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HERE BE DRAGONS

A rare opportunity to hear a couple of great acts that hit above their weight – when they hit at all. Cerebral smoothie Bilal’s Salvador Dali-inspired A Love Surreal mixed art and angst and was one of last year’s better underheard r&b albums. Distracted by their own art and acting side projects, Brooklyn ADD rockers D.O.Z. are playing their first local show in three years.

Thu., Dec. 11, 8 p.m., 2014

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PLAYING THE ODDS

With Global Welcome Ambassador Taylor Swift high above, looking down on us from one of two Tribeca lofts, it’s easy to lose faith in the New York music scene, or any residual edginess lingering therein. But the Brooklyn Rock Lottery is here to prove, once again, that this city is still home to the real deal, creatively speaking. Today, members of 25 hand-picked bands including the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Au Revoir Simone, Crocodiles, Parquet Courts, and St. Lucia will take the challenge. They’ll be divvied up, via a random lottery, into five groups, given 12 hours to write and rehearse five new songs (limited to one cover), and will perform their handiwork for you, the live audience, later tonight. Come hear your local acts test their chops after a hard day’s work — all proceeds go toward the Harmony Program, which provides after-school music education to NYC’s underserved communities.

Sat., Dec. 6, 9 p.m., 2014

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HUSTLE AND BUST

Ever wish you could step inside Etsy? Walk around, handle the wares, browse to some good music, and sample the homemade treats? Well, then…it’s BUST or bust this holiday season. The BUST Magazine Holiday Craftacular offers pretty much that concept to Greenpoint’s brand-new Brooklyn Expo Center. Over 200 vendors will peddle their crafts — from vintage fashion to baked goods and brews. Throughout the day there will be live music and make-and-take art demonstrations for those adults who still strictly adhere to a DIY gifting approach. Stop by the wrapping booths and card-making stations to polish off your presents. Highlight: This year’s event includes a cat café, where you can chill out with a hot beverage and some furry friends if the holiday stress gets to be too much. And if you happen to fall head over heels, they’re adoptable.

Sat., Dec. 6, 11 a.m.; Sun., Dec. 7, 11 a.m., 2014

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The Best Bands to See in NYC This Season are Actually From New York

Living in New York City means being able to see musicians from all over the world perform throughout the year: jazz pianists from Japan (Eri Yamamoto every Thursday through Saturday at Arthur’s Tavern), flamenco guitarists from Spain (Reynaldo Rincon every Thursday and Saturday at Nai Tapas), mariachi singers from Mexico (the subway), accordion players from Europe (subway again), dudes drumming on buckets (subway). Conversely, musicians from the five boroughs are constantly out on the road, bringing New York hip-hop, New York punk, and New York soul to the endless sea of venues that stretches across America and beyond.

But there is still something to be said for catching a New York City band live in New York — amid the clatter of subways and the stale smell of piss and trash that, in one way or another, informs all the art that is made here. The holidays are about coming home, about being around those who know you best, and the same, one might argue, goes for music.

Run the Jewels, the latest project from Brooklyn rapper/producer El-P and Atlanta MC Killer Mike, comes to Stage 48 in Hell’s Kitchen on November 29 and 30 before heading off to Europe. The duo have been making waves in recent weeks with Run the Jewels 2, a gritty, abrasive testament to today’s underground that is their second eponymous album on Brooklyn’s Fool’s Gold Records. Harlem trio Ratking and Queens rapper Despot — two of the more interesting hip-hop acts in New York City (or anywhere else, for that matter) — open.

On December 16, Chelsea Reject, an explosive Brooklyn-based female rapper whose style harks back to ’90s trailblazers like the Pharcyde, opens for Reflection Eternal (Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek) at the Music Hall of Williamsburg. And on December 9, fresh from rap superstardom and, most likely, Thanksgiving dinner at the Kardashians’, the Bronx’s French Montana hits the Best Buy Theater in midtown.

