1. See The World’s End
The apocalypse. Except funny.
When it came out in August, New York’s David Edelstein called Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s film “by light-years the most entertaining movie of the year.” It’s about drinking one’s way through the end of humanity, so it’s perfect for the day after your relatives come to visit.
Available from Netflix and on DVD.
2. Hear Alan Gilbert Conduct Mozart
The final symphonies.
Mozart’s arc was only half a rainbow—he died at 35—and his last symphonies, including the “Jupiter,” belong to a composer in his prime, with plenty more to say. —Justin Davidson
New York Philharmonic, November 29 and 30.
3. Hear Lauryn Hill
Back from her misadventure.
The powerful-voiced former Fugee plays a pair of shows, her first since her prison stint for tax evasion.
Bowery Ballroom, November 27.
4. See Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?
Gondry on Chomsky on Chomsky.
Director Michel Gondry is terribly earnest and by his own admission borderline unintelligible (ze Franch acCENT ees strong) as he profiles Noam Chomsky in Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? Gondry made the brilliant decision, though, to hand-animate the interview, and his free-associational squiggles make Chomsky’s ideas sing. —David Edelstein
In theaters now.
5. Hear Megadeth
Don’t let the gray hair fool you.
These guys have been at it forever (since 1983, to be precise) and the quality of their albums has been highly variable. (The most recent, Super Collider, released in June, is a bit eh.) But in concert they’ve literally never slowed down: Their twin guitar attack, led by Dave Mustaine, is the breakneck essence of speed metal. —Jody Rosen
The Paramount, December 3.
6. Read Dollar Sign on the Muscle
Nate Silver’s Old Testament.
Before PECOTA or VORP, there was this book by Kevin Kerrane—an English professor from the University of Delaware—about the ways in which baseball scouts locate, or fail to locate, potential Hall of Famers. Out of print for a decade, it’s just returned via the book-publishing arm of the Baseball Prospectus website, with a new epilogue about present-day scouting.
7. See Cold Turkey
Even if it spooks you a little bit.
Will Slocombe’s Thanksgiving family psychodrama offers a fine way of inoculating yourself against your own domestic horrors this season. It revolves around a Pasadena family reunion overseen by an alcoholic, distant architect of the Iraq War (Peter Bogdanovich) and is edited for maximal squirm. It also features remarkable performances, chiefly by Sonya Walger (Penny Widmore on Lost) and Alicia Witt as the patriarch’s daughters, one a barely centered yoga instructor, the other an unhinged commune reject. Guardedly recommended. —D.E.
In theaters now.
8. Celebrate Indies First Day
Because Amazon has the other 364.
The days immediately following Thanksgiving—Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Buy-Nothing Day, Sleep In and Feel Stuffed Day— have a new addition: Indies First Day, hatched by author Sherman Alexie in collaboration with the American Booksellers Association. The idea: Authors will flock to indie bookstores and hand-sell their favorite books to customers. Indiebound has a map of stores and the authors they’ll be hosting, including seventeen in New York City. —Kathryn Schulz
Details at indiebound.org/indies-first.
9. Hear Arlo Guthrie
Just a half a mile from the railroad track.
Mr. Alice’s Restaurant, back in New York for his annual Thanksgiving concert. With feeling!
Carnegie Hall, November 30.
10. See Good Person of Szechwan
Before it closes.
You have only a few more evenings to catch what might be the most delightful production of a Brecht play in years. Admittedly, that’s a low bar, but with the amazing Taylor Mac in the leading role(s), and great music performed by the Lisps, a cod-liver-oil lesson about the problem of good and evil is magically transformed into a sweet, glittery love-in. —Jesse Green
Public Theater, through December 8.
11. And Then See All That Fall
Before it closes, too.
Also ending shortly—but at the other end of the theatrical spectrum—is Samuel Beckett’s droll radio play, seemingly about nothing. (Or nothing but the existential comedy of that daily chore, life.) Making the 75-minute sketch into a sublime event are Michael Gambon and Eileen Atkins, two great actors who know how funny horrible is. Or vice versa. —J.G.
59E59 Theaters, through December 8.
12. See Gary Kuehn: Postures
This New York artist, born in 1939, not only could have been a contender; he was. A splendid gathering of sculptor Gary Kuehn’s early work tells us why he was included in a number of seminal sixties exhibitions. Primary post-minimal forms like thick fiberglass planks droop slightly or sag; a twisted fiberglass-and-steel piece, also from the sixties, and others from the same period justify this second look at a figure whose influence lingers in the mix of things being made today. —Jerry Saltz
Joe Sheftel Gallery, 24A Orchard Street, through December 15.
13. Hear Ida Maria
Norse expat sings.
