Pop Culture Happy Hour: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood and What’s Making Us Happy

Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers. (Lacey Terrell)

I sure hope my friends Linda Holmes, Stephen Thompson, Glen Weldon, Jess Reedy, and Emmanuel Johnson aren’t suffering today from the head cold that audibly ailed me on Monday during the recording of today’s Pop Culture Happy Hour. Our subject is A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, the Tom Hanks-IS-Fred Rogers movie directed by Marielle (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) Heller, loosely fashioned after Tom Junod’s 1998 profile of Rogers for Esquire magazine. As I say in the show, this movie’s depiction of the life of a magazine journalist reflects the circa 1998 expectations on which I based career choices that I have, over the last 20 years, had more than one occasion to lament.





Thanks to all of them for allowing me once again to plug my yulemix. You can hear the show right here or via whatever podfeeder brings you your NPR.

Yulemixed Messages: Announcing Side A of my 2019 yulemix, Let’s Talk About Christmas!

It’s quarter ‘til eight p.m. Eastern on Thanksgiving Day, so let’s talk turkey: The first side of the fourteenth mighty installment in my indefatigable Yuletunes Eclectic & Inexplicable series is now available to provide a seasonal, tuneful, treacle-free, and generally baffling soundtrack to your Record Store Day cratedigging and any attendant treetrimming and/or halldecking. I believe this is the earliest in the season I’ve ever dropped one of these, and I expect you, the listener, to give your own merrymaking operations a commensurate boost.

Side A of Let’s Talk About Christmas! runs precisely 50 minutes, as shall Side B, so you can preserve this seasonal salgamundi on a single 100-minute high-bias cassette. Unless I deem it necessary to follow-up with a third or even a fourth side later. Stranger things have happened.

A Moon For the Mediocre: Amadeus, reviewed.

Samuel Adams as “the creature” Wolfgang A. Mozart. (C. Stanley Photography)

To be clear: Antonio Salieri, as self-assessed in the imagination of Peter Shaffer, is mediocre. The Folger’s new production of Amadeus is quite good.

Jaws 3-D: Roland Emmerich’s Midway, reviewed.

Ed Skrein and Luke Kleintank as real-life WWII veterans Dick Best and Clarence Dickinson.

Just in time for Veterans Day, disaster artist Roland Emmerich has made a bid to improve upon 1976’s Technicolor / Sensurround-sound sensation Midway with a more historically-focused (but also more heavily-animated) dramatization of the three-day battle that turned the tide of the war in the Pacific. My NPR review of the movie is here.

In Terminator: Dark Fate, SkyNet Is History But U.S. Customs and Border Protection Remains

Gabriel Luna as the Rev-9 Terminator, which can divide itself in two. (Kerry Brown/Paramount)

No amount of Terminator scholarship is too much if you’re me. So just as the new Terminator: Dark Fate (which bombed over the weekend, but you people keep buying tickets for those The Fast & The Furious movies, so there’s no accounting for taste) is a follow-up to 2015’s Terminator: Genisys (sic) that’s really a sequel to Terminator 2: Judgment Day,

…the piece that I published on Slate tonight is a sequel to my Terminator: Dark Fate review from last week that’s really a sequel to a longish T2 essay I wrote five summers ago for The Dissolve, may it rest in power. When I observed in my review of Dark Fate that the series finally got some of its old zeitgeist-surfing mojo back, this is what I meant.

The Future Is Female: Terminator: Dark Fate, reviewed.

Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor, the cyborg-hunter whom it turns out did not die of cancer in the late 90s.

As in every Terminator movie, the new Dark Fate offers no explanation for why the A.I.—SkyWho? It’s called LEGION now—dispatched only a single cyborg assassin to this time period, or why the human resistance sent only one bodyguard. The answer, of course, is that the one-on-one conceit is just more compelling and dramatic than a platoon representing each faction would be.

My NPR review of Terminator: Dark Fate, a these-were-canon-those-were-not half-reboot in the tradition of Superman Returns and Halloween (2018) is here.

Deleted Scenes: Edward Norton on Motherless Brooklyn and the Ghosts of New York

Cinematographer Dick Pope and director/star Edward Norton on the set of Motherless Brooklyn in 2018. (Glen Wilson/Warner Bros.)

Here are some outtakes from the interview Edward Norton I had on Smithsonian this week, where we talked about his long-gestating adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s 1999 novel, Motherless Brooklyn , out this week. The book is set in the present of when it was published, but Norton has, with Lethem’s blessing, set his version of it in 1957 in an attempt to make something like New York City’s answer to Chinatown. Anyway, I was sorry to see these exchanges go, so I clipped ‘em out and saved ‘em.

I was trying to remember if there are any signposts in the book that mark it as taking place in the present, or in the present of when it was published 20 years ago. I don’t think there are any until we get to the passage where Lionel is talking about how much he loves Prince, and he hears in extended remixes of Prince songs a sort of reflection of how his condition makes him play with language in a way he can’t control. 

You do a version of that in the movie in a jazz club scene where Michael K. Williams’ character is performing, and Lionel can’t stop himself from trying to contribute verbally to the music.

Yes, that’s a very intentional transposition of a part of Jonathan’s book that I loved. The idea of music being a beautiful expression of compulsion. And I thought we could have a lot of fun with jazz and especially Bop, in that era, because if you were ever to say, “What is the Tourretic impulse writ into music?”, it’s Bop. It sounds Tourretic to me, in that it’s impulsive, it’s improvisational, and it loops on itself. It takes things and, just as Lionel says about his brain, it twists them around and reforms them. 

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