Welcome to Artcetera. Arts-and-entertainment writers and critics post movie news, concert updates, people items, video, photos and more. Share your views. Check it daily. Remain in the know. Contributors: Mary Abbe, Jon Bream, Tim Campbell, Colin Covert, Laurie Hertzel, Tom Horgen, Neal Justin, Claude Peck, Rohan Preston, Chris Riemenschneider, Graydon Royce, Randy Salas and Kristin Tillotson.
Holiday decorations at the castle-like American Swedish Institute are always a traditional treat with gaily ornamented trees, sparkling lights and greenery swagging the balustrades and fireplace in the two-story entrance hall. Throughout the mansion, tables are set in styles typical of each of the five Nordic countries -- Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland and Iceland. This year the decorations include traditional and contemporary handicrafts from each nation.
The Swedish dining room, above, features the same table settings as used at the Nobel Dinner, including specially designed linen from Klassbol, crystal from Orrefors, a dinner service designed by Rorstrand and cutlery from Gense. All the firms are Swedish, of course. The alcove at right showcases a traditional holiday costume and a contemporary rug.
The Norwegian display emphasizes rosemaling, a traditional style of flower painting, and acanthus carving, bas relief leaf designs cut into wooden boxes and other containers. Judy Kjenstad, who decorated the exterior of Ingebretsen's Norwegian deli and gift shop on Lake St., did the rosemaling. Norwegian-born Hans Sandom did the acanthus carving.
Danish decorations emphasize Danish Modern designs from the 1930s and '40s including the popular blue Chistmas plates from Bing and Grundal. Iceland's room includes a handicraft display as does the Finnish room where traditional birchbark weaving is contrasted with colorful contemprary fabrics from Marimeko. Local jewelry designer Tia Keoboungphang of Silvercocoon design is showing contemporary earrings, necklaces and other ornaments made of wood, acrylic and felt. Watch for possible architectural influences as her father is famed Minnesota architect David Salmela.
Holiday decorations are on view through Jan. 8. Extended holiday hours: noon - 5 p.m. Sun. - Tues., Thurs, Fri.; noon - 8 p.m. Wednesdays; 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. Sat. Closed Dec. 24, 25 and Jan. 1, 2. Admission $6, adults. American Swedish Institute, 2600 Park Av., Minneapolis. 612-870-3342 or www.americanswedishinst.org)
Looking for a unique Yuletide keepsake? Head over to the Parkway Theater tonight or tomorrow and take part in a filming of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 crew’s newest live shows. Then buy DVD copies for all your friends.
The funniest, most scathing film critics in Twin Cities history will heap burning coals of scorn on the defenseless “War of the Insects” Friday and “Rattlers” Saturday. The ensemble – rechristened Cinematic Titanic -- reunites much of MST3K’s original cast. The pranksters are Joel Hodgson, Trace Beaulieu, J. Elvis Weinstein, Frank Conniff and Mary Jo Pehl. It’s a virtual Manhattan Project of comedic brainpower. Each performance will be filmed for a special 2011 holiday DVD release, so your shout of “Watch out for snakes!” can entertain your loved ones for generations to come.
(MST3K writer/performers Mike Nelson, Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett work separately, offering their wonderfully warped commentaries through Rifftrax, a library of downloadable MP3 audio files, and occasional live presentations.)
Hodgson and his company, unpretentious types that they are, invite the audience to meet up in the adjoining Pepito’s Restaurant bar, so get those autograph books and fawning compliments ready!
A limited number of tickets (general admission $28, reserved $35) are available at www.brownpapertickets.com or at the door. The Parkway Theater is located at 4814 Chicago Avenue South, Minneapolis. Call (612) 822-3030 or visit www.theparkwaytheater.com
Irish writer Roddy Doyle, author of "The Commitments," has written an original short story for this year's St. Patrick's Day festival in Dublin. "Brilliant!" can be downloaded for free from the festival's website (here), and will be used as the theme of Thursday's parade.
This is in recognition of Dublin being named the fourth Unesco City of Literature, with celebrations all year long.
Can't get there yourself? You can read the Doyle story online and then watch the parade on the webcam of Dublin's main newspaper, the Irish Times.
"While he's out taking care of the world, you're the one girl who he kissed goodbye / He's a beautiful man, and he's so far from home / Children dance and sing wherever he goes."
