Contest Winners! Plus: McDreamy Weekend Doings

Bonus: Five Films for Friday

Scroll down (way down to the very bottom) for a "Five for Friday" bonus: Bob Mondello's mini-reviews of five new films.

The film version of the Broadway musical Dreamgirls opens this weekend — but only in three cities. For those who can't make it to the movie yet, we've got a dream roster of alternatives: the season finale of Survivor, an offbeat graphic novel (klezmer shoot 'em up in the Wild East of Europe) and a fever dream of a kids show (rock stars cavort with a goat puppet). And for those who are dreaming of a do-it-yourself Hanukkah, Christmas or Kwanzaa, we've got the winners of our holiday crafts contest to inspire you.

Contest Winners: NPR Listeners Know News, Crafts

Contest Winners

Stephen Colbert Ornament

What better way to celebrate the year than with a dose of truthiness? Click "View Gallery" to see our runners-up. Julie Jackson hide caption

itoggle caption Julie Jackson
Menorah i i

This menorah commemorates two miracles: the oil that lasted eight days so long ago, the gas prices that didn't hit $5 a gallon in 2006. Shirley Short hide caption

itoggle caption Shirley Short
Menorah

This menorah commemorates two miracles: the oil that lasted eight days so long ago, the gas prices that didn't hit $5 a gallon in 2006.

Shirley Short

Julie Jackson's Subversive Cross Stitch Web site (warning: graphic language)

Most end-of-the-year recaps include a plethora of notable news stories. Five for Friday's recap is much easier to digest: It consists of 2006-themed ornaments and menorahs submitted for NPR's first craft contest, from a bulb wrapped in telephone records (we're talking about you, Hewlett Packard) to a candlebrum honoring the eight planets (with apologies to poor, demoted Pluto).

We received photos of more than 100 handmade entries — and a few Photoshopped submissions as well.

And then the difficult job of judging began. Rabbi Jack Moline, Carla Sinclair of Craft Magazine, Phillip Torrine of Make Magazine, and our trusty npr.org staff all felt that two entries really stood out: Shirley Short’s "Rising Oil Prices" menorah was both playful and poignant (and a reminder of the year when $2 gas suddenly seemed like a bargain). And Julie Jackson’s "Truthiness" ornament paid homage to what Merriam Webster has dubbed the "word of the year." We'd like to thank everyone for entering. You can see what our judges had to say about the winners and the runners-up in our photo gallery.

Marc Silver is an editor at npr.org and Melody Joy Kramer is a Kroc Fellow at NPR.

And I'm Telling You, I Am Going — Even for $25

The Details

Movie: Dreamgirls

What It Is: Movie version of the stage smash

Who Can See It:: This weekend, anyone in NY, San Fran or LA who's willing to pay $25 for an exclusive experience. And in 10 days — the rest of us!

A scene from 'Dreamgirls'

Jennifer Hudson (right) may have lost 'American Idol' but she's winning raves (and a Golden Globe nod) for her 'Dreamgirls' turn. Paramount hide caption

itoggle caption Paramount

For the next ten days, in New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco, the three cities lucky enough to have "Exclusive Roadshow Engagements" of Dreamgirls, audiences will be treated to the sort of white-glove treatment that’s been missing from movie theaters for decades.

"Roadshow Engagement" means fewer shows, a souvenir program and ushers showing you to a specific seat in a specific row, the way they would for "live" theater. There'll even be an intermission so no one will have to miss a song to go grab popcorn in the lobby. All of this comes at a price — $25, for the bragging rights to talk about a show only a few thousand other people will have seen before the movie opens wide on December 25.

General admission engagements will follow for a crowd-pleaser of a showbiz saga that’s already being touted as a leading awards contender. Dreamgirls is about a group not unlike the Supremes, and a spectacular singer who gets bounced when the trio starts to hit the big time. The cast features Eddie Murphy, Jamie Foxx, Danny Glover and Beyonce as a singer modeled on Diana Ross. But the showstopper is belter Jennifer Hudson, who's been garnering raucous cheers at preview performances when she sings, "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going." Appropriately enough, Hudson was herself bounced from TV’s American Idol. She'll be going wherever she wants from here on out.

Bob Mondello reviews films for All Things Considered. Scroll down for a special "Five for Friday" bonus: five more mini-reviews from Mondello.

'Survivor': The Amazingly Diverse Race Is Ending

A scene from 'Survivor: Cook Islands.'

