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Based on Margot Lee Shetterly's book, Hidden Figures has a triple-meaning title. It is about the mathematics that served as a rationale and a backstop for manned space capsules launched into space and brought back safely to earth. It is about the African-American women who carried out these vital functions in Langley, VA, without the public acknowledgement granted astronauts like Alan Shepard or John Glenn, or even the buzzcut white men at Mission Control.

20th Century Women is a wonderfully rich comedy about all the forces that can shape an upbringing. It's a film with many brilliant moments, yet because it feels so small in scope (a single mother struggles to understand her teenaged son) and because it could easily be dismissed as a vanity project for its writer-director Mike Mills, some may overlook the fact that the movie itself is brilliant, as well.

One way or another, every Pedro Almodovar film is all about his mothers, real or imagined. His latest, Julieta, marks a return to form for all who love to take a bath in his crimson maternal melodramas. Still, it's a quieter, more inward film, less inclined to broad winks at the audience than, say, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Talk to Her, or even All About My Mother.

Passengers, a fairy tale set aboard a luxury spaceliner, has billion-dollar ideas and five-cent guts.

This year, Disney premiered its first Latina princess: Elena Castillo Flores, better known as Elena of Avalor. She sings and plays guitar, she goes on adventures, rules her kingdom and has her own highly rated animated TV show.

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Even after the Electoral College officially made Donald Trump our next president, a lot of Americans are still wondering how it happened. In part, working-class anger is said to have fueled Trump's victory; and to understand where that anger is coming from, some people are turning to books.

Film critic David Edelstein estimates that he saw 400 films this year — more than enough to fill "a couple of 10-best lists," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. His favorite? The fantasy musical, La La Land, starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone.

"Everything — the movement of the camera, the colors of the set and the costumes, the rhythms of the actors — harmonizes with everything else," Edelstein says. "It's a beautiful combination of an homage to the past and something entirely new."

TV critic David Bianculli says that 2016 wasn't a great year for broadcast TV — but that's OK, because audiences had a lot of streaming, cable and Web options to make up for it.

"The things we're getting out of Amazon and out of Netflix and out of Hulu, it's increasing our options and they're trying some pretty good stuff," Bianculli tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross.

[If you're looking for the audio of this week's show, it's in a slightly different place than usual for boring technical reasons — it's over on the right or right above you, depending on how you're viewing this page.]

You know Sam Sanders as the host of the NPR Politics Podcast — a project from which he's about to move on to new and exciting stuff. But you also know him as one of Pop Culture Happy Hour's new fourth chairs of 2016, so who better to join us to talk about some of our favorite things from this year?

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As 2016 comes to a close, poetry reviewer Tess Taylor has been thinking about one book that's held her imagination this year, a collection by poet Ishion Hutchinson.

This is the darkest time of the year, which makes it a perfect time to discuss creatures of the dark — specifically, vampires.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia's latest novel, Certain Dark Things, takes the vampire story in a new direction, beginning with the setting: Mexico City. She tells NPR's Ari Shapiro that there is a long tradition of vampire witch legends in Latin America and the Caribbean. "They tend to feed off children," she says. "So one of the things that we say in Mexico is, 'se lo chupó la bruja,' the witch sucked him."

Early in the New Year, when most people are trying to stick to their resolutions, bakers are finalizing plans for gingerbread house contests nearly 12 months away. There are recipes to tinker with—a choice between "construction grade" gingerbread and the more delicious, softer variety—blueprints to create, and often hundreds of hours of work before houses are ready to be entered in a contest.

This holiday season, the color red is the focus of a small exhibition at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in Washington, D.C. The Smithsonian show finds links between a 15th-century Ming dynasty dish and a 20th-century painting by Mark Rothko.

It's hard to imagine a time when red and green weren't synonymous with Christmas, but they haven't always been the holiday's go-to colors. Arielle Eckstut, co-author of Secret Language of Color, attributes the palette's rise to two things: holly and Coca-Cola.

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Disney has become the first Hollywood studio to sell more than $7 billion in tickets globally in one year. And 2016 isn't over yet. NPR's Andrew Limbong reports on how Disney did it.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WHEN YOU WISH UPON A STAR")

An interview on All Things Considered earlier this month got us thinking about Christmas tree ornaments — and the stories behind them. We asked readers and listeners to send us the memories attached to their most cherished ornaments. Here are a few of our favorites, edited for length and clarity:

Even in a season spiked with boozy specialties such as eggnog, glögg and hot buttered rum, a cookie dough cocktail might strike the casual drinker as ... well ... slightly gross.

"Well, it's delicious," says Paul Taylor stoutly.

China Machado, a model, muse and editor who was one of the first women to break high fashion's color barrier, has died at 86.

A Facebook page associated with Machado's fashion line announced on Sunday that she had died. The New York Times, citing Machado's family, says she died over the weekend of a heart attack.

The monks at Assumption Abbey in Ava, Mo., were making concrete blocks when Father Cyprian Harrison joined the order in 1965. As demand for the blocks waned, the order explored other options to support the men who call the cloistered monastery home.

"After a lot of inner reflection, we decided [to get out of the concrete block business and start making] fruitcake. We only had to change the recipe a little," quips Harrison.

Lauren Ober listens to a lot of podcasts.

Ober is the host of The Big Listen, a broadcast about podcasts, you see. Her job is to listen to, and recommend, tons and tons of podcasts.

We — Glen Weldon and Linda Holmes — at NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour podcast, also listen to a lot of podcasts. Not on an Ober-esque order of magnitude, admittedly, but we have plenty of favorites.

Martin Scorsese's new film, Silence, is steeped in religious thought and questions. Set in Japan in the 17th century, it follows a pair of Portuguese Jesuit priests who sneak into the country to find their mentor, a priest who has reportedly given up the faith and apostatized. The Japan they find themselves in is pushing back violently against interference from outside influences.

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

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Now a story about love, loss and...

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "JEOPARDY!")

JOHNNY GILBERT: This is "Jeopardy!"

SHAPIRO: ..."Jeopardy!"

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

2016 was a perplexing and wonderful year for those of us who love great television.

Despite what was going on in politics and news, entertainment television surpassed itself this year with the sheer number of new TV shows that were good or better. But, in an odd way, that has become a different problem.

Ever since he was a kid, director Mike Mills has yearned to understand his mother. Mills, who was born in the '60s, describes his mother as a "secretive soul" who was different from all the other moms he knew.

"She was 40 when she had me, [and] she really did sort of walk and talk like Amelia Earhart and Humphrey Bogart put together," Mills tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "I was always trying to figure out what her deal was."

Updated at 11:41 p.m. ET

Zsa Zsa Gabor — the woman who probably inspired the term "famous for being famous" — died on Sunday, according to multiple media outlets. She was 99 years old, just two months shy of her 100th birthday.

NPR confirmed Gabor's death with her publicist, Edward Lozzi, who issued the following statement:

Dishing On Next Year's Food Trends

Dec 18, 2016

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We met up with pastry chef Aggie Chin again this past week to bring you her recommendation for a family-style dessert perfect for a holiday dinner: pear upside down spice cake.

She cooked this delectable one in a kitchen with NPR's Ailsa Chang.

Listen to their conversation at the link above, and check out the recipe here.


Pear Upside Down Cake Recipe

2 pears

2 oz sugar

Water

1 oz butter

1/4 tsp Vanilla

2 oz butter, at room temperature

4 oz brown sugar

4 oz sugar

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

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