HomeFront: ‘A disheveled, chain-smoking, perpetually cranky senior citizen’

Karl Bertil-Nordland in "The Painter and the Thief."
Karl Bertil-Nordland in "The Painter and the Thief."Barbora Kysilkova/Neon via AP

Welcome once again to HomeFront, our temporary takeover of The Weekender. Slowly and (mostly) carefully, the country is reopening, but joining a large crowd in a confined space for a live or recorded performance isn’t happening anytime soon. And that’s OK! The 66th day of the stay-at-home advisory is Wednesday, and science tells us that establishing a habit takes an average of 66 days. We have a lot of new habits — school in the kitchen, meetings on the couch, signing e-mails “stay safe,” wearing masks for non-Halloween purposes. Pull up a piece of multitasking furniture and explore some entertainment options.

COMFORT ZONE: With restrictions slowly lifting, the Globe’s Comfort Zone section continues to offer tips for handling challenging times. It’s interactive, and tips from readers are welcome. Do you have a personal story to share? An act of kindness you want the world to know about? Advice or a hack to suggest that might help someone else cope? Send the editors an e-mail at arts@globe.com.


FILM: Globe film critic Ty Burr awards four stars to “The Painter and the Thief,” a Norwegian documentary that won a Sundance special jury award, calling it “one of the year’s most affecting and subtly radical movie experiences.” In his portrayal of an artist who befriends the heroin addict who stole two of her paintings, director Benjamin Ree “shows two troubled people waxing and waning in courage before learning to take strength from each other.

Effectively a one-woman show, “Lucky Grandma” stars two-time Bond girl Tsai Chin as “a disheveled, chain-smoking, perpetually cranky senior citizen tangling with gangsters in New York’s Chinatown.” It’s “a low-budget labor of love that’s very funny until you realize it has no idea where it’s going,” Burr writes in a 2½-star review. Directed by Sasie Sealy, who co-wrote with Angela Cheng, the caper “gets points for simply existing.”


Feeling cooped up? British actors Rob Brydon and Steve Coogan continue their international adventures on “The Trip to Greece,” the fourth entry in the series. “There’s a formula,” Globe writer and editor Mark Feeney writes in a three-star review. “Rob and Steve will have a freelance journalism assignment that’s vaguely literary. In this case, it’s to follow Odysseus’s 10 years of wandering and do it in six days. They eat fabulous meals. They drive through travelogue-spectacular scenery. They engage in constant one-upmanship.”

The casting is the most unexpected element of “Military Wives,” which stars Kristin Scott Thomas and Sharon Horgan in a story nearly as generic as its title. Burr is two stars’ worth of sold on the “formulaic comedy-drama about a group of British army-base spouses who start a choir," which "is so determined to be uplifting that your up may be lifted in spite of itself.”

Driving, fruits and vegetables, and single parenthood are subjects nearly incidental to the plots of films that captured them perfectly, and Globe writer and editor Mark Feeney is just getting started. He tracks down 12 cases, spanning six-plus decades, of “how a movie can take an oblique approach to something and get it just right.” What do “The Godfather” and “The Shining” have in common? You’ll see.

Missing the local independent theater? The theater comes to you in the form of a virtual screening room. “It’s been cool to see the way everyone has come together to make this work,” Ned Hinkle of the Brattle Theatre tells Globe correspondent Grace Griffin, who assembles a half-dozen options. You don’t even have to BYO popcorn — some indies offer curbside pickup of concession items.


Tracy Morgan and Tina Fey in "30 Rock."
Tracy Morgan and Tina Fey in "30 Rock." Eric Liebowitz/NBC

TV: One way a lot of us are getting through sequestering is by bingeing TV comedies. Another is by squabbling online. Combine them after checking out Globe TV critic Matthew Gilbert’s ranked list of the 20 best shows from “two decades of great TV comedy” plus bonus content: the five worst. No spoilers! But his top picks on both lists are unimpeachable.

As for new releases, it’s not the most promising-sounding week for the metaphorical small screen, but I’ll be checking out the new Discovery reality series “All on the Line,” about the Gloucester fishing community, which starts Friday. “It’s about the quest for Atlantic bluefin tuna, quotas on overfishing, and the competition and cooperation between fishermen,” writes Gilbert.

Going direct to Netflix was the right fate for “The Lovebirds,” an “unfizzy romantic comedy” starring Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani, and directed by Michael Showalter. Says Gilbert, “If I’d gotten up the energy to see ‘The Lovebirds’ in a theater, and paid for a ticket and other moviegoing-adjacent costs, I’d be pretty unhappy about it.”

