DVDs | Happy Doomed Year!: If you’re home for New Year’s Eve, celebrate with movies about other disastrous Dec. 31sts. | Arts & Entertainment | Salt Lake City Weekly

DVDs | Happy Doomed Year!: If you’re home for New Year’s Eve, celebrate with movies about other disastrous Dec. 31sts. 

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Surely the obscene desperation so many put into the necessity of having a date—or at least exciting plans—for New Year’s Eve is some sort of cognitive dissonance connected to the emperor’s-new-clothes fear of being the one to come out and say it: It’s the most overrated night of the year. n

So sure, if you want to laugh at all the suckers who get depressed just because they’re spending the evening alone and unloved, you’ve got your DVD options. There’s Gloria Swanson in 1950’s Sunset Boulevard; she has a rotten New Year’s Eve when her little would-be romantic party goes south. There’s Charlie Chaplin in 1925’s The Gold Rush, who gets stood up by not one, not two, but three ladies on the big night. Cary Grant spends New Year’s Eve in 1938’s Holiday pining for Katherine Hepburn—and not getting her. In 1992’s Peter’s Friends, a veritable summit of great British actors—Kenneth Branagh, Stephen Fry, Emma Thompson, Hugh Laurie, Imelda Staunton—are abso-freakin’-lutely miserable over an entire New Year’s weekend.


My preferred New Year’s movies are the disastrous ones. I mean the truly disastrous ones. It’s as if the cultural subconscious were reacting to that romantic directive and impossible peer pressure with things going boom, or worse. The Poseidon Adventure—the 1972 version—is probably my favorite. Just at the stroke of midnight, an enormous tidal wave flips over a cruise ship, killing most of the evening’s fancy-schmancy partyers. Looks like there is a fate worse than not having a date on New Year’s Eve: having one, but dying. Those left alive are forced into a desperate struggle for survival before the ship sinks. Fun!


It’s death by zombie holocaust in 1984’s Night of the Comet, a comic-horror flick in which most of the world is killed by weird rays from a passing comet. While the film never explicitly states the comet’s flyby occurs on New Year’s Eve, this event does clearly occur just after Christmas. The world celebrates the comet’s arrival like it’s New Year’s Eve—with mobs of people in Times Square, for instance. And then, they all die—even those who brought dates to the party.


Perhaps it’s no coincidence, then, that New Year’s movies of the 1990s focused on the New Year’s Eve of our lifetimes: the one when all the nines of 1999 rolled over into the zeroes of 2000. Ralph Fiennes endures a terrible evening on that legendary night in 1995’s Strange Days, which features abundant drug abuse, in-your-head snuff films, Angela Bassett kicking his ass around and Juliette Lewis breaking his heart. It’s so not fun for him. Catherine Zeta-Jones and Sean Connery have a somewhat better time in 1999’s Entrapment, in which they portray high-tech robbers out to steal a mint from one of the world’s biggest banks. Their plan involves lots of cool gadgets and computers and intends to take advantage of the computer confusion surrounding the Y2K programming problem that—remember?—we were all so worried about back then. Good times, good times.


Two other disaster-at-the-millennium flicks are available only as imported, Region 2 DVDs, but they’re worth seeking out if you have the right DVD player and you really feel the urge to celebrate by watching the impending end of civilization as we know it on New Year’s Eve 1999. In 1991, Wim Wenders set us up for the end of the world in the aptly named Until the End of the World, in which Sam Neill pines for Solveig Dommartin and loses her to William Hurt. Oh, and also, there’s an out-of-control nuclear satellite that’s about to crash into the planet, except no one knows where it’s going to land or whether it will wipe out all life down to the paramecium level. (Also available to watch on demand on Amazon.com.)


The really quite terrible 1996 Fox TV movie Doctor Who—in which we Americans demonstrate how inept we are at putting our own spin on quintessentially British things—posits the end of the world being brought about by the Doctor’s archenemy for mysterious reasons (maybe that it will probably make the Doctor cry, he loves us Earthlings so much). At least the Doctor does get to smooch the girl in this one, which he never used to get to do. But, in keeping with the awful theme of the evening, he loses her instantly afterward.


If you really must have a cheery New Year’s but don’t want to be slapped silly by sentimentality, try 1976’s Rudolph’s Shiny New Year, in which a talking reindeer and a baby with jug ears have adventures at year’s end. The end of time is threatened here, but I’ll spoil it for you: It all turns out OK. tttt

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