HomeFront: ‘Citizen Kane,’ Ta-Nehisi Coates, Dolly Parton, and the BSO

The Globe’s picks for staying entertained any day of the week.

Gary Oldman portrays Herman Mankiewicz in a scene from "Mank."
Gary Oldman portrays Herman Mankiewicz in a scene from "Mank."Associated Press

Welcome back to HomeFront, where we’re still figuring out socially distanced Thanksgiving, our anxiety-management regime is getting a big assist from Globe photographer Stan Grossfeld, and we knew even before the Northeastern professor went viral that Dolly Parton was a superhero. (She started a program that donates a million books a month to kids!) This week, Dolly and a bunch of other creative types are here to take your mind off things.

FILM: Mank,” the story of “Citizen Kane” co-screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, ”arrives spot on time for an era in which half the country is still gulled by the lies of certain men who own the media,” Globe film critic Ty Burr writes in a 3½-star review. “Directed by David Fincher and featuring yet another unholy disappearing act by Gary Oldman, ‘Mank’ is one of the year’s best movies if you’re the kind of person who genuinely loves movies and damn close if you’re not.”


“You likely haven’t heard of [Mankiewicz], unless you’re a big fan of Studio Era Hollywood and/or watch a lot of Turner Classic Movies,” writes the Globe’s Mark Feeney. “So much of the wonder of ‘[Citizen] Kane’ is directly owing to [Orson] Welles . . . but no small part of that wonder is Mankiewicz’s truly inspired narrative structure.

As a rock drummer and recovering addict who suddenly loses 75 percent of his hearing, the versatile Riz Ahmed anchors “Sound of Metal,” which earns 3½ stars from Burr. Directed and co-written by Darius Marder, the film “is at heart a character study, the story of a man who has relied on making noise to feel at home in the world and who greets silence as a threat and a nullification.”

The live-fast-die-young genre’s lack of suspense eventually comes into play, but the first two-thirds of the documentary “Belushi” are so good that Burr awards three stars. “R. J. Cutler’s film starts with a bang: the comedian’s 1975 screen test for ‘Saturday Night Live.’ Already a veteran of improv comedy and a star of two hit National Lampoon stage shows, [John] Belushi is fully formed and utterly in command.”


“The Twentieth Century,” writer-director Matthew Rankin’s “cracked version of Canadian history,” earns 2½ stars from Burr. If “Unrated (as PG: mild violence, smutty cacti, historical Canadian in-jokes)” sounds like your cup of Tim Horton’s, I can’t add much more than a suggestion that you top up your stash of edibles. “Does the movie go anywhere? Not really,” Burr writes. “Will you mind? I didn’t.”

If a “mid-movie revelation that rearranges the moral stakes in ways that dampen the telling” isn’t a deal breaker, stick with “The Last Vermeer” for Guy Pearce’s performance as “a flamboyantly dissolute painter and society gadfly” in postwar Amsterdam. The plot twist, Burr says in a 2½-star review, “makes it tough for a reviewer to write about without spoiling things and hard for an audience to watch with full emotional involvement.”

Our endless fascination with serial killers seldom extends to the expert witnesses testifying about psychopathology, a gap prolific documentarian Alex Gibney addresses with “Crazy, Not Insane.” His psychiatrist protagonist, Dr. Dorothy Otnow Lewis, “discovered that some serial killers … unconsciously create new personae, complete with names and characteristics that embody their rage and helplessness,” writes Globe correspondent Peter Keough.


TV: A “gorgeously sorrowful prose poem about being Black in America,” the HBO adaptation of “Between the World and Me” is “not a documentary, or a staged recitation, or a music video; it’s all of them and more,” writes Globe TV critic Matthew Gilbert. An all-star cast directed by Kamilah Forbes interprets Ta-Nehisi Coates’s 2015 book “with nuanced anger, rage, fear, disbelief, grief, and hard-won wisdom.”

At three hours (isn’t that just a long movie?), “Black Narcissus” left Gilbert wanting more — the “story of British nuns starting a mission in the Himalayas during the latter years of British rule in India has buried riches to spare.” The three-episode miniseries, which stars Gemma Arterton in the role Deborah Kerr played in the 1947 film, “captures the stark beauty, the loneliness, and the threatening forces that haunt the location.”

For the first time in 36 years, “Jeopardy!” needs a new host. Writes Globe theater critic Don Aucoin, “For a show famously built on providing answers in the form of a question, none looms larger than: Who should succeed Alex Trebek?” He has 10 solid suggestions, including a “Saturday Night Live” legend whose hiring would represent “a cracked-mirror homage to Trebek.”

