By Bill Marx
In the age of COVID-19, Arts Fuse critics have come up with a guide to film, dance, visual art, theater, and music — mostly available by streaming — for the coming weeks. More offerings will be added as they come in.
Present Distractions in Film
It was not that long ago that I would be struck dumb when I walked into a Hollywood Video (or Blockbuster) and gazed at the racks of VHS tapes and upcoming DVDs. Now the choices are even more plentiful and — with social distancing and staying at home de rigueur — the time for viewing is mercilessly open ended. Bored with the predicable range of offerings on Netflix, HBO, Hulu, Showtime, and Amazon Prime? Here are nine recommendations for adventurous streaming. Feel free to add your own outlets via a comment. There is a PART II.
MUBI: For a monthly fee Mubi offers a new film every day — and it stays up for 30 days. So there are always 30 hand-picked films to watch or download. The wild and wonderful selection includes forgotten, cult, foreign, and experimental films as well as award-winning masterpieces. A highlight: curator Nicolas Winding Refn has restored some strange B and exploitation films from the Grindhouse era.
CRITERION CHANNEL: For discerning cinephiles, this subscription service offers classic films from Criterion’s renowned collection. There is a featured movies every day, curated playlists, and extra content made up of excellent interviews and analyses.
LE CINEMA CLUB: This is a curated, free streaming platform — supported by CHANEL — that screens a new film every week. It remains up for seven days. Selections vary in genre and length, with special attention given to short formats.
TOP DOCUMENTARY FILMS: There are more than 3,000 free documentaries available here, and they are organized into 25 different categories, searchable by keywords, sortable by rating, comments, and titles. There is new documentary selection every other day.
OPEN CULTURE: This site brings together difficult to find cultural & educational media scattered across the web. Their mission is to gather together this kind of elusive content, curate it, and provide access. You do not have to join or install anything. Note: There are no ads! Free Online Courses; Lectures
INDIEFLIX: For a low monthly fee IndieFlix offers streaming services that promote and support films dedicated to creating positive change in the world. This screening service also books offline community screenings in schools, corporations, and communities.
KANOPY: A marvelous deal! This award-winning video streaming service is available with just a library card. It provides access to a remarkable (and free) collection of more than 30,000 independent and documentary films. The titles in Kanopy are drawn from The Criterion Collection, The Great Courses, Media Education Foundation, and thousands of independent filmmakers.
TUBI: This streaming service is free, serving up on-demand content of over 15,000 movies and television series. Be warned: it is an ad-supported service, with commercials popping up during unskippable breaks. This is the largest independently owned video service in the United States.
Between books and Zoom gatherings, there are many sites for the weary and homebound to sample. Short form videos include news, politics, profiles, human interest stories and more. These are quickly consumed and mostly well produced. Free feature films are also available. Local Independent theaters are streaming and can use our support.
More stay-at-home possibilities:
WGBH: There are links to American Experience, Frontline, Nova, and education programming. The site’s Arts Link offers arts coverage, documentaries, studio concerts, as well as links to literary adaptations. Plenty to explore here.
The Coolidge Corner Theater: The Coolidge is streaming rental features that would ordinarily be opening. This is the best way to keep up with what is current and to support one of the area’s great independent movie houses. Memberships and contributions are welcome. The theater is continuing to pay its workers.
The Brattle Theater: The Brattle is offering links to several categories of film via its Virtual Repertory Series. They have a great Keep Your Distance Program of links to film classics. The Docyard will continue their program of documentaries with talk-backs via Zoom. Next up: No Data Plan. Donations to the Brattle are welcome: they are needed as they continue to pay their workers.
The New York Times: You will find short videos, including news updates, investigations, profiles. The offers are efficiently organized in a grid by category.
The New Yorker: The magazine has been creating an array of videos for years. There is a page by Genre, a most Popular page, and original Series page. They also have their own video series available on Amazon called New Yorker Presents.
Boston Globe: The newspaper has a YouTube Channel that features an interesting and varied collection of short features.
Washington Post: The newspaper offers concise and informative videos (one to five minutes) on news and politics.
Variety: If show business is your bag there is much to see and hear at this website (no subscription required). For fans of movie performers, Actors on Actors offers provocative pairings of actors interviewing one another and discussing their craft.
Boston Underground Film Festival: The Festival was canceled, but BUFF has assembled a Buff-o-Stream where you can access their best in “unconventional stories, idiosyncratic voices, fever dreams, nightmarish visions, and all manner of cinematic form.”
YouTube Classic Films: Here is a list of 45 cinema classics in the public domain, many rarely seen, that are available for absolutely free on YouTube.
Recommendation: Last week I recommended Kanopy as a resource available with a library card that features a good, non-commercial collection of films. They are currently offering the controversial Errol Morris documentary American Dharma. This profile of Steve Bannon is an artfully stylized portrait of the controversial political strategist and former Donald Trump adviser. It gives him just enough rope to . . . well, you get the idea.
