Welcome back to HomeFront, where we’re counting down to the season premiere of “Saturday Night Live” and trying to remember the spice that makes the best mulled cider taste so good. (Star anise; you’re welcome.) The turn of the seasons is exposing another crop of profound differences between you and your fellow pod people/bubble buddies. Beyond hot vs. iced coffee, sweater vs. sweat shirt, canned vs. bottled beer, and beach vs. mountains, we have the timeless battle of glorious, soul-soothing foliage vs. reminder of impending winter and eventual death. Choose wisely!
Another divide that’s mostly moot at the moment is live culture and entertainment vs. content on a relatively small screen. Here’s some info to help you choose wisely there, too.
FILM: Written and directed by Sofia Coppola, starring Bill Murray and a winsome younger woman — “On the Rocks” evokes “Lost in Translation” but never rises above “agreeable diversion,” Globe film critic Ty Burr says in a 2½-star review. Rashida Jones plays Laura, Murray’s character’s daughter, who suspects her husband of straying. “The movie comes this close to screwball comedy but lacks the energy to switch into antic gear; instead, it cruises along in second until the final act, when it sputters out.”
“On the Rocks” makes a good jumping-off point for a retrospective of Murray’s film career, which “has been so varied, so unpredictable, it makes sense to break it down into categories,” says the Globe’s Mark Feeney. From Carl Spackler in “Caddyshack” to Franklin Roosevelt in “Hyde Park on the Hudson,” Murray is “not only many things to many people. He’s many people to himself.”
Cinematographer Kirsten Johnson’s “Dick Johnson Is Dead” is “about coming to grips with a parent’s mortality, made by a talented grown child who’s not ready to let go,” writes Burr. He gives three stars to the “docu-comedy,” which features multiple “stunt deaths” of the affable, aging Dick. “The thesis, more or less, is this: If you kill off your father enough times on camera, will that make his eventual demise easier to take?”
Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass “aren’t part of the decade as remembered, the canonical ’60s,” Feeney writes. “What they were was the decade as experienced, the workaday ’60s.” John Scheinfeld’s documentary “Herb Alpert Is . . .” captures the spirit of the music legend, “still sprightly and performing at 85,” Feeney says in his 2½-star review. “He’s never been a virtuoso, but virtuosity was never the point.”
Gloria Steinem is a paradoxical subject for a film because the feminist icon “has always been more notable for what she has said (and published) than for how she has said it,” Burr observes, “and that leaves Julie Taymor’s ‘The Glorias’ up a tree.” Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Lulu Wilson, Alicia Vikander, and Julianne Moore play Steinem at different ages but can’t redeem the "earnest, stiff-jointed, occasionally ludicrous” film, Burr writes in a two-star review.
One of the first passengers on the Lin-Manuel Miranda bandwagon was the “Hamilton” phenomenon’s father, Luis, a bit of a phenom himself. In John James’s “Siempre, Luis,” the Puerto Rican activist “tells his own story and the unlikely origin of his passionate drive to advance himself and help his people” over the past half-century, writes Globe correspondent Peter Keough. “He remains a workaholic.”
Burr also offers up “a handful of movie-related items that have been cooking on the back burner,” among them the mostly virtual 58th New York Film Festival and the first film adaptation of Richard Wright’s “Native Son,” which starred ... Richard Wright. “None of the acting in ‘Native Son’ is particularly masterful — some is just plain bad — but that pales before the scalding truths of the film’s portrayal of Black life in America.”
GLOBEDOCS: The sixth annual GlobeDocs Film Festival runs through Oct. 12, virtually. The admittedly biased Burr says “the lineup is excellent.” For more information and to buy passes, click here.
TV: Ethan Hawke’s “oversize performance” as abolitionist John Brown in “The Good Lord Bird” takes some getting used to, says Globe TV critic Matthew Gilbert. But once you’re on board with the adaptation of James McBride’s 2013 novel, the “rowdy atmosphere is flexible enough to slide into intensely moving and disturbing moments.” As Brown’s preteen “parallel hero,” Joshua Caleb Johnson “holds down the whisper end of the spectrum.”
“I wanted to illuminate this period, but in such a way that people would be able to feel good about America when they finished,” former Globe reporter James McBride says in an interview with Globe correspondent Isaac Feldberg. Says Hawke, who produced and co-created the seven-part series, “The genius of McBride is that he makes it fun to think about.”
And what better time than the season premiere in an election year to look back at the best “Saturday Night Live” impressions of politicians, from Richard Nixon to Kamala Harris? “At times the political impressions seem purely silly, and at other times they seem more pointedly savage," Gilbert observes. "But either way, they have a strong tendency to become part of our cultural history.”
MUSIC: Hayley Thompson-King’s new album, “Sororicide,” rests on an unlikely foundation of opera and garage rock, but “she somehow makes what on paper seems utterly disparate work beautifully together,” writes Globe correspondent Stuart Munro. The singer-songwriter says the album “kind of begs for engagement, because you’re sort of like, what is she doing here? Is this just terrible? Or does she have a point here?"
