Originally published on Fri March 15, 2013 8:43 am
In the buildup to the climax of Brad Anderson's The Call, a character discovers what the film's villain has been doing with all the teenage girls he's been kidnapping and killing. It's a grisly revelation, and it's played for shock value — both for the audience and for the character making the discovery.
There's only one problem: Early in the film, the body of one of these girls is recovered. So the details of the killer's M.O. shouldn't come as any shock whatsoever to the character that discovers his lair.
There are some funny bits and characters around the edges of The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, but its core is empty of humor. In fact, this purported satire of Las Vegas magicians is a three-void circus: the script, the central character and the main performance.
The committee-written screenplay begins with the premise that, 20 years after the illusion-busting Penn and Teller set up in Vegas, there could still be a market for a pair of old-school tricksters who call themselves Burt Wonderstone and Anton Marvelton.
In 1963 Japan, Shun (voiced by Anton Yelchin) and Umi (Sarah Bolger) unite to preserve a beloved old building that serves as a clubhouse for young intellectuals at their seaside community school.
Though Umi can be seen as a representative of a younger, more modern generation, her love of tradition and respect for the past shows that midcentury Japan was about more than just rapid urban redevelopment.
Of the many wonderful qualities associated with the films of Studio Ghibli — the Japanese animation house co-founded by Hiyao Miyazaki, the visionary director of My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service and Spirited Away — serenity may be the most key. Ghibli productions offer the stirring adventures and magical creatures of their American counterparts, and often operate by a wondrously mysterious internal logic, but they do so without feeling compelled to grab a young audience by the lapels.
There's always the temptation of heading to an Irish pub, grabbing a pint of Guinness and chowing down on some cabbage and potatoes when March 17 rolls around.
However, there's much more to Irish cuisine than that, says Rachel Allen, a well-known TV chef in Ireland who is appreciated for her simple, doable recipes that champion the country's fresh produce, meats and seafood.
The 10 stories in Claire Vaye Watkins' debut collection — Battleborn — explore the past and present of the American West, specifically Nevada, where Watkins spent much of her childhood and adolescence. On Wednesday, it was announced that the 28-year-old author had won two major literary prizes for Battleborn: the $10,000 Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the $20,000 Story Prize.
After Vice President Joe Biden used the term "malarkey" in a 2012 debate, searches for the word in online dictionaries surged. Now that dictionaries are readily available with a mouse click or finger tap, dictionary publishers can track the correlation between word searches and current events.
Did you know Ke$ha's song "Tik Tok" demonstrates a linguistic oddity? And we're not talking about her spelling. "Reduplicated" words contain repeated syllables, but with different vowel sounds. Puzzle guru Art Chung leads contestants in a game full of reduplicated word pairs, so quit your "chit-chat" and listen in!
Plus, guest music duo Paul & Storm play an extra-special cover of "Splish-Splash."
Finally, it's what our contestants have been waiting for. Let's bring back our winners to play our Ask Me One More final round.
EISENBERG: From Got Game, we have Max Bernstein. From Blinding Me With Science: Katie Hamill. From Submit It In Reduplicate: Matt Stefani. From Small Screen Adaptations: Brian Devinney. And from Long Before They Were Famous: Megan Schade.
EISENBERG: Art Chung, what do you have in store for us?
A long time ago, many people's surnames indicated their occupations. If your name was "Mason," you worked with stone, if your name was "Coleman," you worked with coal, and if your name was "Sanders," you ran a medieval chicken empire. Guest musicians Paul & Storm hint contestants to an occupational surname and a celebrity who bears it.
TV shows are sometimes based on popular films, and while some are successful (Buffy The Vampire Slayer) others...not so much (Spaceballs: The Animated Series). Host Ophira Eisenberg has a few of her own ideas in this game, where players must "adapt" movie titles into shorter series versions by removing a letter to form a new, more succinct title.
Guest troubadours Paul & Storm have emerged from their lab to share their latest experiment. To pay tribute to Thomas Dolby's 1982 New Wave classic "She Blinded Me With Science," the duo has reworked the lyrics to describe different scientific principles and discoveries. So put on your safety goggles and play along!
The '60s London of the unhappy adolescent Ginger (Elle Fanning, with Annette Bening's mentoring May) was more complicated than students Ginger's age understand today. Film writer Ella Taylor, who lived through that decade, came late to an understanding of the toll it took on young women like Ginger.
Credit Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS
The 1963 nuclear disarmament demonstration known as the Aldermaston March, which culminated in a speech by the aristocratic British social critic Bertrand Russell, was characteristic of left-leaning activism in 1960s London. Film writer Ella Taylor (not pictured) participated in many such demonstrations in her youth.
A few weeks ago, I asked a class of college undergraduates what the 1960s meant to them.
"That flower-power thing?" one young man volunteered brightly.
The further we get from that misunderstood decade, the more the many strands of its rebelliousness get reduced to a pop-culture T-shirt slogan, a cartoon strip starring tie-dyed youth with stoned eyes and floor-mop hair.
Novelist Phillip Roth steers clear of provocation in the PBS documentary Philip Roth: Unmasked; he comes across, rather, as sensible, sensitive, maybe a bit cranky but hardly outrageous at all. And his unmistakable voice will ring true, especially for fans.
