ONE OF THE BEST pieces of movie news in recent days was the release of "The Complete Thin Man Collection," a boxed set of all those wonderful "Thin Man" movies in which the incomparable William Powell and Myrna Loy played the glamorous crime-solving couple Nick and Nora Charles. The collection includes all the "Thin Man" movies, including the first one, made in 1934, as well as "After the Thin Man," "Another Thin Man," "Shadow of the Thin Man," "The Thin Man Goes Home" and "Song of the Thin Man." Bonus features include documentaries about Powell and Loy, as well as some short films by Robert Benchley. To help satisfy your "Thin Man" yen while you wait for the boxed set to arrive, you can see three "Thin Man" movies at the AFI Silver Theatre this week. Tomorrow and Tuesday, the Silver will screen "Another Thin Man" (1939), in which Nick and Nora juggle a baby while trying to solve the murder of an explosives manufacturer. On Wednesday, catch "Shadow of the Thin Man" (1941), in which the Charleses, along with 8-year-old Nick Jr., head to the racetrack, and on Friday see "Song of the Thin Man" (1947), in which they solve a string of murders by hitting the jazz joints of New York (all in the name of upholding the law, you understand).

-- Ann Hornaday

At the AFI Silver Theatre, 8633 Colesville Rd. $9.25 ($7.50 for AFI members, seniors and students). For schedule and ticket information call 301-495-6700 or visit


IT'S NOT EASY to mix lighthearted style and serious content, especially in the visual arts. The Spaniard Francisco Goya did it in his prints, though there aren't many belly laughs in them. Honore Daumier, in France, came closer to striking the balance exactly. Here in the United States, one of the recent masters of the form has been William T. Wiley, who works in a comic illustrator's style but always with an edge of strangeness and social critique. In 2003, the California artist donated a pile of his prints and drawings to the Smithsonian Museum of American Art. With that museum closed for renovation, many of the works are now on loan to the Corcoran. Unlike more standard satire, most of Wiley's images take glancing shots at general societal dysfunction rather than skewering each of our single ills. In a color lithograph that riffs on the cryogenic preservation of Walt Disney's remains, Wiley shows Mickey Mouse immersed in a vat of liquid nitrogen, with the lyrics of a song called "Blind Mickey's Blues" printed over it. I don't suppose that Wiley really gets all riled up at the foolishness of cryogenics. It seems simply to stand for a larger dumbness that's endemic to our species, and that helps Wiley keep up a head of steam.

-- Blake Gopnik

At the Corcoran Gallery of Art, 500 17th St. NW, through Sept. 12. Wednesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thursday 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Adults $8, seniors and military $6, students $4, member guests $3, members free. Call 202-639-1700 or visit


LONG BEFORE THE CASINOS brought gambling and a little bit of glitz to Tunica, Miss. -- before the World Series of Poker scheduled a circuit tournament at the Grand, and Frankie Beverly booked a gig at the Horseshoe, and Bally's opened a high-priced steakhouse -- it was a sleepy Mississippi Delta town where many of the local kids worked in the cotton fields and went to church and otherwise found ways to entertain themselves. For James Cotton, who was born in Tunica in the summer of 1935, this meant playing the 15-cent harmonica he got for Christmas. He emulated the great Sonny Boy Williamson, and he did so quite well: When Cotton's parents died before he'd even turned 10, Williamson decided to take the harp prodigy under his wing and almost immediately made Cotton his opening act. In the six decades since, Cotton has established some pretty decent credentials: He played with Muddy Waters for a dozen years and worked with the likes of Janis Joplin, Johnny Winters and Jerry Garcia. His projects earned multiple Grammy nominations and several W.C. Handy International Blues Awards. Cotton's mastery of the modern Chicago blues -- performing in a style both powerful and precise -- earned him the nickname "Superharp." Now 70 and one of the last of the living blues legends, Cotton is crisscrossing the country on a tour that will bring him to Blues Alley next weekend.

-- J. Freedom du Lac

At Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. $22. Call 202-337-4141 or visit