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Copyright 2016 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

The middle of summer is when the surprises in publishing turn up. I'm talking about those quietly commanding books that publishers tend to put out now, because fall and winter are focused on big books by established authors. Which brings us to The Dream Life of Astronauts, by Patrick Ryan, a very funny and touching collection of nine short stories that take place in the 1960s and '70s around Cape Canaveral, Fla.

When the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union last month, the seaside town of Port Talbot in Wales eagerly went along with the move. Brexit was approved by some 57 percent of the town's residents.

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This is the first in a series of essays concerning our collective future. The goal is to bring forth some of the main issues humanity faces today, as we move forward to uncertain times. In an effort to be as thorough as possible, we will consider two kinds of threats: those due to natural disasters and those that are man-made. The idea is to expose some of the dangers and possible mechanisms that have been proposed to deal with these issues. My intention is not to offer a detailed analysis for each threat — but to invite reflection and, hopefully, action.


'Argo,' 'Life Of Pi' Win Top Oscars

Feb 25, 2013
Originally published on February 25, 2013 4:26 pm



Okay. The movies "Argo" and "Life of Pi" and the actors Daniel Day Lewis and Jennifer Lawrence were among the winners at last night's Academy Awards. NPR's Mandalit Del Barco was backstage.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO: It wasn't a Hollywood star who announced this year's Best Picture. That honor went to First Lady Michelle Obama via satellite from the White House.

MICHELLE OBAMA: And the Oscar goes to "Argo."

BARCO: The three producers of the Iranian hostage crisis movie bounded onstage to accept their golden Oscars. George Clooney, Grant Heslov and director Ben Affleck, who reminded the audience he once won a screenplay award for the movie "Good Will Hunting."

BEN AFFLECK: I was here 15 years ago, or something, and I had no idea what I was doing. I stood out here in front of you all, really just a kid and I went out, you know, and I never thought that I would be back here, and I am.

BARCO: Affleck's was the story of the comeback kid, a sort of sweet turnabout for his not being nominated in the Best Director category.

AFFLECK: Can't hold grudges. It's hard, but you can't hold grudges.

BARCO: Though Affleck and his film had swept other award shows, not getting an Academy nod for directing still loomed. Backstage, he joked about it with Clooney.

AFFLECK: Naturally, I was disappointed, and a lot of people said, oh, something was going to happen. But when I look at the directors who were, you know, people who weren't nominated as well - I look at Paul Thomas Anderson or Kathryn Bigelow, it's just amazing, you know, or Tom Hooper and Quentin Tarantino, you know, these are all directors who I admire enormously. So it was just a very tough year.

GEORGE CLOONEY: You were in good company not to be nominated.

AFFLECK: Exactly. The five on the bench.

BARCO: Quentin Tarantino also hadn't been nominated for directing "DJango Unchained," but he did get an Oscar for writing the best original screenplay.


JAMIE FOXX: (As Django) Kill white folks and they pay you for it. What's not to like. I like the way you die, boy.

LEONARDO DICAPRIO: (As Calvin Candie) He is a rambunctious soul.

CHRISTOPH WALTZ: (As Dr. King Schultz) What's your name?

FOXX: (As Django) Django - the D is silent.

BARCO: Backstage, Tarantino acknowledged his story about a freed slave turned bounty hunter was controversial for its subject matter and the use of the N word.

QUENTIN TARANTINO: All that criticism that came out, it ended up being kind of a good thing, because one of the things that I wanted to do is I wanted to actually start a conversation about slavery, about America's role in it and to actually take an audience member from the 21st century and stick them in the Antebellum South. And that back and forth is really what I really wanted for the end of the day of this movie, and I...

BARCO: "Django Unchained" also earned a Best Supporting Actor win for Christoph Waltz. The man who did win for its directing, Ang Lee, looked skyward when picking up his award.

ANG LEE: Thank you, movie god.

