My Idiosyncratic Guide to Movies to Watch on New Year’s Eve

by HELEN GEIB

Christmas is here and with the coming of Christmas our thoughts turn inexorably to the last great decision of the year: what to watch on New Year’s Eve.

This year I’ll be watching Pixar and “Wallace and Gromit” shorts with film club friends. It was a committee decision. The first idea that came to mind was 2010. It was hard to pass up the singular congruence of title and new year (we can revisit the question in 2012), but animated comedy shorts seemed to offer the perfect equilibrium between fare that is both worth watching and doesn’t distract unduly from the conversation.

More typical for me is family movie night. We gravitate towards old favorites for our New Year’s Eve celebrations. The Great Race, What’s Up Doc, and Clash of the Titans have all filled the bill nicely; perfect for watching between turns at the Scrabble board. (Although there was one memorable year when we were induced by clever ad spots to watch television instead: TNT’s “toga party,” 24 hours of swords and sandals. I seem to recall Italian Hercules movies predominated.)

The Musashi Miyamoto trilogy, the Once Upon a Time in China trilogy, and Yojimbo plus Sanjuro are other family favorites that, although not well suited to Scrabble playing, have helped us stay up to ring in the new year. Perhaps because the evening stretches out so long before us (early riser here), New Year’s Eve seems peculiarly well suited to trilogies and double features. The Harryhausen-themed double feature of Jason and the Argonauts and The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad was another winner. Some year I’ll watch Nightwatch plus Daywatch. I’ve never wanted to start my New Year’s Eve celebration at noon, but if I ever do get that urge it will be the perfect opportunity for a Lord of the Rings marathon.

A Google search for movies set on New Year’s Eve produced several titles. There were a few I haven’t seen (caveat emptor): 200 Cigarettes, Four Rooms, After the Thin Man, and a German silent movie I hadn’t heard of but would now like to see someday called Sylvester. Poseidon was too negligible to remember details like that the ship capsizes during a New Year’s Eve celebration. I’ve actively tried to erase the memory of the Assault on Precinct 13 remake.

A significant scene set on New Year’s Eve is reason enough to watch Sunset Boulevard again.

Several movies build to a New Year’s Eve ending, including When Harry Met Sally, The Apartment, and Radio Days. Holiday Inn does these one better with a plot that starts and ends on consecutive New Year’s Eves. The ultimate New Year’s Eve climax is in Strange Days. Sadly no one I know shares my intense love for that film; I love the idea of timing the movie’s millennial countdown to coincide with the live ball drop.

For a movie that captures the holiday’s essence of reflection and new beginnings, you can’t beat Fat Choi Spirit. A Hong Kong comedy released for the Lunar New Year holiday, the title translates as, most appropriately, New Year’s Spirit.

Postscript: A friend reminded me of Ikiru, the perfect inspirational choice for anyone who’s made a new year’s resolution.

6 responses to “My Idiosyncratic Guide to Movies to Watch on New Year’s Eve

  1. You know what, I started watching “The Great Race” a few months back for the first time and thought it was so utterly cheesy and terrible that I’d only watched an hour of it. I was looking forward to seeing it for a LONG time and was so terribly disappointed…
    Am I missing something?

    Also, I usually bring “Citizen Kane” into the next year. Once I watched “La Dolce Vita” into the next year but I almost always bring in “Kane”. It’ll always be the greatest movie ever, on a technical and personal level.

  2. When I was a kid I loved The Great Race for the silly comedy – especially Jack Lemmon and Peter Falk as Professor Fate and Max – and the exuberant spectacle. I still like it for that but now that I get the references I enjoy it even more for the fond parody of silent era and Golden Age genres, tropes, and performers. If you stopped at an hour in then you missed the best part, which is the Ruritanian sequence.

    The usual comedy caveats apply though. I have to be in the mood for it and it’s funnier with an audience (preferably one that knows old movies!).

  3. I just don’t know how I hadn’t even heard of this film. “Around the World in 80 Days” and “The Apartment” are classics but this one had slipped by my radar and I hadn’t ever heard anyone mention it throughout my life.
    Within the first hour, the cinematography was really nice but the performance by Lemon was too fake for me, the special effects wer very cheesy, and the schtick of him trying to defeat his arch nemesis with a new plan every ten minutes grew thin very quickly.
    I suppose I should have grown up with it.

  4. I love Fat Choi Spirit (though I always name it to myself as ‘Mahjong Warrior’), just to think of it makes me want to watch it! Nothing would induce me to watch Holiday Inn again but I do try to time it once in a while to see Astaire’s firecracker dance for the 4th of July.

  5. Fat Choi Spirit… another movie title you’d just made up!
    j/k

    But I honestly hadn’t heard of it… >:O(

  6. You have a treat ahead of you. I just count myself lucky that my son was crazy about Hong Kong movies in college and introduced me to them or I would never have seen so many that became favorites. Movies that I’ve never heard of turn up all the time despite a lifetime of loving them. The challenge to see the new and to rewatch the good and favorite (not always the same, I blush to admit) ones is greater every year!

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