WE’VE LEARNED, as we head into our second pandemic autumn, to approach the future gingerly — with anticipation, but also the knowledge that our hopes might be dashed by a last-minute cancellation amid surging infection rates. That uneasy feeling? Of course there’s a meme for that.
Yet the season ahead is less a battle between our fall plans and the Delta variant, and more a moment of transformation.
Last year, there was barely a fall season to celebrate. We had our computer screens and televisions to keep us connected, as well as books for unplugged interludes of escape, but all around us were shuttered movie theaters, empty opera stages, abandoned festival grounds and museums filled with art no one could see.
This year is different. COVID-19 may still be with us, but it’s culture that’s surging. Artists and actors, musicians and game designers, playwrights and moviemakers, authors, TV writers and composers are all fighting back with their own culture variants. Our reporters and critics have come up with more than 30 ways of looking at the fall season with creator and performer interviews plus recommendations for more than 160 movies, TV shows, video games, music events, books and Southern California cultural happenings, along with notes on virtually every movie — nearly 200! — coming to theaters or streaming in the coming weeks. Read on ....
TRANSFORMATION is at the heart of some of the coming season’s most intriguing film and TV performances, from Jessica Chastain’s mascara-fueled turn in Searchlight Pictures’ “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” to Sarah Paulson’s manifestation of Linda Tripp, the former White House secretary who exposed the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky affair, for the FX series “Impeachment: American Crime Story.” We’re also watching the evolution of “badass women,” animated family sitcoms and Lee Daniels’ expanding empire.
STUDIOS ARE at last releasing many of the movies we’ve been waiting for, even as we’ve become accustomed to new titles arriving simultaneously at our local cineplex and home screens. Among the most anticipated are two new movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — “Eternals” directed by Oscar winner Chloé Zhao and the Destin Daniel Cretton-directed “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings” — with a fresh, diverse cast of superheroes to root for. Many of us are eager to revisit the world of “The Sopranos” with new actors playing some of our favorite characters — including James Gandolfini’s son Michael Gandolfini as young Tony — in “The Many Saints of Newark,” and to find out whether director Denis Villeneuve has cracked the code on Frank Herbert’s famously difficult-to-adapt sci-fi novel “Dune.”
YES, COVID-19 precautions have forced some high-profile tour cancellations — stay virus-free, Steve Nicks! But after a year without live music, we are seeing huge stars return to concert arenas and music festival stages, including the Rolling Stones (sadly, without late drummer Charlie Watts), Harry Styles, TLC, Phoebe Bridgers, Kamasi Washington, YG, George Clinton and, after far too long, Kendrick Lamar. Even if you’d rather not take the risk of a live concert, there are many exciting albums and other music media to consume at home.
PLAYS AND MUSICALS are once more being staged, though often at limited audience capacities, and sometimes with a virtual component. For many theater companies and other cultural institutions, it’s a make-or-break season and they’re going all out with with a packed calendar of stage shows, art exhibits, concerts and operas, including one that requires up to 20 tons of sand to pull off.
THE FALL BOOKS lineup looks like a return not just to normalcy but to blockbuster fiction, as well as more varied and nuanced nonfiction.
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