Things to Do

The Weekender: French kicks, fiery solos, and irreverent holiday fare

James Franco directed and stars in “The Disaster Artist.”
Justina Mintz/A24
James Franco directed and stars in “The Disaster Artist.”

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Wow, so I guess this whole holiday thing is really happening.

I’m not sure how it’s already December; that doesn’t seem right at all. (Maybe Spotlight can hop on this case.) Meanwhile, I’ve got very little time to give you the full rundown on everything good happening this weekend before it gets dark and we both get too sleepy to do this, so let’s go!

ROOM TO IMPROVE: One thing that you should know about this newsletter is that it doesn’t wake up in the morning waiting for a reason to advise you to watch James Franco movies. Or read his poems. (Though you should, because they’re really, really not good.) But another thing you should know about this newsletter is that it’s [hits caps lock] FULL OF SURPRISES! As such, we bring you this tip to go see “The Disaster Artist,” Franco’s latest film in which he plays Tommy Wiseau, storied director of “The Room” — the James Franco poem of films. The Globe’s Ty Burr gives it three stars and calls it “extremely entertaining and fairly pointless,” and “a love letter to a freak, straddling the line between admiring and appalled.” As long as that love letter isn’t in verse, we’re willing to give this a shot. Now screening.


SHADES OF GREY: Meanwhile, for the other kind of Francophiles, the MFA is celebrating the centennial of director Jean-Pierre Melville with a series that kicks off Friday and runs through Dec. 9. Melville was a master of a greyer brand of noir — existential thrillers and psychological romances. “These movies are fever-dream versions of the American gangster film,” writes the Globe’s Mark Feeney, “with Jean-Paul Belmondo or Alain Delon, packing Gauloises along with a gat, substituting for Bogart or Cagney.” More information and tickets here.

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FRENCH PRINTS? I promise we are going to move on from this France thing after this. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, the fin de siècle Parisian artist best known for his “beguiling, witty lithographs and posters,” as Cate McQuaid notes, was “a 19th-century Andy Warhol [who] capitalized on celebrity culture and purveyed his art through multiples.” His 15 minutes/120 years of fame continue at Currier Museum of Art with “The Paris of Toulouse-Lautrec: Prints and Posters From the Museum of Modern Art,” an exhibition assembling over 100 of the artist’s posters, prints, and illustrated books, on view through Jan. 7. It’s a closer look at an artist whose ubiquity has shielded him from notice, and a gauzy glance back into a time when life was literally a cabaret. More info here.

WAIL WATCH: Offset those two rich servings of French fare with a big greasy bucket of howling roadhouse blues, R&B, and I’m guessing at least one disgusting (in the best possible way) sax solo by way of the Tedeschi Trucks Band, which if I ran the data across years of coverage, might be like the Globe’s not so secret favorite band. Whether that’s actually true (it is), the powerhouse duo of Susan Tedeschi and hubby Derek Trucks certainly wowed the hard-to-wow Marc Hirsh when they rolled through a few years back, and they’ve got two sets lined up at the Orpheum this weekend, Friday and Saturday. Grab tickets here.

SECOND SERVING: One thing: You might want to make it work so that you can see TTB on Friday and save Saturday for a trip to the Center for Arts in Natick, where Ronnie Earl & the Broadcasters will be laying down some seriously sick (again, best possible way) blues in the vein of T-Bone Walker and Otis Rush. Find tickets here.

Kris Allen will be at City Winery on Sunday.
Rick Diamond/Getty Images
Kris Allen will be at City Winery on Sunday.

KRIS IN CHRISTMAS: The next day, you can pretend the ringing in your ears is festive as you take in the holiday romp of Kris Allen’s “Somethin’ About Christmas,” which finds the eighth “American Idol” (he beat Adam Lambert y’all!) crooning o’er Christmas at City Winery.  Allen is recently recovered from a life- (and career-) threatening head-on collision, and running full steam off a creative burst that paid off with his solid fourth studio album, “Letting You In,” and his 2016 Christmas album, which you’ll be humming all the way home. Nope, wait, that’s just your ears again. Sorry. Tickets here!


