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A recent trend in movie endings

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#1 of 21 OFFLINE   Alphonse Brown

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Posted October 11 2004 - 03:36 AM

This thread will contain spoilers regarding the ending of several movies, so be forewarned. Recently, I’ve seen a few movies that have seemed to deviate from the typical Hollywood “happy” ending. For example: “Mr. 3000”
Bernie Mac’s character does not get his 3,000th hit. Yeah, he proves himself as a team player, but I have a strong feeling that if this movie was made several years back, he would’ve gotten that 3,000th hit with a Randy Newman-esque score swelling in the background.
“Ladder 49”
Joaquin Phoenix’ character does not make it out of the fiery warehouse.
“Friday Night Lights”
the Permian Panthers lose the final game. Some people did not do their research before seeing the movie and was disappointed that they did not win.
Not that I mind that these endings aren’t the typical ending … as a matter of fact, I actually admire them more than I probably would have had they ended predictably for having the guts for showing audiences something differently. I know that non-typical endings have been around for years and years, but lately to see 3 modern films in a row when it seems like Hollywood wants to give audiences a rather chickened-out but good feeling ending in order to get repeat busine$$ is a new, interesting trend. Do you guys believe that the non-Hollywood ending will become cliché and writers will get persuaded to provide a happy ending all of the time?
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#2 of 21 OFFLINE   Jason_RoyH



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Posted October 11 2004 - 05:40 AM

I've always wanted to make a hugely advertised love story with teddy bears and gum drops just to have everyone attacked and blown to hell 10 mins after the film starts Posted Image Oh man if that could ever make it to theaters without the surprise being leaked out. Posted Image

#3 of 21 OFFLINE   Chris


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Posted October 11 2004 - 06:14 AM

I will say something about these, though, in regards to Mr. 3000:
Mr. 3000 had a terrible ending, because the bar for success, 3 hits, was so low that should he not be able to complete that, he would not have played more then a week or so at the major league level. The fact that it drove on with no success (IMHO) was a very poor plot device..

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#4 of 21 OFFLINE   TommyT


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Posted October 11 2004 - 06:52 AM

Probably the best example of a studio that forces a happy ending in a film would have to be Brazil. The battle btwn Terry Gilliam & Sid Sheinberg is legendary. If you get the chance to see the Criterion edition DVD it has both the director's cut & the Sheinberg edit.
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#5 of 21 OFFLINE   Kenneth


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Posted October 11 2004 - 09:38 AM

I think you have to match the ending to the movie. I don't think every movie should have a Hollywood ending but I don't think we need a major downer for every flick either. I think they need to match the ending to the film.

Hollywood endings that work (in my opinion):

Shawshank Redemption
(one of my favs, glad they tacked on the shot on the beach)
Sleepless in Seatle
(that kind of movie demands a happy ending, no matter how sugary Posted Image )
To Kill a Mockingbird
(of course you have to match the truth in this case but who would have wanted them hauling off Boo for trial)

Hollywood endings that don't work:

(love conquers all ending; a dystopian movie demands a sad ending usually)
I am zoning out but I know there are plenty of others

You generally need to match the non-Hollywood ending to the subject. Some movies like "Sophie's Choice", "The Godfather", "1984", and "Psycho" gain power because they end on the downnote. Other movies ("Last American Virgin" comes to mind) become repulsive with a down note ending (they might be more realistic but they don't match the psychological expectations for that type movie).


#6 of 21 OFFLINE   Chris Lockwood

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Posted October 11 2004 - 09:41 AM

If you're going to use spoiler tags, it would be nice to mention the movie title OUTSIDE of the spoiler area, especially in a thread that's not about a specific movie.

#7 of 21 OFFLINE   RyanAn



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Posted October 11 2004 - 11:36 AM

Alphonse, I wish you would of seperated them like Kenneth did, Mr. 3000 was ruined for me and Friday Night Lights almost was as well. Posted Image It is ok.

Happy endings are so common, that people expect them, and when something happens different it is a big shock.

Several films have different endings, like Man of Fire, Wild Things, Swordfish, and Ladder 49. It is nice to see something new and somewhat oringal everyonce again.


