One of the interesting things about Garry Marshall's New Years Eve - or should I say, the only interesting thing about that disaster - is that it exploits one of the holidays which is relatively rarely seen in movies. You could probably fill in a whole year watching films set at Christmas time and there are Yuletide movies to suit all tastes from Elmo Saves Christmas to Silent Night, Deadly Night Parts 1 to 5. But the New Year has not spawned so much celluloid despite being an event which seems to become more inflated with every passing year. This is odd because it's an ideal setting for a movie; a time when people get together, friends and strangers alike, and pretend to be having a great time while secretly wondering whether the party next door might be a lot more fun than the one they're actually attending.
Perhaps that's the problem. For many of us, New Year is a time of uncertainty, a time when our feelings of inadequacy and worries about the future come to the fore. After all, it marks the passing of another year and we're all too aware that none of us is getting any younger. So seeing these feelings reflected on screen could be an uncomfortable and intense experience, whereas the clichés of Christmas movies, no matter how far removed from reality, induce a warm glow of nostalgia. Worse still is a picture of unbridled merriment or the dawning of true love; watching Harry finally meet and romance Sally at the witching hour could make anyone not quite so fortunate want to drown themselves in a vat of cava.
There are, however, a handful of great movies for the New Year which have managed to walk the delicate line between reality and sentiment:
THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE (1972, Ronald Neame)
In which a distinctly unappealing New Year's Eve party on a cruise liner is rudely interrupted by a giant wave which turns the ship upside down. Luckily, Gene Hackman is on hand to utter the immortal words, "We have to go up!"
SUNSET BOULEVARD (1950, Billy Wilder)
In which William Holden attends Gloria Swanson's New Year's Eve party and finds he's the only guest.
BRIDGET JONES' DIARY (2001, Sharon Maguire)
In which Renee Zellwegger has the kind of drunken New Year's Eve which is all too familiar, especially when she starts singing along out of tune to Celine Dion.
BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997, Paul Thomas Anderson)
In which William H Macy, before he finally snaps, endures a New Year celebration which is bound to make yours look like fun in comparison.
STRANGE DAYS (1995, Kathryn Bigelow)
In which virtually the whole speaking cast dies and, at the very end of the Millennium, Ralph Fiennes realises that the world no longer has any kind of moral centre. But it's fine because he gets to have a lengthy smooch with Angela Bassett.
THE APARTMENT (1960, Billy Wilder)
In which Shirley MacLaine finally realises that she loves Jack Lemmon after all and runs back to his apartment on the stroke of midnight. The sentiment is undercut by Billy Wilder's dry sense of humour and one of the great closing lines - "Shut up and deal..."
As for my all-time favourite New Year movie, it's got to be a slightly unconventional choice:
LAST NIGHT (1998, Don McKellar)
In which the very last night of the world is spent in various ways by a large cast of characters who are preparing for the end. It sounds depressing but it's actually funny, moving and inspiring.
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