The biggest problem with pretending all of reality television is categorically odious is that it denies us the opportunity to identify and hold accountable what is actually odious. To those who insist that it's all gross — that no matter the documentary aspirations or good-natured competitiveness of plenty of unscripted television, it all belongs in the same giant dumpster — I am your Crocodile Dundee of distaste: Those aren't destructive and grotesque and irresponsible. This is destructive and grotesque and irresponsible.
Moving on to other news in education, last week hip-hop mogul Dr. Dre and music producer Jimmy Iovine announced that they would be giving the University of Southern California $70 million to create a degree that will blend business, marketing, product development, design and liberal arts.
Well, let's go now to that hotbed of cinema and international stars of the big screen: the Cannes Film Festival. Our movie reviewer, Kenneth Turan, has been taking in all the movies and sites from the south of France. He's on the line with us. Hey, Ken.
KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: How are you doing?
GREENE: Well. How are you doing there?
TURAN: I'm still standing.
GREENE: I guess that's a good sign. The movies are keeping you awake there.
[Note: Before Midnight is an especially difficult movie to write about, simply because for some people, even what has become of Jesse and Celine since Before Sunset is information that they don't want. But it's impossible — absolutely impossible — to write about the movie without talking about where they stand and what the premise is. I did my absolute best to spoil as little beyond that as possible.
Khaled Hosseini's And the Mountains Echoed begins with a fable that a father tells his two children: A farmer who works hard to eke out a living for his family is forced to give up one of his five children to an evil giant. He and his wife decide to choose randomly, and the unlucky one happens to be their favorite son. Eventually, the farmer, half mad with grief, tracks down the giant and finds his son in a lush garden full of happy children, with no memory of his birth family.
It's true enough that there's plenty wrong withGatsby Le Magnifique, as the French are calling the latest from director Baz Luhrmann. But what better film could there have been to open the sensory onslaught that is the Cannes Film Festival than one orchestrated by that patron saint of overstimulation?
The video for Chinese artist Ai Weiwei's newly released song starts by re-creating the conditions of his captivity during the 81 days he was held in police detention in 2011, and later dissolves into a dystopian nightmare.
Credit Louisa Lim / NPR
Ai monitors the reaction to his new song on Twitter on Wednesday, the day the song was released.
After years of trying to conceive, novelist Jennifer Gilmore and her husband decided to pursue a domestic open adoption. They were told they'd be matched within a year; it took four. And along the way they faced complicated decisions and heartbreak.
I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. For the end of our program today, we want to talk about two aspects of American style. In a few minutes, we're going to talk about tattoos. They used to be something you got when you went into the Army or to jail, but now they've gone mainstream. We'll talk with a leading tattoo artist about that in just a minute.
America has a love/hate relationship with tattoos, but body ink is becoming more and more mainstream. Host Michel Martin speaks with Fatty, the owner of Fatty's Custom Tattooz in Washington, D.C, about America's fascination with tattoos, and the fading cultural taboos.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's fourth book, Americanah, is so smart about so many subjects that to call it a novel about being black in the 21st century doesn't even begin to convey its luxurious heft and scope. Americanah is indeed a novel about being black in the 21st century — in America, Great Britain and Africa, while answering a want ad, choosing a lover, hailing a cab, eating collard greens, watching Barack Obama on television — but you could also call it a novel of immigration and dislocation, just about every page tinged with faint loneliness.
Butterscotch is going through something of a revival. So much so, that two Kitchen Window contributors wanted to write about it. Therefore, welcome to the more-than-you-ever-thought-you-needed-to-know-about-butterscotch special coverage. Today is the second in our two-part butterscotch series. Last week's column has more recipes featuring this resurgent flavor.
One of the highlights of the new China Art Palace in Shanghai is a giant digital rendering of a famous ancient scroll, "Along the River During Qingming Festival," which includes figures that walk and talk. The work was first presented at the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai.
Credit Frank Langfitt / NPR
The sprawling China Art Palace is housed in the former China pavilion at the site of the 2010 World Expo. It's about the size of the Museum of Modern Art in New York; admission is free.
