Home Movies Movies to watch on New Year’s Eve, plus the week’s best

Movies to watch on New Year’s Eve, plus the week’s best

Movies to watch on New Year’s Eve, plus the week’s best

Hello! I’m Mark Olsen. Welcome to another edition of your regular field guide to a world of Only Good Movies.

People talk a lot about Christmas movies, but what about New Year’s Eve movies? They don’t get as much attention, yet with the emphasis on one big night and making something special happen, the evening has lots of cinematic potential. Plus, if you choose to stay home and not brave the crowds and traffic, what better way to spend the night than watching a movie? With some planning, you can even time it so the stroke of midnight in your movie happens at midnight.

One of the all-time classic New Year’s Eve movies, Billy Wilder’s “The Apartment,” starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, is showing around town a few times in coming days. Vidiots will screen the movie on Saturday, while the American Cinematheque will feature the film at the Egyptian on Sunday.

Here are a few more suggestions for New Year’s Eve-set movies to watch below.

‘Phantom Thread’

A woman models a dress while people take notes.

Vicky Krieps, left, and Lesley Manville in “Phantom Thread.”

(Laurie Sparham / Focus Features)

Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Phantom Thread” knowingly cribs from David Lean’s 1949 drama “The Passionate Friends” for the staging of its New Year’s Eve sequence, with Anderson creating an all-timer of romantic longing. In the film, a fashion designer living in 1950s London, Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis, in what for now seems to be his final screen role), falls for a woman, Alma (Vicky Krieps), who upends the precise order of his existence.

The film is playing at the Egyptian Theatre in 70mm on New Year’s Eve, with a 5 p.m. showtime that means you’ll still have plenty of time for festivities after.

As Justin Chang put it in his review when the film came out, “‘Phantom Thread’ emerges as a dry comic allegory about self-absorbed male artists and the female muses who patiently love and nurture them. … But what finally gives ‘Phantom Thread’ its subversive kick isn’t just its provocative theorizing about the pursuit of genius, the desire for domestic fulfillment and the sacrifices required to balance the two. It’s that Alma, in undertaking her strange, singular mission, is perversely elevated to the standing of an artist in her own right. She becomes this movie’s most sublime creation and the living embodiment of its spirit — triumphant, audacious and impossible to forget.”

I spoke to Anderson, Krieps, costume designer Mark Bridges (who won an Oscar for his work on the film) and production designer Mark Tildesley about creating the cozy, refined, yet slightly spooky world of the film.

“This was something that really came fresh and unexpectedly,” Anderson said of the story’s origins. “There’s always the feeling, like, ‘Will I ever have a good idea again?’ And so to get at one that felt really good, ‘Oh, I want to follow through on this, I want to keep pursuing this.’”

Anderson also spoke to Glenn Whipp after the film received six Oscar nominations, including best picture and director, about how the performances by Day-Lewis and Krieps make the film a romantic drama but also something of an unexpected romantic comedy.

“Two different tones at once, yeah,” Anderson said. “But then repeat viewings, the humor is found, which makes me happy. Maybe I should struggle to establish it a little earlier on. Maybe a disclaimer: ‘It is OK to laugh during the course of this film.’”

Mikael Wood spoke to Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood, who has become Anderson’s go-to composer. The swelling, swooning strings of Greenwood’s score should be particularly lush at this week’s screening at the Egyptian.

“It’s a big, physical thing, an orchestra, and the goal was to re-create that feeling you get when you see a live orchestra in a concert hall,” Greenwood said. “The sound of mass strings, it’s been kind of cheapened in popular culture. But it can be an overwhelming thing to stand in front of these instruments and hear them playing together.”

‘Strange Days’

Two people push through a crowd on New Year's Eve.

Ralph Fiennes and Angela Bassett in the movie “Strange Days.”

(Merie W. Wallace / Universal Pictures)

Another film with a dazzling New Year’s Eve sequence is Kathryn Bigelow’s “Strange Days,” which was co-written by James Cameron and Jay Cocks. The film will be screening at midnight on Saturday at the New Beverly in 35mm, which should make for an electrifying presentation worth the extra cup of coffee or soda it may take to make it through. Then again, the movie is enough of a jolt that it should keep anyone awake.

