It’s customary in January to savor in advance all the wonderful art and entertainment we’ll be watching, listening to and interacting with during the coming year. That’s true even when the crystal ball offers a view that is foggy at best.
Let’s face it. What fans really want to know at this point is when will we back in movie theaters, museums and concert and recital halls? Will we have to stream our way through movie popcorn season? Will there be outdoor summer theater? A fall performing arts season? When will Outside Lands or BottleRock Napa return?
We don’t know the answers to these questions. Previous forecasts have been wrong and the current surge in COVID cases locally and nationally certainly don’t bode well.
But in the meantime, clever and committed artists and producers are doing what they can to fill the void. And that is what we’re focusing on here. Following are some of the works and productions our writers are looking forward to as we all hope for a better landscape by the close of 2021.
If the lineup of 2021 films looks a lot like the 2020 lineup, it’s because many big releases were pushed back by the pandemic and are now slated to open this year. Expect further changes and instability as the pandemic plays out. In other words, all opening dates are subject to change.
Still, here are five movies to get excited about.
“Judas and the Black Messiah”: Take an up-and-coming director in Shaka King. Add a Bay Area homegrown producer in Ryan Coogler. Then let loose two powerhouse actors — Daniel Kaluuya (“Get Out”) and Lakeith Stanfield (“Sorry to Bother You”) in a drama based on the true story of Chicago Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, who was targeted by the FBI and others and shot to death in his home during a botched raid. Word is Kaluuya might be landing in the Oscar race again.
Details: Due out Feb. 12 in select theaters (if possible) and HBO Max
“No Time to Die”: Like “Tenet” and “Wonder Woman 1984” (both disappointments), this James Bond installment (featuring Daniel Craig in his last outing as the sexy spy) has been heralded as a box office savior. Its released has been delayed several times. Will it finally deliver? With Oakland native Cary Joji Fukunaga in the director’s seat, expect to be shaken and stirred.
Details: Due out April 2; United Artists
“In the Heights”: Palo Alto native Jon M. Chu follows up his monumental hit “Crazy Rich Asians” with this film version of the 2007 stage musical hit from Quiara Alegria Hudes and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Hudes wrote the screenplay and she and Miranda are producers here (Miranda also appears in the film). “Hamilton” costar Anthony Ramos takes center stage and it looks like a star will be born.
Details: Due out June 18 in theaters and HBO Max
“Respect”: Jennifer Hudson belts it out again, this time as the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin. We suspect she and director Liesl Tommy, who has directed stage productions at Berkeley Rep and California Shakes, among other companies, will hit all the right notes.
Details: Due out out Aug. 13; United Artists
“Dune”: Let’s forget David Lynch’s fiasco of an adaptation of the Frank Herbert sci-fi classic (except for giggling at the sight of Sting in diapers). But adventurous Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve (“Arrival,” “Blade Runner 2049”) seems like the right person to take another crack at capturing Herbert’s vast and complicated world. At least the cast — Timothee Chalamet, Oakland native Zendaya, Oscar Issac, Jason Momoa, Josh Brolin — looks promising.
Details: Due out Oct. 1 in theaters and HBO Max.
— Randy Myers
Super Bowl Weeknd: Nope. That’s not a typo. We are indeed looking forward to seeing what the Weeknd — the red-hot Canadian R&B star born Abel Tesfaye — has in store for music fans during the Pepsi Super Bowl LV Halftime Show on Feb. 7 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.
The Grammy-winning artist is an excellent choice to headline the big event, possessing enough charisma to light up a football stadium and the kind of big hits that can captivate a worldwide television crowd. Here’s hoping that his Feb. 7 set list includes such offerings as “Often,” “Die for You” and, of course, the recent blockbuster “Blinding Lights.”
Oh, and how about a double shot of “Starboy” and “I Feel It Coming” featuring original collaborators Daft Punk as special Super Bowl guests? (Well, one can dream, right?)
Overall, we fully expect that the Weeknd will deliver a show that will go down among the best in Super Bowl history, right alongside Katy Perry’s performance at Super Bowl XLIX (2015), U2’s outing at Super Bowl XXXVI (2002) and the Beyonce triumph, which included a mini Destiny’s Child reunion, at Super Bowl XLVII (2013).
