Coming off the heels of our Best Thanksgiving Movies article, Genevieve and I have prepared two individual top 10 New Year’s Films lists. Why? So you know what the crap to watch on New Year’s. I know I don’t…yet!
There really isn’t any set way to determine a New Year’s movie from a Christmas movie, seeing as though most all seem to hit upon both holidays, albeit in different ways, so we made our best individual judgment calls on this. I recently released a Top 40 Christmas Movies list so anything on that I decided to omit here.
There are some out-of-left-field choices on here (at least on my personal list), stuff that is not traditionally or maybe ever thought of as a New Year’s movie, but I tried to get creative. Genevieve and I also comment on each other’s selections, so essentially you’re getting two reviews on every movie we mention. (There might also be some overlap on our lists, in that case, we’ll just review the movie once where it appears on our own lists.)
So here we go, starting with my list at #10…
10. Ghostbusters II (1989)
Why Should You Watch It?: The only truly good Ghostbusters movie is the 1984 original and while Ghostbusters II is stupid and not a good movie, it actually has its moments. MVP is definitely Peter MacNicol as the art museum cur, and there are some good bits with the OG cast, even if it all feels super lazy. It also takes place on the precipe of the New Year, so there ya go, it’s a New Year’s movie. Ghostbusters II is good dumb fun to throw on in the background at a small gathering. You can catch little bits here and there. That pink sludge really stinks though…
Genevieve’s Comments: This is probably a hot take, but I like Ghostbusters II nearly as much as the original, which is a lot. In fairness, I first saw them at about the same point in my life, and I even went on my first date to this movie (shout out to Seth Buckley from Buchanan Elementary in Oklahoma City). But even if you don’t quite agree with me, there’s plenty to like about part 2: Peter’s MacNichol’s Eastern European museum curator, Janine and Louis getting together, the Statue of Liberty coming to life to save New York City on New Years, etc. All these bits will carry you over the weaker parts, like the romance between Dana and Peter. Also, Bobby Brown’s “On Our Own” is a drop-dead banger, the best song in the entire film series.
Where Should You Watch It?: AMC+ or $3.99 rental on Amazon
9. This Is the End (2013)
Why Should You Watch It?: Not technically a New Year’s movie, but it surrounds a big party with a bunch of celebrities. Instead of marking the end of the year though, the party ends up marking the end of the world with Apatow folks playing exaggerated (or not?), hyper-narcissistic versions of themselves. While the concept of a “fun and wild” party at James Franco’s house certainly hasn’t aged well, the majority of the actors here seem to be having a blast playing themselves – especially Danny McBride as the obvious heel. This is probably one of the better entries in the Apatow Extended Universe even if a portion of the gags fall flat.
Genevieve’s Comments: Some definitely won’t agree with me, but right now — during a dang pandemic — is the perfect time to watch an apocalypse movie, particularly a pretty funny one. Really lean into it, and enjoy the holy hell out of the Judd Apatow players being fictionalized versions of themselves as the world meets its end. The last quarantine had people singing on balconies and making sourdough starters. Maybe this one will have people drinking their own piss…and loving it?
Where Should You Watch It?: STARZ or $3.99 rental
8. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
Why Should You Watch It?: Always cited as a Christmas Movie, but this one always felt more like a New Year’s Movie to me. Look, New Year’s is about new beginnings and that’s exactly what Tom Cruise experiences when he crosses the threshold into underground Illuminati sex parties. He can’t forget what he saw that night and becomes increasingly paranoid he’s being followed. It almost suggests everything is actually the same, except for him and now experiencing life through this new lens is haunting him. It’s certainly not one of Kubrick‘s best films and a healthy argument could be made about its outdated sexual politics, driven by the fact they barely give the supposed “co-lead” (Nicole Kidman) a perspective. However, this is an oddly engrossing movie that really pulls you into it’s dark web of erotic suspense. Being a Kubrick picture, there are a million little details tucked away everywhere that really enrich a relatively basic story.
Genevieve’s Comments: Personally, I’m not much of a Kubrick fan, at least when it comes to representing a feminist point-of-view on screen. He has a storied track record of diminishing female characters, such as with his big-screen adaptations of Lolita and The Shining (He described Lolita as “a love story,” which is a CRIME). You can argue that Eyes Wide Shut is a two-hour argument in favor of misogyny, with almost all of its promiscuous female characters meeting some kind of unfortunate fate. But that conclusion is a bit too dismissive of a fascinating and complicated film populated with rich performances and terrific visuals (the paintings in the Hartfords’ apartment alone). Also, it made me realize that I want nothing more in my life than to send someone an anonymous typed note warning them to stay away. If I were that rich, I’d pass on the masked orgies and just have one of my butlers sending anonymous notes nonstop.
