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Finding 'Mississippi Masala' in a crowded landscape

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Plus: Why wigs on TV are so bad, 'Five Days at Memorial,' and what's making us happy! by Linda Holme

Plus: Why wigs on TV are so bad, 'Five Days at Memorial,' and what's making us happy! [View this email online]( [Pop Culture Happy Hour]( by Linda Holmes Welcome! It was the week when [we said goodbye]( to Olivia Newton-John. It was the week when Steve Martin made maybe some [retirement-from-acting noises]( but maybe not. And it was the week when an unauthorized musical, once again, was [in the spotlight](. Let's get to it. Opening Argument: Finding 'Mississippi Masala' in a crowded landscape The 1991 romance Mississippi Masala recently got a Criterion Collection release following a 4K digital restoration. It's available on Blu-ray, but you can also stream it on the Criterion Channel — which is how I watched it, after having it recommended to me for many years. Directed by Mira Nair and written by Sooni Taraporevala, the film stars Denzel Washington and Sarita Choudhury. Choudhury plays Mina, a woman whose Indian family lived in Uganda until they were expelled by order of President Idi Amin when she was young. They moved around until they finally settled in Mississippi, and that's where we find them when Mina is in her early 20s. Still living with her parents and not eager to marry as they hope she will, she finds herself drawn to Demetrius (Washington), a carpet-cleaning company owner she meets after a fender-bender. They fall in love, but she keeps it a secret, knowing her family will not approve. When you talk about this movie with people who have seen it and love it, they will often mention in the very early going how gorgeous both of the leads are in it, and it's ... well, it's very true. Nair's camera catches both Washington and Choudhury at a moment of almost impossible beauty, and she shoots their main love scene with unhurried intimacy. Their conversations have a kindness and a playfulness that convey the feeling of falling in love in a way that's hard to get exactly right in this way. It's a film that's emphatically, forcefully, persuasively romantic, in the way people mean when they speak of romantic love, or romantic fiction, or romantic relationships. [Denzel Washington and Sarita Choudhury in Mississippi Masala, 1991.]( The Kobal Collection But it's also a moving family story about the wounds that Mina's father carries from the family's expulsion from Uganda and especially from the fracturing of his relationship with his close childhood friend, a Black Ugandan who wanted him to accept that Uganda was not his home in a way he found impossible. Mina's parents are not loveless or punishing; they are finding their way through their own experiences, and the film is respectful of the fact that when you look closely at a parent who is trying to control a child, you sometimes find a person who has been controlled or hurt themselves. For many years, Mississippi Masala was [part of the discussion]( about the holes in what we often pretend is an "everything is available" streaming economy. It was beloved, it was constantly recommended, but it wasn't easy to actually see through legitimate means. I had been told for so long — you would love this, you have to see this, you would really go for this. When it came to Criterion, the window opened wide, and I encourage you to take advantage of it if you can. The restoration is critical because the movie is so beautiful — and no, it's not just the people, it's also the way the film looks at Mississippi, at colors and landscapes, and at both Demetrius' family and Mina's and the worlds they inhabit. And without spoiling it, I will say that the closing moments of Mina and Demetrius' story are a great example of how you can find stunning beauty in a setting that doesn't necessarily scream "postcard." We talk a lot about the massive quantity of new movies and TV coming out every week, practically every day, and we often think of it in terms of how hard it is for new things to break through. But it's harder for older things to break through, too. This is a 30-plus-year-old movie that in many ways hasn't aged a day, but it's easy for rereleases and restorations to get lost in the shuffle. So when you're making room for the new stuff, the buzzy stuff and the absolutely fresh stuff, it's worth also making room for what has been waiting for years for a window to open. --------------------------------------------------------------- Newsletter continues after sponsor message --------------------------------------------------------------- We Recommend I greatly enjoyed [this Chika Ekemezie piece at Vox]( about why wigs on camera often look bad. It gets into a lot of really interesting questions, including who is represented in wig talk, who has the benefit of budgets being spent on their looks, what expertise is utilized, and whether making a wig look like someone's real hair is even the point. I know you are out there, you Bluey partisans; [here's a piece for you]( straight from NPR's Elizabeth Blair. It's hard to watch because of the subject matter, but there is much to recommend the [Apple TV+ series]( Five Days At Memorial, which is about the days following Hurricane Katrina at a New Orleans hospital where a doctor and two nurses were later accused of intentionally injecting patients with lethal doses of medications. [Prosecutors charged]( Dr. Anna Pou (played by Vera Farmiga), along with two nurses, based on the belief that after facing days of desperate conditions and up against an order to evacuate the hospital, she concluded there was no way of safely evacuating these patients and that the only alternative to euthanasia was to leave them behind in the hospital to die alone. Without taking a clear position on whether this happened or not (Pou denied injecting anyone with the intent of causing their death, and a grand jury declined to indict her), the series tries to give a fair airing to the impossible situation the hospital faced, and to the systemic and long-developing causes of the disaster there. But it also explores and respects the arguments of those, including some staff and patients' families, who believed and still believe that these injections, if they happened, were a grievous wrong that cannot be justified. Our friend Priya Krishna over at The New York Times [did a fascinating piece]( with Umi Syam in which they track down, in detail, the reasons why restaurant tabs are going up. The new Hulu comedy This Fool, which grows out of comedian Chris Estrada's standup, is a broad and very silly comedy that also manages some warmth. All 10 episodes are streaming now, and it's worth a watch if you're looking for something that goes down easy and feels fresh. More details [in the review from Angie Han]( over at The Hollywood Reporter. What We Did This Week [Amandla Stenberg, Maria Bakalova, Chase Sui Wonders, and Rachel Sennott in a scene from Bodies Bodies Bodies, directed by Halina Reijn.]( A24 Stephen [talked to]( Jordan Crucchiola, Kristen Meinzer, and Cate Young about the new movie Bodies Bodies Bodies. Glen [talked to Sam Yellowhorse Kesler]( about the buzzy new Predator film, Prey. Aisha and Samira Ibrahim [talked about]( Desus and Mero, their work, and some of their best moments. Glen [was joined by]( Joelle Monique and Walter Chaw to discuss the Netflix adaptation of The Sandman. Glen and Aisha [talked to NPR's Eric Deggans]( about the legacy of The Wire. I [wrote a review]( of the new Amazon TV adaptation of A League Of Their Own, which I quite liked. Eric Deggans [covered it for the radio](. We have a PCHH episode about it on the way also! (Note: Amazon is among NPR's financial supporters and also distributes certain NPR content.) What's Making Us Happy Every week on the show, we talk about some other things out in the world that have been giving us joy lately. Here they are: - What's making Jordan Crucchiola happy: [Pearl]( and [Prey]( - What's making Cate Young happy: [The Voyeurs]( - What's making Kristen Meinzer happy: [FBoy Island]( and [Romance Road Test]( - What's making Stephen Thompson happy: Lizzo's [Watch Out For The Big Girls]( --------------------------------------------------------------- Stream your local NPR station. Visit NPR.org to find your local station stream. [Find a Station]( --------------------------------------------------------------- [Subscribe to Pop Culture Happy Hour+](. Your support helps make our show possible and unlocks access to our sponsor-free episodes. What do you think of today's email? We'd love to hear your thoughts, questions and feedback: [pchh@npr.org](mailto:pchh@npr.org?subject=Newsletter%20Feedback) Enjoying this newsletter? Forward to a friend! They can [sign up here](. Looking for more great content? [Check out all of our newsletter offerings]( — including Music, Books, Daily News and more! You received this message because you're subscribed to Pop Culture Happy Hour emails. This email was sent by National Public Radio, Inc., 1111 North Capitol Street NE, Washington, DC 20002 [Unsubscribe]( | [Privacy Policy]( [NPR logo]

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