This week's headlines have been dominated by the violent protests in Kiev, the ousting of President Victor Yanukovych, and the amassing of Russian troops at the Ukrainian border. Writer Anthony Marra says that if Soviet war journalist Vasily Grossman were alive today, he'd likely be breaking news from Independence Square.
Sandy Fonzo confronts Judge Mark A. Chiavarella on the courthouse steps after he was convicted in the "Kids for Cash" scandal in 2011. Fonzo's son, who eventually committed suicide, was among thousands Chiavarella had sent to a juvenile detention facility from which he'd received a "finder's fee."
This is FRESH AIR. Liam Neeson became a bankable action hero in 2008 with the thriller "Taken." Now almost 62, he's still getting out of tight corners with his fists in the new action thriller "Non-Stop," most of which unfolds on a transatlantic flight from New York to London. The film also stars Julianne Moore and Michelle Dockery. Film critic David Edelstein has this review.
Sunday night, the Oscars will come around once again, and we'll be watching. But before we do, we got together with All Things Considered film critic, silly video partner, emoticon learner and all-around great pal Bob Mondello to talk about all nine of the Best Picture nominees: American Hustle, Dallas Buyers Club, Nebraska, Philomena, Her, Wolf Of Wall Street, 12 Years A Slave, Gravity, and Captain Phillips.
For this second installment of the NPR Books/Code Switch Black History Month project, we asked the legendary Kyle Baker — his work includes Why I Hate Saturn, and stints on the X-Men, Deadpool and Plastic Man — to illustrate one of his literary inspirations. Baker chose Alexandre Dumas, creator of the Three Musketeers — whose life was almost as eventful as his fiction. We recommend you click on the enlargement to get the full effect of all the detail!
On location for <em>Walk of Shame,</em> camera crew members Larry Nielsen (center) and Milan "Miki" Janicin (right) help set up a crane shot. The wireless focus remote Nielsen will use is hanging from that purple carabiner on his jacket.
Credit Cindy Carpien / NPR
Nielsen's remote device controls focus, zoom and aperture on the camera; a white wheel is marked with numbers that indicate distance. Nielsen assesses the distance between camera and actor, and he needs to be precise: If he sets the wheel to 9 1/2 feet, but the distance is actually only 9 feet 3 inches, the shot will be out of focus.
You won't believe it — I didn't — but the person responsible for keeping each and every shot of a movie in focus never looks through a camera lens.
"No," says focus puller Baird Steptoe. "We do not look through the camera at all."
Steptoe has worked as a first assistant cameraman on films from The Sixth Sense to Thor to last year's Grownups Two. He says he's learned to judge distances — precise distances — with his naked eye alone.
"I mean, I can tell you roughly from you to me right now," he says. "I would say about 2-11."
Originally published on Fri February 28, 2014 11:26 am
Animated movies excel in bringing to life the impossible stories, the ones drawn from fairy tales and mythology and the ones exploring the imaginary lives of creatures and things. It's an incredibly attractive notion, isn't it, to imagine there's a whole world going about its business, just out of sight?
The French-Belgian animated film Ernest & Celestine takes on that idea twice over, investigating the fictional lives of bears and mice, two societies living side by side, utterly intrigued by and terrified of each other.
For the first time, this year's best director Oscar could go to a Mexican (Alfonso Cuaron, for Gravity) or a black Brit (Steve McQueen, for 12 Years a Slave). That film's lead actor, Chiwetel Ejiofor, is also in the running for an award; so is his Kenyan co-star Lupita Nyong'o, who was born in Mexico. This year's nominees are diverse, but the people who vote for the Oscars are not.
If you're only going to see one film about the Battle of Stalingrad — and there are many — Stalingrad would be the wrong choice. Russian director Fedor Bondarchuk's treatment of the World War II turning point is shallow and contrived, if sometimes impressively staged. The movie wins points, however, for sheer wackiness.
Decades after the end of World War II, the partly burned body of a young woman was found in a wooded area near the Norwegian town of Bergen. Her possible connection to a long-simmering Norwegian scandal, one dating back to the war, became the subject of a novel by Hannelore Hippe — and, in turn, of Two Lives, a new thriller loosely based on that novel.
Shanghai in 1936 was on the verge of Japanese occupation. Our reviewer Alan Cheuse says it makes a terrific setting for new novel by Nicole Mones. It's called "Night in Shanghai." The book showcases the multicultural and moneyed scene of Shanghai's prewar heyday.
Originally published on Fri February 28, 2014 7:34 am
My favorite parts of Non-Stop, in which Liam Neeson adds airplane bathrooms to the list of things out of which he has beaten the snot, are the silliest parts. The slow-motion parts. The gravity-defying parts. The parts where everybody in the audience cracks up, but not unkindly.
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson hosts a new TV series called <em>Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey.</em> It's an update of the influential 1980 PBS series <em>Cosmos: A Personal Journey, </em>hosted by Carl Sagan.
When it comes to "callings" we usually think of people who feel drawn to religious career paths. But if you ask Neil deGrasse Tyson how he became an astrophysicist he says: "I think the universe called me. I feel like I had no say in the matter."
This is FRESH AIR. Harold Ramis, who died earlier this week, was a writer, director and actor who played a key role in several of the most popular comedies of the last half-century. His list of credits includes "Animal House," "Caddyshack," "Meatballs," "Stripes," "Ghostbusters," and of course "Groundhog Day." Our critic-at-large John Powers is a fan and says there was more going on in Ramis' work than you might think.
Originally published on Thu February 27, 2014 2:53 pm
Was screenwriter John Ridley a bit nervous the night before this year's Academy Award nominations were announced? Absolutely.
How could he not be, when everywhere he went people approached him to say that he deserved an Oscar nod for his work on the film 12 Years a Slave. But those nerves were not evident when he sat down before a live audience at NPR Headquarters just hours before he did indeed get that Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.
If you're in need of a one-stop shop for facts, like the world's fastest roller coaster (Formula Rossa in Abu Dhabi) or the winning word at the 1984 Scripps National Spelling Bee (luge), Sarah Janssen would recommend consulting The 2014 World Almanac and Book of Facts (which spent 8 weeks on the NPR Paperback Nonfiction Bestseller List).