John Powers en Exploring Life's Incurable Soiledness With The Father Of Italian Noir Although there's no rigid dividing line, fans of the crime genre generally fall into two camps. There are those who prefer stories which, after titillating us with dark transgressions, end by restoring order — the show <em>Law & Order</em> is an aptly named example. And then there are those who prefer stories which, even after the mystery is solved, leave you swimming in the murk — think <em>Chinatown</em>. Wed, 16 Apr 2014 19:24:00 +0000 John Powers 58659 at 'Redeployment' Explores Iraq War's Physical And Psychic Costs Here's an old joke you may have heard: "How many Vietnam vets does it take to screw in a light bulb?" Answer: "You wouldn't know, you weren't there."<p>This joke gets told in <em>Redeployment</em>, a stingingly sharp short story collection that itself addresses the gap between the American soldiers who've fought in Iraq and those of us back home. It was written by Phil Klay who <em>does</em> know because he <em>was</em> there. After graduating from Dartmouth, he enlisted in the Marines and served as a public affairs officer in Anbar province during the 2007 troop surge. Wed, 26 Mar 2014 18:50:00 +0000 John Powers 57050 at Remembering Harold Ramis, Master Of The 'Smart Dumb-Movie' Transcript <p>DAVE DAVIES, HOST: <p>This is FRESH AIR. Harold Ramis, who died earlier this week, was a writer, director and actor who played a key role in several of the most popular comedies of the last half-century. His list of credits includes "Animal House," "Caddyshack," "Meatballs," "Stripes," "Ghostbusters," and of course "Groundhog Day." Our critic-at-large John Powers is a fan and says there was more going on in Ramis' work than you might think.<p>JOHN POWERS, BYLINE: Back in the '90s I was talking to a DP who'd been working on a Hollywood comedy. Thu, 27 Feb 2014 19:36:00 +0000 John Powers 54890 at For A Rabbi Who Worked With The Nazis, Is Judgment 'Unjust'? When you're faced with something as heinous as the Holocaust, it's tempting to turn it into a simple morality play. This isn't to say one can't pass moral judgments — Hitler and his cohort were undeniably evil. But judging can become a form of lazy evasion, a way of closing the book on the tricky realities of failure, guilt and complicity.<p>Those complexities lie at the heart of <em>The Last of the Unjust</em>, the new documentary by Claude Lanzmann, the prickly Frenchman whose 1985 work <em>Shoah</em> is often called the best film about the Holocaust. Wed, 19 Feb 2014 19:35:00 +0000 John Powers 54342 at 'Borgen' Is Denmark's 'West Wing' (But Even Better) <em>The Danish television series Borgen about a female party leader who unexpectedly becomes Denmark's prime minister was a hit in its home country and in the U.K. It won numerous international prizes, and a cult following in the U.S. after its sporadic TV broadcasts — Stephen King named it his favorite piece of pop culture of 2012. Tue, 04 Feb 2014 17:48:00 +0000 John Powers 53457 at Three Protesters, One 'Square': Film Goes Inside Egypt's Revolution A revolution is a bit like a writing a mystery novel. It's hard to start but even harder to come up with a satisfying ending.<p>They're still working on that in Egypt. Three years after the toppling of dictator Hosni Mubarak — the crowning moment of the Arab Spring — the army's running the country again; the elected president, Mohammed Morsi, has been arrested and charged with treason; the Muslim Brotherhood has been banned; and Tahrir Square's secular protesters are getting arrested. Mon, 13 Jan 2014 19:01:00 +0000 John Powers 52044 at Frustrating Heroine Stars In Fresh, Feminist 'Nightingale' There's an unforgettable moment in the diary of the great Polish writer Witold Gombrowicz. He's on the beach and he spots a beetle that's been blown on its back by the wind and now lies there helplessly, legs wiggling, unable to right itself. Gombrowicz saves it by turning it over. He sees another upside-down beetle, and turns <em>it</em> over. Then, another. Looking along the sand, he realizes that there are so many beetles he can't possibly save them all. Eventually, he gives up trying.<p>Most of us would do the same. But not everyone is capable of stopping. Tue, 10 Dec 2013 18:00:00 +0000 John Powers 49835 at 'Great Beauty,' 'Narco Cultura': Excess, Succeeding Wildly In <em>The Marriage of Heaven and Hell</em>, William Blake served up one of those mind-bending proverbs he's known for: "The road of excess leads," he wrote, "to the palace of wisdom." I thought about this line as I watched two terrific new movies that put Blake's words to the test.<p>Paolo Sorrentino's thrillingly good <em>The Great Beauty</em> tackles the idea head-on — it's an excessive film about excess. Sorrentino doesn't merely aim to update one of the most famous movies of all time (Fellini's portrait of decadent Rome, <em>La Dolce Vita</em>). Tue, 19 Nov 2013 17:30:00 +0000 John Powers 48437 at Female Friendship Puts 'New' Angle On Italian Classism And Machismo Some writers you read and move on, but every now and then you read one whose work knocks you back against the wall. This happened to me with the great Italian novelist Elena Ferrante.<p>I first encountered her through her scalding 2002 novel, <em>The Days Of Abandonment</em>, whose narrator, Olga, may be the scariest jilted wife since Medea. Mon, 04 Nov 2013 20:01:00 +0000 John Powers 47167 at 'Masters Of Sex' Get Unmasterful Treatment On Showtime Way back in the 1950s — before people tweeted snapshots of their privates or posted their hookup diaries online — it was considered inappropriate to talk too much about sex. The guardians of culture treated it as something better kept in the dark.<p>Two pioneers who helped bring sexuality into the light were William Masters and his colleague turned wife, Virginia Johnson, who became perhaps the '60s' unlikeliest icons. Thu, 26 Sep 2013 18:50:00 +0000 John Powers 44761 at