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In all the hassle of getting by, the accelerated pace of life as it's being lived in this techno-advanced reality we reside in, it's easy to forget about all that is good. The half-full glass, the beauty of sunset, the tranquility of rain (or even the majesty and power of a good electrical storm), the wonder of the depth of cranberries, the richness of chocolate, the jolt of coffee.

A WEAKEND PLANNER WITH
ALL THE TRIMMINGS

Just Call Us the "Other White Meat," as We Offer Up Some Pop Morsels on Stephen Glass, George Harrison, Katie Holmes and Yngwie Malmsteen, Of All People
You’ve stuffed yourself silly with turkey, watched enough football to have your eyes bugging, absorbed more than enough Michael Jackson rumors and innuendo to last you until the next Martin Bashir special and mentally maxed your credit card by braving the post-Thanksgiving crush at the malls… Now, what to do? Well, you can pop in a DVD of Concert for George and ponder the fact half the Beatles are now dead. You can catch the superb film Shattered Glass and be grateful you became a lawyer instead of a reporter. You can see Pieces of April and be glad that’s not your family gathered around the Thanksgiving table. Or you can simply ponder the irony of your 15-year-old son, knowing everything about the music business doldrums from his dear old dad, still becoming a drummer in a rock & roll band…

POPCULT TOP 10
1. Shattered Glass: The story of the Stephen Glass scandal (he’s the magazine writer for The New Republic who was caught making up stories before the N.Y. TimesJayson Blair) is the best film about the moral dilemmas presented by competitive journalism since All the President’s Men. Star WarsHayden Christensen plays Glass as an eager-to-please, self-effacingly disarming yuppie who digs himself deeper and deeper with each falsified source as his rumpled, but steadfast editor (a very understated Peter Sarsgaard) tries to catch him in his growing web of lies. Director/writer Billy Ray, a screenwriter making his feature debut, elicits knowing performances from the supporting cast. Especially noteworthy are director Ted Kotcheff as crusty Republic publisher Martin Peretz; Hank Azaria as sympathetic outgoing editor Michael Kelly, the always-lovely Chloe Sevigny as a supportive colleague and lively Steve Zahn as an online scribe who doggedly traces the path of Glass’ deceit. Raising some intriguing issues about the lengths to which underpaid, ambitious scribes are forced to go to succeed, the film waves the flag for journalistic principles long since overrun by the go-go demands of insta-Net news. At the same time, it still manages to question who’s actually hurt by these fictionalized stories posing as non-fiction—other than readers and the naïve trust they have in the written word as published by magazines without an editorial safety net to catch a dedicated, sociopathic liar. (Roy Trakin)

2. The Concert for George (WSM): Unlike the ego-driven revisionism posed by Macca’s Let It Be…Naked and Yoko’s Lennon Legend DVD, this straightforward tribute offers simply George’s music, played exquisitely by a band headed by longtime pal Eric Clapton and his ex-Traveling Wilbury mate, the shamefully underrated Jeff Lynne, with the presence of Clapton and Ravi Shankar bringing back memories of Harrison’s triumphant The Concert for Bangladesh . With guest spots by Ringo Starr, Tom Petty and Billy Preston, the most astonishing is nevertheless George’s mirror-image son Dhani, eerily strumming along on acoustic guitar. Even special guest McCartney—performing a version of "Something" that starts simply with him on ukelele (George’s favorite instrument) before swelling into a glorious wall-of-sound finale—must take a back seat to the Quiet Beatle. Filmed with The Last Waltz classicism by English director David Leland (Wish You Were Here), the two-disc set includes the full concert and a theatrical version complete with backstage interviews. (RT)

3. Pieces of April: Amidst the how-it-is hilarity, Katie Holmes sheds her wide-eyed naivete for streetwise urchin trying to find love and sense in the chaos she’s built for herself. There’s a brutality to the truth delivered with a wry wrinkle—and as one of those Thanksgiving-with-the-family movies, it injects its truth and irony with compassion. In the end, too many loose ends become a rope to pull your hope to shore with. Quirky perhaps for the more mainstream family members, but if they'll surrender to the aesthetic, even they will go home with their faith in family, love, union and reaching out strengthened or restored. A must. (Holly Gleason)

4. The Essential Bruce Springsteen (Columbia): Growing up in Cleveland, OH, where "St. Bruce" was practically assigned healing powers, no one gave the overlooked more dignity and passion. For those who’ve only done the drive-by reality, this one digs a little deeper—excavating the reasons the pre-"Hungry Heart", pre-Born in the U.S.A. faithful originally signed on. And for those not obsessive to the point of exchanging bootlegs, there are enough obscurities on the third bonus CD to feel like a backroom insider somewhere on the boardwalk under the Jersey shore. Most importantly, both the evolution and the revolution of a soul born to rock us is presented cogently. If the revving of the pulse, the raring of the Phil Spector-esque arrangements, the reality of his stories have ever resonated, this is a one-stop shopping raison d’etre for the rustbelt faithful yearning for their place in the sun. (HG)

