1. See Jewels by JAR
The Bronx-born Parisian Joel A. Rosenthal is an outrageous and notorious craftsman, carpeting every piece with tiny gems to produce subtle shadings of color and fantastic glitter. And this is his first-ever American retrospective.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, through March 9.
2. Revisit Family Guy
Brian’s swan song.
An old trick: long-running show, fading from the radar, kills off a major character. (Edith Bunker, Bobby Ewing …) Well, it worked, because it’s going to get us to spend an evening with the Griffins again. Holy crap.
Fox, Sundays at 9 p.m.
3. See Philomena
Because of, mostly, Judi Dench.
The new Judi Dench–Steve Coogan vehicle is just the sort of awards-bait weeper (with laughs) to cross over to a biggish audience. Directed by Stephen Frears from a script by Coogan and Jeff Pope, it’s overcalculating and occasionally coarse, but it has a gentle spirit. We should count its existence as a blessing. —David Edelstein
In theaters now.
4. Hear P!nk
Just give me a reason.
Alecia Beth Moore wasn’t kidding around when she inverted her “i.” P!nk is a human exclamation point, with the lungs for the job and one of diva-pop’s best songbooks. —Jody Rosen
Barclays Center, December 8 and 9.
5. Read Murder & Mayhem on Staten Island
A history of fresh kills.
Local historian Patricia M. Salmon’s collection of ye-olde-true-crime tales from the outermost borough is tremendously entertaining. First sentence: “There was no doubt that Edward Reinhardt had cruelly buried his wife, Annie, in a barrel at Silver Lake.” That’ll keep you reading.
The History Press.
6. See The Mindy Project
“Who I have been is not who I’m going to be.”
Fox is putting Mindy Kaling’s charming show on hiatus from January 28 through April 1, as the network shuffles its lineup to launch Rake and save Glee. Give it some love now, while you still can! Especially if you happen to be a Nielsen family.
Fox, Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m.
7. See They Live
Eighties paranoia, revived.
It’s Rowdy Roddy Piper versus Predatory Capitalists from Space in John Carpenter’s rollicking 1988 anti-Reagan satire, in which raiders raid while a numbed populace receives subliminal messages to Consume and Conform. The day the film opened, I was one of few alive to sing its praises—in, of all places, the New York Post. How sweet it is to be vindicated! You can savor Carpenter’s pulpy insubordination—and the hilariously overextended fight scene between Piper and Keith David—at the IFC Center with other lefty genre freaks, including this one. —D.E.
IFC Center, December 6 through 12.
8. See Regular Singing
A final bite of the Apple Family.
Naturalistic acting is taken to the furthest extreme imaginable in the last of Richard Nelson’s four Apple Family plays. If you didn’t see enough drama at Thanksgiving, get your fill before it’s gone. (It’s playing in repertory with That Hopey Changey Thing, Sweet and Sad, and Sorry.) —Jesse Green
Public Theater, through December 15.
9. See Rodeo Girls
It’ll rope you in.
This six-part reality series feels more like a straight-up documentary about its six young female barrel riders, who balance the rush of competition and travel against the challenges of romance and domestic life. Beyond the characters, who are fascinating anyway, Rodeo Girls feels like a satisfying inversion of the typical story about a super-talented lone wolf who does his thing while the woman (or women) in his life say, “Hooray for you, but what about me?” —Matt Zoller Seitz
A&E, December 11 at 11 p.m.
10. See Ad Reinhardt
Cartoons, paintings, wow.
Set aside all griping about money and megagalleries, and prepare to be wowed by this museum-level exhibition of the mid-century American master Ad Reinhardt, organized by former MoMA curator Robert Storr. The first gallery is all Reinhardt’s cartoons, brilliantly taking shots at the art and political worlds. In a side room, a projection of scores of color pictures taken by the artist confirms his eagle eye for structure. Finally, you encounter the drop-dead installation of the astonishingly retinal, almost monochromatic works that Reinhardt called “ultimate paintings.” —Jerry Saltz
David Zwirner, 537 West 20th Street, through December 18.
11. & 12. See and Read About Barbara Stanwyck
A killer festival, and a definitive biography.
Is Barbara Stanwyck the most versatile Hollywood female superstar ever? Name a rival. Streep doesn’t count—she needs fancy accents. The hard-shelled Stanwyck (née Ruby Stevens from Flatbush) did it from within. Film Forum’s three-week, 40-film festival—in conjunction with volume one of a new biography, A Life of Barbara Stanwyck: Steel-True, 1907–1940, by Victoria Wilson—has too many highlights to name. See Frank Capra’s The Bitter Tea of General Yen, the Code-busting Night Nurse and Baby Face, and one of the world’s great double bills, Wilder’s peerless noir Double Indemnity and Sturges’s peerless romantic comedy The Lady Eve (which happens to be this critic’s favorite movie of all time). —D.E.
Film Forum, December 6 through 31; Simon & Schuster.
