Skip to main content

Knowing Geoff Nunberg's 2010 Word Of The Year

Well, no, we're not going to tell you. No, no, no. Not even if you ask politely. But here's a hint: It's a "primordial one-word response" that perfectly encapsulates the aura -- no, make that the prevailing zeitgeist -- of 2010.


Other segments from the episode on December 15, 2010

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, December 15, 2010: Interview with Ryan Gosling; Commentary on the word "no"; Review of new holiday albums.


Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
Ryan Gosling: Fully Immersed In 'Blue Valentine'


This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Our guest, Ryan Gosling, was nominated for a Golden Globe yesterday in
the category Best Actor, Drama for his performance in the new movie
"Blue Valentine." His co-star, Michelle Williams, was nominated for Best

Gosling earned a Best Actor Oscar nomination playing a drug-addicted
inner-city teacher in the film "Half Nelson," and he got a Golden Globe
nomination for "Lars and the Real Girl," where he was an introvert in
love with a life-size sex doll.

He was the romantic lead in the film "The Notebook," and he's currently
starring with Kirsten Dunst in "All Good Things," inspired by a story of
disappearance and murder in a wealthy New York family.

His new film, "Blue Valentine," directed by Derek Cianfrance, is an
emotionally intense drama that follows a young married couple as they
fall deeply in love, and as their relationship falls apart. Here's a
scene with Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in which the distance
between them is growing.

(Soundbite of film, "Blue Valentine")

Ms. MICHELLE WILLIAMS (Actor): (As Cindy) Why don't you do something?

Mr. RYAN GOSLING (Actor): (As Dean) What does that mean, why don't I do

Ms. WILLIAMS: (As Cindy) (Unintelligible) something you wanted to do?
(Unintelligible) want to do?

Mr. GOSLING: (As Dean) Like what?

Ms. WILLIAMS: (As Cindy) I don't know. You're so good at so many things.
You could do anything you wanted to do. You're good at everything that
you do. Isn't there something else you want to do?

Mr. GOSLING: (As Dean) Than what, to be your husband, to be Frankie's
dad? What do you want me to do? In your, like, dream scenario of me,
like, doing what I'm good at, what would that be?

Ms. WILLIAMS: (As Cindy) I don't know. I just think you're so good at so
many things. You can do so many things. You have such capacity.

Mr. GOSLING: (As Dean) For what?

Ms. WILLIAMS: (As Cindy) I don't - you can sing. You can draw. You can -

Mr. GOSLING: (As Dean) Listen, I didn't want to be somebody's husband,
okay? And I didn't want to be somebody's dad. That wasn't my goal in
life. Some guys it is. It wasn't mine. But somehow I've - it was what I
wanted. I didn't know that, and that's all I want to do. I don't want to
do anything else. That's what I want to do. I work so I can do that.

Ms. WILLIAMS: (As Cindy) I'd like to see you have a job where you don't
have to start drinking at 8:00 in the morning to go to it.

Mr. GOSLING: (As Dean) No, I have a job that I can drink at 8:00 in the
morning. What a luxury, you know? I get off of work. I have a beer. I go
to work. I paint somebody's house. They're excited about it. I come
home. I get to be with you. What's - like, this is the dream.

GROSS: A scene from the new film "Blue Valentine." Ryan Gosling spoke
with FRESH AIR contributor Dave Davies.

DAVE DAVIES: Ryan Gosling, welcome to FRESH AIR. Your new film, "Blue
Valentine," is about you in a relationship with Michelle Williams, a
relationship where, you know, love has eroded. I mean, you were once
madly in love, and now you fight a lot. You're tense. You're impatient
with each other.

And I read that you shot the scenes of the early part of the
relationship all at once, and then there was like a month or so break
between then and when you shot the times when the relationship was on
the rocks. Is that right?

Mr. GOSLING: Yeah, that's right.

DAVIES: Yeah, yeah. So what - what did you do in the intervening month?

Mr. GOSLING: Well, we sort of lived in a house that our characters lived
in, and what we were trying to do was dismantle this thing that we had
been building because, you know, we all worked really hard to kind of
create this.

We focused on the love story portion and the past, when they're falling
in love, and we wanted it to feel genuine and real and true. And, you
know, we spent all of this time building it up, and then we had to tear
it down. And tearing it down was difficult.

DAVIES: But you actually lived in a house with Michelle Williams and the
child actor who played your daughter?

Mr. GOSLING: Yeah, Faith.

DAVIES: For a month? Yeah, right.

Mr. GOSLING: Yeah, and then we had, you know, fake Christmas and put up
Christmas trees, and baked birthday cakes and bought birthday presents
and went to Sears and took the family portraits.

And, you know, we just - we had a budget and we fought all day, and then
we'd have to take Faith to the family fun park and try and pretend like
we haven't been fighting, and, you know, did the Jane Fonda workout and,
you know, whatever we could do to create real memories, so when it came
time to shoot that part of the film, we were, you know, we were drawing
on real memories.

DAVIES: So are you spending this month, what, kind of learning not to
love each other somehow?

Mr. GOSLING: We're trying to not be able to hide from each other. You
know, the way that the director had a kind of a manifesto, which was
that in the past, when we would shoot it on film, which has kind of
romantic quality to it...

