Back at my home office, and not a moment too soon. I loved visiting my parents, but one week in Iowa will make you just a little crazy. I can't think of two more different worlds (in the continental US) than here and there. And although I'd ideally be able to see the folks more than twice a year, I'm eternally thankful I live here rather than there.

Very nearly missed my first flight this early mornin' thanks to airport congestion; a throng of Des Moines high school and college students just had to travel out of state for sports-related events. But I made it with seconds (well, minutes) to spare, and arrived home around 1:30. Took a little nap, leafed through the new Mojo with John Lydon on the cover, and headed over to Coolidge Corner for Anna's Taqueria and The Triplets of Belleville.

About the latter, I just have to say, wow. (I always say that about the former).

French animator Sylvain Chomet's first feature is certainly unlike anything you've ever seen. Maybe some of the less dialogue-heavy Warner Bros. shorts through a Dali-esque Gallic filter. I smiled most of the way through, and laughed out loud more than once. This is eccentric yet inventive, occasionally ingenuous stuff, jam-packed with gags, distortions, carefully orchestrated slapstick set pieces, and frog licking. The leisurely pace and nearly complete lack of (intelligible) dialogue ain't for everyone, but this already feels classic enough to hold its own with Spirited Away in a time capsule of Great Animation of the early 21th Century.

While in the land of googoplexes and scary popcorn salts, I saw The Return of The King (a LOTR Kriofske family Christmas tradition three years running) and Something's Gotta Give. The former, I suspect, will stand as the trilogy's shining moment, if only because we've invested so much interest and love in the characters in the first two films that the emotional payoffs here are immense. The fight sequences are no more interesting than they were in the other films, and things drag a bit at the end. And only Sean Astin comes close to giving as powerful a performance as Andy Serkis' CGI Gollum. But it's still grand. Together, all three films whup any other trilogy's ass.

As for Nancy Meyer's new romantic-com, the sole reason to see it is Diane Keaton. She's still playing basically the same character she did all the way back in Annie Hall, but here, for the first time since maybe Baby Boom, she gives it so much gusto and makes it look so effortless that you know you're watching something so good and intense and distinctive that no one else could possibly ever pull it off.

Also saw Seabiscuit on video. It was pleasant, competent, not dumb, but probably much more effective when wedded to a big screen panorama. Of the lead trio, Tobey Maguire is most affecting and sincere as the jockey (he should stick to drama rather than action as he ages), but William H. Macy steals the show whenever he shows up all too briefly as a deliriously flamboyant sportscaster.

Off to start watching Owning Mahoney. The year in music report will appear within a day or three.