The Best Things to Do (While Staying Home and Staying Safe) in Portland: May 11-14 2020

May 11, 2020

We made it another week, everybody. Yes, a week in which the word "re-open" just keeps getting put out there, upping the anxiety and making it just that much harder to focus on holding on, being strong, knowing when to stay plugged in, and also when to disconnect for a second. There's a lot of ways to practice self-care while sheltering in place, and sometimes that means letting go and losing yourself in a classic video game or a binge-watch of something smooth-brained; catching that one movie you've been meaning to catch, or getting carried away with a compelling podcast or audiobook. There's a lot of different ways to give yourself a bit of a break below—hit the links and let yourself let go a little.

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Monday, May 11

Movie Madness University ONLINE
One of the most feel-good film stories of the last 10 years didn't happen on a movie screen, but behind one—when the Hollywood Theatre successfully took over Movie Madness, the local video rental store that's more like a movie museum, a hallowed hall of learning for anyone seeking to up their cinephile status. Just before COVID shut everything down, Movie Madness had launched "Movie Madness University," a series of at-home screenings, lectures and discussions, all hosted by film experts. But with some behind-the-scenes adjustments made, the program is not only back, but more accessible and affordable! The courses begin later in May, but the program was announced today, and slots will likely fill up fast, so secure your seat and help support a pair of Portland institutions.

Trial By Media
Netflix takes a break from offering up that smooth-brained binge material to premiere this six-part true-crime docuseries (!) today, from producer George Clooney. Trial by Media investigates the way the court of law became one of America's most reliably entertaining reality shows. If that sounds somewhat dark, that's because it is, and the miniseries takes care to spotlight six different high-profile trials (including a wrongful death suit against The Jenny Jones Show and Rod Blagojevich's crimes against democracy—which he just got pardoned for by our idiot president, btw), and the way the coverage of those trials shifted perceptions and expectations of notions as basic as "justice" and "criminality." And, of course, "entertainment."

Antony & Cleopatra
National Theatre Home continues its stellar stay-at-home programming with another pair of powerhouse performances after last week's showing of Danny Boyle's Frankenstein (starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller). This week, the one-two punch of onstage brilliance comes in the form of Sophie Okonedo and Ralph Fiennes bringing Shakespeare's Antony & Cleopatra to life under the direction of Simon Godwin. If you're feeling like diving into the deep end a little, don't sweat that: National Theatre's YouTube doesn't just provide the play in full (with an intermission! Fancy!) but provides a lot of background material to poke through to help you feel up-to-speed before you hit play.

Tiny Desk Concert: The Free Nationals feat. Anderson .Paak
Whoa, whoa whoa whoa. Wait a minute: NPR was just sitting on a whole-ass sequel to their most-watched, most-loved installment of their Tiny Desk Concert series? And they were sitting on it for almost two months? Those well-read, well-educated, heavily-cultured little bastards! Anderson .Paak returned to the Tiny Desk studios with the Free Nationals in early March, just before COVID-19 started shutting everything down, and put on another show that will very likely hang around every YouTube recommendation for the next five years like the first one did. Go ahead and get the first of what's probably gonna be a couple hundred loops of this thing out of the way today.

Erykah Badu vs. Jill Scott
Hey, speaking of getting a late pass: Did you only just recently find out that there was a "battle" between these two queens of neo-soul? The Verzuz series on Instagram Live has been an island of delight in the constantly churning waters of the coronavirus crisis, and this last Saturday night saw Jill Scott and Erykah Badu trade both hits and stories back and forth for a couple hours. If you want a recap of those highlights, The Root has you covered right here, but if you want to provide your day a soundtrack sure to keep you lifted, just click play on their combined playlists below.

Tuesday, May 12

The Salon of Shame
The "Salon of Shame" is a Seattle institution, and one not about to be cut short by coronavirus. Indeed, the cheerful exploitation of our younger selves' awkward adventures in adolescence translate just fine online, and so: "Shame Across America," (streaming at 6pm, $17) an online compilation of the finest cringe comedy a collective childhood can cough up, with proceeds benefitting arts, service, and healthcare workers nationwide. Come for the laughs, stay for the catharsis, and lend a hand if you can.

The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. The Reverend
Here's a chance to enjoy some Bandersnatch-esque streaming entertainment without having to submit to the soul-crushing bleakness of a Black Mirror watch! The choose-your-own-adventure Netflix experience is back again, but this time applied to the sunshiny sitcom fun of Kimmy Schmidt. The story: Kimmy just wants to marry Frederick (Daniel Radcliffe), but she's distracted by the newly-unearthed possibility that Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (Jon Hamm) has another bunker of trapped women somewhere. Oh, also, you have to prevent Titus (Tituss Burgess) from getting fired from an action movie.

