A film about a typeface? Yes. And not just for typophiles. Gary Hustwit's witty, provocative, and unexpectedly entertaining documentary about Helvetica, the clean, smooth, durable set of letters which sprang from Switzerland's Haas Type Foundry 50 years ago and rapidly conquered the world of public words, is a fascinating exploration of graphic design and visual culture. As the film's footage of the signs and advertisements that crowd any city street reveals, Helvetica is so ubiquitous we barely notice it. From American Airlines to the Gap, it is a preferred partner in corporate identities; from the signage in New York's subway system to marquees and guideposts across the globe, its easy-to-read, neutral presence orients people with calm authority. Long before personal computers made the phrase known to everyone, Helvetica was an international, all-purpose "default font," inspiring both admiration and disdain among designers (in the film, Lars M�ller calls it "the perfume of the city," while Paula Sher reports that she first regarded it as part of "some conspiracy of my mother's to make me keep the house clean"). Interviewing a stellar cast of designers and typographers, including Erik Spiekermann, Wim Crouwel, Hermann Zapf, David Carson, Tobias Frere-Jones, and Matthew Carter (who offers a swift, intriguing description of the initial steps in designing a typeface), Hustwit composes a vivid tapestry of ideas that is stimulating, surprising, and absolutely delightful. If you've ever been tantalized by the range of fonts your computer puts at your fingertips, you'll be captivated by this splendid film. -

April 19: "What you see first, after the starting gun's crack, is a column of bobbing runners, thousands of them, surging downhill..."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.