1 Peter Brosius’ marvelous production of Philip Pullman’s young-adult novel “The Scarecrow and His Servant” at Children’s Theatre has eye-popping design, clever language and a splendid, dynamic cast. The fanciful plot revolves around inheritance, family feuds and an unlikely friendship between a hungry orphan boy and an effigy that springs to life after being struck by lightning. A childless farmer dies, leaving his productive land to his Scarecrow, not to his poisonous relatives. childrenstheatre.org.
3 “Le Week-End” is a ruefully funny look at a long-term marriage. Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan set aside their tedious academic lives in England for a quick nip over to Paris. There he hopes to rekindle their amorous spark, but the vacation becomes a marathon of comic-romantic pathos to rival “Cyrano,” thanks to Broadbent’s old pal Jeff Goldblum in a very Jeff Goldblum-y role. There is sadness in this movie, yet director Roger Michell’s picturesque view of Paris, and Hanif Kureishi’s humane, platitude-free screenplay, make you feel unreasonably happy.
4 He looks like he should be cranking out Neil Young covers at your corner bar, but the War on Drugs mastermind Adam Granduciel has instead turned in what could be this year’s best collection of electronic-tinged soft jams. The first WoD album since Kurt Vile flew the coop to go solo, “Lost in the Dream” offers gorgeous waves of organ-tinged psychedelica wrapped around epic-minded Dylanesque songs, starting with the nine-minute opus “Under the Pressure.” At least we think Neil might dig this one.
5 We were excited about the Johnny Cash and Ray Charles stamps in the U.S. Postal Service’s Music Icon series. Loved the way the sheet of stamps was designed like the sleeve of an old 45 (note to anyone under 40: that’s what vinyl singles were like back in the day). Now we’re overjoyed with the brand-new Jimi Hendrix stamp. The sleeve is a psychedelic explosion of colors and images — mermaid, butterfly, guitar, spaceship, flowers and a fountain of curls. ’Scuse me while I peel this stamp.
2 Noah Strycker’s parents allowed him to drag home a dead deer so he could record and photograph the buzzards that came to feed on the carcass. His fascinating book, “The Thing With Feathers,” is filled with little asides like that one, asides that make you go, “Huh!” and, sometimes, “Ick!” But mostly it reveals, chapter by chapter, bird by bird, similarities between avian and human behavior. The bowerbird decorates its home; starlings follow a crowd-control system when they form those magnificent murmurations; parrots like to dance. You might conclude, “We’re all just a bunch of birdbrains.” And that would not be a bad thing.
Poll: Which top Oscar-nominated film is next on your must-see list?