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HomeFront: Thrillers, mysteries, ‘Pixar Popcorn,’ and lots of takeout

Adarsh Gourav and Priyanka Chopra Jonas in “The White Tiger.” ​
Adarsh Gourav and Priyanka Chopra Jonas in “The White Tiger.” ​Singh Tejinder/Netflix

Welcome back to HomeFront, where we’re feeling lighthearted and well rested despite having engaged in a nonzero amount of day drinking this week. We needed a change, which the universe delivered in a shower of time-honored traditions and breathtaking fireworks. And by that of course I mean the ascension of meme king Bernie Sanders, whose social-media presence shattered the boundaries of time and space, and pandemic overachiever Amanda Gorman, who just since the first lockdowns has graduated from Harvard and written a poem people will be talking about for many, many years.

What, did something else happen Wednesday?


FILM: The coming-of-age story “The White Tiger” offers a “swirling, scalding portrait of India’s class war,” Globe film critic Ty Burr writes in a 3½-star review. Writer-director Ramin Bahrani, who adapted Aravind Adiga’s novel, is “working at a peak of confidence, conveying the intricacies and cruelties of this society through a head-spinning weave of image and sound.”

Set in Mexico, “Identifying Features” earns three stars from Burr with its “dovetailing odysseys” of a mother searching for her son and a son searching for his mother. First-time director Fernanda Valadez and co-writer Astrid Rondero “are interested in locating the humanity in a society bent on stamping it out, and they find it in the face of a tired old woman who won’t stop until she finds her son.”

“Our Friend” succeeds “in large part by focusing on the human connections radiating out from the sickbed,” says Burr, awarding three stars to the story of a family facing a terminal cancer diagnosis and the friend who uproots his life to help out. Casey Affleck brings “silence, sorrow, anger” as the husband, Dakota Johnson delivers “a solid performance,” and Jason Segel plays the title character, “a little lost and over-sensitive.”


Good news for “viewers hankering for an Agatha Christie mystery where Miss Marple turns out to be an animal rights advocate”: Burr gives “Spoor” three stars. Co-written and co-directed by the legendary Agnieszka Holland and released in 2017, the film “is an eerie, wintry, sometimes bleakly comic study of a society whose devolved values are reflected in its treatment of animals.”

The psychological thriller ”Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Time” stars Natasa Stork as “a tightly wound woman whose grip on reality is loosening,” Burr writes in a two-star review. Stork plays Marta, who returns to Budapest to reunite with a man she fell in love with at a medical conference — or did she? The film “keeps the matter unsettled for almost the entirety of its running time.”

After decades in which movie shorts seldom saw wide theatrical release, Pixar reversed the trend starting in the mid-1980s. The nine “mini shorts” that make up “Pixar Popcorn” on Disney+ get the Globe’s Mark Feeney thinking about the format. The studio has “extended the tradition of the short. But why hasn’t that extending become more … extensive.”

The documentary “My Rembrandt” and documentary series “Painting With John” concern themselves with art, and contrasting them illustrates “the difference between a consumer and a producer of this commodity,” writes Globe correspondent Peter Keough. The former, “wry and visually lush,” spotlights wealthy collectors; actor-musician-artist John Lurie’s “deadpan, profound, and hilarious six-part HBO series” focuses on creation.


Judging from social media, Burr is far from the only one who gives four stars to “One Night in Miami.” The Globe’s Mark Feeney uses the new release as the jumping-off point for a look at other movie appearances by the “four famous friends” — Cassius Clay (later Muhammad Ali), Jim Brown, Malcolm X, and Sam Cooke — whose 1964 get-together is reimagined in Oscar-winning actress Regina King’s directing debut.

TV: Although it’s “not a horror miniseries by any means,” the four-parter “The Sister” centers on a body buried for a decade and the fallout when a “creepy lowlife” resurfaces and threatens to reveal what he knows. “Sometimes there’s nothing more enjoyable than watching a TV character’s world fall completely apart, episode by episode, slowly and surely,” writes Globe TV critic Matthew Gilbert.

The TV pipeline overflows with fairly new source material, and “[i]t’s no mystery why podcasts have become such coveted intellectual property,” writes the Globe’s Mark Shanahan: the built-in stories, characters, and audiences. “Amazon’s ‘Homecoming,’ USA Network’s ‘Dirty John,’ and ABC’s ‘Alex Inc.’ are all examples of popular podcasts that have become television series. But they’re only the beginning.”

Gilbert’s distaste for the “reboot and revival craze” is well documented — “Whatever happened to endings?” — but unlike people who complain about the weather, he has suggestions for doing something about it. “It’s an addictive game, futzing with the legacy of great old shows and randomly borrowing characters from them,” he writes before pitching “House” without Hugh Laurie and the “Mad Men” update “Sally!” He’s kidding. I think.


It’s not the only thing I’ve said “finally” about lately, but the one-season wonder “Freaks and Geeks” is finally available to stream (on Hulu). “And, fortunately, the original soundtrack will be intact,” writes Gilbert, “which is essential, since so many of the show’s sequences are linked to specific songs by the likes of the Who, Styx, Cheap Trick, Rush, and the Grateful Dead.”

