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To Do: December 31, 2014–January 14, 2015

Twenty-five things to see, hear, watch, and read.

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Film
1. See Two Days, One Night
It’s convincing.
The Dardenne brothers’ latest brilliant mathematical demonstration of the evil good people do to each other when they can’t feed their families is Two Days, One Night, in which a depressive Marion Cotillard (is she the best movie actress in the world?) attempts to persuade a dozen people to forgo a bonus so she can keep her job. I’d give up a bonus to work next to her—oh, yes. —David Edelstein
In theaters.

Pop
2. Listen to Charli XCX’s Sucker
You’ll love it.
The “Fancy” singer’s exuberantly hooky new album sounds like Gwen Stefani, Scary Spice, and Marc Bolan joining forces for a three-day bender. Sassy, messy, platform-boot-stomping fun. —Lindsay Zoladz
Neon Gold/Atlantic.

TV
3.-5. Watch Downton Abbey, Shameless, and Girls
Welcome back.
Why not ring in the New Year with a triple dose of dysfunction? The upper-crust sufferers of Downton Abbey return, joined by new cast members Richard E. Grant, Anna Chancellor, and Rade Serbedzija. Shameless, maybe the most underappreciated knockabout family drama of recent years, picks up from last season’s shock ending. And Girls is finally back, as peppily unlikable Hannah prepares to attend the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. —Matt Zoller Seitz
PBS, January 4; HBO and Showtime, January 11.

Art
6. See "The Forever Now"
Sussing out a survey.
The last wall you see in MoMA’s survey of contemporary painting may be the best. Michael Williams’s three canvases evince this artist’s ­genius for firing a tranquilizer into one’s ability to detect what’s printed and what’s painted. These multicolored, busy surfaces of abstract shapes, doodles, and comic imagery let us glean a strange new painterly topography. —Jerry Saltz
Museum of Modern Art, through April 5.

Theater
7. See Side Show
It will never leave you … until Sunday.
The overarching moral tale about freaks and voyeurs is a tiresome downer—but within it is a terrific musical drama about sisters who happen to be conjoined twins. See Emily Padgett and Erin Davie as Daisy and Violet Hilton before they go their separate ways. —Jesse Green
St. James Theatre, through January 4.

Classical Music
8. Hear Prototype Festival
Extraordinary opera.
The ten-day event returns with another fistful of tiny new operas, kicking off with The Scarlet Ibis, by Stefan Weisman and the theater critic David Cote. Based on the short story by James Hurst, the opera gives voice to a boy who locomotes on a hand-built wagon and his uncomprehending brother. —Justin Davidson
HERE, opens January 8.

Pop
9. Listen to Mark Ronson’s Uptown Special
He brought a friend to Funkytown.
The king of retro cool takes inspiration from the hip-hop, soul, and R&B of his childhood on his latest record, mostly co-written with novelist Michael Chabon; the leadoff single, “Uptown Funk,” a horn-filled romp led by an ultrapolished Bruno Mars, is reason enough to listen.
RCA Records, January 13.

TV
10. Watch Galavant
Singing and swords.
If The Princess Bride were a musical, it might resemble this offbeat, bawdy tale in which a king steals a bride, she insults his pride, and her true love tries to save her, but wait! There’s danger! And John Stamos.
ABC, January 4 at 8.

Classical Music
11. Hear Green Mountain Project
New Year, old music.
The turning of the year is a frenzied time for early-music folks, when the market for beatific odes and spiritual cantatas suddenly picks up. Tenet’s Green Mountain Project has made an annual ritual of performing Claudio Monteverdi’s 1610 Vespers; this year, the group has also cobbled together another vespers service out of the sacred music of French Baroque idol Marc-Antoine Charpentier. —J.D.
Church of St. Joseph, January 9 through 12.

Dance
12. See Nutcracker Rouge
Nut, cracked.
Austin McCormick’s ballet gone burlesque isn’t quite as shocking as it thinks it is, but its bendy dancers and lushly dark set have style to spare, and the haunting final pas de deux feels like a duet for the end of the world. —Rebecca Milzoff
XIV, through January 18.

Film
13. See Robert Altman
A master on the big screen.
A tribute to one of the great American originals continues at MoMA, and there you can experience Altman’s incisive babble where it belongs: in a theater. There’s some skippable stuff (the ol’ pothead was erratic), but one of my top-ten movies, the Leonard Cohen–inflected Western McCabe & Mrs. Miller, is showing on January 2, and you have to see Vilmos Zsigmond’s cinematography—that rope bridge! Julie Christie’s blue eyes!—on the biggest, widest screen you can. —D.E.
Museum of Modern Art, through January 17.

Art
14. See Steven Pippin’s Insignificant
You’ll look twice.
Magic comes in many forms that aren’t tricks: airplanes, electric lights, photography, and now Steven Pippin’s tabletop sculpture that actually balances a standard artist’s pencil on its point, thanks to an eccentric contraption that constantly adjusts to maintain its poise. It’s utterly captivating; Pippin should be allowed to balance one of his pencils atop the Empire State Building. —J.S.
Gavin Brown’s Enterprise, through January 11.

