We're liking "Lincoln," the latest by Joyce Carol Oates, "Anna Bolena," Nightingale and the new "Cities 97 Sampler."
1 "Lincoln" is one of those rare projects where a great director (Steven Spielberg), a great actor (Daniel Day-Lewis, pictured) and a great writer (Tony Kushner) amplify one another's gifts. The team has created a triumphant piece of historical journalism, a profound work of popular art and a rich examination of one of our darkest epochs, as President Abraham Lincoln aims to govern a bitterly divided nation, with his goal of passing the 13th Amendment to abolish slavery.
2 No one so boldly explores the naïveté, narcissism and cruelty that lurk at the edges of many American lives and souls as Joyce Carol Oates. In the title story of "Black Dahlia & White Rose: Stories," she returns to one of her obsessions, Marilyn Monroe, who as a young Norma Jean Baker frets over the risks taken by her imagined 1940s roommate, soon to be known as the infamous victim of a particularly horrific murder. In yet another collection of raw, spooky and captivating stories, Oates demonstrates again that she is one of our nation's greatest writers.
3 The 1830 opera "Anna Bolena" is concerned with Henry XIII's second wife, the unfortunate Anne Boleyn, and No. 3, the conflicted Jane Seymour (Anne's sometime lady-in-waiting). Credit a phenomenal cast of American singers for the success of this Minnesota Opera production at the Ordway. First among equals is soprano Keri Alkema as Anne. Kyle Ketelsen brings menace and suavity to the role of Henry. Closes Sunday. www.mnopera.org.
4 While the name could use some work, we like everything else about Nightingale in Minneapolis. The new Lyn-Lake night spot is unlike anything else in the area, boasting a sophisticated setting -- tufted- leather seating and arty wood chandeliers. The kitchen pumps out small plates to the busy late-night crowd, and the bar features a strong list of craft cocktails. In our mind, it's best to judge a place by the classics. After sipping the bar's modestly priced $8 Sazerac, we say Nightingale passed with flying colors. 2551 Lyndale Av. S., Mpls.
5 The sound of acoustic guitars on medium- tempo tunes may get a little monotonous, but there are still enough highlights on "Cities 97 Sampler Volume 24" to get excited about. The change-of-pace numbers on this annual Twin Cities charity fundraiser are Grouplove's hooky "Tongue Tied," Mayer Hawthorne's breezy slice of '70s soul "The Walk," "American Idol" finalist Haley Reinhart's alluringly slurred "Free," Dessa's sultry soulful "Dixon's Girl," Foster the People's cool, minimalist treatment of "Pumped Up Kicks" and Of Monsters and Men's peppy and rootsy "Little Talks."
Poll: Which top Oscar-nominated film is next on your must-see list?