When I was 15, slightly more than a decade or two ago, I went with a friend on New Year’s Eve to watch the ball drop in Times Square. It wasn’t the dumbest thing I’ve ever done, not by a long shot. But there are good reasons why, slightly more than a decade or two later, I haven’t repeated the experience. New Year’s Eve can be tough enough. Why make matters worse by standing for hours in the cold, packed together with thousands upon thousands of strangers?
Clyde Haberman offers his take on the news.
This qualifies as conventional wisdom. Yet in less than three weeks, hundreds of thousands of people will cast aside common sense and descend upon Times Square for this ritual. Some may even have a good time. Seizing on that as both premise and prayer, the filmmaker Garry Marshall has cobbled together a pastiche called “New Year’s Eve,” which opened on the weekend to some of the worst reviews a New York-based movie may have ever received.
Stephen Holden in The New York Times called it “unendurable” — a “cynical makeover of one of the most stressful nights of the year.” Sara Stewart said in The New York Post that it was “a soul-sucking monument to Hollywood greed and saccharine holiday culture,” set in “the drabbest-looking Big Apple ever.” Elizabeth Weitzman of The Daily News also touched on the way New York is treated. “Rarely,” she wrote, “has a local film been shot so carelessly, and with so little feeling for the settings and sites that make the city special.”
Movie criticism is not the province of this column, but after reading those devastating commentaries, especially about the way the city come across, I had to see for myself.
The film is a not-auld acquaintance that should be forgot and never brought to mind. There’s almost no point singling out anyone or anything. But honorary mention might go to that sturdy son of New York, Robert De Niro, playing a dying photojournalist whose last wish is — get this — to see the Times Square ball drop! These days, Mr. De Niro brings back memories of Laurence Olivier — the Olivier who at the end of his career did just about anything to make a buck.
(Got to interrupt here with another kind of New York movie moment. Sunday morning, we tried to catch the acclaimed new film “The Artist” at the Paris theater in Midtown. But at the appointed hour, the house manager announced that the projector had broken down; there would be no show. Behind me, a man said something to his companions about bringing “a class-action suit.” Here’s hoping it was a joke. In this city, you never know.)
On the positive side, “New Year’s Eve” got its history right. A character in the film says the first Times Square ball was dropped in 1907. That is correct. It happened three years after the civic fathers renamed Long Acre Square at the behest of a certain newspaper that took up residence in the neighborhood.
Still, I wondered if this work might qualify for a list of the worst films set in New York. Months ago, I mentioned my own candidates for best New York films, a favorite being the original “Taking of Pelham One Two Three,” from 1974. But the possibilities are many. Dozens of readers checked in with their druthers.
Do nominees for an all-time-worst list come to your mind? Offhand, none leap out at me. But last year the Web site NYC 10 Best offered its own choices for the worst. Can’t say I saw any of them. Going from No. 10 to No. 1, Letterman-style, they were: “Big Business,” “Three Men and a Little Lady,” “Eddie,” “Spawn,” “Little Nicky,” “Look Who’s Talking Too,” Coyote Ugly,” “Elf,” “The Honeymooners” and “End of Days.”
The compiler of that list had to be relatively young. Not one of those films was released before 1987. Surely, there are worthies from earlier eras.
By the way, appearing briefly in “New Year’s Eve” is Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. He also had a cameo earlier this year in the better-received “Adjustment Bureau.” And to think none of that would have happened had he not wangled this third term of his.
For more local news, including reports on possible candidates to succeed Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, the Newark school district pushing to retake control of its schools, and a former officer being accused of killing his wife in Queens, see the N.Y./Region section.
Here is what City Room is reading in other newspapers and blogs.
The Chelsea Hotel is trying to evict residents, despite its promises to the contrary, court records show. [DNAinfo]
Developers have started a battle to build Brooklyn’s tallest towers. [Wall Street Journal]
The Police Department instituted policy and protocol changes for undercover officers, as a result of the shooting of Sean Bell. [Wall Street Journal]
Facebook posts purportedly written by police officers about celebrants at the West Indian Day Parade have prompted bill that would require officers to live within the five boroughs, to show more sensitivity. [NY1]
New York senators called for passenger advocates at airport security checks. [CBS New York]
Livery-cab drivers began a 10-day rally for legal street hails. [NY1]
A sex-abuse scandal has rattled the Orthodox Jewish population. [New York Post]
A stray bullet hit a bystander in Harlem, the police and witnesses said. [Daily News]
A company apologized for an architectural project resembling exploding twin towers. [DNAinfo]
An advertising campaign is supporting New York University’s plan for a school in Downtown Brooklyn. [Daily News]
The Police Department halted a ticket spree against fuzzy children’s characters like Elmo in Times Square. [Daily News]
Santa’s “rescue” thrilled children at the New York City Fire Museum. [DNAinfo]