1. Watch The Leftovers
Finding its holy groove.
Very few TV series grab you from the opening seconds; it often takes several weeks for a show to figure out exactly what it is and produce a get-on-the-train episode. This third hour of the post-Rapture thriller The Leftovers is one of those episodes. It’s built almost entirely around Christopher Eccleston’s moralizing Matt Jamison, who puts out a newsletter and flyers indicating that a lot of those who vanished in the show’s mysterious event weren’t very good people and may have fallen prey to God’s judgment. I don’t want to give anything away; let’s just say that its mysterious intensity may remind viewers of the Coen brothers. —Matt Zoller Seitz
HBO, July 13, 10 p.m.
2. Hear First Aid Kit’s Stay Gold
Klara and Johanna Söderberg, in our heads.
It’s been out only a month, but we’ve pretty quickly discovered that this album by two folkie Swedish sisters has earworms to spare, especially when the swoopy Sgt. Pepper’s–style string arrangements kick in.
3. See Walter Robinson: Figure Studies
Is it the shoes?
One of the most respected and loved members of the New York art world, the artist and former editor of Artnet.com, Walter Robinson is also a fluid painter of the American scene. He pulls images from TV, film, and—in this lovely show—ads from newspapers, magazines, and department stores like JCPenney. In his pictures of happy shiny women modeling so-so clothes, his color is scrumptious, especially in the apple-red Lands’ End boots—a nod to Van Gogh’s existential painting of weathered shoes. —Jerry Saltz
Lynch Tham, through July 13.
4. Read The Actress
Sohn goes to Hollywood.
Amy Sohn’s novels are fast, entertaining reads that don’t quite let on how smart they are, dosing their sharp social observations in a casing of wisecracks and, sometimes, lousy sex. This time out, she’s added fame into that recipe: Her new novel is about a starlet who’s suddenly swept up and adopted by a megacelebrity, who makes her into both co-star and wife.
Simon & Schuster.
5. See Dangerous Acts Starring the Unstable Elements of Belarus
From Minsk with love.
Imagine a place where the theater speaks directly to the burning political issues of the day. Then imagine that those burning issues include ruthless censorship of the arts by Europe’s “last dictatorship.” The result is the precarious real-life drama of the Belarus Free Theater Company and the subject of an eye-opening, surprisingly emotional new documentary about its shaky (and necessary) survival. —Jesse Green
HBO, July 7.
6. Hear 1000 Forms of Fear
Sia’s sixth album.
“Chandelier,” the album’s single, is the song that Lena Dunham interpretive-danced to on Seth Meyers the other night. Consider that the music industry’s equivalent of a jacket blurb.
Monkey Puzzle/RCA, July 8.
7. See Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
An evolving series.
A tentative recommendation here—but the last remake, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, not only did not suck, it gave rise to the “Why Cookie Rocket?” internet meme. If the directors know what they’re doing, we foresee some deliberate sign-language Easter eggs this time.
8. Watch Extant
TV dramas burn through plot faster than ever these days, and this science-fiction mini-series is just one damned thing after another. Executive-produced by Steven Spielberg, the show stars Halle Berry as an astronaut who spends a year alone in space and returns to Earth pregnant. Who or what is the father? Why does her husband (Goran Visnjic) seem as smug as John Cassavetes in Rosemary’s Baby? How can the show possibly keep pulling a new rabbit out of its hat every ten minutes and still get through the rest of the summer? Stay tuned, as they say. —M.Z.S.
CBS, July 9, 9 p.m.
9. See The Lobby Project
In conjunction with its summer offerings, the Encores! Off-Center series offers preshow programs under the gorgeous ceiling of the Grand Tier lobby. If you missed the Sondheim Remix or Unknown Jonathan Larson evening (timed to Larson’s tick, tick … BOOM!), catch the offerings accompanying Pump Boys and Dinettes, including a jam session with the original cast, a discussion with the [title of show] creators, and—direct from Crown Heights—Shaina Taub’s A Living Room Concert. —J.G.
City Center, July 16 through 19.
10. See The Tsar’s Bride
Rimsky-Korsakov’s melodrama of political romance, love potions, jealousy, and poison is a rarity here (the Met, for one, has never touched it), but its tunes run in the Russian bloodstream. The Bolshoi’s classic production, full of carved logs, long beards, and sumptuous robes, is too massive to import for a two-day run, which is a shame; as a consolation prize, the company’s orchestra, chorus, and soloists will perform it in concert, conducted by Gennady Rozhdestvensky. —Justin Davidson
Avery Fisher Hall, July 12 and 13.
11. See Wrinkles
Super-bleak, super-affecting animated feature.
Ignacio Ferreras’s Wrinkles (Arrugas) is set in a “retirement” home from which no one will, of course, emerge alive. The protagonist is Emilio (voiced in English by Martin Sheen), a former bank manager with encroaching Alzheimer’s—an outsider who bears witness to the ones who suffer visibly, hoping to be liberated (or at least visited) by family, and the blessed ones who take refuge in fantasies of youth. George Coe supplies (phenomenally) the voice of his spry roommate. Enthusiastically recommended if you’re ready for a midsummer chill. —David Edelstein
IFC Center, July 4.
