Fresh Air

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Music Reviews
10:31 am
Tue February 21, 2012

'Barchords': An Intense, Pensive Album About Love

Afie Jurvanen
Dave Gillespie All Eyes Media

Originally published on Wed March 14, 2012 9:54 am

The song "I Got You Babe," on Bahamas' new album, Barchords, is obviously not Sonny and Cher's "I Got You Babe." This version is an original song the Canadian singer-songwriter Afie Jurvanen, who records under the stage name Bahamas, has written about holding and losing someone.

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Author Interviews
11:01 am
Mon February 20, 2012

'New Yorker' Cartoonist Imagines Washington At 7

Through his many New Yorker covers, Barry Blitt has become one of the pre-eminent satirical cartoonists of America's recent presidents. He is probably best known for his controversial 2008 cover of Michelle and Barack Obama, dressed as a Muslim and a militant with an AK-47, fist-bumping in the Oval Office.

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Music Interviews
1:53 am
Mon February 20, 2012

Bret McKenzie: A Very Manly Muppet [Extended Cut]

Bret McKenzie (left) wrote five of the songs in The Muppets, including the Oscar-nominated "Man or Muppet" and the opening number, "Life's a Happy Song."
Andrew Macpherson Disney

A shorter version of this interview was broadcast on Feb. 13, 2012.

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Fresh Air Weekend
1:36 am
Sat February 18, 2012

Fresh Air Weekend: Viola Davis, Nathan Englander

Viola Davis earned her first Oscar nomination with a small but memorable role in Doubt; she also has won a pair of Tony Awards for her work on Broadway.
Chris Pizzello AP

Originally published on Mon February 20, 2012 11:48 am

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors, and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

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Movie Interviews
8:59 am
Fri February 17, 2012

Michelle Williams: The Fresh Air Interview

Actress Michelle Williams was recently nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in Blue Valentine. In Meek's Cutoff, she plays a bold settler named Emily Tetherow.
Matt Sayles AP Photo

This interview was originally broadcast on April 14, 2011. Michelle Williams just received a Best Actress nomination for her performance in My Week With Marilyn.

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Movie Reviews
3:08 pm
Thu February 16, 2012

A Veteran's 'Return' To The Front Lines Of Home

Linda Cardellini plays a vet who returns from overseas with no way to make sense of where she was and what it meant in director Liza Johnson's new drama Return.
Dada Films

Originally published on Fri February 17, 2012 12:36 pm

The coming-home genre is so rife with stock ingredients that first I'd like to tell you what Liza Johnson's very fine drama Return doesn't do. The camera doesn't move in on returning-veteran Kelli, played by Linda Cardellini, as the sound of battle rises and she's back in her head on the front lines. The film doesn't give you what I call the "psychodrama striptease," in which a past trauma is revealed piece by piece until you're finally, at the end, shown the essential bit.

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Theater
10:48 am
Thu February 16, 2012

Stephen Sondheim: Examining His Lyrics And Life

Sondheim, shown here in 1974, won the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for Sunday in the Park with George. He has also received eight Tony Awards, eight Grammy awards and a Kennedy Center Honor.
Hulton Archive Getty Images

Stephen Sondheim's 1981 musical Merrily We Roll Along is in the middle of a two-week run at the New York City Center as part of an Encores! Production. Portions of the interview running today were originally broadcast on April 21, 2010 and Oct. 28, 2010.

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Author Interviews
10:26 am
Wed February 15, 2012

Nathan Englander: Assimilating Thoughts Into Stories

Nathan Englander grew up in an Orthodox Jewish family. He now splits his time between New York and Madison, Wis.
Juliana Sohn

The stories in Nathan Englander's new collection are based largely on his experiences growing up as a modern Orthodox Jew with an overprotective mother.

In What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, Englander writes about his own faith — and what it means to be Jewish — in stories that explore religious tension, Israeli-American relations and the Holocaust.

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Book Reviews
10:01 am
Wed February 15, 2012

More Than Melancholy: 'In-Flight' Stories Soar

Random House

The Brits: You've got to hand it to them. The Empire may be long gone, but they still reign supreme when it comes to effortlessly exuding mordant wit. For anyone who savors the acerbic literary likes of Evelyn Waugh or the Amises, father and son, Helen Simpson is just the ticket.

