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And The Scar Goes To...

May 12, 2017

We removed the first letter from one of the words in a movie's title, and rewrote the plot to match the new title. For example, if the clue was, "In this Coen Brothers film, Josh Brolin works as a Hollywood doctor trying to rid movie star George Clooney of a terrible stomach ache," the answer would be, "Ail, Caesar." That's "Hail, Caesar," with the first letter of one of the words removed.

Heard on Andy Karl: 'Groundhog Day' Seven Days A Week

In 1624, as Portuguese colonists were making their way through the east coast of Africa, a woman named Nzinga ascended to the throne of Ndongo (now Angola). She spent decades fighting off invaders, both from Portugal and neighboring African kingdoms, and became a legend among her people and around the world.

The first season of Master Of None, the thoughtful Netflix comedy starring Aziz Ansari and created by Ansari and Alan Yang, was one of the best pieces of comedy-drama to come out in 2015. Now, about a year and a half later, they're back with a second season that is even better, more ambitious, more creative and more moving than the first run was.

A muggle mystery is afoot in the U.K.

Sometime over a span of a week and a half in mid-April, a burglar (or several) broke into a property in a Birmingham suburb, stealing jewelry and one item that's even more valuable — certainly to Harry Potter fans, at least: an 800-word, handwritten prequel to the series, scrawled on a postcard by J.K. Rowling herself.

On this week's show, we have probably the biggest tonal difference between our first and second segments in our history, so stay with me.

If you haven't heard of the self-described dirty trickster Roger Stone, you're missing out. For decades, he's worked as a political adviser to Donald Trump, and some credit him with getting Trump into the Oval Office. Daniel DiMauro, Dylan Bank and Morgan Pehme directed the new documentary Get Me Roger Stone.

"He was the very first person to suggest to Donald Trump that he should run for the presidency back in 1987," Pehme says. "And then he spent the next 29 years cultivating Trump's candidacy until he was ultimately triumphant."

A lot of things in this country rely on information gathered by the U.S. Census Bureau every 10 years. Congressional districts. Federally funded public works (bridges, tunnels) and emergency services. Decisions based on population estimates affect everyone in ways large and small, so an accurate count of who lives where is critical. That's why it was big news when the current Census director, John Thompson, announced he's stepping down. The abrupt departure left Census-watchers worried.

In the Israeli romantic comedy, The Wedding Plan, Michal (Noa Koler), a youngish woman who's been trying to get hitched for years sits opposite a prospective mate, trying to make small talk. This is her umpteenth date in umpteen years; all relevant clocks are ticking; she's fed up and close to despair. Mary Richards may spring to mind, also Bridget Jones, and just about every Jane Austen adaptation extant.

Set in the middle of the Iraqi desert in 2007, after the "Mission Accomplished" banner was hung and the war was "officially" over, Doug Liman's The Wall belongs to a small subset of real-time thrillers, like Phone Booth and Buried, where the hero is pinned down in a single location for the entire film. And unlike the others, which violate the conceit with flashbacks and other scenes away from the action, The Wall offers no relief from a desperate and seemingly impossible situation.

Jesse and Jonas, two BMX-riding teens in the suburbs, are hanging out at the mall one afternoon when two nameless punks jump them. There's an altercation and Jonas dies, bleeding out on the linoleum floor while Jesse watches, paralyzed with fear. We see these actions not as the kids experience them but through the security guard's office, on a grid of CCTVs. Their dispassionate vantage point traps the victims inside their boxes of horror, and leaves us far, far away from the emotional heart of the tragedy.

The Ecuador Ministry of Tourism probably won't have anything very nice to say about Snatched, an R-rated mother-and-daughter-reunion comedy that pairs Amy Schumer with Goldie Hawn, returning to features after a 15-year sabbatical. The double entendre of the title is fully intentional, obviously, referencing the comic persona Schumer has cultivated as a ribald, sex-positive libertine. But the plot still involves the two tourists being abducted and held for ransom during their South American getaway.

After a millennium of mystical and/or pious Arthurian lore, someone — could it have been Guy Ritchie? — determined that the once and future king needed the Guy Ritchie treatment. But then someone — could it have been the selfsame Ritchie? — concluded that snarky attitude wasn't enough. And so we have King Arthur: Legend of The Sword an intermittently amusing mashup of frisky medieval-gangsta flick and ponderous sub-Tolkien war saga.

