This week, we preview the Academy Awards. The casting director of "Moonlight" talks about the complicated process of finding the right actors for three different time periods. Plus, "La La Land" director Damien Chazelle guides Kurt through the classic Hollywood musicals that inspired his film. And the director of the Oscar-nominated "The Red Turtle" talks about making an animated Studio Ghibli movie unlike any other.
Where do you turn when you're heartbroken in the dead of night? Delilah, of course — her radio call-in show pairs romantic advice with the perfect song. Plus, we discover the surprisingly sweet couple behind one of history's naughtiest gag gifts: edible underwear. And Canadian songwriter Basia Bulat used a broken heart to propel her from subdued folk to floor-stomping pop.
This week, Kurt talks to former NEA chairman Dana Gioia about how the Trump Administration may target federally-funded art. Plus, screenwriter Robert D. Siegel reveals how a real-life story becomes a Hollywood movie. And Karina Longworth and Noah Isenberg take a look back at the legacy of "Casablanca."
This is America's dreamland. It's been 78 years since movie audiences first watched "The Wizard of Oz." Meet the original man behind the curtain, L. Frank Baum, who had all the vision of Walt Disney, but none of the business sense. Discover how "Oz" captivated the imaginations of Russians living under Soviet rule. Hear how playwright Neil LaBute, filmmaker Nora Ephron, novelist Salman Rushdie, and musician Bobby McFerrin all found magic, meaning, and inspiration in "Oz." (Originally aired: November 19, 2005)
Marilyn Monroe's most iconic moment — standing over a subway grate as her white dress billows up — was originally filmed in Manhattan in 1954. But a crowd of onlookers forced the producers to reshoot the scene in a Hollywood sound stage, and footage from that night was thought to be lost forever. Until now. Bonnie Siegler, a graphic designer in New York, tells Kurt how she discovered the film — hidden in her grandfather's house for over 60 years — that captured the moment that became synonymous with Marilyn Monroe. Watch a clip of the lost footage at The New York Times
Our inauguration special: A review of Barack Obama's arts legacy, how fashion goes from inside the beltway to the runway, and "Game Change" co-author John Heilemann talks about the cultural tastes of Donald Trump.
This week, Kurt talks to Adam Driver, an architect tries to build a museum in Iraq, how Sly and the Family Stone created a pop music masterpiece, and Taylor Mac does a decade-by-decade revue of American pop.
Jack Viertel is a human encyclopedia of musical theater. He's the producer of hit Broadway shows like "Hairspray," "Kinky Boots," and "The Producers." And he's also the artistic director of Encores, a New York series that resurrects vintage musicals. Viertel's book "The Secret Life of the American Musical—How Broadway Shows are Built," reveals the essential elements of a musical. This spring, he joined Kurt in the studio to give us all a master class in the genre. (Originally aired April 21, 2016) More of Kurt's favorite conversations of 2016 can be found here.
From "Semi-Living Dolls" to glowing florescent illustrations, artists are using the tools of synthetic biology to grow their own materials and create works of art that are, essentially, alive. It's one thing to wag our fingers at big scientific institutions for "playing God," but isn't it uncool to tell artists they shouldn't do something, even if it creeps us out? (Originally aired May 28, 2015)
The Man in the High Castle, the Emmy Award winning TV series, imagines a world in which the Nazi's won WWII. Set in the 1960s, the show blends actual pop cultural imagery and artifacts with fictional interpretations of an alternative ending to the war. When its first season debuted, the show's ad campaign in New York City subways hit a little too close to home. And the show's second season, which dropped last week, is resonating in a similar way, although this time not so intentionally, just as white nationalists gain exposure in the lead-up to the Trump presidency. "But if it would be hyperbole to treat the series like a documentary, it would be denial to say it plays no differently now than it did before," says James Poniewozik the chief television critic for The New York Times. He joined Kurt in the studio to talk about his most recent article on the series which points to the parallels between fiction and reality.
This week, Kurt creates a crossword with a New York Times puzzle-maker, a neuroscientist explains why so many people share the same false memory, and a theater company brings August Wilson back to his boyhood home.
Kurt Andersen's version of a Christmas story doesn't have your typical talking snowman or mistletoe. Instead, this holiday tale involves extraterrestrial surveillance and melting polar ice caps. "Human Intelligence," was produced for radio by Jonathan Mitchell, and stars Melanie Hoopes, John Ottavino, and Ed Herbstman. The unabridged version was published in "Stories: All New Tales," an anthology edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio.