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Author Interviews
10:20 am
Tue February 14, 2012

The History Of The FBI's Secret 'Enemies' List

J. Edgar Hoover was the first director of the FBI. He introduced fingerprinting and forensic techniques to the crime-fighting agency, and pushed for stronger federal laws to punish criminals who strayed across state lines. He also kept secret files on more than 20,000 Americans he deemed "subversive."
Anonymous Library of Congress

Originally published on Tue February 14, 2012 11:16 am

Four years after Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Tim Weiner published Legacy of Ashes, his detailed history of the CIA, he received a call from a lawyer in Washington, D.C.

"He said, 'I've just gotten my hands on a Freedom of Information Act request that's 26 years old for [FBI Director] J. Edgar Hoover's intelligence files. Would you like them?' " Weiner tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "And after a stunned silence, I said, 'Yes, yes.' "

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Movie Interviews
11:09 am
Mon February 13, 2012

Viola Davis: The Fresh Air Interview

Minny (Octavia Spencer) and Aibileen (Davis) are two domestics who team up with a writer to break the code of silence about the conditions they work under in 1960s Mississippi.
Dale Robinette Dreamworks Pictures

Actress Viola Davis has been nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of the maid Aibileen in the film The Help, set in 1960s Mississippi. But not everyone has applauded the film, which has been criticized for its portrayal of black domestic servants in the civil rights era.

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Music Interviews
10:34 am
Mon February 13, 2012

'Conchords': Musical Comedy from Clueless Kiwis

Jemaine Clement (left) and Bret McKenzie: Witty musical parodists play witless musicians in Flight of the Conchords.
HBO

Originally published on Mon February 13, 2012 10:29 pm

This interview was originally broadcast on June 14, 2007. You can listen to the complete interview with Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie here.

Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie, aka the folk-parody band Flight of the Conchords, hail from New Zealand. They were named best alternative-comedy act at the 2005 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival.

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Music Interviews
10:06 am
Mon February 13, 2012

Bret McKenzie: A Manly Muppet And A Muppet Of A Man

Bret McKenzie (left) wrote five of the songs in The Muppets, including the Oscar-nominated "Man or Muppet" and the opening number, "Life's a Happy Song."
Andrew Macpherson Disney

Songwriter Bret McKenzie makes up one half of the New Zealand comedy rock duo Flight of the Conchords. He also wrote five of the songs in the new Muppet movie, including "Man or Muppet," one of two songs nominated for Best Original Song at this year's Academy Awards.

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Movie Interviews
9:05 am
Fri February 10, 2012

'The Interrupters': Keeping Peace On The Streets

Ameena Matthews, a violence interrupter with the Chicago organization CeaseFire, mediates disputes to prevent gang violence from escalating.
Aaron Wickenden Kartemquin Films

Originally published on Fri February 10, 2012 11:19 am

This interview was originally broadcast on Aug. 1, 2011. The Interrupters will be broadcast on Frontline on Feb. 14, 2012.

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Book Reviews
11:37 am
Thu February 9, 2012

Scrappy 'Girlchild' Forms A Girl Scout Troop Of One

You'd think that, by now, the news that Americans are spoiling their children would be as attention-getting as the fabled headline, "dog bites man," but, apparently, we never weary of hearing about how bad we're doing as parents. Last year, it was the Tiger Mom; this year, a hot new book called Bringing Up Bebe, tells us that the French have us beat by an indifferent shrug when it comes to the art of raising independent kids.

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Fresh Air Weekend
11:22 am
Thu February 9, 2012

Fresh Air Weekend: Meryl Streep, Yoga

Meryl Streep stars as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in Phyllida Lloyd's The Iron Lady.
The Weinstein Company

Originally published on Sat February 11, 2012 10:58 am

Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors, and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:

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Movie Reviews
11:11 am
Thu February 9, 2012

'Safe House,' 'Haywire': Watch Them Back To Back

Mixed martial arts fighter Gina Carano stars as Mallory Kane, a highly trained covert operative, in a twisty, tautly wrought thriller.
Claudette Barius Relativity Media

Originally published on Fri February 10, 2012 11:19 am

The flashy Denzel Washington thriller Safe House will probably gross in a few hours what Steven Soderbergh's Haywire has made in several weeks, but if you like action you ought to catch both back to back. Soderbergh's film is a reaction to the jangled, high-impact style of Safe House and its ilk.

