Originally published on Thu December 19, 2013 5:08 pm
In Oscar Wilde's fairy tale The Selfish Giant, the title character brings eternal winter to his garden by banishing children from it. Writer-director Clio Barnard's film of the same name was inspired by Wilde's fable, yet is much different.
The original story was for kids; the movie is about kids, but its grim depictions of violence against innocents may be too harrowing even for some adults. Yet the movie is engrossing, and sure to linger long after its poignant culmination.
Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi came to international attention last year when his film A Separation won the Oscar for best foreign language film. His latest picture, The Past, has been showered with awards, too — at the Cannes Film Festival and from critics groups in the U.S. I saw The Past in September at the Toronto Film Festival, and it has haunted me ever since.
In a high-school locker room in small-town Indiana, a coach is tearing into his basketball team. The Medora Hornets have scored zero points — none at all — in the game's fourth quarter.
In Medora, the hapless team becomes a kind of metaphor for the town itself — "a no-stoplight town," in the words of documentarian Davy Rothbart, one where the jobs have dried up and the population has dwindled.
Way back in the 2004 film Anchorman, Ron Burgundy was a local TV-news host in '70s San Diego. Fast-forward to this year's sequel, and that epic haircut is national news: Set in 1980, Anchorman 2 follows Will Ferrell's vain, shallow character as he graduates to a CNN-style cable news network.
I feel a little defensive about choosing "selfie" as my Word of the Year for 2013. I've usually been partial to words that encapsulate one of the year's major stories, such as "occupy" or "big data." Or "privacy," which is the word Dictionary.com chose this year. But others go with what I think of as mayfly words — the ones that bubble briefly to the surface in the wake of some fad or fashion.
As we near the end of 2013, NPR is taking a look at the numbers that tell the story of this year. Numbers that, if you really understand them, give insight into the world we're living in, right now. Over the next two weeks, you'll hear the stories behind these numbers, which range from zero to 1 trillion.
You can understand a lot about how Hollywood works if you understand the number 17. That's the number of big, super-expensive movies that came out in the May to July summer movie season. And only about 10 of them were solidly profitable.
The humor magazine The Harvard Lampoon was founded in 1876, but for the first time, an African-American woman will run things. Host Michel Martin talks with President-elect Alexis Wilkinson and Vice President-elect Eleanor Parker about their plans for the magazine.
Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 11:21 am
As a young woman, I had an attack of nostalgia for a possibly imaginary cookie. It was prompted by a walk up New York's Third Avenue, where I saw in the bakery case of a local delicatessen a stack of small round cookies, covered in the tiny rainbow sprinkles known as nonpareils. Instantly, I was ambushed by a flashback to the tiny Italian pastry shop of the small riverside town just north of Manhattan where I grew up, and where, I felt sure, I had been given star-shaped sprinkle cookies of a similar kind as a reward for my excellent behavior.
If your holiday shopping trip includes a stop at the bookstore, you might consider adding audiobooks to your gift list. And this year, as you slip on headphones to sample the offerings, what you hear might surprise you.
According to Robin Whitten, the founder and editor of AudioFile magazine, the genre has far surpassed the conventions of the taped readings of yore.
<strong>Great Odin's Raven!</strong> Will Ferrell's cheerfully idiotic Ron Burgundy and Christina Applegate's whip-smart Veronica Corningstone are back for a comedy sequel that critic Ian Buckwalter says is essentially an avalanche of one-liners.
Originally published on Thu December 19, 2013 2:13 pm
Make no mistake, Ron Burgundy is a terrible human being. In 2004's Anchorman, it's true, he learned a lesson (sort of) about the dangers of his overinflated ego and the lies of his culturally inherited misogyny. But everything came out OK in the end, and he ended things as a semi-likable rogue — casually misogynist, lackadaisically racist, generically insensitive and oblivious, but still a guy who loves his dog, his lady and his Scotch, and who isn't afraid to cry.
Originally published on Wed December 18, 2013 8:43 am
I'll say this for Neil LaBute: The man sticks to his guns. Critics may carp about his sour vision of human nature, but he keeps plugging away at his micro-studies of the cruel struggle for interpersonal domination.
LaBute is a master of stagecraft, of course; I'm not sure why he works in film at all, other than to broaden his audience. Aside from the substantially more cinematic Nurse Betty, almost all of his movies are essentially stage plays, ably transposed to the screen but with minimal concession to the switch in medium.
