Top Picks: Director Hayao Miyazaki's books, bluegrass-folk Nickel Creek's new album 'A Dotted Line,' and more

New Yorker cartoon editor and cartoonist Bob Mankoff takes fans behind the scenes in his new book 'How About Never – Is Never Good for You?,' the Lifetime original movie A Day Late and a Dollar Short is a showcase for actress Whoopi Goldberg, and more top picks.

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    The Art of the Wind Rises.
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    A Dotted Line by Nickel Creek
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    The Trials of Muhammad Ali.
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Master animator

Japanese director Hayao Miyazaki takes us behind the scenes of his latest animated feature in the film The Art of the Wind Rises. He also unveils his creative development in two books: Turning Point: 1997-2008 is the hardback companion to Starting Point: 1979-1996, a paperback rerelease. These volumes – penned by the animation master himself over nearly three decades – present revealing essays, interviews, illustrations, and memoirs.

Getting at Gettysburg

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Ken Burns turns his considerable talent toward President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in a contemporary setting. The Address visits the Greenwood School in Putney, Vt., where every year the students, ages 11 to 17 and with learning disabilities, memorize and recite the famed speech. Burns explores how and why the all-boys school assigns the task while looking carefully at the brilliance of Lincoln’s words. The 90-minute documentary is part of PBS’s yearlong initiative to challenge every American to memorize the address. It airs April 15 at 9 p.m. Check local listings.

Bluegrass reunion

After being apart for eight years, the bluegrass-folk wonderkids of Nickel Creek are back together with A Dotted Line. Time to focus on solo work has been good for the trio – siblings Sara Watkins and Sean Watkins, and Chris Thile. The band, whose members found fame as teenagers, has reunited its golden harmonies on fiddle, mandolin, and guitar with a musical maturity. Original tracks such as the lilting instrumental “Elsie” are right at home alongside covers that burst with new energy such as Mother Mother’s “Hay Loft.”

A life in toons

Talk about a fun – make that funny – job. Bob Mankoff is both a contributing cartoonist and the cartoon editor at the cartoon mecca that is The New Yorker magazine. Mankoff knows all the ins and outs of how cartoons are chosen or rejected, and what it takes to become a regular contributor or a caption-contest winner. He’s written a laugh-out-loud and entertaining book titled after his most famous toon, How About Never – Is Never Good for You?, chock-full of memorable New Yorker cartoons. 

A family’s trials

A Day Late and a Dollar Short, a Lifetime original movie based on Terry McMillan’s novel of the same name, is a showcase for Whoopi Goldberg, who takes center stage as Viola Price, a mother of four trying to correct her family’s bad choices. The film opens as her husband is leaving her and she suffers a serious health setback. The Price family works through such troubles as teen pregnancy, drug addiction, and sibling rivalries to reveal a gentle but salty slice of life from the African-American middle-class experience. It airs April 19 at 8 p.m.

Float like a butterfly ...
PBS’s “Independent Lens” explores the tumultuous career of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali in The Trials of Muhammad Ali. The documentary examines not only Ali’s story but also the civil rights movement in the US, the history of Islam among African-Americans, and the Vietnam War. It airs April 14 at 10 p.m.

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