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Arts and culture

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NOEL KING, HOST:

2017 was a great year for Latino popular culture and the arts. There was the hit song "Despacito" by Puerto Ricans Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DESPACITO")

Vanna White has been turning letters on Wheel of Fortune for 35 years. That's 6,500 shows — and I've seen a lot of them. It's amazing to think about how much the world has changed, even as White has been doing the exact same job.

In recent years, films about terrorism have become their own kind of genre. They're often geopolitical thrillers or espionage dramas, but a new film from Germany takes a different — and more intimate — approach.

In the Fade, Germany's entry to the Oscars, tells the story of a survivor picking up the pieces of her broken life. German filmmaker Fatih Akin says he made the film to spotlight something terrorism stories often overlook.

Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Updated at 3 p.m. ET

If you've got a burning secret about the 13 pieces of art missing from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the clock is ticking.

Share the details in the next four days, and you'll earn a cool $10 million.

Wait until 2018, and that reward will be slashed in half.

It seems fitting that 2017 has been bookended by two novels about women and power. When the year began, Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, which depicts a future where women are stripped of all power, began making its way to the top of best-seller lists. As 2017 draws to a close, another dystopian novel has made it onto some prominent top ten lists: Naomi Alderman's The Power.

In a year filled with paradoxes, this might be one of the saddest: 2017 has been a great year for women in TV. But current circumstances sometimes make it difficult to celebrate.

That's because we're in the early stages of a reckoning over sexual harassment in Hollywood that is reshaping the industry in ways that are painful, necessary and tough to predict.

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Let's see what's on our film critic David Edelstein's list of the best films of the year.

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Americans Love Spices. So Why Don't We Grow Them?

Dec 26, 2017

Nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves are probably ramping up in importance in your spice cabinet right about now — the classic flavors of the winter season. But while you might be shopping for local ingredients for your favorite recipes for eggnog or maple-glazed ham, the odds are that the spices you're using were imported from the other side of the world.

Lior Lev Sercarz thinks spices should be local, too.

It's time to say goodbye — and then hello again — to a TV legend. The BBC's long-running sci-fi series Doctor Who bid farewell to lead actor Peter Capaldi in the show's traditional Christmas episode, introducing a new star in the process and ushering in one of the biggest changes in the show's 54-year history.

Kalman, who has designed many New Yorker covers, The Principles of Uncertainty, and contributed to the illustrated Elements of Style, is now collaborating on a stage work with choreographer John Heginbotham, formerly of the Mark Morris Dance Group. The piece is based on The Principles of Uncertainty, and is all about living while knowing you're going to die.

Filmmaker Ridley Scott began shooting his thriller All the Money in the World on May 29. By September, Sony released the first trailer, with Kevin Spacey in the role of oil tycoon John Paul Getty. Then, on Oct. 29, just weeks before the movie was set to be released, Buzzfeed published a story about Spacey in which another actor accused him of sexual misconduct.

Dr. Howard Bennett creates elaborate Lego sculptures, juggles squishy balls during office visits and transforms exam gloves into water balloons, but it's his booger and fart jokes that crack up even his grumpiest pediatric patients.

"Kids of any age are curious about their bodies," the pediatrician writes in his latest book, The Fantastic Body: What Makes You Tick & How You Get Sick, "especially if what they're learning about is gross! That's why kids laugh hysterically if someone tells a booger joke or lets out a big, juicy fart in class."

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NOEL KING, HOST:

There is no shortage of classic holiday literature. Think "The Night Before Christmas," "A Christmas Carol," "The Polar Express." Well, MORNING EDITION listeners, get ready to add another work to the canon. Here's our co-host, Rachel Martin.

This fall Nintendo re-released the Super NES Classic, a mini-version of one of its first consoles from the 1990s. It sold out in stores in just a few hours — the latest example of the craze for retro-games and their hardware.

Regular sprinkles — you know, the ones coated in wax and lacking in flavor — can be found at any grocery store for a dollar or two.

Gourmet sprinkles, on the other hand, go for up to $20 a bottle. For example, that could be 8 ounces of tiny sugar rods, coated in silver and gold and mixed with miniature rice paper cutouts of unicorns and Christmas trees.

