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Roma: Auteur's latest is not to be missed on the big screen

“A great movie is never just about its story. It’s about how that story is told, and particularly how it’s seen by the audience.” This is how Vox’s Alissa Wilkinson started her very insightful and tender review of Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón's latest film, “Roma.” 

But more importantly to me is that the film’s producer, Netflix, will only be showing this film in the theatre in a very small amount of theaters for a very limited run before it is streamed on your phone, laptop, or tablet days after its theatrical release.

But a film like this needs to be seen on the big screen, and lucky for you, it is going to be running at Celebration Cinema Woodland.

Cuarón, known for his immersive experience films like “Children of Men” and “Gravity,” has become a bit of a filmmaker’s filmmaker for his ability to take subject matter that could just be a rote exercise in filming in anyone else’s hands and, through his tender abilities, elevate the material to an instant classic.

With “Roma,” the auteur’s most personal film to date, Cuarón reaches back in his own life to pull forward a piece from his childhood. (More on that in the review link at the bottom) 

From Woodland's site: "A vivid portrayal of domestic strife and social hierarchy amidst political turmoil, ROMA follows a young domestic worker Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) from Mixteco heritage descent and her co-worker Adela (Nancy García García), also Mixteco, who work for a small family in the middle-class neighborhood of Roma. Mother of four, Sofia (Marina de Tavira), copes with the extended absence of her husband, Cleo faces her own devastating news that threatens to distract her from caring for Sofia’s children, whom she loves as her own. While trying to construct a new sense of love and solidarity in a context of a social hierarchy where class and race are perversely intertwined, Cleo and Sofia quietly wrestle with changes infiltrating the family home in a country facing confrontation between a government-backed militia and student demonstrators."

If you would like to read more about the film, read Wilkinson’s review here, but most of all, do not delay seeing this limited release work of art that is certain to be in the winner’s circle this award season.

WYCE Bubble Bash: Tiny bubbles and community supported radio at H.O.M.E.

The holidays are here and soon you will most likely be in a position where having to produce a bottle of bubbly could make or break your party. I mean, we can all be forgiven for putting out the Andre, but you were probably 22 then, too … so age up, please.

Lucky for you, you can do some good while also learning a bit about champagne and sparkling wines. And yes, Virginia, there is a difference. 

Hosted by the Gilmore Collection's H.O.M.E. (House of Music & Entertainment), the 19th annual WYCE Bubble Bash is a fitting way to learn what sparkling beverages you should consider serving this holiday season as your admission helps support our Community Media Center’s WYCE — a listener-supported radio station that provides a valuable outlet for so many of our local musicals. 

With each admission fee paid, a portion of your $25 cost is donated to the popular local radio station. The best part is that admission to this event includes a chance to sample 12 varieties of sparkling wines, plus dive into the delicious spread that the Gilmores will be cooking up for you at H.O.M.E.

You have a lot of choices to consider this holiday season, but if you are asked to bring the bubbles and you freeze … then get to the Bubble Bash and support our local community radio station. Note: Cash or check at the door. No advance ticket options.

Urban Core Collective Holiday Mixer: Networking for good

The city is rapidly changing and a big part of our transformation is because Grand Rapids has many organizations who are empowering people often marginalized by society to, as we often say in the queer community, "show up" for the future.

Our local Urban Core Collective (UCC), an organization that harnesses the power of their member nonprofits, has for many years been hosting the Transformational Leaders Program (TLP). 

Over the years this program has produced local leaders, many of whom I am fairly certain you have worked, served, marched, or played alongside in our city. (I know I have.)

On Tuesday, they are inviting the public to join them and other Black and Brown leaders and alumni of the program to a special mixer held at one of the most amazing restaurants to hit the region in some time: MeXo.

The event is a chance to connect but also do some good. Benefitting from your $5 suggested donation are two amazing local movements that were birthed by TLP alumni: Endless Opportunities and Movimiento Cosecha GR. Endless Opportunities mentors young people and Movimiento Cosecha GR seeks to protect undocumented immigrants and their families through direct action and community-driven support.

UCC mission states that they "believe that successful people and neighborhoods overcome the effects of systemic racism through equal access to education, economic prosperity, health and power and influence."

Space is limited and organizers ask that you RSVP in advance. And if you have not had a meal here, please book time to do so soon. I know I cannot get the thought of their Carne Asada a la Tampiqueña out of my head. It is that good, Grand Rapids!