Where Should You Watch It?: HBOMax or $2.99 rental
7. Phantom Thread (2017)
Why Should You Watch It?: Paul Thomas Anderson‘s delicate dollhouse of a relationship drama ironically wrestles with rough issues like co-dependency and toxic masculinity and is brought to life by three of my ride-or-die actors – Daniel Day-Lewis, Vicky Krieps, and the incomparable Lesley Manville. It follows a romance between an obsessive dressmaker and a woman who works at a breakfast joint. What seems like a fairy tale romance at first soon turns sour when they move in together. He’s OCD about everything involving the situation and she’s desperately trying to push him out of his comfort zone. On top of all of that, they have a real Everybody Loves Raymond situation going on with his sister, also living with them, getting involved in the drama. It all culminates into a shocking but also sort of hilarious conclusion, giving us yet another iconically disgusting Hollywood Movie Couple. Oh, and it also spans Christmas and New Year’s Eve. Actually, one of the best scenes in the film (pictured above) is set at a New Year’s Eve dance.
Genevieve’s Comments: Don’t you just hate when you meet a man with a finicky breakfast order, and you go on a first date with him where he takes your measurements and tells you about his mommy issues, and then he makes you an integral part of his fashion house but also seems to actively hate that you’re a real person with idiosyncrasies and not just a living doll who exists/doesn’t exist at his whims? And also his sister is just kinda around all the time? Don’t you just hate when that happens????
This is honestly one of the best movies about what it’s like to be the partner of a narcissistic artist who demands that everything be just so. A determined Alma makes space for herself by any means possible, and it’s thrilling to watch. Also, that New Years Eve party looked like the most fun, like a broken down circus but with booze.
Where Should You Watch It?: $3.99 rental various places
6. Romy & Michelle’s High School Reunion (1997)
Why Should You Watch It?: This has nothing to do with New Year’s, but Romy & Michelle is all about the idea of re-invention and the need for change – something a New Year promises to bring. What better place to find that than 10 years out of high school, right on the verge of 30. Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow play two outcast best friends who moved to LA together to become fashion designers after high school…and sort of just fell in a rut. A chain-smoking, ‘fuck’-spewing Janeane Garafolo barrel rolls into Romy’s day job (receptionist at a Jaguar service center) and announces they have a high school reunion, and before you can say “go” they’re off in a montage to improve their lives and impress their old childhood bullies in Tucson. This is a wonderfully funny film, not to mention compulsively rewatchable. Alan Cumming delivers a truly great supporting performance, but it’s Lisa Kudrow that really anchors the movie. She’s unstoppable in this.
Genevieve’s Comments: Naturally, as someone who felt completely out of step in high school, I absolutely adore this movie. Offbeat bffs Romy and Michelle are the perfect avatars for exploring all the typical demons summoned when it comes time to go to that high school reunion. Faced with the prospect of confronting old crushes and bullies, Romy and Michelle first try to improve their lives, and when their frantic efforts inevitable fail, they turn to absolutely ridiculous lies. Honestly, their lives were pretty good if they were able to afford a beachfront apartment in LA on one salary. Everyone’s terrific in this, but Lisa Kudrow’s specific brand of lovable ditz absolutely makes this film what it is. There’s some fatphobic and homophobic jokes that haven’t aged well in the 25 years since it came out, but the general zaniness may help you forgive the occasional bit that wouldn’t land the same way in 2021.
Where Should You Watch It?: TUBI or $3.99 rental
5. When Harry Met Sally (1989)
Why Should You Watch It?: I recently just watched for the first time, for this very article you’re reading right now actually, and I have to say I was a bit let down. There are certainly very funny parts scattered throughout this but never at any moment did either of their characters feel real. This whole thing also feels like kind of a Woody Allen comedy rip-off, with less complex and thankfully less sexually manipulative characters. There’s the title cards, the big band music, dating in New York City, the awkward cuts, an intensely neurotic male protagonist, Carrie Fisher, ect. But this is nothing short of a pleasant watch, always amusing with a few really inspired bits. I did want to mention how inappropriately Meg Ryan behaves in restaurants though, and with everything going on in 2021, that sort of behavior towards servers hasn’t aged well. She has this really complicated pie order that seems more like an outwardly aggressive proclamation of war than an actual dessert order. And when she has that loud fake-but-convincing-but-not-really orgasm, she disturbs so many diners and servers. But by all means, ma’am, have what she’s having.