HUDSON RIFFER: For a way less reverent take on these matters of holiday, the ever-trusty, never rusty Ryan Landry and the Gold Dust Orphans will bring another histrionic masterwork to the stage of the Machine nightclub (nee the Ramrod Center for the Performing Arts) with the premiere of “Whatever Happened to Baby Jesus?” (You close that e-mail window to me right now because I did not write this play. Close it.) Please note: This holiday-spiced and highly sacrilicious mash-up musical/murder mystery is not for the sugar plums out there (nor anyone under 18). Everyone else will love it. It sets up camp (like, heavy heavy camp) through Dec. 23. Tickets here.

SARAH PROBLEM? In the laugh department — because joy must be compartmentalized so that it doesn’t interfere with the other more important emotions — we recommend one Sarah Tiana, whom you may recognize from spots on the now-defunct Twitter Olympics of “@midnight” and regular drop-ins on “Chelsea, Lately.” We also recommend maybe not doing much to attract notice to yourself, as she’s a ferocious roaster and you are, how do I put this nicely, fresh meat. She’s at Laugh Boston Friday and Saturday nights. More info and tickets here.

SPAIN RELIEF: I’m tucking this one down here because it’s really for the hardcore Weekender readers who actually read this thing. Saturday night at the Multicultural Arts Center in Cambridge you can catch the New York-based flamenco company A Palo Seco, which will present its most recent show, “Nuestro Flamenco” — a swirl of traditional flamenco with contemporary “metropolitan flair.” Bonus: There will be appetizers. Good ones. Free ones! (From 7 to 8 p.m.) Bonus-bonus: There will be a cash bar for wine and cava! This just keeps getting better. Bonus-bonus No. 2: You are unlikely to run into the sort of people there who don’t read things. Much like tapas you have to pay for, these small perks add up. Tickets here.

RAISED VOICES: And finally from the outside world this weekend, a strong spread of opera and classical offerings. Odyssey Opera’s season of Joan of Arc continues apace with “The Trial at Rouen,” Norman Dello Joio’s 1956 opera, originally written for television and (semi-)staged here for the score’s premiere before a live audience. ( The program opens with his “The Trial of Saint Joan.”) That’s Friday evening at Jordan Hall. And through this weekend (Friday at Follen Church in Lexington, Saturday at First Lutheran Church in Boston, and Sunday at First Parish Church of Newbury) you can hear the Boston Camerata perform with the Sharq Arabic Ensemble in a collaborative performance titled “Mediterranean Christmas.” (Don’t expect your usual carols, Carol.)

CBS will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Carol Burnett’s classic comedy series on Sunday.
CBS will celebrate the 50th anniversary of Carol Burnett’s classic comedy series on Sunday.

OR STAY IN!: You can wrap gifts and watch TV at the same time, right? Can you do that and tug your ear? And cry maybe? I hope so, because Sunday at 8 p.m. on CBS is “The Carol Burnett 50th Anniversary Special,” which — OK, I’m crying already. Original cast members Vicki Lawrence and Lyle Waggoner will be joined by costume designer Bob Mackie, as well as Jim Carrey, Kristin Chenoweth, Stephen Colbert, Harry Connick Jr., Bill Hader, Jay Leno, Jane Lynch, Bernadette Peters, Maya Rudolph, and Martin Short, in this epic celebration of the first lady of funny. 


If that all sounds too emotionally taxing, I’m guessing the new U2 album will be quite the opposite. The band just dropped “Songs of Experience,” and I haven’t heard it yet. I do appreciate that they didn’t just stuff it into my iTunes this time, so, cheers mates, I guess. The Globe’s Terence Cawley calls it “a strikingly low-stakes record that seems to mark U2’s official retirement from taking risks or trying to be the biggest band in the world.” So yeah! Get lots of wrapping done. 

And that, fair Weekenders, is all I’ve got in the bag for you this week. (I mean, I still have some turkey, but it’s starting to look a little angry. We’d best not.) However you spend the weekend, 1.) pace yourselves, it’s gonna be a busy December, and 2.) make it one you’ll miss come Monday.

Have fun! See you next week. 

Michael Andor Brodeur can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MBrodeur.