The Happy Days of Garry Marshall
From the future of sitcom silliness on Netflix, over to the history of sitcom greatness on Hulu/ABC: The Happy Days of Garry Marshall is a heartfelt tribute to one of the most successful TV producers of all time, and probably the only other person as influential on the form in its most potent days as Norman Lear. Decades before Marvel Studios introduced the idea of a "cinematic universe," Marshall had already perfected the model on TV with Happy Days, a humble little ripoff of American Graffiti (using its star Ron Howard, no less) that begat something like 400 different spinoffs over the course of 10 years, including Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy. The special (airing at 8pm on ABC, appearing on Hulu shortly thereafter) won't just focus on the time he spent changing the face of television, but will also look at the run of successful romantic comedies he produced and directed, including Pretty Woman, The Princess Diaries, and Beaches.

Do Good Drawrings!
Design Museum has done what many museums are doing during lockdown: heading straight online and providing a bunch of streamed events to people looking to feed their brain that good good brainfood. If you're a Design Museum member, their Design Museum Live events are free, but even if you're not a member, $10 covers the cost of a lot of these experiences, like the latest in their "Sketch Series" (9 am, $10 for non-members) teaching you how to make good drawings even good-er (hence the title of this listing!) Patrick Cunningham of Boston's Perkins and Will office will spend an hour and teaching you very valuable sketching skills as he walks viewers through his own process of designing sustainable architecture. As Design Museum puts it themselves: "you're stuck at home, why not learn to draw from the experts?" Why not indeed?

Baba is You
I know it seems almost impossible to tear yourself away from Animal Crossing, but maybe you never picked up the game in the first place—or maybe you did, but now you've found yourself getting burnt out on scamming fellow villagers and turning the relaxing idyll that was your island into the nonstop capitalist churn that is your island. So why not try a good brain-wrinkling puzzle game for a while? Like, say Baba is You, a title locked-in somewhere on every 2019 Game of the Year list from every game-related outlet in the world. It's hard to explain how Baba is You works, because part of each puzzle you solve involves you having to rewrite the rules of the puzzle as you're solving it, in a way that almost tricks you into speaking some heretofore unknown puzzle language you didn't know you could translate until Baba showed you. It's only $15 on Switch and Steam, which is a small price to pay to unlock the inner genius within.

Katana Zero Soundtrack
Maybe you don't have the mental capacity to puzzle through a game right now. Hey, that's okay. showed you can love video games without ever having to actually play one, and soundtracks like the one for the action platformer Katana Zero are so good you don't even need to look at the game to enjoy it (although Katana Zero is damn good so consider this a recommendation to grab that game for the Switch or Steam too, $15.99). Featuring electronic artists from the WIC Recordings roster, this 33-track monster is drenched in neon grooves and sawtooth waves so jagged it could saw the top off a rain-slicked IROC-Z28.

Wednesday, May 13

The Stranger's Silent Reading Party
Every Wednesday at 6 pm we're going to throw these parties, at least until stay-at-home is over. Attendees at the first Zoom silent-reading party included famous actors, writers, composers, artists, families, teenagers doing their homework, people staring into space listening to the music because it was just so beautiful, cats, and even one household on Orcas Island that was eating dinner and decided to broadcast the reading party as their background music. (What a brilliant idea!) It wasn't just a great party to be at. Behind the scenes, this was a roaring success as well. Our musician Paul Matthew Moore made ten times more on Venmo tips than he's ever made in the tip jar at the Sorrento (thank you for your generosity—he deserves it!), and hundreds of people at the party have written us emails, clamoring for more. CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE

Geek Love
Looking for something to read during the abovementioned party? This one's a gimme, since if you're true to type as a slightly alienated liberal currently residing in Portland, odds are good that Katherine Dunn's Geek Love (ebook avail at MultCo Library w/ card, physical copies at Powell's, $16.99) is already one of your favorite books. Dunn went to Reed College, and her account of a traveling family of circus freaks is one of the most beloved books ever written by a Portland author. ALISON HALLETT

Spaceship Earth
The Northwest Film Center and Portland Art Museum present this special week-long virtual screening of Matt Wolf's documentary Spaceship Earth, about the 1991 science experiment where eight people voluntarily quarantined themselves from the rest of the world inside BIOSPHERE 2, a self-engineered replica of the Earth's ecosystem. Proceeds from each ticket sold benefit both the Northwest Film Center and Portland Art Museum.

Tank Girl
In 1995, Rachel Talalay directed an adaptation of the cult comic Tank Girl, starring Lori Petty and Naomi Watts. Nobody in the film industry had carved out a space for something like Tank Girl to exist within, so when Talalay and Petty made that space, a lot of people (men) sneered at its loud, scattered, ridiculous indulgence and dismissed it. And it is those things! Most comic book adaptations are! But instead of starring roided-up hulkmen bleeding asinine catchphrases, Tank Girl centers on an irreverent feminist anti-hero who gives not one solitary fuck about protecting for any dude's limited conception of what "comic book" movies can be. Tank Girl, even in its compromised, misunderstood form, is still something of a minor miracle of the genre. It shouldn't exist. But there she is. Now streaming on Hulu, straddling a tank turret, laughing, and flying double birds at you from 1995.

