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.
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.
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.
Originally published on Fri March 1, 2013 12:30 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.
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.
Originally published on Fri March 1, 2013 10:42 am
Over the past few years, Take Five's theme-based jazz lists have covered a wide variety of subjects. We've covered the careers of legends, the cutting-edge work of up-and-coming artists, styles, periods, holidays, regional scenes and more. Today, Take Five goes "meta" and presents a list of songs about... lists.
The lyrical conceits of these five songs are simply to list things. And, of course, feel free to suggest your favorite songs about lists that weren't included here. ("What, no 'Route 66'? Really?")
On a cold, rainy morning, a van pulls up outside a rural elementary school on the outskirts of Islamabad, Pakistan's capital. The fluorescent green vehicle provides a flash of color on this otherwise gray day. There's a picture of children reading books under a large apple tree, and the words "Reading is fun" are painted in English and Urdu, the national language in Pakistan.
The sunny island of Cyprus has been a vacation haven for Arabs and Israelis alike. But recently, it's been the site of a much-watched trial of an admitted Hezbollah operative. He has described himself simply as a pawn in the militant group's hierarchy, tasked with doing surveillance on restaurants, hotels and buses serving Israeli tourists. But his trial has revealed a wide range of details about how Hezbollah operates and how it may be getting more sophisticated.
For American policy analysts, today's announcement of direct food aid and medical supplies to Syrian rebels is a significant shift. But a top commander in the forces fighting the Syrian regime says it's not nearly enough. NPR's Deborah Amos met that commander in northern Syria today.
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.