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To Do: August 12–August 26, 2015

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


Jill Scott’s Woman, the New York International Fringe Festival, and more New York events.  

Pop
1. Go to the Billboard Hot 100 Fest
Pop-stravaganza.
With performances from the Weeknd, Fetty Wap, and Jason Derulo, this year’s Fest should be like a real-time song-of-the-summer duke-out. Bonus: Skrillex and Justin Bieber are on the bill, making a performance of their surprisingly great “Where Are Ü Now” all but inevitable. —Lindsay Zoladz
Jones Beach, August 22 and 23*.

Movies
2. See The Man From U.N.C.L.E.
Hit-’em-up style.
His awful Sherlock Holmes–does–kung fu movies notwithstanding, Guy Ritchie is capable of good, syncopated action filmmaking, and there’s potential in this big-budget remake of TV’s Bond ripoff. Two dullish studs (Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer) are Napoleon Solo and his KGB counterpart, Illya Kuryakin, but the great Alicia Vikander can make things interesting. —David Edelstein
In theaters August 14.

Theater
3. See The Wiz Reunion
Ease on down.
Dee Dee Bridgewater played Glinda; André De Shields, the Wiz; and Phylicia Rashad, a munchkin and a mouse. They and other cast members of the 1975 production reunite with choreographer George Faison to celebrate the high point of funk-meets-Broadway. —Jesse Green
Central Park, August 12, and Marcus Garvey Park, August 13 and 14.

TV
4. Watch The Jim Gaffigan Show
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
A sitcom about the misadventures of a comedian living in New York with his family: Who needs another one of those? Well, you, if you like shows with energy and wit that parents and kids can watch together. After some initial throat-clearing, the series has settled into an agreeably kooky groove. —Matt Zoller Seitz
TV Land, Wednesdays at 10 p.m.

Classical Music
5. Hear Haydn’s Creation
A fitting end to Mostly Mozart.
Haydn is often thought of as a sort of opening act for Mozart, but the upstart was long dead when his elder completed this oratorio, the ultimate musical expression of religious humanism. At that time, a pundit asked to predict which composer would be honored with an annual tribute might have bet heavily on Haydn. Instead, The Creation concludes the other guy’s festival. —Justin Davidson
Avery Fisher Hall, August 21 and 22.

Books
6. Read Susan Barker’s The Incarnations
The past is never really past.
It’s 2008 in Beijing, a city whose drab present belies its too-interesting history, and a taxi driver finds himself stalked by a correspondent claiming to recount their six intertwined past lives. A thousand years tumble through the stalker’s letters and propel the driver toward madness (or does his madness invent them?) before a perfect conclusion brings home the stalker’s warning: “History is coming for you.” —Boris Kachka
Touchstone, August 18.

TV
7. Watch Show Me a Hero
The Quality TV event of the summer?
David Simon’s adaptation of Lisa Belkin’s non­fiction book often feels like a period cousin of The Wire — set in the late ’80s, it’s about a federal order to build low-income housing that tears a medium-size city apart. Oscar Isaac, Alfred Molina, Winona Ryder, and Jim Belushi are all great. Paul Haggis (Crash) directs, but don’t be alarmed: Simon’s script reins him in. —M.Z.S.
HBO, starting August 16 at 8 p.m.

Pop
8. Listen to Lianne La Havas
A sneakily sensational soul sister.
Much of La Havas’s work is marked by strong percussion that contrasts with her subtle acoustic sound and dreamy vocals, and her new album Blood is no exception. Listen to the ting-ting-ting of piano chords in “Midnight” coupled with sultry brass, and you’ll almost feel like you’re listening to an Adele song.
Nonesuch.

Theater
9. See John
Follow the playwright.
Annie Baker’s plays demand a certain amount of faith; you have to let her lead you where she wants to go, even to places where you might not expect to find drama. All we know about this one is that it is set at a bed-and-breakfast in Gettysburg, involves dolls and angels, and features Christopher Abbott (Girls), Georgia Engel, and Lois Smith. It’ll probably be worth the trip. —J.G.
Signature Theatre, through September 6.

Art
10. See “What Nerve!”
A much-needed spotlight.
Plenty of artists deserve bigger places in the sun. This well-researched show takes handfuls of “alternative” talents out of aesthetic purgatory and into the belly of the Chelsea beast. The effects stun: Names like Roger Brown, Karl Wirsum, Jim Nutt, and many others shine forth, demanding scholarly inquiry and museum attention. —Jerry Saltz
Matthew Marks Gallery, through August 14.

Movies
11. See The Night of the Shooting Stars
A humanist landmark.
It’s possible that no one has ever combined tragedy and farce as irreducibly and as shatteringly as the Taviani brothers, Paolo and Vittorio, in their 1982 masterpiece. Framed as a woman’s story told to a sleepy child, it’s set in Tuscany in 1944, the last days of the German occupation, when Italian Fascists fought against their brothers in the field. —D.E.
Film Forum, August 12 through 18.

Movies
12. See Cobie Smulders in Unexpected
Perfect performance in an imperfect film.
Smulders is unforgettable as a young ­inner-city teacher whose unplanned pregnancy upends her life but also brings her closer to a promising student (Gail Bean), also pregnant. Kris Swanberg’s film leaves a lot unsaid, but it’s filled with fine acting and lovely observations. —Bilge Ebiri
On demand.