If French’s classically raunchy hits like “Pop That” and “Freaks” aren’t quite the holiday ambience you’re looking for, the Daptone Super Soul Review dishes out three nights of smooth funk, soul, and gospel at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, December 4–6. It’s the first time the Brooklyn-based label has brought its Soul Review to the city, and headliners include New York natives Charles Bradley, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, and Afrobeat band Antibalas. Bradley, a relative newcomer to the music industry at age 66, is riding the success of his very excellent sophomore album, Victim of Love; before striking out on his own, he used to perform regularly in Brooklyn as a James Brown impersonator.

Siblings Rufus and Martha Wainwright will revive their holiday show, Noël Nights, December 17 and 18 at Town Hall in Manhattan after three years away from New York City. The concert follows in the tradition of their late mother Kate McGarrigle’s famous Christmas shows, and will feature a slew of yuletide appearances from the likes of Emmylou Harris, Cyndi Lauper, Renée Fleming, and, of course, a whole bunch of Wainwrights.

The punks, too, will be back home this holiday season. Marky Ramone is hosting a release party for his new autobiography, Punk Rock Blitzkrieg: My Life as a Ramone, and performing with Village Voice advice columnist, professional partier, and all-around rock Renaissance man Andrew W.K. at the Gramercy Theatre on January 17.

Brooklyn indie quartet Yellow Ostrich will play their final show as a band at Glasslands Gallery in Williamsburg on December 8, just weeks before the DIY venue and arts space shuts its doors forever on New Year’s Day. That same night, Landlady, an art-rock band based in Brooklyn that has garnered high praise from the likes of Pitchfork and the New York Times, brings its spasmodic blend of melodic rock and avant-garde arrangements to Mercury Lounge on the Lower East Side.

On December 21, the Front Bottoms, one of the bands leading the so-called “emo revival,” partner with BrooklynVegan to host the Champagne Jam, a three-floor holiday party at Manhattan’s Webster Hall. The festivities will also feature Brooklyn’s Kevin Devine & the Goddamn Band, the Hold Steady’s Craig Finn, punk band the So So Glos, and more. And on December 30, Chumped, a self-described “bummer punk” band from Brooklyn, cap off 2014 at the Acheron in East Williamsburg.

While perhaps more artists call New York City home than any other place on earth, the good ones spend most of the year on the road, spreading the gospel to the masses. Between recording sessions and long, exhausting tours out west, a show in Manhattan or an impromptu gig in Brooklyn becomes as rare as a trip back home to see your parents. Let’s all try to make the most of the time we have together.

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Nineteen Ways to Spend the Holidays in New York City

Artists & Fleas
Holiday Edition Market

Weekends through the end of the year

Artists & Fleas’ emporium of eclectic designer and vintage goodies is a year-round staple in Williamsburg and Chelsea Market. But this year, A&F’s Williamsburg location is going supersized for the holidays: It’s taken over the 2,500-square-foot warehouse next door, and on weekends through the end of the year it will be packed with a whopping 100 vendors. Pick up White Magic Energy Spray from apothecary Species by the Thousands for Mom, or NYC-themed 3-D wall art from PJ Cobbs Arts for your co-worker who (shudder) moved to the ‘burbs last spring. As you browse, enjoy DJ sets from students at Dubspot or acoustic tunes from local bands throughout December. Artists & Fleas, 70 North 7th Street, Brooklyn, artistsandfleas.com

American Museum of Natural History’s Origami Holiday Tree
November 24–January 11

You won’t find boring old twinkle lights or red and green balls on the American Museum of Natural History’s holiday tree, a stunning 13-foot display decorated with more than 500 hand-folded paper models created by origami artists from around the world. The nonprofit OrigamiUSA combs the museum each spring in search of inspiration for the year’s theme, referencing four decades’ worth of origami archives to determine which new models are necessary for the coming year. The result is a gorgeous history-filled tree topped by a star mobile made up of more than 30 origami pieces. After you gawk at the intricate décor, try making your own origami under the tutelage of an OrigamiUSA volunteer. American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th Street, amnh.org

