Our five faves of the moment.
1 Paul Thomas Anderson's "The Master" is a dazzling, perplexing, adventurous, hypnotic act of filmmaking. The story concerns a lost young man, a corrupt father figure and the struggle for possession of a soul. The older man is Philip Seymour Hoffman, playing a roguish 1950s cult leader. His commanding performance is worthy of the young Orson Welles, a zesty mix of arrogance, generosity, gravitas and horseplay. The film itself is challenging: Is it the richly nuanced character study it appears to be or a mythic wrestling match between id and superego?
2 Theater is so often about scale and mood. Sarah Ruhl's play "Eurydice" really needs to be performed in an intimate room with a director who understands the atmosphere of affection, loss and melancholy. This is why director Amy Rummenie's staging is so satisfying. The play, now in production at Pillsbury House Theatre, is a delicate story of a young woman who discovers her father in the underworld and then rebuilds her memories with him. www.walking shadowcompany.org
3 Tana French's "Broken Harbor" is so thrilling we didn't sleep for two nights. In the fourth of French's Dublin Murder Squad mystery series, members of a family are found slaughtered in their McMansion, and it's up to Det. Scorcher Kennedy and his rookie partner to figure out what happened. The book is set in a ghostly high-end neighborhood where most of the houses are vacant and unfinished work simply stopped when the Boom crashed, and those who live there are stuck. It's a wonderful metaphor for the book's message -- that those who play by the rules often end up screwed. Or in this case, dead.
4 If you'd have told us five years ago that one of the most gripping hours on television would be a biker-gang "Sopranos" ripoff, we'd have said, "You're nuts." After its fifth-season premiere, "Sons of Anarchy" deserves high praise. The bloody "Hamlet"-like story line of a young biker usurping his stepfather is going full steam. The latest episodes drive us right into the heart of a gang war that introduces "Lost's" Harold Perrineau as a ruthless rival and Jimmy Smits as a pimp who'd rather be called a "companionator."
5 The first chapter in rebounding R&B star Bettye LaVette's "A Woman Like Me" is the most powerful opening chapter in any music biography. And it's only three pages. "A vicious pimp was precariously holding on to my right foot as he dangled me from the top of a 20-story apartment building" is how it starts. She was 19 and an aspiring singer. Her memoir is raw and riveting, filled with sex, drugs and gossip about Aretha, Diana and Motown fixtures. Of course, there's LaVette's comeback in the '00s, including singing at President Obama's inaugural celebration.