Pop Scholars Improv Comedy: Last stop before the holiday tears begin

There is a kernel of truth in all the images and memes related to one’s trip home for the holidays. In fact, a whole sub-genre has emerged under holiday films just devoted to this emotionally-driven topic. Jodie Foster even made a film about the awkwardness of it with “Home for the Holidays.”

Before you start you holiday descent (or ascent, depending on your station in life), the Pop Scholars show at Wealthy Theatre presents an opportunity to get your gut-busting laughs out before they awkwardly erupt when Aunt Wanda over dinner gets drunk and starts talking about the problems with … (fill in the blank). And we all have an "Aunt Wanda" in our lives. 

Pop Scholars is a local four-man improv comedy team that formed in 2009 and has been keeping us laughing for a long time now. They have been performing most of the time lately at Wealthy Theatre, which is a beautiful gem of a space in the East Hills/Baxter Neighborhood.

What really sets these chaps apart is how incredibly smart they are at their rapid-fire delivery. They are never boring because these guys are SMART and can drop lines that will leave you howling in your seats.

Don’t miss this chance to grab their act live, since this is Pop Scholars' final show of the year. Read more about the act here at their site.

1998 Tribute Show: GR's leading concert series invites time traveler fans

Friday, Dec. 7, 8 p.m. (doors), 8:30 p.m. (concert)
Grand Rapids has a booming music scene. And while a testament of this scene is evident in the dizzyingly long list of original music created by our local artists, every once in a while we all get a hankering for a tasty throwback tune.

So lucky for us that our local music series, Tribute Show, is roaring back to The Pyramid Scheme stage with four great albums from the year 1998.

The albums from 1998 that will be performed in their entirety by our brilliant local music community will include:

Nada Surf’s “The Proximity Effect” with musicians Dan Fisher, Luke Shoemaker, Eric Ellis, and Billy Bartholomew

Hole’s “Celebrity Skin” with Patty PerShayla, Lucas Powell, Bridget Breneman, and Marcus James 

Refused’s “The Shape Of Punk To Come” with Christian Kremo, Josh Stacey, James Barbour, TJ Miller, and Josh Barnaby

Fatboy Slim’s “You've Come A Long Way Baby” with Connor Lindsay, Kalvin Cronn, Chris Burhop, Shandon Williams, and Matt Zimmerman 

Each album for the 1998 Tribute Show that has been selected will be played in its entirety live. As the night moves along, there is always the time in-between acts where a DJ often showcases songs also released during the year being featured. 

The event is a benefit with this round of performances pledged to the Meanwhile Film Series. To date, our city’s Tribute Show series has raised more than $27,000.
 

Grand Rapids Women's Chorus Winter Concert: The human voice unified in song is a beautiful thing

Friday - Saturday, Dec. 7 & 8, 7:00 p.m. (doors), 7:30 p.m. (concert)
The human voice unified in a song is one of the most beautiful experiences of living and lucky us, we have many opportunities to hear from so many choruses that make up our region of the state.

One such group that has earned international recognition over the years is the Grand Rapids Women’s Chorus (GRWC) —  a diverse and all-volunteer group of 70 inspiring women who passionately lend their talents to create music that is sure to delight as well as uplift through song. 

They also are advocates for social change, often presenting works from composers all over the world. We have much we can learn from attending the concerts. 

For this season’s annual Winter Concert showcase, the chorus will be exploring the topic of depression and anxiety and how it affects our families, our friends, and our community. 

Music, curated and presented in such a communal setting, becomes a unique system of delivery of information and healing. It is also unique that the chorus in producing this concert is enlisting the help of various community agencies regarding how they will present this music with the sensitivity and authenticity it deserves because of the seriousness of the topic.  

Songs of inspiration will include “Room at the Table,” as well as a newly commissioned work, “Starting Now” by Jocelyn Hagen. One of the absolute joys of our GRWC is that they often commission the creation of new choral works, thus ensuring the community chorus art form is alive, contemporary, and moves through the ages with proper societal representations that connect people through song. 

Expect a festive and lively production as the production includes drumming as well as dancing. 

The GRWC Annual Winter Concert takes place on December 7 and 8 at the Trinity United Methodist Church (1100 Lake Dr. SE) at 7:30 p.m. Donations will be accepted at the door and at the reception to follow immediately after the concert.
 

Capitalizing On Medical Cannabis: Leveling the playing field

It is no secret that the passage of Prop 1 legalizing recreational cannabis in November 2018 started a movement to revolutionize our state in so many ways, from growth to distribution, as well as in so many other emerging services. 

