Don’t-Miss List: ‘Side Effects,’ George Saunders and More

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Side Effects
The debate surrounding antidepressants — overhyped and over-prescribed? — gets an extra-strength dose of controversy in Steven Soderbergh’s twisty “pharmaceutical thriller.” The swanky life of a New York couple (Rooney Mara and Channing Tatum) unravels after the wife agrees to be a guinea pig for a new drug at the urging of her psychiatrist (Jude Law). If you don’t already grill the docs who write your prescriptions, you will after seeing this provocative film. (Watch the trailer below.)
Tenth of December, George Saunders
“The writer's main job is to make the story unscroll in such a way that the reader is snared — she's right there, seeing things happen and caring about them,” New Yorker contributor George Saunders once explained. As Tenth of December makes clear, it’s a job the man often dubbed “the best short story writer in America” excels at. This collection is rife with Saunders’ signature empathy, deeply felt. In the title story, a man dying of cancer plans to strip naked in a park in the winter so he will freeze to death, sparing his family a grueling illness. But then he meets a younger man who forces him to re-evaluate.


Frontline: Cliffhanger, PBS, Feb. 12
Featuring interviews with key Washington insiders on both sides of the aisle, this Frontline investigation provides insight into the political infighting that’s pushing our economy to the brink. With the middle class still hanging on by its fingernails, this is a critical time to peek behind the curtain and discover what’s really causing the breakdown inside the Beltway. 

Get Up! Ben Harper with Charlie Musselwhite

As a teenager in 1960s Chicago, blues harmonica legend Charlie Musselwhite was looking for factory work when he found himself ensnared in a world of all-night jam sessions in smoky bars and was soon discovered while sitting in with Muddy Waters, pioneer of electric blues. Fast forward a few decades to a Southern California family music store where a boy named Ben Harper, growing up amid stacks of vinyl, became entranced with Musselwhite's hypnotic playing. Now, the singer-songwriter and harmonica aficionado bring their distinct musical backgrounds together in Get Up!, which the BBC calls “an inter-generational summit that sets the standard for 21st century blues.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the Kennedy Center, Washington, through Feb. 10
"The crowd starts cheering before the curtain goes up," The New York Times writes of Alvin Ailey’s signature ballet, "Revelations." The groundbreaking choreographer’s most popular and critically acclaimed effort is at the heart of each night’s program as the renowned company kicks off a four-month, 21-city tour of North America.

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

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