DAVIES: The flashback part when you're young and happy, you mean.

Mr. GOSLING: Yeah, and it would all be one takes, no do-overs.
Everything that happens happens for the first time, and then it's over.
And we would share the frame together.

And so, you know, when you're working that way, you build - it's easy to
maintain a mystery in that because you never have to go back and revisit
a moment. You know, you can hide behind these personas that you've
created, which, you know, is a lot – it's a like when you're first
falling in love, I guess.

And then when we were doing the latter part of the film, it was all shot
on digital, which has kind of a clinical, almost like surveillance-
camera feeling, and we were locked off into singles. We were never
sharing the frame, or for the most part he was trying not to.

And we would do takes 50 times, 75. You know, it's just - we would do -
we shot one scene for two days in the shower, just all day. You know, so
when you're doing 50 takes with somebody, there's nowhere to hide. I
mean, you can't. It's very exposing.

DAVIES: And so do you replicate the feelings that your character has for
his wife? I mean, do you get annoyed, impatient, angry?

Mr. GOSLING: Yeah, because, you know, that's what Derek wanted. He would
say, you know, he would give us a budget and, you know, we'd have to
fight about that or, you know, try to focus on the small stuff.

Like, I'll give you an example. I met some friends of mine, and they're
married - they were married, and I asked them what their biggest
problems with each other were, and she was – she was convinced and got
very upset that he, when he washed the dishes, didn't squeeze out the
sponge. And she thought that he was doing it - it was a passive-
aggressive act on his part, and he was doing it to spite her.

And he was trying to say: Why would I go through the effort of washing
the dishes just to not squeeze out the sponge at the end, you know? It
doesn't make sense, but you couldn't...

Anyway, it ended up becoming this, it was a huge thing in their
relationship, and they've since gotten divorced. And so, I mean, I'm not
a psychologist, but I'm going to take a stab and say that it wasn't
because of the sponge.

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. GOSLING: But they - you couldn't tell them that. And so we didn't
try to pretend to know the bigger reasons. You know, we just tried to
genuinely, you know, focus on those small things and try and feel like
they're as important to our characters as they would be to them in real

DAVIES: You know, there was a scene I wanted to ask you about, and it's
in one of the flashback parts of the film, where you and Michelle's
character are getting to know each other. And it's shot on a bridge. Is
that the Brooklyn Bridge you're on, on a walkway, I think?

Mr. GOSLING: Yeah, that's right.

DAVIES: And I don't want to give away too much of the plot, but she has
a secret that she doesn't want to tell you. You can sense something is
up and really want her to reveal the secret to you, and when she
doesn't, you start to climb this hurricane fence there next to the
walkway, and it looks as if that might actually put you in danger of
going over.

Tell us about that. Was that scene improvised?

Mr. GOSLING: Yeah. The film - that's how the filmmaker works. You know,
he tells you, okay, so he pulls Michelle aside and says, look, whatever
you do, I don't care what he does, don't tell him your secret, okay? And
if you tell him the secret, you lose, you know, because he set every
scene up like a boxing match, and action was when the bell rang.

And when it was over, he would say who won or lost, you know, so then
he'd say to me, pull me aside and say I don't care what you have to do,
but you've got to get her to tell you her secret. Action.

And so hours go by, and I'm asking in every way you can ask somebody to
tell him your secret. And it's humiliating because - the things that
you'll do, you know, to try and get someone to tell you. And she's not.
You know, she's winning every, every scene. She's winning every round.
She won't tell me.

Until the sun starts to go down, and on top of this we're stealing this
shot on the Brooklyn Bridge. We don't have a permit. We could be kicked
off. And we're not coming back. So I have to get her to tell me.

And I start climbing over the edge of the bridge, and it wasn't until I
was on the other side and hanging onto this fence, staring down at the
water, that I realized that, you know, I - you know, I'd been
brainwashed by the director and Michelle Williams was trying to kill me.

DAVIES: And then she blurts out her secret.

Mr. GOSLING: She tells me the secret, thank God.

DAVIES: Right, right, and afterwards, did you talk? Was she really
afraid that you were going to hurt yourself and that's what finally
caused her to cough it up?

Mr. GOSLING: Yeah, I mean I think Michelle said that she was - she felt
like she was watching a movie. You know, so she - that's why she let me
go so far. And I felt like I was in one. And the producer was crying.
And it was, you know, it was stupid. I don't think it's cool or
anything. I think it was dumb. You know, I think the movie would be the
same without it, but it just, it seems to be the scene that people kind
of single out as an example of what working this way can evoke in an

DAVIES: A lot of the part of the movie where the marriage is troubled
takes place in a hotel room in the Poconos. It's the future room. It's
this sort of stylized room that they sell. And you must have been
shooting these nonstop marital fights day after day. I mean, what was it
like emotionally just to go through that in such close quarters? Could
you shake it off?

Mr. GOSLING: It's hard to remember what happened because we were so -
you know, I remember one time I fell asleep. We fought so hard that I
just got - I had to take a nap. I fell asleep on the couch. And I woke
up and the director was filming me sleeping and filming her cleaning up
the house.

And then I woke up and we went back at it again. So it was - the lines
were very blurred, you know, and it was very hard to tell, really even
to remember making it.

