New Year's movies for those who pop corn, not corks

By Mary Ann Albright, Columbian Staff Reporter

Published:

 

The holiday on the small screen

If you’re looking for other movies set on or involving New Year’s Eve, consider the following:

• “200 Cigarettes” (1999)

• “About a Boy” (2002)

• “An Affair to Remember” (1957)

• “The Apartment” (1960)

• “Boogie Nights” (1997)

• “The Cutting Edge” (1992)

• “The Fabulous Baker Boys” (1989)

• “Four Rooms” (1995)

• “The Godfather: Part II” (1974)

• “Holiday” (1938)

• “Poseidon” (2006)

• “The Poseidon Adventure” (1972)

• “Rudolph’s Shiny New Year” (1976)

• “Sex and the City: The Movie” (2008)

• “Sleepless in Seattle” (1993)

• “Someone Like You” (2001)

• “Sunset Boulevard” (1950)

• “Trading Places” (1983)

Not everyone’s idea of the perfect New Year’s Eve involves a big party or a night out on the town. For some people, the best way to say goodbye to one year and greet the next is a quiet night at home with a good movie.

Local film experts have suggested a number of movies that make for good New Year’s Eve viewing. Some take place on New Year’s Eve — or feature scenes from that night — while others center on themes typically associated with New Year’s, such as self-improvement, reinvention, hope and revelry.

So make some popcorn, grab a blanket, fire up the DVD player, and get ready to welcome 2011.

Pavithra Narayanan

For New Year’s Eve viewing, film scholar Pavithra Narayanan, an assistant professor of English at Washington State University Vancouver, recommends movies that embody the idea of striving to be better while learning to love oneself.

• “Bridget Jones’s Diary,” a 2001 romantic comedy directed by Sharon Maguire and starring Renée Zellweger, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth. Bridget is always making resolutions, vowing to lose weight, drink less and quit smoking. Bridget reconnects with a childhood friend, Mark Darcy, at a New Year’s party. “The audience can relate to the fact that you have this to-do list that never seems to get done and seems kind of impossible,” said Narayanan, 46.

• “Little Miss Sunshine,” a 2006 film directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris and starring Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Alan Arkin, Abigail Breslin and Greg Kinnear. This movie about a family’s cross-country trip to enter their daughter in a beauty pageant illustrates the importance of balancing the desire to achieve with self-acceptance. “In the end, it’s not about her winning,” Narayanan said. “It’s about making the attempt. It’s about being happy and about trying. As long as you’re making the attempt, that’s what matters.”

• “City Slickers,” a 1991 comedy-western directed by Ron Underwood and starring Billy Crystal, Daniel Stern and Bruno Kirby. This film centers on a man who, when plagued by a midlife crisis, goes on a cattle-driving vacation with friends and finds renewed purpose. “The message is, you find the answers inside you,” Narayanan said. “It’s not outside. You have to be happy with yourself.”

• “Strange Days,” a 1995 science-fiction film directed by Kathryn Bigelow and starring Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett and Juliette Lewis. This movie takes place just before the turn of the millennium. It follows an ex-cop turned virtual reality dealer who accidentally uncovers a string of murders. He tries to solve the case as the new year, and its ensuing chaos, nears.

Tim Cogley

Cogley, the 22-year-old Washougal independent filmmaker behind the feature-length zombie film “Ex Morte” and the experimental short film “Hotel Vendetta,” favors movies that tackle themes associated with New Year’s Eve. Such themes include the passage of time, celebration and reinvention.

• “Memento,” a 2000 film directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Guy Pearce. It follows a man who’s suffering from short-term memory loss as he uses notes and tattoos to hunt for the person he thinks killed his wife. Nolan employs reverse chronology in his storytelling, inverting the traditional, linear narrative structure. “It turns the progression on time on its head,” Cogley said.

• “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” a 2008 David Fincher film starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett. The movie’s titular character ages backwards. So as his soulmate moves forward through life toward old age, he moves backward toward infancy.

• “The Hangover,” a 2009 comedy directed by Todd Phillips and starring Zach Galifianakis, Bradley Cooper and Ed Helms. This raucous blockbuster follows three groomsmen who lose the groom after a drunken night in Las Vegas and must retrace their steps in order to find him. “It’s the basic concept of celebrating, friendships, having a good time, good parties and not remembering the next day,” Cogley said.

• “Run, Fatboy, Run,” a 2007 film directed by David Schwimmer and starring Simon Pegg, Thandie Newton and Hank Azaria. Pegg plays Dennis Doyle, an out-of-shape man who resolves to run the Nike River Marathon in London to win back his ex. It embodies the New Year’s-appropriate idea of “resolutions, setting your goals, going forward and achieving them,” Cogley said.

• “Rocky,” a 1976 film directed by John G. Avildsen. It stars Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa, a small-time boxer who gets a shot at the world heavyweight championship and trains hard to go the distance in the fight.

Beth Harrington

Harrington, a 55-year-old Grammy- and Emmy-nominated documentary filmmaker from Vancouver, looks to a classic on New Year’s Eve.

• “After the Thin Man,” a 1936 film directed by W.S. Van Dyke. It’s part of a series of “Thin Man” films starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as Nick and Nora Charles, a husband-and-wife crime-solving duo, and takes place on New Year’s Eve. “The chemistry between these two is just dazzling,” said Harrington, who is currently working on “The Winding Stream,” a documentary film about legendary country music dynasties the Carters and the Cashes. Her previous projects include “Welcome to the Club: The Women of Rockabilly,” “Kam Wah Chung,” “Beervana” and “Searching for York.”