BARCO: Lee thanked his actors and the team who made his film "Life of Pi" come to life. Backstage, he said the expensive movie was made in Taiwan. The Oscar-winning visual effects house that created the CG tiger in the movie went bankrupt.

LEE: I think it's a miracle that I could make this movie, and then I carried the anxiety for a very long time, for four years. It's a philosophical book and an expensive movie so that's one of the worst combinations, most scary one, and to see how it was played out in the world. so coming in tonight, I just thought everything is good, it's all good.

BARCO: It was all very good for Best Actor Daniel Day Lewis who won his third Best Actor Oscar for playing the U.S.'s 16th president. He thanked three men, including the film's screenwriter and director.

DANIEL DAY LEWIS: Tony Kushner, our beloved Skipper, Steven Spielberg; and the mysteriously beautiful mind, body and spirit of Abraham Lincoln.

BARCO: The British actor told reporters that portraying the American president was somewhat intimidating.

LEWIS: It certainly had a paralyzing quality, the thought that if we got it wrong, which was, you know, perfectly possible, quite likely even, that I might never be able to show my face in this country again.

BARCO: "Lincoln" had been nominated for 12 Oscars, but ended up getting only two for Day Lewis and for the film's production design. "Silver Linings Playbook" won only one award, but a big one.

JEAN DUJARDIN: Jennifer Lawrence.

BARCO: The year's Best Actress winner was genuinely shocked when her name was announced and on her way up the stairs to accept the award, she spectacularly tripped on her pale pink Dior dress and got a standing ovation.

JENNIFER LAWRENCE: You guys are just standing up 'cause you feel bad that I fell and that's really embarrassing, but thank you. This is nuts.

BARCO: Backstage, a reporter asked the 22-year-old if winning the award so early in her career was really such a good thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: You're not worried about peaking too soon?

LAWRENCE: Well, now I am. God.

BARCO: After winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, Anne Hathaway shared an emotional moment backstage.

ANNE HATHAWAY: I had a dream - and it came true and that can happen. And that's wonderful and so that was all I was saying, was that it can and it did.


HATHAWAY: (As Fantine) (Singing) I dreamed a dream in time gone by when hope was high and life worth living...

BARCO: During the telecast, Hathaway and the cast of "Les Miserables" joined onstage to sing. In fact, this year's show was filled with music, Barbra Streisand, Jennifer Hudson and Nora Jones. And in tribute to 50 years of James Bond movies, award-winner Adele and Shirley Bassey sang the "007 theme."


SHIRLEY BASSEY AND ADELE: (Singing) Goldfinger, he's the man, the man with the Midas touch, a spider's touch.

BARCO: This year's host, Seth MacFarlane also came out with a few musical numbers, including one celebrating actresses' cleavage and he delivered more than a few jokes at Hollywood's expense, like this one about "Django Unchained."

SETH MACFARLANE: This is the story about of a man fighting to get back his woman who's been subjected to unthinkable violence, or as Chris Brown and Rihanna call it, a date movie. Oh, oh no.

LINDA HOLMES, BYLINE: The jokes were terrible, the patter was terrible.

BARCO: NPR blogger Linda Holmes says she thought this was worst Oscars show she's ever seen.

LINDA HOLMES: There have been certainly some hosts in the past who've been boring. There have been some hosts in the past who have been awkward. But I think nobody has previously brought this combination of unfunny and, sort of, offensive to lots of different people.

BARCO: Even Star Trek's William Shatner came onscreen to make fun of MacFarlane's hosting.

WILLIAM SHATNER: Your jokes are tasteless and inappropriate and everyone ends up hating you. Why couldn't they just get Tina and Amy to host the show?

BARCO: He was, of course, referring to Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, who successfully hosted this year's Golden Globes Awards, but that's another story entirely. Mandalit Del Barco, NPR News, Hollywood.


ADELE: (Singing) Let the sky fall, when it crumbles, we will stand tall... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.