Rudolph encountered various idiosyncratic characters along the way, and the most delightful part of the film for me was always his fun among the archipelago of previous years, each year, based on major events and perspectives, achieving his own island where time was. Has stopped. (I now wonder if the plot was swiped from the writer’s desk in “Doctor Who”)
One Million BC is a cave man, who lives among dinosaurs, and in 1776 resembles Benjamin Franklin. We don’t get to see every island, but know that on the island of 1492, people were too busy searching for things to help, and that 1965 was too noisy. Rudolph also mentions the island of 1893, a year of major depression, but he never heard of Happy.
This is a cute joke, one I remembered as a child, but now has caught my attention: You can imagine 2020 passed by Rudolph, because its residents have never heard of Happy . But the base reveals its own pores. For one, the Americas are — and are — white-focused. America was born in 1776, but it was also the year of a deadly storm in Guadeloupe and a war against the Cherokee tribes. And the island details are all intentionally meopic: 1893 was a year of depression, but it was also the year of the Belgian workers’ strike and the Chicago World’s Fair. In 1965, when civil rights protests and Beatlemania were in full swing, it was certainly a year of noise, but it was also silent: the death of Winston Churchill, the murder of Malcolm X, the death of civilians and soldiers in Vietnam. And then the calm face of Mars, first drawn by Mariner 4, hanging like a red ornament, suspended in the silence of space.
But this is how we think about time: one adjective at a time, the best or worst in the narrow scope of our own vision. Otherwise we go crazy, accounting for every day, every win and every second of the tricycle.
“Rudolph’s Shiny New Year” is a reminder, however, that there is comfort in it, to think that our worst year is the best of anyone else, that our best years are the worst, and that’s a big narrative that Turning the calendar page is always beyond.