Arts

Movie Reviews
5:13 pm
Thu February 28, 2013

'Jack The Giant Slayer': A Fun, Fractured Fairy Tale

Nicholas Hoult plays the young Jack, who must wage battle against an ancient race of giants in Jack the Giant Slayer.
Warner Bros. Pictures

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.

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Movie Reviews
5:12 pm
Thu February 28, 2013

Adolescent Angst Turns Deadly In 'Stoker'

Evelyn and India Stoker (Nicole Kidman and Mia Wasikowska) slowly descend into icy paranoia after their family patriarch dies through suspicious circumstances in the horror thriller Stoker.
Fox Searchlight Pictures

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.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu February 28, 2013

'Hava Nagila: The Movie' Pays Homage To Unlikely Jewish Touchstone

Young newlyweds are serenaded with the strains of "Hava Nagila." The unlikely origins of the popular Jewish standard are explored in Roberta Grossman's documentary feature Hava Nagila: The Movie.
International Film Circuit

Originally published on Sun March 3, 2013 8:47 am

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.

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Movies
5:03 pm
Thu February 28, 2013

Soviet Ghosts Resurface In Soggy 'Phantom'

Grizzled Soviet submarine captain Demi (Ed Harris) fights crew subversion and personal pain in a losing Cold War struggle against American opponents.
RCR Distribution

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.

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Movie Reviews
5:03 pm
Thu February 28, 2013

'Leviathan': Of Fish And Men, Without Chats

The dingy commercial fishing boats that dot the waters off the Atlantic coast of the U.S. and Canada have lives all their own in the new documentary Leviathan.
The Cinema Guild

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.

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NPR's Backseat Book Club
5:02 pm
Thu February 28, 2013

With Audubon's Help, Beat-Up Kid Is 'Okay For Now'

Courtesy The Audobon Society

Originally published on Thu February 28, 2013 6:30 pm

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.

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NPR's Backseat Book Club
5:01 pm
Thu February 28, 2013

A Young Artist Finds Solace In Creatures Of The Sea And Sky

Courtesy James Prosek and Waqas Wajahat, New York

Originally published on Fri March 1, 2013 1:30 pm

In February, NPR's Backseat Book Club read a novel about a troubled kid who finds both strength and solace in the artwork of the renowned naturalist John James Audubon. The novel, Okay for Now by Gary D. Schmidt, takes place in 1968 in a little town in upstate New York where middle-schooler Doug Swietek is drowning in life's complications.

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The Two-Way
4:27 pm
Thu February 28, 2013

A Quvenzhane by Any Other Name... (Storified)

Best Actress nominee Quvenzhané Wallis is interviewed on the red carpet at the Academy Awards Sunday, when several journalists struggled with the young actress's name.
Joe Klamar AFP/Getty Images

After a weekend that saw journalists on the Oscars red carpet struggling to pronounce the name of 9-year-old Best Actress nominee Quvenzhané Wallis, we decided to ask the Twitter masses for their funniest or most annoying stories about people mispronouncing their "unconventional" or "ethnic" names.

Here's a few of the best:

Do you have any similar stories? We'd love to hear them in the comments.

Arts & Life
2:05 pm
Thu February 28, 2013

The Case For Being Concise: Short Poems That Speak Volumes

In poetry, sometimes less is more.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Fri March 1, 2013 3:03 pm

Brad Leithauser likes to look for poetry in graveyards. A novelist and poet himself, there's something he values greatly in tombstone epitaphs: brevity.

"You really don't want to go on at great length," he tells NPR's Neal Conan. "There's something very touching ... in seeing how they are meant to be commemorated, often in little bits of verse here and there."

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Movie Interviews
1:13 pm
Thu February 28, 2013

'The Gatekeepers' Offer Candid Assessment Of Israel's Security

Director Dror Moreh was nominated for an Academy Award for his documentary The Gatekeepers.
Mika Moreh Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Originally published on Thu February 28, 2013 1:30 pm

Six former heads of the Shin Bet — Israel's security agency — speak to director Dror Moreh in his Oscar-nominated documentary The Gatekeepers. They are men who have signed off on brutal interrogations and targeted killings. They have given their lives to the cause of Israeli security.

What is striking is that all articulate their shared conviction that the continued Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories will not lead to peace or a political solution for the future of the state of Israel.

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