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HomeFront: Billie Holiday, Beethoven, and Bad Bunny, plus art to comfort and calm

Andra Day stars in "The United States vs. Billie Holiday."
Andra Day stars in "The United States vs. Billie Holiday."Takashi Seida/Hulu

Welcome back to HomeFront, where the moon is almost full, the snow is melting a little, and next week is March, can you believe it? Now that I’ve all but guaranteed a freak blizzard, here are some suggestions for cocooning entertainment.

FILM: The “electrifying” Andra Day deserves better than “The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” an “earnestly scattered” effort that earns 2½ stars from Globe film critic Ty Burr. Day delivers “a marvel of dramatic and vocal technique as well as a full-on possession,” he writes. “[Y]ou can’t take your eyes off Holiday, who in Day’s performance is a diva and a lost soul, the nation’s conscience and her own worst enemy.”


Ivory Coast’s Oscar submission, the story-within-a-story “Night of the Kings,” is “like nothing you’ve seen before,” Burr says in a 3½-star review. Writer-director Philippe Lacôte’s “swirling, striking” film is a “prison thriller with touches of magical realism, a ‘Lord of the Flies’ parable with the soul of a medieval fable, an ‘Arabian Nights’ revamp with gang warfare.”

The “pitch-black karmic comedy” “I Care a Lot” “features just about the worst person imaginable, a woman who bilks senior citizens out of their life savings,” Burr writes in a 2-star review. Sounds promising! “But in Rosamund Pike’s chilly, hollow central performance you may find it difficult to care at all.” Come for the premise, stay for the stellar supporting cast, including Eiza González, Dianne Wiest, Chris Messina, and Peter Dinklage.

A film about filmmaking sounds more than a little precious, but how about when the filmmakers are in middle school? Filmmaker Éric Baudelaire “enlisted 21 engaged and engaging students of diverse races and backgrounds” to create “Un Film Dramatique,” an “absorbing documentary about growing up and making movies,” writes Globe correspondent Peter Keough.


In addition to messing with the rollout of “Crisis,” which Burr calls “a watchable but formulaic multi-character drama,” the implosion of Armie Hammer’s career is part of a larger, longer Hollywood story. “What happens when a celebrity name turns toxic? When an above-the-title star becomes such a liability that he becomes a negative draw?”

The 33-year gap between “Coming to America” and “Coming 2 America” (out next week) is long but not unprecedented, writes the Globe’s Mark Feeney. Figuring that out sends him on a deep dive into the history of movie sequels: “Sequels can have one or both of two justifications. One is financial: cashing in. ... The other is artistic: further developing a story or character.”

TV: Let’s check in with Globe TV critic Matthew Gilbert. He’s declared himself “total ruler of the world”! And eliminating the Golden Globe Awards (”meaningless — when they’re not offensive”) is at the top of his list of “the 10 things I would promptly do away with, if I were king of the forest.” Watch your back, pharmaceutical commercials, prime-time game shows, and any outlet giving airtime to politicians spreading the Big Lie.

As Frances McDormand draws Oscar buzz for “Nomadland” (read Burr’s 4-star review here), Gilbert is “chiming in with a reminder of one of her best performances, in the 2014 HBO miniseries ‘Olive Kitteridge.’ McDormand plays the title character, who “seems to embody the soul of New England, with her salty, stubborn, enduring, and loyal ways.”


Gilbert didn’t much care for the Bryan Cranston vehicle “Your Honor,” and an Ask Matthew reader has a horse-size bone to pick, saying the review “underscores my resolve to disregard a critic’s view of what’s good and what’s not.” Read this one for the thoughtful response, which includes an important point: “When something becomes popular, it doesn’t automatically mean that it’s good.”

THEATER: Nearly a year in, the theater world continues to rise to the pandemic challenge. “Theater has always combined many different art forms,” Igor Golyak of Arlekin Players Theatre, one of numerous companies creating barrier-pushing hybrids, tells Globe correspondent Terry Byrne. “By joining all these forces, we can create a whole new art form.”

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.

Andris Nelsons leads a new Beethoven-themed BSO Now concert series.
Andris Nelsons leads a new Beethoven-themed BSO Now concert series. Aram Boghosian

CLASSICAL MUSIC: The pandemic transformed celebrations of the 250th anniversary of his birth, but “Beethoven still resonates,” writes the Globe’s A.Z. Madonna. “When the concerts started to vanish from the calendar, I felt deep sadness ... mixed with a perverse sense of relief — a feeling that resurfaced as the streets boiled over with rage and grief.” Today, “with concert halls still dark, Beethoven’s music has lost little of its resonance.”