PROJECT TAKEOUT: The Globe’s new Project Takeout encourages readers to support local independent restaurants, which need a hand getting through the next couple of months — to outdoor dining season and a level of vaccination that makes eating indoors safer. Devra First explains the rationale: “Order takeout. If you can afford it, it’s your civic duty.” See other readers’ favorites and suggest your own here. Looking for ideas? Globe staffers recommend five delicious-sounding restaurants in the Boston area. Not sure how much to tip? Globe correspondent Kara Baskin has you covered.

Kim Faler's "Double Bubble" at Mass MoCA.
Kim Faler's "Double Bubble" at Mass MoCA.Kaelan Burkett/Mass MoCA

VISUAL ART: The disparate work that makes up “Kissing Through a Curtain,” at Mass MoCA, “runs the gamut: Sculpture, installation, painting, sound, video, and, in one notable work, taxidermy and animatronics,” writes Globe art critic Murray Whyte. “The show is ambitious to the point of being disjointed and occasionally confusing. But it’s also engrossing, with an undeniable disquieting charm.”


To an art and tech blogger like Jason Bailey, the analog compendiums known as catalogues raisonnés represent an obstacle to 21st-century data analysis. His solution is a private — for now — database the Globe’s Malcolm Gay compares to “a Zillow for the art world.” Says Bailey, ”It became a question of how to leverage this database, almost ‘Moneyball’-style, to provide collectors with unique insights that they otherwise couldn’t get.”

The “art quilt pioneers” featured in the “lively exhibition” “The Quilted Canvas III — Still Here!” “bring art-school trained eyes and minds to quilting,” writes Globe correspondent Cate McQuaid. “Their toolbox includes a painter’s attention to color, space, and composition. Add to that fabric’s tactility and variety; any swatch is a storehouse of associations.” At the New England Quilt Museum in Lowell.

During Bristol Community College’s winter break, its Grimshaw-Gudewicz Art Gallery became a vaccination center. Director Kathleen Hancock grabbed a camera and created the installation “The Waiting Room.” “I can’t respond to it as if it’s not an installation,” she tells McQuaid. “Understanding it was temporary, and all that will remain is the documentation and the conversation. As a curator, that’s your life.”

MUSIC: In addition to companion animals, the new occupants of the White House have brought along a taste for music. “[L]ike a few presidents before him, [Joe] Biden surely knows that sometimes you just have to turn up the volume to drown out the noise,” writes Globe correspondent James Sullivan. He looks back at five Commanders in Chief who commanded a stereo or two in their day.”

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 here.

THEATER: A new history of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town,” Howard Sherman’s “Another Day’s Begun,” looks at the beloved play through the experiences of more than 100 theater artists. “Like any work of art, we tend to perceive it through our current situation, what surrounds us, whether it’s personally or politically or socially,” the author says in a Q&A with Globe theater critic Don Aucoin.

“From stagecraft to story lines to colorful dramatis personae, there’s an inherent theatricality to judicial proceedings that accounts for the enduring popularity of courtroom dramas,” Aucoin writes in a consideration of the second presidential impeachment trial in just over a year. “The more ambitious fictional courtroom dramas” — think “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “The Caine Mutiny” — “thrash out larger questions of right and wrong.”

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.

A 2016 Boston Ballet performance with choreography by Leonid Yakobson.
A 2016 Boston Ballet performance with choreography by Leonid Yakobson.Dina Rudick/Globe staff/file

DANCE: The third installment of Boston Ballet’s virtual season, “Look Back, Focus Forward,” concentrates on Soviet choreographer Leonid Yakobson, who artistic director Mikko Nissinen says “transformed the art form.” “[T]hough Boston Ballet last presented Yakobson’s work in 2019, it’s still a treat to watch these pieces again,” writes Globe reviewer Jeffrey Gantz.

BOOKS: “The Doctors Blackwell” focuses on Elizabeth Blackwell, America’s first woman doctor, who practiced with younger sister Emily. Author Janice P. Nimura’s “candid account engagingly captures Elizabeth’s many contradictions, central to which was the condescension, and sometimes outright contempt, she showed her fellow women even as she sacrificed to open doors for them,” writes Globe reviewer Jennifer Latson.

OUTDOORS: A relatively mild winter in January is no guarantee of snow-free streets and sidewalks through spring, and local expert Mark Lowenstein has advice for winter runners. “One of the challenges of running is, it can be boring,” the Brookline resident tells Globe correspondents Diane Bair and Pamela Wright. “Winter changes the landscape and adds another level of beauty.”

BUT REALLY: Change is hard. Even change you anticipated like a child headed into a theme park can take some adjustment. We learned this week that Dr. Anthony Fauci sees the light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s kind of a long tunnel. Eventually the vaccine pipeline will be fully functioning, and grabbing a drink at a crowded bar, hugging the friends you meet there, and enjoying a live event together in an indoor space will be a thing again. Someday. Meanwhile, wear your mask and wash your hands!