Arts

Arts and culture

Part 1 of the TED Radio Hour episode Becoming Wise

About Joshua Prager's TED Talk

We all stumble across similar ideas as we age, and some of these revelations have passed into the books we love. Journalist Joshua Prager explores the stages of life through quotes from great writers.

About Joshua Prager

Welcome, friends, to a discussion featuring four of the only people in America to see Pop Star: Never Stop Never Stopping in theaters last weekend. Though the movie wasn't a box-office hit, to put it lightly, we whip up an extraordinary amount of affection for The Lonely Island's goofy comedy — a lightweight but joke-dense look at "Conner4Real," a vaguely Bieber-esque singer and rapper (Andy Samberg) who used to belong to a boy band called the Style Boyz with Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer.

The most telling aspect of The Conjuring 2, the gonzo sequel to the 2013 horror smash, is that it's 133 minutes long. A running time like that is a rarity—The Exorcist, at 132 minutes, may be the strongest analogue—because the genre draws intensity from concision, and its dread-soaked mysteries are not so easily sustained over time.

In Benoit Jacquot's Les Adieux à la Reine (Farewell My Queen), the vivacious 18th-century protagonist moved purposefully through dark passageways reserved for royal servants. In the director's Journal d'une Femme de Chambre (Diary of a Chambermaid), set a century or so later, our heroine spends more time in the sunlight, but has scarcely more freedom.

Three other things the two films share: the ever-watchable Lea Seydoux, a mix of opulent costume-drama sensibility and unadorned new-wave style, and a setting near the end of a rotten era.

Genius, a likable, if sluggish adaptation of A. Scott Berg's biography of old-school New York book editor Maxwell Perkins, is thrown out of joint from the start by a British cast — great actors all — wrecking their vocal chords on regional American accents from Montauk to the Carolinas. In principle I'm all for anyone playing anyone, but the story of Perkins' turbulent personal and professional relationship with Southern writer Thomas Wolfe (Look Homeward, Angel) couldn't be more North-versus-South Yankee if it wrapped itself in stars and stripes.

So wide is the fame-gap stretching between filmmaker Brian De Palma and Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Francis Ford Coppola that the new feature-length profile De Palma makes a point of reminding us that the four pals were in more or less the same place at the dawn of the 1970s: trying to make personal statements amid what remained of the studio system.

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

Ren Warom's Escapology is a loud book. It thumps and howls and whistles and squirms. It's a twitchy thing — won't sit still for a second. It makes no sense sometimes. It's derivative and odd, big and intimate at the same time, clunky and uneven and trope-heavy and manages to be both 2016 post-genre original and totally late '80s cyberpunk samizdat page to page, sometimes line to line.

It's odd to view the O.J. Simpson trial in a renewed cultural spotlight today, 22 years after the murders and 21 years after the verdicts, almost in defiance of our tendency to observe round-number anniversaries. But between FX's The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story earlier this year and now Ezra Edelman's 7 1/2-hour documentary O.J.: Made In America, we are not observing a milestone, but attempting an almost convulsive reckoning with every open or tenuously bound wound the case touched and still touches: racism and sexism, certainly.

'The Hatred Of Poetry' Feels Personal

Jun 9, 2016

The familiar cycle of denouncements and defenses of poetry never seems to have much to do with anyone's actual experience of, say, John Ashbery. You know these pieces from highbrow magazines: The Death of Poetry versus The Enduring Relevance of Poetry, on and on into infinity. "What kind of art is defined — has been defined for millennia — by such a rhythm of denunciation and defense?" asks the poet and novelist Ben Lerner.

Like the other 4 million or so visitors expected to wander around Yellowstone National Park this summer, we had come to see the bison. And we found them. Hulking, shaggy, majestic, nose-down nibbling on fresh spring grass, their tails swishing. At our safe and respectful distance, my family stood quietly in awe. And then, being the good, nature-loving Americans that we are — we were suddenly starving.

A relationship drama with societal implications, Desde Allá (From Afar) hails from afar — specifically, from Venezuela — and marks a striking debut for first-time writer director Lorenzo Vigas.

His method is to draw you in by holding you at a slight remove — a habit he seems to have picked up from its leading man.

Where do you draw the line between inspiration and straight-up imitation when it comes to food?

A few years ago, we brought you the story of Caitlin Freeman, a pastry chef baking innovative, art-inspired cakes at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Using modern art as her muse, Freeman translated what she saw in the museum into edible form at the SFMOMA's upstairs café.

Theresa Saldana, an actress and victims advocate, died Monday in Los Angeles at the age of 61.

She worked in movies such as I Wanna Hold Your Hand and Raging Bull.

In 1982, she was stabbed 10 times outside her West Hollywood apartment by a man who had become obsessed with her. She survived the attack, and the man was convicted of attempted murder. But Saldana told NPR the man continued sending her disturbing, threatening letters.

Science fiction is known for speculating on technology, but it's always been just as passionate about politics. From Philip K.

During my parents' last winters in Florida, each time I visited I would stealthily vanquish the ghosts of meals past from their refrigerator and run all their smudged glassware through the dishwasher and their stained clothing through the wash. They no longer saw the spots, and my mother, leached by Alzheimer's, no longer cared — though she was still with it enough to take umbrage at my interference.

Imagine getting paid an estimated $6 million for your involvement in this three-word jingle: "I'm Lovin' It." Yep, Justin Timberlake inked a lucrative deal with McDonald's. (Guess you could say he wants you to "buy buy buy.")

Or how about earning an estimated $50 million to promote Pepsi products?That's the endorsement deal that megastar Beyonce signed up for back in 2012.

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

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

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

After two half sisters are separated, we follow their family lines over the course of two centuries through a series of short stories. Some of their descendants are in Africa, some are in America; some are free, some are enslaved. In the end, the two separate family sagas merge into one, back in the place where it all began.

On May 30, Slate published a feature called The Black Film Canon, a list of the 50 greatest films by black directors.

Picture a globe glowing with places of particular misery, pain or evil: Auschwitz, Nanking, Hiroshima, Wounded Knee. Burning white hot would be a singular landmark in west Africa: Cape Coast Castle, a notorious entrepôt for the cross-Atlantic slave trade. Contemporary pilgrims — Barack Obama among them — venture there for sobering lessons on man's inhumanity to man; the dungeons where the enslaved lay shackled together, awaiting their fate, to exit via the "Door of No Return."

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

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

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

Growing up, the only thing Scott Rudin wanted to do was become a theater producer. "I never had a fantasy of doing anything else or being anything else," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "I used to read [The New York Times'] Arts & Leisure [section] and obsess over, 'David Merrick has five shows running on Broadway! What would that be like?' "

When you hold a tiny infant in your arms, it's easy to be struck by the fragility of a new human life.

I remember feeling both exhilarated and, at moments, terrified when my oldest son was born. It was such uncharted terrain.

One of the greatest comforts in those early months was watching him thrive and gain weight. I hadn't anticipated the compulsion – the singular focus — on feeding my babe. It was an overwhelming, primal impulse that must be universal among new mothers, right?

Muhammad Ali: A Poet In And Out Of The Ring

Jun 6, 2016

I don't believe it's odd or unreasonable, at a time like this, to wonder if our culture still breeds heroes.

Sure, there are people out there now defying expectations, performing heroic feats, fighting just wars, and redefining our perceptions of human capacity and invention.

But Muhammad Ali is gone, and he was certainly the last of his kind.

Pages