1. See Eagleheart
Running joke keeps on running.
What began two seasons ago as a curiously late-to-the-joke Walker, Texas Ranger parody has evolved into a spectacularly bizarre and surreal comic treat in which Norris-ian violence is beside the point. Chris Elliott stars as Marshal Chris Monsanto, who this season is sucked into a MacGuffin of a mythology after being framed for throwing his partner into a wood chipper. His boss is being literally absorbed into his desk, another marshal is obsessed with selling her shrunken-apple puppet show The Ap’p’pals, and Chris is blackmailed into working for a blackmail company. Get a Life’s willful disregard for making sense blissfully rides again.
Adult Swim, Thursdays at midnight.
2. Hear Beyoncé
You need a reason?
Here’s a forecast you can count on: A storm system will blow through Brooklyn on Thursday, December 19. To see Beyoncé in concert is to behold a gale-force spectacle of old-fashioned entertainment: singing, hoofing, sequins, the works. Bring dancing shoes, batten hatches. —Jody Rosen
Barclays Center, December 19.
3. Watch A Home for the Holidays
It’s easy to be snide about Celine Dion, a singer whose lung power is reportedly classified as a military weapon by the Canadian government. But let it also be said that if you have a heart, even a stone one, her A Home for the Holidays is guaranteed to melt it. Dion retells stories of children in adoption and foster care, and tops it off with musical performances by Dion herself, Ne-Yo, Chris Young, and others. —Matt Zoller Seitz
CBS, December 18, 8 p.m.
4. See Interwoven Globe: The Worldwide Textile Trade 1500–1800
Great vibrations from gorgeous textiles, all made as empires were being built or decaying and parts of the world unknown were importing artistic influences so beautiful and consequential that they reverberate in contemporary art still. Curtains, bedcovers, wall hangings, and church vestments via the Silk Road, Africa, Oceania, and the Americas—some magnificently abstract, others telling cosmic creation stories—make for one of the most resonant shows of the year. Hurry: It’ll all be gone in less than a month. Another reason to love New York. —Jerry Saltz
Metropolitan Museum of Art, through January 5.
5. See Liv & Ingmar
It’s cold out, ja?
Cinephiles all over the world sink to their knees when they hear those names. The Bergman-Ullmann affair (romantic and creative) is documented in Dheeraj Akolkar’s Liv & Ingmar—having not seen it yet, I hope it mentions that roughly half of all Swedes under 40 carry randy Ingmar’s DNA—but the best news is that there’s a ten-movie festival of their work at the Film Society of Lincoln Center. Must-sees: Shame (1968), the bleak wartime in extremis story centering on a couple (Ullmann and Max von Sydow) in hiding on an island, and Bergman’s best portrait of the hell he thought was marriage, The Passion of Anna (1969). —David Edelstein
Film Society of Lincoln Center, December 13 through 19, schedule at filmlinc.org.
6. See Die Fledermaus
On New Year’s Eve.
Johann Strauss Jr.’s operetta is a New Year’s Eve standard, and Jeremy Sams sets his new production on that celebratory date in 1899, when Vienna was leaping from bourgeois opulence to sleek modernity, all beneath a gold-leaf sky. —Justin Davidson
Metropolitan Opera, opens December 31.
7. Listen to Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812
Okay musical gets a great cast album.
Dave Malloy’s electro-pop musicalization of Tolstoy is still too self-consciously self-conscious for its own good. But it sounds fantastic and makes more sense on the two-disc Ghostlight CD than it did onstage, perhaps because it doesn’t include vodka. (The show itself continues, at the Kazino tent on West 45th, through January 5.) —Jesse Green
8.–13. Read These Six Honorable-Mention Books
Last week, the top ten; this week, six more.
Like a lot of critics, I submit to end-of-year lists even while regarding them as an impossible and fundamentally dishonest task. Herewith, a handful that didn’t make the cut in last week’s issue—but that, by some other criteria or simply in some other mood, might well have done so. In fiction: I loved Lore Segal’s Half the Kingdom (slender, funny, deadly), Hanya Yanagihara’s The People in the Trees (among the boldest and best debut novels of the year), and Chimimanda Adichie’s Americanah (the best book I’ve read in ages about race in contemporary America). In nonfiction, I loved David Finkel’s Thank You for Your Service, about the experiences of U.S. soldiers returned from Iraq, and Sheri Fink’s Five Days at Memorial, about an embattled hospital during Katrina; and I always love Janet Malcolm, whose new essay collection is Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers. —K.S.
And support your local independent bookstore.
14. Hear Phosphorescent
Matthew Houck calls himself Phosphorescent, which makes sense: His lithe, lovely songs, spanning folk and country and classic rock and indie, give off a luminous glow. Houck’s latest album, Muchacho, was one of 2013’s best; live, he’s more raucous than his records suggest. —J.R.
Music Hall of Williamsburg, December 18 through 21.
15. Watch Two College-Basketball Tripleheaders
Winning talent on the cheap.