Petals for Armor
It was never easy being an emo-punk vocalist in an almost all-male Active Rock world, and Hayley Williams became almost as well known for her vocals and her sharp, spiky songwriting in Paramore as she was known for her band's constant infighting and imploding, much of it (very unfairly) laid at her feet. Moving through adulthood at the center of like 30 different ridiculous rock 'n' roll controversies is bound to put you in an interesting headspace, and Williams' first ever solo album—really, a trilogy of EPs—is pretty much a big fat pop-music exhalation of pent-up frustration, fire, and maybe most surprisingly, kindness. There's an undercurrent of empathy in all of Petals for Armor's songs, and it shines clearly whether Hayley's compositions are roaring with guitars, or sliding around much smoother grooves.

Thursday, May 14

Harry Potter Reads Harry Potter to You
Now this is comfy-couch quarantine content done right: Spotify, the once spunky music-streaming upstart that is now a media juggernaut and podcast empire all-in-one, is using its power for good with Harry Potter at Home, a star-studded read-along of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. Those stars include Harry himself, Daniel Radcliffe, as well as Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), Hermione Granger (Noma Dumezweni), David Beckham (Mr. Sporty Spice), Dakota Fanning (what the hell, that's a Twilight star!) and many more, with special guests sure to pop up before the last chapter of Harry's first Hogwarts adventure is done.

Beyond Now: A Virtual Fundraiser for PICA
PICA is an absolute good for this community, and for anyone who values art in all its forms, and wants to make sure they're supporting creative acts and local arts. With over 30 artists sharing new performance, video, and visual works, as well as conversations with creators, dance parties, and more, this three-day fundraiser features contributions from Ahamefule J. Oluo, Allie Hankins, Ilana Harris Babou, Francesca Capone, Morgan Ritter, Libby Werbel, Eiko Otaka, Miranda July, Linda Austin, and many, many more. It all starts today, and culminates in a special livestream on Saturday. Pay the stream a visit, and if you can, literally pay the stream to help keep the arts alive in Portland.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show
Earlier this week we talked about the impact on television made by writer/producers Garry Marshall and Norman Lear, but they weren't at all the only giants in the '70s making consistently groundbreaking TV. The Mary Tyler Moore Show (Now streaming, Hulu) premiered in 1970 with a pilot script from writer/producer James L. Brooks, whose name you might recognize from other successes such as Taxi and an animated program called The Simpsons. Of course, Brooks had a headstart like almost nobody else in television, because his star was one of the best and most beloved actors the medium ever saw. The Mary Tyler Moore Show was the sitcom equivalent of Phil Jackson getting to coach Michael Jordan. And while classic TV makes for great binge-watching in ways both completely intentional (but often very much not), The Mary Tyler Moore Show is a great lockdown go-to because Mary's work, Brooks' writing, and the chops of the ensemble cast that filled in around her (Ed Asner! Ted Knight! Betty White!) wasn't just top-notch for the time, it's still ahead of the game even now.

Pickathon Presents: Built to Spill
Hopefully you've been checking in daily with Pickathon's response to COVID-19 trying to squash everyone's outdoor festival fun, and enjoying the gems from their vault on a regular basis. Today's gem (premiering at 1 pm on YouTube) is one of those uncut kind—a 2018 performance from the Woods stage by Northwest indie-rock heroes Built to Spill. Are they the best thing to ever come out of Boise, ID? After watching this set, you can make one hell of a case for that statement being irrevocably true.

The Eddy
The latest burst of jazz-flavored drama from Oscar-winning writer/director Damian Chazelle (La La Land, Whiplash) isn't lighting up a big screen (because that doesn't really happen anymore unless you've got one of those fancy projector setups in your house or whatever), it's on Netflix. Debuting this past Friday, The Eddy seems like it should be a kind-of-chill slice-of-life about a guy (Andre Holland) running a jazz club in Paris and trying to be a good parent to his estranged daughter (Amandla Stendberg). But because it's Chazelle, it's also a crime-drama about an exile from the States just trying to stay relevant musically while ducking shady underworld types coming after him, that plays out its eight-episode run like an actual jazz ensemble giving its players a lot of room to solo.

It Was Good Until it Wasn't
R&B used to be one of the most tried & true genres of music, a place you could go to and just know what kind of soothing, soulful vibes you'd find. But in 2020, R&B is one of the most fluid genres of music around, redefining itself with standout releases by adventurous young artists almost every month. The latest vanguard is Kehlani, who has definitely been around for a minute—she helped the Biebs on his last tour through Portland, in fact, but couldn't get him for a guest spot on It Was Good Until it Wasn't. No disrespect to Justin's increasingly irrelevant hesher-lookin-ass, but Kehlani didn't need him on this one. Especially not when she's got guests spots from Masego, Tory Lanez, Jhene Aiko, Lucky Daye, and James Blake.

Don't forget to check out our Things To Do calendar for even more things to stream while you stay home and stay safe!