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"Rapturous," "Soaring," "Masterful!" It's that time of year again when critics use their hyperbolic best to preview the fall's most anticipated films. Starting at the end of August, studios show their Oscar hopefuls to accredited press across a trinity of prestigious film festivals – Venice, Telluride, and Toronto – the last of which concluded on Sunday night.

This story originally aired on Feb. 28, 2017 on All Things Considered.

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Finally today, jazz pianist and composer Randy Weston died this weekend. He was 92 years old.

(SOUNDBITE OF RANDY WESTON'S "HI-FLY")

Padmaavat, India's first 3-D IMAX spectacle, is a lavish, operatic Bollywood musical set in the 14th-century palaces and deserts of Rajasthan. It has elephant processions, kaleidoscopic tableaus of Indian palaces and gorgeous actors in bejeweled costumes. It was directed by one of India's most celebrated filmmakers, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, and stars one of the country's most popular actresses, Deepika Padukone.

At the height of the Cold War, the United States was also fighting a culture war. To counter Soviet propaganda, the U.S. State Department launched a public relations campaign called the Jazz Ambassadors program, sending Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Dave Brubeck and other leading jazz musicians on tours around the world.

Shahzia Sikander is one of the contemporary art world's most celebrated stars. She's projecting her hypnotic video installations onto Times Square billboards; she's led exhibitions at major art museums across the world; and she was recognized by the MacArthur Foundation as a "genius" fellow in 2006.

This is an introduction to NPR's Muslim Artists, Now series, which will highlight contemporary Muslim musicians, writers, painters and filmmakers, among others.

Last night was Empire's season finale, and at one of D.C.'s biggest Empire watch parties, a sharply dressed crowd of hundreds is huddled around every flat-screen in The Stone Fish Grill Lounge downtown.

"Here we go! Here we go! Here we go, come on everyone! Round of applause!" shouts one of the hosts for the night. "It's Empire time!"

Three years ago, when Islamist rebels seized the ancient Malian city of Timbuktu, filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako began planning a film about Islamic extremism. As an African Muslim, he says he always was inspired by Timbuktu's history as a center of learning and tolerance, and wanted to explore how extremist ideology could survive in that setting.

But he didn't want to make another news documentary about Islamic extremism.