2016 Skelly Family Christmas
Happy New Year! Roll the Film.

W hat are you doing for New Year's?

Some 10% of people just want to get cozy with a good movie. (About the same percent as want to spend it in a bar.) And if you're one of the former but also demand contextual relevance in your viewing entertainment, don't worry. Hollywood's probably has already done the film that's just what you're looking for.

From the film industry's beginnings, ringing in the New Year has proved a very popular backdrop with the people making movies.

Charlie Chaplin's silent masterpiece, The Gold Rush, released in 1925, was centered around a New Year's Eve dinner between the Little Tramp and Georgia, the dance hall girl of his dreams (Georgia Hale).

Since then, over 100 movies, many of them sizable box office hits, have featured a New Year's setting. Like these:

  • After the Thin Man (1936), Myrna Loy and William Powell's first sequel to what would become their own cottage industry;
  • I'll Be Seeing You (1944), starring Joseph Cotten, Ginger Rogers, Shirley Temple, Spring Byington, Tom Tully, and John Derek;
  • Trading Places (1983) with Eddie Murphy Dan Aykroyd, Jamie Lee Curtis, Ralph Bellamy, Don Ameche, Jim Belushi and future U.S. Senator Al Franken;
  • Ghostbusters II (1989), Aykroyd again, flanked by Bill Murray and Harold Ramis plus Sigourney Weaver, Annie Potts and Rick Moranis),
  • The Poseidon Adventure (1960) starring Shelley Winters and most of her friends);
  • Woody Allen's Radio Days (1987) with Mia Farrow, Dianne Wiest, Mike Starr, Don Pardo and Wallace Shawn.
The song was all about Christmas. The movie wasn't (that's why they did a sequel), and New Year's played a role.

These movies are not all necessarily about New Year's per se. They're New Year's movies in the same way Die Hard is a Christmas movie.

But there are more than a few where the temporal aspect is indeed dispositive to the story line in some way. Even as the directors go about doing what Hollywood does best: making you cry, breaking you up, breaking your heart, weirding you out or just scaring the hell out of you.

Some New Year's movies go even further, playing up the central themes relating to ringing out the old and ringing in the new. Those same themes fastened on by serious dramatists and poets: attachment to old friends and traditions, rebirth and renewal, and high hopes for the future.

Filmmakers inclined toward the sinister and the dark enjoy contrasting the desperation of the human psyche with the Pollyannaish, ephemeral hope for rebirth and renewal, and not in a nice way. Like Little Caesar (1931), The Godfather Part II (1974) or Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977). And every now and then one will come along who plays it both ways. Think of the New Year's Eve scenes in Forest Gump, nihilistic and at the same time pregnant with fore-ordained promise and potential.

And then there's Boogie Nights (1997). Burt Reynolds, Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, and William H. Macy, as a cameraman heartbroken because his wife won't stop cheating on him, tell a convincing story of the emotional turmoil of the porn industry.

The idea is the movie's 1979 New Year's Eve party scene marks the end of an era. Whatever deep, unexplored crevices in your personal profile this strokes, it is, in point of fact, actually a pretty good movie. Just the same, don't show it to your mother.

When Harry Met Sally (1989) is a New Year's movie with a deeply romantic, quintessentially New Year's- look-and-feel message. Here's Billy Crystal racing down a Manhattan street to reach, he finally realizes, his one true soul mate, Meg Ryan, before she bails, dissatisfied and alone, on the New Year's Eve party she didn't want to go to.

Poor Sally doesn't yet realize she's his soul mate either; at that precise moment Harry's the last person she wants to run into. Chrystal's killer pu line turns it around. "Because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible."

Also featuring the late Bruno Kirby and the recently late Carrie Fisher. May the Force be with you guys.

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An Affair to Remember (1957) is one of the most romantic movies of all time, whatever the holiday, according to the American Film Institute. Directed by Leo McCarey, it was a remake of the same director's 1939 film, Love Affair, starring Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer. He used the same screen play, with the same dialogue, in both films.