CBS divided the teams by race. And then undivided them. So what did it all mean? A more diverse (and nicer-than-usual) cast of castaways. CBS hide caption

itoggle caption CBS

The Details

On TV: 'Survivor: Cook Islands,' season finale

What It Is: The end of a much-hyped (and surprisingly entertaining) season, in which contestants started out divided by race

When: Sunday, 8 p.m. ET (CBS)

Reality television isn't just hard-bodied hammerheads making out in hot tubs. At their best, the genre's top franchises mix the tension of good drama with the uncertainty of sports. Though both shows have had clunker seasons in the past, the long-running likes of The Amazing Race and Survivor generally offer not only unpredictable and tensely edited competition but also endless fodder for commentary on human nature and interaction.

Survivor's tendency to realize this, and take itself too seriously as a result, reared its head in the conception of this season's Survivor: Cook Islands. For the series' 13th cycle, its 20 castaways were divided into four teams by race: five white, five black, five Hispanic and five Asian. That ratings-grabbing idea — to see how race plays a role in what was already a social experiment — produced a happy byproduct: a more diverse cast in terms of not only race but also likeability. In a probable effort not to paint any one racial group as fundamentally unappealing, the show seemed to make more attempts than usual to cast people who don't behave like petty, whiny, showboating creeps with personality disorders. Even better, many of this season's worst offenders have been outsmarted and ousted in delightfully brutal fashion.

Survivor: Cook Islands wraps up Sunday night, with a customary two-hour finale — always a mixture of tense scheming, endurance challenges, plodding filler and self-righteous speeches by a "jury" made up of the losers. This season, fingers are crossed for Yul Kwon, the type of affable, athletic and strategically gifted go-getter who usually gets booted in Episode 5 because all the actor/model/bartenders in the cast resent him. Of course, in this game, betting on the best player virtually guarantees that a moralizing airhead will win the million.

With the rest of the fall reality season winding down — The Amazing Race and America's Next Top Model were, with an equal degree of predictability, both won by models, while Little People, Big World's season finale airs at 8 p.m. ET on TLC — the stage is set for 2007. In January and February, look for an "all-star" edition of The Amazing Race, the return of The Apprentice, and new cycles of Survivor and Top Model, among others.

Of course, all will be overshadowed by American Idol, which means it's just about time for tens of millions of Americans to gather 'round, locked in the eternal debate: "What's the deal with Paula, anyway?"

Stephen Thompson, an online music producer for NPR, will point to this article the next time someone asks him why he's reading Television Without Pity at work.

A Battle of the Klezmer Bands — with Real Bullets

The Details

Graphic Novel: 'Klezmer: Tales of the Wild East' by Joann Sfar

What It Is: A wild and weird (and wildly illustrated) Jewish-Russian musical western

Publisher and Price: Roaring Brook Press; $16.95.

A scene from "Klezmer: Tales of the Wild East"

With watercolors that conjure up Chagall as well as Munch, the French artist Joann Sfar has created a wild world of klezmer music. First Second Press hide caption

itoggle caption First Second Press

Mel Brooks could not have cooked up a wilder, weirder Jewish-Russian musical Western. Set in early 20th-century rural Poland, Klezmer: Tales of the Wild East opens with one group of itinerant Jewish musicians intruding on another band's turf when — bang!— a deadly shoot-out ensues. Clearly, the tiny shtetl just wasn't big enough for both groups. The sole musician left standing in this acerbic yet melancholic graphic novel s Noah (aka Baron of My Backside), a moody loner made even lonelier by the loss of his beloved clarinet. Armed with no more than a harmonica, he attracts voluptuous Chava, and the duo head to Odessa, where more adventures ensue. And there's more to come, since this is only book one of a proposed series.

In expressive watercolors reminiscent of Chagall mixed with Munch, the French artist Joann Sfar depicts an untamed universe with as many unpredictable moods as klezmer itself — klezmer being both the Yiddish word for musician and the name of a style of Russian-Jewish-folk inflected jazz. With frequent references to the great Russian Jewish author Isaac Babel (including lengthy quotations from Babel's stories of Odessa), Sfar creates a sense of continuity between literary traditions even as he invents his own amalgam of art, narrative and music.

In accompanying notes, Sfar discusses his own Jewish identity. He slams religious observance and isn't at all sentimental about shtetl life. But he is clearly searching for a way to connect with the Jewish soul — and he finds it in klezmer music. He also provides a discography for the music his drawings evoke. Among his favorites: CDs by the Maxwell Street Klezmer Band and the Amsterdam Klezmer Band. So light the Hanukkah lights and have yourself a very Klezmer Hanukkah!

Diane Cole is the author of the memoir After Great Pain: A New Life Emerges and a contributing editor of U.S. News & World Report.

