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    Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air . TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Our critic-at-large, John Powers, has a review of "13th," Ava DuVernay's new documentary that opened the New York Film Festival and is currently playing in selected theaters and on Netflix. In "13th," DuVernay, who's best known for directing "Selma," explores how the United States became the country with the world's largest prison population and why a hugely disproportional number of those prisoners are black. JOHN POWERS, BYLINE: Like most Americans of every skin color, I wish I no longer had to think about race. It's uncomfortable. It's depressing. It's infuriating. But it's also an inescapable fact of our lives. That fact lies at the heart of "13th," a new documentary by Ava DuVernay, best known for directing "Selma," that's now showing in selected theaters and on Netflix. Taking its title from the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which formally abolished slavery but left a loophole

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

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    If any image haunts TV news, and perhaps our conscience, it's the seemingly ceaseless river of migrants seeking refuge from war, dictatorship and poverty. These desperate souls inspire pity, fear and election-year arguments about whether to offer them welcome or keep them out. Not surprisingly, many artists feel compelled to confront this refugee crisis. But the big question is: How do you engage a humanitarian tragedy without haranguing the audience or laying on a guilt trip? You get different but complementary answers in two prize-winning new works from Europe. One is an observational documentary, the other a quasi-mythic novel. Gianfranco Rosi's ravishingly shot Fire at Sea takes place on the tiny, unglamorous Sicilian island of Lampedusa, 70 miles from the coast of Africa. Year after year, tens of thousands of migrants turn up on disastrously overcrowded boats. So many come that the UN has an entire hazmat-suited system for handling them — they're rescued at sea, cleaned up,

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    It's the great pleasure of my work that I get to spend my days watching and reading — and it's the great frustration that every year I'm haunted by all the terrific things I haven't talked about on Fresh Air . I call this collection my "ghost file," and as 2016 comes to an end, I want to un -haunt myself by sharing six of my favorite ghosts. They range from the cosmic to the comic. Dekalog by Krzysztof Kieślowski (Blu-ray and DVD) Filmmaking doesn't come much more cosmically ambitious than Krzysztof Kieślowski's 1989 Dekalog , one of the towering cinematic achievements of the last half century, which was finally released by the Criterion Collection. Each of its 10, hourlong films takes place in an unlovely Polish housing block and tells a story that offers a modern look at one of the Ten Commandments. For instance, "Thou shalt not have other gods before me" centers on a man who worships science, then must confront personal tragedy in a world he believes to be godless. Brilliantly made

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    Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air . DAVE DAVIES, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. "20th Century Women" is the new movie by Mike Mills, whose previous film, "Beginners," won Christopher Plummer an Academy Award. Loosely based on Mills' own life, "20th Century Women" is the story of a teenage boy who learns about life from three women - a high school friend, an artistic lodger and his mother, played by Annette Bening in a performance that's being touted for an Oscar. The film's opening around the country, and our critic-at-large John Powers says it's a fun movie that hits you where you live. JOHN POWERS, BYLINE: Hollywood has always had trouble capturing how history enters our lives. It's able to celebrate landmark cases like the three African-American heroines of "Hidden Figures," whose mathematical brilliance helped break the color bar at NASA in the late '50s and early '60s. But when it comes to ordinary, undramatic life, our movies struggle with what it means to be born

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    Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air . DAVE DAVIES, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. The writer and director Ousmane Sembene, who died in 2007, is the most famous and acclaimed black African filmmaker. His first film, "Black Girl," which came out in 1966, was instantly hailed as a cultural breakthrough. A new, restored version of the film is now out on DVD, Blu-Ray and iTunes streaming. Our critic at large John Powers says "Black Girl" isn't merely a landmark but a movie that still packs a wallop. JOHN POWERS, BYLINE: We can all name movies that take place in Africa, from the many adventures of "Tarzan" to Oscar-winning hits like "Out Of Africa." But these are not movies that actually come out of Africa. They were made by outsiders looking in. In fact, I'd wager that most Westerners have never seen an African story filmed from the inside. There's no better way to correct this than "Black Girl," the taut, moving 1966 film that's widely regarded as the first ever fiction

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    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. That's what happened with My Favorite Thing Is Monsters , a new graphic novel just out from Fantagraphic Books. The first of two volumes — the second comes out this fall — it's the brainchild of a 55-year-old Chicago illustrator Emil Ferris. Until she sent off the manuscript, nobody in the comics world had ever heard of her — I certainly hadn't — but this extraordinary book has instantly rocketed Ferris into the graphic novel elite alongside Art Spiegelman , Alison Bechdel and Chris Ware. You see, she's produced something rare, a page-turning story whose pages are so brilliantly drawn you don't want to turn them. My Favorite Thing Is Monsters is set amid the political

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    Back in the 1980s, Salman Rushdie wrote that the defining figure of the 20th century was the migrant. I think his claim may be even truer of the 21st century. These days, the whole world, including our politics, is being shaped by migration. Few people explore the nuances of this reality more skillfully than Valeria Luiselli , a strikingly gifted 33-year-old Mexican writer who knows the migratory experience first-hand. Born in Mexico City to an Italian family, Luiselli spent her childhood in South Africa, her teens in Mexico and now lives in New York with her husband and their kids. Not surprisingly, her first three books — two novels and a collection of essays — are bursting with ideas on dislocation, national identity and knowing where you belong. These lofty-sounding themes take immediate, painfully concrete form in her latest book, Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions , a deceptively slim volume just out from Coffee House Press. Where Luiselli's earlier work was marked

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    Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air .

