The Pick List: The Week’s Recommended Events

Wednesday, Dec. 18

Langdon Cook

If you look up The Mushroom Hunters: On the Trail of an Underground America (Ballantine, $26) on Amazon, you’ll see its sales ranking is #1 in the subcategory of Mushrooms (Biological Sciences), #18 in Food Science (Agricultural Sciences), and #20 in Natural Food (Cookbooks). It’s also #6 on Amazon editors’ “2013 Best Books of the Year: Sports and Outdoors” list. It’s the specificity of those categories that explains this book’s success. Previously the author of Fat of the Land: Adventures of a 21st Century Forager, Cook writes equally well about the natural world, the culinary world, and the people at the crossroads of both. As he transitions from recreational fungus picker to commercial harvester, he’s as at home mediating on the otherworldliness of an ancient forest as he is cooking a pan-seared game hen with black truffle gravy or tagging along on an illegal mushroom haul. Here are the stories of nomadic mushroom traffickers—buyers, pickers, sellers—whose members include former loggers, drug dealers, and Southeast Asian immigrants. All are looking to cash in on the $40 million U.S. market that caters to our craze for foraged foods. Besides Cook himself, other Seattleites like Jeremy Faber (of Foraged and Found Edibles), Christina Choi (the former owner of Nettletown who died in 2011), and chef Matt Dillon make appearances in this fascinating, in-depth look at the subculture of foragers and their quest for the elusive, beguiling wild mushroom. University Book Store, 4326 University Way N.E., 634-3400, bookstore.washington.edu. Free. 7 p.m.

Falstaff

There are a few local connections in the cast for the Metropolitan Opera’s Falstaff, its latest movie-theater HD broadcast: Centralia’s own Angela Meade sings the female lead, Alice Ford (remember, in Italian it’s pronounced “ah-LEE-chay”); and Seattle Opera-goers of course recall Stephanie Blythe, the Met’s Dame Quickly, as McCaw Hall’s Fricka, Amneris, Carmen, and more. (She also sang Quickly here in 2010, revealing a sly, shrewd wit that those heavier roles don’t much call for.) Robert Carsen’s production, scenically updated to the ’50s, looks hilarious; Ambrogio Maestri as Falstaff seduces Meade in a kandy-kolored June Cleaver dream kitchen. This production also marks conductor James Levine’s return to the pit after a year off for health reasons. It makes sense he’d choose Verdi’s 1892 comedy for this occasion; nothing could be more spiritually healing than the generous warmth of Falstaff ’s final ensemble. “All the world’s a joke/Man is born a fool” runs the Shakespearian moral that caps the opera and Verdi’s career, an audience-embracing envoi to the world from this most humane of composers. See metopera.org for participating theaters—including Pacific Place, Thornton Place, and others. $24. 6:30 p.m.

Thursday, Dec. 19

Robert Horton

What’s the best movie of the year, according to our esteemed film critic? You’ll read his top-10 list, and mine, in next week’s Holiday Film Guide. But you can get a preview of his preferences tonight, when he’ll lead a year-end panel discussion with fellow film writers including Jim Emerson and Kathleen Murphy. American Hustle, reviewed on page 46, is clearly going to be a favorite. The New York Film Critics Circle has already voted it best film of the year, somewhat surprisingly beating Inside Llewyn Davis (also reviewed on page 46), which is partly the Coen brothers’ tribute to a lost Greenwich Village bohemia of the early ’60s. Down in L.A., the Los Angeles Film Critics Association tied in its vote for Spike Jonze’s Her (reviewed next week) and Gravity; and many think Sandra Bullock has another Oscar shot (after The Blind Side) for her astronaut lost in space. But we critics also need to look back earlier in 2013—remember Before Midnight? Richard Linklater’s third collaboration with Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke will definitely by on my 10-best list, and I think the script is worthy of Oscar consideration, too. Another spring title not to forget: Spring Breakers, so gaudy and audacious, with a performance by James Franco that’s still seared in my head. And I’ll be curious to see what Horton and company think in retrospect about Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, now playing for over four months. I didn’t love the movie, but it’s proven to be another unlikely hit with legs, like his Midnight in Paris, with a performance by Cate Blanchett that’s certain to be nominated. Then there are the late-breaking titles we won’t see before press time but will see just ahead of Horton’s panel: Ben Stiller’s The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street. Both will be discussed tonight. Frye Art Museum, 704 Terry Ave., 622-9250, fryemuseum.org. Free. 7 p.m.

Friday, Dec. 20

Elf

In the surprise 2003 Christmas hit Elf, directed by Jon Favreau, Will Ferrell embraces the cutesy confection of its plot. As Santa Claus doles out presents at an orphanage, a wee human crawls into his sack of toys, winds up at the North Pole, and is subsequently raised as an elf. Eight zillion sight gags constitute the first act, in which a giant-sized Ferrell bangs his head into low ceilings, squats on miniature crappers, and botches even the most remedial toy-making duties. Ferrell finally discovers he’s the bastard son of James Caan, now a distant, terse Manhattan publishing-house exec. Innocent, syrup-swilling Ferrell then goes to big, bad NYC, meets Zooey Deschanel, and hilarity often ensues. So frantic, off-the-cuff, and self-aware in his ad-libs, Ferrell owns the movie the way Santa owns Christmas. (Through Tues.) Central Cinema, 1411 21st Ave., 686-6684, central-cinema.com. $6–$8. 7 & 9:30 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 21

#NOFILTER

The Twitter tag is a way to brand this touring show of three funny women—Grace Helbig, Hannah Hart, and Mamrie Hart—who’ve made their comedy reputations largely on the Internet. How to distinguish among them? Helbig is something of a Twitter artist (“Mashed potatoes are the best party guest”) and YouTube auteur (see: 101 Ways to Say No to Sex). She’s a short-form humorist who’s immersed in pop culture even while being alarmed by it, too. Hannah Hart is best known for her My Drunk Kitchen series of YouTube videos. In one, swigging wine stolen from her sister’s house (free wine is the best wine, she explains), Hart endeavors to make a grilled cheese sandwich. She offers various cooking tips in her unreliable tutorial, then is confronted by an absence of cheese. The solution? Toasted bread with butter goes just fine with merlot. (Meanwhile, viewers worry whether or not she’ll cut off a finger.) Mamrie Hart—not related to Hannah Hart, go figure!—creates videos including the series You Deserve a Drink, in which she attempts to devise a custom cocktail for a Dr. Who drinking game, despite never having seen the show. The Neptune, 1303 N.E. 45th St., 877-784-4849, stgpresents.org. $25–$40. 8 p.m.

 
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