John Powers | KUNR

John Powers

It's often said that we regret the things we don't do more than the ones we do. Each December, I'm haunted by all the books, movies and shows that I've loved but haven't managed to get on the air. Wailing in my ear and rattling my shelves, these neglected spirits come together to demand their rightful places on what I call my annual Ghost List.

Paddington 2 (available on DVD, HBO, and streaming on multiple platforms)

Copyright 2020 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

Ever since I was young, I've loved stories set in the far-flung reaches of the West's many empires — from the British Raj of E. M. Forster's A Passage to India to the surreal Vietnam of Apocalypse Now. And I still love them, though I now realize that they usually look at other cultures from the vantage point of outsiders, even intruders.

Copyright 2020 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Near the end of John Le Carré's great spy novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, one of the agents notices that his car's passenger door is unlocked. He instantly begins wondering how that happened. "Survival," he thinks, "is an infinite capacity for suspicion."

That capacity gets put to the test in Bodyguard, a new BBC series created by Jed Mercurio, who's known for his compelling shows about the dark side of public institutions.

Everyone is familiar with the official film genres, like the Western or the romantic comedy. But most of us divide movies into less intellectual categories.

There are movies that everybody has to see, like A Star is Born. There are movies you couldn't pay me to see; in my case, that's anything with the word "Saw" in its title. And then there are movies we know we ought to see but dread having to go.

Copyright 2020 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Earlier this year the Man Booker International Prize, given for the best book of the year translated into English, was given to "Flights," a work of fiction by the Polish writer Olga Tokarczuk. "Flights" is now being published in America by Riverhead Books, and our critic-at-large John Powers says it's a revelation.

Copyright 2020 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. On Friday, Amazon begins streaming a new British miniseries called "A Very English Scandal." It stars Hugh Grant as Jeremy Thorpe, a leading Liberal Party politician whose career is threatened by his affair with a young man played by Ben Whishaw. It's a true story. And our critic at large, John Powers, says that it's irresistibly smart and entertaining.

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Our critic at large John Powers always keeps an eye out for new translations of foreign fiction. He's recently come across two internationally acclaimed novels - "Mirror, Shoulder, Signal" by the Danish novelist Dorthe Nors and "Convenience Store Woman" by the Japanese writer Sayaka Murata. He says they aren't only a pleasure to read, but both offer a perceptive look at the lives of women who break the cultural mold.

Near the end of Philip Roth's novel Operation Shylock, a Mossad agent makes light of the modern penchant for conspiracy theories. "It's a paranoid universe," the spy says, "but don't overdo it."

Hollywood never overdid it more than in the 1970s. In the years after Richard Nixon's tarnished presidency, movie screens were flooded with conspiracy thrillers — from Chinatown and The Parallax View to All the President's Men.

Zsa Zsa Gabor, who was married nine times, once joked that diamonds aren't a girl's best friend — divorce lawyers are. The price and permutations of breaking up are the theme of The Split, a sleek new British series showing on Sundance TV. Created by Abi Morgan, who wrote The Iron Lady and The Hour, this six-part show centers around members of the Defoe family, high-end lawyers specializing in marital issues whose own private lives are — don't be shocked now! — as furtive and messy as the cases they're handling.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. "The Mars Room" is the third novel by Rachel Kushner, whose first two, "Telex From Cuba" and "The Flamethrowers," were both finalists for the National Book Award. The new one tells the story of a young woman incarcerated for murder in a women's prison in California. Our critic-at-large, John Powers, says that in this book, orange is definitely not the new black.

Near the beginning of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, a big black monolith appears in an African desert, leaving a group of prehistoric ape-men standing there baffled. And that was pretty much the reaction that greeted the film itself when it premiered 50 years ago this week.

Nobody was quite sure what to make of it. The critics were harsh, with Variety dismissively saying flatly, "2001 is not a cinematic landmark." It's hard to imagine being more wrong.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

This is FRESH AIR. Our critic at large John Powers has a review of a new book by one of his favorite authors - the Booker Prize-winning English writer Alan Hollinghurst. It's called "The Sparsholt Affair." And it centers on how the laws of social propriety shape the destinies of a father and son, spanning the decades from the 1940s until now.

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

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

If you're a fan of thrillers, you know that they're defined by two extremes. At one end are the plot-driven worlds that work like clockwork machines (for instance, Murder on the Orient Express); at the other are the stories that sprawl outward to offer a portrait of the larger society (like James Ellroy's Los Angeles or Stieg Larsson's Sweden). As it turns out, I've recently come across an enjoyable example of each extreme.

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

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

I don't believe in ghosts, but sometimes when I walk through my house I think I hear the forlorn cries of all the books, movies and TV shows that I've loved over the past few months but never got around to talking about. And so, every December, I try to silence those cries with my annual "Ghost List" of favorites I've ignored — a group that in 2017 ranges in spirit from cosmic surrealism to ripped-from-the-headlines immediacy.

National Treasure, Hulu

Pages