Arts

Arts and culture

The Disappointment Invades In 'The 5th Wave'

Jan 21, 2016

In 2014's Clouds of Sils Maria, Chloë Grace Moretz plays a talented young tabloid magnet picked to star in a revival of a classy play alongside Juliette Binoche's weathered veteran actress. Moretz's character also headlines a silly, effects-heavy teen blockbuster, with sterile white backgrounds, bright red wigs, and faux-kinky leather getups. "I could feel my brain cells dying, one by one," Binoche declares after viewing it.

When Aferim! debuted at the Berlin Film Festival a year ago, some called it a Romanian 12 Years a Slave. Now that it's on U.S. screens, there's an even closer analogy: Aferim! is Romania's The Hateful Eight.

In the insufferably arch neo-noir Western Mojave, Garrett Hedlund — a vision in sexy boots, artfully disheveled tresses and a morose green gaze — ventures into the desert, there to brood on his depraved, deprived life as a Hollywood director of note. Having crashed his car, Thomas lights a fire, but further brooding is interrupted by the arrival of a stranger named Jack. We know Jack does not mean well because he is unwashed, hirsute, sorely in need of cosmetic dentistry and played in overdrive by Oscar Isaac.

Squeeze through the wormhole that is Jacob Gentry's indie sci-fi movie Synchronicity and nothing looks much different on the other side, just faint echoes of the past. In fact, the film could double as a metaphor for itself, a time machine constructed entirely of used components, with so little distance from its influences that it lacks its own utility.

When Netflix announced its expansion to 130 countries, including Kenya, Nairobi-based IT specialist Mark Irungu says he was thrilled.

He had never failed to find ways to stream Netflix, even when it was blocked in Kenya.

But, he says, touching his heart, "that morning, when I saw that Netflix is global? I can't compare it to anything else."

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The Sundance Film Festival begins tonight in Park City, Utah. NPR's Mandalit del Barco is there with a preview of what's to come over the next 10 ten days. Hey, Mandalit.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Danny Bowien, the founder of the Mission Chinese Food restaurants, didn't grow up cooking Chinese cuisine. Born in South Korea, then adopted by a family in Oklahoma, Bowien was already an adult living in San Francisco when he decided to learn how to cook Sichuanese fare, known for its bold, pungent, spicy flavors.

Pete Wells has a job that most people can only dream of. As restaurant critic for The New York Times, he gets paid to eat out four or five nights a week — often at quite pricey places — on someone else's dime.

But for Wells, going out for drinks and delectable meals is still work. He tells Fresh Air's Dave Davies that coming up with words to describe flavors is something he "wrestles with all the time."

A Nightmare Artist Adrift In 'Deep Sea'

Jan 21, 2016

"It was hard — terrible, sometimes — but that's life, real life! Know what I'm saying?"

When Sunil Yapa's laptop was stolen, he didn't just lose his computer — he also lost the 600-page novel saved on it. Yapa summoned the will to write it all over again — but a little shorter this time. This second version has turned into a newly published novel about recurring themes in American history.

Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist was inspired by a real-life event; in 1999, thousands of demonstrators disrupted a meeting of the World Trade Organization in Seattle. Badly outnumbered police resorted to using tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets.

As anyone who has lived anywhere chilly can attest, clearing snow off a car can be cold, time-consuming work.

Most of us would agree it's also a necessary step before driving anywhere.

An 80-year old Ontario man appeared to disagree. He was caught driving a car encased in snow, except for a small section on the driver's side window.

As you can see, the car itself is barely visible.

Grace Coddington, the longtime creative director at American Vogue, will be shifting to a new role at the magazine — creative director at-large — as she pursues outside projects. The 74-year-old stylist began her career in fashion as a model and was hired by Vogue editor Anna Wintour in 1988 as fashion director.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

A 2014 report by the United Nations estimates that tens of millions of people in the world are currently enslaved. Most of them are in the developing world, where they work in mines, quarries or shrimp farms for no money and without hope of escape.

