John Powers http://wutc.org en 'A Hard Day's Night': A Pop Artifact That Still Crackles With Energy http://wutc.org/post/hard-days-night-pop-artifact-still-crackles-energy <p>http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OHas50cupCA</p> Wed, 23 Jul 2014 19:15:00 +0000 John Powers 40657 at http://wutc.org 'A Hard Day's Night': A Pop Artifact That Still Crackles With Energy 'Violette' Evokes Exasperating Self-Pity, A Trait The French Like http://wutc.org/post/violette-evokes-exasperating-self-pity-trait-french Americans put a lot of stock in being likable. Pollsters take surveys of the president's likability. Test screenings check whether we like the characters in movies. And when a literary novelist like Claire Messud mocks the notion that fictional characters should be someone we'd like to be friends with, writers of popular fiction attack her for snootiness.<p>You rarely find such disputes in France, which finds our fetish of likability charmingly simple, rather like our shock at politicians committing adultery. Tue, 08 Jul 2014 20:51:00 +0000 John Powers 39969 at http://wutc.org 'Violette' Evokes Exasperating Self-Pity, A Trait The French Like Two Italys Take A Road Trip In 'Il Sorpasso' http://wutc.org/post/two-italys-take-road-trip-il-sorpasso If the road movie has a home, it's surely the United States. After all, the settling of America was itself a kind of humongous road picture — all those wagons rolling across the new continent's spectacular vastness. And with our ceaseless love of movement, we became the first people to be transported — in every sense — by the automobile. Thu, 08 May 2014 17:26:00 +0000 John Powers 37237 at http://wutc.org Two Italys Take A Road Trip In 'Il Sorpasso' Exploring Life's Incurable Soiledness With The Father Of Italian Noir http://wutc.org/post/exploring-lifes-incurable-soiledness-father-italian-noir Although there's no rigid dividing line, fans of the crime genre generally fall into two camps. There are those who prefer stories which, after titillating us with dark transgressions, end by restoring order — the show <em>Law & Order</em> is an aptly named example. And then there are those who prefer stories which, even after the mystery is solved, leave you swimming in the murk — think <em>Chinatown</em>. Wed, 16 Apr 2014 19:24:00 +0000 John Powers 36247 at http://wutc.org Exploring Life's Incurable Soiledness With The Father Of Italian Noir 'Redeployment' Explores Iraq War's Physical And Psychic Costs http://wutc.org/post/redeployment-explores-iraq-wars-physical-and-psychic-costs Here's an old joke you may have heard: "How many Vietnam vets does it take to screw in a light bulb?" Answer: "You wouldn't know, you weren't there."<p>This joke gets told in <em>Redeployment</em>, a stingingly sharp short story collection that itself addresses the gap between the American soldiers who've fought in Iraq and those of us back home. It was written by Phil Klay who <em>does</em> know because he <em>was</em> there. After graduating from Dartmouth, he enlisted in the Marines and served as a public affairs officer in Anbar province during the 2007 troop surge. Wed, 26 Mar 2014 18:50:00 +0000 John Powers 35336 at http://wutc.org 'Redeployment' Explores Iraq War's Physical And Psychic Costs Remembering Harold Ramis, Master Of The 'Smart Dumb-Movie' http://wutc.org/post/remembering-harold-ramis-master-smart-dumb-movie Transcript <p>DAVE DAVIES, HOST: <p>This is FRESH AIR. Harold Ramis, who died earlier this week, was a writer, director and actor who played a key role in several of the most popular comedies of the last half-century. His list of credits includes "Animal House," "Caddyshack," "Meatballs," "Stripes," "Ghostbusters," and of course "Groundhog Day." Our critic-at-large John Powers is a fan and says there was more going on in Ramis' work than you might think.<p>JOHN POWERS, BYLINE: Back in the '90s I was talking to a DP who'd been working on a Hollywood comedy. Thu, 27 Feb 2014 19:36:00 +0000 John Powers 34206 at http://wutc.org For A Rabbi Who Worked With The Nazis, Is Judgment 'Unjust'? http://wutc.org/post/rabbi-who-worked-nazis-judgment-unjust When you're faced with something as heinous as the Holocaust, it's tempting to turn it into a simple morality play. This isn't to say one can't pass moral judgments — Hitler and his cohort were undeniably evil. But judging can become a form of lazy evasion, a way of closing the book on the tricky realities of failure, guilt and complicity.<p>Those complexities lie at the heart of <em>The Last of the Unjust</em>, the new documentary by Claude Lanzmann, the prickly Frenchman whose 1985 work <em>Shoah</em> is often called the best film about the Holocaust. Wed, 19 Feb 2014 19:11:00 +0000 John Powers 33856 at http://wutc.org For A Rabbi Who Worked With The Nazis, Is Judgment 'Unjust'? 