— Tim Jackson
The eloquent 64-year-old pianist and composer Fred Hersch knows something about illness. He was diagnosed HIV+ in 1984 and, in 2008, in unrelated illness, he spent two months in a coma. After recovery and rehabilitation, he returned to writing and performing, recounting his experience in 2011 in the vocal-instrumental piece “My Coma Dreams,” a staged production (written and directed by Herschel Garfein). All of which is a long-winded way of saying that Hersch is helping himself and the rest of us through the current pandemic by offering a live, free “mini-concert” from his home every day starting at 1 p.m. (first show Sunday, March 22). You can see and hear the concert on Facebook. Says Hersch, “You don’t have to ‘be’ on Facebook or sign in to anything to access the concert.” He adds, “And if you ‘like’ the page you will be notified each day.
— Jon Garelick
Live from Our Living Rooms
A stellar lineup of New York–based jazz musicians will make their way from their living rooms into yours—or your kitchen, bedroom, or wherever—during the week of April 1-7, thanks to the organizing efforts of musicians Sirintip, Thana Alexa, Owen Broder, and their partner, the nonprofit Music Talks. The online music festival will be presented free, with the hope that listeners will be moved to make donations to a fund benefiting the many dedicated freelance musicians whose livelihoods have been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Performances will take place every day, starting with a children’s program at 11:30, followed by a master class at 3 pm and performances at 7 and 8 pm. Performers include the well known and the up-and-coming: Dave Liebman, Joe Lovano, Judi Silvano, John Patitucci, Christian McBride, Melissa Walker, Adam Rodgers, Julian Lage, Bill Frisell, Chick Corea, Becca Stevens, Michael Mayo, Linda Oh, Thana Alexa, Antonio Sanchez, and many more; click here for the full schedule.
— Evelyn Rosenthal
Apollinaire at Home, a free online play & film script reading gathering (by video meeting), for the coming weeks.
Your chance to become part of the show — from the safety of your couch! An enterprising idea that revolves around an inclusive staged reading: viewers are invited to read the script, choose their favorite parts and, if their names are drawn, to become part of the production. You can just sit watch if you wish. Note from the company: “No worries if you are not among the technologically gifted. We’re as new to this as you are, and there’s sure to be some glitchiness at first, but with a bit of humor and perseverance we’ll make this work!” This week the readings: April 2, Little Miss Sunshine; April 3, Uncle Vanya; April 4, A Woman of No Importance; April 5, Clue. Hosts will be Andrea Lyman and David Reiffel. More to come …
Check out the organization’s Facebook page for upcoming performances, which will include The Book of Pooh: Stories from the Heart and Xperimental Puppetry Theater.
Pipeline by Dominique Morisseau, produced by The Nora Theatre Company & WAM Theatre, available for in-home streaming via a password protected website through April 5.
This production at the Central Square Theater was forced to close early because of COVID-19. But a multi-camera video recording of the show was made. Video stream purchase prices begin at $10. Any payment over $20 will be a tax deductible contribution directly to the Art is Our Activism — Sustain through COVID-19 Campaign.
“In this challenging time, leadership at Central Square Theater are acutely aware of how hard the artists that help create Pipeline, have been hit. To this end, we created a profit-sharing model to give a portion of the proceeds with the cast and creative team of the production. This applies to all newly purchased streams of Pipeline. Executive Director Catherine Carr Kelly states: “The COVID-19 pandemic has been catastrophic for artists who, in the past two weeks, have lost employment at a dizzying rate. Enabling these same artists to benefit from sharing this play with the public provides a lifeline to the artists and helps sustain Central Square Theater.”.
Boston Theater Marathon XXII: Special Zoom Edition, through May 17
“This year’s BTM was intended to be a homecoming of sorts — it was to be the first time the event had been held at our home theatre on Comm Ave. since BTM VI in 2004. (The Boston Theater Marathon was held at the Huntington Theatre’s Virginia Wimberly Theatre from 2005-2019.)”
“So instead of honoring our past, times dictate that we try something new. This year, we will offer Boston Theater Marathon XXII: Special Zoom Edition, with the goal to foster community and benefit the Theatre Community Benevolent Fund (the beneficiary of the annual BTM) and area theatre companies.”
The Buck Rogers version of the re-vamped Marathon is ingenious: “a 10 minute play by a New England playwright will be presented at noon through May 17. Audiences who dial in to the event will be encouraged to donate to participating theatre companies and/or to the Theatre Community Benevolent Fund. Links to individual theatre companies and the Theatre Community Benevolent Fund will be available each day on the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre home page (www.BostonPlaywrights.org) and via the Zoom interface itself.”
“Readings will begin each day at 12 noon and will last approximately 15-minutes. Audiences will need to download the free Zoom app to participate, and it is recommended they call in a few minutes before “curtain” time.”
Dancers have a track record of being creative when it comes to constraints – and some mini-performances by local artists are starting to appear on virtual platforms.
Beloved local choreographer Brian Crabtree moved to Maine in the past year or so, but is sheltering in place with a friend in the Boston area. His seated solo, tagged as “what I did on my staycation” beautifully works with his body’s limits, the narrow space, and the music’s expansiveness.
