Welcome back to HomeFront, where we’re counting down to the final lesson in the civics course that’s been disrupting our domestic tranquillity for the past four years; we turn the page Wednesday at noon. Meanwhile, diversions abound.
MLK DAY: Cast off the all-American pastime of forgetting the reason for a three-day weekend and explore your community’s observations of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. One upside of virtual events is a wider pool of possible guests — like US Representative Ro Khanna of California, “at” the Concord Museum’s forum on civil disobedience.
FILM: Based on a play? First-time feature director? There’s no third strike — Globe film critic Ty Burr gives four stars to “One Night in Miami,” which mines “dramatic gold” from a 1964 get-together that united Sam Cooke, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay), and Jim Brown. “Is this thing going to be all talk? For the most part, yes, but what talk, and what characters, and what performances!” Playwright Kemp Powers adapts his “crackling dialogue” to the screen, and behind the camera, Oscar-winning actress Regina King “is a natural.”
“This is truly an actors’ piece,” King tells the Globe’s Mark Feeney in a wide-ranging Q&A. “The opportunity to be able to show the man behind the title just seemed like a great story to be able to tell.” Of stars Leslie Odom Jr., Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, and Aldis Hodge, she says, “I could not see this film with anyone other than those four actors.”
As the title character in “My Little Sister,” the German actress Nina Hoss delivers “a performance of raw feeling, so gut-level that it leaves the other actors and the rest of the film looking stunned and ordinary,” Burr writes in a three-star review. As a playwright who hasn’t written a word since her twin brother was diagnosed with leukemia, Hoss “by the end has brought her character to a pitch of fury and despair that borders on madness.”
Lance Oppenheim’s “Some Kind of Heaven” is an “assured, deadpan, absurdist documentary” about the country’s largest retirement community, writes Globe reviewer Peter Keough. But downplaying politics is a significant omission. “That self-enclosed fantasy world is not just a make-believe stage on which risible, good-natured, well-heeled oldsters play a part, but a microcosm of the retreat from reality that has brought us to our current crisis.”
“What are the books, songs, shows, movies, performances that give you pleasure?” Burr asks. “Turn to them for respite and a reminder of what makes the world better, not worse.” He serves up a slew of suggestions, including delightful movies (of course), two kinds of comics, the series that might make me finally order AppleTV+, and a song that “belongs on any list of Western Civilization’s Top 10 Accomplishments.”
TV: “How to caricature a caricature?” wonders the Globe’s Don Aucoin, surveying the political comedy landscape, with late-night TV hosts in the foreground. “Recognizing that there was nothing remotely funny about Trump’s incitement of a mob who attacked the US Capitol last week, humorists have responded with a combination of fury and solemnity that matches this moment of national crisis — and that shows no sign of abating.”
The new “Masterpiece” series “Miss Scarlet & the Duke” has “a blue-sky vibe, like those old USA crime shows, with small comic bits woven into the weekly procedural doings,” writes Globe TV critic Matthew Gilbert. Kate Phillips and Stuart Martin play the title characters, a private investigator and a police detective. Sounds like a Victorian-era “Castle” or “Moonlighting” (ask your parents).
News of the return of “Sex and the City” to TV seems to have gotten under Gilbert’s skin. “When it comes to superheroes, go ahead, franchise away; they’re meant to be action- and special-effects heavy, super-broad entertainment and little more,” he writes. “But the finer, more character-driven properties deserve to be safe from exploitation.” If you’re on board, skip this one; if not, please enjoy.
VISUAL ART: The Peabody Essex Museum “has the world’s richest and most extensive collection of Indian modern and contemporary art outside of India,” writes Globe art critic Murray Whyte, and the recently reopened galleries that display it are a suitable setting. The “low-slung, cramped” entry nods to the country’s colonial history. “What follows are visions of India that are, I’m embarrassed to say, as rich as they are unfamiliar, at least to me.”
The pieces that make up “See and Be Seen” demonstrate the complexity of portraits. “Even the most innocent-seeming portrait here examines power dynamics,” writes Globe correspondent Cate McQuaid. “Historic portraiture celebrated power. Contemporary portraiture deconstructs it.” At Brookline’s Praise Shadows Art Gallery.
With horrifying images of flags still fresh following the riot at the US Capitol, the time may have come to redesign the Massachusetts flag, which shows an Algonquian warrior apparently submitting to a colonist. A new commission will take up the issue. “There is a critical consciousness and a deepened understanding that we have a responsibility to right some historic wrongs,” State Senator Jo Comerford tells Globe correspondent Natachi Onwuamaegbu.
Although “I didn’t even know I was on their radar,” Boston-based artist Kofi Lost wrote and narrated Google’s Year in Search 2020 video, which is cruising toward a quarter-billion views. “The world is really smaller than I thought,” the rapper, poet, and producer tells Onwuamaegbu. “It’s nice to know I wasn’t alone in my thoughts and questions.”
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 “a few worthwhile family diversions for those of us staring down the bleak barrel of January” from Globe correspondent Kara Baskin. Sign up for the newsletter here.
MUSIC: Director John de los Santos drew on recent experience to bring the virtual audience to Helios Opera’s production of the multimedia song cycle “Stardust,” featuring soprano Victoria Davis. Influences included Andy Warhol’s film “Chelsea Girls” and painter Francis Bacon’s triptych portraits, de los Santos says in a Q&A with the Globe’s A.Z. Madonna. “And in addition, the idea of Zoom, the idea of how we’re all imprisoned in these boxes.”
The spring Celebrity Series at Home season features “artists working across the classical, jazz, and global music spheres, performing in recital halls, theaters, and living rooms around the world,” Madonna reports. The free Neighborhood Arts Concerts series starts Monday, when Castle of Our Skins performs with “youth ensembles from City Strings United, Boston Citywide String Orchestra, and Boston String Academy.”
THEATER: Midsize performing arts organizations are trapped in pandemic limbo but soldiering on, writes the Globe’s Malcolm Gay. He checks in with leaders of organizations that “have many fewer resources than large cultural organizations such as the Boston Symphony Orchestra” and finds some optimistic signs. “But mainly there’s uncertainty.”
On the creative side, 2020′s virtual/alfresco mix endures as theater companies continue to explore their options. “The question was never what are we going to do, it was more how are we going to do it?” Company One Theatre’s Shawn LaCount tells Globe correspondent Terry Byrne. Speakeasy Stage Company’s Paul Daigneault says his priority is presenting “theater that creates joy, celebrates community, and encourages empathy.”
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. Listen to all nine episodes, including the latest installment, “Move Over, Hugh Grant,” here.
MEDIA: Newsletter author Heather Cox Richardson’s day job — Boston College political historian — informs “Letters from an American,” which gives her hundreds of thousands of readers context for navigating what she calls “the verge of autocracy.” She tells Cate McQuaid, “I believe the best kind of government is the kind that Abraham Lincoln first articulated in 1859, when he said the government should support ordinary Americans.”
BOOKS: Simon Winchester (“The Professor and the Madman”) brings “his unique blend of wide-eyed curiosity, meticulous research, and erudite analysis” to “Land: How the Hunger for Ownership Shaped the Modern World,” writes Globe reviewer Eric Liebtrau. “In his latest engrossing voyage, the author turns to the land itself, covering a sizable portion of the 37 billion acres that compose the Earth.”
FOOD & DINING: The headline on Devra First’s story announcing the launch of the Globe’s Project Takeout cuts to the chase: “Get takeout. It’s your civic duty.” The pandemic-battered industry needs help getting to outdoor dining season, and if you want to help make sure there actually is an outdoor dining season (this year and ever again), “Get takeout once a week if you can. Get takeout twice. Revisit a restaurant that’s an old favorite, or try a new one.” Bon appetit!
TRAVEL: As cabin-fever season drags into month 10 or 11, “even a day or two out of town to someplace quaint and quiet can have a massive impact on stress levels,” write Globe correspondents Diane Bair and Pamela Wright. They scouted Harvard, Ipswich, and Lincoln for “winter beauty and recreation, and a brief relief from the day-to-day.”
BUT REALLY: Life reminds us daily that the concept of a calendar year is an artificial construct. Remember the halcyon days when we imagined that things would magically improve just because it was 2021? Oh, how young and naive we were . . . two weeks ago. What felt like being cooped up way back then now feels like staying safe. Cuddle up, take Matthew Gilbert’s advice and check out the “likable” sitcom “The Unicorn” — I especially like the talented actors who play the kids — and if you do have to go out, wear your mask!