In 2009, snowboarder Kevin Pearce was riding high, soaring skyward, twisting his body into breathtaking acrobatics. He was 22, one of the world's top halfpipe riders, and a favorite to make the U.S. Olympic team for the 2010 Vancouver Games.
Joel (left) and Ethan Coen wrote and directed <em>Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Thou?, No Country for Old Men</em>, <em>A Serious Man</em> and <em>True Grit.</em> Their latest film is<em> Inside Llewyn Davis.</em>
Credit Stuart C. Wilson / Getty Images
An orange tabby cat co-stars alongside Oscar Isaac in the Coen brothers' <em>Inside Llewyn Davis. </em>"The whole exercise of shooting a cat is pretty nightmarish because they don't care about anything," Ethan Coen says.
Credit Alison Rosa / Long Strange Trip/CBS Films
Jeff Bridges (from left), John Goodman and Steve Buscemi starred in the Coen brothers' 1998 film <em>The Big Lebowski. </em>It didn't do particularly well in the theaters, but on the home movie market,<em> </em>"it became some sort of cult thing," says Joel Coen. "How do you explain that? I have no idea."
If you ask the Coen brothers about how they write their films, you might not get a straight answer. "It's mostly napping," Ethan tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.
"We go to the office, we're there, we're in a room together," Joel adds. "We take naps, but, you know, the important thing is that we're at the office, should we be inspired to actually write something."
The brothers don't split up writing responsibilities — they "talk through" the dialogue and "work it out together," Joel explains.
And for many of us, the week will kick off the final round of holiday parties. And that's the time for connecting with friends, celebrating the season and, in some cases, really messing up. So here to help us keep our holiday parties happy and faux pas free is Harriette Cole. She writes the nationally syndicated advice column "Sense and Sensitivity." Harriette Cole, welcome back. Thanks so much for joining us once again.
HARRIETTE COLE: Great to be with you. Happy holidays.
"A Visit from St. Nicholas," popularly known as "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," is a favorite poem among many who celebrate Christmas. But when it comes to holiday verse, why should Dec. 25 get all the attention?
In this final round, puzzle guru Art Chung re-titles other holiday films with some less festive words. The titles have been rewritten as synonyms of the original titles. For example, The Section of a Contract About the Spanish Word for Saint is the rewritten title for The Santa Clause. (It should be noted that we are using "synonym" quite loosely.)
Did you know that every Dec. 7, Guatemalans gather trash from their homes into a giant pile, throw an effigy of the devil on top and then light it on fire? This practice, known as "the burning of the devil," may sound a bit far-fetched, but it's actually true.
Ophira Eisenberg, host of Ask Me Another, grew up Jewish, but maintained an obsession with Santa Claus. Hear Eisenberg share a story about her first childhood encounter with Father Christmas, at a shopping mall in Canada.
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Prepare to answer a child's age-old question during road trips. Given a starting point and a list of three destination cities by host Ophira Eisenberg, a phone contestant must put the cities in order of driving distance from the starting point, from shortest to longest. If you left New York after a visit to the Empire State Building and drove west, which city would be the closest: Cleveland, Chicago, or Seattle?
At Ask Me Another, we're no strangers to messing with tradition, especially in the form of song. Instead of "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," how about "Rockin' Around the Big Blue Sea"? House musician Jonathan Coulton performs some classic holiday tunes with the lyrics rewritten to be about famous people or fictional characters named Chris, like Christopher Columbus or Christina Aguilera. For what it's worth, we're also including names that can be shortened to Chris.
Ah, the sounds of the holidays: Jingle bells. Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. The sound of reindeer landing on the roof. Or are those zombies with chains about to attack? Hopefully you have a keen ear for this game. Ask Me Another host Ophira Eisenberg welcomed back Lizz Winstead, comedian and co-creator of The Daily Show, as a Very Important Puzzler. We pitted her against a contestant in a game in which they had to reproduce sound effects and music.
If singing holiday songs isn't your thing, would a carol about Las Vegas or La Toya Jackson change your mind? House musician Jonathan Coulton spices up the Christmas carol "Deck the Halls" with the lyrics rewritten to describe words or names that begin with a "la" sound. What do you call smoked salmon on a bagel? Fa-la-la-la-la la-la-la-lox!
After the game, Coulton used his clues and the contestants' answers to produce a gloriously weird recording of "Deck The Halls." Hear it in the web extra on this page.
When you picture a housing development in the suburbs, you might imagine golf courses, swimming pools, rows of identical houses.
But now, there's a new model springing up across the country that taps into the local food movement: Farms — complete with livestock, vegetables and fruit trees — are serving as the latest suburban amenity.