Arts and Culture

Arts and culture

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Rocker docs lie thick on the ground these days, most of them landlocked in a tired arc of childhood stress, rapid rise to stardom filled with drugs and debauchery followed by decline and, for those who survive, extravagant rue-ing the day. And given the short, sharp life of Janis Joplin, any account of her has to spend time in that terrain. But though Janis: Little Girl Blue — Amy J. Berg's loving, exhaustively researched documentary about the whiskey-voiced blues interpreter — gives Joplin's dark side its due, the film rarely succumbs to mawkish wallowing.

Remember Rocky? That cornpone boxing movie from 40 years ago starring (and written by) that oiled-up, headband-wearing buffoon who talks funny? The one that stole Best Picture away from Network, All the President's Men, Taxi Driver, and Hal Ashby's rather more obscure Woody Guthrie biopic Bound for Glory?

The world of Victor Frankenstein — red brick and gray skies, clanking gears and straining pulleys, exploding dials and jury-rigged gizmos — is utterly steampunk. But the latest resurrection of Mary Shelley's horror classic has a tech-era vibe that adds to its modest appeal.

Pixar's The Good Dinosaur imagines what would happen if our Mesozoic-era ancestors, instead of being wiped out by an asteroid, survived to star in John Ford Westerns. An opening scene shows the fatal rock whizzing by Earth harmlessly; "millions of years later," Apatosauruses own family farms while Tyrannosauruses herd bison on the frontier. In their shadow, humans must have evolved from the Carnivora clade alongside dogs and wolves, judging by how they bark and scamper in the wild unless a dino can domesticate them.

We are deep into fall, which means winter squash are all over restaurant menus, food blogs and probably your Instagram feed.

The Scene Gets Thankful

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photo: Brian Mackey, clip art: RO

Scott and  Rachel are nearing a year of bringing you The Scene on air and in podcast form. Every week we stop to take a look around the scene so we can tell you about some of the fun and fascinating things coming up. 

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Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit

Copyright 2015 Fresh Air. To see more, visit


: Coming up, film critic David Edelstein reviews "Carol," which was directed by Todd Haynes and stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. This is FRESH AIR.


It's art imitating life, really. All American Boys is a young adult novel that looks at a specific instance of police brutality from the perspectives of two high school classmates: Rashad, who is savagely beaten by a local policeman who (wrongly) suspects him of shoplifting and assaulting a white woman, and Quinn, who sees the beating and initially pretends he didn't. It's a fictional reflection of real-life police encounters with young black men that ended badly.

All the best science fiction has giant robots in it. That's just wisdom.

All the best science fiction has spaceships. Has ray guns and maybe dinosaurs, too. Has a sense of clutching wonder that takes you right in the chest, stutters your heart, widens your eyes and sucks the breath right out of you.

But really, it's about the robots. Any sci-fi or spec-fic story that proceeds through the middle quarter without the addition of a giant robot or two? That's a writer who's not bringing his A game. Who doesn't understand the rules or just didn't try hard enough.

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Remember Apollo Creed, Rocky Balboa's boxing nemesis?


CARL WEATHERS: (As Apollo Creed) You got to remember now, you fight great, but I'm a great fighter.

It's a heart-stopping scene: The protagonist of The Good Dinosaur, an 11-year-old Apatosaurus named Arlo is chasing a little thief who's been stealing his family's food. Arlo's not looking where he's going, and he slips and falls into a river. Panic-stricken, he gasps for air as his body goes hurtling down the raging rapids. The splashes, the currents, the rocks, the sound, the details are so vivid — you feel real fear for this animated dinosaur.

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Listen now as a 14-year-old boy sets a new world record to complete a Rubik's Cube at a competition in Maryland.



They won't actually get to host Saturday Night Live, but four GOP candidates have completed agreements with NBC allowing them to broadcast campaign messages on affiliate stations in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina over Thanksgiving weekend.

These deals resulted from "equal time" requests made after leading GOP candidate Donald Trump guest-hosted Saturday Night Live on Nov. 7.

Move over, turkey. Step aside, stuffing.

Green Bean Casserole, an iconic Thanksgiving dish, turns 60 years old this year, and it's as popular as ever.

Love it or loathe it, the classic Midwestern casserole has come to mean more than just a mashup of processed food sitting next to the mashed potatoes.

For a glimpse of Memory Theater in microcosm, it wouldn't hurt to flip first to the book's back pages. There, you'll find "a partial glossary of potential obscurities" — where the names of Italian Renaissance-era philosophers mingle with British post-punk bands, medieval Christian holy women and even a deceased cat called Frances, a moggy lauded for being "elegant, beautiful and fastidiously small."

There's also an entry for a man that reads, simply: "As far as I'm aware, he did not exist."

There are few costumes more recognizable than the blue-and-white checkered dress Judy Garland wore as Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz. On Monday, an unidentified buyer snapped it up for $1.5 million over the phone during an auction at Bonhams in New York City.

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It sounds like a fairy tale: Five beautiful sisters with long flowing hair are locked up together and forced, one by one, into marriage. But it's not a fairy tale — it's the story of a new movie called Mustang set in a contemporary, rural Turkish village.

Domingo Martinez, author of The Boy Kings of Texas, recommends the podcast Crybabies, particularly the episode in which the hosts talk to comedian Guy Branum about the things that make him cry. For more great podcast recommendations, and another one of Martinez's favorite Crybabies episodes, visit

Sam Phillips, founder of the label Sun Records, didn't care much about making flawless recordings.

Mary Gaitskill writes tough. Her characters are almost always "users" — users of drugs and other people; they're often mean and manipulative and flooded with self-loathing. In short, to quote the title of her debut short story collection, Gaitskill writes about people who are no strangers to "bad behavior." You have to write tough — and brilliantly — to pull off a novel like The Mare.

SPOILER ALERT: This column discusses events from Sunday's Walking Dead episode. Read with care if you haven't already seen the show.

It was the biggest head fake in recent television history.

Fans of The Walking Dead Sunday finally got an answer to the question that had been on their lips since late October, when long-running character Glenn Rhee was shown tumbling into a crowd of flesh-eating undead from the top of a dumpster with a hapless friend who had just shot himself.

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Like many of the stops on one of the world's great trade routes, the Silk Road, Trabzon used to be a lot more important than it is today. But the old market streets of this Turkish Black Sea port city still ring with sounds that could have been heard when ancient Greeks and Romans walked these streets.

He's known for his starring roles on screens both big and small, but it's his lifetime role that inspired his latest book — that of a father.

Taye Diggs joined NPR's Michel Martin for a conversation about his new book, Mixed Me, which is inspired by his son, Walker, and focuses on a day in the life of a mixed-race child.

Interview Highlights

On what inspired him to write the book

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