Set at the end of 1999, the millennial thriller follows Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes in a glamorously sweaty performance), a former L.A. police officer who now gets by as an all-purpose hustler, most specifically of clips featuring a new technology that plugs right into the viewers cerebral cortex for a shockingly realistic first-person experience. When Lenny comes into possession of a clip showing the murder of a famous rapper at the hands of two cops, the tension builds. Everything comes to a climax during a large public New Year’s Eve concert celebration that was shot in downtown Los Angeles. (The cast also includes Angela Bassett, Juliette Lewis, Vincent D’Onofrio and Michael Wincott.)

In a 1995 profile in The Times, as Fiennes was following his roles in “Schindler’s List” and “Quiz Show,” he spoke about the part in “Strange Days” by saying, “I haven’t done drugs, but I think it is similar to drugs — stimulating yourself artificially and actually you are destroying your soul. Lenny is always thinking about the next clip he can sell, the next deal he can make. He can’t bear to be on his own. I liked him because he was a little weak.”

Bigelow’s 1991 film “Point Break,” starring Keanu Reeves and Patrick Swayze, will be screening at Vidiots at 7 p.m. on Saturday. Among its many virtues, the film features a foot chase sequence that was something of a test run for the first-person POV shooting style Bigelow would explore even further in “Strange Days.” The timing (and traffic) should work out so that an intrepid viewer could get from “Point Break” to “Strange Days” for a Bigelow double-bill.

Other points of interest

‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ and ‘Speed Racer’

People drive in a post-apocalyptic vehicle.

Tom Hardy, center, and Charlize Theron in the movie “Mad Max: Fury Road.”

(Jasin Boland / Warner Bros. Pictures / Associated Press)

You won’t need any caffeine before the New Beverly’s high-propulsion 35mm double-bill of “Mad Max: Fury Road” and the Wachowskis’ 2008 “Speed Racer,” playing on Jan. 2, 3 and 4.

George Miller’s “Fury Road” is simply one of the signature films of the century, one that manages to dismantle the action movie and refashion it into a relentless hot rod of escalating excitement. Part of what makes the movie so incredible is that Miller — and in turn actor Tom Hardy — are willing to set the signature character of Max aside so that Charlize Theron’s Furiosa can take center stage. (Among the most anticipated films of 2024 is Miller’s prequel, “Furiosa: A Mad Max Story,” starring Anya Taylor-Joy.)

Josh Rottenberg wrote about the film’s wild production history when the film came out. Miller spoke about the practicalities of creating an apocalyptic wasteland when he said: “The reason ‘Mad Max’ was set in the future was mainly driven by budget. We couldn’t afford to shoot it in streets where you’d block the traffic, so we shot it on deserted backstreets because it didn’t cost anything — and to explain it, I just put ‘A few years from now’ at the beginning.”

As Kenneth Turan wrote in his review of the film: “The real star of ‘Mad Max: Fury Road,’ however, is filmmaker Miller, who dreamed the mighty dream that is this film for more than a decade before being able to bring it to life. It has been worth the wait.”

“Speed Racer” is an adaptation of a 1960s Japanese animated series that has a singular, one-of-a-kind look achieved with then cutting-edge high-definition digital video.

The style of the film is a lot to take in and many reviewers at the time echoed Carina Chocano, who declared in her review for The Times, “the fakeness of it all overwhelms.”

Yet, as actor Christina Ricci told Chris Lee of enacting the Wachowskis’ vision: “It’s one of those things where all of us just said, ‘They have something detailed and complete in their heads. We don’t know what that is. So let’s just go with it.’ It was crazy!”

‘Jackass 3D’

I always instinctively feel like I should dislike the “Jackass” films. Their rowdy energy is so willfully disreputable, they must be made by a bunch of know-nothing lunkheads. And yet. They are in fact so disarming and charming and downright lovable that they always end up winning me over. The Academy Museum will present 2010’s “Jackass 3D” on Saturday, a rare chance to see the film projected in 3D in a theater.

I spoke to franchise star and mastermind Johnny Knoxville for 2022’s “Jackass Forever.” On the unexpected longevity of the series, he said: “At the end of the day, I feel like it’s a special group of guys, and now girls, and you can tell we all love each other and people enjoy hanging out with us. The camaraderie and the spirit is what brings everyone back.”

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