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Ormond Beach Observer Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013 6 years ago

Happy New Year: Movies about starting over


A new year means new movies to watch and older ones to catch up on. Check out these films about starting over.


Doesn’t matter what last year was like, when January comes along you just can’t help but reassess. It’s like some kind of brain trigger.

Where are you? Where are you going? Is it time to start again?

So in the spirit of the New Year, I’ve compiled a few of my favorite movies about starting over. Most resolutions are tough to keep, but being open to new media should never be.

“The Apartment” — There was this movie club in college that met every couple weeks. It was this little rinky-dink group of nerds who would pop a movie into the projector and then talk about it after the credits rolled. One day, they screened Billy Wilder’s “The Apartment,” and I was blown away. It was the kind of movie — shot in black and white, after color was a thing — that made me think, “How haven’t I heard of this before?”

Jack Lemmon plays a spineless worker bee who lends his apartment to his boss at night as a place to bring mistresses. Pretty dark for a comedy released in 1960, but the movie’s like that, seamlessly marrying jokes and lightheartedness with themes of suicide, adultery and love. My favorite kinds of movies are those that ride the line between laughter and tears. And this one does it perfectly. (Bonus: It ends with a New Year’s scene.)

“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” — Director Michel Gondry has a fascination with movie magic, how cameras have the ability not just to capture but to alter reality. You can see it in “Be King Rewind,” which is about filming home movies on handhelds, or in “The Green Hornet,” which critics panned for being light but I loved for being unapologetic. Gondry is a special kind of filmmaker, but it’s only through the guidance of a Charlie Kaufman ("Adaptation," "Being John Malkovich") script that his talents have been fully realized.

“Eternal Sunshine” asks the question, If you could erase your bad memories, would you? And then it takes us on one of the most tragic and beautiful surrealist journeys ever caught on celluloid. There’s a scene where Jim Carrey stands inside a crumbling beach house, its structure flaking away around him like so many forgotten feelings. It’s an image that has stuck with me. This is what movies are capable of, it says.

“Looper”— No “starting over” list would be complete without a time-travel flick, and “Looper” is an exceptional one. Directed by Rian Johnson — whose 2006 debut “Brick,” a gritty high school noir, is also worth a watch — it stylishly tells a story about gangsters, and fate, and telekinesis.

Several people I know went back to the theater last September when this was released for a re-watch (our design editor, Mallorie Bruce, saw it three times). And although this movie might not get the respect it deserves from the Oscar squad (genre movies almost never do), expect to see a whole lot more from Johnson and Gordon-Levitt in the future. These two are the real deal.

“The Namesake” — Following an Indian family moving to America, “The Namesake” is about transition, into an arranged marriage, from one country and culture to another, from youth to adulthood. It’s dense but never weighty, relying completely on subtle performances and quiet conversations. After I first saw this in 2008, I remember having a heightened awareness of how quickly life passes. But it wasn’t depressing. It made moments matter. It tightened my connection to family. It strengthened my sense of being.

“Sideways” — I once broke up with a girl because she hated the ending of this movie. It’s true.I’d been having doubts, I admit, but her opinion proved that we were just too different. She didn’t get what I saw in Alexander Payne’s wine-obsessed existential-crisis comedy, and so she didn’t get me. It simply would’ve never worked.

“Sideways” is a movie that’s bright and fun and pretty to look at, but it also plays a lot with themes of failure and giving up. It doesn’t end with any certainty, but there’s a ton of hope, and that’s what I love about it.

And if you don’t love it too, well ... there's the door. We'll always have Page 6.

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