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Arts/Life

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Spike Lee's new movie, BlackkKlansman, is based on a true story, but the plot sounds crazy enough that you'd be excused for thinking he'd just made it up. It's about an African-American police officer, Ron Stallworth, who went undercover in the 1970s to infiltrate the Ku Klux Klan ... by joining it.

Stallworth was the first black officer hired by the Colorado Springs Police Department. In the film, when his chief and the mayor tell him they're hoping he'll "open things up," they don't anticipate that he'll go about that task in quite the way he chooses to do so.

One of the first things actors learn is how to become highly suggestible: Take a cue from a director, a script, a parent, a memory or a dream, and use it to become someone else. Acting classes instruct on the fine art of removing that layer of yourself that says, "No, I shouldn't do this, it isn't me." Fail to break down those walls, and you aren't much of a performer; knock too many down, and you may lose yourself.

Uneasy lies the wrist that wears the big diver's watch, but Jason Statham never looks especially perturbed in The Meg, an agreeably daft if disappointingly bloodless sea creature-feature from the auteur who brought you Three Ninjas and Phenomenon — the film that asked us to imagine, What if John Travolta were smart?

'Dog Days' Is Shaggy But Lovable

Aug 9, 2018

Short Cuts meets Love, Actually ... in Dog Days, an ensemble rom-com-o-rama that brings Los Angeles dog owners together under the reasonable thesis that dogs make everyone's lives better. In fact, the film itself exhibits a dog-like sensibility: Simple, shaggy, ingratiating, lovable, and totally disinterested in aesthetics, like a St. Bernard's lick across the face.

Summertime is for road trips. Atlas Obscura and All Things Considered are traveling up the West Coast, from California to Washington, in search of "hidden wonders" — unique but overlooked people and places.

Driving on Interstate 5 in Turner, Ore. — about an hour south of Portland — it's hard to miss the towering road sign, topped by a waving Humpty Dumpty: "Enchanted Forest Theme Park. Next Exit."

Earnest yet unpredictable, Nate Powell's graphic novel Come Again is a perfect example of what's possible when a creator roams outside of set conventions. Come Again fits no particular genre, though much of its style and tone resemble the slow-building, true-to-life narratives of Craig Thompson, Lucy Knisley and Mariko and Jillian Tamaki. But a touch of the mystical keeps this book off-kilter, raising the stakes on a story that might otherwise have seemed thin.

If only the worst thing about Netflix's Insatiable were its lazy portrayals of fat people or its tone-deaf deployment of sexual assault and abuse as comedy or its embrace of racist tropes or its portrayals of people with Southern accents as dumb hicks or its white-hot conviction that same-sex attraction is either inherently hilarious or a teaching moment.

Oh, if only.

In a letter to its members sent this morning, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) listed three changes approved by its Board of Governors.

1. A three-hour Oscars telecast

We are committed to producing an entertaining show in three hours, delivering a more accessible Oscars for our viewers worldwide.

In 1973, documentary filmmaker Jennifer Fox wrote a story for her eighth-grade English class that alluded to a young girl's intimate relationship with a middle-aged man and woman. At the time, Fox's teacher assumed the story was fiction.

It wasn't.

"The Tale," as it was called, was based on Fox's own experiences with her male running coach and female horseback riding coach — which Fox considered normal at the time: "I wrote at 13 with no concept of abuse at all," she says. "It was a love story; it was a relationship."

"Hate comes in many forms," Arjun Singh Sethi writes in American Hate, a collection of victims' testimonials.

Sethi, a Sikh American, is an activist lawyer and law professor who has become "sensitive to the rising tide of hate violence." We should not be surprised by this rise, he says, since "Trump told us who he was a long time ago... a racist and a sexist ... his ideologies are white supremacy and greed. He is the hater-in-chief..."

In the anthology The Art of Friction: Where (Non)Fictions Come Together, Marcia Douglas likens the kind of writing she does to spellcasting. And her new book, The Marvellous Equations of the Dread: A Novel in Bass Riddim no doubt has the air of a spell.

The rapper Drake probably never dreamed that his song, "In My Feelings," would inspire two Indian farmers to dance in the mud — with their oxen.

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Summertime is for road trips. Atlas Obscura teamed up with All Things Considered to travel up the West Coast, from California to Washington, in search of "hidden wonders" — unique but overlooked people and places.

In the western tip of the Mojave Desert, a couple of hours north of Los Angeles, a lone McMansion-style villa sits on 10 acres surrounded by a fence. There's little but dust, solar farms and transmission towers for miles around.

Rick Wilson can't sleep at night.

The Republican operative isn't known for being a thin-skinned, bring-me-the-smelling-salts, political naif. He has historically been a strategist who conservative candidates would call when campaigns took a turn — when it was time to go negative.

