1 "Trouble With the Curve" is the total package: charming romantic comedy, poignant family drama and superb acting. It's further proof that Clint Eastwood just improves with age. He's wonderful as a gruff, widowed, increasingly frail talent scout for the Atlanta Braves. His vision is failing but not his instincts for the human dimensions of baseball. However, his relationship with his neglected daughter (Amy Adams as a no-nonsense lawyer) needs repairing. She joins him on a scouting trip, and this film turns into a home run.

2 With pending motherhood sure to sideline Adele for a while -- or worse, possibly turn her into a happy singer -- it's about time more mainstream music listeners embraced another strawberry-blonde, green-eyed, soul-wrenching British balladeer who sounds as depressed as she ever has: Beth Orton is back with "Sugaring Season," her first album in six years, a long hiatus brought on by self-doubt. So you know it's good. It's a delicate album laced with burning vocals, and the Nick Drake-like closing track "Mystery" might be the prettiest thing you'll hear all year.

3 Playwright Liz Duffy Adams has crafted a rollicking pirate show called "Buccaneers" at Children's Theatre. The brisk, two-hour musical comedy set in Victorian times features a spunky heroine (the fierce, cunning, gorgeous-voiced Megan Fischer), a resourceful survivor who finds her power leading a mutiny against a venal figure. This is definitely see-worthy. www.childrenstheatre.org.

4 In "Object Lessons: The Paris Review Presents the Art of the Short Story," editors asked 20 writers to explain what they love about a favorite story from the magazine's archives. The result is brief, intelligent essays (each followed by the short story it addresses) that zoom in on different aspects of writing. Jeffrey Eugenides loves the "blistering, acute" writing of Denis Johnson. Sam Lipsyte admires Mary Robison's "deep knowledge of the various ways life tears at us." This thoughtful book will make you look at short fiction with new eyes.

5 Gigi Gaston, a French rock star circa 1970, lived only in the mind and computer of New York designer/artist Josh Gosfield. But if you see the magazine covers, the tabloid headlines, the posters, LP covers and other media about Gaston in a Minneapolis pop-up gallery, you'd believe she's real. Gosfield has crafted a back story, somehow aged the newspapers and magazines, and created a music-video clip of "Je Suis Perdue," as if made by Jean-Luc Godard. Très cool. www.supplystudio.com.