VSL: the monthly highlight reel

Many of our daily picks are early, pre-release previews. What’s happened since we first wrote about them? Glad you asked.

1. A. O. Scott of The New York Times called our documentary pick 51 BIRCH STREETfilmmaker Doug Block’s sweet, sad post-mortem of his parents’ failed 54-year marriage — “one of the most moving and fascinating documentaries I’ve seen this year.” Click here to read the original VSL e-mail.

2. LILY ALLEN is already huge in Britain — she’s a 21-year-old pop star with biting wit and a genius for creating infectious, ska-inflected, radio-ready pop — but not so well-known stateside. Yet. We predicted that would begin to change this month as she kicked off her inaugural U.S. tour, which included a stop in the media capital of the world. New York Magazine’s verdict? Allen “put on one of the most enchanting performances — debut or otherwise — in recent memory.” Click here to read the original VSL e-mail.

3. Our recent nonfiction pick, THE GHOST MAP, by Steven Johnson, tells the gripping tale of the cholera epidemic that ravaged London in 1854 — and the odd-couple heroes, a physician and a vicar, who solved the mystery of the epidemic’s cause during a time of utter ignorance and superstition about contagion. The Wall Street Journal called it an “ambitious and compelling work” and “a marvelous little book” that’s reminiscent of but even better than Dava Sobel’s Longitude. Click here to read the original VSL e-mail.

4. Our most recent favorite YouTube-hosted VIRAL-VIDEO CLIP comes from the second season of Ricky Gervais’s post–The Office series Extras, in which he plays a hapless actor who’s often reduced to taking nonspeaking “extra” roles. The episode won’t air in the U.S. (on HBO) until 2007, but for now we’ve got this 3.5-minute slice of sitcomedy perfection to savor. Sing along as guest star David Bowie does a hilarious turn as himself, composing an impromptu ditty in “honor” of Gervais’s character. (“Pathetic little fat man, no one’s bloody laughing…. See his pug-nosed face — Pug! Pug! Pug! Pug!”) No wonder YouTube’s worth $1.65 billion. Click here to read the original VSL e-mail.

This post is from Observer Short List—an email of three favorite things from people you want to know. Sign up to receive OSL here.

VSL: the monthly highlight reel