Grand Rapids Area Black Businesses (GRABB) is not waiting around, nor willing to sit idly by as a new industry sets up shop in our state, and will be offering a special class to assist showcasing how area Black entrepreneurs and Black businesses can begin to participate in this emerging multi-billion dollar industry.

We know that since Prop 1's passage the medical side of the industry (voter approved in 2008) is rapidly deploying in cities. Many of these cities, including Grand Rapids, were waiting to see how the recreational ballot measure would fare before advancing any formal policy changes. 

Within this emerging field comes opportunities for innovation to flourish in our state in ways never before experienced. It is rare that an entirely new industry sets up shop this quickly, and in doing so, will usher in unique spaces for folks to intersect as well as benefit economically from it.

But often when we look at the playing field and rules therein, it is easy to get a bit down when you consider how the system approved has set a high bar in many parts of the emerging industry. 

These rules of entry, often daunting for many small business folks or community entrepreneurs to navigate, can feel unwelcoming of them or the creative mindset that the industry needs to have emerge from these sectors of business innovation and thought.

GRABB seeks to address these matters at this special one-night event and how those who are seeking to serve the medical side of the industry can begin to enact on their plans. 

Space is extremely limited so please do not delay to register in advance at this link. Note: If it does sell out (and it will), it is our wish that GRABB and other entrepreneurial groups will step up to add more opportunities for others seeking information on accessing the industry.  

GRABB is an Economic and Business Development enterprise that seeks to foster a thriving economy where prosperity and revitalization of our predominantly Black neighborhoods is truly a possibility. Their focus harnesses the four forms of capital (relational, social, intellectual, and financial) and seeks to create value for Black businesses. GRABB is empowering our region to visualize the future and create a path to a better tomorrow.
 

Holiday Drag Bingo: 'tis the season to be fabulous

Imagine the excitement that after the announcement of being nominated for 12 Emmy Awards, “Rupal’s Drag Race” would go on to win six Emmy’s, including the prestigious Outstanding Reality-Competition Program category.

Drag is not new but its ever-widening acceptance as a form of entertainment is.

None of us could have predicted, must less imagined, that a drag show would headline at the DeVos Performance Hall when it opened decades ago, but here we are today in the present and with many sold-out shows later.

On Tuesday, December 11, joining the ranks of touring shows (The Queens), local bar showcases (Rumors), and Drag Brunch, comes the return of Holiday Drag Bingo presented at the Westside’s Harmony Hall.

Brought to this popular pizza and craft beer location by Beauty Beyond Drag Productions, Holiday Drag Bingo will be hosted by DeeDee Chaunte with special guest performances by Honey B Davis and eRis. 

The event begins promptly at 7 p.m., and if you know anything about Drag Queens, they hate folks who wander in late, so pace yourself or find yourself at their mercy until the event ends around 9 p.m.

Your host will walk you through a sample card before the night begins. And unlike the images of grandma playing eight cards at once down at the Catholic social center, Holiday Drag Bingo guests only get one card per player at a time.

If you want to make it a night of it with dinner and bingo, Harmony Hall is offering $6 cheese and $7 pepperoni pizzas (dine-in only).

And should you get the chance to roar “bingo,” be prepared to go up front to spin the wheel and see what prize you have won. This event is sure to turn your cheeks rosy from all the laughter. If not, there is always blush to give you the appearance of a good time. 
 

Uptown Holiday Shop Hop: Amazon has nothing on this holiday shopping tradition

Strong, community-supported neighborhood businesses are the lifeblood a city for without them, you would be left with big boxes with revolving door staff or the coldness of shopping in bed from places that have no real meaningful connections to your community. In my opinion, the neighborhood business model is most successful when it is rooted in being neighborly.  

On Thursday evening, the Uptown neighborhood, which has seen its fair share of starts and stops over the 30-plus years I have lived here (East Hills was the site of my first apartment in the ‘80s), is throwing out the welcome mat again to everyone as they present the annual Uptown Holiday Shop Hop on Thursday, December 6, from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. 

What makes this holiday shopping experience so festive is not just that the event spans the four business districts of East Fulton, East Hills, Eastown, and Wealthy Street, but because of the diverse offerings that continue to arrive to set up shop here within these traditional neighborhood business settings on a fairly regular basis these days. 

Adding to the charm of these nearly 80-plus participating businesses is the chance to experience holiday carolers and loads of opportunities to nosh as businesses often offer snacks and beverages. And what would a holiday event be with a chance to meet Santa Claus?

