Top Picks: '127 Hours,' Amos Lee's latest album, 'The Complaints,' and more

Danny Boyle's cinematic survival tale '127 Hours,' Amos Lee's soulful album 'Mission Bell,' Ian Rankin's intriguing detective story 'The Complaints,' and more recommendations.

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    Nikolaus Harnoncourt is an Austrian conductor known for historically informed performances of the classical era.
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Blue-eyed soul

Philly singer/songwriter Amos Lee has always seemed to be hovering in the background. Now he's ready for his close-up. His stirring and seriously soulful new album, "Mission Bell," just debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts, and Lee has finally stepped into the spotlight. Blue-eyed soul hasn't sounded this good since Ray LaMontagne emerged from the Maine woods.

Painful and powerful

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"127 Hours" is a deceptively simple film on the surface – an account of 27-year-old mountaineer Aron Ralston's astonishing survival after his forearm was pinned beneath a boulder at the bottom of a remote Utah crevice. While his now well-known decision to free himself by severing his arm may seem an unlikely source of inspiration, the film, by Danny Boyle ("Slumdog Millionaire"), is a moving account of what one man must leave behind – emotionally as well as physically – in order to go forward in his life. Out on DVD in early March.

A masterpiece reimagined

Nikolaus Harnoncourt is an Austrian conductor known for historically informed performances of the classical era. Johannes Brahms's German Requiem, composed between 1865 and 1868 and originally conceived for smaller groups, is sacred but nonliturgical. Brahms's longest composition, the work gained enough popularity to be performed by large choirs and orchestras. "Ein Deutsches Requiem," a Sony Classical release features the Vienna Philharmonic, Arnold Schoenberg Choir, baritone Thomas Hampson, and soprano Genia Kuhmeier.

The last roll

As Kodak wrapped up production on Kodachrome film two years ago, Steve McCurry, an enterprising photographer, requested the privilege of shooting the last roll off the assembly line. The result: a travelogue of portraits and street shots across India and from Istanbul, Turkey; London; and New York. Check out a slide show: vanityfair.com/culture/features/2011/02/last-kodachrome-slide-show-201102#intro

Eco-themed film fest

The 19th annual Environmental Film Festival in Washington, D.C., March 15-27 will present work from 40 countries, including documentary, narrative, animated, archival, experimental, and children's films. The focus this year: energy and the environment. For a list of films and venues: dcenvironmentalfilmfest.org

A new detective for Rankin fans

In the book "The Complaints," Ian Rankin returns with a new protagonist in his beloved, brooding Edinburgh, Scotland. He replaces Inspector Rebus with Malcolm Fox, a beleaguered but savvy inspector in the Complaints and Conduct division – that is, internal affairs investigators. Others on the force refer to the Complaints as "the Dark Side" and Rankin revels in spinning a tale of intrigue. Fox is fighting the urge to return to his alcoholic ways while negotiating a tangle of professional and personal problems in this first-rate detective fiction.

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