"Slavery is the complete control of one person by another, and violence is used to maintain that control in all forms of slavery," author Kevin Bales explains to Fresh Air's Dave Davies. "The adults in that situation know that if they attempt to leave, they may be killed."

Among the 30 victims of Friday's al-Qaida attack on a hotel and restaurant in Burkina Faso was Leila Alaoui, a French-Moroccan photographer known best for her powerful portraits of Moroccans and intimate, sensitive images of migrants and the displaced. She and her driver, Mahamadi Ouedraogo, were shot outside a restaurant in the capital, Ouagadougou.

A few months ago, Code Switch lead blogger Gene Demby turned to Twitter in an attempt to crowd-source a solution to a problem he'd been having. Gene had begun watching Premier League soccer but couldn't settle on a rooting interest, so he asked the league's fans to convince him to root for one team or another.

'Medusa's Web' Tangles The Occult And Old Hollywood

Jan 20, 2016

Rain is falling when siblings Scott and Madeline Madden return to Caveat — the sprawling Los Angeles estate where they grew up — at the start of Tim Powers' Medusa's Web. As it should. Powers, a versatile author who's as adept at Gothic horror as he is at science fiction, historical fantasy, and supernatural thrillers, infuses his latest novel with the kind of rain-soaked, shadow-steeped atmosphere that saturates the best works of the Gothic canon.

In their book published this month, In a Different Key: The Story of Autism, journalists John Donvan and Caren Zucker delve into the history of the good and bad intentions, sometimes wrongheaded science and shifting definitions that can cloud our understanding of what has come to be called the autism spectrum.

In January 2015, at a private conference in Palm Springs, Calif., the political network led by conservative billionaires Charles and David Koch announced plans to spend $889 million in the 2016 elections. The organization consists almost entirely of groups that don't register under the campaign finance laws and therefore don't publicly identify their donors.

Editor's note: It's National Popcorn Day! We're celebrating by bringing back this tale, first published in 2014, about the history of the beloved snack.

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

With the historic nuclear deal finally taking effect, a sanctions-free Iran can now get back to doing what it has excelled at for centuries: trade.

Because of Iran's strategic position on the Silk Road, that ancient highway that snaked from China to Europe, the caravans of tea, spice and silk passing through it also carried a weightless but imperishable cargo to foreign shores: Persian culture.

"I am an academy member and it doesn't reflect me," actor David Oyelowo said last night, rebuking the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for again failing to nominate black performers.

Speaking at a Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Award Gala in Los Angeles, Oyelowo asked those present to pray for the academy's president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, saying she needs their support.

Elizabeth McKenzie's clever, romantic comedy broadcasts quirkiness right on its cover, with its potentially off-putting title and its illustration of a squirrel instead of the interlocked wedding rings you might expect. In the tradition of Elizabeth McCracken's The Giant's House and Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project, The Portable Veblen is a smart charmer about a brainy off-center couple who face up to their differences — and their difficult, eccentric families — only after they become engaged. Although plenty whimsical — the squirrel has opinions!

Winnie-the-Pooh's Hundred Acre Wood is based on a real forest in the English countryside. NPR's Ari Shapiro visits Ashdown Forest with Kathryn Aalto, author of The Natural World of Winnie-the-Pooh. (This story originally aired on All Things Considered on Oct. 26, 2015.)

After a torrent of criticism, Scholastic has decided to stop distributing A Birthday Cake for George Washington, a picture book about one of George Washington's slaves.

The historical book tells the story of Hercules, a slave used by the president as his chef. It shows Hercules and his daughter Delia happy and taking pride in making Washington a birthday cake.

Almost as soon as the book was released, it received withering criticism for whitewashing the history of slavery.

Updated on Jan. 27 to add video of speech:

When she was in fifth grade, Regina Mason received a school assignment that would change her life: to connect with her country of origin. That night, she went home and asked her mother where they were from.

"She told me about her grandfather who was a former slave," Mason tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "And that blew me away, because I'm thinking, 'Slavery was like biblical times. It wasn't just a few generations removed.' "

Pages