The Norwegian-born singer Ida Maria, née Ida Maria Børli Sivertsen, has released one wildly acclaimed perfect single, “Oh My God” (2007), and three unfairly ignored albums, all of which display her knack for pairing an unshakable tune with emphatic vocals and loud guitars. She’ll play the Mercury Lounge on the same evening as the local band Firehorse; her songs will rattle that small room. —J.R.
Mercury Lounge, December 3.
14. Hear Elton John
Ain’t nothing like the real thing.
Sure, it’ll be the least-hip crowd in New York that night. But admit it: You know every word to “Daniel,” and “Candle in the Wind” too.
Madison Square Garden, December 3 and 4.
15. Read The Lives of a Cell
Take a moment to celebrate Lewis Thomas.
One of the truly great science writers, Lewis Thomas—researcher, doctor, New Yorker—would have turned 100 on Monday. Your best introduction to his work is this slim 1974 collection of essays about the natural world’s interconnected inner beauty.
16. Attend The Art of Doing: How Superachievers Do What They Do and How They Do It So Well
News (you hope) you can use.
For their book of the same title, Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield polled highly successful people—David Chang, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, actress Laura Linney, many more—about their life strategies. Surely there’s something to be learned here, particularly with New Year’s–resolution season on the way.
Mid-Manhattan Library, December 4, 6:30 p.m.
17. See Jonathan Groff
The Glee star performs “Get Back,” an evening-long revue of songs and stories about his childhood (never mind that he’s still only 28). We kid, we kid! But it all benefits the 52nd Street Project, the unbeatable mentoring program that teaches Hell’s Kitchen children to write and create.
Five Angels Theater, 789 Tenth Avenue, November 24.
18. Hear Dean Wareham
Indie icon revs up.
The front man of Galaxie 500 and Luna plays his one and only New York show on this tour, right behind the release of his solo EP.
The Bell House, November 29.
19. Download I Was Wrong
The Dish, Andrew Sullivan’s news-and-opinion website that went independent early this year, has just launched Deep Dish, its sidebar venue for long reads. First out of the gate is this download (for Nook, iPad, Kindle, etc.), which includes an interview with an Iraq War commander and an e-book collection of Sullivan’s blog posts on the subject: first emphatically pro-invasion, then gradually disillusioned, and ultimately horrified with the way it all went down.
20. See Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Ailey’s dancers are best known for interpreting their founder’s work, but it’s often more exciting to see their bodies pushed in new directions, and this season, the repertoire gets three new works: a first-ever collaboration with the poetic, evolving choreographer Aszure Barton; a Wayne McGregor ballet set to orchestrations by Jack White; and Bill T. Jones’s classic D-Man in the Waters. —Rebecca Milzoff
New York City Center, December 4 through January 5.
21. Watch Sons of Anarchy
You’d think, in a sixth season of bloody and explosive surprises, this show would have lost the ability to shock. Yet Bobby got shot, Clay got killed, and if Tara ends up presenting the bullet as evidence, she’s signed her death warrant. Would the show kill two major characters in one season? They just might. Two episodes to go.
FX, December 3 and 10, 10 p.m.
22. Stream Malcolm in the Middle
Nice Cranston, to follow Bad Cranston.
Though nothing can fill the Breaking Bad–size hole in our hearts, repeats of Linwood Boomer’s family sitcom salve the wound better than you’d expect. And it contains countless weird echoes of Vince Gilligan’s drug drama, especially when Bryan Cranston’s Hal rebels against the constraints of his suburban life, then tries to keep it from Jane Kaczmarek’s Lois. —Matt Zoller Seitz
23. Watch Treme
Closure in New Orleans.
The fourth, final season of David Simon’s underappreciated drama is a truncated wrap-up, but it’s still emotionally satisfying in that tough-love way he has. The premiere, set on the eve of Obama’s ascent to the White House, strikes just the right notes: optimism and relief, undercut by our knowledge of disappointments to come. —M.Z.S.
HBO, December 1, 9 p.m.
24. Read The Flamethrowers
It should’ve won the National Book Award.
The 2013 prizes went to Cynthia Kadohata’s The Thing About Luck (for YA literature), Mary Szybist’s Incarnadine (poetry), George Packer’s The Unwinding (nonfiction), and James McBride’s The Good Lord Bird (fiction). All are excellent, and the fiction list was particularly strong this year. Although I talked up McBride’s novel here last month, and still endorse it, my money and my heart were on Rachel Kushner’s The Flamethrowers. It is second to none. —K.S.
25. See Planes
Because even the most organic-local-and-TV-free kid needs to be distracted while you’re trying to get the house ready for Thanksgiving guests.