HomeFront: one album you can’t live without; the real Norman Rockwell; 11 al fresco evenings

Prince is an obvious choice for desert island listening.
Prince is an obvious choice for desert island listening.Chris O'Meara

Welcome back to HomeFront, where things are cooling off. Autumn is the best season (do not @ me), but even committed opponents of heat and humidity will concede that late summer is an endlessly appealing time of year. This time around, getting some vitamin D transdermally is especially appealing, even as we skimp on the facial sunblock because our masks cover so much real estate. Then we bare our faces and pull up a screen. Let’s look together.

MUSIC: The irresistible premise of BBC Radio’s “Desert Island Discs” comes to the pages — web and paper — of the Globe in a trio of stories sure to launch a thousand “High Fidelity”-style discussions. Writes Globe correspondent Marc Hirsch: “It’s a simple, brutal thought experiment: If you could only listen to a minuscule number of albums for the rest of your life, which ones would they be, and why?” A slew of Globe writers and local audiophiles play along, pulling in a Tower Records’ worth of genres and artists. And Globe correspondent James Sullivan checks in with “cultural hoarders” who own thousands of discs in multiple formats. Some decline to pick just one, but three of them actually make (rock-solid) choices. Both the stories and the comments will send you down a Spotify and/or YouTube wormhole.


If live music is more your speed, dig out last week’s Ideas section, in which the Globe’s David Scharfenberg reminisces about the days when the Hub was a music hub and tackles “the question of Boston’s cultural vitality — the question of what we will return to when all this is over.” If you saw the Pixies live or listened to WBCN, this is the story for you.

FILM: Theaters are open and screening first-run movies, one of which is the Russell Crowe vehicle “Unhinged,” a “tightly wound but increasingly repellent picture” about road rage, murder, and mayhem that garners 1½ stars from the Globe’s Mark Feeney. “Some people are desperate to see a movie in a theater. It’s hard to imagine anyone desperate to an ‘Unhinged’ degree.” But hey, popcorn!


“Tesla” is about scientist Nikola Tesla, not the car — and he’s a terrific subject for a “highly stylized biopic,” Feeney writes in a 2½-star review. Writer-director Michael Almereyda piles on the “imaginative flourishes,” and star Ethan Hawke “seems slightly haunted, as one might expect with a technological visionary.” Bonus: “Kyle MacLachlan, playing [Thomas Edison] as a bluntly sour grump, strolls away with every scene he’s in.”

CGI animals with appealing celebrity voices drive “The One and Only Ivan,” a circus movie “clearly aimed at the younger portion of the entire family,” Feeney writes in a 2½-star review. “[T]he ever-welcome Bryan Cranston” is the human lead, Sam Rockwell is the voice of silverback gorilla Ivan, and Danny DeVito steals the show as a chatty mutt. “[A]nd, it must be said, at times the animal characters come across as less cartoony than the human ones.”

“From Controversy to Cure: Inside the Cambridge Biotech Boom” blends the history of Kendall Square and interviews with whip-smart scientists into a “surprisingly lively” documentary that earns two stars from Feeney, He has some reservations, though: “Upbeat and slick, a lot of it has the look and feel of an infomercial.”


Nicolette Robinson and Leslie Odom Jr. in a scene from "Love in the Time of Corona."
Nicolette Robinson and Leslie Odom Jr. in a scene from "Love in the Time of Corona."Freeform/Associated Press

TV: The new quarantine-workaround genre expands beyond late-night shenanigans to include scripted series, starting with “Love in the Time of Corona,” which “moves among four or five stories about love at various stages of development during quarantine.” Comparing the series to “Love Actually,” Globe TV critic Matthew Gilbert writes, “Some of the stories are fresher than others, but all of them fit together nicely as a portrait of this juncture.”

