1. See Madonna
Her music still makes the people come together.
Is this year’s Rebel Heart the best Madonna album? No way. Is her live show so consistently spectacular that it doesn’t even matter which record she’s touring? Duh. —Lindsay Zoladz
Madison Square Garden, September 16 and 17.
2. See Z for Zachariah
Not the end of the world.
Even if you’re burned out from too many postapocalypse movies, make room for this delicately calibrated, pointedly unsensational drama anchored by Chiwetel Ejiofor, in a frighteningly complex, award-caliber performance. He plays an engineer who stumbles onto the mysteriously un-poisoned farmstead of a religious young woman (a miscast Margot Robbie, who nonetheless pulls it off) whose family has disappeared. Prepare to have your sympathies upended — shatteringly. —David Edelstein
3. See Mike Kelley
Imagining imaginary realms.
This is the first exhibition in New York to concentrate solely on Kelley’s glorious Kandors (named for Superman’s birthplace, the capital of Krypton). These eerily lit sculptures and wild videos glow with surreal wonder and material wisdom — once you see them, you’ll understand why Kelley is among the most influential artists of the last 25 years. —Jerry Saltz
Hauser & Wirth, through October 24.
4. Read The Last Love Song: A Biography of Joan Didion
Revisiting all that.
Tracy Daugherty has the confidence to write an unauthorized book on a living person that trawls not just for gossip (though there’s plenty on Didion’s mostly charmed life and its late unraveling) but for connection and, ultimately, meaning. He gets friends talking, and he nails the ways in which history and culture shaped a writer who returned the favor. —Boris Kachka
St. Martin’s Press.
5. Watch The Mindy Project
A heroic rescue.
Mindy lives! The Mindy Project got the ax from Fox at the end of last season, but Hulu swooped in to save the sartorial queen, and thank God. The fate of Baby Lahiri-Castellano rests in Hulu’s hands now. —Margaret Lyons
Hulu, September 15.
6. Hear the New York Philharmonic
Like the fanciest drive-in.
There’s no fidelity higher than live, and until you’ve experienced Bernstein’s music for On the Waterfront or Rota’s for The Godfather played by a high-caliber orchestra sitting beneath the screen, those scores remain mere soundtracks. The Phil’s “Art of the Score” Hollywood festival brings that music into three dimensions. —Justin Davidson
Avery Fisher Hall, September 18, 19, and 21.
7. Listen to Patti LuPone’s Matters of the Heart
Real Emotional Girl.
Patti LuPone’s studio recordings swing between demure and explosive; Matters of the Heart, her 1999 album of love songs from Rodgers to Sondheim to Newman, is, thrillingly, both. It gets a crystalline reissue from new-label-on-the-block Broadway Records. —Jesse Green
Broadway Records, September 18.
8. See Tree of Codes
Throwing a slew of creative minds together for a collaborative work doesn’t always make for a cohesive result, but this multifaceted piece of dance-music-theater seems better conceived than most: Based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s novel-as-sculpture, it’ll blend contemporary ballet by Wayne McGregor with Jamie xx’s woozily atmospheric music and a dreamy stage environment by Olafur Eliasson. —Rebecca Milzoff
Park Avenue Armory, September 14 through 21.
9. Go to Brooklyn Book Festival
Page-turners all around the borough.
Bibliophiles won’t know where to turn first at the annual literary lovefest (“bookend” events range from a chat with city restaurateurs to a tribute to a Harlem Renaissance poet), but the main event on September 20 is a must: a day chock-full of readings and conversations, featuring the likes of Dennis Lehane talking about families and crime and Joyce Carol Oates reading from her most recent work.
Various venues, September 14 through 21; see brooklynbookfestival.org.
10. Hear Brandon Victor Dixon
Stepping center stage.
Dixon may have matinee-idol looks, but he’s no spotlight-hogging traditional star: His silky voice and sensual presence seem to casually sneak up on audiences before charming them. He’ll own the stage here, singing original songs and the kind of soulful tunes that won him a Tony nom for The Color Purple.
Joe’s Pub, September 21.
11. Hear Otello
Sans face paint.
The Met’s strategy of recruiting Broadway talent doesn’t always pay off, but Bartlett Sher has become a regular. For the season opener, he pivots from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s racial musical comedy The King and I to Verdi’s racial musical drama, with tenor Aleksandrs Antonenko playing the title role in his natural paleface — a novelty at the Met. —J.D.
Metropolitan Opera, opens September 21.
12. Read Every Person in New York
You might be in there too.
Jason Polan’s idiosyncratic drawn catalogue gives us modern life on the streets of the big city: wee, twee sketches with a jittery hand, jerky line, and teeny scale. He captures the manic oversaturation of detail on sidewalks and subways with the observational skills of a savant (and, it turns out, he’s drawn me on more than one occasion). —J.S.
