Notes from the back row 

The end is near

Out with the old, in with the new. It’s New Year’s, time to turn over a new leaf. No more putting it off, time to get out there and do it. Party your face off, puke in the Village Square during the "family celebration", throw some snowballs and end up in jail or in bed with someone you just met. Yee Haw, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

New Year’s isn’t a popular holiday with the movies, however. There’s thousands of Christmas movies, Halloween and Valentine’s movies, even Groundhog Day has it’s own movie (Appropriately titled Groundhog Day and starring Bill Murray) but for some reason New Year’s gets overlooked. In 1988 a film called New Year’s Day came out about a guy who moves from LA to New York on New Year’s Eve and finds three women still living in what’s supposed to be his apartment. They’re forced to spend New Year’s together and all sorts of self-discovery and annoying adult angst drips all over the place. Not much worthwhile happening here.

A better film on the New Year subject is 1981’s New Year’s Evil , directed by Emmet Alston. A DJ/host of a nationally televised punk rock request show keeps getting phone calls from a slasher who’s ringing in the new by committing a murder in every time zone. And he’s gonna finish it all off with her. This movie is full of logic and plot holes, stereotypical characters we don’t care about, piss-poor punk music and a too-happy blonde girl that gets suffocated with a bag of weed. This alone elevates New Year’s Evil into the so-crappy-it’s-a-classic category. Extra points for the obvious yet clever title, so B-grade.

The best New Year’s movie is Canadian Don McKellar’s 1995 drama/comedy Last Night, a banger of a film about the last hours before the world ends. It doesn’t get much more "out with the old" than that. While we never actually learn how or why the world will end, we do know exactly when it’s all going down and McKellar offers glimpses into the lives of a few Torontonians as they prepare to call it a day. The world’s done in six hours, what would you do? Sandra is frantically trying to make it home to her new husband so they can shoot each other at the last minute. Patrick is content to disregard his family and sit on his roof with a radio and a drink and watch the sky fall. A gas company employee is phoning all his customers, ensuring them their gas will stay on until the very end. And Craig has decided to fulfil each and every one of his sexual fantasies, including Madam Carlton, his high school French teacher. Plus, thousands of people are amassing downtown to party it up at a New-Year’s-in-Times-Square style rave.

What makes Last Night stand out is that it relies on human emotion and interesting, defined characters instead of special effects and aliens and Will Smith or Bruce Willis saving the day at the last second. There’s a little bit of all of us in each one of these personalities and whomever we identify with most is a good glimpse into our own psyches.

Don McKellar is one of Canadian filmmaking’s best actors/writers/directors and Last Night , by staying simple and human and playing on that whole New Years/Y2K paranoia, is not only one of the better end-of-the-world flicks, but also my choice for best movie to stay home and watch alone on New Year’s.

Runner up goes to Happy New Year Charlie Brown , where Charlie may have to miss New Year’s because he procrastinated and now must read War and Peace, in a day. Poor old Charlie Brown. I love him, but is anyone else creeped out by the fact that, for a kid, he’s pretty much bald? What’s in your water Charlie Brown?

AT VILLAGE 8 Dec. 31-Jan. 6: Aviator; National Treasure; Spanglish; Ocean’s Twelve; Flight of the Phoenix; Polar Express; Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events; Blade: Trinity; Meet the Fockers.

AT RAINBOW THEATRE Dec. 31-Jan. 6: Christmas with the Kranks; Ray.

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