Books
13. Read Roberto Saviano’s ZeroZeroZero
New Journalism, with better sourcing.
After his much-praised Mafia chronicle Gomorrah, the Italian journalist turns to the global trade in cocaine, with a particular focus on Mexico’s brutal syndicates and the international banking system that tacitly supports them. His facts are woven into immersive storytelling. —B.K.
Penguin Press.

Pop
14. Listen to Jill Scott’s Woman
Grown-up in the building.
“I want some sugar in my bowl, a deeper connection, baby / Don’t you want more?” Jill Scott wails on “Closure,” a breakup joint so funky it makes “Bad Blood” sound tepid. Scott is in her comfort zone here, but on up-tempo, Aretha-esque tracks like “Run Run Run,” she proves she can jitterbug like Janelle Monáe too.
Atlantic Records.

Dance
15. See Battery Dance Festival
Movers and shakers from near and far.
Forty years ago, the Battery Dance Company got its start performing in the city’s parks, plazas, and piers. It’s still showcasing local talent at this annual outdoor celebration, which is also one of the best places to catch smaller international troupes; this year’s festival starts with a celebration of Indian dance and continues with groups from Poland, Norway, and beyond. —Rebecca Milzoff
Robert F. Wagner Jr. Park, August 15 through 20.

Art
16. See George Ohr
Spinning magic from the potter’s wheel.
The genius known as “The Mad Potter of Biloxi” is my No. 1 nominee for most overlooked late-19th- or early-20th-century American visionary. This show whets appetites with 50 of the artist’s wobbly, scrunched, gorgeously glazed vessels. —J.S.
Craig F. Starr Gallery, through August 14.

Theater
17. See the New York International Fringe Festival
Edgy theater.
With 1,100 performances of 200 shows in 16 downtown venues, the Fringe Festival can be overwhelming. How to decide what to see? (a) Pick the silliest titles, this year including Popesical and An Inconvenient Poop; (b) use the online catalogue to find that LGBTQ clown show you’ve been yearning for; or (c) Choose randomly, hope for the best. —J.G.
August 14 through 30; FringeNYC.org.

Art
18. See “Party Beuys: What Comes After Farce”
It’s not hocus-pocus.
The art world loves cult and ancestor worship, and few 20th-century artists are more revered than the German would-be shaman Joseph Beuys. This perfect, probing group show examines how the Beuys pathogen is being passed to new generations. —J.S.
Andrea Meislin Gallery, through August 14.

Classical Music
19. Hear Lars Vogt
Pianistic revelations.
After playing Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto with the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, the penetrating pianist dishes Beethoven’s last sonata and Schubert’s not-quite-final C minor sonata in a more intimate setting. There’s something about hearing the creak of the pedal and the pianist’s exhalations up close that makes these valedictory works sound all the more poignant. —J.D.
Avery Fisher Hall and Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse, August 14 at 7:30 and 10 p.m.

Movies
20. See Phoenix
Risen from the ashes, but still burned.
Lately, my house has been filled with covers of the haunting Kurt Weill–Ogden Nash ballad “Speak Low,” the musical motif of Christian Petzold’s morbidly romantic postwar drama. Nina Hoss — one of the world’s most penetrating actresses — plays a concentration-camp survivor whose mutilated face is fixed but who can’t feel like she’s herself until she returns to her life with her non-Jewish husband, who might have turned her in to the Nazis. —D.E.
In theaters.

Art
21. See Zoe Leonard
No filter needed.
In “Analogue,” Leonard’s there-goes-the-neighborhood send-up of 412 photographs presented in 25 gridded “chapters,” the artist used a 1940s Rolleiflex camera to snap storefronts and old ad snippets, capturing an intimate world of disappearing small-scale commerce.
MoMA, through August 30.

Misbehavior
22. Learn the Art of Cheating
Card counting, yes, but much more.
Stimulate your brain at this New York Obscura Society event: Renowned con men teach sleight-of-hand as well as memory and mathematical how-to in a Rat Pack–era gambling den.
88 Palace, August 22 at 10 p.m.

Pop
23. See Afropunk Fest
Get experienced.
This free-spirited, always-stellar Brooklyn fest’s 11th year might be its most impressive yet. The bill is stacked (Lenny Kravitz, Kelis, Danny Brown, Lauryn Hill), and Friday night’s Fancy Dress Ball features the inimitable Grace Jones. —L.Z.
Commodore Barry Park, August 21 through 23.

TV
24. Watch Playing House
Friendly funnies.
The gentle bestie sitcom’s second season swaps pregnancy humor for baby humor, but happily, everything else remains: the pop-culture jokes, the goofy physical comedy, and the perfect chemistry between leads and creators Jessica St. Clair and Lennon Parham. —Margaret Lyons
USA, Tuesdays at 10 p.m.

Pop
25. See Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito
The faces behind the voices.
Nobody was more vital to the rise and spread of rap in the early-to-mid-’90s than these WKCR DJs; among others, Jay Z, Wu-Tang, and Nas got some of their first airtime with them. This 25th-anniversary show should be an auditory time machine.
SummerStage, August 16.

*This article has been updated to show that the Billboard Hot 100 Fest will be held August 22 and 23, not August 23 and 24.


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