The latest installment of the BSO’s online concert series “The Spirit of Beethoven” includes Iman Habibi’s “Jeder Baum spricht” (“Every tree speaks”). “I thought if Beethoven was alive today ... given his love for nature, he probably would have written something about climate change,” the Canadian composer says in a Q&A with Madonna.


POP & JAZZ: If last week’s “Saturday Night Live” was your introduction to Bad Bunny, you’ve been missing out. The “Latin pop superstar” — and WWE title holder — personifies “how the notion of ‘popularity’ has splintered and become a lot less beholden to the whims and biases of radio programmers and record-store merchandisers,” Globe correspondent Maura Johnston writes in her first Omnipop column.

Jazz composer and bandleader Maria Schneider visits New England Conservatory next week for a residency that includes panel discussions, a concert, and “a focus on career management and the artist as entrepreneur,” reports the Globe’s Jon Garelick. “If you stream, you have no chance of making your money back,” says Schneider. “I never give ownership of my music to anybody.”

Nancy Sinatra “brought the sexual revolution into Billboard’s Top 10, and she did it wearing nothing but an oversize sweater, a pair of go-go boots, and a smile,” writes the Globe’s Christopher Muther. “Start Walkin’ 1965-1976” is the first of several reissues with a message: “For those who dismissed Sinatra as little more than a poster child for nepotism, she is ready to set the record straight.”

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 whose names you might recognize recommend two local eateries. See other readers’ favorites and suggest your own here.


 Silvia López Chavez with her “deLight” mural inside the Prudential Center.
Silvia López Chavez with her “deLight” mural inside the Prudential Center.Dominic Chavez

VISUAL ART: Sparking joy is important for more than just decluttering — it’s a pandemic-life necessity. Starting with the Peabody Essex Museum show “Zarah Hussain: Breath,” Globe correspondent Cate McQuaid surveys the local landscape and finds that “artists are making gentle work, aimed to warm and comfort, to prompt pleasure and joy, and to engage with the community.” It’s a breath of fresh air.

The “subtly gorgeous” pieces in Erin Shirreff’s “Remainders” remind us “that late Modernism, with its tendencies toward abstraction, gesture, and material, was really the first art movement to play out in the mass media in any significant way,” writes Globe art critic Murray Whyte. “If photography is about light and sculpture about material, Shirreff’s work makes an unresolvable knot of the two.” At the The Clark Art Institute.

In “Crowded Fields,” Pelle Cass captures sporting events in images that “look like what would happen if stop-motion photography pioneer Eadweard Muybridge had the wherewithal to shoot an entire game,” says McQuaid. The Photoshopped pieces are “delightfully unsettling — fervid and chaotic, yet contained within the graceful restraints of the game and the field.” At Abigail Ogilvy Gallery in the South End.

The book “Black Lives: W.E.B. Du Bois at the Paris Exposition 1900” sent Whyte exploring beyond the Du Bois Center at Great Barrington. “Du Bois was just 32 when he presented ‘The Exhibit of American Negroes’” at the exposition, for which he “conceived another visual strategy for the exhibit that has resonated through the ages for its ingenuity, clarity, and disarmingly elegant beauty. ... The result was what we’d now call data visualization.”

Henryk Ross’s photographs of the Lodz Ghetto, preserved for decades by Auschwitz survivor Leon Sutton, recently found their way to the MFA. “All the stars line up,” collector Howard Greenberg, who donated the collection, tells the Globe’s Malcolm Gay in a gripping story of the journey from a hole in the ground in Poland to Huntington Avenue. “It’s pretty amazing.”

LOVE LETTERS: The theme of season 4 of the “Love Letters” podcast, hosted by the Globe’s Meredith Goldstein, is “At Any Age.” The podcast, a favorite of O, The Oprah Magazine, 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: The subject of Boston Ballet’s virtual subscription series “Celebrating Jorma Elo” “has outlasted Tom Brady as a Boston institution,” writes Globe correspondent Jeffrey Gantz. “The music for his Boston Ballet creations has been largely classical: Biber, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Bizet, Sibelius, Stravinsky. The choreography has been anything but.”

BUT REALLY: The rewards are objectively terrible, but back in the day, the Golden Globes provided entertainment value through a mix of movie royalty rubbing elbows with TV commoners, amateur fashion police on the sofa, and speculating on which attendees were walking violations of California’s open-container laws (remember open bars?). With all three of those mostly moot, Sunday’s long-distance cohosts, Tina Fey in New York and Amy Poehler in Beverly Hills, have their work cut out. And the broadcast conflicts with my new obsession, “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy.” Decisions, decisions ...

Wear your masks and wash your hands!