13. & 14. See Mamma Mia! and Hedwig and the Angry Inch
Farewell to the dancing queens.
One came from Sweden via London; one from Berlin via Off–Off Broadway. Both close this month. Catch the super-trouper Mamma Mia! (more than 6,000 performances) and the wicked little Hedwig (about 500, and ending with Taye Diggs in the title role) on their way out the door. —J.G.
Broadhurst Theatre, through September 12; Belasco Theatre, through September 13.
15. Go to Basilica Soundscape
Worth the trip.
Consider this always smartly curated “anti-festival” a welcome upstate respite from the kind of sensory overload most music fests generate: One band plays at a time, so you’re free to discover new favorites, whether it’s enchanting singer Lydia Ainsworth, pummeling noise-rockers Health, or haunted crooner Perfume Genius. —L.Z.
Basilica Hudson, September 11 through 13.
16. Hear Arvo Pärt at 80
No living composer has made more poetic use of reverberant spaces than the Estonian guru of holy minimalism. The Met celebrates his 80th birthday in its stoniest, glassiest, most high-ceilinged space: the Temple of Dendur, an ideal setting to absorb Pärt’s open chords and sacramental pace. —J.D.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, September 11.
17. Watch The Mend
A fascinating first feature.
John Magary’s wild, riveting tale of two brothers — one a carefree and careless screwup, the other a buttoned-up lawyer — is one of the year’s most infectiously watchable films: What it leaves out is as fascinating as what it leaves in. —Bilge Ebiri
VOD, September 22.
18. See The Ignite Series
They write the songs.
Prospect Theater Company, which already does so much for new musicals, turns its attention to emerging musical writers Jeff Blumenkrantz, Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich, Peter Mills, and more. —J.G.
The TimesCenter, September 12 at 8 p.m.
19. See Cooley High
Looking back at a landmark film.
In 1975, when black mainstream cinema meant blaxploitation, Michael Schultz’s Cooley High (set in 1964) was a complex tragicomedy about two Near North Side Chicago high-school kids (Glynn Turman and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs) hanging out, partying, looking to meet girls — and becoming suspects in a car theft. With its infectious Motown soundtrack, the film meant so much to so many — and director Schultz will be on hand to say how and why at this 40th-anniversary celebration. —D.E.
Museum of the Moving Image, September 13.
20. See Keltie Ferris
Vibrating with psychic verve.
Ferris’s large paintings wow with vibrant psychedelic color that looks like it comes from a Popsicle factory. These abstract compositions morph between splotches, pockmarks, and aberrant shapes, suggesting this artist is bound for big things. —J.S.
Mitchell-Innes & Nash, September 10 through October 17.
21. Listen to Maddie & Tae
An auspicious beginning.
Last year, Maddie Marlow and Tae Dye broke through with “Girl in a Country Song,” slyly lampooning bro-country. Their debut album, Start Here, full of earnest tunes about balancing teenage dreams with adult expectations, makes a very real bid to fill Taylor Swift’s cowboy boots with some of the year’s best vocal harmonies.
22. See Vittorio De Sica
A maestro on- and offscreen.
Known mainly for transforming world cinema with the neorealist classics Bicycle Thieves and Shoeshine, director Vittorio De Sica had a staggeringly diverse career, making everything from bubbly, star-studded comedies to sweaty melodramas to lush period pieces. This retrospective takes in his full range, including his work as an actor. —B.E.
Film Forum, September 9 through October 8.
23. Watch the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards
Will Don Draper be remembered?
It’s Mad Men’s last hurrah at the Emmys, and while the show has won for best drama, none of its performers has ever won an acting Emmy. C’mon, Television Academy! Give Jon Hamm his due! (Andy Samberg hosts.) —M.L.
Fox, September 20 at 8 p.m.
24. Hear Sarah Kirkland Snider’s Unremembered
The composer Sarah Kirkland Snider is a refreshingly slow worker: She spent four years weaving the richly textured polychrome tapestry of this new recording. Silver threads of medievalish counterpoint twist together with twinkling electronics, faux folk tunes, vintage pop melodies, and avant-garde choral techniques to create an intricately magical landscape. —J.D.
New Amsterdam Records.
25. Read Elisabeth Egan’s A Window Opens
A timely tome.
Diving headfirst into the territory where the having-it-all quandary meets the roman à clef, Egan draws on her suburban life, her former job at Self, and her brief stint at Amazon for a funny and surprisingly wise work, favoring cleverness and precision over cartoon villainy and keeping her heart tucked under her sleeve. —B.K.
Simon & Schuster.