What better way to bring in the New Year than with films that celebrate this holiday?
You have no idea why you were at that dreadful party pretending to be jolly while counting down the death of a year but neither did you want to be home alone. It’s just a number appended to a noun that comes around like clockwork, year after year but, as many fellow sufferers will agree, December 31st baggage is extra heavy.
There’s just no winning at the New Year Eve’s stakes. As summed up in When Harry met Sally:
Harry: Boy, the holidays are rough. Every year I just try to get from the day before Thanksgiving to the day after New Year.
Sally: A lot of suicides.
Even when the outgoing year hasn’t actually been a bad one, the inevitable looking back usually ends in gloomy befuddlement: “Where did that year just vanish to?”
All in all, a good dramatic time of year for filmmakers to exploit. For a movie lover, then, what better way to bring in the New Year than with a clutch of films that celebrate this specific time of year? It was my moment of epiphany.
I almost dropped the idea the very next moment, thanks to the obvious film that first came to mind: Garry Marshall’s New Year’s Eve. It has great actors — from Michelle Pfeiffer to Ashton Kutcher to Halle Berry — but was a disaster in every possible way. As for its central drama of whether the Times Square New Year’s Eve ball drop would happen at the appropriate stroke of midnight: who cared?
Abandoning the “theme” route, I thought instead of movies where the inherent drama of the date was exploited as a central plot device. As, for example, in the Woody Harrelson/Wesley Snipes film Money Train, where a train heist is planned on New Year’s Eve. Trouble is; it was a pretty lame film.
Or why not go the sci-fi route and revisit the weird happenings of Strange Days, set two days before the end of 1999, directed by the currently red-hot Kathryn Bigelow? Small problem: the film feels dated in more ways than one.
Perhaps the trick was to pick a really good film — in which some turning point is set during New Year’s. There’s something bittersweet about a year dying and another one being born, which offers its own subtext to a scene.
Godfather II maybe? It’s on New Year’s Eve that Michael acknowledges it was his brother who betrayed him. He gives him the Sicilian kiss of death and says: “I know it was you, Fredo. You broke my heart.” Fratricide doesn’t quite jell with the spirit of the occasion, but I decided it would be put on ice along with the bubbly, in case the choices got dire.
I mean, think about such woeful options as End of Days starring Arnold Schwarzenegger — where Arnie must ensure that a woman will not be forced to bear Satan’s son on New Year’s Eve. As for the original Poseidon Adventure; it’s a seminal film but, surely, it has the worst possible New Year’s party: the celebrating crowd aboard a luxury cruise liner fight instead for their lives, when a freak 90-foot tidal wave upends the ship.
It’s enough to put one off partying altogether, which sort of brings me back, full circle, to the New Year’s Eve party where I started: when Harry met Sally.
To be honest, I could do a lot worse than one of the funniest romantic comedies of all time, which also has one of the sweetest end-of-year lines. Harry tells Sally, “… it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realise you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”
It was the cue for other romantic comedies that use New Year’s Eve to stand up and demand they be counted. Such as Bridget Jones’s Diary, where Bridget’s meeting with arrogant Mark Darcy (Colin Firth) at her parents’ New Year’s party is pure disaster. Or About a Boy where the superficial Hugh Grant character meets the gorgeous, mature woman played by Rachel Weisz on New Year’s Eve. Or Someone Like You, where Hugh Jackman and Ashley Judd have a New Year’s Eve moment.
Whoa. That many rom-coms would result in instant sugar shock. So I’m going to stick with Harry and Sally, then cheat a bit: add some Harry Potter to the pile — there’s always a school year ending somewhere, and some great sci-fi like Blade Runner, for no reason at all. Have a great 2013, and here’s wishing all movie lovers a fabulous year ahead in film.