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Another weekend is upon us – and it’s a doozy. You may be hard at work organizing the looks for your latest brilliant group Halloween costume idea, but be sure to take some time for yourself. Here are more than enough options to keep you occupied.
PAST IMPERFECT: Film critic Ty Burr cautions that “The Birth of a Nation” is “both a dramatization of an overlooked chapter in American history and a clichéd gloss on it,” but he does find something worth keeping an eye on in producer, director, co-writer, and star Nate Parker, who plays Nat Turner in this “powerful but imperfect” retelling of the bloody 1831 slave rebellion in Virginia. “ ‘The Birth of a Nation’ is very much a first film,” Burr writes in his 2½-star review, “and the best things about it are Parker’s acting and his ambitions.” (Whether you can get past the controversy surrounding Parker himself is a matter for another blurb entirely.) Opens Friday.
ON THE ROAD (AGAIN): Also opening Friday is “American Honey,” the latest from writer/director Andrea Arnold (“Red Road,” “Fish Tank,” “Wuthering Heights”), who here tells a slightly overlong but charming tale of teenage escapism — and finds a true star in its heroine Star, played by newcomer Sasha Lane. “At times it feels as if Arnold has remade Larry Clark’s ‘Kids’ for a more hopeful century,” writes Ty Burr in his three-star review, “or ‘Spring Breakers’ with real people instead of carnivorous cartoons.” At the very least, it will satisfy your recommended annual dosage of Shia LeBeouf.
BOSTON COLLINS: As usual, I’m wicked jealous of Joan Anderman. This week, she got to talk with folk legend Judy Collins, who arrives at the Wilbur Theatre on Sunday for two performances of “A Love Letter to Stephen Sondheim” (so you can safely assume the clowns are en route). I have yet to find out if she managed to score Judy’s soy pancake recipe, but I’m on the case. In the meantime, you can get tickets to the show here. (And you can watch her perform her biggest hit back in 1976 with the Pops here.)
HORNS OF PLENTY: Apologies in advance to the majorly hungover or otherwise sensitive souls across the river, but this weekend greets the grand annual return of the HONK! Festival of Activist Street Bands, which will gather no less than 26 brass and percussion bands into a weekend-long cacophony of socially conscious huffing and puffing (plus a parade!). It’s free, it’s loud, it goes down rain or shine, and it’s guaranteed to be a blast. Or several continuous ones. Bring earplugs.
MORE THAN WORDS: If just reading that has you craving quiet time, take this weekend to behold the silent splendor of the largest exhibition of medieval and Renaissance illuminated manuscripts ever held in North America. “Beyond Words: Illuminated Manuscripts in Boston Collections” assembles nearly 250 extremely rare items across three separate venues. “The show may strain your eyes and test your powers of concentration,” writes Sebastian Smee, “but it will also leave you astonished.” Manuscripts are on view at the McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College (through Dec. 11), the Houghton Library in Harvard Yard (through Dec. 10), and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (through Jan. 16).
OVERDUE ‘LOOK’: Or you could take in an exhibition of the postwar photojournalism of Charlotte Brooks, the subject of “Charlotte Brooks at Look, 1951-1971,” on view at Wellesley College’s Davis Museumthrough Dec. 18. The show’s 68 black and white images are arranged by curator Ileana Selejan as eight photo essays that demonstrate a stunning balance of style and substance. “Without ever sentimentalizing,” says Mark Feeney in his review of the show, “Brooks emphasizes the human element.”
CLASS ACT: If the wide world of online Trump insult generators just doesn’t fling the same fire, brimstone, and spittle of the real thing, you can get a little closer at Laugh Boston, as David Carl uncannily embodies the Donald every weekend until the election for “Trump Takes On . . . Boston!” You can debate the faux-(faux)-billionaire on any topic at this tipsy town hall, or just cradle your face in your hands as you weep gently for the future. It’ll be great. Trust me folks. Believe me. (Grab tickets here.)
FULL MONTY: Speaking of he whom I referred to earlier this week as a “racist Swiffer WetJet,” the North Shore Music Theatre’s production of Eric Idle’s preposterously funny “Spamalot” targets the irascible candidate for a brief spoof. “The foray into Trumpery fits quite smoothly into the musical’s inane spirit,” writes theater critic Don Aucoin, sounding about right. In the face of a resistible rise, we can take temporary solace in this “irresistible” show — which, by the way, closes this Sunday. Get tickets here.
HIGH STAKES: Also onstage this weekend is the world premiere of Israel Horovitz’s “Man In Snow” at Gloucester Stage, an “elegaic and piercing one-act drama” (originally a radio play) that according to Aucoin, “goes to some raw and primal places” in its tale of man scaling the steep slope of life, loss, and Mt. McKinley. Pack an extra layer. It runs through Oct. 23, and you can find tickets here.
OR STAY IN: Some may judge you for opting out and chilling at home instead, but the Weekender would never do that. Especially on this particularly solid weekend of TV. On Saturday, you can catch “Hamilton” star and creator Lin-Manuel Miranda hosting “Saturday Night Live” with musical guest Twenty One Pilots (and you won’t need to lease out a kidney for tickets).
On Sunday, a special episode of “The Simpsons” hits home when the family takes a long-overdue trip to Boston, and HBO premieres two promising new series: The new Sarah Jessica Parker vehicle “Divorce” (which also stars Molly Shannon), and “Insecure,” the slightly-bigger-screen debut of Issa Rae, creator and star of the hit Web series “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl.” Television critic Matthew Gilbert calls it “a lovely comedy about identity in general . . . and how to forge your own despite other people’s preferences.” As a side note, the music for “Insecure” is overseen by R&B legend Raphael Saadiq and Solange Knowles — and if you haven’t heard Solange’s stunning new album, “A Seat at the Table,” (produced by Saadiq and out this week), you could spend the whole weekend under its spell.
Then again, if you’re more in the mood for white-knuckled tooth-gnashing anguish, there’s always the second presidential debate on Sunday night at 9 p.m., moderated by Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griff. . . wait, what’s that? My bad — it’s ABC’s Martha Raddatz. Real missed opportunity there.
Have a great weekend! See you next Friday.Michael Andor Brodeur can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MBrodeur.