Ladies at A Gay Girls’ Bar 1938-1969 was postponed but Maggie Cee will be livestreaming a rehearsal of a work exploring her years as a teenage gay rights activist, her own identity, and fem history March 27 at 7 p.m. and on April 4 at 8 p.m.
Kelley Donovan’s SpeakEasy series, a collective romp across disciplines, has moved to Zoom with each performer presenting their planned poetry, dance, or music in their living rooms. Poetry by Karen Klein, contemporary dance by Kelley Donovan and Ruth Benson Levin, tap by Shaina Schwartz and music by James Falvo. Open mike for your own Zoom contributions, too!
email@example.com or (617) 388-3247 for information.
— Debra Cash
Resource for Live-Streamed Classes
Go to here
Looking for Live Dance Classes? Studio 550 has created a new platform (Artist2Artist) to keep dancers active, engaged, and informed. Visit the link above to learn more and search for live-streamed classes, while staying connected to the Boston dance community!;
FilmFest by Rogue Dancer
On view now through April 1st
Go to here
Although not Boston-focused, this an excellent online screening service that offers gorgeous dance films from around the world. Take a look at this month’s edition for a colorful and interpretive array of works that ignite the senses. Enjoy!
— Merli V. Guerra
Music for Sheltering in Place
FIRST QUARTER FAVES — 2020
1. FKA Twigs, “Sad Day”
2. Halsey, “You Should Be Sad”
3. The Coathangers, “Memories”
4. Grimes, “My Name Is Dark”
5. Gil Scott-Heron/Makaya McKraven, “Running”
6. Pop Smoke, “Invincible”
7. The Claudettes, “I Swear To God I Will”
8. Amyl and the Sniffers, “Monsoon Rock”
9. The Third Mind, “East West (Full Mongrel USO Mix)”
10. Drive-By Truckers, “Thoughts and Prayers”
11. Sarah Lee Langford, “Painted Lady”
12. Lisa Hutton, “Rush Hour Rhapsody”
13. Wood River, “Future Fun”
14. Sudan Archives, “Pelicans in the Summer”
15. Roger Eno and Brian Eno, “Deep Saffron”
— Includes several 2019 releases that were lost in the shuffle when I was compiling picks last year
— None of these are standout tracks from weak albums; whole release is recommended for each of them
Well before the current wave of concert cancellations I noticed that Pop Smoke’s March show had been scratched; he was murdered on February 19.
Finally, a suggestion for buffing up your home music collection. I’m finally digging deep into Jazzman Records’ Spiritual Jazz series of collections and find them all captivating — sensual as well as enlightening. I may have more to say about these discs later.
— Milo Miles
Terry Kitchen, Kim Moberg & Crowes Pasture on March 28
The trio of performers will be playing on Facebook Live (on their home FB pages), each doing 30 minute sets. Kitchen will begin the show at 7:30 EDT here, followed by Moberg at 8 p.m. here, followed by Crowes Pasture at 8:30 p.m. here .
Club Passim has announced a new series of streaming concerts “to help everyone cooped up at home.” Fans will be able to view the concerts through a link on Club Passim’s Facebook page. Club Passim will be taking donations during the shows to help support the musicians and the club.
Will Dailey: The Isolation Tour — March 24 at 7 p.m.
Zachariah Hickman’s Parlor of Playfullness — March 26 at 7 p.m.
Trace Bundy — March 27 at 3 p.m.
Peter Mulvey — March 29 at 7 p.m.
Rob Flax’s Birthday Bash — April 3 at 8 p.m.
— Bill Marx
While the coronavirus pandemic has caused, essentially, the early wrap-up of classical music’s 2019-20 concert season, numerous ensembles are either live-streaming live, no-audience performances, or opening their performance archives to the public. Below are links to some of them (local and international).
BSO at Home (new music released daily at 10 a.m. starting March 23)
March 24, 7:30 p.m. Junction Trio (Stefan Jackiw, Jay Campbell, Conrad Tao) play Ives and Beethoven
March 26, 7:30 p.m. Jonathan Biss plays Beethoven’s last three piano sonatas
March 28, 8 p.m. Boston Artists Ensemble presents French Connection
Pianist Igor Levit presents daily (or nearly so) Hauskonzerte via Twitter
London Symphony Orchestra performance archive (new concerts streamed every Sunday and Thursday)
Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra Digital Concert Hall, free access if you register before March 31 (voucher code: BERLINPHIL)
— Jonathan Blumhofer
Boston Lyric Opera’s Norma: Free on Demand, beginning March 29 at 3 p.m.
The BLO’s Norma, starring Elena Stikhina in the title role and conducted by Music Director David Angus, will be available for Free On Demand audio streaming on the websites blo.org/norma and classicalwcrb.com and accessible for the next month.
Performances were shuttered before the production’s March 13th opening, due to the coronavirus pandemic. So the BLO will be sharing more behind-the-scenes looks at the production all week. Stop by the BLO website to prepare for the audio stream with their newly published: Norma Program Book, Norma Study Guide, and Blog posts, including an interview with Stikhina.
— Bill Marx