1. Hear Belle and Sebastian
They only look like sweetie-pies.
The Etsy mafia will be out in force for this Celebrate Brooklyn! show by the world’s cuddliest band—pop music’s equivalent of a hand-knit tea cozy. It’s a chance to step back and admire the lilt and lushness of their shapely chamber pop songs—and to take stock of their secret weapon, bitchiness: the vengeful nerd’s acidity that seeps from songwriter–front man Stuart Murdoch’s pen. They’re cute, but they’re deadly. —Jody Rosen
Prospect Park Bandshell, July 11.
2. Read Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die; Cherish, Perish
David Rakoff, rhyming.
Even thinking about David Rakoff—a funny, sweet man of loose-limbed creativity, gone much too soon—is enough to bring us to tears. This last book, a novel written entirely in verse, will leave you wet-eyed with laughter.
Doubleday, July 16.
3. Listen to Ciara
Girl deserves a comeback.
Ciara began her career with platinum sales, then hit the skids commercially. That’s a pity, because she’s one of the more interesting R&B divas around: a lover of classic Prince and a committed seeker of the freakiest au courant beats. The new album, her fifth, offers the usual stuff—sonically arresting boudoir music—with an assist from her boyfriend, the rapper Future. —J.R.
Epic Records, July 9.
4. Watch Gasland Part II
Upstate New York, are you recording this?
The sequel to Josh Fox’s persuasive documentary about fracking and its discontents.
HBO, premiering July 8, 9 p.m.
5. & 6. See A Civil Action and Not Fade Away
Gandolfini didn’t just play thugs.
James Gandolfini’s big-screen legacy underscored the secret of his greatness as Tony Soprano. In 1998, he projected extraordinary vulnerability as a blue-collar worker who’d witnessed sickness and death from toxic-waste exposure in A Civil Action. And last year, as the teen protagonist’s father in Not Fade Away, Sopranos creator David Chase’s semiautobiographical portrait of sixties suburban New Jersey, he went in an instant from a brutish, angry man to one who was fragile and infused with regret. Gandolfini wasn’t an external actor. He made everything scarily personal. At his most violent, you could see the gentleness of his spirit, at his most gentle the suppressed violence. —David Edelstein
At Amazon.com and on Netflix.
7. Read I Wear the Black Hat
All about bad guys.
Chuck Klosterman—he of sex, drugs, cocoa puffs, and dinosaurs—has returned to the literary landscape with a similarly American obsession: villains. I Wear the Black Hat is not what you would call a rigorous philosophical examination of the problem of evil, and the villains in question skew more toward Andrew Dice Clay than Adolf Eichmann. But hey, it’s summer, and Klosterman offers up great facts, interesting cultural insights, and thought-provoking moral calculations in this look at our love affair with the anti-hero. —Kathryn Schulz
Scribner, July 9.
8. Hear She & Him and Camera Obscura
Also known as Zooey Deschanel and her partner M. Ward, joined by the Glaswegian indie popsters. Start growing out your beard today!
Central Park SummerStage, July 6 and 8.
9. Hear The Blind
An alarming program note for an opera: Audience members will be blindfolded throughout. The work receiving its world premiere is The Blind, a one-act opera for a cappella vocal ensemble by Lera Auerbach. In the past she’s written music so focused and intense that it is almost literally gripping: Each chord throbs against your wrists. This is about a different kind of confinement: A dozen characters, trapped on a desert island, meander through the audience, hoping in vain to be found. —Justin Davidson
Lincoln Center Festival, July 9.
10. Spend An Evening With Alice Cooper
School is, in fact, out for summer.
Because how many chances do you get to see a 65-year-old heavy-metal shock-rocker who’s also a born-again George Bush fan?
Beacon Theatre, July 18.
11. Watch Sharknado
A tornado. That is full of giant sharks.
I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to Sharknado—wherein a gigantic storm sucks sharks out of the ocean and deposits them on the mainland—with an almost unseemly giddiness. The description makes it sound as if some Syfy executive looked at one of those Photoshop images of fish gliding through flooded streets and thought, “That’s it! All we need is some stock footage and a rubber shark head.” And, of course, Tara Reid. —Matt Zoller Seitz
SyFy, July 11, 9 p.m.
12. See Bill Traylor at the American Folk Art Museum
Out of a monstrous time, extraordinary things.
The former slave Bill Traylor is one of the best American artists. Ever. Wrongly labeled an “outsider,” the man behind this spine-and-retina-tingling show (more than 60 drawings) had one of the greatest graphic sensibilities of the twentieth century. —Jerry Saltz
2 Lincoln Sq., through September 22.
13. Hear The Rite of Summer Music Festival
Out and loud.
If you’re going to perform contemporary music outdoors, on an island that was once a military base, is now a construction site, and will soon be a park, you’d better be tough, fast, noisy, and very, very good. That pretty much describes the 21-year-old Bang on a Can All-Stars, and the group inaugurates the Rite of Summer festival on Governors Island with music by its founders (David Lang, Julia Wolfe, and Michael Gordon) and their spiritual guides (Steve Reich, Louis Andriessen, and Thurston Moore). —J.D.
Governors Island, starts July 13.
14. See Alfred Hitchcock’s Silent Films
Watch for him.