The Annual Post-Thanksgiving Multi-Ethnic Eating Tour
November 28

After stuffing yourself with stuffing on Thanksgiving, wake up the next morning and keep the gluttony going. Tour company Big Onion’s Post-Thanksgiving Multi-
Ethnic Eating Tour is a 20-plus-year tradition where intrepid eaters learn about the Jewish Lower East Side, Little Italy, and Chinatown while sampling different snack items. Big Onion stresses that the $25 tour of markets and shops shouldn’t be considered a real meal, but on November 28 more walking and less food is likely a good thing. Meet at Delancey and Essex streets, bigonion.com

Dyker Heights Christmas Lights
Peak season November 28–December 31

Skip Rockefeller Center and head to this tight-knit Brooklyn community, where homeowners drape scores of twinkly lights over blocks and blocks of neon Nativities and twirling Santas for visitors to wander through. Yes, it’s campy, and yes, some residents shell out loads of cash for professional decorators in a bid to outdo one another. But the result is a sometimes-beautiful-sometimes-tacky wonderland that’s been a Dyker Heights tradition for decades. As traditional as an inflated Santa on a motorcycle can be, anyway. Dyker Heights, Brooklyn

Arlo Guthrie & The Guthrie Family Annual Thanksgiving Concert
November 29

Sharing family stories over the Thanksgiving table can be delightful or disastrous, depending on what your family is like. After a day’s recovery from Aunt Lou overload, swing by Carnegie Hall for an evening of stories and songs from three generations of Guthries. Singer-songwriter Arlo — the son of Woody — is known for his comical digressions in between classics like “Alice’s Restaurant,” and he’s joined here by his musical children and grandkids. After more than 40 years, the family soiree has become a Carnegie Hall tradition. Tickets range from just $12.50 for balcony seats to $70 for parquet. Carnegie Hall, 57th Street and Seventh Avenue, carnegiehall.org

The Moth StorySLAM
December 1, 11, 18, 22, 29

Year’s end is a season ripe for reminiscing. Why not do it in front of a bunch of strangers? Soho-based storytelling group The Moth holds weekly StorySLAM sessions that invite audience members to perform a five-minute story based on a previously provided topic. Intrepid storytellers can toss their names into a hat at the event in hopes of being one of the lucky 10 selected, offer to serve as a judge, or simply enjoy a night of unique and varied tales. December’s holiday-appropriate themes include Bouncing Back, Saved, and Rewards, and advance tickets go for $16 each. They’re only $8 at the door — but you could end up waiting in the wintry weather for a while. Venue changes weekly; check schedules at themoth.org

Bar Car Nights at the New York Botanical Garden’s Holiday Train Show

December 5–6, 19–20; January 2–3, 9–10

Up in the Bronx, kids and adults alike can enjoy the New York Botanical Garden’s model train show — in which locomotives weave through a miniature New York City built from bark and twigs — from mid November onward. But the fun for the big kids comes during special Bar Car Nights, when the garden transforms into a scene full of seasonal and romantic outdoor events. Sip on a cocktail or hot chocolate while wandering through “station stops” (get it?) including expert ice-carving demonstrations, a literally fiery performance from Cirque de Light, and an intimate jazz session in the toasty Pine Tree Café. The $35 tickets also include a visit to the Holiday Train Show, which covers a quarter-mile of track. New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, nybg.org

Queens Botanical Garden Winter Solstice Celebration & Tree Lighting
December 7

The Queens Botanical Garden’s annual solstice bash is a one-stop shop for family fun, and better yet, admission is free. Kids will enjoy sweet treats and photos with Santa, while parents can opt to stroll the garden and peruse the wares at a holiday marketplace. Botanical crafts are available for an additional fee. After a full day of shopping and crafting amid live musical performances, the event comes to a close with a tree-lighting ceremony and sing-along. What could be Christmasier? Queens Botanical Garden, 43-50 Main Street, Queens, queensbotanical.org

Chase Away the Winter Blues
December 7, January 4, February 1, March 1

Calling all humbugs and heat misers: Stop sulking under a quilt on the couch all winter and enjoy the great outdoors with a seasonal walk through the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Licensed psychotherapist and longtime BBG guide Lynne Spevack will guide you through this hour-long narrated walk across the grounds, which are picturesque even in winter. The walking series is specifically “designed to relieve the winter doldrums,” so throw on a scarf, lace those sneakers, and feel the winter sun on your face. Tours are free for BBG members or with $10 adult park admission, and private walks may be arranged for a fee. Meet at Magnolia Plaza, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, bbg.org

