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Nostalgia is a paralytic toxin.

It's killing us slowly, steadily: Every time an old, smarmy sitcom, or a pallid network drama, or a toy ad that masqueraded as a cringeworthy children's cartoon gets dredged from the feculent muck of history's lake bed and rebooted for a contemporary audience, our cultural blood pressure incrementally drops, our collective pulse grows that much threadier, our soft tissues go just a scosh more necrotic. That's because these properties exude nostalgia's deadly poison — they're sticky with it — and there is no antidote.

Leon Vitali was a young and talented British actor on the rise when he signed his soul away to Stanley Kubrick. He'd just given a magnetic performance as the spoiled, seething yet sensitive Lord Bullingdon in the director's droll period epic Barry Lyndon (1975), and offers were pouring in. Instead of acting on them, Vitali decided he'd rather become Kubrick's devoted assistant. He had been lucky enough to earn the good graces of a true master, he reasoned, and you don't let true masters out of your life. Instead, Vitali allowed Kubrick to subsume him into his.

As Beast's handheld camera careens around the isle of Jersey, it's nearly always focused on Moll (Jessie Buckley). But the movie also seems to live inside the young woman's head, which churns with feral intensity and adolescent bewilderment. And Moll, a breakout role for flame-haired Irish actress Buckley, may not even be this murder mystery's title character.

Michael Mayer's The Seagull, a fluid and faithful reading of the endlessly remounted stage play by Anton Chekhov, opens and closes with what looks like the same scene. The curtain has just gone down on a final act, and we hear clapping as the camera moves in to focus on leading lady Irina (Annette Bening, in superb command as always), flushed and beaming under the adulation she plainly can't get enough of. Until, that is, someone whispers troubling news in Irina's ear and rushes her away to — where else?

There are plenty of reasons why many consider Die Hard one of the great action films of the last 30 years: Bruce Willis' reinvention of the Western cowboy as wisecracking everyman, Alan Rickman as his slippery Eurotrash counterpart, the escalating tension within the confined space of a Los Angeles office tower, a script dense with quotable one-liners. But the primary reason is this simple: You always know where people and objects are in relation to each other.

Melissa McCarthy's capacity for sweetness has come full circle.

Her first big role was on Gilmore Girls, where she played the gentle, funny, burbling Sookie St. James. Sookie's dimples, her delightful chirp, and her unrelenting sunniness could have sunk the character as a little bit of a sap, but McCarthy carried it off, using about 10 percent of what she turned out to be capable of.

One of the first shots in the new documentary called, simply enough, Mountain, is of a solo climber hanging from a the face of a cliff, hundreds of feet up ... untethered.

Annette Bening has made her career in film and television, but she hasn't always been comfortable in front of the camera.

"For so many years I was really intimidated ... " she says. "I felt very comfortable on the stage ... I didn't really do movies 'till I was almost 30."

Now 59, Bening has "fallen in love" with filming. "You can get so many things across with the camera that one just can't do onstage," she says.

Benedict Cumberbatch, the deep-voiced, strikingly handsome actor whose roles have ranged from Sherlock Holmes to Doctor Strange, once said there were only two roles on his long-standing acting "bucket list."

One was Hamlet, a role he played in 2015. The other? Patrick Melrose, a role he tackles — and conquers — in a new Showtime miniseries beginning Saturday. Parts of it are wickedly funny; other parts are searingly dramatic. But all of it is riveting, and excellent.

Romy Hall has run out of time and hope. The protagonist of Rachel Kushner's third novel, 29 years old when we first meet her, has resigned herself to the likelihood that she'll die in prison; she's been sentenced to two life sentences for beating to death a man who stalked her. "I don't plan on living a long life," she says. "Or a short life, necessarily. I have no plans at all. The thing is you keep existing whether you have a plan to do so or not, until you don't exist, and then your plans are meaningless."

Some books — not many, but a few — are vastly affected by the moment in which you read them. Not moment in history, or in your life. I mean the exact circumstance in which you sit down and crack the spine. For me, Lara Feigel's Free Woman, a combination of memoir and Doris Lessing biography, is one of those books. I read it on a late-night train home from New York, in that public-private Amtrak silence, with my boyfriend asleep in my lap so that every few pages, I could look down and think, Are you obstructing my freedom?

In first grade, I was hospitalized with pneumonia for over a week. I remember having to take an antibiotic syrup that gave me acid reflux. Immediately after I swallowed it, my Korean immigrant mother spoon-fed me a homemade liquid with small pieces of boiled Korean pear (bae), spices, and honey. This was her take on baesuk, a Korean fruit punch/tea, that she brought to the hospital in a thermos. I remember it lulled my stomach and soothed my throat and chest.

