgin.