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HomeFront: The year’s best TV, fashion history, remembering John Lennon

Anya Taylor-Joy as Beth Harmon in "The Queen's Gambit."Phil Bray/Netflix

Welcome once again to HomeFront, where promising vaccine news and meteorological winter are playing tug-of-war with our moods. The pumpkin pie and stuffing left over from Thanksgiving are finally gone, and we’re browsing recipes for latkes, gingerbread, and something savory to include in a gift box full of holiday cookies. It’s about to smell really good in here!

Best of 2020 lists are another seasonal pastime that’s starting to ramp up. This week’s entertainment picks include two that will have you checking out your streaming services and favorite bookstores.

TV TOP 10: Trends collided this year, as screens became more important than ever and the quality of the programming flashing across them reached new heights. The only thing missing from Globe TV critic Matthew Gilbert’s list of the Top 10 (and “Second 10″) shows of the year is broadcast television — cable and streaming rule. His top choice, “The Queen’s Gambit,” which premiered in October, benefits from excellent timing. “In another, non-pandemic year, I might have put a different show at the top, but this one feels like it meets the moment perfectly.”

TV: The setup of “Your Honor” is promising — Bryan Cranston plays a New Orleans judge whose teenage son is the driver in a fatal hit-and-run — but “much of what comes after the forceful opening is a disappointment,” says Gilbert. Four episodes in, Cranston’s character “just keeps screwing up,” and “[t]he thought of six more episodes watching more things run amok isn’t an especially happy one.”


A less suspenseful story than “The Crown” is hard to imagine, but with season 4, the series has turned a corner. Princess Diana (and Margaret Thatcher) are on the scene, and “[v]iewers who previously might have dismissed creator Peter Morgan’s drama as a stuffy spectacle . . . are suddenly enthralled,” Gilbert writes. “During this season’s 1979-1990 timeline, the family turns into a pack of wolves preying on a defenseless lamb.”


TV TALK: Globe TV critic Matthew Gilbert hosts a subscriber-only event, “The Crown and More,” Friday from 1 to 2 p.m. He’ll discuss the best of television available for streaming, including his just-released top 10 picks for 2020. You’ll hear what his job is like and have the opportunity to ask questions about your favorite shows, what to watch next, and all things TV. RSVP here.

FILM: “Another Round” is a “stinging, gorgeously filmed tragicomedy about male insecurity and the power of positive drinking,” Globe film critic Ty Burr writes in a 3½-star review. Director and co-writer Thomas Vinterberg’s tale of middle-aged men experimenting with “a program of steady, judicious daily drinking” offers a look at Danish life before it “widens its scope to the international stage and the totality of the human condition.”

Before you roll your eyes at the news that Francis Ford Coppola has re-edited “The Godfather: Part III” into “The Godfather Coda: The Death of Michael Corleone,” check with Burr. The 30-year-overdue reimagining “is largely and surprisingly successful, a judiciously trimmed and re-sorted rethinking of how Al Pacino’s Michael Corleone tries to get out of the crime business and how it ‘pulls him back in’ again.”

The “darkly magnetic” Aubrey Plaza tackles “an ambiguous but emotionally sprawling dramatic role” in “Black Bear,” which earns 2½ stars from Burr. The film “turns in on itself, prompting audiences to wonder whose story is being told and in what order.” Short answer: Plaza as a screenwriter (or is she?) in need of a break, and Christopher Abbott and Sarah Gadon as a maybe-couple in “a high-tension examination of artistic and domestic betrayal.”


With Elliot Page in the headlines, the timing of two documentaries that explore the trans life experience is serendipitous. Matt Kliegman’s “Markie in Milwaukee” is biographical, “and it impresses with its artfulness and insight as it captures the tormented soul of its subject,” writes Globe correspondent Peter Keough. Tania Cypriano’s “Born to Be” follows plastic surgeon Dr. Jess Ting and five patients, creating an “intimately observational and moving” story.

Titling a movie “Love, Weddings & Other Disasters” is asking for trouble, and sure enough, Burr gives the “dreary, low-rent ‘Love Actually’ imitation” one star. Set in Boston and starring Diane Keaton and Jeremy Irons, it boasts “a few pretty shots of Boston Common, various locations in Southie, and the thought that this production helped local talent and craftspeople pay the rent.”

The Boston-set comedy “Godmothered” is so steeped in local flavor that “[i]n a few scenes, it’s like a tourism video for the North End,” reports the Globe’s Meredith Goldstein. In a Q&A, star Jillian Bell (“Brittany Runs a Marathon”) discusses everything from “The Town” to pandemic homeschooling to the value of “fun and lighthearted” entertainment: “We didn’t know while we were shooting how much people would need a movie like that.”


Curator Petra Slinkard and Head Registrar Brittany Minton dress a mannequin with a Jamie Okuma piece for the exhibition "Made It: The Women Who Revolutionized Fashion."Kathy Tarantola/Courtesy Peabody Essex Museum

VISUAL ART: Stretching from the 17th century to the present, “Made It! The Women Who Revolutionized Fashion,” at the Peabody Essex Museum, is “determined to transcend aesthetic ingenuity to grapple with the social history inherent in every stitch of women’s wear, spanning centuries,” writes Globe art critic Murray Whyte. “There are plenty of Chanels and Lanvins, Kawakubos and McQueens. But the point . . . is to pay homage to the revolutionary beauty that overcame mountains of complications.”

“Best known as a choreographer” in a review of an art exhibition is intriguing, and “Shen Wei: Painting in Motion,” at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, is, too: “a holistic view of an artist always hungry to try something new,” writes Whyte. In video clips as well as paintings, “Shen’s work often feels like a synthesis between the ancient and contemporary, between classical discipline and free-form modernity.”

Works by “some of the region’s best ceramic storytellers” make up “Clay Has Its Say: Narrative Ceramics,” writes Globe correspondent Cate McQuaid. Drawing on “clay’s deep history as a vessel for stories,” these pieces “tell more perplexing tales.” The “delightful” show is up at Concord Center for the Visual Arts.

With the death toll soaring, where are the COVID-19 memorials? “[M]aybe we need to get on the other side of the pandemic,” acknowledges McQuaid, but she finds artists across the country paying tribute. “I couldn’t not do something, watching the news and hearing the numbers tick over,” says Los Angeles artist Karla Funderburk. Writes McQuaid: “Memorials help us integrate loss into our lives. Private or public, they are necessary for healing.”


MUSIC: “The figures are disquieting,” writes the Globe’s Zoë Madonna. By an overwhelming number of measures, female classical singers are worse off than their male peers. The co-author of a new study that quantifies the disparities, MassOpera’s Dana Lynne Varga, is hopeful that the research will gain traction in the industry: “COVID has laid everything bare, and now we have numbers and we’re talking about these things.”

An all-star tribute to legendary Boston jazz impresario Fred Taylor coincides with the posthumous publication of his memoir “What, and Give Up Showbiz?” The event, on Monday, is virtual and free. “A lot of Boston-area people are so monstrous in the jazz world now, and a lot of them got their start with Fred’s support,” Berklee president Roger Brown tells Globe correspondent James Sullivan.

LOVE LETTERS: The theme of season 4 of the “Love Letters” podcast, hosted by the Globe’s Meredith Goldstein, is “At Any Age.” It features stories about relationship lessons people learned at all stages of life, with first-person accounts by people from 17 to 70.

Cherié Butts, a cellular immunologist and medical director at Biogen, is one of the dancers in "Black Voices Boston."Courtesy of Celebrity Series of Boston

DANCE: Ranging in age from 17 to 76, the seven performers in “Black Voices Boston” were chosen from dozens of candidates, “and everyone who applied had incredible stories to tell,” Celebrity Series president Gary Dunning tells Globe correspondent Karen Campbell. The pieces were workshopped with Rafael Palacios of Colombian dance company Sankofa Danzafro, who says, “A dancer is not just made from technique but from personal experience.”

BOOKS: Five books — four of which are worth your time — commemorate the 40th anniversary of John Lennon’s death. The best of the bunch is Kenneth Womack’s “John Lennon 1980: The Last Days in the Life,” which “skips the Beatles and Plastic Ono Band backstory and instead captures Lennon’s life from the mid-’70s on,” according to Globe correspondent and Beatles expert Stuart Miller (whom you might remember from April’s ranked list of 180 Beatles songs that made the Globe comment-management system cry).

FOOD & DINING: Eight months into our collective reintroduction to home cooking, “the sense of purpose may have started to wear a bit thin,” says the Globe’s Devra First. Her list of the year’s best cookbooks includes more than two dozen inspirational titles that “are expansive. They broaden our understanding of kitchen practice; they take us far afield, evocatively. They also connect us. They bring us inside others’ experience.”

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. Sign up for the newsletter here.

BUT REALLY: There’s muttering “there ought to be a word,” and then there’s doing something about it. If your vocabulary lacks a term for “to accidentally squirt juice and/or pulp into one’s eye, as from a grapefruit when using a spoon to scoop out a section for eating,” Jonathan and Hilary Krieger have a solution — “orbisculate,” coined by their late father, Neil — and Meredith Goldstein has the heartwarming lowdown on their campaign to have it included in dictionaries. Wear your mask and wash your hands!