5. The Office (BBC America): Though I describe this British import as a middle-class version of the incredible Curb Your Enthusiasm crossed with Fawlty Towers and a dash of Python, it doesn’t begin to convey the quiet desperation of its mockumentary, water cooler view of the bureaucratic goings-on at a nondescript paper company somewhere in the gloomy English suburbs. Creator Ricky Gervais’ overwrought, neurotic office manager David Brent is a singular character, a man who can suck the air out of a room with his brash insecurities faster than you can say Larry David. The rest of the cast is no less brilliant, especially Martin Freeman as the resident slacker cum lothario, Lucy Davis the demure, always slightly doleful receptionist and the bug-eyed MacKenzie Crook, whose hair looks like it was cut tracing a saucer over his head. The six episodes are still running Sunday nights on BBC America, so check your cable guide and set your TiVo. It should keep you happy until Curb reappears in the new year. (RT)

6. Yngwie J. Motherf***in’ Malmsteen, Dude: When a record starts with a fusillade of 64th-note riffage (subtly underscored by double kick drum) and the tender refrain "Razor Eater," one might reasonably expect to be treated to an aural bludgeoning. And Malmsteen, his locks still flowing and his mega-noodling unchecked despite the relegation of his heroic-metal subgenre to high camp, does not disappoint on the latest disc from his Rising Force, Attack!! (due on Epic in January, but available now on the certifiably Teutonic label Steamhammer). Indeed, he carries his banner straight to "Valhalla," as one track, I kid you not, is called. The foremost practitioner of what Jack Black calls "the classical sauce," Yngwie fires off leads like phalanxes of Methedrine Valkyries; he has the virtuosity and egomania of a concert violinist, the appetite of a Viking and the damaged coif of a Jersey stripper, and that’s just how he likes it. Self-parody? Perhaps. But despite the exhausting parade of guitar-as-Godzilla-cock exercises, there’s real joy and energy at times, especially when the Yngster is freed of the Maiden-esque song forms to which his solos are often yoked. Indeed, he seems most liberated during instrumentals like "Baroque & Roll" and "Majestic Blue," wherein the Valkyries—unchained by verse-chorus-verse structure—can ride free. Let’s see this week’s critically acclaimed garage band do that. (Simon Glickman)

7. Grace: Both the state of and saying of... In all the hassle of getting by, the accelerated pace of life as it's being lived in this techno-advanced reality we reside in, it's easy to forget about all that is good. The half-full glass, the beauty of sunset, the tranquility of rain (or even the majesty and power of a good electrical storm), the wonder of the depth of cranberries, the richness of chocolate, the jolt of coffee. So many, many small wonders and moments and things... Be there. Think about it. Say "thanks." Sparkle with the knowledge. (HG)

8. Thanksgiving Weekend Blues: How often is there a reason to come to Sherman Oaks—home of this rag along with 10,000 sushi restaurants and nail salons—to see a show? Well, you’ll want to hit Cozy’s on Ventura to see local blues purveyors Cafe R&B on Sat., Nov. 29. This ain’t no Hawaiian-shirted, pot-bellied "blooze" band; it’s the real deal, thanks to the blistering intensity of frontwoman Roach and her stellar players. (SG)

9. Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey: If anyone doubted these two were the Larry Hagman and Barbara Eden of the 2000s, check out the hilarious five-minute film they did for this weekend's VH1 Big in '03 show Sunday night. It proves Jess and Nick are laughing all the way to the bank, playing on the dumb-blonde shtick with a self-conscious mock spy mini-movie in which Jessica saves the world in the bathroom of a restaurant before "dropping her kids off at the pool." Absolutely amazing, and conclusive proof dumb is the new smart. But be careful, sweet Jessy. Jenny McCarthy's been reduced to cameos in Scary Movie 3...which actually doesn't sound that bad, if you compare it to how poor Marilyn ended up. (RT)

10. 24: If you have to resort to prison riots and Russian roulette by week 4, you know you're in trouble. I didn't figure this series would go two years, let alone three, and it's too much to expect them to keep up the breakneck pace of the first 48 hours, but this latest version strains credulity, though it does offer the first heroin-addicted prime-time hero we can remember in smack-ridden counter-terrorist agent Jack Bauer. And while the lovely Elisha Cuthbert as Kiefer Sutherland's always-embattled daughter isn't being chased by a mountain lion this season, 24 is unfortunately running out of steam just ahead of its indefatigable, soulful star. (RT)

