Gerald Wilson, who was also a trumpet player, wrote the arrangements for such greats as Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and Ray Charles. He died Monday at 96 years old. He spoke with Terry Gross in 2006.
Photo- The New York Times/ Getty Images
Today our film critic, David Edelstein, reviews The Drop, starring Tom Hardy and the late James Gandolfini.
In the film, Hardy plays Bob, a lonely bartender who works at a bar in Brooklyn, owned by his cousin Marv (Gandolfini). The place is a “drop bar” for a Chechen mobster laundering money. Later Bob discovers a “drop” of a different kind when he rescues a battered pit bull from the garbage.
"The Drop is directed by Michael R. Roskam, who made an excellent Belgian thriller called Bullhead, and he gives the milieu a layered, lived-in texture. But the film doesn’t have a satisfying shape; its threads aren’t tightly wound. [Writer Dennis] Lehane is clearly taking his cues from the terrific Boston writer George V. Higgins, whose novel Cogan’s Trade became a good 2012 thriller called Killing Them Softly. Higgins found the poetry in garrulous hoods, but Lehane isn’t yet in that league. There’s a psycho played by Bullhead star Matthias Schoenaerts who factors in the climax but until then seems peripheral, and a key plot point turns on a character who disappeared—probably bumped off—ten years earlier, which doesn’t give the narrative much urgency. Nearly every character wears a beard, which makes them hard to tell apart at first glance—apart from Hardy and Gandolfini, of course.
They’re the reason The Drop is worth seeing. The movie does work well as a character study of hoods who’ve learned to take their sorry fate as it comes versus hoods who try to change things—in most cases stupidly—and end up lying in puddles of their own blood. What can you say about a film where the pit bull is the most adorable character?”
On Monday, Maureen Corrigan spoke to Fresh Air about her book, So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came To Be and Why It Endures. When Gatsby was published in 1925 it was a flop, but World War II turned that around. In fact, the Atlantic just published an article about the Armed Services Editions—books that were given to soldiers to keep in their uniform pockets so they had something to read to take their mind off of the death and destruction.
Here’s what Yoni Appelbaum of Atlantic says:
Some of the selections [for the Armed Services Editions] were idiosyncratic. In 1945, Council picked out an older novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald that had never achieved popular success. It sold just 120 copies the previous year, and another 33 in 1945 before going out of print. The 155,000 copies of The Great Gatsby that they shipped out to the troops dwarfed all its previous print runs combined. Buoyed by that exposure, it would go on to become one of the great publishing successes of the 20th century.
Learn more about Gatsby’s incredible revival here.
As the HBO series Boardwalk Empire about rival gangsters, corrupt politicians and federal agents starts its fifth and final season, show creator Terence Winter reminisces on how it began.
In the interview he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross about how he studied gangster films with Martin Scorsese (who directed the pilot episode) in preparation for Boardwalk Empire:
"That entire month of going to Martin Scorsese’s office and watching gangster films with him was the best film course you’ve ever had times a billion. Getting to sit with him watching Rod Steiger’s Al Capone, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, all these classic films, Public Enemy, and to hear his live commentary.
He’s very much about truth and real moments and real performances. He understands the juxtaposition of violence and humor, having an incredibly tense scene and then letting the air out of it, let the audience breathe with a light moment. Some of Martin Scorsese’s films that are very violent, Goodfellas for example, Raging Bull, at times, can be very funny. These guys are so absurd in some ways that you almost can’t help but laugh at them — I think The Sopranos was like that too.”
Today Fresh Air book critic Maureen Corrigan reviews The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. Corrigan says the novel gives readers “the chance to step out of time for a while and into a world richer and stranger than most of us could imagine.”
She encourages readers to try The Bone Clocks, even if fantasy fiction isn’t your cup of tea:
"David Mitchell is one of those writers I’d follow anywhere—even deep into (what is for me) the often-exasperating genre of fantasy fiction. I don’t naturally gravitate to tales about alternative universes, wormholes, or tribbles; but, there are always exceptions and if Mitchell feels like trying out a semi-futuristic vehicle about immortal soul stealers, I’m willing to take a deep breath, step aboard, and say, in the words of Rod Serling: “Next stop, the Twilight Zone.”