It’s a Wonderful Life at IFC
Opens December 12

Yes, you’ve already sobbed over It’s a Wonderful Life two dozen times on cable, but it remains pure magic on the silver screen. Hark back to the holidays of yore at the IFC Center, which continues its tradition of showing Frank Capra’s 1946 holiday classic-to-beat-all-classics nearly seven decades after the film’s premiere. In addition to enjoying Jimmy Stewart’s megawatt cinematic grin, you might catch a flesh-and-blood Mary Owen (daughter of star Donna Reed), who typically drops in for a quick pre-show chat at a showing or two. Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan! IFC Center, 323 Avenue of the Americas, ifccenter.com

Unsilent Night
December 13

Why Christmas-carol when you can sound-sculpt? New-music composer Phil Kline will mark his 22nd year leading a massive chorus of boomboxes from the arch in Washington Square Park to Tompkins Square Park. Participants of all ages bring their own portable speakers, laptops, and megaphones and receive one of four tracks of music Kline composed in the form of a download, cassette, MP3, or CD. On cue, everyone presses play, with the resulting joyful cacophony meant to create a “unique mobile sound sculpture which is different from every listener’s perspective” — and quite a holiday sight for tourists. Washington Square Park, Fifth Avenue and Waverly Place, unsilentnight.com

Grace-ful Ice: Microcosmos
December 15–16

The ice sculptures at your cousin’s wedding may have been tacky, but in the hands of skilled craftspeople, the transformation of simple blocks of frozen water can be transcendent. The Long Island City–based artist collective Okamoto Studio creates stunning lifelike sculptures from regular old ice, and they hold an annual two-day live carving event at Grace Plaza in midtown Manhattan, where onlookers can watch transfixed as the master artisans coax intricate insects and other tiny creatures from crystal-clear blocks. Perhaps the best part of this winter-wonderland experience: It’s free. 1114 Avenue of the Americas, artsbrookfield.com

Lighting of the World’s Largest Hanukkah Menorah
December 16–23

New York may be packed with Christmas trees and Santa Clauses during the holidays, but the city does Hanukkah in a big way too. The Big Apple boasts the world’s largest menorah: a 4,000-pound, 32-foot-high gleaming gold structure that stands at Manhattan’s Grand Army Plaza. Designed by artist Yaacov Agam in 1977, this majestic menorah is modeled after the original in Jerusalem’s Holy Temple. The candles will be lit each holiday night at 5:30 p.m., except for the Sabbath, when lighting takes place at 3:30 p.m. Friday and 8:30 p.m. Saturday. Celebrations include live music, dancing, Hanukkah gelt, and, of course, piping-hot latkes. Grand Army Plaza, Fifth Avenue and 59th Street, Manhattan

A Charlie Brown Christmas 50th Anniversary Celebration With Live Music
December 20–21

The jazzy classics from the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas just might be the only Christmas songs that never get old. The short film starring Charlie, Linus, Snoopy, and the gang turns 50 this year, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art is celebrating with a special screening and live musical performance. Tickets start at $40 and include museum admission for the day of the show. The Rob Schwimmer Trio and the Church of Heavenly Rest Children’s Choir will perform their interpretation of the score as the Peanuts kids discover the true meaning of Christmas onscreen. Hang around afterward for a holiday sing-along (and be sure to throw your head way back as you sing). Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue, metmuseum.org

The Hanukkah Concert: Featuring Gerard Edery and His Virtuoso Musicians
December 21

You could choose to spend an evening swinging by a folk concert, watching a menorah lighting, and attending a contemporary reading. Or you could hit all three in one event: the Center for Jewish History’s Hanukkah Concert. A special guest will kick off the night “with a story from the pen of a great Jewish writer.” Then master singer and guitarist Gerard Edery will lead virtuoso musicians in playing a wide range of ethnic folk styles from Europe, the Middle East, South America, and ancient Persia. Tickets are just $18 for the concert, which includes a menorah lighting and refreshments. Center for Jewish History, 15 West 16th Street, cjh.org