Meet the charmer of the summer, an epistolary novel about two strangers dismayed by where their lives have taken them. Dissatisfied farmer's wife Tina Hapgood and lonely museum curator Anders Larsen initially connect over a shared fascination with the miraculous Iron Age archaeological find known as the Tollund Man, but their relationship soon deepens as they begin to excavate their own chosen life paths in a series of letters.

Bert Nap has had enough. On a recent night, the longtime Amsterdam resident opened his door to confront a gaggle of young, drunken British men, all dressed as Elvis for a bachelor party, making a tremendous ruckus.

Nap asked them: "Why don't you do that in your own hometown?"

This was hardly the first time he'd been disturbed by late-night revelers. Many are tourists who vomit in his potted plants, urinate in his mailbox, and scream-sing outside his door. "My city is seen as one where anything goes," he says.

Charlotte Rae, who died Sunday at 92, was a seasoned performer by the time she landed the role of matronly housekeeper Mrs. Garrett on the NBC sitcom Diff'rent Strokes in 1978. She'd done musical theater, including Li'l Abner in 1956 and Pickwick in 1965. She'd released an album of satirical songs in 1955, and played Sylvia, the wife of Al Lewis' character, on Car 54, Where Are You? from 1961-63.

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Joël Robuchon, one of the most accomplished and decorated chefs in history, has died at age 73, after a career devoted to injecting new creativity into French cooking and exploring other cuisines. Robuchon had cancer; his death was confirmed on Monday by a spokeswoman at his company in Paris.

Robuchon won more than 30 Michelin stars — more than any other chef in the world, according to his website. His company operated more than 20 restaurants from New York to Bangkok.

Jackson Pollock's painting Number 1, 1949, is a swirl of multi-colored, spaghettied paint, dripped, flung and slung across a 5-by-8-foot canvas. It's a textured work — including nails and a bee (we'll get to that later) — and in the nearly 70 years since its creation, it's attracted a fair bit of dust, dirt and grime.

It has to be said: The dude ... abrades.

For fans who have dreamed about the return of Captain Jean-Luc Picard to Star Trek, actor Patrick Stewart might as well borrow his character's classic catchphrase and say, "Make it so."

It's a role that he hasn't stepped into since 2002, and fans are elated.

There's a type of orchid that resembles a female wasp. And in rare occasions, it will attract a male wasp to pollinate the flower.

That's the image on the cover of Caoilinn Hughes' new book, Orchid and the Wasp. But the relationship represents something heavier in Hughes' novel.

"So I was using this as a way to explore the relationship between the exploited and the exploiter," Hughes says. "And ask the question is it really exploitation if the loser isn't aware of what they're losing?"

Cary Grant. Katharine Hepburn. Spencer Tracy.

They were movie stars immortalized by "the golden age" of Hollywood during the mid-20th century, representing fame and beauty.

Behind the glossy glamour, the stars were also connected by something else: a man named Scotty Bowers who worked at a small gas station at the corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Van Ness — the epicenter of Tinseltown's covert sexual underground.

Tom Lehrer famously said that satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize. And yet here we are, still struggling to exaggerate the follies of power until power can't get around us. Horror has much the same resilience. As terrifying as the world becomes, we still turn to imagined terrors to try and make sense of it.

If you missed the news on Monday, former President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden were spotted dining out at a Washington D.C. cafe, rekindling their Oval Office "bromance" over sandwiches and fennel salad.

But there's also word of another meeting between the two former running mates, in which they team up to [checks notes] solve a murder.

Updated at 8:40 a.m. ET

Chinese authorities are razing one of the Beijing studios of dissident artist Ai Weiwei. He said that demolition crews showed up without advance warning, and have begun the process of tearing down the studio.

Ai has been a longtime critic of the government, and on Saturday, he began posting videos to his Instagram feed of the studio's destruction. "Farewell," Ai wrote. "They started to demolish my studio 'Zuoyuo' in Beijing with no precaution."

Uzo Aduba has won an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series and an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series — but what's really amazing is that she won those awards for the same role in the same show. She plays Suzanne Warren, an inmate better known as "Crazy Eyes" in the Netflix series Orange Is the New Black.

Since Aduba plays "Crazy Eyes" we've invited her to answer three questions about private eyes.

Click the audio link above to see how she does.

Writer and artist Emil Ferris won three Eisner Awards — the highest award in mainstream comics — for her graphic novel My Favorite Thing is Monsters. It's a huge tome, full of inky, scratchy drawings done in ballpoint pen, ranging from loose sketches to lovingly rendered covers of pulp horror magazines.

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