#8 of 21 OFFLINE   CoreyII


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Posted October 11 2004 - 11:40 AM

As far as Im concerned it is already happening, probably a little more so in television than in film, but film is only a notch behind television in regards to downer endings. It seems the hip thing to do lately is too kill off major characters, look no further than NYPD Blue. One of the reasons I stopped watching the show was because too many characters were being axed off. My best guess as to when this trend started was probably in the mid to late 90's which is when many Asian films began to have influence on American filmmakers. Today many filmakers share this mentality that they're doing something artistic if they kill off their main character. Many filmakers buy into this Asian films are superior mindset. And because Asian filmakers have a tendency to kill off their characters American films should follow suit. Today's filmakers consistently slam American films for having happy endings while praising other culture's films for having downer endings. Yet no one attacks Asian films (or any other culture) for having films with down beat endings. What many people don't understand is that Asian culture and American are different and as a result the films made by each respective culture is a reflection of that culture's beliefs. Sorry to rant but this topic along with the topic of more PG-13 films as opposed to R-rated films really gets me fired up. It bothers me because one of my favorite film franchises Blade may be a victim of both topics. I've been hearing rumors for the longest time that not only will Blade be killed off in the third film but also it may come in under a PG-13 rating. I am not happy about that at all. I know that the Blade films are movies with dark themes but that doesn't mean the hero has to die.

#9 of 21 OFFLINE   Stephen_L


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Posted October 12 2004 - 12:22 AM

I'm not a big fan of the happy ending. Life has very few happy endings. Mostly its just folks muddling through, making the best of the situation. If its EARNED (and it often is not) a happy ending is exhilarating, a real rush. (e.g. Shawshank Redemption, Moonstruck, Close Encounters, Jaws) An ending need not be tragic, just not perfect for me to appreciate it. I call it a sad ending with hope. Classic examples include Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Lost in Translation, Local Hero, even Casablanca. A sad ending must not cheat either. You don't kill a character just for the shock value. You don't degrade the characters or their story without reason.
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#10 of 21 OFFLINE   Holadem


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Posted October 12 2004 - 01:52 AM

Look in the S&S thread for some slams on the cliche downer euroflick endings, a sentiment I happen to agree with. If you were to go by their movies, you would think europe is one depressing continent (which it actually is Posted Image ).


#11 of 21 OFFLINE   ThomasC


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Posted October 12 2004 - 02:34 AM


#12 of 21 OFFLINE   Pete-D



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Posted October 12 2004 - 02:39 AM

Rocky, Titanic, and A League Of Their Own all have what could be considered as "downbeat" endings. The main character doesn't "triumph" in a traditional sense. But I think those experiences become more relatable to the audience. Its funny though, all three of those above mentioned films were huge crowd pleasers.

#13 of 21 OFFLINE   shaniceMW


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Posted October 12 2004 - 02:55 AM

i like man on fire because:
denzel's character does not live at the end. i like the fact that dakota's character was alive, but what was the motivation to keep her alive? it was kinda obvious that the other children were killed. but the movie would have been cheapened had denzel's character been kept alive. my husband says that he likes the way he died. for me, i think they should have killed him in the field. not that i'm an advocate of strong violence like that. i just think that realistically, that's what would have happened.

#14 of 21 OFFLINE   Brian-W



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Posted October 12 2004 - 05:05 AM

(sorry I can't resist Posted Image )

I like the ending to North Shore

Rick could have won the contest by protesting, but he doesn't because it's just a contest and it's not important even if he should have been the winner

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#15 of 21 OFFLINE   Kenneth


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Posted October 12 2004 - 06:46 AM

As I said earlier, it is important for the denouement to match the tone and message of the film. Whether your point is irony, Nihilism, a fairy tale ending, or something else, it needs to be concistent with your message. The down endings that seem to work the best are ones where the tone has been set and that is the only ending possible. Other examples of endings that work: The Professional
Unfortunately the professional has to die at the end. As an anti-hero he is not fully redeemable any other way and it matches with the ironic tone of the film previously. A happy ending where he escapes wouldn't have worked at all.
Natural Born Killers
The happy ending (more or less) has to occur because it fits the ironic Nihilistic tone of the entire film. A Bonnie and Clyde ending wouldn't have been as satisfying.
Kill Bill
Bill must die as the Anti-hero. Although he has partially redeemed himself, only a death can fully restore the balance. A major downer where everyone dies would have been pointless and would have invalidated the entire film up to that point.
You've Got Mail
Whether you like this type movie or not, this is the only way they are going to end (with the boy gets girl ending). The few romantic movies that have ended in heartbreak are dramas, not comedies.
So all these had denouements that match the overall tone of the film. Only in very specialized cases can you get away with an ending that totally invalidates all of the film that preceded it. There are very few directors with the skill to pull that off. Kenneth