In turn, Nora Ephron's 1993 film Sleepless in Seattle, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, was partly inspired by An Affair to Remember, particularly the ending.

The Apartment (1960) is generally thought of as a Christmas movie or even as holiday-neutral, but its spirit is truly New Year's, and it even reaches its denouement at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve.

Shirley MacLaine (cutie pie elevator operator (yeah, they had them in the '50s) leaves manipulative philanderer and insurance executive cad Fred MacMurray and runs to the arms of nebbish clerk Jack Lemon. (Lovers are always running through the streets of New York in these movies.)

This is actually a dark movie. For most people, MacMurray had a decidedly clean-cut, good-guy image. (Think Flubber, The Shaggy Dog and My Three Sons.) But some of his most noted roles were villains and scoundrels. He was really good at playing really rotten guys.

MacMurray's New York Times obituary made note of his bi-polar dramatic personae, relating this gem: "According to a possibly apocryphal anecdote, Mr. MacMurray was walking in Disneyland one day when an elderly woman approached him and declared: 'I always liked you until I saw you in The Apartment. Now I hate you.'

"She is said to have then pummeled him with her purse and stalked off."

MacLaine, MacMurray, The Apartment (1960), Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Director (Billy Wilder), Best Film Editing, Best Set Decoration (Black-and-White). Also, it introduced most of the general public to the twin-piano virtuosity of Ferrante & Teicher.

MacMurray had another New Year's hit with 1940's Remember the Night, a romantic comedy co-starring Barbara Stanwyck, The film was written by the great comic screenwriter Preston Sturges, his last script before embarking on a very successful directorial career.

For people who relish nothing more than ringing in the New Year with their weird-o-meter cranked up to red-line status, January 1 is a good time to take in one of those strange encounters with the human condition that incorporates the holiday: like Sunset Boulevard (1950), The Time Machine (1960) or Rosemary's Baby (1968).

Whatever your tastes, Hollywood has probably produced more than one movie that will feed your appetite.

"Reader's Digest online" has compiled a list for you of "The 10 Best Movies that Take Place Around New Year's Eve." Celebrate the big night with these classic Hollywood flicks and usher in the New Year in vicarious style. To view their selections click here.

"Wikipedia" features a fairly heroic list of nearly 90 films, broken down by categories, that rely in some way or fashion on the New Year holiday in relating their tale. Click here.

Finding just right movie can be the perfect antidote to a Jan 1 hangover. Just absorb yourself in one or more of these cinematic tales of someone else's New Year and forget about yourself, your pathetic little life and pointless existence for a while until the feeling passes.

Get comfy. Don't forget the popcorn.

And a happy, healthy and entertaining New Year in the real world, too.

Auld Lang Syne at the movies. America's New Year's theme song's star turn in the following movies: Ocean's 11, One Way Passage, The Gold Rush, Waterloo Bridge, An Affair to Remember, Wee Willy Winkie, Scandal, The Apartment, Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, Bachelor Mother and It's a Wonderful Life, and several others (unidentified).

2015 Index:
Dec. 10-3.16   Dec. 15-4.1   Dec. 20-4.14   Dec. 25-4.13

2016 Index:
Dec. 10-2.92   Dec. 15-3.12   Dec. 20-3.77   Right now: 3.95

Season Stats to Date ...

Current Christmas Spirit breakdown:
39%
15%
12%
10%
2%
10%
10%

12/10/16:
Slowest start since Christmas Spirit Index recordkeeping began (2010). This site must not draw enough Republicans.

12/15/16:
People aren't so sure about things this year. Abnormally high middle scores. (Santa Claus is Comin' to Town: 32.3%. That's usually Joy to the World at this point.) Voting way down as well. Attention shoppers! Only 10 days to Christmas.

12/20/16:
That raucus crowd from last year has shown up and are picking up right where they left off. Whatever drugs or drinks they're on seem to be working. Not quite as hot as last year, but there's still time.

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