The Knicks and Nets are collectively fifteen games under .500, so it’s time to give up and redirect yourself to some great college hoops for as little as $15. Barclays Center will host triple-headers on consecutive Saturdays featuring several potential NCAA-tournament teams, including Michigan, VCU, and St. John’s—the only New York–area team that could conceivably dance among the field of 68 this March. —Matthew Giles
December 21 and 28, Barclays Center.
16–17. Watch Both Versions of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Spend a night at the top of Mount Crumpet.
A lesson in film adaptation might not be everyone’s idea of great Christmas Eve viewing, but ABC has offered that option, and it’s tantalizing. Start out with Chuck Jones’s beloved 1966 cartoon—a brisk and sardonic half-hour featuring the vocal rumblings of Boris Karloff—and feel your heart grow by three sizes. Then reduce it with the follow-up, Ron Howard’s feature film starring a preening and glowering Jim Carrey; it’s a bad banana with a greasy black peel, but the contrasts are instructive. Unless you’d rather watch It’s a Wonderful Life for the millionth time, and who could blame you?—M.Z.S.
ABC, December 24, 8 and 8:30 p.m.
18. Watch Marvin Hamlisch: What He Did for Love
Nobody did it better.
Hamlisch’s manic-nerd routine disguised a wide-ranging, unruly ambition, much of it realized when he became the only person besides Richard Rodgers to achieve PEGOT (EGOT plus Pulitzer) status. Dori Berinstein’s filmed biography offers a good introduction to the underrated (except by himself) composer of A Chorus Line, “The Way We Were,” and (surprise!) the 1965 Lesley Gore hit “Sunshine, Lollipops, and Rainbows.” —J.G.
PBS, December 27, 9 p.m.
19. See The (Curious Case of the) Watson Intelligence
Come here. They want you.
Madeleine George’s marvelous new play examines the dream of companionship through four Watsons: Sherlock Holmes’s loyal sidekick; Alexander Graham Bell’s engineer; and, in the present tense, a Siri-like manbot named for the IBM supercomputer, and a human who eerily resembles him. When the stories start to intrude on one another, it’s not hell that breaks loose, but love.—J.G.
Playwrights Horizons, through December 29.
20. See This Performance of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker
Three likely stars-to-be onstage.
One great reason to see New York City Ballet’s eternally magical Nutcracker every year: All the character roles provide opportunities for a slew of exciting debuts by corps dancers and soloists. On this particular Sunday, watch for a newly crowned Sugarplum (Ashley Laracey), feisty Brittany Pollack as Dewdrop, and elegant Russell Janzen as the Cavalier. —Rebecca Milzoff
December 22 at 5 p.m.
21. See Christopher Astley and Saira McLaren
Double show at a Lower East Side gallery.
Astley’s sculptures look like squishy, cozy cushions that you’d bury your head in—except that you’d quickly discover they are filled with concrete, in a metaphor too delicious to resist. McLaren, a Canadian, makes canvases with graffiti-ish, loopy forms in which the paint has seeped and stained the canvas in bright colors, resulting in a sort of Grateful Dead light-show vibe. Another LES gallery to keep an eye on.
Sargent’s Daughters, 179 East Broadway, through January 25.
22. Hear Make Music Winter
All over town.
Make Music New York, a young but already entrenched summer-solstice tradition, has spun off its winter edition, celebrating the year’s shortest day with performances that wander from place to place. There’s the Gaits—a High Line Soundwalk, an app that turns footsteps into musical instruments; a Latino band marching through East Harlem; a journeying performance of Schubert’s Winterreise; and more. —J.D.
23. Preview the New York International Children’s Film Festival
First look for first-graders.
You and your kids will love this splendid teaser for the 2014 New York International Children’s Film Festival: two weeks of movies distributed by GKIDS, among them a great Miyazaki double bill (My Neighbor Totoro and Grave of the Fireflies) along with the terrific The Secret of Kells and A Cat in Paris. There’ll also be sneak previews of future GKIDS likely awards contenders, among them Nocturna, in which a young orphan plunges into a night world of bizarre creatures (Times Square during the holidays?). —D.E.
December 20 through January 2, lineup and schedule at gkids.com.
24. Watch The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek
Best Christmas movie ever?
Preston Sturges’s 1944 The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek is a comedy of great faith. It’s not that Sturges believed in the Holy Trinity. It’s that he creates a world in which a Higher Power intervenes to razz conventional pieties and give hope to the hopeless. Here we have the story of a woman, Trudy Kockenlocker (the irrepressible Betty Hutton), knocked up by a soldier she can’t remember (Ignatz Ratzkywatzky?), who marries lovelorn Army zhlub Norval Jones (Eddie Bracken) under desperate circumstances—and from her loins there comes a Christmas miracle! So what might have been a dirty joke inspires a nation in the thick of war on Christmas Eve. Hallelujah! —D.E.
On Amazon Instant and Netflix.
25. See Patti Smith
Gloria in excelsis.
The Chelsea’s been gutted, and Mapplethorpe’s gone, but the singer-poet-muse-punk-memoirist is still here. Don’t let her pass you by.
Webster Hall, December 29.