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Novel writers are encouraged to have an elevator pitch — a one-sentence summary of their book that will grab the attention of anyone stuck in a small space with them for the time it takes to move from one floor to the next. It's hard to do right, and some books just aren't high-concept enough to make it work. So when I say that Undead Girl Gang has the new-crowned queen of elevator pitches, it's worth paying attention: When girls start dying under suspicious circumstances, a teen witch raises the dead to figure out who done it and get revenge.

The Weinstein Co. has been cleared to sell its assets to Texas-based private equity firm Lantern Capital Partners.

That was the ruling from a federal bankruptcy court judge in Delaware today. The terms of the deal don't offer a fund for the victims of alleged sexual abuses by the movie studio's co-founder.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

"I want to know who you are and how you came to be a slave." That was one of the first questions that Zora Neale Hurston asked 86-year-old Cudjo Lewis when she traveled from New York to Mobile, Ala., to interview him in the summer of 1927.

Filmmaker siblings Jay and Mark Duplass grew up making movies using their father's VHS camera, but it wasn't until they were in their mid-to-late 20s that their artistic vision really fell into place.

Jay remembers one day in particular, when he was "pushing 30" and feeling frustrated with his desire to do the "impossible artist thing." That's the day his brother Mark announced that he was going to the store to buy tapes for their dad's video camera. Jay had to come up with an idea for a movie before he returned.

Slave narratives tend equally to fascinate and appall. They can represent history, red in tooth and claw, or, in the words of noted multiculturalist Lawrence W. Levine, "a mélange of accuracy and fantasy, of sensitivity and stereotype, of empathy and racism."

The title of Michael Ondaatje's atmospheric new novel — Warlight — refers most directly to the dimmed lights that guided emergency traffic during wartime blackouts, but it applies equally to the cloak of secrecy and uncertainty that blankets this haunting tale.

An unlikely literary hero is getting his turn in the spotlight. He's a little square, but full of personality --and he sprang from the imaginations of writer Mac Barnett and writer-illustrator Jon Klassen.

Barnett and Klassen are the award-winning, best-selling creators of a bunch of picture books, including Extra Yarn and Sam and Dave Dig a Hole.

As Bill Cosby awaits sentencing on his conviction for aggravated indecent assault, prestigious institutions continue to strip the comedian of the accolades bestowed on him throughout his 50-year career.

The latest is the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, whose board voted Monday to rescind the Honors award and the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor that Cosby received in 1998 and 2009, respectively.

Copyright 2018 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Many of chef Lidia Bastianich's earliest memories are of her grandparents' village on the Istrian peninsula, which was part of Italy when she was a small child. The family ate what Bastianich now calls "peasant food," farm-to-table meals consisting of animals they raised and fruits and vegetables they grew.

Later, after Bastianich emigrated to America, she drew on those childhood meals in opening her first restaurant with her husband, Felice. "We brought the simple dishes to a level of service and presentation that was above what it would be in the home," she says.

The new Starz drama Vida begins with what could be an ending: the death of a woman named Vidalia, who owned a building with a bar on the ground floor and apartments above. Her death means that her daughters, both of whom left the Los Angeles neighborhood long ago, must return to make arrangements — among other things, for the future of the building. Emma (Mishel Prada) lives in Chicago and works in business; Lyn (Melissa Barrera) lives in San Francisco and seems to value herself mostly for being beautiful and desired by men.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge released two new photos of the newest addition to the royal family, Prince Louis, on Sunday.

A new HBO documentary tells a story about families with children who have psychiatric disorders that lead to violent behavior.

The first time Rumaan Alam appeared on NPR, Linda Wertheimer asked him how he developed "a nearly flawless ear for the way women talk." His debut novel Rich And Pretty followed two young women, best friends who grow up and, necessarily, apart.

Sometimes it can be such a comfort to forget current events for a little while and lose oneself in a nice cozy slice of history, a moment when a family of greedy, abusive, litigious frauds scrabbled for power using obsequious ingratiation, shameless lies, mounting debt, and outright cruelty — against a national backdrop of rapid economic shifts built on precarious foundations and exploited by corrupt government officials, so the rich got richer and everyone else was ruined. Plus, there's some embroidery!

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Finally today, we revisit the Cold War. It wasn't just an arms race. It was also a battle about values and culture. And one of the U.S.'s weapons of choice...

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