You’ve still got time to catch two of the nine rare Alfred Hitchcock silent films on view (with live music) at BAMcinématek—realist pictures with dashes of expressionism, in which you can see the Master develop his signature style and introduce his pet themes. Among the brilliant artifacts: Hitchcock’s very first film, the showgirl melodrama The Pleasure Garden (1926), with twenty minutes of rediscovered footage. —D.E.
Series ends July 3, full schedule at bam.org.
15. See A Kid Like Jake
Carla Gugino as a high-key Manhattan mom.
In Daniel Pearle’s sturdy, well-observed kitchen-sink drama, the ever-underrated Carla Gugino stuns as a tightly wound New York parent with a 4-year-old son who wants to be a girl—and right on the eve of his private-school interviews. She steers us beyond cliché toward well-earned but not overstayed pathos and profound empathy for the Black Hawk helicopter parent in us all. —Scott Brown
Lincoln Center’s Claire Tow Theater, through July 14.
16. See Simon Denny at Petzel Gallery
You’ll think you’re inside a 3-D iPhone app.
Titled “All You Need Is Data: The DLD 2012 Conference REDUX Rerun,” this exhibition of ink-jet prints on canvas installed on what looks like a zigzagging queue features advertising and quotes meant to come from movers and shakers in the digital intelligentsia. It’s a wraparound TED talk, but not obnoxious: It electrifies the art mind with ways art might one day look and act. A candidate for the season’s ten best. —J.S.
Through July 27.
17. Laugh at Colin Quinn: Unconstitutional
Founding fathers, meet the Kardashians.
On Twitter, Quinn plays a self-important hack comic (and GoodFellas maniac); onstage, he’s a lot more thoughtful, as his 2010 history-of-the-world monologue Long Story Short proved. This follow-up show, Unconstitutional, just extended its run and jumped to the Cherry Lane.
Through July 23.
18. Dip Into Japan Cuts
There’s a genre here for everyone.
One of the loopiest, perviest, and least predictable of New York’s film festivals is Japan Cuts, which this year mixes tales from the darker-than-you-ever-imagined side with a few mainstream hits. You get sex, horror, samurai, documentary, the assassin picture Rurouni Kenshin, and a rare serial-killer shocker, Junichi Inoue’s A Woman and War, with roots in the country’s war crimes. And the series kicks off with Toshiaki Toyoda’s I’m Flash!, a bitter, prankish gangster thriller involving a celebrity cult leader and his new bodyguard. —D.E.
Japan Society, July 11–21.
19. See The Explorers Club
Jolly good, old chum.
Like a colonial cocktail fizzing beneath a bushy mustache, Nell Benjamin’s amiably corny costume farce—one wacky day in the life of a National Geographic–esque society of nitwit dilettantes in Victorian London—tickles harmlessly, thanks to its sparkling assemblage of comic talent and the Cirque du Soleil bartending of Carson Elrod as a blue-skinned “savage.” —S.B.
MTC City Center Stage I, through July 21.
20. Watch The Newsroom
Back, and maybe better.
After all the vitriol directed at season one, the premiere has addressed one complaint—that the characters are too righteously right and too good at their jobs. The plot’s about a tip that the gang hopes will lead to a great scoop but instead becomes a mortifying domino chain of bad decisions. —M.Z.S.
HBO, July 14, 10 p.m.
21. Hear Babyface
For the cool in you.
A free outdoors evening with the eighties R&B phenomenon, keeping it smooth after three decades.
Wingate Field, Brooklyn Ave. at Rutland Rd., July 15, 7:30 p.m.
22. See Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me
Alex Chilton’s band wasn’t just his.
If you’re a fan of the seventies Memphis group Big Star—and if you know their music, you’re a fan—you’ll be both thrilled and bummed out by Drew DeNicola’s sympathetic documentary. After an overture in which critics and musicians laud the band, we see footage of the depressive but driven Chris Bell—the man behind Big Star—and the charismatic Alex Chilton, who got all the attention. —D.E.
Opens at the IFC Center, July 3.
23. & 24. See Encores! The Cradle Will Rock and Violet
Two shows that deserve a new look.
The invaluable Encores! series inaugurates its Off-Center summer spinoff—featuring Off Broadway classics and curated by Jeanine Tesori. Including: The Cradle Will Rock, Marc Blitzstein’s 1937 Brechtian pop opera, starring Danny Burstein, Raúl Esparza, Judy Kuhn, and Anika Noni Rose. As for Violet, it’s understandable that Tesori wanted to include a one-night-only concert of this 1997 musical about a disfigured pilgrim: It’s great and unfamiliar, and she happened to write the score. The impeccable Sutton Foster stars.
July 10–13 and 17, New York City Center.
25. See I’m So Excited
Flyers on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
The new Pedro Almodóvar film is set largely aboard a plane, where the thin air makes everyone giddy in a way that only he can manage. A pre-takeoff accident (featuring two cameoing superstars) screws up the landing gear, and as the plane circles, the gay-male crew gets drunk and drugs the economy-class passengers while the first-class ones (a clairvoyant, an ex–porn actress, a pair of newlyweds) air their dirty laundry. The campiness is organic: Almodóvar is so fluid that he doesn’t seem to make movies anymore—only to dream them aloud. —D.E.
In theaters now.