The Don’t-Miss List: ‘Lincoln,’ Oliver Sacks and More

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On the set of this biopic, Steven Spielberg eschewed his trademark baseball cap, dressed in a suit and addressed Daniel Day Lewis as "Mr. President," all in deference to the historic milestone he sought to document: the 16th president’s struggle to pass the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery. Critics who have seen early screenings credit the iconic director for "finding the perfect union between history lesson and drama." But in the end, it’s Lewis’s portrayal of one of our nation's most heroic figures that makes this film the perfect antidote to our collective campaign hangover. "I never ever felt that depth of love for a human being I never met," Lewis says. "And I think Lincoln has that effect on most people that take the time to discover him."

Frontline: The Suicide Plan
Nov. 13, PBS
Since the 2011 death of Jack "Dr. Death" Kevorkian, the controversial issue of assisted suicide has largely drifted out of the headlines and back under the rug. But for terminally ill patients and their families, the battle rages on. This Frontline documentary goes into the shadow world of the right-to-die movement, featuring activists from the Final Exit Network, a doctor, a prosecutor, a juror and most poignantly, June Butterstein, who at 83 is terminally ill and struggling with the ethics and consequences of putting an end to her suffering by ending her own life.


On This Winter's Night, Lady Antebellum
Before heading to the studio with her bandmates a few months ago, Hillary Scott tweeted a photo of her new puppy, Baker: “Our good luck charm for Day 1 of recording album 4!” But Lady Antebellum needed more than a cuddly mascot to help set the mood to record a cheery Christmas record in July. Singing "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow" in a sweltering Nashville summer was “weird,” Hillary admits. So the red-hot country trio had to string up colored lights and drag fake trees into the studio to lift their holiday spirits — and those of prospective listeners — as high as the mercury. 

Hallucinations, Oliver Sacks
That the spider said "Hello" wasn’t as stunning as when it asked Oliver Sacks his opinion of Bertrand Russell’s refutation of Frege. The tale of the philosophical arachnid is just one of the episodes the beloved brain doctor recounts in Hallucinations. Sacks muses on the numerous “ventures into ambiguous territory” he made as a weekend tripper in the 1960s, bookending — and illuminating — his work as a neurology resident at UCLA. "Apart from pleasure and danger, a lot of the experiences were neurologically very interesting," says Sacks, looking back. "It gave me more empathy and insight into what my patients were experiencing when they had hallucinations due to disease. It made me more open to people’s experiences and less inclined to say, 'That’s impossible.'" 

Glengarry Glen Ross, Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre, New York
Previews begin Nov. 11 (Opening Dec. 8)
“Whoever told you that you could work with MEN?” Twenty years ago, Al Pacino's blustery Ricky Roma berated his cowering colleague in the film version of Glengarry Glen Ross. So it’s particularly poignant to see the actor — now gray-maned with heavy bags sagging beneath sunken eyes — in the role of has-been Shelly Levene, meekly complain, “The leads are weak.” With its Dream Team of Pacino, Bobby Cannavale, Richard Schiff and John C. McGinley, this Broadway revival of David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece is sure to deliver enough wow moments to justify forking over the big bucks (up to $350 per seat!). 

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

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