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Don't-Miss List: 'Les Mis,' 'The Nutcracker' and More

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

By Pamela Miller | December 21, 2012
Anne Hathaway in
Anne Hathaway plays Fantine in the film release of "Les Miserables," premiering on Christmas Day.
Courtesy of Universal Pictures

MOVIES

Les Miserables
 
As a young girl, Anne Hathaway sat in the theater and wept as her mother (Kate McCauley) portrayed Fantine, the tragic heroine of Les Miserables. Then and there, Hathaway decided to be an actress. Now, it’s her turn to take on the role in the film version, belting out an acclaimed version of "I Dreamed a Dream" that’s been bringing premiere audiences to tears. Even those of us who bypassed the most beloved production ever to open on a Broadway stage will find it difficult to resist this all-star cast of A-listers (Hugh Jackman, Amanda Seyfried and Russell Crowe) showing off their impressive pipes.
 
MUSIC

This Is 40, Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
 
Don’t let Judd Apatow’s reputation as the patron saint of male arrested development steer you away from this sophisticated soundtrack featuring new and original songs from Fiona Apple, Norah Jones, Graham Parker and Lindsey Buckingham, plus reboots by Wilco and Ryan Adams. The record’s prevailing themes echo those of the movie: the shifting mix of heartwarming and heartbreaking moments that make long-term relationships so complicated — and so compelling.
 
TELEVISION

It’s a Wonderful Life, NBC, Christmas Eve
 

If there’s one time of year to dial down the cynicism and steep yourself in sap, it’s Christmas. Blast the carols. Carve wide smiles on gingerbread guys. Above all, curl up on the sofa for Frank Capra's classic tale of a suicidal businessman (James Stewart as George Bailey) whose spirits are resurrected by his guardian angel, Clarence. Let yourself well up a little when George wails, “I want to live again!”
 
BOOKS

The Big Screen: The Story of the Movies, David Thompson
 
Film buffs who long for the days before the Internet began luring us away from the movie house will enjoy the path this book traces through more than a century of cinema. But The Big Screen is more a journey than a history lesson. As pop culture anthropologist Greil Marcus points out, critic/historian David Thompson explores the way movies have transformed our societies and perceptions of the world — and his book “reads like floating down a very, very long river.” 
 
WORTH THE TRIP

The Nutcracker, Lincoln Center (through Dec. 30)
 
The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree may get all the glory, but the evergreen that grows on The Nutcracker stage at Lincoln Center is every bit as essential to the New York Christmas experience. Since 1954, the New York City Ballet has been staging George Balanchine’s choreography of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece, yet, magically, never fails to surprise. “This Nutcracker shows, as profoundly as any other work, that the true choreographer is both theater director and dance-maker,” The New York Times says. “Often, just as we think we know where we are … heart-stopping twists arrive out of the blue.”

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

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