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24 Things That Stuck With Us in 2023

24 Things That Stuck With Us in 2023

At the Frick, where Barkley Hendricks’s shimmering ’70s portraits are hanging, posthumously, in the museum’s first solo show by a Black artist, I kept thinking about that Langston Hughes poem: What does happen to a dream deferred? Hendricks didn’t live to see his subjects, with their plentiful Afros and bell-bottom cool, leaping, communing, strolling across the walls of an institution he frequented. But after quietly railing at the omission, I realized the exhibition is actually about Hendricks taking his rightful place — a kind of insistence that a dream, rather than fossilizing, can go on forever. REBECCA THOMAS

Theater

Given the heaviness of the current news cycle, I was grateful for the respite of Samuel Baum’s confection of a play, “The Engagement Party” at the Geffen Playhouse. With sharp writing, a first-rate cast and elegant scenery, who says theater isn’t alive and well in Los Angeles? ROBIN POGREBIN

Rap Albums

It’s dangerous for an artist to invite André 3000 for a feature, such are his prodigious talent and penchant for outshining anyone on a track. Killer Mike stays with André 3000 on “Scientists & Engineers” and, dare I say, even delivers the better verse, a standout on his well-balanced album, “Michael.” JONATHAN ABRAMS

Contemporary Art

Before a trip to Scandinavia, I heard from several people that the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, north of Copenhagen, was their favorite museum in the world. After five hours on the grounds, I understood why. Beyond a robust children’s area and the meditative sculpture gardens, I was transfixed by an exhibition on the Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson, who uses repetition to examine human emotions, motives and desires. JASON M. BAILEY

Hip-Hop Reunions

De La Soul’s pioneering rap peers, including KRS-One, Chuck D, DJ Red Alert, Q-Tip, Common and Queen Latifah, all showed up at Webster Hall in March to buoy the remaining members of the group, Maseo and Posdnuos, as they celebrated the long-awaited streaming release of their catalog, just weeks after the death of Trugoy the Dove. Part catalog retrospective, part homegoing celebration, the night was a warm act of community crystallized, for me, in a single gesture: Late in the night, as Posdnuos rapped onstage, a grinning Busta Rhymes clasped him from behind in a hug I haven’t forgotten since. ELENA BERGERON

TV

“Fellow Travelers” bounces between the perils of McCarthy era Washington and the advent of AIDS in the 1980s, examining the country through the lens of the relationship between a finely chiseled, roguish diplomat and the naïve, morally tortured younger man who loves him over three decades. Created by Ron Nyswaner and based on a novel by Thomas Mallon (the book makes a perfect companion piece to the show), it is a political thriller/sizzling romance/slice of history worth waiting up for to catch each new episode as it drops. HELEN T. VERONGOS

Folk Albums

Julie Byrne’s third album is earthy and otherworldly at once; a mournful, healing dispatch from somewhere between heaven and the dew-glazed grass around a freshly dug grave. “I want to be whole enough to risk again,” she sings, as synthesizer tones and harp strings melt behind her. GABE COHN

No one can say “Barbie” was overlooked in 2023, but was it really among the best? Absolutely. It featured a sharp script, even sharper performances, at least three great songs as well as a brilliantly directed showstopping dance sequence. And in a dumpster fire of a year, it brought joy back to the multiplex. STEPHANIE GOODMAN

Theater

David Adjmi’s play, set almost entirely in a Northern California recording studio in 1976, follows a Fleetwood Mac-inspired band as they lay down tracks for a new album. Sexy, savage and sneakily heartbreaking, it explores the intricacies of communal creation and the sacrifices that art demands and invites. ALEXIS SOLOSKI

Streaming K-Drama

This South Korean Netflix drama follows Hwang Do-hee (Kim Hee-ae), a former fixer for a corrupt family conglomerate in Seoul who decides to put her might behind the mayoral campaign of a frazzled human-rights lawyer, Oh Kyung-sook (Moon So-ri). Netflix has been investing in K-dramas for a reason. “Queenmaker” presents some delicious commentary on class and entitlement at a time of increasingly visible economic inequality in Korea and in the United States. KATHLEEN MASSARA

Nonfiction

I finished W. David Marx’s book “Status and Culture” early in the year, and afterward its point of view about taste and trend cycles felt like it applied to — well, just about everything. If you’re interested in why people (including you!) like the things they like, and why culture in the internet age feels stuck in place, read this. DAVID RENARD

Animated Film

We’re lucky to be alive in a time when Hayao Miyazaki is still making hand-drawn animated films. With “The Boy and the Heron,” we have the privilege of following him into another dream world, and there are scenes and sequences so achingly gorgeous they brought me up short. BARBARA CHAI