DAVIES: We're speaking with Ryan Gosling. He stars in the new film "Blue
Valentine." We'll talk more after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: If you're just joining us, we're speaking with actor Ryan
Gosling. He stars with Michelle Williams in the new film "Blue

You've got an interesting background. I mean, you grew up in Canada, and
I read that you were home-schooled at some point. What led to that? What
was wrong with you and the school system there?

Mr. GOSLING: Well, I really think that if I - two things. I think
fluorescent lighting. It just - I really think if they had turned the
lights off, and we could have just had natural light in the room, it
would have been more soothing. But something about it genuinely made me
uneasy, and distract - it was distracting.

And also, I think if they had let me walk around, you know, I think if
they - I feel like in classrooms, if they had a space in the back of the
class where, you know, kids that are kind of hyperactive or whatever you
want to call it could just kind of pace while the class was going on, I
feel like that would help a lot, because I just have to move, you know,
in order to think. I can't - if I'm sitting still, I can't really think

And I had a lot of problems. I couldn't - I wasn't doing very well and
they kept passing me, and I was really falling behind. And at a certain
point they were trying to put me in these special ed classes, you know,
just to see how that would work.

And I remember playing chess one time with this kid who was in special
ed. He was eating his queen.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GOSLING: And I was thinking: I know that - you know, I don't know -
I don't know - I know things are - I know I'm not doing that well, but

DAVIES: Something's wrong with this picture, huh?

Mr. GOSLING: Yeah, something's - so I talked to my mother, and she, she
was very upset, you know, that they were passing me. You know, she
thought she'd rather them fail me, you know, than to pass me, because I
had pretty low, you know, self-esteem, didn't feel like I was very
smart. And I was getting into a lot of trouble because of that.

And you know, she took me out of school, and she sort of - you know, she
let me move around while I was learning and found, you know, sort of
alternative ways for me to learn. You know, she found out that – you
know, she just got big rolls of paper and laid them out in the basement,
and I just, I kind of - I drew, or I made pictures of the things.

If I was learning about history, I would draw the scenarios that I was
learning about or the people that she was telling me about. And I was
able to remember them that way, you know.

DAVIES: And you became a performer at an early age, and I know that you
tried out for "The New Mickey Mouse Club" and against all odds was
selected. But I also read that - a reference in stuff about you to a
move you developed onstage at age seven. Is this true? Can you describe
this for us?

Mr. GOSLING: Well, my uncle was an Elvis impersonator and a really, a
great Elvis impersonator, went by the name of Elvis Perry(ph), and
although he didn't look much like Elvis, he sounded just like him.

And I was in his act. I was very little, you know, like, I don't know, I
was like six or something, seven. And he - and I was the head of his
security, you know.

So I'd come out - and I took it pretty seriously. But I would watch him
kind of get ready backstage. You know, I'd watch him...

DAVIES: You were seven and you were head of his security?

Mr. GOSLING: Yeah, it was like a joke, but I didn't know it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GOSLING: The joke was on me. I really thought that I was head of
security, and the way that they talked to me was that I was head of
security. And so that's - I took it very seriously.

And I took it seriously, as he did. You know, he would - I would watch
him put on this, you know, sequined suit, and, you know, that music
would start playing...

(Soundbite of humming)

Mr. GOSLING: And he was becoming Elvis, you know. He was like a
racehorse banging against the boards. And it didn't matter that we were
- he was performing, you know, at a town hall. You know, it could have
been Madison Square Garden.

And, you know, there was something about watching him kind of get into
character that really made an impression on me. And also his - you know,
in his performance he was highly sort of, you know, sexual. You know, I
saw these women just going crazy for him, women losing their minds,
trying to jump up onstage, like he was Elvis.

So I took some notes. And I started, you know, performing, you know, in
like whatever – you know, like local talent shows or something that my
father would put on. And I started being just as, you know, sort of
sexual, if not more so, than he was. And I saw that I got a certain
response. You know, you see like a seven-year-old or a six-year-old kid
gyrating on the stage, you know, everyone thinks that's pretty funny.

And so I was able to kind of milk that for way too long. And I would go
up to secretaries and kind of try and grind on them.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GOSLING: And for some reason everybody thought that that was fine. I
think it was because I was so young. If I had been any older, it would
have been weird. I think it's weird, but...

DAVIES: Now, is that what got you the successful audition on "The New
Mickey Mouse Club," when you were like, what, 12 or so?

Mr. GOSLING: Well, no. You know, I ended up - you know, I did that for a
little while, and I realized that I wanted to - I thought I wanted to be
a dancer. So I joined a dance company, and I was sort of training to be
a dancer.

And all of the girls in my class were auditioning for this TV show, and
I just went, you know, because I wanted to be around the girls, you
know. And I got it. I got the part. So we moved to - my mother and I
moved to Florida, and we lived in this trailer park, Yogi Bear Trailer
Park in Kissimmee - Kissimmee, Florida. We lived in Boo-Boo Harlem, and
I worked at Disney World for two years.

DAVIES: So here you are a kid on this TV show, "The New Mickey Mouse
Club," which, by the way, included - your class included Justin
Timberlake and Cristina Aguilera, right, and Britney Spears?

Mr. GOSLING: Uh-huh.

DAVIES: And you're a kid essentially living at or around Disney World.

