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Lazy Eye , writer/director Tim Kirkman's unhurried two-hander romantic drama, opens with Dean, a Los Angeles graphic designer played by Lucas Near-Verbrugge, being prescribed trifocals. "It's perfectly normal for vision to change in middle age," his optometrist assures him. But Dean's eyes remain expressive enough to register his alarm at the phrase middle age . When he gets an out-of-the-blue e-mail two scenes later from Alex (Aaron Costa Ganis), an ex- who left him without explanation 15...

Like the most dreaded Secret Santa at the office holiday party, Hollywood is a shameless re-gifter, passing off the same ensemble comedy-drama every year or two in lieu of a more thoughtful present. Almost Christmas is better than most, and rare in focusing on an African-American family instead of a bourgeois white one, like the brittle clan in last year's seasonal heart-warmer Love the Coopers. But even the title is so generic that years from now, no one could reasonably be expected to...

At the fancy Christmas dinner she hosts in her posh Paris home, a stylish entrepreneur named Michele, played to impassive perfection by Isabelle Huppert, verbally abuses her heavily Botoxed elderly mother and her mother's very-much-younger consort. She inflicts injury on the very-much-younger girlfriend of her former husband. She pokes fun at her ineffectual son, his partner, and their baby. She takes a covert swipe at her pretty Christian neighbor while initiating a game of footsie with that...

Unlike most horror flicks, The Monster offers solid performances and a real-world subtext. But those virtues aren't enough to keep the movie from getting stalled in some big bad woods, miles short of profundity. The tale's Little Red Riding Hood is Lizzy (Ella Ballentine), a tween whose relationship with her single mom, Kathy (Zoe Kazan), has become irreparable. The fault is not Lizzy's. Kathy is an alcoholic whose mothering ranges from simply neglectful to overtly abusive. So the two set off...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: ABC TV show "Speechless" is about the Dimeo family - a mom, dad and three kids - but it's not your stereotypical family sitcom. JJ, the oldest of the three, has cerebral palsy. He uses a wheelchair, and he's nonverbal. That means he communicates using a board with words and letters on it, which he points to with a small laser. The show isn't sappy. It finds humor in the family's everyday life, like when JJ gets...

There's a tendency to approach a posthumous collection of work by an esteemed "writer's writer" with respectful courtesy, but Stanley Elkin's essays demand a rowdier response from readers. They're weird and spirited, full of literal piss and vinegar. Pieces of Soap is the name of this collection and writer Sam Lipsyte, in his introduction, rightly says that reading Elkin makes you realize "how lazy most writing is." It doesn't matter what the ostensible subject of these essays may be: they...

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air . TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. I can't think of anyone who knows more about TV history than our own TV critic David Bianculli. He's just written a new book called "The Platinum Age Of Television: From I Love Lucy to The Walking Dead, How TV Became Terrific." It's a genre-by-genre history discussing the shows that were turning points in dramas, sitcoms, Westerns, children's programs and so on with a list of the...

Care Bears didn't make the cut; neither did Transformers or Uno. But it's a good day for Little People — first produced by Fisher-Price in 1959 — as the Toy Hall of Fame announces its 2016 class of inductees. Also getting the nod: Dungeons & Dragons, which was praised for creating a system of imaginative play that has entranced both kids and adults; and the humble swing, which in the past 100 years has grown from its ancient roots to become a playground favorite. The nomination process for...

This is how it begins. Somewhere out there beyond the cordons, beyond the fields and marshes, abandoned machines roamed like stray dogs. They wandered about impatiently, restless in the new wind sweeping through the country. They smelled something in the air, something unfamiliar. Perhaps if we had listened closely, we would have heard it. We may have heard the sound rising from the forgotten and sealed caverns in the depths: the muffled pounding from something trying to get out. Things From...

Drowning your sorrows or celebrating last night's election results with booze? If fancy mixed drinks are your tipple of choice, there's no need to leave the house to imbibe. Craft cocktails are now coming to your mailbox. As meal kits have gained market share — Technomic, a food consulting firm, estimates that the market for meal kit subscriptions will grow up to a total market of $5 billion by 2025 — cocktail subscription boxes have followed. The concepts are similar: Just as companies like...

