Critics' Picks

What you need to see, read, do this week: Squirrels! Swingers! Napoleon's pickled penis!

Published June 28, 2008 11:00AM (EDT)

Molly Parker in "Swingtown"
I can't be entirely objective about "Swingtown" (Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on CBS), seeing as the teenage girl in it is about my age, going through much the same family stuff that I weathered in the mid-1970s, and she even has my name. As her mother, a suburban matron hovering on the brink of a new life, the sublime Molly Parker is, as ever, dreamy and fundamentally mysterious. We know the Millers' experiment will almost certainly end badly, but Parker makes you believe in the dizzying intimations of pleasure and freedom that made it seem worth pursuing. -- Laura Miller

"The Sword in the Stone: 45th Anniversary Edition" DVD
Walt Disney's 1963 "The Sword in the Stone," loosely based on the first book of T.H. White's wonderful Arthurian saga "The Once and Future King," is one of the more frequently overlooked animated Disney features. But its charms are sly and subtle, particularly in a sequence where the young King Arthur (who goes by the name Wart) is tranformed by his tutor Merlin into a squirrel and attracts the attention of a flirtatious red-headed squirellette. Wart, not wanting to get her hopes up, repels her advances. The sequence, beautifully animated, captures all the euphoria and the frustrations of young love -- for humans as well as squirrels. -- Stephanie Zacharek

"Napoleon's Privates" by Tony Perrottet
So did Catherine the Great really fuck a horse? Of course, she didn't. Any more than the Romans of Caligula's time indulged in nightly orgies or J. Edgar Hoover wore dresses or Adolf Hitler soldiered through life with one testicle. On the other hand, Alexander the Great really did get it on with his childhood buddy, Hephestaion, and castrati really could keep it up during sex (provided they'd been neutered after age 10), and T.E. Lawrence truly did hire rough trade to whack him on the ass. If any of these factoids swell your loins, then by all means wallow in Tony Perrottet's sinfully entertaining survey of perversion. "Napoleon's Privates," as you might have gathered, refers to the Great Man's maybe-not-so-great stick, which was allegedly hacked off upon his death and may have ended up in a suitcase beneath the bed of America's leading urologist. It is currently the size of a baby's finger. Sic transit gloria mundi. -- Louis Bayard

Fleet Foxes' "Fleet Foxes"
If you're tired of the same old trendy rocker kids in skinny jeans trying to sound like the Clash and largely failing, if you've played your Andrew Bird and Sufjan Stevens in such heavy rotation for so many years that your iPod groans and rolls its eyes whenever you pull them up, the Fleet Foxes' new self-titled CD will feel like a midsummer night's dream to your jaded ears. Imagine that Crosby, Stills and Nash and Yes ingested a bowl of quaaludes, then spent an afternoon in a cathedral with a 100-member choir, and you'll come close to the sound landscape of the album: poetic, lovely, disconcerting and, well, epic. There, I said it! -- Heather Havrilesky

Sugar Bush Squirrel
Some things defy description: the feeling of staring into your child's eyes for the first time, the thrill of first love. Also, the Web site Sugar Bush Squirrel, which, for me, at least, feels eerily like both of those things. Sugar Bush has been around for a while, but it still gets linked on quirky buzz-tracking sites and has inspired at least one superfan to get a tat. The brilliant concept? Well, it's simple -- Florida resident Kelly Foxton dresses up her pet Eastern Gray squirrel in elaborate costumes and photographs her -- but the result is beyond warped. (I don't want to ruin all the punch lines, so let me just say this: Castro.) Oh, it's all so wrong. But then why does it feel so right? -- Sarah Hepola

First Run Features' DEFA collection on DVD
While the "New German Cinema" of Wim Wenders, Werner Herzog, R.W. Fassbinder, et al., blossomed in West Germany during the '60s and '70s, supposedly isolated East Germany experienced its own cinematic renaissance, one virtually unnoticed west of the Iron Curtain. Nibbling at the edges of the Marxist police state's uneven censorship rules, East Germany's state-run DEFA studio produced remarkable films in many genres, including science-fiction and westerns (!) along with love stories, war films, children's movies and much more. First Run Features has gradually and lovingly been releasing the DEFA collection on DVD, and the two newest entries are especially surprising. Gerhard Klein's 1957 "Berlin Schönhauser Corner" is a frank Elvis-era portrayal of East Berlin's Westernized, rock 'n' roll-obsessed youth, while Konrad Wolf and Wolfgang Kohlhaase's 1979 "Solo Sunny" offers a young woman's Altmanesque odyssey through the underground club scene patronized by the bored kids of party apparatchiks. -- Andrew O'Hehir


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