PBS producer Susan Lacy guides Roth through nearly 90 minutes of personal reflection and debate in the new documentary feature.
There's nothing particularly dynamic about Livia Manera and William Karel's documentary Philip Roth: Unmasked. For some 90 minutes, it's pretty much just one guy talking. But what a guy!
Roth is one of the greatest living novelists, possibly even the greatest. He can also be an inflammatory presence, eliciting outrage almost as much as admiration, particularly among women who see him as a misogynist.
Originally published on Mon March 18, 2013 12:43 pm
Jessica Francis Kane drew considerable attention for her artful historic novel, The Report, which explored the repercussions of a tragic incident in March 1943, when 173 people died while rushing into the Bethnal Green tube station for shelter during an air raid. Her portraits of wartime Londoners were psychologically acute and rich in evocative detail. She applies that same skill to her second collection, This Close, populated by 21st century Americans adrift in an increasingly complicated world.
Originally published on Wed March 13, 2013 11:16 am
In his new novel, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, Mohsin Hamid's nameless protagonist is an ambitious young man who moves from the countryside to a megalopolis in search of his fortune. The city is modeled on Lahore, Pakistan, where Hamid was born and partly raised and where — after living in the United States and England — he has now settled with his family.
William H. Gass is a glutton of language. Like a chef who can't cook without nibbling, he lards his own writing with similes and metaphors in the spirit of the books he loves, savoring them through imitation. In his essays on literature, this gusto is contagious. You want to taste his taste, to read what he has read. Gass' exuberant, bursting sentences convey the pleasure of reading and thinking better than just about any written since the New Critics took over criticism in the 1950s.
Originally published on Thu March 14, 2013 7:57 am
As we prepare to celebrate Pi(e) Day on Thursday (Congress established March 14 as a day to honor both the mathematical constant, 3.14, and our nation's favorite dessert), we find a burgeoning pie scene in Chicago. And it's not of the deep-dish variety.
Poetry and social media join forces once again in April. Tell Me More celebrates National Poetry Month with its 3rd annual Muses and Metaphor series. We'll feature poems exchanged via Twitter by NPR fans — always in 140 characters or fewer. Tweet your poem using the hashtag: #TMMPoetry.
Sheryl Sandberg tells an anecdote in her new book, Lean In, about sitting down with her boss, Mark Zuckerberg, for her first performance review as chief operating officer at Facebook. Zuckerberg told her that her "desire to be liked by everybody would hold [her] back." I hope she's worked on that problem because over the past few weeks, there sure have been a lot of people hating on Sheryl Sandberg.
It's the handwriting that stands out to Cedrick May.
As an associate professor of English at the University of Texas, Arlington, he assigned his doctoral students to find some of the known works by Jupiter Hammon, the first published African-American poet. Hammon's works date back to 1760.
What one student ended up finding was a previously unpublished piece by the poet that shows how deeply he thought about slavery and religion.
Ben Katchor's previous collections of comic strips include The Cardboard Valise; The Jew of New York; Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer; and The Beauty Supply District. He was the first cartoonist to receive a MacArthur Genius Fellowship.
Ben Katchor's syndicated comic strips vary in subject — his Julius Knipl: Real Estate Photographer, for example, explores the surreal underside of our urban environment by documenting the inner lives of the spaces and storefronts we walk past every day, while The Cardboard Valise reads like a Fodor's guide to a country that exists only in Franz Kafka's dream journal.
Each episode of "The Bowery Boys" explores a different aspect of New York City history, like how Canal Street, pictured here in 1899, once channeled water from the now-filled Collect Pond.
Credit Library of Congress
"Bowery Boys" co-hosts Tom Meyers and Greg Young call themselves "home-schooled historians," and they do extensive research for their show and its related blog. For an episode about Manhattan's grid pattern, they dug up this map from a book published in 1840.
Credit Library of Congress
Meyers and Young record each episode of "The Bowery Boys" at a kitchen table and feature archival art, like this 1896 lithograph, on their website.
In the 19th century, the Bowery Boys were a street gang that ruled that small section of Manhattan. In the 21st century, the Bowery Boys are two best friends — Tom Meyers and Greg Young — who record a do-it-yourself podcast with the same name.
Meyers and Young love to perform almost as much as they love New York City, and their show traces the unofficial history of the place. They record a few blocks from — you guessed it — the Bowery district.
It's pilot season, that time of year when television networks create and test new shows with hopes of turning out the next big thing. But whatever new plots they come up with, it's safe to say that they will turn to the safety of a limited number of character archetypes: the lovable loser, the charming rogue, the desperate housewife.
Lillian Cahn, co-founder of Coach Leatherwear Co., died March 4 at the age of 89. Cahn was the force behind today's high-end leather handbags.
Back in the 1960s, she and her husband, Miles Cahn, were running a leather goods business in Manhattan. They produced men's wallets and billfolds but wanted to expand.
"My wife had a great sense of style, and she made the suggestions that we men maybe were a little thoughtless about," Miles Cahn says with a laugh. "Among her many suggestions was: 'Why don't we make pocketbooks?' I like to tell people I scoffed at the suggestion."