Friday, January 1, 2021.
By MICHAEL WALSH
Yesterday (December 31), the director called it a wrap on 2020. And now it’s New Year's Day, 2021.
It’s all a bit arbitrary, don’t you think? Why should two dank days shortly after the winter solstice (December 21) be such a big deal? Ring out the old, ring in the new seems more like a make-work moment for carillon players than any kind of natural, necessary purgation.
And yet here we are, marking the fact that the Earth, our much put-upon planet, has completed one more orbit of the sun. The good news is that we’re still along for the ride. Not so good is the fact that the ride is likely to become more bumpy with each succeeding go around, until our quarrelsome species gets it together to address the climate crisis it’s managed to create.
Today (Tevet 18, 5781, on the Hebrew calendar), the big picture is a complex mural full of, well, stuff and more stuff every day. We’re constantly surprised — COVID 19! Who saw that coming? — appalled, and delighted at how people can do dumb things — Canada’s federal government spending billions on an unneeded oil pipeline — and brilliant things — NBC renewing Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist for a second season (set to premiere Tuesday, January 5).
So, what are we going to do today (Jumada Al-Awwai 18, 1442, if you prefer Islam’s Hijri calendar)? I start by challenging my glass-half-full worldview against the information contained in the daily deluge of emails and headlines on my favourite news sites. Then, breakfast.
Oh, wait. Did I mention today’s necktie? In the micro-verse — the “little picture” — that each of us occupies, there are rituals that define who we are. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a shirt-and-tie kind of guy. As my neckwear collection grew, I got into the habit of beginning each day by choosing just the right tie to express something about my inner attitude to the outer world of the moment.
As I write this, I’m wearing the natty number pictured above. It represents the glass-half-full potential of 2021, and my gratitude at being here to see it unfold.
Sorry. I know that momentous occasions are supposed to be a time of insight, profound reflection and startling prognostications. Following the brain cloud that was 2020, today (Xu 18, the Year of the Rat in China), seems like just another Blursday. As things come into focus, I’ll make new additions to the Reeling Back archive. Recent postings have included:
THE PEANUT BUTTER SOLUTION — It’s hard to know if “classic” really applies to writer-director Michael Rubbo’s 1985 children’s fantasy. A Canadian oddity, it tells the story of a schoolboy seeking a magic resolution to a sudden hair loss problem. (December 31)
THE THREEPENNY OPERA — Repurposed for the American mass market, German director Wolfgang Staudte’s 1963 adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s combative musical was not improved by the addition of Sammy Davis Jr. as a host-commentator. (December 28)
PATTI ROCKS — Despite its Christmas setting, director David Burton’s 1988 relationships drama will never be mistaken for a Hallmark card. His independent feature offers a gritty examination of toxic masculinity and one admirably independent female. (December 25)
LORENZO’S OIL A movie made to promote research into a rare disease, medical doctor-turned-director George Miller’s 1992 docu-drama stars Nick Nolte and Susan Sarandon as parents dedicated to saving their ailing son. (November 24)
DEATH ON THE NILE — Peter Ustinov took over the role of Agatha Christie’s detective Hercule Poirot in director John Guillermin’s 1978 sequel to Sidney Lumet’s 1974 all-star hit, Murder on the Orient Express. (November 24)
EVIL UNDER THE SUN — Taking his turn with the Hercule Poirot franchise, director Guy Hamilton reunited Peter Ustinov with Maggie Smith in this 1982 tale of a murder investigation at an island resort in the Adriatic Sea. (November 24)
THE PURPLE TAXI — Director Yves Boisett assembled an international cast in rural Ireland to make this 1977 jet-set soap opera. Peter Ustinov, Charlotte Rampling, Philippe Noiret and Fred Astaire are among the stars. (November 24)
CERTAIN FURY — Shot on location in Vancouver, director Stephen Gyllenhaal’s 1985 remake of The Defiant Ones paired Tatum O’Neal and Irene Cara as interracial fugitives on the run in the city. (November 5)