Genevieve’s Comments: I have a much more storied history with this movie, which basically played nonstop on TV for the entire ’90s. As a result, it’s essentially imprinted on me, and I genuinely no longer have any sort of way to tell if it’s a good movie or not. I can feel the movie’s beats in my spine. When they sing “Surrey with the Fringe on Top” in a Sharper Image? I felt a tingle in my lower vertebrae. And when they fight over the wagon wheel coffee table? I got a tinge at the base of my neck. When Carrie Fisher pulls out that giant rolodex? I slipped a disc. I’m trapped, and there is no escape except for death. Honestly, at this point, I’m glad these two people, who are both kinda assholes, found each other and won’t hurt anyone else, at least until their inevitable divorce.
Where Should You Watch It?: SHOWTIME or $3.99 rental
4. Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Why Should You Watch It?: I also watched this for the first time for this article you’re reading right now, and I was completely blown away. What can I say about this that hasn’t been written, re-written, and unwritten about for decades? Nothing. It’s funny, it’s ahead of its time, it’s remarkably sad and it’s acted to utter perfection by Gloria Swanson. I also love how it’s from the POV of a hack writer so the narration is intentionally heavy-handed and dumb.
Genevieve’s Comments: Some people think hitting it big in Hollywood is selling a script you’ve worked on for years and becoming a household name. For me, it would be stumbling upon a decaying mansion while trying to blow town and being confused for someone bringing a coffin for a monkey. That’s THE DREAM.
Seriously, though, like Margetis, I somehow had never seen this movie before and was just in awe of it. I loved the surreal morbidity of scenes like the New Year’s Eve party just attended by Joe, Norma and Max. It’s a great commentary on Hollywood, fame and how women of a certain age, particularly women who have have been labeled difficult, are just disposed of without a second thought. Thank God women are treated with so much respect and reverence today in 2021! I’d write more but, as a women over 35, I must take a break to receive my legally mandated Botox in order to leave the house.
Where Should You Watch It?: Paramount+ and Amazon Prime
3. The Godfather Part II (1974)
Why Should You Watch It?: It’s The Godfather, that’s why! And as great as a film the original is, the 1974 sequel is even better. Not as tightly paced, but really explores some incredible characters and devastating themes. It’s Al Pacino‘s finest hour too. The 1972 Godfather took the #3 position on my Top Christmas Movies list so it’s only fitting that the sequel should snag the #3 list on my New Year’s list. There’s only one sequence involving New Year’s in the entire 200-minute film, but it’s arguably the most iconic of the film. It was you, Fredo. You broke my freakin’ heart, man.
Genevieve’s Comments: I’ve had some truly terrible New Year’s Eves, but at least I’ve never found out my dunder-headed brother inadvertently betrayed me and then almost immediately had to escape the Cuban revolution. What can I really say that’s new about The Godfather Part II, which is universally agreed upon as one of the best movies of our time? Literally the worst thing you can say about The Godfather II is that it will make your want to watch the entire series of Godfather films, including Part III. I love how Part II shows the heartbreaking parallels between father and son, who both start out in the business with high-minded ideals and then both get intoxicated by the power and violence. Watch it with your toddler today!
Where Should You Watch It?: $3.99 rental various places
2. Strange Days (1995)
Why Should You Watch It?: Throughout this list are movies with a single New Year’s scene in them, but Kathryn Bigelow‘s Strange Days is all about New Year’s Eve. More specifically, Y2K, or at least 1995’s version of it. Ralph Fiennes plays a former cop turned sleazy black market VR dealer – in this version of 1999, people use blackmarket VR experience tapes as drugs. When he comes across the tape of a murder it leads him down the path of police brutality and cover-ups. Angela Bassett kicks ass as basically Fiennes‘ bodyguard, and Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore, Vincent D’Onofrio, Michael Wincott and William Finchtner all make appearances. This is a wildly entertaining, incredibly ambitious, socially prescient sci-fi/action film that may be a bit too long, but more than makes up for it with ideas.
