I’ve always been a bit perplexed by the holiday tradition of drinking your brains out on the last day of the year, as if that will somehow make it go away. The year, that is, not your brain. Even when I did drink – which used to be quite often – I certainly didn’t see anything especially exciting about drinking for a holiday, and now that I don’t, my New Year’s Eve is more often spent having a nice dinner and watching a movie or going to a party where I know that getting staggering drunk isn’t the over-arching theme. This year looks like a party year not a movie year for me, but if you’re looking for something to watch this New Year’s Eve, we’ve rounded up some interesting films for your consideration.
In my opinion, probably the best New Year’s film ever made was the Coen Brothers’ The Hudsucker Proxy. If you saw it but missed its message of circles, cycles, and beginnings-being-ends, give it another go-round, so to speak. On top of the always-stylish Coen Brother’s production and set design, it’s full of brilliant and over-the-top performances by Tim Robbins, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Paul Newman, Bill Cobbs, and Charles Durning. And of course Jim True-Frost as “Buzz the Elevator Operator”. I love this film so much that a couple of years ago I made it part of the evening’s party plan, cuing it to start at exactly 10:22:45pm so that Tim Robbins’ character would jump off the building at exactly midnight. Yeah, I know. A little weird.
Anyway, here are a few other selections, and my unsolicited commentary…
The most remarkable thing about the fact that The Apartment received ten Academy Award nominations and won five is probably the fact that it didn’t win all ten, or at least two more for Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon’s performances, the latter of which Kevin Spacey dedicated his Oscar for American Beauty to in 2000. Although brilliantly comedic, and definitely in the New Year theme, given its occasionally somber tone and thoughtful pace this might be a better film for New Year’s day itself, when there’s nothing to do but lie around and absorb its genius. And fluids, as you nurse your hangover.
This film takes the “holiday horror” genre to epic new heights, but perhaps the most horrifying thing is that I ACTUALLY WATCHED IT. The premise relies on a serious mythology mashup, with Father Time calling on Santa Claus to find the missing Baby New Year. Recognizing the commercial and economic catastrophe that would ensue if it remained December 31st FOREVER, Santa of course sends out an Amber Alert to Rudolph, the bastard child of Montgomery Ward, aircraft warning lights, and the bizarre myth of flying reindeer. This movie could have only been made in the 1970’s, when cocaine, marijuana, and LSD were staples at production meetings. Rudolph first hooks up in the desert with a Dali-esque camel with a clock for a hump, to find himself stalked by a buzzard named “Eon”, who is also looking for Baby New Year. Eon’s life depends on it; for some reason, although they say right in the dialog that an eon is an indeterminate period in time, Eon’s reign is officially over in exactly six days, when the new year begins. Soon Rudolph is hunting the “Archipelago of Last Year”, where all the previous old years retire on their own islands, and before you know it…. Oh fuck it. I confess. That’s when I stopped watching. Feel free to let me how they wrapped things up. At least a kid watching this would learn the word “Archipelago”.
Bridget Jones starts right out with New Year’s resolutions, including losing weight, quitting smoking, and not having relationships with “alcoholics, workaholics, commitment phobics, peeping toms, megalomaniacs, emotional fuckwits or perverts”. This film was made just long enough after Hugh Grant’s hooker incident (something the hooker publicly thanked him for) that you could almost – but not quite – pretend that Grant was only acting the part of the seedy character that embodies all of those traits. There’s little you can say about a film that so effectively does what it sets out to do, and Bridget Jones’s Diary certainly does what it sets out to do, with honest and touching humor, by exploring the kind of mild self-deprecation that many of us engage in routinely. A great date-at-home film, especially if you’re a guy out to show how sweet you really are underneath that raging drunk that’s suddenly surfacing for the first time this New Year’s Eve.
I always hate playing the critic, because I create a lot of media, and, well, to be honest, a lot of it sucks. I’ll gladly make an exception in this case though. 200 Cigarettes is an amazing example of how in spite of having all the tools necessary to make a smash hit movie – bankable stars, a massive promotion machine, limitless music licensing funds, and a herd of producers to back things – you can still manage to produce utter drivel. In a way this is a fitting outcome for 200 Cigarettes; the film is the stillborn baby of the MTV network and its generation, and embodies everything that sucked about MTV’s evolution over two decades, an evolution that started its downward spiral in the first couple of years of its existence, when they chucked the “M” to focus entirely on the “TV”. Sadly, in spite of the fact that the film was the product of a network that calls itself “Music Television”, even the 200 Cigarettes soundtrack kind of sucked.
Everything must come to an end, and Entrapment certainly does. Katherine Zeta Jones’ “end”, to be specific. As this review on eFilmCritic points out, the infamous “squirming through the lasers” scene keeps a gratuitously tight focus on Jones’ rear, and is “shown on the commercial, the preview and in the movie itself like 7 times. The challenge is this: Build a movie around it.” The only thing actually “New Years-y” about this film is the fact that the big heist takes place on New Year’s Eve at the turn of the millennium. It’s a fun action/suspense flick in any case, and a perfect vehicle for Sean Connery’s later-life suave bad guy persona.
This film will almost certainly go down in the anals of film history as a masterpiece. Maybe even the annals. One thing rarely mentioned in reviews is how brilliantly Richard Dreyfuss goes about finally outing himself with a not-so-subtle “SOS” to anyone willing to notice. I jest of course. I think. But Poseidon truly is a masterpiece. The filmmakers did an absolutely phenomenal job of recapturing the essential elements of 1976’s Poseidon Adventure, casting a bunch of familar B-List actors that they kill off one by one, so they could put the money where it really mattered, i.e., the special effects and budget for extras. Seriously, this film must have single-handedly generated more revenue for the extras unions than all the other films of 2006 combined. This would be an especially great film to watch on New Year’s Eve if you got stuck babysitting annoying nieces or nephews. Getting hammered while the kids provided a real-life “Mystery Science Theater” Greek Chorus would make for a New Year’s Eve to remember. Especially when social services shows up after you start drunk dialing and call the ex who dumped you two days before Christmas and they get fed up and decide to bust on you.
If you know your “film school drop out required viewing material”, the “Thin Man” movies need no explanation. But if you don’t, the series of movies based on Dashiell Hammett’s stories follow the escapades of the suave, quick-witted and hard drinking detective couple Nick and Nora Charles. The one-liners are incessant, and delivered in a deadpan rapid fire fashion that ensures you’ll always catch a new one on repeated viewings, like when Nora says to her gun-toting husband: “Are you packing, dear?” and Nick replies: “Yes, darling. I’m just putting away this liquor.”
This one is on my list to actually watch this year, because I haven’t seen it since I was bombed out of my mind one New Year in the 80’s, and I barely remember it. Again, this is required film school dropout viewing. If you haven’t seen Sunset Boulevard, you can lay no claim to having any knowledge whatsoever of American film. It is, for instance, the origin of the now-archaic cliche “All right, Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.” It also features the horrifying scenario of being tricked into a “New Years Eve party for two” by someone you’re not in love with.