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The Big Ten

What to watch, read and listen to this month

Illustration Chloé Fleury

1 EAT, PRAY, WATCH

The long-awaited film adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling memoir Eat, Pray, Love stars Julia Roberts as a recently divorced woman who treks through Italy, India and Indonesia in search of enlightenment. AUGUST 13

2 AND THE AWARD GOES TO…

Last year’s Emmy Awards were all about 30 Rock and Neil Patrick Harris. This year, think Glee, Jimmy Fallon and a move to NBC. AUGUST 29

3 READY FOR KICKOFF

EA Sports has made a few adjustments to its beloved franchise. In Madden 11, games are shorter, play-calling is faster, graphics are better, and it’s easier to control players’ movements. If only real life could be tweaked so easily… AUGUST 11

4 BLASTS FROM THE PAST

Between Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jet Li, Mickey Rourke, Dolph Lundgren and Sylvester Stallone (who also directs), The Expendables is like Old Home Week for the action stars of yore. Who says we can’t stay active in our golden years? AUGUST 13

5 C IS FOR CAN’T-MISS

There’s nothing funny about cancer. But somehow the amazing Laura Linney, playing an uptight teacher with a grim diagnosis, turns a series about illness into a ringing affirmation of life in The Big C, Showtime’s latest offering, costarring Gabourey Sidibe, John Hickey and Oliver Platt. AUGUST 16

6 ROCKET SCIENCE

In Packing for Mars, science journalist Mary Roach, author of best-selling books Stiff, Spook and Bonk (about the science of death, ghosts and sex, respectively), explores the Final Frontier, explaining how astronauts are lobbed hundreds of miles above the earth’s surface and survive in outer space without gravity, normal food or (ahem) plumbing. AUGUST 6

7 REM

On REM’s 1985 Fables of the Reconstruction, Michael Stipe mumbles and moans half-formed lyrics and Peter Buck is learning guitar on the fly, but this 25th anniversary double-disc reissue—with remastered tracks of folk-rocky gems such as “Driver 8” and “Green Grow the Rushes”—is a treasure trove of the Georgia quartet’s raw talent. OUT NOW

8 BRIAN WILSON

A few years after the release of his long-gestating 2004 album, Smile, Brian Wilson bought the rights to a catalog of George Gershwin’s unfinished songs. In Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin, the brilliant Beach Boy finishes off a few tunes and brings his sonic wizardry to bear on some old standards. AUGUST 17

9 SWEPT AWAY

Best-selling mystery writer Laura Lippman’s latest thriller, I’d Know You Anywhere, concerns a woman abducted in 1985 whose kidnapper contacts her from death row years later. It will keep you on the edge of your beach chair. AUGUST 18

Spike Lee

Doing the right thing

By Aaron Gell

10 DIRECTOR SPIKE LEE was deep into the editing process on If God Is Willing and da Creek Don’t Rise, the four-hour sequel to When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts, his 2006 documentary about Hurricane Katrina, when the Deepwater Horizon exploded. Over the subsequent weeks, as oil poured into the Gulf of Mexico, he found himself packing for yet another trip to the beleaguered area.

Initially, the new film was meant as a testament to the “resiliency and spirit of the gulf region,” he says. “Between Mardi Gras and the Saints winning the Super Bowl, people were just in ecstasy. It was really great after all they’d been through. Now they’re back in despair with this oil spill.”

Lee reinterviewed residents he’d introduced to viewers three years before, and found that many were still suffering the aftereffects of Katrina. But one had somehow turned three brutal years in a FEMA trailer into a hopeful new life. After winning praise for her scrappy turn in the original film, Phyllis Montana LeBlanc published a memoir of her experience, Not Just the Levees Broke and, with an assist from Lee, won a major acting role in the HBO series Treme.

Even so, with the massive oil leak, she and many of her neighbors will continue to struggle. “It’s an ongoing story,” Lee says. “A vivid, vibrant American story.” If God Is Willing and da Creek Don’t Rise premieres on HBO August 23 and 24.

Photographs Courtesy of Jordin Althaus/Showtime (The Big C), Courtesy of Columbia Tristar (Eat, Pray, Love), by Kevin Winter/Getty Images (Fallon), Courtesy of Lionsgate (The Expendables), Courtesy of Guy Webster (Wilson), by Kevin Winter/Getty Images (Stipe), by Getty Images (Lee)

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