Breven Angaelica Warren

Warren, a 31-year-old filmmaker who founded the Columbia Gorge International Film Festival (formerly the Washougal International Film Festival), steers viewers toward a couple of movies with New Year’s connections.

• “‘A Lot Like Love’ follows a couple through many stages of their lives and is an adorable look at the trials of coupledom,” said Warren, who spent several years in Washougal and whose family still lives here. The 2005 film, directed by Nigel Cole, stars Ashton Kutcher and Amanda Peet and features a New Year’s Eve scene.

• “Repeat Performance,” a 1947 film directed by Alfred L. Werker. In this movie, actress Sheila Page (played by Joan Leslie) murders her wretched husband Barney (played by Louis Hayward) on New Year’s Eve 1946. She asks for and is granted the chance to go back in time to the beginning of the year and relive it. Whether she’ll do things differently remains to be seen, however. “The theme of making things right and starting over is most appropriate for New Year’s,” Warren said.

Zach Persson

Persson, a 21-year-old La Center resident, likes to watch seasonal favorites such as “Holiday Inn” and “Elf” even past Christmas. He also favors feel-good films such as last year’s “The Blind Side” and this year’s “Toy Story 3” and “Despicable Me” for New Year’s Eve.

Two of Persson’s picks, though, directly involve the New Year.

• “When Harry Met Sally …,” a 1989 romantic comedy directed by Rob Reiner and starring Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan. It tackles the classic question of whether men and women can be just friends. The main characters begin to question the platonic nature of their relationship at a New Year’s Eve party. “It’s a beautiful movie,” said Persson, whose mother, Karen Persson, freelances for The Columbian.

• “Happy New Year, Charlie Brown!”, a 1986 animated television special in which Peanuts character Charlie Brown tries to write a book report on “War and Peace” while juggling his holiday commitments, including Peppermint Patty’s New Year’s Eve party. “It’s perfect,” Persson said. “I think it’s something a lot of parents will remember, and it’s a great thing to introduce their kids to.”

Hollie Olson

Olson, a 48-year-old actress and independent filmmaker from Vancouver, thinks the end of one year and the beginning of another is a good time to catch up on under-appreciated movies.

• “The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain,” a 1995 Christopher Monger film set during World War I. It stars Hugh Grant as a cartographer who must tell a Welsh village that its mountain is only a hill.

• “A Love Song for Bobby Long,” a 2004 film directed by Shainee Gabel. It stars Scarlett Johansson as a young woman who returns to her New Orleans childhood home after her mother’s death to find a literature professor, played by John Travolta, and a struggling writer living there. She moves in, and the three form an unlikely friendship.

• “Kinky Boots,” a 2005 British comedy directed by Julian Jarrold and starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Joel Edgerton and Sarah-Jane Potts. The plot centers on a traditional shoemaker who turns to producing fetish footwear in order to save the failing family business and the jobs of his workers. “It’s very funny,” said Olson, whose projects include the short films “The Salon” and “The Grade.”

Ryan and Greg Philbrook

• “The Hudsucker Proxy,” a 1994 Joel and Ethan Coen film. It stars Tim Robbins as a naive business graduate appointed president of a manufacturing company as part of a stock scam.

The film’s climax takes place on New Year’s Eve, in a pivotal moment that “forces both the character and the viewer to slow down and think about life,” said Greg Philbrook, a 20-year-old Hockinson High School and Clark College graduate currently attending Washington State University in Pullman. His body of work includes the silent short film “The Surprise.”

• “Groundhog Day,” a 1993 Harold Ramis film. It stars Bill Murray as a weatherman who keeps living the same day over and over, and Andie MacDowell as the producer who inspires him to use this time loop to improve himself and help others. “New Year’s Eve isn’t just about witnessing the turn of the calendar. It’s about reflecting on the past year, your life, and what’s important in this world,” Greg Philbrook said. “Even though ‘Groundhog Day’ is set after the New Year celebration, it still embodies the theme of self-reflection.”

• “It’s a Wonderful Life,” the 1946 Frank Capra classic in which a depressed man (played by James Stewart) gets a glimpse from his guardian angel on Christmas Eve of what the world would have been like if he’d never existed. “It’s a heartwarming, spirit-lifting classic,” Greg Philbrook said. “It serves as a reminder that even in the worst of life’s moments, simply living is the greatest gift we have ever received. A great thought to start the new year with.”

• “‘Big Trouble in Little China’ is a fun little story that you can really get into, or that you can just have on in the background as you’re laughing with friends and telling jokes, depending on what kind of mood you’re in for movie watching,” Ryan Philbrook said. “It’s got a great adventuring vibe, which to me is what the start of every new year is like; full of possibility. And really, it’s up to us as to whether or not that possibility for change and improvement is realized.” The 1986 John Carpenter film stars Kurt Russell as a truck driver who gets dragged into a centuries-old mystical battle in Chinatown.

• “Blast from the Past,” a 1999 romantic comedy directed by Hugh Wilson. It stars Brendan Fraser as Adam, a naive man who reemerges from a nuclear fallout shelter after 35 years. In the course of adjusting to life in the outside world, he meets and falls for Eve (Alicia Silverstone). “That movie is most definitely about discovering who you are and what type of person the main character chooses to be when he enters the world with a clean slate,” said Ryan Philbrook, 22, who wrote, directed and appeared in the short comedy “Max and Drake: Rule the World” and the feature-length film “Stupid Men.”