We live in an exciting era where the genre of fantasy is being restlessly reinvented by a fresh wave of innovative, trailblazing authors. But someone forget to tell Rachel Neumeier that. Her latest standalone novel, The Mountain of Kept Memory , chugs along with blissful conventionality, as if the last couple decades of evolution in fantasy never happened. The key word here, though, is blissful. Oressa and her older brother Gulien are the princess and prince of Carastind, a kingdom in the...

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

Writer and actress Issa Rae is upfront about the fact that she doesn't always fit in. She tells Fresh Air 's Terry Gross that she was so socially uncomfortable and introverted growing up that one day she wrote the phrase "I'm awkward. And black" in her journal, and it was a revelatory moment. "I knew I was black, obviously, but the 'awkward' part really just defined me in a sense," Rae says. "That felt like an identity that I had not seen reflected in television or film before, or at least in...

Halloween has come and gone, but piles of candy remain. You have two options: Eat it all and risk a serious sugar coma, or get seriously creative with some candy-themed science. We asked employees at various science museums what experiments they like to do with leftover candy. Get crackin'. The classic "what does candy REALLY taste like"? "Your sense of taste is actually really limited," explains Julie Yu, senior scientist and director of the Teacher Institute at the Exploratorium in San...

'Fish In Exile' Is A Chronicle Of Grief Barely Survived

Nov 8, 2016

Before the opening of Vi Khi Nao's Fish in Exile , a married couple, Ethos and Catholic, lose their twin children in a terrible accident at the seashore. By the time the reader opens to the first page, they — and the book itself — have been fragmented by the event, and are trying and failing to hold themselves together. True to her name, Catholic embraces everything. She copes with action: going to work, having her tubes tied to prevent future pregnancies. Even her affair with the neighbor,...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. AUDIE CORNISH, HOST: Here to talk more about the struggle over ratings is NPR TV critic Eric Deggans. Hey there, Eric. ERIC DEGGANS, BYLINE: Hi. CORNISH: So Laura just mentioned how Symphony can track viewership of streamed shows. Can Nielsen actually do this technically? DEGGANS: Yes, they can. Cable channels and broadcast networks have been pressuring Nielsen to come up with this data. And they feel that they've been slow in...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. ARI SHAPIRO, HOST: Mel Gibson's last directing project was the human sacrifice film "Apocalypto" in 2006. His new movie "Hacksaw Ridge" is also about human sacrifice. This time, it's in an apocalypse called World War II. Andrew Garfield stars. Gibson is behind the camera. And critic Bob Mondello says they're a pretty effective team. BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: There are formulas to war movies. And for a while, "Hacksaw Ridge" follows one...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. ARI SHAPIRO, HOST: Marvel's latest superhero movie, "Doctor Strange," worked its magic on audiences over the weekend and led the box office. (SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "DOCTOR STRANGE") TILDA SWINTON: (As The Ancient One) Doctor Strange, you think you know how the world works. What if I told you, through the mystic arts, we harness energy and shape reality? SHAPIRO: And while many people might have gone to see Tilda Swinton there or...

Up-and-coming comedian Aparna Nancherla is having a great year, riding high on a TV comedy special, tour and a new album, Just Putting It Out There — all this while wrestling with some pretty tough personal issues, like depression, on stage. Nancherla's very dry sense of humor comes alive through her very expressive face, her dancing eyebrows and wide smile. She tells NPR's Audie Cornish that early in her career, someone told her she did standup like someone who'd never seen standup before. ...

There may be nothing more American than mom and apple pie – but mom and cake come pretty close. Ask Anne Byrn, the Nashville-based best-selling author and baker whose romance with cake started when she was tall enough to reach for the box of Hershey's cocoa. "Cake is an icon of American culture," says Byrn, who has just published American Cake , a lavish tome layered with buttery pictures. "Be it vanilla, lemon, ginger, chocolate, cinnamon, boozy, Bundt, layered or marbled— cake has a special...

