As New Jersey mob boss Tony Soprano on The Sopranos, which ran on HBO from 1999 to 2007, James Gandolfini created a character that helped open television to a new era of great and nuanced acting. When he died in Italy on Wednesday at the age of 51, fans around the world were shocked.
And as Fresh Air's television critic David Bianculli noticed, there was an instant online outpouring that celebrated "what an iconic performance he gave us in terms of television."
The revelations about secret National Security Agency programs, leaked by Edward Snowden earlier this month, have stirred great controversy, but this type of surveillance is not entirely new, according to journalist Shane Harris.
In his 2010 book, The Watchers: The Rise of America's Surveillance State, Harris traced the evolution of these surveillance programs in the U.S.
The sculptor Claes Oldenburg was born in Stockholm but grew up in Chicago, went to Yale and came to New York in 1956, where he became a key player in the pop art movement — the major counter-reaction to the abstract expressionism that dominated the 1950s. So much for art history.
Although Oldenburg is a serious artist, probably no artist in history ever created works that were more fun. In a new show at the Museum of Modern Art — really two shows — practically everyone, including myself, was walking through the galleries with a huge grin.
Singer Cécile McLorin Salvant was born in Miami to French and Haitian parents, and started singing jazz while living in Paris. Back in the U.S., she won the Thelonious Monk vocal competition in 2010. The 23-year-old's first album, WomanChild, is now out — and few jazz debuts by singers or instrumentalists make this big a splash.
Few citizens are more honored than military veterans, and there's particular reverence for those who defeated the Nazis in World War II. Like any war, however, World War II was complicated and traumatic for those on the ground, and not a few deserted from the front lines.
Here we go into the wild blue yonder again with Colum McCann. In his 2009 novel, Let the Great World Spin, McCann swooped readers up into the air with the French aerialist Philippe Petit, who staged an illegal high-wire stunt walk between the twin towers of the World Trade Center in 1974. Strictly speaking, Let the Great World Spin was not a Sept. 11 novel, and yet almost everyone rightly read it as one, since McCann's tale commemorated the towers at the literal zenith of their history.
Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week:
One word sums up my reaction to Joss Whedon's film of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing: Huzzah!
Here is the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer — and the director of The Avengers — working with American TV actors who have little or no training in verse-speaking. Who could have predicted such a team would produce the best of all filmed Shakespeare comedies?