My wife and I had the pleasure of seeing two outstanding films over the past weekend. On Friday night, we bicycled to the charming Bijou by the Bay Theater in downtown Traverse City and watched Brooklyn. This beautifully crafted and acted movie will tug at your heartstrings. Saoirse Ronan should garner her first lead actress Oscar nomination.
Sunday afternoon, we again bicycled to downtown Traverse City, this time to the majestic State Theater to see Trumbo. The film is a cinematic triumph and Bryan Cranston’s performance amid an all-star cast, is poignant, powerful, and definitely Oscar-worthy. Furthermore, Dean O’Gorman’s portrayal of Kirk Douglas in the movie is simply outstanding.
What was particularly interesting about these two films was their timeliness and irony to today’s events. Both movies are set in the post-World War II era, as Brooklyn depicts what it is like to be an newly arrived immigrant to the United States. Meanwhile Trumbo depicts the fear-based radical right politics of the time – a time where some believed there was a “commie” lurking around every corner, and those who did not conform to certain acceptable beliefs were deemed to be un-American and blacklisted.
Sadly, we are again in an era of fear-based radical politics that routinely insists that anyone who is not a Anglo-Saxon, gun-toting, heterosexual, Christian is untrustworthy and evil. The fact that much of this bigotry is also misdirected at the poor, immigrants, and/or displaced refugees is even more despicable. The saddest and most disappointing part is that one would think we would have grown up as a society and would have better educated ourselves in the past 60+ years. Instead, far too many Americans base their opinions on fear, dogma, and misinformation, just as their did in the Joseph McCarthy era.
Trumbo is a triumph because it tells the story of a man who stood up to those manipulative forces in our nation who think they know what’s right for the rest of us. Brooklyn triumphs in the fact that it shows us just what we could be as a society if we just moved beyond the paralyzing fear, hatred, and bigotry and that enslaves our nation’s psyche.
As Peter, Paul, and Mary so aptly sung, “When will we ever learn, when will we ever learn?”