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Poetry
10:57 am
Wed February 8, 2012

Donald Hall: A Poet's View 'Out The Window'

Poet Donald Hall spends much of his time in his blue armchair, looking at the landscape out his window. The 83-year-old former poet laureate has lived for years on the same New Hampshire farm that his grandparents used to own, and still writes in the room he slept in as a child.

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Music Reviews
10:28 am
Wed February 8, 2012

Chuck Prophet's 'Beautiful' Homage To San Francisco

Chuck Prophet.
Charlie Homo

Chuck Prophet's new album, Temple Beautiful, takes its name from a former synagogue that hosted punk-rock shows in the late '70s and early '80s; it was next door to the temple overseen by cult leader Jim Jones. That may sound like a grim or black-humored reference point around which to erect an album, but with Prophet, grimness, humor, fact and fiction mingle freely. Before anything else, he's a guitar player with a melodically nasal voice whose phrasing favors the whimsical and the querulous.

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Author Interviews
9:42 am
Wed February 8, 2012

Finding 'Life, Death, And Hope' In A Mumbai Slum

cover detail

Originally published on Wed February 8, 2012 11:01 am

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Katherine Boo spent more than three years in Mumbai's Annawadi slum to do research for her new book, Behind the Beautiful Forevers. Residents of the slum — which is located next to the Mumbai airport and in the shadow of several luxury hotels — live in devastating poverty.

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Television
9:31 am
Wed February 8, 2012

Two Rowdy Talk Shows Showcase Vintage Humor

Writers for Sid Caesar include Mel Brooks (front, lower right corner) and Neil Simon (back row, upper left corner.)
courtesy of Michael Hirsh

The two DVDs I want to talk about today are hilarious, but they aren't sitcoms. They're talk shows — well, one's a talk show, and one's a filmed seminar. But they're both fascinating examples of a specific pop-culture moment frozen in time.

And they're something else as well: Both are highly entertaining real-time examples of talk-show Darwinism. Both shows feature a large, unwieldy guest roster, all of the guests competing for attention at the same time — and by the time the programs are over, the winners are apparent.

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Author Interviews
10:34 am
Tue February 7, 2012

The Risks And Rewards Of Practicing Yoga

Five people on a beach stand in the warrior pose.
iStockphoto.com

Twenty million people practice yoga in the United States. William Broad, a Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer for The New York Times, is one of them. Broad started doing yoga as a freshman in college in 1970 and has been practicing ever since.

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Music Reviews
10:01 am
Tue February 7, 2012

Matt Wilson: Trios, Quartets And 'Don Knotts'

Like a comedian, drummer Matt Wilson knows about offhand dexterity and split-second timing.
Courtesy of the artist

Originally published on Wed February 8, 2012 9:35 am

Brooklyn drummer Matt Wilson keeps busy with many bands and projects — other people's and his own. Two new Wilson albums find him as part of a co-op all-star trio, and at the helm of one of his own quartets. Part of Wilson's appeal is that he keeps things light, in a good way.

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Movie Interviews
10:36 am
Mon February 6, 2012

Meryl Streep: The Fresh Air Interview

As of 2012, Meryl Streep holds the record for the actor with the most Academy Award nominations — her tally stands at 17.
Kevin Winter Getty Images

Originally published on Tue February 7, 2012 9:39 am

Meryl Streep is known for completely enveloping herself in her characters, capturing their nuances, speech patterns and personalities. In her films, she's transformed herself into such disparate people as the chef Julia Child, the writer Susan Orlean and plutonium-plant worker Karen Silkwood, winning countless honors and awards along the way.

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Music Interviews
10:17 am
Fri February 3, 2012

A Studio On The Road To 'Fame' For Soul Musicians

Ace Records

Rick Hall and Billy Sherrill were a couple of Alabama boys in their teens when they started writing songs. At first, the only place they had to record was in a room in the back of the Trailways bus station in Florence, Ala. But one of the songs they recorded there, "Sweet and Innocent," became a small local hit, and a guy named Tom Stafford read about it in the local paper. He built a recording studio above City Drugs in Florence and went into business with the two young men. It didn't last long: Sherrill was hugely ambitious and was soon off to Nashville.

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