As in Cloud Atlas and some of his lesser-known novels, Mitchell’s new book, called The Bone Clocks, is elaborately constructed, jumping around in time and narrative perspective. A friend of mine, who’s also a Mitchell enthusiast, rightly says that his novels are “postmodernist without all the pretentious metaphysics.” What my friend means is that Mitchell’s technical wizardry is there, not for show, but in service to his themes and characters—he’s a deeply compassionate writer. In fact, despite its experimental edge, the main reason to read The Bone Clocks is an old-fashioned one: the draw of a charismatic character named Holly Sykes.”
The Tribute in Light by Steven Kelley and Mark Lennihan via My Modern Met
Abstractions of beach scnenes by Bernhard Lang
Let’s chart all the things!
Today’s interview is with Tim Arango, the Baghdad Bureau Chief for the New York Times. Arango has been reporting from Iraq for nearly five years, and has served as bureau chief since 2011, the year the U.S. completed its troop withdrawal from Iraq. He’s watched the rise of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, and he’s covered the Iraqi government, which under the leadership of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, was seen as corrupt and sectarian, persecuting Sunnis.
TERRY GROSS: Do you think that ISIS would’ve existited if not for the American invasion of Iraq?
TIM ARANGO: No, absolutely not.
GROSS: How did the American invasion help create ISIS?
ARANGO: The Americans come to invade Iraq and I think it’s partly because the Sunnis are going to be out of power. The Americans come in and topple Saddam Hussein, who was Sunni, and there’s been a Sunni elite governing Iraq for centuries and they come in, the Sunnis realize they’re going to be left out of this, they’re not going to be running the country anymore, so resistance movements sprung up. The other thing the Americans did was disbanding the Iraqi army which created a whole group of would-be potential insurgents. So al-Qaida in Iraq is formed and many of the things that the Maliki government has done to alienate Sunnis they learned from the Americans. The Americans taught them how to exclude Sunnis from political life with de-Baathification and things like that. The other thing Maliki has done is these mass arrests of Sunni men and of suspected terrorists and that’s exactly what the Americans did. So as the Americans tried to fight these guys they would do these mass arrests and they could put them in places like [U.S. detention facility] Camp Bucca, most of the leaders of ISIS were in Camp Bucca and they got know each other, they got to plan, they got to hang out, and so every turn in the Iraq story now is the American legacy and the epic American failure in Iraq.
Credit: Jm Lopez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
"Each of these Roosevelts, if studied individually, would be fascinating. But looking at them together like this is a revelation – a sort of storytelling synergy, where the whole ends up being even more valuable than the sum of its parts."
Photo: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt with their children in Washington, DC, June 12, 1919. (credit: Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library, Hyde Park, NY)
This is what happens when I have a giant bouncy ball to sit on at work. Because it’s “good for my core” and “helps my posture.”
Frankie Valli used to be the only name people recognized from The Four Seasons. But the Broadway musical and film Jersey Boys changed that: Now, more people know about Bob Gaudio.
In addition to singing and playing keyboards, Gaudio wrote or co-wrote most of The Four Seasons’ hits, including Sherry, Walk Like a Man, Big Girls Don’t Cry, and Rag Doll.
Today Gaudio joins Fresh Air to talk about his experience in The Four Seasons.
Here he tells Terry Gross how they were different than other harmonized groups:
"I think part of what made us what we are and different than say, the Beach Boys — our closest harmony rivals at the time — was the individuality of the voices. … We didn’t harmonize like the normal blending vocal group. We were four distinctly different voices, unlike The Beach Boys who had this brotherly [sound] — like the Everly Brothers, you know, you just couldn’t tell them apart.
We had characters in the group [and we] had the same issues vocally as we did trying to make music. We had different personalities and we clashed and I’d like to think … that’s part of what made the records what they were. They were edgy, they had some anger in them, they had some passion in them and it made us different than anything else on the radio.”