The back half
It's the end of the year, and time to catch up on my output for the last six months. Because apparently I only do these posts twice a year now.
listen to me
I've been writing for NPR since 2011, but had never actually produced a piece for air... until now. For Here & Now, a nationally syndicated midday news program produced by Boston's WBUR, I talked about the Best Foreign-Language Film Oscar and shared some of my (totally wrong) picks for what would make the shortlist. I predict you'll be hearing more from me soon.
My biggest and most rewarding personal challenge of 2017 was teaching myself how to produce, host and edit a podcast. By coincidence I wound up crafting the 100th episode of "The Pub," Current's show about public media. I posed the question: should public media employers be more willing to pay relocation fees for new hires, and what kind of talent are they missing out on when they don't?
The best advice I can give about the experience is: Don't try editing sound in GarageBand. Spring for Adobe Audition or something even nicer. Your full head of hair will thank you.
During a fall sojourn in the Bay Area, I hosted a live Q&A in San Francisco with the director and subjects of the documentary California Typewriter, which I reviewed favorably for NPR.
It was a great experience, and I hope to develop my skills as a live-event emcee in the future. Contact me if you have a film event that needs moderating!
czech it out
By far the coolest thing I got to do this year was cover the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival for IndieWire. In early July I trekked to the Czech Republic resort town to interview honoree James Newton Howard and take a deep dive into how European cinema is wrestling with the most pressing issues on the Continent.
Also, there was a lot of sausage.
I've been writing for Michigan Alumnus for years, and I'm so excited they've recently begun to post their bigger stories online (with a spiffy site redesign, too). The magazine gives me the space to tackle bigger, more ambitious features than I get to write for my usual outlets.
This year I wrote about recent U-M Flint graduate Amir Hekmati, a Marine veteran who was kidnapped and held as a prisoner of the Iranian government for nearly five years until he was released as part of the larger nuclear deal between our two countries. Amir returned home to Flint just as our eventual president was publicly disparaging his family's religion, and just as his hometown was wrestling with a gigantic, self-made public health crisis. To me, Amir's story -- from service to imprisonment to release -- circled many of the larger problems America has had to confront about itself over the last few years. Though he wouldn't grant me an interview owing to his ongoing lawsuit with Iran, I tried to do him justice all the same.
On a lighter note, I also got to write my first-ever music feature, about Ann Arbor funk band Vulfpeck. These guys have become a cult sensation without signing to a major label, and their music-world pranks (like a spat with Spotify) have made national news.
In December, "A Prairie Home Companion" as we know it ceased to exist. Before that happened, I wrote a feature on how the show (which had already been without Garrison Keillor for a year) has progressed under its new leadership. Chris Thile already had an uphill battle with this property; now his challenge has increased tenfold. We may need another update in another year.
A new hopeful PBS show is like "StoryCorps" meets "Finding Your Roots." Thomas Allen Harris spoke to me about embracing family history with "Family Pictures USA" and shooting the pilot in Detroit for the 50th anniversary of the city's civil unrest.
I reviewed Errol Morris's new docu-drama hybrid for Vulture, episode-by-episode. You can find links to full coverage here.
As always, I continued my frantic, insane one-a-week pace of film reviews. All reviews for NPR unless otherwise noted.
I'm a freelance journalist and film critic. Also a loud typist.