Classical Music
15. Hear Lisa Moore
Maven of minimalism.
The pianist, a veteran of the Bang-on-a-Can All-Stars, can rattle and roar her way through the most complex and explosive contemporary compositions, but her next project is devoted to the mesmerizing, slow-blooming music of Philip Glass. The recital doubles as a launch party for her all-Glass CD, Mad Rush. —J.D.
(Le) Poisson Rouge, January 13.

Books
16. Read Priya Parmar’s Vanessa and Her Sister
Bloomsday
The literary-historical novel is a tricky thing. Too freewheeling, and it’s fan-fic for English majors; too dutifully true, and it’s pointless. Parmar uses the familiarity of her subject, the Bloomsbury Group, as a head start, burrowing deeper into the minds and mores of England’s liberal vanguard (especially narrator Vanessa Bell, the sensible painter chronically overshadowed by her sister, Virginia Woolf). The pretzeled plot unfolds at a steady pace, in crisp period prose, and rarely feels inevitable. —Boris Kachka
Ballantine.

Pop
17. See Neneh Cherry
Eternally cool.
Beginning with the 1988 single “Buffalo Stance,” this Swedish-born singer-songwriter forged a free-spirited path through the pop landscape, dabbling in genres as diverse as punk, trip-hop, and free jazz. Her greater popularity overseas notwithstanding, it’s still pretty astonishing that Cherry has never played a show in New York—an injustice she’ll rectify at last with this head­lining set in support of her most recent album, the sparse and soulful Blank Project. —L.Z.
Highline Ballroom, January 9.

Theater
18. See Rock Bottom
Bridget Everett, back on top.
In her tornadic and polymorphously perverse cabaret act, back for an 18-performance encore run, Everett delivers a complicated and often brilliant love offering to the emotionally dispossessed. The show’s as vulgar as it is uplifting; one of her milder numbers is called “Tell Me (Does This Dick Make My Ass Look Big?).” —J.G.
Joe’s Pub, January 6 through February 20.

Dance
19. See Bodytraffic
West Coast imports.
L.A.’s dance scene is gaining momentum, in large part thanks to this small but dynamic modern company. They’ll perform a program emphasizing the troupe’s contemporary focus, including premieres by Hofesh Shechter and Victor Quijada. —R.M.
Joyce Theater, January 6 through 10.

TV
20. Watch Empire
And hear the hits first.
A homophobic record-company mogul (Terrence Howard) plays King Lear to his three sons: the financial whiz kid, the rapper, and the soulful R&B singer who is gay. With ­Timba­land writing and producing the earwormy music (like the first episode’s hit-worthy “Good Enough”), expect radio crossover.
Fox, January 7 at 9 p.m.

Books
21. Read Richard McGuire’s Here
Graphic greatness.
With one simple conceit—depicting one room in a century-old house across the years—McGuire renders the possibilities of the so-called graphic novel literally infinite. The pleasure is in the execution—building on themes and micro­narratives, he creates comedy and tragedy out of cosmic slices. —B.K.
Pantheon.

Theater
22. Hear Alysha Umphress’s I’ve Been Played
She can cook.
Yellow Sound Label, January 6. The breakout singing star of On the Town serves up the swingingest voice on Broadway in a new album with songwriter-arranger Jeff ­Blumenkrantz. —J.G.
Yellow Sound Label, January 6.

Pop
23. Listen to Mike Will Made-It
The guy behind “We Can’t Stop.”
The Atlanta producer was supposed to release his debut studio album this year. As that record continues to collect dust, he’s dropped Ransom, a mix tape full of rap cameos (Kendrick Lamar, Young Thug, Future); try out “Stop-Start,” which pairs a tingly sci-fi beat with lyrics by Gucci Mane and Chief Keef.
Free stream and download at LiveMixtapes.com.

Classical Music
24. Hear Choir of Trinity Wall Street
The other oratorio.
In the run-up to Christmas, Handel’s you-know-what gets all the attention, but for the composer, the genre was a way to adapt his talents to changing tastes, and he cranked them out prolifically. Among the best is Saul, a festive blowout that the Choir of Trinity Wall Street performs to liven the post–New Year’s doldrums. —J.D.
St. Paul’s Chapel, January 2 and 4.

Art
25. See "Proper Nouns"
Brush up on your grammar.
Leonhard Hurzlmeier’s geometric, figurative paintings of women fall somewhere between Fernand Léger’s personalized Cubism and your emoji keyboard: quirky and precise, rewarding you the longer you look. They’re reason enough to make it to this playful show; Paul McCarthy’s return to New York (with a new video work) is a bonus.
Rachel Uffner Gallery, January 11 through February 22.


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