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The Big Ten

What to watch, read and listen to this month

Illustration Chloé Fleury

1 SPY GAMES

In the fraught early days of the war in Iraq, Valerie Plame became a household name-not great for the career of a deep-cover CIA operative. Naomi Watts stars opposite Sean Penn in Fair Game, the Cannes hit that puts the Plame affair on the big screen. NOVEMBER 5

2 TEAM COCO

After 16 years at Late Night and a brief turn in Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show throne, Conan O’Brien heads to TBS. Fans eagerly await the return of such Conan staples as Triumph the Insult Comic Dog and the ever-elegant Vomiting Kermit. NOVEMBER 8

3 DARK STAR

Stephen King returns to his best format, the short story (1978’s Night Shift is a masterpiece), with Full Dark, No Stars, a bleak and unsparing collection of macabre morality tales. The characters in the four stories are classic King; the collection is the work of a writer at the peak of his powers. NOVEMBER 9

4 BLACK MAGIC

The once lighthearted Harry Potter film franchise has grown darker, both literally and figuratively, as the series has progressed. For the first half of The Deathly Hallows, in which the heroes set off to defeat Lord Voldemort, you may find yourself reaching for a flashlight-and a Kleenex. NOVEMBER 19

5 OLDER, BUT WISER

Erstwhile punk pixie Avril Lavigne is all grown up-but she didn’t get there the easy way. Her long-awaited single finally drops this month, after nearly a half-dozen delays (possibly stemming from a recent divorce). The more sober sound heralds a new era for the singer-songwriter.

6 LOST AND FOUND

Moonlight Mile, the hard-boiled sequel to Dennis Lehane’s best-selling Gone, Baby, Gone, brings back Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro after a 10-year hiatus. The Boston-based PIs now have a daughter and a house, but their plans to pursue a more respectable (read: less violent) life are derailed when a girl from their past goes missing. NOVEMBER 2

7 KEEPING UP WITH THE JONES

On top of being a nine-time Grammy winner, Norah Jones has become one of the music industry’s most sought-after duet partners. …Featuring collects some of her best collaborations, including performances with Dolly Parton, Scottish pop powerhouse Belle and Sebastian, rapper Q-Tip and the late, great Ray Charles. NOVEMBER 2

8 A LITTLE BIT COUNTRY

Miranda Lambert and Brad Paisley will host the 44th annual CMA Awards, and both are up for quite a few, as are Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban. Winning an award or two should take the sting out of their dogs running away and their pickups getting flat tires. NOVEMBER 10

9 RANSOM NOTES

Over 30 years, Elvis Costello, that effusive icon of New Wave, has collaborated with everyone from Burt Bacharach to Sir Paul McCartney. By enlisting prolific producer T-Bone Burnett for National Ransom, the gap- toothed Brit takes a crafty step toward canonization as an American master. NOVEMBER 2

10 SEND IN THE CLOWNS

PBS’s Circus, a six-part documentary, looks at the lives of people who actually run away to join the circus. By turns funny, poignant and just plain bizarre, this behind- the-scenes glimpse of the Big Apple Circus brings a new dimension of magic to the big top. NOVEMBER 3

Disarmed and Dangerous

Director danny boyle’s new film explores one man’s very, very difficult decision

By Mike Guy

WHEN THE STORY of Utah-based hiker Aron Ralston hit the news wire in 2006, it struck a chord. Ralston was hiking alone when a boulder shifted and pinned his arm to the wall of a canyon. To free himself, he had to cut off his own arm with a jackknife.

“Aron’s story fascinated me,” says Oscar- winning director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), between screenings of 127 Hours, his riveting flick about Ralston’s saga. “What happened to Aron is the sort of event that pushes a person as far as possible, and it has an intensity that is just tailor-made for cinema.”

During audience testing, Boyle paid close attention to how much pain viewers could endure -after all, there is such a thing as too much intensity.

“I wanted to make sure it was never sensational or fanciful,” Boyle explains. “Especially the moment when he has to break the two bones in his arm. That’s very tough for people in the audience. When it happens, James [Franco, who plays Ralston] screams, but they are screams of delight rather than pain, because that’s when he realizes he can actually do this, that he can actually escape and live.”

Over the course of filming, Boyle contemplated whether he’d be able to do what Ralston did if put in a similar situation.

“Yes,” he says. “I think we all would. Aron is our representative; he’s been chosen by nature to test what we’re capable of.”

Photographs by Michael Caulfield/Wireimage (Lavigne), Courtesy of Art Streiber (O’Brien), Courtesy of Jaap Buitendijk/Warner Bros. Entertainment (Harry Potter), Courtesy of Summit Entertainment (Fair Game), C Flanigan/Film Magic (Lambert), Courtesy of Autumn de Wilde (Jones), Courtesy of David Smoler (Circus), Kurt Krieger/Corbis (Boyle)

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