Mr. GOSLING: Yeah.

DAVIES: Did this seem - did you grow up thinking this was normal?

Mr. GOSLING: No, but it changed my life, you know. Disney World the park
changed my life...


Mr. GOSLING: ...more than the experience of making that show. Well –
well, two reasons. One is that, you know, I was – you know, these kids
were kind of prodigies, you know. You look at - not all of us. I mean, I
certainly wasn't. But you would look at someone like Cristina Aguilera,
who's, you know - was like 11 years old and, you know, like 40 pounds
and singing like Etta James. And, you know, you see someone who is
realizing their destiny.

I mean, this is where they are supposed to be and what they're supposed
to be doing. And I think the same goes for a few of the other kids. And,
you know, I realized that my destiny wasn't that. You know, I wasn't a

I could do - you know, I could make it and do enough to get by on the
show, but it wasn't my calling. And so I was depressed by that, but I
was also encouraged to go out and find out what that was.

And as a result of not being as talented as the other kids in the areas
that were needed for the show, I - I didn't work a lot, so I spent a lot
of time in Disney World just kind of riding the rides and walking

And this made a big impression on me. You know, I thought - I was very
impressed by Walt Disney and just in the idea that you could have a
dream and that you could realize it to the point where people could walk
around within it and the attention to detail. You know, even the butter
has ears. They haven't missed anything. And it's fascinating. You know,
I still go to Disney World. In Los Angeles, I go to Disney Land at least
once every couple months, you know, because I just - I'm still - it
still kind of resonates with me. You know, I wanted to be somebody who
believed in their ideas that much.

DAVIES: And so making movies is something like that, creating another

Mr. GOSLING: I found that so – so far, yeah, that you could - you know,
it's like when I was 14 and I saw "Blue Velvet," you know, I just, I
wasn't supposed to see it and I'd watched all the movies in my local
movie store, and the guy gave me - he said, okay, if you like movies,
you're going to like this.

And I didn't even know what it meant. I still don't know what "Blue
Velvet" is about. But I knew that I wanted to be somebody like that,
somebody that believed in their ideas enough to make something like
that, to be okay with the fact that it didn't make sense, you know, but
it made sense to them.

GROSS: Ryan Gosling will continue his conversation with FRESH AIR
contributor Dave Davies in the second half of the show. Gosling stars in
the new movie "Blue Valentine," which opens soon. His movie "All Good
Things" is currently in theaters. I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I’m Terry Gross. Let's get back to the
interview FRESH AIR contributor Dave Davies recorded with actor Ryan
Gosling. Yesterday Gosling was nominated for a Golden Globe for his
performance in the new movie "Blue Valentine." His costar, Michelle
Williams, also received a nomination. Gosling's movie "All Good Things"
is currently in theaters.

DAVIES: So I want to move forward in your career. You did television.
You did some films. You did a well-regarded performance in a film called
"The Believer," where you played sort of a confused Jewish young man who
becomes a neo-Nazi. And then in 2004 you do "The Notebook," which is, in
which you were a romantic lead and it was a big commercial success and
you became a heartthrob and - and could have looked for another big
studio project, could have molded your career around being a leading
man, and instead you picked this project "Half Nelson." Do you want to
describe your character, Dan Dunne, in this film?

Mr. GOSLING: Yeah. He was a, you know, he's a teacher in a school in
Brooklyn, and he, you know, he's like a drug addict and - but he's
always on the mend. You know, he's always - I thought that the film kind
of captured that, the monotony of addiction. You know, a lot of films
cover the person that kind of, you know, is a babe in the woods and they
discover drugs and they have this kind of rock 'n roll roller coaster
and then they crash hard - crash and burn and then the movie ends, you
know. But this was just kind of just about the monotony of, you know,
cleaning up and trying to go straight and then, you know, thinking that
you've gone long enough and then delving back into it, and then, you
know, then trying to pull it back together again and just, just how
monotonous that can become, that kind of the cycle, you know, it just
keeps repeating itself.

DAVIES: Right. Your character is - when he's not doing drugs and - he's
a teacher in eighth grade inner city school and talks a lot about
dialectics, the Hegelian, you know, notion of history being conflicts.
And I thought we'd listen to a clip from the film.

Your character, Dan Dunne, takes an interest in a young girl who he
coaches in basketball, also in his history class, but is concerned as he
gets to know her that she may be falling under the influence of a
neighborhood drug dealer - a guy who his, the girl's brother had worked
for. And so your character, Dan, goes to confront this drug dealer about
his interest in this eighth grade student who he might want to, you
know, bring into the drug dealing business, and your character goes to
confront him. The character, the drug dealer here, is played by Anthony
Mackie. Let's listen.

(Soundbite of movie, "Half Nelson")

Mr. GOSLING: (as Dan Dunne) Can I talk to you?

Mr. ANTHONY MACKIE (Actor): (as Frank) What's up?

Mr. GOSLING: (as Dan Dunne) Okay, look, I hate to be this guy right now,
all right.

Mr. MACKIE: (as Frank) Mm-hmm.

Mr. GOSLING: (as Dan Dunne) But I need you to stay away from Drey.

Mr. MACKIE: (as Frank) Excuse me?

Mr. GOSLING: (as Dan Dunne) You heard me, okay? So just do me this
solid, all right, man? Please?