Good Riddance Day
December 28

For those who can’t wait for 2014 to slither back whence it came, it could be worth battling creepy Elmos in Times Square for the Times Square Alliance’s eighth annual Good Riddance Day. Bitter New Yorkers scribble down breakup stories, job regrets, and other tales of woe from 2014, and toss them into a huge shredder ahead of the new year. It’s inspired by a Latin American New Year’s tradition in which partiers stuff dolls with objects representing bad memories and set them on fire. There’s no conflagration at the Times Square version, but the ssssszzzzzcht of the shredder is satisfying enough to wipe the slate clean for 2015. Times Square, timessquarenyc.org

New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace
December 31

You’ll have plenty of time on New Year’s Eve to wait hours for a drink at the bar for which you bought a $300 ticket. First, why not start the night in calmer surroundings at the 30th annual Concert for Peace at St. John the Divine in Morningside Heights? Founded by Leonard Bernstein in 1984, the concert features both classical and contemporary music in a candlelit cathedral. The church offers a limited number of free general-admission seats, and ticketed seating starts at $30. The two-hour concert ends at 9 p.m., leaving plenty of time for post-show debauchery. The Cathedral of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Avenue, stjohndivine.org

Brooklyn Bowl New Year’s Eve With Deer Tick
December 31

Say farewell to 2014 by knocking out bowling pins and knocking back a few brews at Brooklyn Bowl’s New Year’s Eve bash. In between the sounds of glorious strikes, enjoy a set from influential Rhode Island alt-rock band Deer Tick, who are celebrating their 10th year. New Year’s Eve marks the final installment of Deer Tick’s six-night residency at Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg, during which the band will perform their favorite acts’ full albums (plus a few originals). NYE is extra-special, as Deer Tick will perform a totally fan-chosen set. Tickets run $40–$50 for the Deer Tick performance. For lane packages, contact events@brooklynbowl.com. Brooklyn Bowl, 61 Wythe Avenue, Brooklyn, brooklynbowl.com

Coney Island Polar Bear Club Annual New Year’s Day Swim
January 1

Start 2015 off right by raising money for a good cause and shocking your system out of a hangover on the Coney Island Polar Bear Club’s annual swim, where hundreds of revelers plunge into the frigid Atlantic to greet the new year. Bring warm clothes, costumes, or whatever else may keep you from getting hypothermia after the plunge, which raises money for the Camp Sunshine recreational program for kids with multiple disabilities. Early registrants who donate $20 or more will be entered into the earliest wave, and plungers who raise $100 or more will score a T-shirt. Shy observers are encouraged to make a donation to Camp Sunshine, but there’s no formal fee to watch those crazy diamonds shine on. Boardwalk at Stillwell Avenue, Brooklyn, polarbearclub.org

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RIDING OUT THE HOLIDAYS

There are a lot of things to like about this bike ride: Turkey Day costumes are encouraged, their turkey mascot has a name (Tom Pedro), there’s a midway stop at a diner for pancakes and eggs, and if you really feel you have to see the Bears-Lions game at 12:30, you will be home in time. Sponsored by BikeNYC, the NYC Pilgrim Pedal starts and ends at 23rd Street and the East River, then winds its way through Brooklyn and Queens for a 10- to 12-mile ride. Kids are welcome if they are helmeted and accompanied by a helmeted parent/guardian. Registration includes breakfast — a great deal, and perhaps one of the last outdoor events before winter sets in.

Thu., Nov. 27, 8 a.m., 2014

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BRIDGING THE GAP

If you don’t often drive between Brooklyn and Staten Island, your recollection of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge may stem from the starting point of the New York Marathon or from its role in The Avengers, when Iron Man flies over and under it while intercepting a nuclear missile. But for many who remember the tremendous building project that changed the face of New York City and resulted in the longest suspension bridge in the world at the time, the 50th Anniversary of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge is cause for both reflection and celebration. One of these people is author Gay Talese, who observed and wrote about many aspects of the bridge project, from the politics to the workers who actually built it, including three men who died on the job. His 1964 book, The Bridge, bestowed a legacy of the many ways a man-made structure can change our lives. Join Talese and New York Times columnist Clyde Haberman to commemorate the bridge’s 50th birthday tonight.