TRAKIN’S PICKS TO FLICK
The Missing
(Columbia)
Premise:
Ron Howard’s dark, savage western does The Searchers by way of his own Ransom, as a mother whose daughter is kidnapped by Apaches is forced to reconcile with her longlost father, who left to live with the savages after she blamed him for the death of her mother.
Stars:
Tommy Lee Jones, Cate Blanchett, Aaron Eckhart, Eric Schweig, Evan Rachel Wood, Jenna Boyd
Director:
Opie in a reported departure from his usual optimistic view of things, though the Grinch began to show his dark side.
Thumbs Up:
Oscar buzz around Blanchett, Evan Rachel Wood (who was equally good in 13 and the TV series Once and Again).
Thumbs Down:
Can the "white girl kidnapped by savages" plot be anymore shopworn?
Soundtrack:
James Horner score album avialble on Sony Classical/Sony Music Soundtrax.
Website:
http://www.sonypictures.com/movies/themissing is part of the Sony Pictures site and includes information about the film, trailers, showtimes, etc.

Bad Santa (Dimension Films)
Premise:
Produced by the Coen Brothers, this anti-Christmas tale is about an inebriated department store Santa and his foul-mouthed, black dwarf sidekick who rob stores by night.
Stars:
Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Lauren Graham, Brett Kelly, John Ritter, Bernie Mac.
Director:
Terry Zwigoff (Crumb, Ghost World) continues to explore the fringes.
Thumbs Up:
An antidote to all that phony holiday cheer.
Thumbs Down:
If drunken Santas and foul-mouthed dwarves are your thing, of course.
Soundtrack:
None.
Website:
Remarkably, there doesn’t seem to be one, but there is information available here.

Haunted Mansion (Walt Disney Pictures)
Premise:
Family moves into famed Disneyland haunted house, unfortunately, it’s not on the theme park property.
Stars: Eddie Murphy
, Terence Stamp, Wallace Shawn, Marsha Thomason, Jennifer Tilly.
Director: Rob Minkoff
(The Lion King, Stuart Little) with a script by David Berenbaum (Elf).
Thumbs Up:
Could Disney actually go two-for-two in movies based on theme park attractions after Pirates of the Caribbean? What’s nesxt? Flying Teacups Go To Outer Space?
Thumbs Down
: Disney is succeeding in turning Eddie Murphy into Dean Jones.
Soundtrack: Walt Disney Records
album features "music from and inspired by," including Nelly’s "Izu."
Website:
www.hauntedmansion.com pulls out all the stops, with an eye towards web-surfing teens.

The Cooler (Lions Gate)
Premise:
A down-on-his-luck gambler, forced to work off his debt to an old-school downtown Vegas casino as someone who "cools down" hot winners, falls in love with a down-on-her-luck showgirl.
Stars:
William H. Macy, Alex Baldwin, Marcia Bello, Paul Sorvino, Shawn Hatosy.
Director:
South African native Wayne Kramer in his feature debut after winning a number of prestigious awards for indie films and selling a pair of screenplays for big-budget productions.
Thumbs Up:
Indie cool, part Tarantino, part Lyman, part Paul Thomas Anderson, with showy turns by Macy and Baldwin.
Thumbs Down:
Haven’t we seen this movie before?
Soundtrack:
Album out on Walter Yetnikoff’s newly hatched Commotion Records label features Mark Isham score, tracfks by Diana Krall, NSYNC’s Joey Fatone and Sorvino, who plays an aging lounge crooner.
Website:
www.thecoolermovie.com is neon-lit and cool, with information about the filmmakers, the story, the actors, trailers, soundtrack, etc.

In America (Fox Searchlight)
Premise:
Irish director Jim Sheridan’s autobiographical ode to American immigrants settling in New York in the ‘80s through the eyes of two children, his version of Barry Levinson’s Avalon or Elia Kazan’s America.
Stars:
Samantha Morton, Paddy Considine, Djimon Hounson, Sarah Bolger, Emma Bolger.
Director:
U2 pal Sheridan previously directed Oscar faves In the Name of the Father and My Left Foot.
Thumbs Up:
Just the time of uplifting fare that Oscar fawns all over… A real sleeper which could get hurt by the screener ban.
Thumbs Down:
The similarly ambitious, downbeat Angela’s Ashes bombed at Christmas time several years ago.
Soundtrack:
None that I could find, but there’s a nifty version of the Byrds’ "Turn Turn Turn" on the website.
Website
: http://www2.foxsearchlight.com/inamerica/ has some nice graphics, story, cast and filmmaker information, trailers, clips and reviews.