Mr. MACKIE: (as Frank) Do you a solid?

Mr. GOSLING: (as Dan Dunne) You know what I'm saying. You understand.

Mr. MACKIE: (as Frank) Oh, so it's like, stay away from the girl? She's
too precious kind of (bleep)?

Mr. GOSLING: (as Dan Dunne) I'm not kidding.

Mr. MACKIE: (as Frank) Oh, I know.

Mr. GOSLING: (as Frank) So you understand?

Mr. MACKIE: (as Frank) Look, man, Drey is my family. She's my friend.
Now, all these cats, these are my friends. Now, would you like to be my
friend, man?

Mr. GOSLING: (as Dan Dunne) What the (bleep) is this? Is this "Romper

Mr. MACKIE: (as Frank) (Bleep) "Romper Room."

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GOSLING: (as Dan Dunne) Are you (bleep) listening to me?

Mr. MACKIE: (as Frank) Look, why you so (bleep) angry, man?

Mr. GOSLING: (as Dan Dunne) Because you are not listening to me.

Mr. MACKIE: (as Frank) Look, I'm right here, baby. Tell me what you’re
talking about.

Mr. GOSLING: (as Dan Dunne) I'm telling you to do something good.

Mr. MACKIE: (as Frank) Oh.

Mr. GOSLING: (as Dan Dunne) Are you capable of that?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MACKIE: (as Frank) Oh, so now we back to the point of what is white
is right, right?

Mr. GOSLING: (as Dan Dunne) This has nothing to do with that.

Mr. MACKIE: (as Frank) No, no, no. It's good for Drey to have somebody
like you looking out for her, Mr. Model A-One (bleep) citizen.

Mr. GOSLING: (as Dan Dunne) I don't know. I don't know.

DAVIES: And that's our guest, Ryan Gosling, and Anthony Mackie in the
film "Half Nelson."

I love that at the end, where you say I don't know. It's sort of like
this guy who thinks he's helping out this girl suddenly realizes that
the drug dealer, who's actually a criminal, has his life more together
than he is and he doesn't know whether this makes any sense.

Mr. GOSLING: Yeah. They're great directors. They're just, they're great
filmmakers and great writers, you know. They really wanted that scene to
be, you know, like a, about, you know, a teacher that had seen
"Dangerous Minds" or that film with Edward James Olmos too many times.
You know, like, you know, just put yourself in the situation and, you
know, try and act like the characters you've seen in movies, you know,
but you can really back them up and you're more, you know, you're more
flawed than the bad guys.

DAVIES: If you’re just joining us, were speaking with actor Ryan
Gosling. He stars in the new film "Blue Valentine" with Michelle

I also wanted to talk about "Lars and the Real Girl," the film you made
with Craig Gillespie in 2007. This is a pretty unique film. I mean you
play this young man who lives in a, what, a garage apartment, painfully
shy. I guess you could say he's somewhere maybe on the autism spectrum,
avoids a lot of human contact, doesn't like being touched, and ends up
getting a full-sized sex doll and introducing it to his family as his
girlfriend. Town kind of begins, for reasons that unfold as the film
develops, kind of plays along in a way. You know, when you look at this
script, why didn't it seem ridiculous? How did you see this working?

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: When you describe that to somebody, they say, are you kidding

Mr. GOSLING: Yeah.

DAVIES: I'm not going to see that movie.

Mr. GOSLING: Yeah.

DAVIES: And it really works. I think it's a terrific movie.

Mr. GOSLING: It, I, look, I felt the same way. The whole time I was
reading it, I thought, you know, this shouldn't be working, but it is.
And, you know, I'd like to take credit for that, but it’s, but it was,
you know, it was just a really well-written script. Nancy Oliver is a
very, very special writer, and it worked. It worked as a script, you
know, potentially more than it was going to work as a film because, it's
like if you look at a book like, you know, "The Velveteen Rabbit" or
something, you know, you talk about this kid who loves this bunny so
much that it becomes real. His love makes it real - you know, that's an
easier thing to imagine than it is to visualize, I mean to actually, you
know, kind of try and shoot that; then you have to get into how do we
make it real, like CGI, do we use a puppet, you know? And then it turns
into something, something else. You know, I think the idea of a guy -
you know, in the script she became real. You know, when you're reading
it she became - the more real she was to him and the more the town
treated her like she was a real person, the more real she became to you.
But when you're watching it, it's a guy talking to a doll and she never
becomes real.

DAVIES: Right.

Mr. GOSLING: You know, it's never - it's never going to happen. It's
always going to be a guy talking to a doll no matter how, you know, how
much I believe it. It doesn’t make her real.

DAVIES: Well, let's listen to a scene. This is a scene where your
character, Lars, has just told his brother and his sister-in-law he has
a visitor, and it's his girlfriend and she's from abroad and she needs a
wheelchair and they're excited to hear this because they think he's
actually met someone. And then they bring the friend, Bianca, in and
discover that indeed she is a sex doll, although she's fully dressed,
and they're not quite sure how to react and they say, well, we're having
dinner. And so the scene were going to hear is where you're all sitting
at dinner and they've set a place for your friend, your doll, Bianca,
and you're beginning to explain to your sister and brother-in-law, who
are played Emily Mortimer and Paul Schneider, and there are some moments
of the scene where you whisper aside to Bianca, the doll. Let's listen.

