Hyde Park on the Hudson
Bill Murray admits he wouldn't have cast himself as FDR in this biopic inspired by the real events of June 1939, when the 32nd president ushered in a new era of U.S.-British relations by serving hot dogs to monarchs. But once he got into the role, Murray says he saw certain shared traits, “like the way he tried to move attention around a room, get everyone their little slice of the sun.” In fact, critics praising Murray’s portrayal of “that guy on the dime” say the iconic comic could go head to head in the Oscar race with Daniel Day-Lewis for his portrayal of that guy on the penny.
Secular Carols for the Holidays, Tracey Thorn
Everything But the Girl singer Tracey Thorn’s voice may be angelic, but here she proves that spiritual music doesn't have to be limited to the songs in a hymnal. With a mix of original tracks like "Joy" and new takes on familiar hits — including a stirring cover of "River" from Joni Mitchell's 1971 masterpiece Blue — Thorn offers up a much-needed reboot of the Christmas canon. It's the ideal holiday-party soundtrack for anyone who's already heard enough 'Jingle Bells' just one week into December.
Extreme Make-Over: Home Edition
ABC, Dec. 10, 8 p.m.
Counter the holiday spirit-sucking effects of the Black Friday spending frenzy with a warm, fuzzy tale of mankind's goodness. This week's Extreme episode tells the story of the Fridays, a North Carolina family whose lives were changed when they met a teenager who’d been separated from his four siblings by the foster system. After initially being denied their adoption request because their home was too small, the couple sold their van and converted their carport into bedrooms. Now the makeover crew plays Santa, giving the Fridays a spacious renovation and a Christmas they’ll never forget.
Vogue – The Editor’s Eye, edited by Eve MacSweeney
Fashionistas on your gift list will flip for this 416-page tribute to the work of eight legendary Vogue fashion editors. The lavishly illustrated book features indelible images of models and muses — including Marilyn Monroe, Verushka and Linda Evangelista — by such renowned photographers as Richard Avedon, Irving Penn and Annie Leibovitz.
WORTH THE TRIP
Alvin Ailey at New York City Center
Dec. 9, 7:30 p.m.
Among the highlights of the new Alvin Ailey season will be the Dec. 9 performance of the modern dance masterpiece, Revelations. That night, revered Ailey star Renee Robinson takes her final bow in New York with a special farewell performance after 31 years in the company. Opening Night offered a hint of what’s sure to be a magical moment. "The dancer got a knowing cheer from the crowd as she floated into view carrying her famous white parasol from the 'Wade in the Water' sequence, a beatific smile on her face,” one reviewer wrote. “After all, it was likely that virtually everyone in the cavernous theater had seen her do it at least once in the past three decades.”
Pamela Miller is a freelance writer who lives in Los Angeles.