12. Listen to Hedwig and the Angry Inch
The original Off Broadway cast album offered dingy Hedwig performing her heartbreaking songs (actually by Stephen Trask) as if in a basement studio. The new Broadway album offers big-time Hedwig, in the person of Neil Patrick Harris, toying expertly with the audience. Either way, it’s a great score, and the new version even comes with a bonus: Lena Hall singing the fictional “When Love Explodes (Love Theme From Hurt Locker: The Musical).” —J.D.
13. Pack Up for New York Philharmonic in the Parks
Strauss on grass.
On a park lawn in summertime, live orchestral music can feel like the accompaniment to a well-planned picnic. Alan Gilbert leads a robust, red-meat program of Strauss, Smetana, and Tchaikovsky, music that’s brassy and tuneful enough to power through the city’s summer sounds. —J.D.
Prospect, Cunningham, Van Cortlandt, and Central parks, July 9 through 15.
14.–17. See By Any Means Necessary: A Spike Lee Joints Retrospective
Mookie at 25! Four films to revisit.
It happened in Brooklyn, 25 years ago: Spike Lee’s incendiary/melancholy Do the Right Thing. BAM is marking the occasion with a Lee retrospective, right near his office in Fort Greene. Lee has always been as much propagandist as storyteller, but his jazz- (and Scorsese-) inflected filmmaking is a genuine American phenomenon, and there’s no doubt that BAM’s audience will come to worship. See his breakthrough She’s Gotta Have It for his most vivacious (and least didactic) work, the brutal documentary 4 Little Girls for his most sobering, and the elegiac 25th Hour. —D.E.
BAMcinématek, through July 10.
18. Read The Rise & Fall of Great Powers
Don’t fear the quirk.
Yes, there’s a female heroine tripping back and forth through time and space, on a journey to reconstruct a far-flung past stuffed with eccentrics. But Tom Rachman’s second novel only mildly resembles the whimsical, history-schmeared kin of Jonathan Safran Foer and his ilk. Rachman is a careful sketch artist of both the micro (finely drawn characters) and the macro (wild subplots that miraculously cohere at the end). It’s like light Dickens—if Dickens’s heroes had access to airplanes and the internet. —Boris Kachka
19. See Ricky Jay’s Congress of Wonders
Pack a bag, then disappear upstate.
Yeah, we know, you hate magic. Ricky Jay is different: a scholar of con-man trickery, stage illusion, and showbiz sleaze; an occasional (and talented) movie actor; and a mysterious figure who seems to have stepped out of an A. J. Liebling riff. He’ll be holding a weekend-long “Congress of Wonders” in Rhinebeck, a sort of sleight-of-hand intensive. A unique four days with the man behind the curtain.
July 11 through 14; details at rickyjaycongressofwonders.com.
20. See Broadway in Bryant Park
Thursday in the park with everyone.
As tourists take over the city and its theaters, New Yorkers can retreat to their own private oasis for their own private Broadway revue: free lunchtime performances from four or five shows each week. They’re a good mix of new and old and upcoming; especially apt is If/Then, the urban-planning musical, on July 10. —J.G.
Thursdays, July 10 through August 14, 12:30 p.m.
21. See The Passenger
Suppressed for 40 years.
The composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg survived official anti-Semitism of the Polish, Nazi, and Soviet varieties. In this 1968 opera, a death-camp guard, traveling after the war on an ocean liner, panics, thinking that her ugly history is about to come out. Quashed by the Soviets, the work vanished until David Pountney directed this production in 2010 in Austria. —J.D.
Park Avenue Armory, July 10 through 13.
22. Read The Zhivago Affair
Researched like Caro, reads like le Carré.
It’s the backstory of the publication of Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago, and it bears its burdens lightly: a sideways biography of Pasternak, a psychological history of Soviet Russia, a powerful argument for the book as literature, an entry into the too-small canon on the CIA’s shaping of culture. In new reporting, the authors show how both sides in the Cold War used literary prestige as a weapon. —B.K.
23.–24. Watch Pickup on South Street and Dog Day Afternoon
As the sweaty season arrives, you could counterprogram with something like Philip Kaufman’s savage and tragic Eskimo saga, The White Dawn … but why not embrace the urban inferno? Start with Samuel Fuller’s lean, mean 1953 Pickup on South Street, with its mini-masterpiece subway opening, in which Richard Widmark picks the wrong pocket. Then move on to Sidney Lumet’s Dog Day Afternoon, a robbery-gone-wrong hostage thriller that’s a galvanic distillation of 1970s New York. Al Pacino’s bug-eyed overemoting makes him the perfect mascot for a bad hot summer in the city. —D.E.
On Amazon Prime and Netflix.
25. Read We Are Called to Rise
Laura McBride’s mosaic social fiction.
A downtrodden social worker is only one of a small chorus of narrators—all based in the struggling outskirts of post-boom Las Vegas—that give voice to McBride’s new novel. A 8-year-old Albanian-American boy trades letters with an Iraq veteran; a mother frets over her young adult son, another traumatized soldier. The consequences of war at home, and the possibility of community in our most atomized places, form the heart of a novel that’s hopeful and tragic but never maudlin. —B.K.
Simon & Schuster.