fb-pixel Skip to main content

HomeFront: 4 stars for ‘Nomadland,’ tween-friendly TV, remembering comedian Patrice O’Neal

Frances McDormand in a scene from the film "Nomadland."
Frances McDormand in a scene from the film "Nomadland."Searchlight Pictures via AP

Welcome back to HomeFront, where we’re listening to metal and punk covers of “Let It Snow” (surprisingly soothing) and thinking about a Laura Ingalls Wilder book other than “The Long Winter” for a change. This time it’s “Farmer Boy,” in which Almanzo’s father says, “When the days begin to lengthen / The cold begins to strengthen.” Yes, I am a lot of fun at parties.

FILM: Frances McDormand stars as Fern, a prickly widow roaming the American West in a van, in “Nomadland,” which earns 4 stars from Globe film critic Ty Burr. Writer-director Chloé Zhao’s “absolutely gorgeous” film is “an epic about what America used to mean and where it is now. It’s a semi-documentary about van life, based on a prize-winning nonfiction book of the same name by Jessica Bruder. And it never stops being about Fern.”


After a slow start, “Days of the Bagnold Summer” jells into “a story where personal growth transpires long after the turbulent teenage years,” Globe reviewer Allyson Johnson writes in a 2½-star review. “[L]ess a coming-of-age tale and more a gentle slice of life,” the story of a 15-year-old (Earl Cave) and his single mom (Monica Dolan) “deploys acerbic wit and heart in equal measure.”

American evangelicals’ support for Israel is the focus of Maya Zinshtein’s “chilling, even-handed documentary ‘Til Kingdom Come.’ The relationship “comes with apocalyptic complications,” says Globe correspondent Peter Keough. “It’s a paradox,” Yael Eckstein of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews tells Zinshtein. “Once you get five steps ahead of it, it gets really frickin’ complicated. So I don’t go those five steps.”

With four decades’ worth of hindsight, 1981 comes into focus as a bridge from the era of studios to the era of superheroes. The Globe’s Mark Feeney looks back at the year’s hits (“Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “On Golden Pond”), debuts (Denzel Washington! Kathleen Turner!), swan songs (George Cukor’s ”Rich and Famous,” Billy Wilder’s “Buddy Buddy”), and more.


BLACK HISTORY MONTH: The Globe’s Black History Month Film Festival mixes classics and new releases with virtual appearances by filmmakers and performers. Upcoming discussions include “Process Is The Project: Part One — Inviting Witness” and “Glory.” Check out the full schedule here.

TV: The documentary series “Allen v. Farrow,” about allegations that Woody Allen sexually assaulted his 7-year-old daughter Dylan Farrow, held little appeal for Globe TV critic Matthew Gilbert. “But I’m really glad I saw it,” he writes. “It lets Dylan, now 35, married and a mother, finally tell her own story at length.”

The Swedish miniseries “Beartown” rings many of the same bells as Gilbert favorite “Friday Night Lights,” through hockey rather than football. It also evokes “I May Destroy You” and “A Teacher” — the plot turns on a sex crime. “For me, these shows are essential,” writes Gilbert. “If too many of our collective stories were happy and escapist, I’d worry that our culture was heading down a path of denial and delusion.”

The new series “Tell Me Your Secrets” finds Hamish Linklater’s character on the trail of Lily Rabe’s character, and the offscreen couple “went their separate ways to prepare for their roles in the psychological thriller,” reports Globe correspondent Natachi Onwuamaegbu. Says Rabe, “We were withholding in a way that was really useful.” She recommends taking your time with the 10 episodes; Linklater counters: “This is your February show.”


An Ask Matthew reader wanted advice about shows to watch with tweens, and fellow readers responded with some great suggestions, including “My So-Called Life” and “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” (I approve this message). Gilbert shares a dozen-plus, adding: “[P]roceed with caution, or do some advance sampling; parents’ standards of what is suitable for children vary.”

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.

"Patrice O'Neal: Killing Is Easy," premiering on Comedy Central, aims to show the comedian in all his complexity.
"Patrice O'Neal: Killing Is Easy," premiering on Comedy Central, aims to show the comedian in all his complexity.

COMEDY: The new documentary “Patrice O’Neal: Killing Is Easy” tells the comedian’s too-short story largely in his own words. O’Neal (1969-2011) “was more a truth-sayer and taboo philosopher than a run-of-the-mill joke peddler,” Globe correspondent James Sullivan writes in a story that made me set a reminder. The film “makes clear that O’Neal’s refusal to play the Hollywood games may have kept his career from the heights his talent deserved.”