I wouldn't be surprised if Dan Wilson was wearing a red suit when he wrote that. If you didn't know it was a Christmas song, one might easily mistake "Are You Lonely Tonight, Mrs. Claus?" -- newly recorded and posted online in time for (and in the spirit of) the holiday -- as something of an autobiographical composition. Even the drawings that make up a YouTube version of the tune were done by Wilson himself.
Wilson has been living out in Los Angeles in recent months, where he has worked up quite a reputation as a song craftsman after working with such worldly artists as Weezer, Josh Groban and Adele. I'm seriously waiting to hear of a Slayer/DW hook-up any day now. In the meantime, though, it sure sounds like Dan is pining for home. Maybe he didn't hear that our winter wonderland is a snowy abyss this Christmas. Either way, though, this song will help make you glad to be home this weekend.
“It started out with just the three of us … and a dream.”
Reminiscing five years into his band's new-standard-setting role as holiday entertainers, New Standards co-leader John Munson made that comment about a third of the way through his trio’s set Friday night at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul -- when there was about five times the normal amount of musicians on stage. Expanding the event from a one-night affair to two nights and a Sunday matinee, the Standards similarly upsized the show itself. Here’s just a sampling of some of the extracurricular offerings on the extra-snowy opening night:
*Poetry and comedy courtesy author and public-radio fixture Katherine Lanpher, whose best bit was a holiday-angst-filled story about a “small regional carrier” that allegedly lost her luggage five Christmases in a row. Lanpher also popped up in one of the balcony boxes to sing part of “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch.”
*A drum line that marched from the stage into the lobby led by brothers Tim and Pat O’Keefe and their Brazilian-flavored percussion ensemble Batucada do Norte, which set up the intermission. You can probably guess which Christmas standard they also had their hands in (hint: pa rump pum pum), but the surprise came when New Standards co-leader Chan Poling segued that song into “Rattle My Bones,” a favorite by his previous band the Suburbs.
*A theramin solo courtesy Ken Chastain, who also played drums throughout the show. As if the theramin wasn’t, um, shocking enough, he plugged it in during a jazzy take on Cheap Trick’s “I Want You to Want Me.”
*An all-star cast of backup singers on such holiday classics as “Most Wonder Time of the Year” and “Angels We Have Heard on High,” featuring spouses Alison LaBonne and Brian Tighe (the Owls), Janey Winterbauer (Astronaut Wife), David Salmela (Twilight Hours) and Jeremy Messersmith. Winterbauer also took over lead vocals during the encore for a straight-up, don’t-mess-with-a-good-thing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
*A string section and horn/wind ensemble, the latter featuring local vets Stephen Kung, Max Ray and Rochelle Becker as well as Cloud Cult’s Sarah Elhardt and Heiruspecs’ Devon Gray (who, it turns out, also plays bassoon). They especially proved valuable during a melting version of Muson’s Trip Shakespeare nugget “Snow Days.”
*Two songs by Chris Koza, including his recent Rogue Valley ditty “Hummingbird” and a sweet, old kids classic, “Walking in the Air,” which they played underneat footage of the animated feature that bore it, 1982’s “The Snowman.”
*More guest turns by Adam Levy (Honeydogs) and singer/songwriter Ashleigh Still. She showed off a jazzy side while turning “What Child Is This?” into a “Moondance”-like slow-bopper.
*The brightest guest spot was by Matt Wilson, Munson’s bandmate from the Twilight Hours and Trip Shakespeare, who seriously has me thinking about looking up Anne Murray on iTunes after he soared on “Snowbird,” a song she made famous (and yes, Wilson's version was more Anne than Elvis).
*Rupert, the mysterious, PG-13-rated dancing machine who used to always show up at Hopefuls shows, among others. He especially cut loose during the Standards’ standard spin on Britney Spears’ “Toxic.”
Despite all that, the New Standards themselves were still the biggest presence under the tree, with Steve Roehm tearing up the vibraphones during a segment of “Charlie Brown Christmas” music and other instrumentals. Meanwhile, Poling and Munson showed off their year-round rapport. When someone in the crowd yelled out that the sharply dressed Poling “looks presidential,” Munson shot back, “I thought he looks residential.” Munson one-upped his one-upmanship: “I think I look Suburban."
The Current will be airing an edited version of these Standards shows Dec. 24-25. Tickets are still available to Sunday’s matinee, which won’t have the same all-star cast but will feature Adam Levy’s kids act Bunny Clogs as well as The Man in Red.