Arts & Culture

Arts & culture

Brad Bird's virtuosic 2004 animated movie The Incredibles is the best superhero film that has ever been made and is likely the best superhero film that ever will be made.

This is a fact — a cold, hard one. The massive, resolute, essential truth of this fact is abiding and irresistible and immovable; it possesses its own magnetic field, its own solar day.

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Filmmaker Paul Schrader grew up in a religious Christian household but he swore he'd never make a film about faith. Instead, he went on to work on the screenplays for the seminal 1970s films Taxi Driver and Raging Bull.

"I was intoxicated by action and empathy, sex and violence," Schrader says of his early work. These themes, he felt, were "not in the transcendental tool kit."

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In Kerala, a tropical slice of a state that runs along India's southwestern coast, people use every part of the coconut tree. The bark is used as firewood. The leaves and husks become mats and rope. The fruit, of course, features heavily in curries, chutneys and stews. The sweet sap can be used to make palm sugar. Or, left to ferment, it can be transformed into a special, mildly alcoholic brew called toddy.

Haider Hammoud often goes tent-to-tent at the refugee camps near the Syrian border asking families whether they've enjoyed their iftar meal. It's the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the Syrian 32-year-old wants to ensure that when the sun goes down, displaced families break their fasts with a taste of home-cooked food.

The personal is most definitely political in Rosalie Knecht's crisp, lively and subversive second novel, Who Is Vera Kelly? The author has sly, intelligent fun with the idea that the mindset necessary to live as a closeted queer woman transfers seamlessly to high-stakes espionage work; a spy and a not-yet-out lesbian are both undercover, in a sense — both are accustomed to subverting identity, using coded language, and seeking out covert action.

Editor's note: The poll is now closed! Thanks for voting.

This year's summer poll has me hiding under the bed — whether or not there's a monster there — because, in honor of the 200th anniversary of Frankenstein, we're celebrating horror. And I, your faithful correspondent, was scarred for life by a battered copy of Cujo I found in a summer house when I was a kid — so I hope you appreciate the sacrifices I'm making here to bring you the best of everything creepy, chilling and downright terrifying.

Outlaws. That's what they were considered when they spray-painted walls and bombed subway cars with modern-day hieroglyphics. They worked in alleys and train yards, bridges and tunnels. Now, many of them are being celebrated in a massive warehouse near Los Angeles' Chinatown.

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As a science columnist for The New York Times, Carl Zimmer had reported extensively about genetics and the role gene mutations play in various ailments. After a while, he got to wondering about what secrets his own genetic code holds.

"I wanted to know if there was anything I needed to worry about," Zimmer says. "We all think back to our relatives who got sick and then wonder, 'Is that in me?' "

IHOP — the International House of Pancakes — is changing its name to IHOb and will now feature burgers, the company said in a tweet that was not posted on April Fool's Day. It remains to be seen whether the change will be permanent or merely a flash in the pan (cake) to promote hamburgers.

The Tony Awards felt a little different this year than they have recently. It was a year without a Hamilton or a Dear Evan Hansen; there was no one original, out-of-nowhere show that came into the Tony Awards as a pop phenomenon. In fact, all four of the four nominated musicals were adaptations of existing properties: SpongeBob SquarePants, Disney's Frozen and the non-musical films Mean Girls and The Band's Visit.

"FOR OUR FANS"

That's the phrase that appears on the screen at the close of Sense8's series finale. And, man: truer words.

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