Past, Present, Future…


The winter solstice, the end of the year and birthdays all signify the end of something and the beginning of something else. It’s a convergence of the old and new, a time to review the past and prepare for the future. What has this year been like? What about the next one? What’s going on personally and globally – family, health, war, climate change, art, Wall Street, racism, national security, ISIS, politics? Issues large and small. It’s time to reflect and recommit.

I always get a little help with this from the year-end film releases, that seasonal bonanza of films surging into theaters hoping to be celebrated and recognized as the best of the year for the upcoming award season. I’ve been doing this movie thing for a long time and it doesn’t surprise me when I find a link between what’s showing in movie theaters and what’s trending in the real world. Still, given the lag time between the germ of creation and the distribution of a film, the synchronicity sometimes surprises me. This month The Danish Girl, a film based on a true 1920’s transgender story, is in theaters. It’s timely; in the last 5 years transgender stories have become mainstream news. 15 years ago when the story was written and 7 years ago when the director, Tom Hooper, was pitching it to backers it was a tough sale.

What do this year’s films tell us about our world? Last week I saw three of them – Spotlight (about Catholic priest child abuse in Boston), The Big Short (about the subprime mortgage mess that brought down America’s financial house), and Room (about a young woman kidnapped, raped, abused and held prisoner by a predator). Is there a bright side? Every year has its tragedies and upsets, but this year feels different. Darker. More problematic. Fear infused.

2015 was not a banner year for optimists. Millions of terrorized refugees risked their lives trying to reach the safety of Western Europe. ISIS beheaded Western journalists and established a caliphate dedicated to the destruction of non-conforming people, countries, and cultures. Wall Street ignored the lessons of 2008 and rapaciously pursued the same greedy strategies that drove the country to near bankruptcy. Police shootings of unarmed African-Americans grabbed the headlines, and the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino hijacked our attention and crowded out the every day news about gun violence in neighborhoods all over America.

And, whenever there was a lull in the news cycle, the media feverishly fed us the inane, uninformed, bigoted Donald Trump crap that Americans either love or love to hate. Where is Jon Stewart now that we really need him? Is this the end of the beginning or the beginning of the end?


Meanwhile, our leaders and legislators are sitting on their hands. Instead of being outraged at the epidemic of gun violence and working on solutions to keep us safer they are bickering over Obamacare, denying climate change, and demonizing immigrants? The year-end films tell us a lot about the society we live in.

Why is it that the criminals who destroyed our financial system have gone unpunished? Not one major Wall Street banker, trader or executive has been indicted for the criminal activity that brought on the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression. (See The Big Short to find out how they did it.)

How did we not know that the Catholic Church was protecting hundreds of priests who preyed on vulnerable children? And how could lawyers, in good conscience, make a lucrative market out of the abuse by settling claims rather than spotlighting the flagrant abuse and corruption of the church. (See Spotlight to appreciate the value of investigative reporting).

And, almost every day we read of athletes being suspended for the domestic abuse of their wives or girlfriends. They are the tip of the iceberg. There are daily cases of kidnapping, rape and abuse by non-celebrity predators. (See Room for a chilling example of this and an Oscar worthy performance by Brie Carlson as the victim).

Our children wonder why M and I don’t go to light hearted entertainment films. Truth? They’re like Chinese food; I’m hungry an hour later. These films, including The Danish Girl, provoke serious thought about the world as the year comes to an end. They are dark and thought provoking but need to be seen.

Every year I look for the silver lining. I live a privileged life in good health. I’m in a loving relationship and my children and grandchildren are healthy and stable. I want to approach the future with a positive attitude, so I am dedicating myself to the following principles and behaviors in 2016.


In the end, we are all determined by the place and the time in which we were born.

Patrick Modiano, winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Literature

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