"People need depth, and depth means the possibility of unhappiness and frustration and sometimes torment — though hopefully not madness." -- Oliver Sacks
We've all had that moment. The moment where you might see or hear something and you wonder: Am I going crazy? In this hour, TED speakers share their experiences straddling that line between madness and sanity — and question if we're all in the gray area between the two.
Johannes Vermeer's Girl With a Pearl Earring is easy to fall in love with — she's young, dewy, beautiful (Scarlett Johansson played her in the 2003 movie about the painting), and she looks right at you. But the 17th-century Dutch master's Woman in Blue Reading a Letter is different — her face is shadowed and she stands in profile, totally absorbed in her letter.
Our next book club adventure takes us on a journey that is familiar to people across generations: We will be taking a trip down the yellow brick road with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, first published in 1900. It is one of the most beloved stories in popular American culture, but over the decades, the book has taken a back seat to the wildly successful Wizard of Oz film.
Great deeds start out as current events, move on to history, and eventually, with some craft and embellishment, become folklore and legend. This process is central to the structure of Bryan Singer's Jack the Giant Slayer, which merges elements of the familiar folktale of "Jack and the Beanstalk" with the less ubiquitous "Jack the Giant Killer." It sets the story as a kind of midpoint between one "true" story that has become a legend for Jack, just as the events of Jack's "true" story have supposedly passed into the realm of a simple folk story.
It's a mark of a great filmmaker when a movie is felt first and understood later, allowing audiences to intuit their way through a fog of mystery and sensuality before finally getting a clear view of the landscape. Best known for an operatic trio of revenge thrillers — the second, Oldboy, won the Grand Prix at Cannes in 2004 and a fervent cult following — South Korean genre maestro Park Chan-wook expresses florid emotion in cool, impeccable, gothic language.
I grew up on "Hava Nagila," and I'll admit it's not the catchiest of tunes. The ingenuous Hebrew lyrics ("Come! Let us rejoice and be happy!") don't wear well in our age of knowing irony and ennui.
Hip young Israelis wince at the very mention of the song, and for many Diaspora Jews, a few bars of the tune are all it takes to recall that excruciating moment late in a fancy wedding or bar mitzvah, when the band invites all remaining guests (tipsy uncles included) to kick up their heels — and then go home already.
Explosions rattle the crew. The air is turning fetid. And the captain has ordered a descent toward "crush depth." Yet everything is on course in Phantom, the newest model of the old submarine-from-hell picture.
But the predictability of writer-director Todd Robinson's film is, well, predictable. There are only so many things that can happen in the close quarters of an imperiled sub. What Robinson purports to do is show those familiar undersea events from a different vantage point. All the characters in Phantom serve in the Soviet navy of the 1960s.
Undersea things — iridescent creatures, mossy rocks, silky-slimy plants — are just weird. They're fascinating by their very nature, often barely resembling anything we have on land. Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel's half doc, half art project Leviathan capitalizes on that strangeness while linking it to the more prosaic world of commercial fishermen plying their trade off the coast of New Bedford, Mass.
Fourteen-year-old Doug Swieteck seems to be stuck between a rock and a hard place. He has just moved to a new town, where he doesn't have any friends, and where his teachers — and the police — think of him as nothing more than a "skinny thug."
So it's easy to understand why Doug, the protagonist of our latest book for NPR's Backseat Book Club, Okay for Now, is anything but a happy-go-lucky kid.