Arts

Arts and culture

The oft-overlooked Oscar category of best documentary short has a dramatic theme this year: Three of the five films nominated are about Syrians, and each offers an intimate, eye-witness account of the devastation in that country.

One of the shorts, The White Helmets, follows a group of civilian volunteers in Aleppo who search for and rescue bombing victims. They're the only first responders left and they've saved tens of thousands of people, digging them out from the rubble. (The sound of bombs blasting can be heard throughout the film.)

As You Are, a coming-of-age movie in which no one comes of age (putative adults included), opens and closes with an aerial shot of two figures crossing a lawn in front of a house. A shot rings out both times, and the action in between circles around that event in time, framed by scenes of an unseen detective grilling the major players for their selective memories of a trauma for which everyone's responsible — yet that no one, least of all the shooter, meant to happen.

The awkward flirtation between the Chinese and American movie industries continues with Rock Dog, an amiable but generic talking-animal cartoon about a mastiff who dreams of rocking in the free world. Not that the movie has a political subtext: The only oppressor that Bodi (Luke Wilson) seeks to escape is his caring but rigid dad, Khampa (J.K. Simmons).

Horror parodies are seldom as funny, and never as scary, as fright-flicks that play their scares, er, straight. Jordan Peele — the shorter half of the 21st century's funniest sketch-comedy duo — understands this, and that's why Get Out, his debut feature as writer and director, is so truly, madly, mercilessly entertaining, even when it makes you want to jump out of your skin.

Animated films can do more than babysit kids; instead of simply quieting children for an hour or two, they can act to open conversations with them. Most American animation does not share this goal, however, and aims instead to feed kids a steady diet of hyperactive screen candy. That's why the Oscar-nominated French-Swiss cartoon My Life as a Zucchini might feel like a vegetable instead of the delightful treat that it is.

After working mostly as a behind-the-scenes guy on Chappelle's Show and Inside Amy Schumer, Neal Brennan is now stepping out as a performer.

Bad stand-up comedy is, for everyone involved, a special kind of hell. There's really nothing worse than the awkwardness that ensues when a comic bombs in front of a restive audience at an open-mic night, half of whom have been dragged there against their will in the first place. Great comedians have made enduring art and even changed society; all bad comedians have ever done is made people hurry out of a bar with their gin-and-tonics half finished.

If you've found yourself with little taste for sniping in recent days and a serious thirst for entertainment that's satisfying and warm, you're not alone. I've heard this from an awful lot of folks in the last couple of months. And while there are lots of places to go to find what you're looking for if this is the headspace you're in, one place is the terrific Charleston season of Top Chef that's about to wrap up. The penultimate episode is Thursday night, and the finale is in a week.

I got carsick reading Stephen O'Shea's The Alps, much of which involves navigating one "neurotic noodle of a road" after another as he twists his way up and down mountains in pursuit of the highs and lows of Alpine history. Reading about his umpteenth hairpin turn, I found myself whining, "Are we almost there?"

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Who says nobody dreams big anymore?

MATT NEGRIN: I want to write about what it's like to never leave the Mall of America.

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The last time I was talking with our TV critic Eric Deggans about late night television and the trouble with satirizing Donald Trump, he said it was a struggle.

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The 15th Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, which takes place every four years, begins later this spring in Fort Worth, Texas. For the past six weeks, judges have been traveling the world to hear potential competitors audition. One notable stop is Moscow — where the American pianist for whom the contest is named stunned the world 59 years ago, winning the International Tchaikovsky Competition at the height of the Cold War.

These days, almost every new movie, TV show, album or book feels so anticipated and pre-packaged that we're already tired of it by the time it's released. This makes it especially thrilling when something dazzling just appears like that alien spaceship in Arrival, startling even those whose business it is be in the know.

This year, the Paris museum that looks like a jumble of giant, colored pipes with an escalator in a clear plastic tube zigzagging up its side turns 40.