'Borgen' Is Denmark's 'West Wing' (But Even Better) http://wutc.org/post/borgen-denmarks-west-wing-even-better <em>The Danish television series Borgen about a female party leader who unexpectedly becomes Denmark's prime minister was a hit in its home country and in the U.K. It won numerous international prizes, and a cult following in the U.S. after its sporadic TV broadcasts — Stephen King named it his favorite piece of pop culture of 2012. Tue, 04 Feb 2014 17:48:00 +0000 John Powers 33247 at http://wutc.org 'Borgen' Is Denmark's 'West Wing' (But Even Better) Three Protesters, One 'Square': Film Goes Inside Egypt's Revolution http://wutc.org/post/three-protesters-one-square-film-goes-inside-egypts-revolution A revolution is a bit like a writing a mystery novel. It's hard to start but even harder to come up with a satisfying ending.<p>They're still working on that in Egypt. Three years after the toppling of dictator Hosni Mubarak — the crowning moment of the Arab Spring — the army's running the country again; the elected president, Mohammed Morsi, has been arrested and charged with treason; the Muslim Brotherhood has been banned; and Tahrir Square's secular protesters are getting arrested. Mon, 13 Jan 2014 19:01:00 +0000 John Powers 32405 at http://wutc.org Three Protesters, One 'Square': Film Goes Inside Egypt's Revolution Frustrating Heroine Stars In Fresh, Feminist 'Nightingale' http://wutc.org/post/danish-nightingale-freshly-femininst-and-also-frustrating There's an unforgettable moment in the diary of the great Polish writer Witold Gombrowicz. He's on the beach and he spots a beetle that's been blown on its back by the wind and now lies there helplessly, legs wiggling, unable to right itself. Gombrowicz saves it by turning it over. He sees another upside-down beetle, and turns <em>it</em> over. Then, another. Looking along the sand, he realizes that there are so many beetles he can't possibly save them all. Eventually, he gives up trying.<p>Most of us would do the same. But not everyone is capable of stopping. Tue, 10 Dec 2013 18:00:00 +0000 John Powers 31110 at http://wutc.org Frustrating Heroine Stars In Fresh, Feminist 'Nightingale' 'Great Beauty,' 'Narco Cultura': Excess, Succeeding Wildly http://wutc.org/post/great-beauty-narco-cultura-excess-succeeding-wildly In <em>The Marriage of Heaven and Hell</em>, William Blake served up one of those mind-bending proverbs he's known for: "The road of excess leads," he wrote, "to the palace of wisdom." I thought about this line as I watched two terrific new movies that put Blake's words to the test.<p>Paolo Sorrentino's thrillingly good <em>The Great Beauty</em> tackles the idea head-on — it's an excessive film about excess. Sorrentino doesn't merely aim to update one of the most famous movies of all time (Fellini's portrait of decadent Rome, <em>La Dolce Vita</em>). Tue, 19 Nov 2013 17:30:00 +0000 John Powers 30274 at http://wutc.org 'Great Beauty,' 'Narco Cultura': Excess, Succeeding Wildly Female Friendship Puts 'New' Angle On Italian Classism And Machismo http://wutc.org/post/female-friendship-puts-new-angle-italian-classism-and-machismo Some writers you read and move on, but every now and then you read one whose work knocks you back against the wall. This happened to me with the great Italian novelist Elena Ferrante.<p>I first encountered her through her scalding 2002 novel, <em>The Days Of Abandonment</em>, whose narrator, Olga, may be the scariest jilted wife since Medea. Mon, 04 Nov 2013 20:01:00 +0000 John Powers 29614 at http://wutc.org Female Friendship Puts 'New' Angle On Italian Classism And Machismo 'Masters Of Sex' Get Unmasterful Treatment On Showtime http://wutc.org/post/masters-sex-get-unmasterful-treatment-showtime Way back in the 1950s — before people tweeted snapshots of their privates or posted their hookup diaries online — it was considered inappropriate to talk too much about sex. The guardians of culture treated it as something better kept in the dark.<p>Two pioneers who helped bring sexuality into the light were William Masters and his colleague turned wife, Virginia Johnson, who became perhaps the '60s' unlikeliest icons. Thu, 26 Sep 2013 18:50:00 +0000 John Powers 27957 at http://wutc.org 'Masters Of Sex' Get Unmasterful Treatment On Showtime Aussie Detective Jack Irish Is More Than Old-School Macho http://wutc.org/post/aussie-detective-jack-irish-more-old-school-macho When Raymond Chandler first set Philip Marlowe walking down the mean streets of L.A., he couldn't have imagined that eventually <a href="http://www.npr.org/series/13795507/crime-in-the-city"><em>every</em> city</a>, from ancient Athens to 21st<sup></sup> century <a href="http://www.npr.org/2007/08/21/13761137/beyond-sex-and-tourists-in-john-burdetts-bangkok">Bangkok</a>, would have its own detective series. Of course, they're not all equally good. Thu, 22 Aug 2013 17:57:00 +0000 John Powers 26394 at http://wutc.org Aussie Detective Jack Irish Is More Than Old-School Macho Addictive 'Infatuations' Takes A Metaphysical Look At Crime http://wutc.org/post/addictive-infatuations-takes-metaphysical-look-crime If you're like me, you probably feel exhausted just thinking about how much cultural stuff is out there. A friend recently told me he was reading an acclaimed Hungarian novelist whose books I've never opened. "Please tell me he stinks," I begged, "so I don't have to read him."<p>"Actually, he's great," came the reply, and I groaned. Mon, 12 Aug 2013 16:43:00 +0000 John Powers 25938 at http://wutc.org Addictive 'Infatuations' Takes A Metaphysical Look At Crime