Disappointing in a different way is “Love Life,” an Anna Kendrick vehicle that helps launch the new streaming service HBO Max on Wednesday. The 10-episode series “has its mild virtues for rom-com addicts who enjoy a good meet-cute every now and again,” writes Gilbert, but it “trades in tropes that are as overused on TV as the word 'tropes’ is in TV criticism.”


FOOD & DINING: Even as the list of restaurant closings attributable to pandemic fallout grows, takeout options are expanding, writes Globe correspondent Kara Baskin. This week’s focus is on Dumpling Daughter, which has actually expanded — to Brookline — and four neighborhood favorites, including East Somerville’s Fat Hen.

FINE ART: On the latest installment in the Pilgrimage series, Globe art critic Murray Whyte heads back to the White Mountains in search of Albert Bierstadt and his “selective reality.” Famed in the 19th century for his romanticized images of the American west, “by the time he died, in 1902, he was a virtual unknown, made obsolete by Modernism’s merciless advance.” At Echo Lake, Whyte finds early signs of the “showman-like entrepreneurship” that led Bierstadt to give the people what they wanted, reality be damned.

“Fine” is a stretch for the actual art, but the pleasures of “The Joy of Painting” stretch far beyond the easel, Whyte writes. More than a quarter-century after the beloved series ended because the host was in failing health, “everything in Bob Ross’s world, a sealed capsule of uncomplicated wonder, is OK. It’s better than OK. It is serenity itself.”


Yo-Yo Ma plays the Bach Cello Suites for a live stream on Sunday
Yo-Yo Ma plays the Bach Cello Suites for a live stream on SundayPaul Morigi/Getty Images/file

CLASSICAL MUSIC: Two-plus months after propelling the hashtag #songsofcomfort to viral status, Yo-Yo Ma revisits the Bach Cello Suites on Sunday. WCRB will livestream the six pieces from its Brighton studios, not the cozy, bookshelf-lined space Ma usually uses — which should make concentrating on the music easier.

ARTSALIVE: The Globe initiative ArtsAlive curates exclusive content from local cultural institutions to brighten your day with quick hits of creativity while performance and exhibition spaces are closed. Among this week’s selections, through some technical wizardry that’s so seamless, you’ll want to cry the next time your boss’s screen freezes mid-sneeze, 84 New England Conservatory alumni grace the school’s virtual commencement ceremony with the traditional graduation march, Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance.”

MENTAL HEALTH: Love Letters columnist Meredith Goldstein’s Taking Care interview series tackles the issue of whether it does, in fact, take two to make a thing go right while socially distancing. Readers had some great questions for Boston University psychologist Steven J. Sandage, who specializes in couples counseling. “I would encourage couples to keep talking about what will help them feel good," he says.

Did you grow up saying “prom” or “the prom”? Whatever you call it, Michelle Obama is throwing a massive high school dance party, or Prom-athon, on Friday. America’s cool mom and her nonpartisan When We All Vote organization occupy MTV all day. The event wraps up with live performances and more on YouTube at 9 p.m.

Even under stricter rules than the Massachusetts stay-at-home advisory, exercising outdoors is allowed, but staying motivated to run can be a challenge. Globe correspondent Rachel Raczka collects two books, two movies, and a podcast that may help make the rubber (sole) meet the road. “And when the get-up-and-go finally gets you, don’t forget to wear a mask.”

BOOKS: In the midst of a pandemic caused by a respiratory disease, what could be more timely than releasing a book titled “Breathe”? James Nestor throws himself into his research and returns with “a well-written read that is always entertaining, as he melds the personal, the historical, and the scientific,” writes Globe reviewer Stuart Miller. “Nestor’s goal is not simply for the reader to understand the science behind proper breathing but to plunge in and transform our own lungs and our lives.”

“Practical Magic” turns 25 this year (the equally comfort food-y movie came out in 1998), and Alice Hoffman is counting down to the Tuesday release of the anniversary edition from her home in Cambridge. The novelist tells Meredith Goldstein she’s also been watching old movies: “Maybe it’s that we want to go back to a different time, before this all happened. But it’s somehow comforting — to get back to a story that you loved.”

BUT REALLY: Once upon a time, Memorial Day weekend heralded the season of beaches and barbecue, music and theater under the stars, drinks on the patio, and other beloved summer rituals. We still have all of those — just masked and socially distanced, and maybe on a laptop or phone rather than a stage or lawn or coconut-scented patch of sand. It’s easy to forget but important to remember that if you’re reading this, you’re one of the lucky ones. Mask up and go for a walk. Pick up Chinese food and tip like you mean it. Thank an essential worker. Wash your hands!