Nothing Syrupy About This Pancake Mountain

Goat puppet and singer

The goat is the one on the right. The human is Bright Eyes, aka Conor Oberst, the Nebraska singer-songwriter. Pancake Mountain hide caption

itoggle caption Pancake Mountain

The Details

DVD: 'Pancake Mountain #4 — Episodes 7 & 8'

What It Is: Offbeat children's variety show with silly puppets and indie rockers.

Price: $12 at pancakemountain.com

Okay, so there's this goat puppet named Rufus Leaking. (Get it, get it?... Sigh.) And he gets to hang with George "One Nation Under a Groove" Clinton, the Flaming Lips and even the seemingly angry musician Henry Rollins. And then there's Captain Perfect, a cape-wearing sidekick who does not live up to his name. If this sounds like a flashback to the nutty world of Syd and Marty Croft, you're not far off. Enter Pancake Mountain, an offbeat variety show that has both kids and parents alike tuning in to watch the mayhem.

The Washington D.C.-based cable-access program is the brainchild of filmmaker Scott Stuckey and a small group of friends who serve as the show's actors, designers, writers, artists and puppets. Stuckey created the show to combat what he describes as "dumbed down" children's TV programming. "Dumbed down" it is not, as can be seen on the new DVD set, fourth in a series.

Pulling its name from the theme song by a D.C. indie rocker, Pancake Mountain has grown into something of an institution, both for its oddball sketch comedy (Miss Manners teaches the art of sloppy eating) and as a place for musicians to reach a much younger audience — like ages three to ten. Each episode is framed around a dance party: a rock sock hop for tots featuring a who's who from nonmainstream music scene, including Nebraska's singer-songwriter Bright Eyes and Metric's Emily Haines.

A highlight of the DVD is actress Juliette Lewis, who doesn't always seem to be in on the joke. "Do actors make good musicians?" Rufus awkwardly asks Lewis, who fancies herself a singer. "Before you answer," he adds, "let me say two words: Corey Feldman."

Michael Katzif, a podcasting guru and music writer for NPR, scours YouTube for old Stevie Wonder performances on Sesame Street.

A Quick Glimpse at Five New Films

A scene from 'Charlotte's Web'

A pig and a spider, a dragon and a rider, the sexiest man alive and a Greta Garbo wannabe -- they're just some of the couples in this week's crop of new movies. Paramount hide caption

itoggle caption Paramount

Dreamgirls is only opening on three screens this week. That leaves about 36,000 other screens to fill. Here's a look at five of the holiday season's other new offerings.

'The Pursuit of Happyness'

Will Smith plays a down-on-his-luck salesman caring for a 6-year-old son (played by Smith's real son, Jaden). The guy gets a competitive internship with Dean Witter to try to become a stockbroker not knowing it's a non-paying 6-month gig. Father and son become homeless halfway through the process. Based on a true story, the movie is a little too uplifting for its own good. But Smith got a Golden Globe nomination and is being talked up for an Oscar.

***

'Breaking and Entering'

Jude Law plays an architect investigating a burglary in his office. Juliette Binoche is the mother of the kid who stole things. The two find lots of parallels in their lives, so naturally they start an affair. Written and directed by Anthony (English Patient) Minghella, the film is chilly emotionally but pristine and well-constructed. It opened for a limited run in Los Angeles to qualify for Oscar consideration.

***

'The Good German'

George Clooney is journalist in post-war Germany, Toby Maguire is his army driver who’s involved in the black market, Cate Blanchett is Greta Garbo … er … I mean, a married prostitute who comes between them. Directed by Steven Soderbergh in black and white, using old microphones, the picture has the feel of a post-war film. An exercise in style more than a strong narrative, the movie is hard to follow but easy to admire.

***

'Charlotte's Web'

This live-action adaptation of the classic children's novel gets a computer assist for the spider (and for other critters, too). It's holiday treacle for the under-10 set. Oprah Winfrey voices a goose, Julia Roberts the titular spider and the supporting cast includes the voices of Steve Buscemi as Templeton the rat and Robert Redford as Ike the horse. Wilbur the pig, who befriends Charlotte is voiced by newcomer Dominick Scott Kay. Charlotte is acceptable if not stellar family entertainment.

***

'Eragon'

The title character is a dragon flyer. His winged mount can read his thoughts and he can read hers. Jeremy Irons says things like "before you can cast a spell, you must learn the magic language of the elves" while helping battle wicked king John Malkovich. If the thing had even an ounce of camp it might be mild fun. Instead, it wants to start a Lord of the-Rings-style franchise, and it's more or less insufferable.

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Tales of the Wild East

by Joann Sfar and Alexis Siegel

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