Uptown runs shuttles throughout the evening to transport shoppers who may not be up for the walk between those four districts. Advice? Park the car or take a Lyft to your destination because while this is sure to attract a lot of folks, parking can be daunting since it is, after all, a neighborhood you are visiting. 

See their site for all the shops and offers for this evening. 

Light Up Downtown: Third time’s the charm. (Truly, it is!)

While you were figuring out what to do with that leftover Turkey, some folks downtown have been quite busy stringing more than 40,000 lights on the city’s Christmas tree that will be the center of attention on Saturday, December 1 when they throw the switch to kick off our annual holiday season in Downtown Grand Rapids.

The tree lighting event will take place at Rosa Parks Circle at 6:30 p.m sharp (so don’t be late). 

But that is hardly the start of the festivities at this year’s Light Up Downtown, which includes an appearance by the City of Grand Rapids’ Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, City Manager Mark Washington, and 100.5 FM’s Andy Rent from 100.5 The River, because it actually begins across the river at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum at 5:00 p.m.

A quick overview of the schedule of events:
  • 5:00 p.m. Start at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum with the Breton Village Holiday Train, live reindeer, holiday songs performed by Grand Rapids Caroling Company, and so much more.
  • 5:30 p.m. Walk East to the Light Up Ah-Nab-Awen Park, where Santa will be taking photos with kids of all ages and later join in the drum line parade led by Genesis Percussion.
  • 6:00 p.m. Arrive at Rosa Parks Circle for all the festivities before the Mayor arrives in her horse-drawn carriage to light up the tree at 6:30 p.m.
And no worries if you cannot make it to the actual lighting,  because our local NBC affiliate, WOOD TV8, will be broadcasting live from the event.

Also at Light Up Downtown you can experience the many diverse cultures of our city who participate in observing this holiday tradition with contributions from the African-American (Grand Rapids African American Museum and Archives), Italian (Flo's Collection), Hispanic (Hispanic Center of Western Michigan), German (Edelweiss Club Grand Rapids), Irish, Jewish (Chabad House of Western Michigan), African, Asian-American (West Michigan Asian American Association Inc), Polish (Polish Heritage Society of Grand Rapids, MI) and Mexican (Mexican Heritage Association) communities. The Ford Presidential Museum is also offering guided walking tours as a part of the festivities. Register for this free touring event in advance, here.

World AIDS Day: AIDS is not over (Be part of the change this year)

Each year as we post advances in the decades-long battle against AIDS, we are reminded that this crisis that has gripped the world is not over. 

Last month, I discovered an old journal of mine from 1990 — a time period where our region was just beginning to suffer the devastating loss of lives that had for years earlier plagued the coasts and other major cities. As I read the entries, I was reminded of the fears, isolation, but also deaths that were occurring during this period of our city’s history. 

And while we have seen advances in health that are moving this into a manageable disease extending many people’s lives through the drugs offered today (but not then), AIDS is not over, and on December 1, our community will join others around the world to ensure we never forget those lives lost but also those who remain advocates and work for an AIDS-free world. 

The Grand Rapids Red Project on December 1 will be hosting the 30th annual World AIDS Day special event at downtown’s Bethlehem Lutheran Church (250 Commerce SW).

This year’s theme of the “Thread That Connects Us All” will address the need to work to still prevent infections but also the advocating for new treatments for those with HIV. These events rooted in LGBTQ community, one of the first populations to be impacted in America, will also seek to reduce the stigma too often still associated with those many diverse individuals who are living with it. It is not, nor has it ever been, just something that impacted the LGBTQ. It touches all of us 30 years later. 

This event will honor all those souls we have lost to HIV-related complications and support those currently living with HIV. We must never forget.

If you also recall, in the 1990s, the AIDS Quilt from the Names Project toured this region a few times and so in that spirit of remembering those lost, event organizers will be encouraging folks to write the name of a loved one or a message of love on a fabric square that will be stitched together, symbolizing that no one is lost and we will remember. 

The event is free to attend and will be hosting a silent auction to raise money for the work of our local nonprofit the Grand Rapids Red Project.

Immediately following the program, guests are encouraged to join others at an after party held at Rumors. 

Experimental Monotypes: Create some fun

The best gifts I find at the holiday are those that often defy labels and come from the heart. And on Sunday afternoon, the Grand Rapids Art Museum (GRAM) invites folks to take a class where they will learn to create a work of art using the expansive method of monotype printing. 