Details: Game starts 3:30 p.m. Feb. 7; CBS
The 63rd Grammy Awards: There are several intriguing matchups set for the ceremony, which following this week’s announced postponement, will likely take place sometime in early spring. Some reports are suggesting a March date. In any event, the worldwide “Beyhive” will be rooting for their hero Beyonce — who’s leading the pack with nine nominations — to add to her already impressive tally of Grammy victories. Beyonce currently has 22 wins, trailing only Alison Krauss’ 27 for the all-time record for a female artist.
Also, we are closely eyeing the hotly contested best new artist category, thinking that it will boil down to a three-way race between Megan Thee Stallion, Phoebe Bridgers and Doja Cat — with Megan eventually taking home the trophy. The best rap album contest is also quite intriguing, as we wonder if the legendary Nas — a 14-time nominee — can finally bring home his first Grammy.
Of course, the awards are only part of the fun. There will also be plenty of cool performances, which will obviously have a different look and feel in the age of social distancing. The artist lineup is TBA.
Details: Rescheduled date TBA; CBS
“Van Weezer”: We can’t wait to get an earful of Weezer’s upcoming 14th studio album, The band — which scored its last gold single with a faithful cover of Toto’s pop gem “Africa” — is going for a harder-edged sound this time around.
The new music was reportedly inspired by the legendary likes of Black Sabbath, KISS and — you guessed it — Van Halen. Back in October, just after Eddie Van Halen died, Weezer announced on Twitter that the album would be dedicated “to Eddie as a thank you for all the incredible music that soundtracked our youth and inspired the record.”
Those who prefer Weezer’s pop stuff shouldn’t worry. Judging from the first two singles — “The End of the Game” and “Hero” — the new music is still far more “Buddy Holly” than Tony Iommi.
Details: Due out May 7, Atlantic Records.
— Jim Harrington
San Francisco Ballet: The company streams Balanchine’s masterly “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” later this month, a recording of a 2020 production that was cut short by the pandemic. Set to music by Felix Mendelssohn, the 1962 ballet was Balanchine’s first original evening-length work, and it cemented his reputation as the artform’s foremost figure.
Details: Jan. 21 through Feb. 10; $29, plus $5 fee for 24-hour access (single tickets go on sale Jan. 21); Premium Plus Digital Pass, $289; sfballet.org
RAWDance: Along with ODC Theater, the newly bicoastal company RAWdance co-presents “The Healer,” a ritualistic work choreographed by Katerina Wong, one of the company’s three co-artistic directors. Originally scheduled to premiere last March, the hour-long online event, described as a holistic online experience and virtual dance performance, streams Jan. 29 and 30 and includes a pre-show class/presentation, a dance premiere filmed at ODC Theater, and a post-show Q&A with artistic collaborators.
Details: 6 p.m. Jan. 29; 5 and 8 p.m. Jan. 30; $15 to $100; rawdance.org.
Smuin Contemporary Ballet: The company streams a program of besotted dances Feb. 11 through 14, featuring two programs of works by the company’s late namesake founder. With a jazz-pop soundtrack tapping into the timeless songs of Nat “King” Cole and Peggy Lee, “Long disDance Love” features a series of duets both steamy and dreamy.
Details: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 11 through 13, 4 p.m. Feb. 14; prices TBA; smuinballet.org.
— Andrew Gilbert
Opera hits, for free: San Francisco Opera is streaming three full productions this month featuring live performances captured at the War Memorial Opera House in recent seasons. Each was a hit for the company, beginning with the 2019 production of Gounod’s “Romeo et Juliette,” starring tenor Pene Pati and soprano Nadine Sierra as the star-crossed lovers (Jan. 16 and 17). Also showing this month: “Samson and Delilah,” featuring tenor Clifton Forbis and mezzo-soprano Olga Borodina in Saint-Saëns’ Biblical epic (Jan. 23 and 24), and Verdi’s ever-popular “La Traviata,” with soprano Nicole Cabell as Violetta, paired with tenor Stephen Costello’s Alfredo (Jan. 30 and 31).