In the latest Ask Matthew, Gilbert reminds a reader that Gillian Anderson is way more than just Agent Scully: “[T]he Gillian that has emerged over the years since [’The X-Files’] has consistently impressed me.” He shows his work, citing six performances including the most recent, “her brilliance as Margaret Thatcher in ‘The Crown.’


While best-of-2020 lists are in the pipeline, Gilbert whips up a roster of TV things to be thankful for. They include “Ted Lasso,” “The Good Lord Bird,” the series finale of “The Good Place,” and, you probably won’t be at all shocked to learn, Gillian Anderson.

Debbie Allen in "Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker."
Debbie Allen in "Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker."Netflix/Courtesy of Netflix/2020

DANCE: Heartening vaccine news raising the profile of “Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square” falls into “couldn’t happen to a nicer person” territory and has the welcome side effect of spotlighting director/choreographer Debbie Allen. The quintuple threat chats with Globe correspondent Karen Campbell about that “labor of love” and her other new Netflix project, “Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker,” which she says she hopes ”will show why the arts are essential and create more opportunities for kids everywhere.”

VISUAL ART: Artist William Kentridge’s World War I epic “The Head and the Load” has come to Boston as “KABOOM!” at the ICA, “on a set the size of a large dining table,” writes Globe art critic Murray Whyte. The installation is “not quite comprehensible in the usual sense, though it does have an eloquence the original lacked. … [T]his is a world torn to pieces, never to be made whole.”

The “extraordinary realist portraits” by painter Papay Solomon in “Nightmares Americana” offer an insider’s look at the refugee community of Phoenix. “He fills in the gulf between the American dream and the American nightmare by doing what portraits do best: Capturing real, complicated people,” writes Globe correspondent Cate McQuaid. The show is up at Steven Zevitas Gallery in the South End.


MUSEUMS: Two 2020 anniversaries say a lot about Plymouth, where the Pilgrims arrived 400 years ago and the first National Day of Mourning was observed 50 years ago. At the Plimoth Patuxet Museums — the new name of Plimoth Plantation — McQuaid finds an institution that “largely avoids bigger questions about colonialism and the quashing of Indigenous societies. Questions that today are too pressing to be ignored.”

PARENTING: The Globe’s 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, including wisdom about safely celebrating Thanksgiving from a party planner, a psychologist, and an infectious disease expert (“doesn’t this sound like a setup to a joke?” asks Globe correspondent Kara Baskin). Sign up for the newsletter here.

Boston Lyric Opera makes deliveries of live music with its Street Stage truck.
Boston Lyric Opera makes deliveries of live music with its Street Stage truck.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

MUSIC: At the Fruitlands Museum in Harvard, Boston Lyric Opera’s Street Stage truck found a welcoming audience that included the Globe’s Zoë Madonna. Like everyone else, she’s been at home a lot lately. “Hearing a human voice again as it was meant to be heard, live and kicking, was akin to taking a sip of rich drinking chocolate after months of Swiss Miss: startling and almost overwhelming in the fullness of the experience.”

In the face of “an unprecedented crisis,” the BSO is back (do we really need to keep saying “sort of”?) with the 15-performance video series “Music in Changing Times.” Writes Globe classical music critic Jeremy Eichler: “Viewers will have their own opinions on details of the new digital format … [b]ut it is unarguably moving to see the orchestra gathered once again as a unified ensemble.”

FOOD & DINING: If sourdough is on your radar, you know fermentation is a red-hot trend. “But long before kombucha became the new Coke, Sandor Ellix Katz was teaching people to appreciate the bubbly, funky, flavorful landscape of fermented foods,” writes the Globe’s Devra First. She chats with the “fermentation celebrity” about his new book, “Fermentation as Metaphor,” and “our culture’s deep need for bubbling change.”

“The first Thanksgiving of the pandemic will be so different that we can’t compare it to anything we already know,” writes former Globe food editor Sheryl Julian. She assembles a menu of delicious-sounding recipes (her own and other Globe correspondents’) for a scaled-down feast and lists kitchen-focused accomplishments that create “reason to give thanks for things big and little.” And Globe correspondent Ellen Bhang suggests $20-and-under wines to go with your holiday meal.

LOVE LETTERS: The theme of Season 4 of the “Love Letters” podcast, hosted by the Globe’s Meredith Goldstein, is “At Any Age.” It focuses on the relationship lessons learned at all stages of life, with first-person accounts by people from age 17 to 70. Find the first five episodes here.

BUT REALLY: Something entirely predictable happened, and a lot of people who would have expected it if they’d been paying attention were outraged. It’ll work out eventually, but they may never be 100 percent happy with the resolution. This is a long-winded way of saying that if you don’t have access to Apple TV+ you have one chance this year to see “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” on broadcast TV. The holiday classic airs Sunday at 7:30 p.m. on PBS and PBS Kids.

Wait, what did you think I was talking about? Wear your mask and wash your hands!