Cannibalism and comedy are strange but remarkably compatible bedfellows. Paul Bartel's cult classic Eating Raoul (1982) set the standard, lampooning prudish post-sexual-revolution values with a chaste couple whose repression leads them to murder — and eventually to serving human flesh. Bob Balaban's considerably darker 1989 Parents used it to examine the underbelly of 1950s wholesome prosperity, with wickedly funny results.
Originally published on Thu September 6, 2012 3:50 pm
Fred Schepisi knows how to make the kinds of movies almost no one makes anymore. The tragedy is that they don't make audiences like they used to — and Schepisi's latest, The Eye of the Storm, will feel to many viewers like a movie lost in time and space.
That's no reflection on its craftsmanship, which is superb, or on its performances, which are sterling. But this multigenerational character study, based on a novel by Patrick White, requires a little patience: Its rhythms are slack in places, and its pace is definitely leisurely.
Film adaptations of TV shows long off the air have proven hit-or-miss at the box office. But in recent years, the practice of continuing the story of a popular, recently concluded TV series in a feature film has made for easier business — even when the results are mixed creatively. There's a lot to get wrong in translating a successful series, and therefore a lot to consider: How much of an introduction will a wide audience need to a show's world and characters?
The three protagonists of Bachelorette do some pretty terrible things: They talk trash behind a fourth friend's back, kvetching bitterly about having to be bridesmaids at her wedding. They publicly leak her old high school nickname, which happens to be "Pigface."
And just hours before the wedding, as the bride-to-be is getting her beauty sleep, two of them try to cram into her wedding gown as a gag — she's a plus-sized cupcake of a woman — and rip it seemingly beyond repair.
The centerpiece of For Ellen is the long-postponed meeting between a rock-band singer, Joby Taylor, and the 6-year-old daughter whose name is in the title. But writer-director So Yong Kim's wintry character study is primarily a solo act, punctuated by the occasional duet.
Hot-weather Hollywood blockbusters have now cooled off, so the cineplex will be a quieter place for the next few months. But there can be intensity even in intimate films, as evidenced by the relationship drama Keep the Lights On.
Lincoln Center represents New York culture with a capital C. The Brooklyn Academy of Music, or BAM, across the river, has long presented scrappy alternative programming. But both recognize that to survive and thrive, they need to develop new works and new audiences.
Now, those two big artistic institutions have decided to go small. The Lincoln Center Theater and the Brooklyn Academy of Music have invested millions of dollars to fund new theater spaces for new work.
For an egregious example of a silly product placement, look no further than the CW show The Vampire Diaries, where a character actually says "I Bing'd it" of a search online. But believe it or not, product placement can actually be serious and socially conscious.
Take the Fox comedy Raising Hope. Earlier this year, the show's main character, who'd been a teen mom, caught a high school girl in bed with her boyfriend. "I'm gonna show you where this can lead to!" she screeched. "I'm your ghost of teen pregnancy future!"
At the end of July, when NPR's Robert Siegel set off on the longest vacation since his honeymoon 39 years ago, he packed a few books, including the new book The Art of Procrastination by John Perry, emeritus professor of philosophy at Stanford.
After two weeks in Delaware, two weeks in Iberia and a week of work in Tampa, Fla., Siegel finally finished it Wednesday night. He says his timing is fitting: The book is 92 small, double-spaced pages.
It expands on a short confessional essay Perry wrote in 1996 called "Structured Procrastination."
Your cellphone is a tracking device collecting a lot more information about you than you may think, says ProPublica investigative reporter Peter Maass.
"They are collecting where we are — not just at one particular moment in the day, but at virtually every moment of the day," Maass tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies. "They are also taking note of what we are buying, how we're purchasing it, how often we're purchasing it."
Martin Bayne entered an assisted living facility at 53 after he was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson's disease. The disease affected his nerves so severely, it was impossible for him to take a shower and get dressed by himself.
"When I was in my 40s, I was physically fit and very active," Bayne tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "And to have to give all that up and stay in a wheelchair now and be helped by so many people to do the simplest of things — it takes a little getting used to."
Originally published on Thu September 6, 2012 12:03 pm
Cranky technophobe Huw is in a bad way. It's centuries into the future, self-aware technology has formed a "singularity" — a floating superbrain cloud in the upper atmosphere — and his parents have already uploaded to it, leaving their bodies behind. Even household items literally have minds of their own. Huw's only consolation is that he has been summoned to a kind of jury duty, evaluating a new technology the superbrain has suggested, so at least he'll have the satisfaction of saying no if he thinks the new machine is too dangerous to let loose on Earth.