PROJECT TAKEOUT: The Globe’s 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. This week, Globe staffers recommend four local eateries, and Globe restaurant critic Devra First has two dozen suggestions for combining the fourth annual Boston Black Restaurant Challenge with Project Takeout. See other readers’ favorites and suggest your own here.


CLASSICAL MUSIC: The BSO has a new boss: Gail Samuel, who becomes president and CEO in June. Samuel worked at Tanglewood early in her career and has been with the LA Philharmonic since 1993. “Samuel, who said issues of equity, diversity, and inclusion are among her top priorities, declined to outline specific ideas for Boston, saying she still has a lot to learn about the city and the BSO, reports the Globe’s Malcolm Gay.

After 38 seasons, Cantata Singers conductor David Hoose isn’t enjoying the send-off anyone imagined, but “[w]ith or without a celebratory final season ... the appreciation from the city’s musical community has been abundant and heartfelt,” writes Globe classical music critic Jeremy Eichler. Composer John Harbison praises Hoose and the chorus for “idealism that is connected to a real zeal which one feels when the group walks onstage.”

Pianist András Schiff “has become more outspoken about the rise of far-right populism and the fate of Europe,” Globe correspondent David Weininger reports ahead of a Celebrity Series online recital of Bach, Beethoven, and Schumann. “We musicians and people in the arts, we should not be living in ivory towers,” says the native of Hungary. “We have to keep our eyes, our ears, our minds, and hearts open.”

POP MUSIC: Missing live concerts doesn’t have to mean forgetting that the experience can be, um, inconsistent. “A truly awful live performance is a thing of wonder,” writes Globe correspondent Marc Hirsh, who shares some vivid memories. “[I]t’s not just agonizing when things go well and truly south; it’s special.” If just reading that caused a flashback, tell the Globe about your worst concert experience here. (Joe Jackson, Central Park, Aug. 19-MYOB.)


Singer-songwriter Philip B. Price went 15 years between solo albums, releasing “Bone Almanac” shortly before the pandemic struck. He’s back with “Oceans Hiding in Oceans, recorded in his Northampton guest room with him playing all the instruments. “It’s a pop record,” the Winterpills frontman tells Globe correspondent Eric R. Danton. “Well, pop for me.”

COMMUNITY MUSIC: The New England Conservatory student-alumni concert “Continuation of a Dream: Requiem” honors alumna Coretta Scott King. “[T]he fact that this is something we created ourselves, we had full creative direction of it, meant that we could do things that we wanted to, things that were meaningful to us,” flutist Zoe Cagan of the school’s Black Student Union, which hosts the event, tells Globe correspondent Bill Beuttler.

Eleven months in, the Olmstead Choristers are still taking to the streets of Jamaica Plain’s Parkside neighborhood each night (weather permitting). “We’re not just neighbors, we’re friends,” singer Maria Quiroga tells Globe correspondent Diti Kohli. “It’s the kind of neighborhood where everyone has each other’s keys.”

"Pyramid" by Abelardo Morell.
"Pyramid" by Abelardo Morell. Krakow Witkin Gallery

VISUAL ART: Images from longtime MassArt professor Abelardo Morell’s “Vessels” series make up his latest show, online at Krakow Witkin Gallery. “Solids turn ghostly and imprecise. Tones overlap. Everything seems to jiggle and be on the verge of mutating,” writes Globe correspondent Cate McQuaid. “I think most photographers, if you torture them, will declare that they want to be painters,” says Morell. “And I’m one of them.”

The MFA exhibition “Collecting Stories: Folk Art” represents “much-delayed vindication,” writes Globe art critic Murray Whyte — of collector Maxim Karolik and the “array of nameless American artists” pigeonholed under the label of folk art. “The term is heavy with derision, immediately diminishing the work as something other than art itself.” Today, “the vast majority of the show comes from Karolik’s trove.”

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.

DANCE: A Kendall Square storefront is an unexpected location for a creative rehearsal and performance space, but these are unexpected times. The new Complex@Canal, a satellite location of The Dance Complex, “has beautiful glass windows so people walking by can see dance happening,” executive artistic director Peter DiMuro tells Globe correspondent Karen Campbell. “[W]e’re making something more at a time when we’re expected to do less.”

BUT REALLY: Insomniacs get a break from late-night reruns and infomercials this weekend when the Australian Open wraps up with the women’s (Saturday) and men’s (Sunday) singles finals, which start at 3:30 a.m. Eastern. It’s summer in Melbourne — I might set an alarm. Wear your mask(s) and wash your hands!