Elizabeth Butts is a cake decorator in Katy, Texas. When she couldn't find some very specific shades of blue, green, and black sprinkles for a baby shower cake, she decided to make her own sprinkle mix.

"Sing to me of the man, muse, the man of twists and turns." Remember reading those lines in high school? It's the Odyssey — and nearly three millennia after its creation there are hundreds of translations of Homer's epic. But only now do we have a translation into English done by a woman, University of Pennsylvania classical studies professor Emily Wilson.

Bradley Whitford played a lot of roles through his career, but he's most famous for two of them: the brilliant, well-meaning White House Aide Josh Lyman on The West Wing; and more recently, the secretly evil suburban dad in the horror movie Get Out.

In 1977, nearly 30 years after Andrew Wyeth's most famous painting "Christina's World" was created, critic Robert Rosenblum was asked to name the most overrated and most underrated artists. He put Wyeth in both categories.

"Robert Rosenblum's comment is accurate to a degree but also simplistic," says Michael Komanecki, chief curator at the Farnsworth Art Museum in Rockland, Maine. He's often asked to weigh in on Wyeth. "Andy has been described to me as, 'Oh, the critics treat him so badly.' Well, it's not at all true — he enjoyed a tremendous critical reputation for decades."

'The Nutcracker' With An Alaskan Twist

Dec 23, 2017

When Melinda McAdams moved to the fishing community of Sitka, Alaska, in 1993, no one in town knew how to dance on pointe shoes. Now, generations of dancers are up on their toes and every few years, they take the Tchaikovsky classic — The Nutcracker — and give it a rural Alaskan twist.

This two-act ballet begins when a girl named Marie (Clara in many productions) is gifted a wooden doll at a Christmas party. After the clock strikes midnight, the Nutcracker, played by 18-year-old Kincaid Parsons, comes to life.

There's a big, green, tinsel warning label across the cover of Martha Brockenbrough's new book, Love, Santa, illustrated by Lee White. It reads: "The beautiful truth about Santa."

Brockenbrough's book is written as a series of letters between her and her daughter, Lucy, who begins to write Santa Claus when she's 7 years old.

"Dear Santa, how do you get down all the chimneys?" Lucy writes in the book. "What happens when people live in homes without fireplaces? Why does your handwriting look like my mom's?"

As an Indian-American, I don't immediately associate Bollywood films with food — mostly because the characters in many Bollywood movies are too concerned with dance numbers and melodrama to be bothered by what's for dinner. So, when I came across the new cookbook Bollywood Kitchen, I feared it might have been written by someone who knew nothing about Indian culture and only a bit about Bollywood, "curry" and naan.

Just Trust Me: In Praise Of Strange Books

Dec 23, 2017

As a fantasy author, most people assume that fantasy is what I prefer to read. And sometimes it is ... but if you ask me about my favorite kind of books, I'm as likely to reply "magical assassins suffering existential crises" or "toxic relationships among time-travelers" as I am "science fiction and fantasy."

All right, so you could get in the Christmas spirit by telling the same old tale about a jolly old man who slides down the chimneys and rewards well-behaved kids with mountains of toys.

Some people hold fast to their Christmas traditions, and there is nothing wrong with that. But think how magical it can be to revamp Christmas stories to better reflect the time and country that we live in.

'Molly's Game' Is Aces

Dec 23, 2017

Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) is a fighter.

When a freak accident on the slopes sidelines her bid to become an Olympic skier — an accident from which she insists upon walking away — she moves to Los Angeles and gets a job as a cocktail waitress.

Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton all spent Christmas at Camp David. George W. Bush celebrated the holiday there a dozen times — four times when his father was president and eight more during his own time in office.

But Donald Trump is spending the holiday at one of his own resorts, which he seems to prefer.

Trump has spent just a handful of weekends at Camp David during his first year in office. And that is raising questions about the future of the rustic presidential retreat in the Maryland woods.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The long — and admittedly odd — tradition of people shrinking in the movies goes back at least to 1901, with a silent film called The Dwarf and the Giant. The most recent is the new movie Downsizing, directed by Alexander Payne (Election, The Descendants). In between is an entire canon, ranging from Fantastic Voyage to Innerspace to Honey, I Shrunk The Kids.

The fascination with making people small on the big screen makes sense to Payne.

Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

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