13. See The Great Beauty
In Paolo Sorrentino’s Roma-romp The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza), aging blocked-novelist protagonist (Toni Servillo) winds among the Italian literati sporting the nattiest red-and-yellow sports jackets over white pants. The movie is an elaborate doodle—La Dolce Vita for people living La ADHD Vita—but its colors will jazz up these gray December days. —D.E.
In theaters now.
14. See Falstaff
Hey there, big guy.
James Levine, refreshed by his medically enforced sabbatical, conducts Robert Carsen’s new production of Verdi’s comedic opera. Ambrogio Maestri—large of voice, body, and personality—sings the brutally funny title role. —Justin Davidson
The Metropolitan Opera, opening December 6.
15. Hear Iron & Wine, Calexico, and Nick Lowe
Weird triple threat, in a good way.
Iron & Wine, a.k.a. Sam Beam, is an archetypal long-bearded indie troubadour who lately has expanded his sonic palette from folk to chamber pop and beyond. Calexico are specialists in the sulfurous, high-desert spaghetti-Western ballads. The wry British pub-rocker Nick Lowe has evolved into a gray eminence who writes ballads worthy of Bing Crosby’s croon. So, altogether, the crowd will tilt heavily toward the bespectacled types who spent hours in used-record stores back when those places existed. —J.R.
Beacon Theater, December 10.
16. See Hit List
The fake musical from Smash is fake no more.
Theater geeks, this one is for you: An actual performance of the fictional musical at the center of NBC’s late, semi-lamented Smash. Sold out, but maybe you can cadge a ticket on Craigslist or from a jazz-hands-brandishing friend.
54 Below, December 8 and 9.
17. Read The Particle at the End of the Universe
Small big thing.
The Royal Society of London was founded, incredibly, in 1660—before Sir Isaac Newton came of age, and centuries before anyone imagined a mysterious particle called a Higgs boson. Among its other duties, the society awards a £25,000 prize to the best popular-science book of the year; this year’s winner, Sean Carroll’s The Particle at the End of the Universe, might be your best shot at grasping how scientists knew to look for the Higgs, how they found it, and what that find means—both for physics and about the nature of the universe.—Kathryn Schulz
18. See Daniel Kitson: Analog.Ue
It’s a monolog.ue.
A witty, thinky, luxuriantly bearded performer who is, kind of, Yorkshire’s answer to Spalding Gray.
St. Ann’s Warehouse, through December 21.
19. Watch Grey Gardens
“I’m pulverized by this latest thing.”
Criterion provides a great excuse to revisit the Maysles brothers’ defining 1975 documentary.
Criterion Collection Blu-ray, December 10.
20. Read The CG Story
Lucas and Pixar and much more.
A giant, gorgeously produced coffee-table history of computer-generated imagery that’s also pretty smartly written. Excellent for the grown-up Pixar freak and/or computer geek in your life.
It’s Hard to Describe, Really
21. Gape at The Star Wars Holiday Special
Happy holi—wait, what is this thing?
George Lucas would have preferred that this 1978 quickie cash-in TV special had gone the way of Alderaan. Built around Chewbacca and his family’s celebration of “Life Day,” it’s a bizarre hybrid of kiddie special and slapped-together variety show, largely subtitled in Wookiee, with horrendous musical numbers performed by the likes of Diahann Carroll, Jefferson Starship, and Bea Arthur. “If I had the time and a sledgehammer, I would track down every copy of that show and smash it,” Lucas once said, and until the YouTube age, he was largely able to keep it hidden. Pity for him; joy for us. —M.Z.S.
On YouTube, Dailymotion, etc.
22. Read Poetry of the First World War
An anthology from an era when a war could be Great.
“Not since the Siege of Troy has a conflict been so closely defined by the poetry that it inspired”: thus observes Tim Kendall in his introduction to this excellent new anthology, with works by Robert Graves, Rupert Brooke, Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Mary Borden, and many more. —K.S.
Oxford University Press.
23. See Lenny Cooke
Do you remember Lenny Cooke? I didn’t, but in 2001 he was high-school basketball’s next superstar—ahead of LeBron and Carmelo. What happened next you can watch (and wince at) in Josh and Benny Safdie’s excellent documentary. Then wonder who the next poor soul mangled by the American Hype Machine will be … —D.E.
Opens December 6.
24. Hear Hrím and Other Works
Iceland is a hot spring of new music these days, and Miller is devoting its latest Composer Portrait concert to one of the country’s most volcanic composers, Anna Thorvaldsdottir. Beneath a minimalist surface, the music boils and spits. —J.D.
Miller Theatre, December 5.
25. Read Empress Dowager Cixi: The Concubine Who Launched Modern China
Behind the throne.
Jung Chang’s book dives into a genuinely fascinating figure: a fierce imperial consort who ruled behind the thrones of two successive Chinese emperors and helped ease China into the twentieth century. It’s not a quick, light read—so many names! So many chess moves!—but it’s a fantastic Machiavellian tale by the author of the definitive Mao biography.