Nothing takes the edge off the holidays quite like the soundtrack to "A Charlie Brown Christmas" by Vince Guaraldi. The jazz musician and composer always wanted to write a standard. And since the "Peanuts" holiday special first aired in 1965, its score has become one of the most recognizable jazz recordings of all time. In 2012 "A Charlie Brown Christmas" was chosen for preservation in the Library of Congress' National Recording Registry. Its story is told by Jean Schulz, the widow of "Peanuts" creator, Charles M. Schulz; Jerry Granelli, the drummer who played with Guaraldi; and Lee Mendelson, the producer who worked closely with Schulz on the Christmas special. (Originally aired December 14, 2012)
This week, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein's theory of relativity: how Einstein upended the way we see space and time, his effect on pop culture, and how one of his most preposterous ideas was ultimately proven right.
If you take a trip to your local natural history museum, you'll likely discover the story of our planet told through vast collections of species, vibrant dioramas and exhibits on the evolution of life on earth. But historically, these institutions have done a poor job of showing where humans have influenced "the natural world." Some museums include the story of human impact on the environment — endangered and extinct species on display remind us of the dangers of hunting and deforestation — but humans have played an even more direct and intentional role in the evolution of certain organisms. And there's a quirky museum in Pittsburgh that is finally telling that story. Richard Pell is the director of the Center for PostNatural History. He defines post-natural organisms as ones that have been altered by people intentionally and heritably. "Heritably meaning we've altered its evolutionary path in some fashion. It affects its offspring, it's not just a dog with a weird haircut. It's we've bred dogs that have weird hair," he said. By including and preserving these often neglected species, the Center for PostNatural History interrogates the question of where what's truly natural ends and what is influenced by humans begins.
An hour about spoofs, parodies, and lampoonery. Mel Brooks and David Zucker talk about the art of mocking movies. Then, Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost deconstruct action flicks. And a live, unplugged performance by "Weird Al" Yankovic. (Segments in this episode have aired previously)
Sharon Jones burst onto the music scene about 10 years ago — she was backed by The Dap-Kings, a straight-out-of-the-1960s funk band with a fantastic horn section. And at just 5 feet tall, Sharon had all of the funk and spark of James Brown. The band was made up of young hipsters, and while Jones was decades their senior, she'd dance circles around them onstage. She'd lead church choirs and had a day job as a prison guard, before finally breaking into the music business. Her swift rise was cut short by cancer — she died Nov. 18 at age 60. We'd recently featured Sharon in a story about "This Land is Your Land" (she and the Dap-Kings did a terrific cover of the song). In it she explained how Woody Guthrie's spoke to her in a surprising way. Today we're releasing a special extended cut of her part of the story — plus her 2007 interview and performance in our studio.
On the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death, we look at the ways his work continues to change and adapt. In the 19th century, Shakespeare's work got caught up in minstrel shows — and African-American actors are still struggling to claim the Bard as their own. Also, we find out how a father-son team is changing the way Shakespeare sounds by bringing back his original pronunciation. And we go inside the pioneering immersive theater experience "Sleep No More," which might be the longest-running Shakespeare adaptation ever. Segments in this show have aired previously.
Leon Russell passed away last week — he was 74. During the 1970s, he forged a musical career unlike almost anyone else's before or since: an ultra-American mix of country, blues, gospel, and rock n' roll, collaborating with musicians from all those genres. Kurt spoke with Russell in the summer of 2015 when a 40-year-old documentary about Russell's musical career was finally released. Director Les Blank filmed Russell at the height of his stardom in the 70s, but Russell held the release of the film until after Blank's death. "Les Blank is a wonderful documentarian, but I felt like it had a lot of coverage that didn't have to do with me — you know, a lot of sunsets," he explained. Russell also told Kurt about how a childhood injury influenced his artistic development, the provenance of Mick Jagger's famous dance, and his collaboration with Elton John.
On this week's show, novelist Brit Bennett reads from her debut novel, "The Mothers." Plus, Josh Katz gives us a tour of American regionalisms. And Leonor Caraballo and Abou Farman create art in the face of the cancer.
Twenty years ago this week, DJ Shadow set a Guinness World Record for creating an album made up entirely of samples, many of them from LPs he rescued from the 50-cent bin. But "Endtroducing" is also musically and compositionally inventive, and it caught the attention of the hip-hop world. DJ Shadow has moved on, but some of his fans (including Derek John) still haven't gotten over it.
This week: How a former reality TV star was elected president. Then, Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy K. Smith writes a poem inspired by a Baton Rouge protester. And we explore the creation of Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land."