Genevieve’s Comments: I vaguely remembered seeing the trailer for this back in the ’90s. At the time, I was 13 and wasn’t old enough to see it, but now that I’m nearly 40, I’m still not old enough to see it. I watched this movie for the first time this year with almost no information beforehand and was pretty damn surprised by how foresighted it was about overarching technology and police brutality. See this as intended by watching it on a minidisc while crying in the back of a limo.
Where Should You Watch It?: Not unless you have an old ass DVD
1. Boogie Nights (1997)
Why Should You Watch It?: The most fun you could have on New Year’s Eve involves watching the most purely entertaining film on this list. Paul Thomas Anderson‘s Boogie Nights is a blast of pure fucking energy. It juggles comedic, dramatic, and even a few traumatic vibes with dozens of fascinating and complex characters played to perfection by a powerhouse cast. It still stands as Mark Wahlberg‘s best film performance (he’s publicly stated he’s ashamed of it) but it’s really all the supporting turns that make the most impact – Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, John C. Reilly, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy, Heather Graham, Don Cheadle, even Alfred Molina for a single, incredible scene. It’s got a bunch of sex in it so maybe put grandma to bed early.
Genevieve’s Comments: This is just the best movie. It’s funny, dark and, the highest compliment of all, the only 2.5-hour+ long film I wish was longer. Honestly, I could use several other movies in this movie, like Buck Swopes running a stereo store, Amber Waves’ commercial director turn or theater magnate Floyd Gondolli getting butter in his ass and lollipops in his mouth. On its face, this is a movie about porn, but really it’s a movie about artists and the way the art community both supports and destroys each other.
The New Years party in Boogie Nights are particularly interesting because it represents a turning point in so many of the lives of the characters. It’s not just the click over from the glitzy, seedy 70s to the decedent, greedy 80s; it’s Dirk’s first turn to drugs, director Little Bill’s murder-suicide, and Jack being strong-armed into making films that are more crowd-pleasing and less artistic. I’ve probably watched this movie every year since it come out, and I notice something different every time.
Where Should You Watch It?: SHOWTIME or $3.99 rental
I don’t have much to say about this list except that I tried to include a little something for everyone. I also tried to make sure not all of them featured a suicide, which actually took some effort. Apparently, New Year’s Eve is a big day for eating black-eyed peas, champagne toasts at midnight, and killing yourself?
10. The Irony of Fate, or Enjoy Your Bath! (1975)
Why Should You Watch It?: I know what you’re thinking: not another ’70s Russian screwball comedy critical of the bleak sameness of Soviet-era architecture! It’s just your classic NYE tale of Zhenya (Andrey Myagkov, who just passed this year) getting blind-drunk at a bathhouse with his buddies in Moscow, ending up a plane to Leningrad, and stumbling into a nearly identical apartment with the exact same street address belonging to Nadya (Barbara Brylska). The incredible mixup puts a wrench in the relationships of both Zhenya and Nadya, who at first hate each other but grow quite fond of each other as the night progresses. Airing every year on TV on New Year’s Eve, this is basically Russia’s It’s a Wonderful Life. And it’s easy to see why. It’s not only funny and clever, but the romantic elements are sweet and heartfelt. Plus, there’s just the right amount of Russian weirdness (like a repeated fondness for crabmeat salad and, of course, every single hat in this movie) to add intrigue without taking you out of the story. It’s a bit hard to find as you would expect any 45+-year-old foreign two-part TV special to be. But if get a chance to watch it, you won’t regret it.
Margetis’ Comments: I’ve never seen this, so let me find what I can add to this about the actors involved. Nope, never heard of them. I’m unfamiliar with a lot of Russian films besides the film nerd staples like “Come and See”, “Stalker/Solaris” and “Russian Ark”. I’ve also never had goulash. Is it good? Is it goul elash? Like “good enough”? Ehhh. Get ready, more “jokes” like that are coming your way!
Where Should You Watch It?: It’s available on DVD but you can also find both episodes of it with varying levels of English subtitles on YouTube.
