You’re out of egg nog, the “guests” crashing on your couch, whether out of town friends or family are gone, and you no longer have to show anyone your present face thanks to disappointing gifts. It’s probably time to cheer yourself up with some New Year’s movies.
A New Year’s movie doesn’t necessarily have to make the changing of the calendar year a plot device, like ” When Harry Met Sally “. It can be a movie about change, accepting change, making resolutions, and moving forward in a positive way. Or you can give up and go watch Jack Black pee on a tiny castle in ” Gulliver’s Travels “. Clearly, not all transformative change should be viewed as positive.
Here are two films, one new and one old that might help you ring in the New Year in a less formulaic way, or at least help see you through a less holiday-filled January.
“ True Grit ” (2010)
Based more upon the 1968 novel Charles Portis than the John Wayne film, the Coen Brothers reunited with Jeff Bridges to a western less suited to the Dude’s easy-going attitude from ” The Big Lebowski “. Bridges brings to life the nearly incoherent U.S. Marshal Reuben J. “Rooster” Cogburn, a man hired hunt down a murderer in Choctaw lands. Matt Damon, Barry Pepper, and Josh Brolin co-star in gritty roles that could have been cast for almost any good actor of a certain age.
Bridges is fantastic, but the lead is appropriately given to then 13-year old actress Hailee Steinfeld, the grimly determined daughter of the murder victim. There’s little doubt only a few minutes in that the Coens chose well in trusting their movie to her instincts, as it is largely her desperate charisma and intelligence that drives the movie forward.
“ Magnolia ” (1999)
“This happens. This is something that happens.” intones game show contestant Stanley Spector (Jeremy Blackman) in response to a shocking, jarring event. That is something of an understatement, but the twist in Magnolia, which won’t be revealed here if you haven’t seen it, is something that apparently “happens”. The movie is about people and life happening, a series of devastating, life-changing events playing out in a small section of the San Fernando Valley.
Director Paul Thomas Anderson managed to gather a ensemble of incredible actors, many of whom worked with him in ” Boogie Nights “. The movie is so loosely constructed it threatens to derail several times, only to tie itself back into place through unseen character connections and chance meetings. You may come away from it unchanged, but you will likely feel you’ve seen some amazing performances, if nothing else. Be warned that there is a great deal of profanity.