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air . TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. Our next guests are the creators of HBO's futuristic series "Westworld." It's set in a theme park inspired by movie Westerns in which wealthy tourists come to act out their Western fantasies. Those fantasies usually involve shootouts, showdowns, fistfights and sex. Since the visitors can't shoot real people, they enact their fantasies with lifelike androids. After an android is shot...

Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air . TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. My guest is Garry Trudeau, the creator of the long-running, syndicated comic strip "Doonesbury." In 1975, it became the first strip syndicated to daily newspapers to win a Pulitzer Prize. "Doonesbury" debuted in daily papers in 1970. It was the first daily strip that satirized politics and culture through the lives of young men and women who were part of the youth counterculture....

The twists and turns of the 2016 election — not to mention the characters at the top of each major-party ticket — provide many opportunities for comedy. But it's tough out there for late-night joke-makers, who face more competition than ever , not to mention a social-media landscape in which seemingly every possible quip is being made in real time. The marketplace feels especially crowded on late-night television, where old standbys ( Saturday Night Live, The Daily Show ) are up against well...

Fleabag is the name of a British comedy that tackles intimacy, feminism and womanhood. Writer Phoebe Waller-Bridge created the show and plays its main character, also named Fleabag. "She's a young woman living in London," Waller-Bridge tells NPR's Rachel Martin. "The relationship that she treasures most in the world, treasured most in the world, was that with her best friend who she recently lost in a terrible accident." Fleabag copes with that loss by breaking the fourth wall and speaking...

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. RACHEL MARTIN, HOST: Dr. Strange is the latest hero to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He's unique among the Marvel crew in that his powers come from sorcery rather than technology or mutation or the bite of a radioactive spider. Chris Klimek has this review of the new film. CHRIS KLIMEK, BYLINE: It's taken Marvel Studios 14 movies to get around to introducing their Sorcerer Supreme, Dr. Stephen Strange, Master of the Mystic Arts...

Sometimes, my brain goes dull. If you think the same thoughts enough times, they make paths, like water does, create deepening grooves, until habituated expressions and permitted thoughts become a canyon you can't get out of. There are many books I love, but Anne Carson's make me reconsider my life. Her poems feel like anarchic rainfall, a fresh shower, an escape from the canyon. Float is 22 chapbooks in no particular order, poems, plays, essays, translations, thoughts on Homer, on time, on...

Akron, Ohio, picked a heck of a year to try to put joy back into voting. After all, two-thirds of likely voters in a recent Ohio poll picked "disgust" to describe their attitude towards politics. Still, with the help of goats, virtual wrestling, and a pickup truck called Percival, a group of joyful voters thinks it can counter that. The founder of a civic-engagement group called Citizen University suggested last year that the big problem with American elections is not partisanship or voting...

This Election Is Even Tough For Comedians

Nov 5, 2016

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. MICHEL MARTIN, HOST: So finally today, let's just get real. This election has been overwhelming for many people, relentless, ugly, depressing - you know. If you'd like a number to back that assertion up, there's a new poll out Friday for The New York Times that says this presidential campaign has left 8 out of 10 voters feeling more repulsed than excited. But we also wondered, is it funny? Even though we know that many of the late...

Wynonna doesn't just sing country music — she's lived it. She grew up poor, married a guy named Cactus and says she's gone "from an outhouse to the White House." Since Wynonna is a member of the famous Judd family, we've invited her to play a game called "A Judd by any other name night still smell as sweet." Three questions about other Judds (or Juds). Click the listen link above to see how she does. Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/. PETER SAGAL, HOST: And now the...

The story has been done before: A Western journalist visits the Old City, checks in at a swinging bar and churns out a dispatch about Syrians partying as the war rages on. At this moment, the world's attention is on the showdown in Aleppo. But after a string of sleepless nights preparing for a trip this week to Syria that appeared out of thin air, I was ready for a glass myself. My colleague and I entered the Syrian capital's Old City through an enormous stone gate and a checkpoint manned by...

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