9. Mermaids (1990)
Why Should You Watch It?: Chances are if you grew up an offbeat kid in the ’80s/’90s, you identified heavily with this movie. Set in the 1960s, Winona Ryder is Charlotte, a neurotic 15-year-old obsessed with Catholicism and confused about her budding sexuality. Charlotte is often at odds with her rebellious mother Rachel (the incomparable Cher), who moves Charlotte and her swimming-obsessed half-sister Kate (Christina Ricci, in her film debut) every time she ends a relationship. Their nomadic lifestyle is challenged when the family settles into a small Massachusetts town where Charlotte falls for a handsome convent caretaker Joe (Michael Schoeffling, a man so beautiful you can’t look directly at him without special glasses) and Rachel gets involved with Lou (the wonderful Bob Hoskins), a kindly local shoe store owner. Charlotte’s hilariously nutty inner monologues as she grapples with teenage angst are just terrific, as are Cher’s New Year’s mermaid costume and the under-the-sea room Joe makes for Kate. Joe and Charlotte’s age-gap relationship is pretty cringe (she’s 15 and he’s 26), and Michael Schoeffling’s red-hot beauty complicates that. But it doesn’t detract too much from an otherwise fun movie about when to cut and run and when to stay and fight. Also, the soundtrack is full of nothing but absolute bops from the 1960s.
Margetis’ Comments: Damn, I’ve never even heard of this, you’re really pulling out the B-sides, Genevieve! The only thing I can add is that this is a great cast and that Bob Hoskins was one of the greatest actors of his generation. See “Mona Lisa”, he slaps in that.
Where Should You Watch It?: Free on the Roku Channel
8. The Gold Rush (1925)
Why Should You Watch It?: Look, I’ve already recommended a three-hour-long Russian romantic comedy, so if I’m also hyping up a nearly 100-year-old silent comedy, you know it’s a banger. Charlie Chaplin wrote, directed and starred in this comedy that has his famed Little Tramp persona trying to strike it rich in the Yukon against the odds. The stark deprivation of Alaska in winter provides a compelling contrast for Chaplin’s hijinks, like trying to cook and eat a leather boot, hallucinating people as giant turkey legs out of hunger and sliding from one side to another in a shack tettering on the edge of a cliff. It’s a testament to the strength of these bits that they still hold up decades later. Basically it’s like watching a live-action cartoon. If you’re like me and haven’t seen a lot of silent movies, this is a great one to start with.
Margetis’ Comments: I’ve never seen a Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton movie all the way through and that’s a very brave thing for me to write.
Where Should You Watch It?: HBOMax
7. The Cutting Edge (1992)
Why Should You Watch It?: You know you’re a child of the ’90s if you can still remember the then-inescapable trailer of this sports romantic comedy in your bones. Say the words “toepick” and “Those are figure skates, pal” to any millennial and watch the memories of neon track suits, acid-wash jeans and Bill Clinton playing a sax come flooding back. Moira Kelly stars as Kate Moseley, a tempestuous Olympian figure skater in dire need of a new partner after burning through a whole ice capades’ worth of contenders. Enter Doug Dorsey (D.B. Sweeney), a rough-around-the-edges hockey phenom sidelined by a career-ending injury. Kate’s Russian coach Anton (Roy Dotrice) brings together the odd couple, a fiery pairing that seems, at first, seems too combustible to last. But eventually they find common ground, and eventually, romance. Kelly and Sweeney’s sparkling on-screen chemistry help elevate a fairly average sports fare into a memorable classic.
Margetis’ Comments: I’ve heard of this, but never seen it. Roy Dotrice played Mozart’s cranky dad in my favorite movie of all time, “Amadeus”. Moira Kelley was Lara Flynn Boyle‘s replacement on “Twin Peaks” and wasn’t as good, but probably a lot easier to work with. D.B. Sweeney was in a Charlie Sheen movie in the 80s called “No Man’s Land” that was always on STARZ when I was growing up. That’s all I could add to this conversation. Margetis out.
Where Should You Watch It?: Showtime
6. About a Boy (2002)
Why Should You Watch It?: The New Year represents an opportunity to reflect and become a better version of yourself. And what portrays that better than a movie about Will (Hugh Grant), a man of the leisure rich so deeply self-absorbed he proudly describes himself as an island, inadvertently connecting with and growing through his friendship with Marcus (Nicholas Hoult), a sensitive boy bullied at school. While pretending to be a single dad in order to fuck single moms and then leave guilt-free (this movie doesn’t even try to pretend Will is a good person lol), the two are brought together after Marcus’s mother Fiona (Toni Colette) tries to commit suicide. An uneasy relationship at first, they eventually help each other in various ways. Will helps Marcus grow in confidence at school, and Marcus helps Will impress Rachel (Rachel Weisz), a woman so massively out his league his creepy antics to land her are (almost) justified. Hugh Grant is just terrific as an egocentric cad who learns to open up his life, even if it is messy, and even if he has to play “Killing Me Softly” on guitar in front of the world’s most hostile audience. The book of the same title its based on by Nick Hornby is also very good, and I’m not just saying that because I desperately want you to know that I read books.
