Documentarian Michael Apted interviewed 14 7-year-old Brits in 1964 for a film called Seven Up! Every seven years, a new film lets us catch up with them. We learn what’s befallen each person in the intervening years: who went broke, bald or both; which marriages crumbled; whose dreams have died. But what’s most affecting is the way the film reminds us of our own inexorable march through life, toward unforeseeable triumphs and unpreventable tragedies. “To look at these films, as I have every seven years,” Roger Ebert says, “is to meditate on the astonishing fact that man is the only animal that knows it lives in time.”
Unorthodox Jukebox, Bruno Mars
There was a sweet flashback to the '80s when Bruno Mars introduced himself two years ago by slipping on a fedora and channeling Michael Jackson. With Unorthodox Jukebox, his new, impressive sophomore effort, the smooth-voiced Grammy winner does it again, invoking a range of retro influences, from the Police’s Zenyatta Mondatta ("Locked Out of Heaven") to MJ’s "Dirty Diana" ("Money Make Her Smile"). Conjuring a legend is never a bad thing.
Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin' Eve With Ryan Seacrest, ABC, Dec. 31, 8 p.m.
This year's Times Square celebration will be tinged with sadness when the world turns up the TV at 10 seconds to midnight. Nobody did New Year’s Eve like Dick Clark. Now, eight months after his death, the iconic host will be honored as we say goodbye to 2012. Tune in and toast the memory of the man who made his mark on American pop culture for more than five decades.
Brain on Fire: My Month With Madness, Susannah Cahalan
At age 24 a young New York Post reporter was inexplicably stricken by horrific symptoms: irrational bouts of grandiosity, paranoia, rage and catatonic-like affect. Gripped by violent seizures, blood and foam spurted from her mouth. In this fascinating memoir, Susannah Cahalan chronicles the harrowing month that baffled her doctors and terrified her family. Brain on Fire will resonate with anyone who has suffered a severe illness or seen a loved one stricken. Cahalan shows how a brush with death can lead to indelible insights. “We are, in the end, a sum of our parts," she writes, "and when the body fails, all the virtues we hold dear go with it.”
WORTH THE TRIP
New Year’s Eve Concert for Peace, Cathedral of St. John the Divine, Dec. 31, 7 p.m.
Between Sandy and Syria, Newtown and the Mayans, the waning months of 2012 have been tainted by turmoil and marred by trauma. For those seeking a serene way to ease into the New Year, head to the Cathedral of St. John the Divine for its annual orchestral concert, started by Leonard Bernstein in 1984. Featuring musical guest Judy Collins, it’s one of the most glorious celebrations at one of the most resplendent sites in New York City, with music, dance, prayer and a rendition of Mozart’s Coronation Mass by the light of thousands of candles held by all in attendance.
Pamela Miller is a freelance writer who lives in Los Angeles.