Experimental Theater

At this year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe, I saw, at 1:30 in the morning, a clown called Julia Masli try to solve her audience’s problems — everything from feeling too hot to being a hypochondriac. It was madcap, but by the show’s euphoric finish, involving a heartbroken audience member being forced to crowd surf to boost their mood, I’d started thinking Masli was better than any therapist and most other comedians. ALEX MARSHALL

Seconds after the Opera Ends

I still remember the silence during the final moments of the Metropolitan Opera’s production of “Dead Man Walking.” To be in such a huge space with so many people, in utter silence — thinking back, I was relieved no one’s phone had rung. LAURA O’NEILL

Horror-Comedy

I’m a sucker for art that reflects my greatest fears — bonus points if doused in satire — maybe because it’s evidence that my anxieties aren’t mine alone or maybe because there’s no better way to exorcise dread than to discuss it. Top of my list is the prospect of humanity being conquered by robots (hence my fixation on, say, the “Terminator” movies and “2001: A Space Odyssey”), and in 2023, artificial intelligence seemed to go from peripheral conversations about a future menace to an imminent threat that industry leaders warned may pose a “risk of extinction.” Enter “M3gan,” about a TikTok-dancing, baby-sitting cyborg that managed to be both extraordinary camp and chilling cautionary tale about what could happen when we outsource human emotional care to humanoids who can’t exactly care at all. MAYA SALAM

Broadway Revivals

Jason Robert Brown’s “The Last Five Years” is one of my favorite shows, so when I saw his musical “Parade” was returning to Broadway, I knew I had to see it. I didn’t know much about it going in, but I was eager to hear Brown’s wonderfully rhythmic piano phrases live. What I didn’t bank on was a gripping story from the past whose themes still resonate. Micaela Diamond’s powerful singing of “You Don’t Know This Man” was unforgettable — the tragedy with which she imbued every note gave me chills. JENNIFER LEDBURY

A.I.’s depiction in culture this year was almost universally sinister: stealing jobs, spreading misinformation, antagonizing Ethan Hunt. It seems like bad news for humanity, except in one very particular application — generating cover versions of songs sung by cartoon characters. The breakout star of this genre was Plankton from “SpongeBob SquarePants.” He crushes “Even Flow,” he nails “Wake Me Up When September Ends,” but he really shines on “Born to Run.” You’re laughing during the first verse, but by the time he tells Wendy he’ll love her with all the madness in his soul, you really believe. DAVID MALITZ

See Also

Old-School Sci Fi

In August, I saw “2001: A Space Odyssey,” for just the second time, in 70-millimeter projection at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens. Afterward, I texted a friend: “Is it just the greatest movie ever made?” MARC TRACY

Magic

My job as the theater reporter comes with an occupational hazard: Everyone I meet asks me what show they (or their mother-in-law, or their neighbor, or some random co-worker) should go see. And throughout this year, my answer has been Asi Wind, a smooth-talking Israeli American magician who has been holed up in a Greenwich Village church gymnasium, astonishing audiences with close-up card trickery and mind-blowing mind reading. His run at the Gym at Judson is to end in mid-January after 444 performances; catch it if you can. MICHAEL PAULSON

Podcasts

Steven Bartlett is the host of “The Diary of a CEO.”Credit…

It is not an exaggeration to say that the “Diary of a CEO” podcast has changed my life this year. The host Steven Bartlett poses engaging questions to some of the world’s finest thought leaders, with answers that can truly transform the way you think and the way you take action; all for free, with invaluable results. MEKADO MURPHY

Indie Albums

The boygenius album “The Record,” the full-length debut of the indie supergroup, landed, for me, like a geyser in a parched landscape. Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus were all singular talents whom I’d loved individually, but the way they rode their vocal harmonies through discord, on lyrics and guitar, lashed with humor and vulnerability — I couldn’t get enough. “I want to you to hear my story,” they sing, “and be a part of it.” Ladies, you got it. MELENA RYZIK

One TV Episode

How did a zombie show based on a video game bring me to tears? Episode 3 of HBO’s “The Last of Us” reveals how love can survive and even thrive in the worst of times. The show’s sudden detour away from the violence and infected masses to focus on the life that Bill and Frank have built together is a poignant reminder of what really matters. ROBIN KAWAKAMI

`Theater

In this brilliant, semi-autobiographical solo performance, Alexandra Tatarsky plays “a young Jewish woman who thinks she is a small German boy who thinks he is a tree.” “Sad Boys in Harpy Land” is a demented clown show/unhinged cabaret/deranged improv, but also a fearless exploration of self-loathing that will stick with me for a very. Long. Time. TALA SAFIE

Film

The closing scene of “Past Lives” is really just two people, standing on the street, waiting for a cab, in silence. But the two people have a long, intertwined history, the cab is coming to whisk one of them away and it is hard to imagine a heavier silence. The goodbye breaks Greta Lee’s character, sums up this subtle, deeply affecting film and has stayed with me all year. MATT STEVENS


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