(Soundbite of movie, "Lars and the Real Girl")

Mr. GOSLING: (as Lars) So you're never going to believe this, it makes
me mad. Bianca is from the Tropics. She, well, she's Brazilian - well,
half Brazilian, half Danish. That's right. And somebody stole her

Ms. EMILY MORTIMER (as Karin): Really?

Mr. GOSLING: (as Lars) Yeah. And they stole her wheelchair.

Ms. MORTIMER (as Karin): That's terrible.

Mr. GOSLING: (as Lars) Yeah. Can you believe that, Gus?

Mr. PAUL SCHNEIDER (Actor): (as Gus) Yeah, I can't believe it.

Mr. GOSLING: (as Lars) Right. Well, it’s, it makes me angry. Anyway, I
wanted to ask you a favor. She doesn't mind. I promise. Karin, you don't
mind lending Bianca some clothes, do you? She doesn't have any. Do you?

Ms. MORTIMER (as Karin): I'm not sure we're the same type, Lars.

Mr. GOSLING: (as Lars) Well, that's okay, Karin, because Bianca doesn't
really care about superficial things like that, so it's okay.

Ms. MORTIMER (as Karin): Sure.

Mr. GOSLING: (as Lars) Yeah. (Unintelligible) told you. Thanks.

DAVIES: And that's our guest, Ryan Gosling, with his friend, Bianca, the
sex doll in the film "Lars and the Real Girl."

How do you get this - how do you,...

Mr. GOSLING: She's still in my living room, by - she's still in my
living room, by the way.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GOSLING: She is. She's reading a book by the window. I don't know
what to do.

DAVIES: I don't know whether you're kidding me or not.

Mr. GOSLING: I'm not kidding.

DAVIES: Really?

Mr. GOSLING: I'm not kidding. But what do I do, put her in the garage?
It just feels weird. It feels like she'd be lonely out there or

DAVIES: Do you ever talk to her?

Mr. GOSLING: No, I don’t.

DAVIES: That's reassuring.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: Now, I read that - I don't know if this is true. I read that
when the film was being made, that the sex doll, Bianca, had her own
dressing room with magazines to read, right?

Mr. GOSLING: Yeah.

DAVIES: I mean was she sort of treated as a cast member?

Mr. GOSLING: Yeah. I mean we tried very hard, the director did - I
appreciated - to make her as real as possible, that the crew could go on
the same journey that we as the cast were being forced to go through.
And, you know, she had a trailer and she had her own like contract with
nudity clauses and all the things that actresses would have. And, you
know, and I'll tell you, I've worked with actresses that have given me

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GOSLING: And she had, you know, she was given magazines in between
takes. And, you know, what was kind of amazing about the experience - by
the end people were trying it out. I saw, you know, grips would take
five minutes with their coffee and go over and you'd see them kind of
mumbling to her...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GOSLING: ...trying to see what it was like to talk to her. And what
she, the effect that she had was interesting. You'd just end up getting
and to this, you know, dialogue with yourself. That was an interesting
dialogue to have. You know, I embraced it and I started to see people
embrace it. And, you know, but ultimately, you know, the main criticism
of the film that I heard was, you know, people saying, oh yeah, that's
not possible, you know, people in the town would never believe she was
real and would never go around acting like that. You know, and I mean in
one case I would say maybe that's not true because I saw this film crew
really trying to give it a shot. But at the same time, you know, it was
a fantasy. And it's like a fairy tale.

DAVIES: Yeah, a fable. Yeah.

Mr. GOSLING: People were taking it so literally. It was interesting.

DAVIES: Well, Ryan Gosling, thanks so much for spending some time with

Mr. GOSLING: Oh, thanks for having me. I really appreciate it. Thank

GROSS: Ryan Gosling spoke with FRESH AIR contributor Dave Davies.
Gosling's new film, "Blue Valentine," opens in New York and LA December
Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
Knowing Geoff Nunberg's 2010 Word Of The Year


It's the time of year when everybody's coming out with their best of and
top 10 lists, and linguists and dictionaries are eager to get in on the
action. So we asked our linguist, Geoff Nunberg, if he could come up
with his own word of the year. He thought about it and then said no.

GEOFF NUNBERG: If you were ranking all those word of the year selections
for importance against all the year end, best of and top 10 lists, they
should fall somewhere between 10 biggest fashion faux pas and best
celebrity tweets. They're either idle exercises or publicity gambits for
dictionaries, and the short lists tend to run to the sorts of blends,
malaprops and stunt words that word geeks are drawn to - items like
vuvuzela, webisode and guidette. They're actually not even that
interesting as words. They're the cat pictures of the English lexicon.

So people were clearly misunderstanding the enterprise when they jumped
on the New Oxford American Dictionary for designating Sarah Palin's
refudiate as their word of the year. It wasn't meant to be an honor, and
they weren't trying to vindicate Palin's usage, as commentators on both
the left and right assumed. And I don't see that it matters whether the
choice is actually a word - though if we are allowing non-words, I'd
rather go with crotchal, as in crotchal area - the phrase some TSA
people were using to delineate the perimeters of their enhanced pat-
downs. It recalled nuance-al, the creation of another pioneer of word
formation, Alexander Haig, who died this year. Both words testify to a
linguistic principle basic to the language of officialdom: If we can
slap a Latin suffix on it, we can make it our own.