The Triplets of Belleville (Sony Pictures Classics)
Premise:
Wildly impressionistic, very French animation about a club-footed grandmother who paddle to America to rescue her kidnapped grandchild, a Tour de France bicycler, with the help of a famed singing trio.
Director:
Sylvain Chomet, previously Oscar winner in 1998 for short animated feature The Old Lady and the Pigeons.
Thumbs Up:
Like Spirited Away, it’s one you have to see after taking Cannes by storm last year, with protests about its ineligibility for Best Picture.
Thumbs Down:
It’s a French cartoon fer crissake.
Soundtrack:
Acclaimed score by Canadian jazz guitarist Benoit Charest The theme tune is performed in French and English by artist M (Matthieu Chedid) with Thomas Dutronc, the son of Francois Hardy and Jacques Dutronc, on guitar.
Website: http://www.sonyclassics.com/triplets/ presents film information as an unravelling scroll, with reviews, gallery, filmmaker bios, etc.

NEW YORK MINUTE
Let Harry Connick Jr. take you away from the hustle and bustle of Friday’s "busiest shopping day of the year." He plays the City Center that evening. If you’re looking to rock out, O.A.R. take the stage at Hammerstein Ballroom (311 W. 34th St.). Hitch a train to Long Island to catch Phish live at Uniondale’s Nassau Coliseum (1255 Hempstead Turnpike) or hop in the car for the Fiesta 2K3 Tour featuring Beenie Man and Tantro Metro and Devonte at Newark’s Robert Treat Ballroom. Lest we not forget, Chicago play Westbury Music Fair (960 Brush Hollow Rd.), too.

On Saturday, Connick Jr. returns to the City Center while O.A.R. make it a double at Hammerstein. The Brian Setzer Orchestra light up Westbury Music Fair, and none other than Ronnie Spector opens.

Sunday, Less Than Jake will strut their stuff at Irving Plaza (17 Irving Place).

YEAH, BUT SHE HAD A PRESCRIPTION: It’s turkey time, and no one enjoys food more than Christina Aguilera. The svelte star packed on a few pounds earlier this year, but has lost it all due to a new diet and exercise plan. How did she gain that weight in the first place? Depo-Provera [the birth control shot], folks, is what her trainer told Us Weekly. (Valerie Nome).

DENISE’S WEAKEND COCKTAIL
Gobble! Gobble! The holiday season has officially begun, and for the first time in a very long time, I’ll be feasting on a hot man. Oops! I meant feasting with a hot man. I’ve dated so many turkeys over the past year that I’m very thankful for the great man who has entered my life—that’s enough of the mushy, gushy shit. This is going to be a short column due to the short week, my short day and your short attention spans. I thought I’d mix it up with some holiday cheer, so instead of picking only one cocktail, I’ve picked five fun and festive cocktails for you to try out on your guests.

Three Wisemen Chasing A Turkey
1 oz. Wild Turkey
1/2 oz. Jack Daniels, Jim Beam and Yukon Jack
Pour Wild Turkey into a shot glass and then combine the Jack Daniels, Jim Beam and Yukon Jack in another shot glass. Slam the Wild Turkey first and follow with the other. This one will hurt!

Pumpkin Pie
1 oz. Kahlua
1/2oz. Baileys
1/2 oz. Godlschlager
Sprinkle of cinnamon
Layer the ingredients in the above order. Light the Goldschlager on fire and sprinkle cinnamon on the flame. Blow out the flame and drink. BE CAREFUL! It’ll be hot.

Royal Kir
1/2 oz. Chambord
Glass of champagne
Pour the Chambord into a champagne glass, fill with champagne and drop a raspberry in for a garnish.

Turkeyball
1 oz. Wild Turkey
1/2 oz. Amaretto
Splash of pineapple juice
Shake with ice and serve in a martini glass.

Wild Peppertini
1 oz. Wild Turkey
1 oz. peppermint schnapps
Shake with ice and serve in a martini glass.

Those should help kick in the feeling of the holidays, and also ease the pain of spending an entire day with your family. Now that you’re feeling a bit tipsy, here are a few things you can only get away with saying on Thanksgiving.

  1. Try tying the legs together to keep the inside moist.
  2. That’s the biggest one I’ve ever seen!
  3. Just spread the legs open and stuff it in.
  4. It’s a little dry. Do you still want to eat it?
  5. How long will it take after you stick it in?
  6. Are you ready for seconds?
  7. How long do I beat it before it’s ready?
  8. It’s Cool Whip time!
  9. Don’t play with your meat.
  10. If I don’t undo my pants, I’ll burst!

I hope all of you enjoy the holiday. I know I will, because the calories don’t count (I’ll work them off later that night), I have an entire weekend to recover from my hangover and shop. Be safe and be thankful! I’ll be back next week with my usual neurotic ramblings about love, men and cocktails. Until next week—hugs and kisses. (Denise Bayles)

We gotta give thanks to Roy Trakin, Holly Gleason, Simon Glickman, Valerie Nome and Denise Bayles for putting cranberries in this sauce.

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