Arts & Life

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

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

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

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

The only thing more delightful than being back with my PCHH team this week is that while Glen Weldon takes a week off, we're joined by our former sometimes-producer Kiana Fitzgerald, who's also a DJ and writer and wonderful Twitter follow, as well as Brittany Luse, who hosts Sampler over at Gimlet Media and hosts the fabulous For Colored Nerds podcast with Eric Eddings.

Friends, Romans, Countrypersons: Let us agree there is nothing inherently sacrilegious about embarking upon a fourth feature-film version of Lew Wallace's 1880 novel, Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ.

Editor's note: This interview contains adult themes, including a discussion of sexual assault.

Amy Schumer is tired of answering a question journalists ask her all the time: Is this a good moment for women in Hollywood?

"It is an amazing moment for every woman," she tells NPR's David Greene, "if you have ovaries and you're in the 90210 ZIP code."

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Natalie Portman says her new film felt like something she just "had to make." It's an adaptation of A Tale of Love and Darkness, the autobiographical novel by Amos Oz, in which he tells the story of his childhood in Jerusalem during the early years of Israeli independence.

Portman, who was born in Jerusalem, directed and wrote the Hebrew language film. She also stars as Oz's mother, Fania, whose family emigrated from Eastern Europe.

We have become so used to movie characters who always do and say the expected movie things that it's a shock to watch a film and encounter genuine humans. The new coming-of-age comedy Morris From America centers around a 13-year-old aspiring rapper played with astonishing magnetism by first-time actor Markees Christmas. What's remarkable about the film is that it sets up what could have been a bunch of pat, dumb culture-clash jokes about a black New York kid in Europe, yet never takes the easy way out. Instead, it explores and resolutely preserves its hero's humanity.

With dark bangs draped over an eyepatch, a stack of colorful origami paper, and a two-stringed, lute-like instrument called a shamisen strapped to his back, young Kubo heads into a seaside village to put on a street performance for spare change. As he rocks the shamisen like the Joe Satriani of ancient Japan, the origami paper dances to life around him, folding into sharply edged characters and objects, and occasionally bursting into ribbons of confetti.

In such dudes-gone-wild comedies as Pineapple Express and The Hangover, guys get incredibly wasted, do phenomenally stupid stuff, stumble into spectacular trouble, and yet somehow emerge relatively unscathed. Of course, scenarios like that don't play out in the real world.

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'The Hike' Turns Traditional Fairy Tales Inside Out

Aug 18, 2016

You know what they don't make a lot of? Summer beach books for dudes.

I mean, okay. If you like crime novels, sure. There are always 10,000 of those slumping on the shelves. Military techno/spy WE-ONLY-HAVE-24-HOURS-TO-SAVE-THE-KENTUCKY-DERBY-FROM-ESKIMO-TERRORISTS!-style thrillers? Yeah, I guess there are some of those, too.

Riveting 'Obelisk Gate' Shatters The Stillness

Aug 18, 2016

The Obelisk Gate is the second book in a trilogy that makes me forget everything people say about second books in trilogies. By rights it should be full of the things we forgive middle books: necessary stalling; development of characters less interesting than in the first volume but nevertheless plot-critical; all the weary setup of scaffolding from which to launch the finale.

In the 1500s, an Italian scientist named Giambattista della Porta made a discovery near and dear to many a frozen dessert lover's heart: By mixing salt and snow, you could lower the melting point of ice.

Della Porta used this discovery to freeze wine in a glass of salt and ice. Specifically, he took a vial of wine, added a dash of water and immersed it in a wooden bucket full of snow mixed with saltpeter, then turned the vial round and round. The saltpeter made the snow colder than it would have been otherwise, allowing the wine inside the vial to freeze.

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Distilling The Story Of California Wine, One Label At A Time

Aug 17, 2016

For the first half of the 20th century, nobody would have ever compared the wines of California's Napa Valley to the great wines of France.

"It's amazing when you think about it," says Amy Azzarito, online strategist at the University of California, Davis, library. "California wines were a joke for a long time. And they're not anymore."

In the romance world we love to say that the RITAs are the Oscars of romance — a fitting comparison not only in terms of prestige but also, unfortunately, in terms of representation. Out of the more than 90 RITA finalists this year, only five have protagonists who aren't white. The good — and bad news — is that this is actually an improvement over past years.

Twentieth century painter Romaine Brooks introduces herself in a 1923 self-portrait: She wears a narrowly cut, long, black riding jacket with a white blouse. She has short cropped hair, and her eyes are shadowed by a black high hat. There's the slightest smudge of maybe pink on her lips — otherwise the whole portrait is black and various shades of gray.

In Teju Cole's writing, everything is fair game. Politics, poetry, music — even Snapchat.

He roams between time periods, genres and media, drawing unexpected parallels, and his latest book, Known and Strange Things, is a collection of his essays written for publications like The New York Times Magazine and The New Yorker.

Sue Zumberge of Subtext Books in St. Paul, Minn., shares her favorite books for summer reading: The Wright Brothers by David McCullough, Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard and Wake Up, Island by Mary Casanova.

Jace Clayton circles the globe looking for new sounds, from home studios in Morocco to teen parties in Mexico. Performing as DJ /rupture, he incorporates them into his work — and in his travels, he's found that digital technology has profoundly changed how music is produced, even in the most unlikely places.

That's the subject of his new book, Uproot: Travels in 21st-Century Music and Digital Culture. He joined NPR's Audie Cornish to talk about it; hear the radio version at the audio link, and read an edited version below.

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Writer Julie Klausner conceived of her Hulu comedy series Difficult People with a dark vision in mind. She thought of what kind of show she'd want to create if she knew she only had weeks to live, and she went from there.

"I just intended to write a show that I would want to do if I were ... going to be hit by a bus in a couple weeks," Klausner tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "[And] that's sort of what came out."

Welcome to the real-life Mad Hatter's tea party: Guests eat out of spiraling ceramics from spoons as long as their arms, while waiters serve the next course with flatware fused to opera glasses.

The scene: A quaint and placid college campus, circa 1989. In the student union sits a just-past-the-voting-age freshman. Her bangs are crispy from years of chemical encrustation, a 10-lb. Ecuadorian wool sweater is itching her neck, and there might be a Monet poster on the wall back in her dorm room. She's reading the "alternative" weekly paper from the big city up the road, and she's just not too sure about Lynda Barry.

In 1977, Deborah Barsel, a bored assistant registrar at the George Eastman Museum in Rochester, N.Y., decided to try a fun side project. She would create a cookbook made up of recipes and images from famous photographers of the day. She sent letters to various artists and put an ad in the museum's magazine asking for submissions. In return, she received 120 photos, recipes and even a postcard from urban photographer John Gossage saying simply: "I eat out."

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

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

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

This summer we've been taking you to some unusual festivals, the kind of events that take us away from everyday reality. Here's one from an arts festival in the heart of Europe where the artists' tools include the airbrush, and the canvas is the human body.

What first grabs a reader about Mary Mann Hamilton's memoir, Trials of the Earth, is its backstory. Hamilton was born in Arkansas around 1866; her family ran a boarding house and at 18 she married one of the guests, an older Englishman named Frank Hamilton who claimed to have an aristocratic past.

Do people think about food more in times of scarcity than in times of plenty? Married culinary historians Jane Ziegelman and Andy Coe think so. Ziegelman and Coe are the authors of A Square Meal, which examines the impact of the country's decade-long Great Depression on American diets.

Ziegelman tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that the Depression was one of the "most important food moments" in U.S. history. Coe agrees: "The Great Depression was a time when Americans had food front and foremost in their minds and were worrying about it every day."

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