The Sopranos finale (HBO, Sunday, 9 p.m.). According to the Associated Press, Sopranos director David Chase filmed three different endings of his much-loved mob series to ensure that the conclusion would remain a secret. But that hasn't stopped critics and fans from speculating about what will happen to Tony and his henchmen, and much of the chatter centers on whether Tony will survive. (Web sites are also taking bets about various potential outcomes for the show.) But the Seattle Post-Intelligencer wonders, "Perhaps we should instead ask, why do we care about what happens to [Tony] even now?" The San Francisco Chronicle reflects, "Maybe the living or dying or understanding of one character in one episode is less important than the emotional wallop of the entire series."—D.S., June 8
Tony Awards (CBS Sunday, 8 p.m.). The 61st Tony Awards (which are going head-to-head with the juggernaut discussed above) has inspired all kinds of handicapping by the nation's theater critics. (For the list of nominees, click here.) The New York Times' Campbell Robertson guesses that "[t]he night will probably end with the stage swarmed like a Cecil B. DeMille set with the legions of 'Spring Awakening' producers; 'Grey Gardens' is likely to pick up two performance awards, for leading and featured actress in a musical; Frank Langella of 'Frost/Nixon' needs to have a speech ready." Meanwhile, a blogger on the Huffington Post bemoans the awards broadcast's tedium of late: "The people producing the Tony Awards show have forgotten that it's the Tony Awards SHOW. And show business is not only a business, it's also a show. And the Tony Awards have ceased to be this."—D.S., June 8
Eat Me, Drink Me, Marilyn Manson (Nothing). The new album by the heavily made-up, androgynous rocker is getting a mixed response from critics. Entertainment Weekly reflects that it "boasts a clutch of Goth-rock numbers that, if not evil per se, are still devilishly good," and Rolling Stone quips, "unlike those breast implants he once had, it's nothing to be embarrassed about." But in an exhibitionist age, Manson's antics no longer have the same ability to shock as they once did. The New York Times' Jon Pareles sighs, "Amid extreme Internet porn, hi-res videogame violence and real-world war, Marilyn Manson has become just another public deviant." (Buy Eat Me, Drink Me.)— D.S., June 7
Hillary Clinton Bios. Two rival political biographies about the New York senator—both critical—go on sale this week: Carl Bernstein's A Woman in Charge and Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr.'s Her Way. The Washington Post notes that the books "include a number of assertions and anecdotes that could confront her campaign with unwelcome questions." Chief among these are Bernstein's revelation that Bill Clinton sought a divorce in 1989, and Her Way's contested claim that "the Clintons had secretly fashioned a '20-year project' to send them both to the White House," as the Los Angeles Times puts it. Reviewers find Bernstein's to be the better book: dull but comprehensive and fair. A positive review from the New York Times' Michiko Kakutani nonetheless complains of "a lot of on-the-one-hand and on-the-other-hand."Her Way, which is harder on Clinton, is the spicier book—though some find it a little too venomous. Robert Dallek (also in the Times) calls it "mandatory reading for Mrs. Clinton's opponents." (Buy A Woman in Charge and Her Way)— B.W., June 6
Memory Almost Full, Paul McCartney (Hear Music). Forty years after Sgt. Pepper's, the former Beatle has released his 21st solo album on Starbucks' new record label—the music was playing around the clock Tuesday in more than 10,000 coffee shops worldwide—and debuted a video on YouTube. Pitchfork.com complains that the Starbucks deal "only serves to reinforce the most damning stereotypes about [McCartney]: he's too safe, too typical, too square." And some critics do find the album a little timid. PopMatters.com calls Memory a " Great Reversion back to safe routines and pleasant humdrums." But others find some hidden energy, especially in the more experimental second half. A rave review in Entertainment Weekly claims that "McCartney's ruminating has somehow inspired his zestiest music in eons." And Robert Christgau concludes in Rolling Stone: " Not simplistic at all." ( Buy Memory Almost Full.)—B.W., June 6
On Chesil Beach, Ian McEwan (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday). The new novel from the author of Saturday and Atonement takes an extremely (some critics say excruciatingly) close look at the wedding night of two virgins hitched in the summer of 1962. "The situation is miniature and enormous, dire and pathetic, tender and irrevocable," remarks Jonathan Lethem in his enthusiastic assessment in the New York Times Book Review. The Los Angeles Times comments that "McEwan draws a humane, touching, sometimes comic portrait of marital misunderstanding in an era when so much less was sayable, or said," and the San Francisco Chronicle goes so far as to call the book "a perfect novel." Sounding an almost angrily discordant note, however, the New York Times' Michiko Kakutani complains that McEwan has "given us a smarmy portrait of two incomprehensible and unlikable people." (Buy On Chesil Beach.)—D.S., June 4
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