We're liking "Company," "The Sessions," Haley Bonar, "My Ideal Bookshelf" and "Wreck-It Ralph."
1 Stephen Sondheim's "Company," a musical with scalding depictions of marriage, broke the Broadway mold in 1970 with its enigmatic hero and vignette structure. The songs comment on, rather than propel the slim story. With a brilliant staging at the Ordway for Theatre Latte Da, director Peter Rothstein pulls off a neat trick: He preserves the sensibility of 1970 and introduces the trappings of 2012 to create something timeless. www.ordway.org
2 "The Sessions" is a heartfelt, moving dramatic comedy that addresses the erotic longings of a disabled man without patronizing him or the audience. Writer/director Ben Lewin, a polio survivor, knows precisely how to tell this special story, and he's aided by a gallery of stunningly good performances by Helen Hunt, William H. Macy and especially John Hawkes. He delivers a humane, funny, soaring performance, lying immobile throughout the film in a bed, gurney or respirator.
3 After lying low to become a mom and play with her new wavey side band Gramma's Boyfriend, Twin Cities singer/songwriter Haley Bonar returns to form on her first new recording in 19 months. Which is to say she sounds a bit lost, guilty and anxious. The gorgeous new song "Bad Reputation" debuted last week as a 7-inch single to preview a full album expected next year. "I feel a little lame, like I'm kind of boring," Bonar sings over a rising tide of guitars by local wiz Jacob Hanson. "I wish I could meet my former self / She'd be a fun girlfriend." Spoken like a true new parent.
4 "My Ideal Bookshelf," by Thessaly La Force and Jane Mount, celebrates books. Dozens of famous book lovers were asked to choose one shelf of books that best represents them and write a brief essay about it. Rosanne Cash was moved by "The Diary of Anne Frank," "Little House in the Big Woods" and E.B. White's "Here Is New York." Junot Diaz read voraciously as a child to help improve his English. "I had come from a family and a place in the Dominican Republic where books were basically medieval -- few people had them, and they were very precious," he wrote. "The United States was a country of books." What a beautiful way to get to know a writer: to browse his or her shelves.
5 Zany, rambunctious and visually stunning, "Wreck-It Ralph" plunders the world of arcade video games to create a fantasy/comedy where onscreen avatars party like merry hell after the playland closes. Think "Tron" with belly laughs. Or "Night at the Museum" with any laughs. John C. Reilly delivers an inspired vocal turn as the title character, a lummox whose role is to damage a building that players repair with the help of Fix-It Felix Jr. The animated film is a visual tour de force, juggling the look of flat, herky-jerky old-school games and the slick, high-def sheen of the current generation.