But refudiate, guidette, vuvuzela - they don't have much to do with the
general run of our conversation over the last 12 months. You could make
a better case for some other recent words, like crowd-sourcing or
double-dip or ObamaCare. But it struck me that you could also capture
the prevailing mood by going to the other extreme and picking that
common particle no, in its various functions.

Sometimes it signals absence or nonexistence, and you can come up with a
nice collage of the year's preoccupations by enumerating all the things
that were in short supply. At one point or another, 2010 has been the
year of no eggs, no fishing or swimming - at least in the Gulf — no
campaign spending limits and no ice at the North Pole. It's the year of
no more narcissism, which will no longer be recognized as a diagnosis in
the official psychiatric manual.

I was the year of no-hitters - it would have tied the modern record of
seven if the Tigers' Armando Galarraga hadn't been robbed of a perfect
game when the umpire blew a call on the 27th batter. And let's not
forget the year's most memorable declaration of existential
insufficiency, that Texas skateboarder's Dude, you have no Quran.

Closer to home, economists labeled 2010 the year of no inflation. That
was good news for some, though for a lot of people it was more notable
as the year of no raises, no Social Security cost-of-living increases,
no more home equity - or just no more home; or, as in the case of
Arizona Medicaid recipients, as the year of no more organ transplants.

Now I'll grant that you could cobble together a list of sentences like
these to capture the zeitgeist of just about any year - after all, we're
always running out of something. But this year's voids and shortfalls
contributed to a mood that often expressed itself with another no, the
one-word response that signals resistance or refusal.

That word usually gets a bad rap in public life; it's never a compliment
to call somebody a naysayer. So the Democrats obviously meant to put
Republicans on the defensive when they began to call them the party of
no for opposing the stimulus bill in early 2009. As The New York Times'
Ben Zimmer pointed out, that phrase has often been used by the party in
power to label the opposition as obstructionist. Ronald Reagan branded
Democrats as the party of no in 1988, Bill Clinton did the same thing to
Republicans in 1994, and Tom Delay turned the phrase back on Democrats
in 2005.

What was different this time is that after some early defensiveness, a
lot of Republicans embraced the label and even ratcheted it up a notch.
We're not just the party of no, Rush Limbaugh said, we're the party of
hell, no — and Republican leaders quickly adopted the line. That extra
word shifted the meaning of the phrase — it no longer suggested just
opposition to particular bills and programs but unapologetic and
resolute defiance.

That stance clearly resonated with a lot of voters. No has a great power
to bring people together, precisely because it doesn't have to be pinned
down. A child has a much harder time mastering yes, which is always the
response to a specific prospect - do you need to go potty? Whereas the
child's first no comes earlier, as a pure eruption of willful refusal.
And the word retains that capacity, even as we learn to intone it to
convey despair, anger, defiance, fear, astonishment or disappointment.

That's what makes these choruses of negativity so hard to read, whether
they're unhappy voters or tired preschoolers in full shutdown. They're
all sounding the same plaintive no, but it isn't as if there's any
single juice flavor that will make them all happy again.

GROSS: Geoff Nunberg is the linguist who teaches at the School of
Information at the University of California at Berkeley.

You can find links to all of his commentaries from this year on our

Coming up, rock critic Ken Tucker reviews some of the best new holiday
pop music.

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)
Fresh Air
12:00-13:00 PM
Ken Tucker Picks The Best Holiday Music Of 2010


Every holiday season brings a new batch of holiday pop music, some of it
from unlikely or obscure sources.

Our rock critic Ken Tucker has been listening to all the new collection
and has chosen a trio of albums that he thinks might make your holiday a
bit more fun.

(Soundbite of song, "I've Got Christmas By The Tail")

Mr. DAN HICKS AND THE HOT LICKS: (Singing) Every year I get ants in my
pants when Christmas comes along. Every year I go into a dance, I know
every single Christmas song. Every year I am first on the block to tell
Santa what to bring. Every year I jump in with the flock and with the
reindeer on the wing.

I've got Christmas down pat. I know just when Christmas is at. You got
your snow, you got your sleet and hail. I've got Christmas by the tail.
I've got Christmas by the tail...

KEN TUCKER: That's Dan Hicks and The Hot Licks applying his combination
of blues, country and jazzy swing on a new album called "Crazy for
Christmas." Hicks specializes in the mood most of us want to achieve
around this time of year - a relaxed, chilled-out demeanor. Hicks is
shameless in reworking his material: He turns his old song "Where's the
Money?" into the low-down "Christmas Morning," which finds Rudolph the
Red-Nosed Reindeer tossing back a couple of beers before leading Santa's

At the other end of the spectrum is Shelby Lynne's album "Merry
Christmas." The brooding moody country singer wouldn't have seemed a
likely candidate for an album of holiday cheer. That's okay with me,
since my favorite Christmas song has always been Elvis Presley's "Blue
Christmas" - I like my holidays decked with melancholy. Listen to
"Christmas," song Shelby Lynne has written as a piece of kitchen-sink
realism set to a slow-tempo soul melody.