Nowadays, that museum — the Pompidou Center — has a secure place in the heart of Paris and in Parisians' hearts. But it wasn't always the case.

Filmmaker Seijun Suzuki, whose blend of pop-art, noir crime and peculiar cool is credited with inspiring directors from John Woo and Quentin Tarantino to Jim Jarmusch, has died. These days, Suzuki's Branded to Kill is widely seen as a masterpiece; when he made the absurdist thriller in 1967, he was fired from Nikkatsu studios.

There are very few scenarios where I could see myself considering the flesh of a fellow human being as food, and the ultimatum "eat today or die tomorrow" comes up in all of them. Most people are probably with me on this.

But Bill Schutt's newest book, Cannibalism: A Perfectly Natural History, reveals that from a scientific perspective, there's a predictable calculus for when humans and animals go cannibal. And far more humans — and animals — have dipped into the world of cannibalism than you might have imagined.

Riptide, Ore., is a place to get lost in — not that you'd necessarily want to. It's 1983, and the sleepy coastal town is starting to get weird: Mutilated animals are turning up on the beach at Wolf Point, and the discovery of the skeleton of a Native American girl from over a century ago sparks something even stranger. Some kind of supernatural force appears to be on a rampage in Riptide, although its residents have plenty of man-made horrors to be concerned about as well. A recent, fatal car accident has cast a pall of tragedy over the town.

The Polish-born conductor and composer Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, who led the Minnesota Orchestra for nearly two decades and worked with that symphony for well over 50 years in total, died Tuesday at age 93.

When the Academy Award nominations were announced in 2015 — and again in 2016 — there was swift backlash against the Academy for the lack of racial diversity among the nominees. Now, a new study of Best Picture nominees has revealed yet another demographic that's been chronically underrepresented in Hollywood — older people.

The human species is about to change dramatically. That's the argument Yuval Noah Harari makes in his new book, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow.

Harari is a history professor at Hebrew University in Israel. He tells NPR's Ari Shapiro that he expects we will soon engineer our bodies and minds in the same way we now design products.


Interview Highlights

On how we will begin to engineer bodies

Updated at 4:10 p.m. ET

A literary treasure buried for more than a century has been unearthed by Zachary Turpin, a grad student at the University of Houston.

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, as anti-communist sentiment gained ground in the United States, paranoia and persecution swept through Hollywood. The House Un-American Activities (HUAC) began interrogating some of the country's most talented filmmakers and actors, accusing them of being communists or communist sympathizers.

Salisbury University's Cultural Calendar week of February 27th , 2017

Saying that he's been diagnosed with the same condition that struck his mother and grandfather, singer David Cassidy has revealed that he is fighting dementia. The star whose career was launched by 1970s TV show The Partridge Family had recently told fans that he was on a farewell tour.

"I was in denial, but a part of me always knew this was coming," Cassidy, 66, tells People magazine, in an interview about his condition.

Oh, no! Trouble on the tracks! Christina Baker Kline's Orphan Train has collided with the circus caravan from Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants, and out of that wreck has come Pam Jenoff's The Orphan's Tale. The novel is a magical carnival saga, a bit grittier than either of its antecedents, and with more at stake.

There isn't an Oscar for choreography, but if there were, La La Land would almost certainly be taking it home this year. Starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone, this musical for the 21st century is full of tapping, waltzing, fox-trotting salutes to 20th century musical classics.

Breitbart News editor Milo Yiannopoulos lost both a speaking gig at a prominent conservative event and a book deal in less than 24 hours.

First, Monday afternoon the American Conservative Union rescinded its invitation to the right-wing provocateur — noted for his political posts on the Internet — to speak at its annual Conservative Political Action Conference this upcoming weekend. Then, a few hours later, Simon & Schuster announced that it was canceling the publication of Yiannopoulos' upcoming book, Dangerous.

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The Academy Awards will be presented on Sunday. And along with best picture and best actor and actress, there's an award for best original score. One of the nominees this year is the movie "Moonlight."

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