Details: Access free but donations encouraged; sfopera.com.
Kohl turns 38: [email protected] Mansion continues its quest to bring the best in international chamber music to Bay Area audiences. Under executive director Patricia Kristof Moy, this Virtual at Kohl season — the organization’s 38th campaign overall — opens with the Alexander String Quartet playing Beethoven’s monumental String Quartet No. 13 in B-flat Major, Op. 130 (Jan. 24 and 28). Still to come: Scotland’s Maxwell Quartet (Feb. 28 and March 4), the Ying Quartet (March 14 and 18), the French-Belgian Quatuor Danel, with Pascal Moraguès (April 11 and 15), and the Horszowski Trio (May 9 and 13).
Details: Programs stream 7 p.m. Sundays, 6 p.m. Thursdays; $20 single tickets, $20 per household, multi-concert packages $40 to $80 (offers available through Jan. 28); musicatkohl.org.
Duos at Gold Coast: The Gold Coast Chamber Players launch a six-program season this month with “2LOW+,” a concert of works for cello and double bass featuring the San Francisco Symphony’s assistant principal cellist Amos Yang and bassist Charles Chandler. They’ll be joined by soprano Isabel Yang and pianist Keisuke Nakagoshi in music by Handel, Rossini, Bottesini, Sara Bareilles and others. Additional streamed performances are scheduled for Feb. 14 (Olga Rakitchenkov, harp, and Sergey Rakitchekov, viola) and Feb. 28 (violinist Dmitry Sitkovetsky).
Details: All concerts at 4 p.m., streaming on YouTube Live; $20; gccpmusic.com.
Skonberg, Bullock “At Home”: Cal Performances continues to add new events to its popular “At Home” series, which started off with trumpeter-vocalist Bria Skonberg in a program recorded at the historic Louis Armstrong House in Queens, New York. This week brings the return of radiant soprano Julia Bullock, in a recital from Bleibach, Germany; accompanied by pianist Laura Poe, she’ll sing selections from Schumann’s “Dichterliebe,” along with works by John Adams, Margaret Bonds, Kurt Weill, Hugo Wolf, and others. The arts presenter’s spring At Home series schedule will be announced next week.
Details: Bria Skonberg is available on demand through April 7; Julia Bullock streams 7 p.m. Jan. 14, available on demand through April 14; single/household tickets $15 to $60, $15 single viewer, $30 for two, $60 per household; calperformances.org.
— Georgia Rowe
American Conservatory Theater: The San Francisco company is eyeing a return to live shows in late May. For the time being, it’s offering ACT Out Loud, a series of readings of classic plays, including Alice Childress’ “Trouble in Mind,” about a group of actors about to stage an anti-lynching play in 1959 (available on demand March 2 through 7); George Bernard Shaw’s comedic love triangle “Arms and the Man” (March 23 through 28) and Thornton Wilder’s romantic farce “The Matchmaker” (April 27 through May 2).
Details: ACT Out Loud tickets, $15; subscription packages $240 to $650 (live and streaming productions), $199 (at home content); act-sf.org.
TheatreWorks Silicon Valley: The company’s first scheduled production of 2021 is “Hershey Felder as Monsieur Chopin,” slated for March 17 through April 18 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. That might be too soon for a return to live performances, but Felder, a talented musician and storyteller whose productions about composers have long been a favorite with Bay Area stage fans, has already proved himself adept at presenting his shows as virtual productions. Perhaps that will happen with “Chopin.” Stay tuned for updates: theatreworks.org.
Berkeley Repertory Theatre: The company hopes to return to live productions in time for the fall season. In the meantime, Rep-On Air is presenting “Place/Settings: Berkeley”: a series of audio stories by such famed writers as Daniel Handler, Eisa Davis, Philip Kan Gotanda and Richard Montoya, among others, set in a particular Berkeley locale. It kicks off Jan. 12. Also coming is “The Waves in Quarantine,” described as a “Theatrical Experiment in 6 Movements” developed by Tony Award-nominee Raúl Esparza and Obie Award-winning director Lisa Peterson. Details are TBA. Check for updates at www.berkeleyrep.org.
— Randy McMullen