(Soundbite of song, "Christmas")

Ms. SHELBY LYNNE (Singer-songwriter): (Singing) Christmas makes you sad
and daddy's being bad. Made us weight on the tree, bicycles for you and
me. I want a radio, a ghetto blaster in stereo. Everybody's got one at
school and mama was nobody's fool yeah.

TUCKER: Lynne is bold enough to offer a couple of the year's few new
original songs. Along with covers of chestnuts like "Silent Night" and
"White Christmas," she provides this fine, upbeat composition called
"Ain't Nothin' Like Christmas." Beginning with a simply strummed
acoustic guitar and a bluesy vocal, it builds into the party song it
wants to be.

(Soundbite of song, "Ain't Nothin' Like Christmas")

Ms. LYNNE: (Singing) Ain't nothing like Christmas, baby. Don't come but
once a year. Ain't nothing like Christmas, baby, with carols and good
cheer. Ain't nothing like Christmas, baby. Let's meet around the tree.
I'll bring the nog, you put on a log, it's a Christmas party.

Oh, with tinsel in our hair and presents everywhere, families in the
kitchen watching it snow, yeah. There's a party...

TUCKER: You can even imagine Elvis rocking out to it in his 1968
comeback leather outfit. Shelby Lynne's "Merry Christmas" is the most
consistently good new holiday album I've heard this year.

Another staple of the holiday genre is the anthology album that gathers
cuts by a wide range of performers. Warner Brothers has put out the
rather awkwardly titled "Gift Wrapped II: Snowed In." It sounds like a
discarded title for a Disney 3D animated film. The 21 selections on
"Snowed In" include artists ranging from Devo to David Foster to The
Flaming Lips. The sister duo of Tegan and Sara have come up with a sly,
sweet version of "The Chipmunk Song" - yes, the 1960s novelty hit by
Ross Bagdasarian. And in this case, Tegan and Sara have enlisted their
mother to round out the act.

(Soundbite of song, "The Chipmunk Song")

Ms. QUINN: All right Tegan and Sara. Ready to sing your song?

TEGAN AND SARA (Indie, pop, rock band): I'll say we are. Yeah. Let's
sing it now.

Ms. QUINN: Okay, Tegan?


Ms. QUINN: Okay, Ted?

TED: Okay.

Ms. QUINN: Sara? Sara? Sara?


TEGAN AND SARA: (Singing) Christmas, Christmas time is near. Time for
toys and time for cheer. We've been good, but we can't last. Hurry
Christmas, hurry fast.

Want a plane that loops the loop. Me, I want a hula hoop. We can hardly
stand the wait. Please Christmas, don't be late.

TUCKER: The prettiest song on "Snowed In" is credited to Ben Keith, who
died in July of this year. Keith is best known as a pedal steel
guitarist working with Neil Young, and he enlisted Neil Young and
Young's wife Pegi to sing a lovely version of "Les Trois Cloches," or
"The Three Bells," a gorgeous pop hit for the brother-sister act The
Browns in 1959. The song invokes Christmas in its first verse, but with
its lyric about the cycles of a man's life, it's a bigger, more poignant
piece of music, denying mere nostalgia.

(Soundbite of song, "The Three Bells")

THE BROWNS (Country and folk music vocal trio): (Singing) There's a
village deep in the valley, among the pine trees half forlorn. And there
on a sunny morning, Little Jimmy Brown was born.

All the chapel bells were ringing. In the little valley town and the
songs that they were singing were for baby Jimmy Brown. Then the little
congregation prayed for guidance from above. Lead us not into
temptation, bless this hour of meditation, guide him with eternal love.

TUCKER: We use holiday music in different ways, most often as background
sounds while we're doing something else. Novelty songs can be fun, but I
never want to hear "Santa Got Run Over by a Reindeer" again. The most
interesting Christmas songs nod to, or even revel in, the loneliness
that can surround the merry atmosphere. Whether you're seeking comfort,
escape or Muzak, there's something for everyone in this new batch of
holiday releases. As Devo sings in another song this season, "Merry
Something to You."

GROSS: Ken Tucker editor at large for Entertainment Weekly. You can hear
three tracks from the albums he reviewed on our website,, where you can also download Podcasts of our show.

I’m Terry Gross.

(Soundbite of music)

Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

You May Also like

Did you know you can create a shareable playlist?


Recently on Fresh Air Available to Play on NPR


Daughter of Warhol star looks back on a bohemian childhood in the Chelsea Hotel

Alexandra Auder's mother, Viva, was one of Andy Warhol's muses. Growing up in Warhol's orbit meant Auder's childhood was an unusual one. For several years, Viva, Auder and Auder's younger half-sister, Gaby Hoffmann, lived in the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan. It was was famous for having been home to Leonard Cohen, Dylan Thomas, Virgil Thomson, and Bob Dylan, among others.


This fake 'Jury Duty' really put James Marsden's improv chops on trial

In the series Jury Duty, a solar contractor named Ronald Gladden has agreed to participate in what he believes is a documentary about the experience of being a juror--but what Ronald doesn't know is that the whole thing is fake.

There are more than 22,000 Fresh Air segments.

Let us help you find exactly what you want to hear.
Just play me something
Your Queue

Would you like to make a playlist based on your queue?

Generate & Share View/Edit Your Queue