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The Don't-Miss List: 'NY Med,' 'Queen of Versailles,' 'True Believers' and More

See it! Hear it! Read it! Do it! The best of movies, TV, music, books and more

By Pamela Miller | July 20, 2012
david and jackie siegel in the queen of versailles, a magnolia pictures release
David and Jackie Siegel in THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES, a Magnolia Pictures release.
Lauren Greenfield | Courtesy of Magnolia Pictures

TELEVISION

NY Med (ABC)
Tuesday, 10 p.m.

While Kim and Kourtney take New York, maverick surgeon Dr. Kato is taking out a man’s diseased liver, determined to perform a last-chance miracle. Such is the surreally broad spectrum that has become reality TV. On the don’t-miss end of that span is ABC’s NY Med. (Episode 1 log line: “A woman must talk to her doctors while undergoing brain surgery.” Try not tuning in.) Set in and around New York-Presbyterian Hospital, this eight-part series offers the perfect dose of life-and-death drama, heart-wrenching revelations, medical science and not-for-the-squeamish gore. But the flesh-and-blood characters are even more compelling. Precocious residents, sexy nurses and swaggering surgeons dispense kernels of wit and wisdom as naturally as they dole out meds. The Clooney of this bunch is Dr. Mehmet Oz, the TV host and cardiothoracic surgeon whose brilliance never eclipses his warmth. “I have made the mistake of operating on people who have no one who loved them,” he tells one patient. “If you don’t have a reason for your heart to keep beating, it won’t.” Who needs Grey's Anatomy?
 
BOOKS

True Believers, Kurt Andersen
 
Selfishness won! So culture connoisseur Kurt Andersen argued in his explosive Fourth of July op-ed in The New York Times. “What has happened politically, economically, culturally and socially since the sea change of the late ’60s isn’t contradictory or incongruous,” Andersen wrote. “For hippies and bohemians, for businesspeople and investors, extreme individualism has been triumphant.” This provocative theme pervades Andersen’s ambitious new novel. True Believers explores how the ‘60s are still with us, thanks to Hillary-esque protagonist Karen Hollander, a celebrated attorney composing a memoir that will expose a dark secret from her radical past, and her granddaughter, Waverly, an Occupy protestor. Even those who seethe over Andersen’s equating left-wing social movements with right-wing economic greed will be taken in by the book’s mix of intrigue and insights. “Armageddon and apocalypse were right around the corner in the late ’60s," Andersen writes, "and they’re right around the corner now. Now as then, true believers loathe the moderates in their midst.”

MOVIES

The Queen of Versailles

“I ain’t talkin’ ‘bout rich," Chris Rock once ranted, "I’m talkin ‘bout  WEALTH!” That kind of affluence is just the starting point of Lauren Greenfield’s Sundance-winning documentary about septuagenarian billionaire David Siegel, his trophy wife Jackie and their quest to build the biggest house in the country. Robin Leach would've been stunned by the obscene opulence of their planned palace, a 90,000-square-foot monstrosity with 30 bedrooms, 10 kitchens, two tennis courts, a baseball field and a roller rink. Construction was well on its way when the economy burst all over the Siegels' dream and stopped the project in its tracks. Suddenly every excess is not only irrelevant, but absurd, and the family's plight feels all too familiar. The fear and vulnerability that haunt the struggle to get by is something all of us can relate to — rich, wealthy, broke or dead broke.

MUSIC

Rebirth, Jimmy Cliff

Let the kids have Frank Ocean. As sure as the sun’s gonna shine, they won’t remember his name, his sound or his sexual orientation four decades from now. The legendary Jimmy Cliff, on the other hand, is now 64 and still lighting it up — likely in more ways than one — oh so many years after his heyday. Cliff’s latest, Rebirth, not only recaptures the groove that turned the globe on to reggae, but proves there's a difference between making a splash and making art. Last year at Glastonbury, Cliff  performed an updated version of "Vietnam," the anti-war anthem that Dylan called “the best protest song I've ever heard” — Cliff simply changed the title to "Afghanistan." 

NO NEED TO LEAVE THE SOFA

Margaret (DVD)
 
Reading the Tweets, you’d have thought Justin Bieber had swung by the Lower East Side: “Line goes around the block. Like way around the block.” “… sounds like some ppl needed 2B turned away.” “Amazing night!” In truth, the giddy hordes had descended on Manhattan’s Sunshine Landmark theater last week for a screening of Kenneth Lonergan’s extended cut of Margaret. The film's journey to that point was as tortured as the story of its protagonist, a private-school teenager (Anna Paquin) whose flirtation with a bus driver leads to a fatal accident. After years in the editing room, the original 150-minute Margaret was finally released last September, only to get panned by critics and tank at the box office. Cut to #teammargaret, which helped make the film an underground hit overseas and in art houses. Now there's a new three-hour version on DVD — and the praise is extraordinary. The New Yorker called it a “masterwork.”

Pamela Miller is a freelance writer who lives in Los Angeles.

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