Don’t-Miss List: Harry Connick Jr., Ai Weiwei and More

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

Smokey Mary, Harry Connick Jr.
Harry Connick Jr. fans tend to fall into two camps: those who groove when the native New Orleanian busts out his funkier side (See: 1994’s She) and those who’d rather he stick to his sexy, jazzy croon. This record falls firmly in the funk camp. As one critic wrote, “For longtime fans, Smokey Mary will probably play like the passing Mardi Gras parade float it is named after, a lot of colorful, shiny fun.”

Like Someone in Love 
Oscar time often reminds us how many small-but-great films can easily drift off the radar. Case in point: this beautifully shot Japanese movie by acclaimed director Abbas Kiarostami that explores the loneliness of widowhood. It’s the story of a Tokyo student moonlighting as a call girl, who is dispatched to the suburbs and finds a shy, elderly widower more interested in playing house than having sex.

Life Is but a Dream, HBO, Debuts Feb. 16
For women who spend their lives struggling to “have it all,” it’s always fascinating to peel back the facade and get a glimpse at someone else’s seemingly perfect life. In this autobiographical documentary, pop superstar/wife/mother Beyoncé opens up about some of the more nightmarish aspects of her life in the spotlight: cutting her father loose as her manager and coping with a miscarriage.  

Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, Elizabeth Cline
After coming home from a K-mart shopping spree with seven identical pairs of $7 shoes and a head full of regret, journalist Elizabeth Cline decided to inventory her closet. She found 61 tops, 60 T-shirts, 15 cardigans and hooded sweatshirts, 21 skirts and 20 pairs of shoes — most of which she’d never worn. Overdressed recounts Cline’s subsequent investigation into the rise of disposable clothing retailers, the death of independent retailers and the roots of our obsession with deals and steals, a compelling story that will appeal to the bargain-hunting fad chaser in us all.
Ai Weiwei: According to What?, Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., through Feb. 24
How do we honor and memorialize those who’ve died? It’s a profound question made even more so when the circumstances surrounding the death are suspect — one of the provocative themes underlying this first-ever U.S. survey exhibition by Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei. One installation lists the names and ages of thousands of children killed in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, possibly as a result of schools shoddily built by the government. In another, the young victims’ names are read aloud through speakers; it takes 3 hours 41 minutes.

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

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