Christian Petzold's Barbara, set in 1980 East Germany, is a film about watching and being watched. Its central character, the Barbara of the title — played, in a covertly spectacular performance, by the German actress Nina Hoss — is a doctor who's just been transferred by the government from Berlin to the provinces, as punishment for some undefined but easy-to-guess transgression.
For more than 35 years, riders on the New York City subways and buses during their daily commute were graced with posters of beaming young women. While the women featured in each poster — all New Yorkers — were billed as "average girls," they were also beauty queens in the nation's first integrated beauty contest: Miss Subways, selected each month starting in 1941 by the public and professionally photographed by the country's leading modeling agency.
This was a strange and wonderful year for young adult fiction — but also a confused and divisive one. We learned that 55 percent of young adult fiction was read by adults. Debates raged over what constituted a young adult novel versus an adult novel. Apologetic grown-ups sneaked into the teen section of the bookstore, passing subversive teens pattering into the adult paranormal and literature and mystery shelves.
Entertainers are making shifts in their programming because of the killings in Connecticut. The premiere for the violent movie Django Unchained was cancelled and a reality show about a funeral was delayed until January, among other moves.
The Impossible, a feature film opening Dec. 21, is about a family swept away by the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean. It's based on the true story of a Spanish family.
In the movie, they're British — a couple and their three young sons, on vacation in Thailand. It looks like paradise. Then, the earth trembles, and the ocean roars in, bringing with it catastrophe and heartbreak.
The mother is played by Naomi Watts, who spoke with NPR's Melissa Block about the film and its retelling of a grimly familiar story.
If there was a recipe for the best-selling writer Rick Riordan, it would go something like this — start with a love of storytelling, fold in more than a decade of teaching middle school English, combine that with two sons of his own who don't quite share their dad's love of literature, and marinate all of that with a deep passion for mythology.
Riordan has sold tens of millions of kids' books. He hit pay dirt with the Percy Jackson series — it's about an everyday kid who has superhero powers because he's the secret son of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea.
In some ways, the film Not Fade Away is an extension of the friendship between the film's writer and director, David Chase, and its executive producer and musical supervisor, Steven Van Zandt.
Chase, the creator of The Sopranos, first encountered Van Zandt on TV, when Van Zandt introduced the Rascals to the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. Chase soon cast Van Zandt as Silvio Dante on The Sopranos, and the two became close, bonding in particular over their love of pop music from the 1960s.
Mean girls and their ingenious female creators top my mysteries and thrillers list this year. Maybe it takes the special discernment of a female writer (who's presumably suffered through the "Queen Bee and Wannabee" cliques of middle school) to really capture the cruel mental machinations that can hide behind a pair of shining eyes and a lip-glossed smile.