Margetis’ Comments: I remember walking to Blockbuster in seventh grade and renting this. It was late 2002 and I was in seventh grade, coming off the heels of the summer where I really got into film. “Boogie Nights”, “Se7en”, “Heat” – all movies I saw for the first time during this. Anyway, thirteen-year-old me didn’t care for this but I reckon I should revisit. Fun fact – Lucas Hedges‘ dad IRL wrote this.
Where Should You Watch It?: Peacock
5. The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
Why Should You Watch It?: I’ve had some bad New Years in my day, but I’ve never had a NYE where I had to escape an upside-down cruise ship with a motley crew of strangers. A star-studded cast (Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, Shelley Winters, Leslie Nielsen, Jack Albertson, Red Buttons, just to name a few) is thrown into chaos when a giant tidal wave capsizes the cruise ship during a NYE celebration. A dwindling group of survivors face a harrowing series of challenges, including climbing up a giant Christmas tree, swimming through a underwater hallway to get to the engine room and multiple explosions. Riveting action and well-established characters elevate this film far above standard disaster fare. This is from the era where Gene Hackman was in basically every movie, and we were better for it. You could do worse than the gold standard of disaster movies. I do not hold the 2005 remake in as high of esteem.
Margetis’ Comments: So, I saw this with my dad many many New Year’s Eves ago, probably 2001 now that I’m thinking about it. I remember we had ribeyes and lobsters and stayed at home watching movies and marathoning “The Twilight Zone”. Anyway, twelve-year-old me was really bored which doesn’t mean anything because I was an idiot back then. I do remember seeing the 2005 remake in theaters and passionately hating it, though. I should give this one a revisit.
Where Should You Watch It?: HBOMax
4. Carol (2015)
Why Should You Watch It?: Carol is most often billed as a Christmas movie, but New Years Eve represents a pivotal point in the central relationship between Carol (Cate Blanchett), a stylish married woman and Therese (Rooney Mara), a young shopgirl and aspiring photographer. After Therese helps Carol select a Christmas present for her young daughter, the two become intrigued and eventually infatuated with each other. The budding relationship between the two women complicates Carol’s impending divorce from her husband Harge (Kyle Chandler), who is not quite ready to give her up. Carol is based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel The Price of Salt, one of the first novels about a homosexual relationship to end relatively happily in an era where it was essentially required to punish LGBTQ+ characters in literature. Sometimes misunderstood as “gloomy,” Carol is actually a rather hopeful movie as it shows two people stuck in ill-fitting situations move toward lives that suit them much better. And what better movie to watch on New Years?
Margetis’ Comments: I had this on my Best Christmas Movies list, and while it only made the #25 spot, it’s easily in the Top 5 of every movie on that list judged purely as a film rather than as a “Christmas Movie”. This is iconic queer filmmaker Todd Haynes‘ masterpiece, which is saying a lot since he also made bonafide gems like “Safe”, “Far From Heaven” and the wholly unique “Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story”, the illegally made short film (didn’t get rights for the music) detailing Carpenter’s struggle with Anorexia using Barbie dolls. Anyway, back to “Carol”, a wonderfully nuanced and softly told forbidden love drama between two lesbians in the 50s that manages to generate the emotional impact of a sledgehammer. Cate Blanchett gives one of her best performances as the titular Carol but Rooney Mara isn’t far off in her LEADING (not Supporting despite what the Academy said) performance.