Writer Zadie Smith burst onto the literary scene with her first novel White Teeth more than a decade ago. Set in the Northwest London neighborhood where she grew up, White Teeth captured the diverse, vibrant rhythms of a city in transition. Smith returns to the neighborhood in her new novel, NW, but this is a sobering homecoming.
On Monday, Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan told a campaign rally audience in North Carolina that "the president can say a lot of things, but he can't tell you you are better off." Later that day in Detroit, Vice President Joe Biden responded "America is better off today than they left us."
New York Times Washington bureau chief David Leonhardt argues that both Ryan and Biden are right: It's partly semantics.
Zadie Smith wrote her last novel On Beauty seven years ago — a long time in the anxious world of publishing. Her new novel NW was released in the U.S. on Monday. Critic Maureen Corrigan asks: Was it worth the wait?
Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.
Originally published on Wed September 5, 2012 6:55 am
When a consummately articulate, boundlessly bold journalist stricken with stage 4 esophageal cancer reports from the front lines about facing what he calls, among other things, "hello darkness my old friend," you sit up and pay attention. Mortality, by virtue of its ultimate unavoidability, raises questions about the very meaning of life, making it as challenging a subject as any tackled by Christopher Hitchens in his brilliant career. It is, in fact, one of the subjects, right up there with love, and you can count on Hitchens to eschew weak-kneed sentimentality.
Originally published on Wed September 5, 2012 5:26 am
I was once known among my friends as the queen of desserts. OK, maybe that's an exaggeration, but I was at least the bringer of desserts. My circle of friends hosted frequent dinner parties, but my tiny apartment made entertaining any more than a couple of guests impossible. To make up for that, I always offered to bring a contribution. While I preferred appetizers, the day came when a friend asked for a dessert. With some trepidation, I complied. I have no idea what that first dessert was, but it was a hit. My fate was sealed.
Hebrew scripture is a "message in a bottle," says Yoram Hazony, and in The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture, he tries to decipher that message. Hazony's new book makes the case for a different reading of the ancient texts — and argues that the Hebrew Bible is a work of philosophy in narrative form.
Originally published on Tue September 4, 2012 2:38 pm
In Girl Model, an alarming documentary about the trafficking of Russian child models to the Japanese fashion market, a garrulous modeling agent explains his philosophy: To expiate his own past bad behavior, he says with papal solemnity, he approaches model recruitment as a religious calling, not to mention a fatherly responsibility to do right by the girls, give them a better life than they have now and protect them from harm.
In his 16 years in Congress, Republican Mickey Edwards came to a strong conclusion: Political parties are the "cancer at the heart of our democracy," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.
In his new book, The Parties Versus the People, the former Republican congressman from Oklahoma details how party leaders have too much control over who runs for office, what bills make it to the floor and how lawmakers vote.
It was the absence of feathers that got conservation biologist Thor Hanson thinking about the significance of them. Hanson was in Kenya studying the feeding habits of vultures, and he noticed the advantages that vultures had relative to other birds because of their bare, featherless heads.
"Having lost their feathers allows [vultures] to remain much cleaner and more free from bacteria and parasites and disease," Hanson tells Fresh Air contributor Dave Davies.
On Feb. 17, 1970, physician Jeffrey MacDonald called the police to his Fort Bragg, N.C., home. He told the responding officers that he had been assaulted by a group of "hippie" intruders, who had also bludgeoned and stabbed his wife and two young daughters — ages 2 and 5 — to death. MacDonald suffered a concussion and collapsed lung but survived.
A child's success can't be measured in IQ scores, standardized tests or vocabulary quizzes, says author Paul Tough. Success, he argues, is about how young people build character. Tough explores this idea in his new book, How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity and the Hidden Power of Character.
Originally published on Tue September 4, 2012 9:48 am
Actor Michael Clarke Duncan has died at age 54, according to his fiancee, the Rev. Omarosa Manigault. Known for his huge size and deep, resonant voice, Duncan received an Oscar nomination for his performance in The Green Mile, the 1999 prison film in which he starred alongside Tom Hanks.
Duncan's death was announced by Manigault, who in July said that she performed CPR on the actor after finding him in a state of cardiac arrest late at night.
Dating can be difficult at the best of times, but if you're the Man of Steel it's near impossible — until now. The latest edition of Justice League gives Superman a romantic break by pairing him up with Wonder Woman. According to Justice League writer Geoff Johns, the relationship will definitely cause tension around the office.