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    There's a classic moment in the romantic thriller Charade , when Audrey Hepburn says to Cary Grant in exasperation, "Do you know what's the matter with you? ... Nothing." For decades, the whole world felt the same. Grant's unrivaled blend of charm, good looks and silliness — he hadn't a shred of pomposity or elitism — made him a movie star everyone loved. Everyone, that is, except Archie Leach, the actor's real-life self who wrote that he'd spent years cautiously peering from behind the face of a man known as Cary Grant. The journey from Archie to Cary is the subject of Mark Kidel's enjoyable documentary, Becoming Cary Grant . Weaving together the actor's private home movies, excerpts from his unpublished writings and terrific clips from his Hollywood work, this Showtime film tells the story of an arduous act of self-invention. Archie was born in working-class Bristol, England to a dapper, unreliable father and a hyper-ambitious mother, Elsie, who was ravaged by inner demons. When

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    It's that time of year when you hear talk of "summer reading," a term that refers to books that are fun and undemanding — you know, the perfect accompaniment to lying on the beach. Such books heighten the airy sense of irresponsibility that comes with escaping the gravity of our lives back home. That weightlessness is at the core of Beautiful Animals , a seductively menacing new thriller by Lawrence Osborne, a Bangkok-based English writer who unites Graham Greene 's fondness for foreign soil with Patricia Highsmith's fascination with the nastier coils of the human psyche. Set on the jet-setty Greek island of Hydra, this new novel offers all the glamorous pleasures of a vacation page-turner — you never know where it's heading. But it has things on its mind. The story begins with Naomi, a disgraced British lawyer in her late 20s who's spending the summer at the fancy vacation home of her father, an art collector whose values she disdains, though not enough to stop living off his money.

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    Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air . TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. Like Woody Allen before him, Albert Brooks gave up standup comedy to make his own films. Our critic-at-large, John Powers, considers Brooks's 1985 film "Lost In America" a masterpiece. It's just been released on DVD and Blu-ray by Criterion. "Lost In America" is the story of a well-heeled LA couple, played by Brooks and Julie Haggerty, who decide to become free-spirited wanderers. John just watched it for the umpteenth time and says it's one of the greatest comedies of the last 40 years. JOHN POWERS, BYLINE: A lot of comedians are funny. But only a handful have the genius to shape the comic terrain. One of them is Albert Brooks, who, in a cosmic bad joke, is probably best known to today's audiences as the voice of Marlin in "Finding Nemo." But back in the early '70s, in a famous Esquire article and a series of legendary "Tonight Show" performances, Brooks set about gleefully exploding the

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    Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air . DAVE DAVIES, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. The American writer Dorothy B. Hughes, who was born in 1904 and died in 1993, was one of the most successful crime novelists in mid-century America with several of her books turned into Hollywood movies. Her best known is "In A Lonely Place." A new edition of the novel has just come out, and our critic at large, John Powers, says Hughes' version of noir is excitingly radical. JOHN POWERS, BYLINE: It's something of an axiom that good novels make bad movies, but one of my favorite exceptions is "In A Lonely Place," the 1950 noir classic directed by Nicholas Ray that you owe it to yourself to see. Starring Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame giving their best ever performances, it's one of those brooding '50s pictures that's far deeper, darker and more psychologically potent than anything Hollywood is making today. While the movie's justly famous, the same can't be said of the original 1947 novel

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    Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air .

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    Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air . DAVE DAVIES, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. The new documentary "The Witness" tells the story of one of the most talked about crimes in modern American history, the 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese. Director James Solomon traces the attempts of the victim's younger brother Bill to make sense of what happened to his sister. Our critic-at-large John Powers says it gets you thinking about what happens when a news story becomes a legend. JOHN POWERS, BYLINE: Every culture has an unofficial mythology, a collection of emblematic stories that nearly everyone knows and believes, even if they're not altogether true. One of this country's darker myths centers on the murder of Kitty Genovese, a 28-year-old New Yorkers stabbed to death near her apartment in Queens on March 13, 1964. It wasn't the victim or killer who entered pop mythology. It was their audience. A few days after the crime, The New York Times ran an article reporting that while

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    Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air . DAVE DAVIES, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. The American writer Dorothy B. Hughes, who was born in 1904 and died in 1993, was one of the most successful crime novelists in mid-century America with several of her books turned into Hollywood movies. Her best known is "In A Lonely Place." A new edition of the novel has just come out, and our critic at large, John Powers, says Hughes' version of noir is excitingly radical. JOHN POWERS, BYLINE: It's something of an axiom that good novels make bad movies, but one of my favorite exceptions is "In A Lonely Place," the 1950 noir classic directed by Nicholas Ray that you owe it to yourself to see. Starring Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame giving their best ever performances, it's one of those brooding '50s pictures that's far deeper, darker and more psychologically potent than anything Hollywood is making today. While the movie's justly famous, the same can't be said of the original 1947 novel

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    Copyright 2017 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air .

older | 1 | 2 | (Page 3)