Where Should You Watch It?: Roku Channel
3. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)
Why Should You Watch It?: I’ve been posting a New Years movie on social media every day of December, and The Hudsucker Proxy was, by far, the most beloved movie I posted about in the last month. People came out of the woodworks to tell me how much this movie charmed their bobby socks off. A farcical take on the rigidity of mid-century American corporate culture, The Hudsucker Proxy stars Norville Barnes (Tim Robbins), a naive go-getter from Muncie, Indiana, who becomes the unlikely head of a huge corporation in the late 1950s after the company’s founder and president Waring Hudsucker (Charles Durning) suddenly commits suicide. Norville is installed by a company board headed up by the scheming Mussburger (Paul Newman, always a great addition) looking to tank the company’s stock in order to buy up more public stock and gain greater control of the company. The bold move attracts the attention of Amy Archer (Jennifer Jason Leigh, who has never been better), a fast-talking, Pulitzer Prize reporter who goes undercover to get the dirt on Norville. Of course, Norville surprises everyone with his invention of the hula hoop, which takes the nation by storm. While I would agree that it’s not the Coen Brothers best work (there’s only one Raising Arizona), even the “lesser” Coen films are pretty dang good (I think it’s somewhere in the pantheon around Hail, Caesar!, another fun period piece, and Burn After Reading).
Margetis’ Comments: I’ve never seen this movie and it bugs me cause it’s one of only two Coen brothers movies I haven’t seen (“Intolerable Cruelty” is the other one). I like all these actors though,. I know it usually winds up towards the bottom of most Coen Bros rankings but that could just be that they make films of such high quality that one that is merely great is a miss for them.
Where Should You Watch It?: Rent on Amazon for $3.99
2. Trading Places (1983)
Why Should You Watch It?: Back in the day, a heavily censored version of this movie was a staple of basic cable. I watched this so much that I thought frozen orange juice concentrate was actually a major trade commodity well into adulthood. For those who didn’t watch TBS nonstop in the nineties, Trading Places is about human ascot Louis Winthrope III (Dan Ackroyd) switching lives with the fast-talking Billy Ray Valentine (Eddie Murphy) because of a cruel bet between the two greedy Duke Brothers who own a Philadelphia investment firm (Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy) over whether or not people are a product of their circumstances. Thrust suddenly onto the street, Louis, who’s never before known adversity, quickly turns to crime, while a newly elevated Billy thrives in his new environment. Billy discovers the Duke Brothers’ ruse, and teams up with Louis as well as a street-wise sex worker (Jamie-Lee Curtis) and an over-it butler (Denham Elliot) to turn the tables on the brothers in one of the most satisfying acts of revenge ever committed to film. It’s a well-crafted screwball comedy that, minus a (thankfully brief) blackface scene, has stood up tall to the test of time. Fun Fact: In 2010, this movie helped spurred on a provision of the Dodd-Frank act that makes it illegal to act on ill-gotten information from the government to trade commodities, as Billy Ray Valentine and crew very much did legally in the movie. It’s actually called the Eddie Murphy Rule.
Margetis’ Comments: This was also on my Best Christmas Movies list and makes a fine double feature with the other famous Murphy/Landis production “Coming to America”. Murphy and Aykroyd are great as well as Jamie Lee Curtis in the role that broke her out of the scream queen rut. Denholm Elliot is also very good here, he actually won a Best Supporting Actor BAFTA for this! I missed it this Christmas, but I imagine I’ll throw it on for the next one.
Where Should You Watch It?: Starz
1. The Apartment (1960)
Why Should You Watch It?: My top New Years pick goes to this charming yet dark romantic comedy about giving too much of yourself to the wrong master. Jack Lemmon stars as Bud, an affable young go-getter so eager to move up the ladder at the staggeringly large Manhattan corporation he works at, he lends his upper west side apartment to higher ups on the make in the city. He’s sweet on a sassy elevator operator played by Shirley MacLaine who in turn is stuck on a married executive (Fred MacMurray) who, of course, takes her to Bud’s apartment. When a lovesick MacLaine tries to commit suicide over her callous paramour in his pad, Bud helps nurse her back to health and both of them to the realization that their current pursuits might not be worth it. Billy Wilder is behind the camera on this delightful PSA for a company sexual harassment policy. For a 60-year-old romantic comedy, this holds up very well, though you might be upset to learn that you could rent a nice-looking one-bed on the Upper West Side in Manhattan right by Central Park for under $100 a month.
