Dissing Dick Clark

You could go out New Year's Eve. And you could drink yourself silly until you're puking like it's 1999. Or you could stay in and rent a movie. And not some end-of-the-world pop flick starring Bruce Willis, either. Try something different--something smaller. Something better. Live on the edge--it's New Year's Eve. These recommendations may not be the greatest films you've never seen, but they sure beat watching Ferris Bueller being chased through the streets of New York by a giant lizard.

Start the night light with Waiting for Guffman, Spinal Tap alum Christopher Guest's 1996 tale of a small town mounting a theatrical re-creation (and a musical one at that) of its history in the local high school. Like This Is Spinal Tap, the touchingly funny Guffman unfolds as a documentary as the denizens-cum-actors encounter numerous physical and mental hurdles every step of the way. Best are Guest's anguished director and Parker Posey as the city's Dairy Queen princess with grander aspirations. Why not make it a Posey double bill? She's also wonderful in Kicking and Screaming, Noah Baumbach's 1995 sleeper about recent college grads on the slow track to nowhere. It's occasionally pretentious, overly talky, and smarmy as hell, but it's also a smart, funny ride.

If high camp is more your taste, check out Russ Meyer's Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill!. This semi-earnest 1965 movie is a bona fide cult classic, and for good reason. It's got sassy chicks, a desert setting, hot rods, and some really huge breasts. For something a bit more serious, try Victim, a 1961 British drama starring Dirk Bogarde as a gay lawyer coming to terms with his environment. It's one of the first films to address homosexuality's societal issues, and it holds up quite well today.

If you still can't get enough Titanic in your life, check out Kate Winslet in the 1994 New Zealand pic Heavenly Creatures. It's based on the true story of two teenage girls whose fantasy world leads them to the murder of one of their parents. Winslet is mesmerizing as the brains behind the duo. After Creatures, dive into more teenage killers with Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills. This 1996 documentary is a horrifying account of the gruesome slayings of three young boys by (allegedly) a misfit trio of heavy metal headbangers. Satanic overtones abound, but the film goes much deeper than that, as it probes the possibility that these kids aren't killers after all. Thoughtful, scary, and disturbing.

If documentaries are a little too stuffy for you, try a true story wrapped in a more cinematic package. It's All True is a compilation of sorts of leftover Orson Welles footage shot in 1942, originally intended for feature release, ripped from his hands by the studio bosses who hoped to rein him in, and eventually stitched together in 1993. It's a hodgepodge, but a brilliantly fascinating piece of history from one of the world's greatest directors. And if you really want to test your endurance on New Year's Eve (and trust me, it's worth it), rent Krzysztof Kieslowski's astutely cunning and heartbreaking "three colors" trilogy: Blue (1993), White (1993), and Red (1994). Lifting its primary themes (liberty, equality, fraternity) from the colors of the French flag, these tales of communication breakdown in the modern world are perfect toasts of resolution as we stumble one step closer to the new millennium.

--Michael Gallucci

Waiting for Guffman and Red, White, and Blue are available at Vidstar, 1836 Coventry Rd., Cleveland Heights, 216-932-7287. B-Ware Video, 13367 Madison Ave., Lakewood (216-521-2210), has Kicking and Screaming, Faster Pussycat, Heavenly Creatures, and Paradise Lost. StoryTape Video, 3115 Mayfield Rd., Cleveland Heights (216-371-0088), has Victim and It's All True. All these titles are released by major studios and may also be available at chain video stores and public libraries.

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