The creator of one of the most popular hockey-themed web comics — yes, that's a thing — does not even know how to ice skate. Ngozi Ukazu created "Check Please," about a sweet-natured Southern hockey player who's short, loves baking pies and is completely crushed out on his hunky team captain.

The success of "Check Please" shows how a new generation of storytellers are refining the 21st century tools that help them attract and retain fans and earn a living with their work.

The tar baby story in which Bre'r Rabbit outwits Bre'r Fox is a classic trickster folk tale. But like all fables, it is a double-barreled affair, with entertainment firing in tandem with a serious message. The question the story addresses is a fundamental one: Who controls access to food and water? Or, more crucially, who controls access to food and water when the rules have been turned upside down by giant forces like colonialism, slavery, global trade and the loss of the commons to enclosures?

Two things, first: One, Delphine de Vigan's Based on a True Story is a powerful novel of suspense. Two, Based on a True Story may or may not be based on truth.

Writer Vaddey Ratner is used to processing pain through fiction. Her best-selling debut novel, In the Shadow of the Banyan, was based on her experiences as little girl in Cambodia, where she and her family endured the brutalities of the Khmer Rouge and their killing fields. Ratner and her mother escaped Cambodia, eventually settling in the U.S., but her father disappeared not long after the Khmer Rouge came to power and his fate is still unknown.

Go into any semi-hip coffee shop and you'll find the regulars: people who spend hours there, day after day. Some of them are college students studying for exams, some are workers telecommuting to their jobs. (The nervous-looking ones with their noses in books, checking Twitter every three minutes? Those would be critics.) And some of them just really have nothing better to do.

Plastic surgery, private jets, toddlers in designer clothes, magnums of champagne — Lauren Greenfield's 500-page photo collection, Generation Wealth, shows all of that. But this book isn't just about people who are wealthy, it's about people who want to be wealthy.

A grain of rice, like a grain of sand, sifts through your hands with a mysterious and lovely sameness. Mostly white or tan, hundreds or thousands of grains pour smoothly out of buckets, out of burlap, into bowls, with a sound like small waterfalls. Rice seems so simple, really. And yet, because it plays a central role in world cuisines, these modest grains can carry the weight of history. Sometimes that history is deeply surprising.

Growing up, Jill Soloway had a hard time relating to women as they were portrayed on TV. Soloway would watch The Love Boat or Fantasy Island and feel uncomfortable with the version of femininity the shows put forth.

"In fact, all the way up through watching Sex and the City, I would feel incredibly upset by what I thought was an expectation of me," Soloway says. "[It] was, 'You should really love cute shoes,' and, 'Because you're a woman, you're going to go crazy for a particular dress.' "

Rakesh Satyal's new novel checks off a lot of boxes, but its charm lies in the fact that it wears all of it various identities so lightly. This is an immigration story, a coming-out story and something of an old-school feminist story about a timid woman learning to roar.

Colm Tóibín has ventured to ancient Argos — far from the decorous, restrained worlds of Henry James, coastal Ireland, and mid-20th century Brooklyn we've seen in his earlier books — in this heart-stopping novel based on Clytemnestra's family tragedy.

"I like to think I sprang from a head; I like to think the head was mine," writes Patricia Lockwood in Priestdaddy, her memoir of growing up with a Catholic priest for a father.

But no. She sprang from the (oft-exposed) loins of Father Gregory Lockwood, who converted on board a submarine while watching the Exorcist: "That eerie, pea-soup light was pouring down, and all around him men in sailor suits were getting the bejesus scared out of them, and the bejesus flew into my father like a dart into a bull's eye."

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TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Science fiction has always been such a mutt genre. It's the place where you can do anything, tell any story that crosses your fevered mind. Want to do noir? Cool. A romance? No problem. A war story? Absolutely. Throw in some ray guns, little green men and some hand-wavey, black-box techno-whatever to stitch it all together, and you're good to go.

Black-ish creator (Kenya) and the show's 17-year-old star (Yara) talk about what's next for them on TV and in real life. Kenya explains why he's never felt pressure to explain cultural jokes. Yara breaks down ways Gen Z is ahead of the rest of us. Plus, they preview a possible spin-off!

We're just a handful of days removed from the historical dog-earing that marks the first 100 days of Donald Trump's presidency — "just about the most successful in our country's history," as he put it. It's been three-months-and-change of unprecedented tumult, from the halls of Washington, D.C. to the Sea of Japan.

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