Thu., Nov. 20, 6:30 p.m., 2014

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BREAKING FREE

Nearly every Monday night for six years, Barbès house band Chicha Libre smushed together surf guitar, acid accordion, and Afro-Caribbean rhythms into some of the city’s most intelligently entrancing live dance music. After two wonderful albums and the satisfaction of having almost single-handedly revived the Peruvian cumbia variation known as “chicha” from ghetto obscurity, the sextet founded by club owners Olivier Conan and Vincent Douglas are hanging up their collective güiro for the foreseeable future (one percussionist moved to India, the accordionist to Virginia). The band’s going out with a bang, however, and tonight’s “last cumbion,” in one of Brooklyn’s best new performance spaces, will feature sets by Los Crema Paraiso and Sonido Chichadelico in addition to Chicha Libre’s suavecito swan song.

Fri., Nov. 21, 7 p.m., 2014

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The Brief John’s of 12th Street Provides a Warm Sketch of the East Village Restaurant

Vanessa McDonnell’s John’s of 12th Street, a warm, affectionate sketch of the eponymous East Village restaurant, is the kind of insistently low-key documentary in which a mild argument between co-owner Nick Sitnycky and a handyman over where to get a stopper for the front door constitutes a relatively heated moment.

A mere hour long, the movie could stand to be more discerning with its material: Where some of the staff’s spontaneous asides are engaging (one terrific scene has two off-screen cooks conversing in Spanish about charter schools, the camera fixed on their busy hands), others (like one patron’s Madonna story) are arguably long-winded to a fault.

Nevertheless, McDonnell’s commitment to capturing the day-to-day routine — the opening shot is of a clock and a calendar — is mostly contagious. (This is McDonnell’s first feature doc; she’s also a programmer at Williamsburg’s cozy Spectacle and a contributing editor at Screen Slate, that invaluable website that catalogs daily repertory screenings.) The dialed-down stakes allow for involving process-oriented beats (rolling meatballs, slicing chicken, filling salt containers) as well as for offhand conversation typical of any collaborative workplace.

A 106-year-old Italian-American restaurant, John’s is almost obligatorily depicted as representative of a bygone era. (The press notes discouragingly describe “intermittent talk of a sale of the restaurant.”) Adding to this feeling of poignancy is the fact that the second owner — Mike Alpert (a/k/a Myron Weiner) — passed away in 2013 after filming was complete. But the movie gives Alpert at least one scene that encapsulates the enduring appeal of a neighborhood institution like John’s: From across the restaurant, the camera watches him as he chats up a dining couple (“When were you here last?”), introduces himself, and ultimately sits down to join them for an extended conversation.

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A LITTLE ITALY

Vanessa McDonnell’s John’s of 12th Street, a warm, affectionate sketch of the eponymous East Village restaurant, is the kind of insistently low-key documentary in which a mild argument between co-owner Nick Sitnycky and a handyman over where to get a stopper for the front door constitutes a relatively heated moment. A mere hour long, the movie could stand to be more discerning with its material: Where some of the staff’s spontaneous asides are engaging (one terrific scene has two off-screen cooks conversing in Spanish about charter schools, the camera fixed on their busy hands), others (like one patron’s Madonna story) are arguably long-winded to a fault.

Nevertheless, McDonnell’s commitment to capturing the day-to-day routine — the opening shot is of a clock and a calendar — is mostly contagious. (This is McDonnell’s first feature doc; she’s also a programmer at Williamsburg’s cozy Spectacle and a contributing editor at Screen Slate, that invaluable website that catalogs daily repertory screenings.) The dialed-down stakes allow for involving process-oriented beats (rolling meatballs, slicing chicken, filling salt containers) as well as for offhand conversation typical of any collaborative workplace.

Sun., Nov. 16, 10 p.m., 2014