VISUAL ART: The Clark Art Institute planned to mount “Ground/work” in the spring, but the pandemic meant “art institutions were ... prohibited from the thing they do best, and just when it was needed most: Provide solace, refuge, time, and space to think and breathe,” writes Globe art critic Murray Whyte. Now scheduled to open next week, the “showcase of work by six women artists safely situated in the fresh air across rolling acres of forest and field” offers “a reflective pause for troubled times.”
Andrea Bergart “always dreamed of painting a basketball court,” and the artist’s dream has come true on a mural-splashed public court in Providence, reports Globe correspondent Cate McQuaid. “It’s important to have art in unexpected places, and for people who might not feel comfortable walking into the white walls of a museum,” Kate McNamara of My HomeCourt says of the nonprofit’s mission. “There are 32 courts in the city, and we’re committed to do all of them.”
New murals are coming to Harvard Square, where the under-construction Out-of-Town News Plaza will soon be surrounded by the work of Patricia Thaxton, who won an open-call competition. “I’m turning 70 in about three weeks," the retired Boston Public Schools teacher tells Globe correspondent Victoria Zhuang. “And I thought everything right now is: Why not?”
In other mural news (yes, really), make a beeline for the South End to see Kevin Jameel Parker’s “Honor Roll” mural on the Harriet Tubman House while there’s still a Harriet Tubman House. The property is slated for redevelopment, and “[n]eighbors are steeling themselves for the loss of this defining landmark,” reports Globe correspondent Diti Kohli. “When I see what the South End has become, it saddens me,” says Arnesse Brown, who grew up there.
PARENTING: The Globe’s new In the Family Way project tackles your thorniest pandemic-era dilemmas. Through a weekly newsletter and column, it explores questions about children’s health, education, and welfare in uncertain times. Learn more and sign up for the newsletter here.
DANCE: “I wanted to run up and hug all these people,” Boston Ballet soloist Lawrence Rines says of the company’s return to work in preparation for a hybrid season after a six-month pandemic furlough. “We’ve taken a very cautious approach to getting everyone back in shape safely,” assistant artistic director Russell Kaiser tells Globe correspondent Karen Campbell. “I’ve never seen such inspiration in the eyes of these dancers.”
THEATER: Mounted in “that infinitely roomy analog space known as the outdoors,” New Repertory Theatre’s production of “The Charles W. Lenox Experience” is “a solo play set in the 19th century that has the ongoing struggles of the 21st century very much on its mind,” says Globe theater critic Don Aucoin. Kadahj Bennett, “one of Boston’s most compelling actors,” plays Lenox, “a Black barber in Watertown who served in the Civil War with the storied 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment.”
PODCASTS: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” figures into the second episode of season 4 of the “Love Letters” podcast, hosted by the Globe’s Meredith Goldstein. This season’s theme is “At Any Age,” about the relationship lessons we learn at different stages of life. It features stories of people from 17 to 70 tangling with the question “What does love mean at different ages?”
Catch up on the new podcast “Mr. 80 Percent,” about Globe reporter Mark Shanahan’s experience with prostate cancer. Shanahan calls the six-episode series — the first four are available wherever you get your podcasts — “a deeply personal, sometimes harrowing, often funny story about a disease that affects millions of men.” Send the kids out of the room and listen to the trailer here.
BOOKS: It’s “Practical Magic” season, with a welcome twist. On Tuesday, “Alice Hoffman delivers ‘Magic Lessons,’ the strongest in the trio of her novels about the Owens women,” says Globe reviewer Jeffrey Ann Goudie. The Cambridge resident “writes deftly, and often beautifully, about nature, and she can plot like, well, a witch, casting a spell on her reader to flip pages, reading ahead for plot twists.”
FOOD & DINING: “There are so many challenges,” writes Globe critic Devra First — true everywhere, especially at neighborhood places like “tiny, ambitious seafood restaurant” Ivory Pearl in Brookline. She finds “a small, independent collaboration among a group of talented people with a clear vision of what they’re creating,” namely “dishes designed to let the main ingredients shine.” Bonus: a cocktail program “like nothing else in town.”
Ivory Pearl has a patio, an amenity the Boston area’s dim sum parlors tend to lack, but don’t let that stop you. “Is takeout dim sum a contradiction in terms? An insult? A false promise?” asks Globe correspondent Kara Baskin. At a socially distanced picnic, she dives into to-go delicacies and finds that “the things that mattered — the food, the friends, the notion of some kind of autonomy over our lives — outweighed the weirdness.”
Dumplings also figure in the new children’s book “Every Night Is Pizza Night,” written by Boston native J. Kenji López-Alt (Serious Eats) and illustrated by Gianna Ruggiero. The book “encourages a lot of exploring‚” writes Globe correspondent Peggy Hernandez, who borrows some neighborhood children and takes the pizza recipe out for a spin. Spoiler: They love it.
BUT REALLY: Do us all a favor and check the status of your voter registration right this red-hot second. Then take a look outside and resolve to make that cider, pick those apples, book those socially distanced outdoor meals with friends you haven’t seen in forever. “Game of Thrones” and I are no longer on speaking terms, but the TV series got one thing right: Winter is coming. Wear your mask and wash your hands!