News Article

The A List: August 2006

A handy guide to movies, CDs, DVDs, TV shows, and books that made the grade (A- or better) in EW during the past month

MOVIES

SHERRYBABY
Maggie Gyllenhaal, Brad William Henke (Unrated)
A junkie and a thief, Sherry — morally, emotionally, and intellectually adrift — is the kind of meaty role that Serious Actors kill for. Hooray, then, for Gyllenhaal (whom we're sure has no blood on her hands) for taking a character that is shallow, unlikable, and clueless, and giving a performance that is nuanced, sympathetic, and fearless.

IDLEWILD
André Benjamin, Antwan A. Patton (R)
Better known as André 3000 and Big Boi of the rap duo OutKast, Benjamin and Patton star in this stylish, kinetic, and wondrously anachronistic tale of a Prohibition-era nightclub in the titular Georgia town.

ANDY WARHOL: A DOCUMENTARY FILM (Unrated)
It turns out this serious (but never somber) appraisal of Warhol's career is long overdue: We easily forget that behind the cool gaze of the fame-fixated scenester were the eyes of a truly gifted and visionary artist.


MUSIC

BOB DYLAN
Modern Times The last piece in a swell trilogy that includes 1997's Time Out of Mind and 2001's Love and Theft. The title notwithstanding, it takes its cues from American music's golden past — with Dylan providing the snarling bridge to the present.

TV ON THE RADIO
Return to Cookie Mountain Peace and prosperity are anathema to even the smartest gloom-rockers. We, of course, do not live in such times. So what's unlucky for us is a blessing for this Brooklyn quintet, whose supple songcraft and atmospheric soundscapes make the best out of a bad situation.

THE ROOTS
Game Theory While other rap acts swaddle themselves in the luxuries offered in New York, L.A., and Atlanta, the Philly-based Roots continue to make albums that have a sensibility still firmly grounded in the streets.

THE BLACK KEYS
Magic Potion Guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney know something about making lotsa noise. With a sound that is fastidiously rough-hewn, theirs is absolutely the best blues-rock album ever recorded in an Akron, Ohio, basement.

SHAWN COLVIN
These Four Walls A singer-songwriter in the Joni Mitchell mold, Colvin turns her pain into works that are vital and profound.

YO LA TENGO
I Am Not Afraid of You and I Will Beat Your Ass Afraid? No. Beaten down by their art-rock genius? Yeah, we'll give 'em that.


DVDS

THE OFFICE: SEASON TWO
Steve Carell, Jenna Fischer, Rainn Wilson (Unrated)
The documentary-film crew is still shooting at the Dunder-Mifflin office. But far beyond presenting the crushing drudgery of paper pushing in all its gray-carpeted glory, the second season of the Emmy-honored series proves that sometimes love can blossom under fluorescent light.

PLAY TIME
Jacques Tati (Unrated)
With a visual style that's both dense and inventive, writer-director-star Tati gently pokes fun at the impersonal intrusions of modern life, as represented by the gleaming glass and steel of mid-'60s Paris.

THE DICK CAVETT SHOW: HOLLYWOOD GREATS
Fred Astaire, Bette Davis (Unrated)
Yes, he could be smug and self-absorbed, but Cavett was also witty and urbane. A nice reminder of a time when talk-show hosts spent less time cracking wise and more time, you know, talking.

HARD CANDY
Ellen Page, Patrick Wilson (R)
A 14-year-old girl strikes up an online relationship with an L.A. fashion photographer and agrees to meet him at a coffee shop. He turns on the gooey charm and guile, and they eventually return to his home photo studio. What happens there is ugly and brutal and thoroughly riveting. The waifish Page is mesmerizing in this sleek and sharp-edged inversion of Little Red Riding Hood.


TV

THE WIRE (HBO, Sundays, 10 -- 11 p.m.)
Why aren't you watching this yet? For its fourth season, the much-heralded but viewer-deprived series turns its unflinching eye toward Baltimore's failing inner-city schools, trailing four eighth-graders trapped within its bounds. Gritty and uncomfortable, it's also — let's all say it together — the best show on television.


BOOKS

QUEEN OF FASHION by Caroline Weber (Nonfiction)
A smartly dressed account of Marie Antoinette, the young queen whose fashion-forward styles and outlandish poufs were both praised and savaged by her people.

DAMNATION STREET by Andrew Klavan (Thriller)
World-weary PI Scott Weiss goes on the hunt for both a prostitute and the torturer set on killing her in Klavan's tense, taut noir.

WORLD WAR Z by Max Brooks (Novel)
Prepare to be entranced by this addictively readable oral history of the great war between humans and zombies.

JOHNNY CASH by Michael Streissguth (Biography)
A meticulously researched, elegant tribute to the Man in Black that breaks down fact from fiction without ever stripping him of his legend.

FORGETFULNESS by Ward Just (Novel)
The post-9/11 landscape is expertly mined when an American expatriate seeks to avenge his wife's murder.

ST. LUCY'S HOME FOR GIRLS RAISED BY WOLVES by Karen Russell (Story Collection)
An alligator farm, ghosts, and a sleep-disorder camp are all featured in this enchanting and original debut.

THERE IS NO ME WITHOUT YOU by Melissa Fay Greene (Nonfiction)
What starts out as the true story of an Ethiopian widow who runs an orphanage balloons into a larger tale of the AIDS crisis in Africa that enthralls, infuriates, and inspires — all at the same time.

Originally posted Sep 22, 2006 Published in issue #899 Sep 29, 2006 Order article reprints
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