If you are scratching your head about what this entails, read on.

Monotype printing is a super versatile method for creating one-of-a-kind prints that, through experimentation, can produce truly wonderful results that can become the basis of original cards, wrapping paper, or even a new work of art for your true love. 

The event starts off with an inspiring guided tour of the GRAM’s collection, and then it is to the museum’s art studio where you will learn to create a variety of monotypes exploring both additive and subtractive painterly approaches. 

For the process, you will work with many non-traditional mark-making tools, visually interesting stencils, and textures through various steps that involve inking but also the layering of media to create these works. 

This is a no-experience-necessary, festive event that is certain to become one of the highlights of your holiday season this year, so consider bringing the family or a group of your besties to learn this process you can later continue at home. Please contact gramstudio@artmuseumgr.org for information or to register follow this link.

At the Table: Timely in-your-face theatre, bring your friends

The tradition of friends gathering together is something that most can agree is a long-standing tradition. But in modern times, table conversation can often occur with faces staring down in our phones, missing the glow of why table dialogue with friends is the thing that we should not lose.

So it is with much encouragement that a contemporary play, “At the Table,” arrives at Actors' Theatre Grand Rapids. This new work is perfectly suited for our time as much of what we see on stage is easily recognizable to the audience.

Playwright Michael Perlman’s "At the Table" is a comedic drama that asks of the audience: what happens when those with privilege are pushed to the periphery and a marginalized minority suddenly finds its voice amplified in this intimate crowd?

The play goes on to explore boundary-pushing matters like who is allowed to discuss certain topics. It is a play that is certain to create some anxiety, too, as the actors on stage pull us into their journey.

The play has all the fixtures of a good drama with six friends who, away from the noise of the city, head out to an annual retreat for the weekend. With no social media, no cell phones, no internet allowed, these friends must do what we’ve always done before technology robbed us of our attention spans: we talk to each other with our gaze uninterrupted by technology.

And just like I am sure some of your parties, when the liquor starts to flow, you never know what is going to come out of someone’s mouth, this is a topical play that is sure to challenge our views of our national identity.

This is the final weekend of “At the Table," so do not delay if you are so inclined to seek thought-provoking theatrical experiences. 

11th Annual Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer & Food Festival: Sip, nosh, sip

We can’t say this enough: how lucky we are that each year the weekend before Thanksgiving, area food and spirits enthusiasts get to discover new flavors and tasty treats that can make you the informed star at your next holiday affair. The 11th Annual Grand Rapids International Wine, Beer, & Food Festival returns bigger than ever to DeVos Place this weekend and you will want to be sure to visit.

This event opens up to you a chance to enjoy the first sips of brand new products like local canned cocktails, to chef-led culinary workshops and instructional sessions with food authors, to any one of the many multi-course meal tasting menus from area eateries. For the tasting menus, you will want to book reservations in advance to guarantee you a seat.

The venue is organized into fun names like The Vineyard, Hemingway Hall, Beer City Station, Cider Row, and the RendezBREW, a spirits and coffee-themed space.

To help you navigate the many spaces and events including the set times of musical act Valentiger or for booking your tasting menu reservation, please download the app for Android or Apple here.

However you choose to get there, just don’t miss the tastiest festival this city has to offer. It is the only one that comes with access to world-class wines with mega-point ratings and tasty, award-winning beer, all within steps of each other.  

Art Van Santa Parade: Picture perfect whether it snows or not

I, for one, am very excited to see that the 100th Art Van Santa Parade has not happened yet, so I can avoid all those folks next year who will surely ask, “Is this your first time down to the parade?” 

Granted, I love a good parade. There I said it. 

And lucky for me and those who like me enjoy a good festive parade, I am looking forward to celebrating the 99th year of this festive event for the first time. 

There will be parade floats, live music, and of course, a chance to have your photo taken with Santa courtesy of PNC Bank. 

The parade kicks off at 9 a.m. on the corner of Michigan St. and Monroe Ave. and will travel south to Fulton. 

The parade is led this year by the 2018 Grand Marshall and Guest of Honor Miss Michigan 2018, Emily Sioma. And lest you think she is the only celebrity, a certain man with a milk and cookies habit will be prowling the streets (and I don’t mean Michael Pfleghaar).

If you cannot make it out, watch all the parade drama on WOOD-TV8 from the comfort of your couch, shamelessly dressed in your blue snuggy.
1975 Articles | Page: | Show All
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