Margetis’ Comments: Wow, so I just watched this last night and if I had seen it earlier, it probably would have topped my own list. In a world where motels and hotels don’t exist, these gross corporate men are using a lower-level employee’s apartment as a brothel. The lower-level employee is a self-described “schnook”, Baxter (Jack Lemmon – one of his best and most painful performances) and is constantly being shoved out of his apartment so his bosses can bang secretaries/sex workers/whoever there without their poor wives finding out. Also, everyone in this reality bangs to salsa music. Baxter flirts with and eventually falls for a sassy elevator operator at his work, Fran or Miss Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine – also one of her best performances). Will Baxter even be able to enter a relationship with his apartment doubling for the Bang Bus?! This is a near-perfectly written dark comedy that refuses to pull its punches and is all the better for it. It’s refreshing to know that even back in 1960, movies about authentic, flawed human beings existed. LOL, I read the Wikipedia page that said the actor who played the boss executive/head villain/cheating butthead was accosted in the street and beaten with purses. Even back then, audiences couldn’t tell the difference between fiction and reality. How frightening.
Where Should You Watch It?: Criterion Channel
FAVORITE NEW YEARS TV EPISODES
Frasier – RDWRER (Season 7, Episode 12)
Margetis’ Comments: Not only the best New Years TV episode I’ve ever seen, one of the all-time greatest Frasier episodes I’ve seen – probably the crown jewel of Season 7, though “They’re Playing Our Song” and “A Tsar is Born” come dangerously close. Frasier and Niles’ New Years’ plans fall through when their favorite snooty restaurant burns down in the biggest centerpiece disaster in the history of Seattle. Every other snooty restaurant in town is booked, even The Salad Experience, so they decide to hedge their bets with a wine-tasting party in Napa Valley. However, all flights are booked, so they have to hitch a ride in their dad, Martin’s Winnebago. He’s even got new vanity plates – RDWRER – which mostly just confuses people. What ensues is one of the best farces the show has done all culminating in an effortlessly heartfelt moment other sitcoms could only dream of. (HULU, Paramount+)
Genevieve’s Comments: Any episode where Niles and Frasier attempt to be part of any sort of party is always a beautiful disaster, and this episode is simply one of the best at that rich vein. The tragedy of the Crane boys is that they long to be hobnobbing with other society types about opera, wine, etc., but they just can’t get it together. “RDWRER” episode has so many great touches, like Martin getting into Austin Powers years too late, Frasier cockily trying to connect with a “real American” and immediately failing, and of course, Niles accidentally stealing a Winnebago from a heavily armed couple. It’s my absolute favorite TV episode to deal with the millennium NYE, and maybe the only one that didn’t do some kind of corny Y2K angle.
30 Rock – Klaus & Greta (Season 4, Episode 9)
Genevieve’s Comments: 30 Rock really hit its stride in its fourth season, which manages to sustain compelling season-long plot arcs while still being a nonstop joke machine. Set right after New Years, Liz (Tina Fey), Jack (Alec Baldwin), Jenna (Jane Krakowski) and Tracy (Tracy Morgan) swap stories of their NYE exploits. While drunk on wine from Bob Ballard, Jack left an embarrassing phone message for Nancy (Julianne Moore), his married high school sweetheart that he recently reconnected with, and he is desperate to retrieve it by breaking into her Boston home with the help of Kenneth (Jack McBrayer). Meanwhile, Liz welcomed 2010 by outing her gay cousin (the always welcome Jeffrey Self) to his rural Pennsylvania family, spurring him to come visit her in the big city and come into his own as a baby gay. Jenna is offered a relationship with a self-parodying James Franco to detract from rumors about his attraction to a Japanese body pillow to whom he may or may not be common-law married. To boot, Tracy is confronted with his not-always-stellar treatment of woman when he finds out his wife is pregnant with a girl. Like any 30 Rock episode worth its weight in night cheese, “Klaus and Greta” is peppered with great lines, like:
- “I know it’s a girl, Liz Lemon, because I yelled ‘Susan B. Anthony’ at the moment of conception!” — Tracy, who’s going to name his daughter after the place she was conceived
- “Having ice-cold diarrhea from drinking too much Jamba Juice? It’s everything I ever wanted!” — Jenna, who might be known as “James”
- “Did you not learn the nation’s airport codes in high school?” — Kenneth, who knows God can see him in the morning
This is a terrific episode in arguably the best season of the series, and it’s just a joy to watch. (Peacock)
Margetis’ Comments: I fell off the “30 Rock” wagon around the third season, when it originally aired, and I haven’t been back aboard since. So I watched this episode out of context and first and foremost I thought “Search Party”‘s Jeffrey Self was clearly the stand-out here. Also, Jenna’s ice-cold diarrhea line was pretty brilliant. It made me laugh out loud alone in my house. The Jack Watergate subplot I could take or leave, even though Kenneth had great moments with that darn webcam.