Credit Yang Zhuo / NPR
Young museum-goers at the Power Station of Art check their smartphones. Engaging audiences is challenging in China, where there is no emphasis on art education in public schools.
Shanghai did something last fall that few other cities on the planet could have even considered. It opened two massive art museums right across the river from one another on the same day.
The grand openings put an exclamation point on China's staggering museum building boom. In recent years, about 100 museums have opened annually here, peaking at nearly 400 in 2011, according to the Chinese Society of Museums.
This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Jennifer Ludden in Washington. Neal Conan is away. It's graduation season, and that means 20-somethings and parents sitting through long commencement ceremonies while the older and wiser give advice. Here's comedian Stephen Colbert speaking at the University of Virginia.
Michael Douglas and Matt Damon star as Liberace and his young lover, Scott Thorson, in Steven Soderbergh's new HBO biopic Behind the Candelabra.
Credit Keystone Features / Getty Images
Liberace sits at a gold-leafed piano in the living room of his then-new Hollywood mansion in November 1961.
Credit Claudette Barius / HBO
Soderbergh made his name as a director in 1989, with the critically acclaimed Sex, Lies, and Videotape. He's since turned in crowd-pleasing hits like Magic Mike, Erin Brockovich and Ocean's Eleven and its sequels, as well as more adventurous films including Contagion,Solaris and The Girlfriend Experience.
Director Steven Soderbergh had been looking for a way to frame a film about the extravagant entertainer Liberace for years when a friend recommended the book Behind the Candelabra: My Life with Liberace.
The book — a memoir — is by Scott Thorson, who for five years was Liberace's lover, though that wasn't publicly disclosed at the time.
Halfway through The Unwinding, George Packer — author of the highly praised The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq (2005) — delineates how quickly political idealism can disappear when one becomes exposed to a world of easy money.
Lionel Shriver doesn't shy away from hot-button topics. Her breakout novel, We Need to Talk About Kevin, from 2003, was about the mother of a teen who kills seven classmates in a school massacre (it was made into a film with Tilda Swinton). Her 2010 novel, So Much for That, which took aim at the American health care system, was nominated for the National Book Award.
On the night of Oct. 19, 1984, Erik Vogel was uneasy about flying. It was snowing; his plane's de-icer and autopilot weren't working; and his co-pilot had been bumped to fit one more passenger on his 10-seater. But the young pilot was behind schedule and he felt like his job was on the line, so he took off, as he did most days, shuttling between the remote communities that dot the Canadian wilderness.
Phil Jackson is famous not only for coaching stars — Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen with the Chicago Bulls, Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal with the L.A. Lakers — but also for his distinctive "zen" approach to basketball. He introduced his teams to yoga and meditation, and regularly assigned his players books to read.
Beth Lapides (with music director-producer Mitch Kaplan) is the founder and ringmaster at UnCabaret, a Los Angeles comedy institution that's marking its 25th anniversary this year.
Comedian and actress Margaret Cho is among the big-name performers who've taken a turn onstage at UnCabaret, where those who come to the stage are encouraged to try out material that might never make it on the comedy circuit or on TV.
Once vehemently opposed to the idea of being the subject of a documentary, Brooks had a change of heart. The result is a new American Masters episode, Mel Brooks: Make a Noise.
Credit Brooksfilms LTD
Comedian, writer, director, producer and actor Mel Brooks is one of only 11 people to have won Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards. Others in the elite EGOT club include Mike Nichols and Whoopi Goldberg.
Credit Robert Trachtenberg / WNET/American Masters
Carl Reiner and Brooks teamed up as a comedy duo in 1960, creating such now-legendary skits as "The 2,000-Year-Old Man." "Carl's still my best friend in the world," says Brooks.
Over the 60 years that Mel Brooks has been in the entertainment business, his name has become synonymous with comedy. He is the man who broke Broadway records for most Tony Award wins with The Producers (an adaptation of his own movie); who satirized Westerns and racism in Blazing Saddles; and who poked fun at monster movies with Young Frankenstein.