Two ads for NBC Sports gave rise to “Ted Lasso,” which stars Jason Sudeikis as an American football coach in charge of a British football (soccer) team, but don’t let that put you off. Before the end of the second paragraph, Gilbert’s summary compares the “sweetly cheerful” series to both “Parks and Recreation” and “Schitt’s Creek.” Sudeikis’s character turns out to be “a big-hearted, optimistic, even charming guy.”

Issues surrounding technology, politics, crime, and morality drive “Capture,” which uses a murder investigation to explore a world full of don’t-believe-your-eyes video evidence altered for nefarious — or are they? — purposes. Writes Gilbert: “By the time I finished the first season, with its nonstop use of manipulated videos, I found myself more suspicious than ever of every single image queued up in my Facebook, Twitter, and news feeds.”

One not-very-secret weapon behind the enormous appeal of “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” is Alex Newell, who plays Zoey’s “quippy, sarcastic, gender-nonconforming neighbor and confidante” Mo. “I really connected with the essence of the character,” the Lynn native tells Globe correspondent Christopher Wallenberg. “[I]t’s been a strange but fun thing to play a heightened version of myself and to play around with that idea in my performance.”


THEATER: TV writer Rob Ulin’s playwrighting debut isn’t what anyone imagined, but “Judgment Day” — an online performance benefiting Barrington Stage Company and the Actors Fund — is off to a promising start. Jason Alexander and Patti LuPone top-line a starry cast of performers who “hadn’t worked in a while. Everybody just loves getting back to work and doing something fun,” the Newton native tells Globe correspondent Monica Castillo.

Norman Rockwell worked from this reference photo, for which he posed with a blood-stained shirt.
Norman Rockwell worked from this reference photo, for which he posed with a blood-stained shirt.Norman Rockwell Museum Collection

VISUAL ART: Beyond Norman Rockwell’s “cheery idealism” is a hard-core realist. Globe art critic Murray Whyte visits the Norman Rockwell Museum, where “a new pocket-size show centered on the artist’s 1965 ‘Murder in Mississippi’ work” illuminates an artist you may think you know all about and tells a gripping story of conscience and representation. “The show is less about the painting than the artist’s process, and then less about process than the moment.”

Masterpieces from the Peabody Essex Museum collection look great on a wall — and maybe even better on your face. “Masks are a way to protect yourself, but also to express yourself,” the museum’s Victor Oliveira tells Globe correspondent Lauren Daley. “It’s a great way for people to project their love for culture and art.” Check out that owl!

FOOD & DINING: Peak tomato season makes the other 10 or so months of the year seem sad and flavorless, so eat your fill now. Former Globe food editor Sheryl Julian recommends Spanish Pan Con Tomate, or bread with tomato, one of those dishes that’s infinitely more than the sum of its simple, perfect parts. “It’s sweet, salty, fruity, crusty, and delicious, the most heavenly summer eating.”


Sunset comes earlier by the day, meaning the days of rooftop or patio “cocktails, bites, and beers” without jackets and heat lamps are numbered. Globe correspondent Diti Kohli rounds up 11 outdoor spaces to “enjoy an al fresco evening out before it gets too nippy and summer becomes a distant memory.”

Tuesday’s state roll call at the Democratic National Convention ended with Joe Biden officially nominated and thousands of people jonesing for Rhode Island-style fried squid. Globe “Calamari Comeback State” reporter Amanda Milkovits has the scoop on satisfying that urge around the Ocean State.

TRAVEL: “Make this the summer that you get to know the outdoorsy side of the Berkshires,” write Globe correspondents Diane Bair and Pamela Wright, who roam around the 413 and return with suggestions for a variety of day-trippers. From hiking and zip lining to art appreciation and picnicking, the Berkshires are a perfect destination for open-air social distancing.

BUT REALLY: Life has been weird for a full five months. Now, college students are returning to town, the weather is moderating, and more people of all ages are roaming the streets. They don’t want to get sick any more than you do. Wear a mask and wash your hands!