#16 of 21 OFFLINE   Seth Paxton

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Posted October 12 2004 - 07:15 AM

S&S = Sight and Sound, as in the Sight and Sound list viewing challenge thread that is running around 75 pages (hey, its over 300 flicks to see in total).

Holadem beat me to the punch on that one. I was just going to mention that the Euro-styled downer ending as the "truth" of life is just as cliche and has been going on for at least 50 years as a standard ending. Often a film, especially French or Italian films, will flip to a sudden downer twist right at the end simply to avoid the happy ending it has been building to.

Clouzut's The Wages of Fear is a prime example of a film who's narrative jumps its own rails right at the end to avoid the naturally progressing ending. (WoF is a film about men without work that are so desperate for money they take jobs driving a couple of trucks loaded with unstable nitroglycerin that would explode if the truck even bounces too hard - pretty good film along the lines of Treasure of the Sierra Madre).

Speaking of Sierra Madre, that ending is certainly unconventional. And the 70's had many alternate endings, including things like Chinatown, Midnight Cowboy, and French Connection.

On the topic of "that's how life is", I disagree with that as some ultimate truth. I agree it is ONE VIEWPOINT, and as valid as many others. But as screenwriting teachers will tell you, most of your world view and outlook on life is placed in your ending, the final resolution. That moment is generally where you say "this is what life is about when you boil it down". Seems obvious at this moment but I think many viewers would actually feel that the entire film is speaking about the truth of life, which is not nearly as true as it is for the ending of a film when all of that can be undone.

So it then becomes a debate over the truth of life, and this is one of the major debates waged in the film arts.

I stand on a mixed area, that while there are many bad endings in life, including the final ending in death, we spend most of our life pushing forward thanks to the triumphs we experience, or at least the hope of one. If you believe there is no hope for success then you lose your will to live IMO, and since so many people do have a strong will to live I disagree with the idea that the truth of life is that we see it as hopeless.

And in that vien you have narratives that aren't about all of life, but rather about a little pocket of it when things work out right. As Holadem also pointed out, this is what many people like to see, reinforcing their own need to believe in a possible happy ending or REMINDING them of a happy ending they already experienced.

People do win the big game. The last time I checked there were still champions in all sports and those are real people. Maybe more lost than won, but somebody did win. And the ones that lost believed that they also could win (and might the next time they try). People also find true love, turn their life around, find their missing child, make scientific breakthroughs, etc.

After all films like The Right Stuff don't strongly deviate from the basic series of events. Those men did get in to space. Or in Apollo 13 those men were returned safely to Earth. Those films don't lie about their mini-truths of life.

From that you can see why I find the Euro-downer ending just as annoying as a cliche.

#17 of 21 OFFLINE   Sean.S


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Posted October 12 2004 - 07:53 AM

I prefer the happy ending. After seeing "bad ending" movies like the awful, AWFUL House of Sand and Fog, I decided to praticallly self-boycott R-rated movies and avoid movies that dealt with reality (and thus, typically at least, have sad/downbeat endings). I like my movies to end in victory for the heroes, the villains defeated and the damsel in distress falls in love with the main male hero for saving her. Posted Image

If this is true that Hollywood is veering away from the "Happy Endings" even in PG-13 movies, I will have to be very selective (of course, I already am--I've only seen 3 movies at the theatre this year, all great: Shrek 2, Sky Captain and the World of Tommorow, and Spider-Man 2) and avoid the downbeat ending all the more Posted Image

#18 of 21 OFFLINE   Alphonse Brown

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Posted October 12 2004 - 09:11 AM

Sometimes a downbeat ending, even if it does not match the tone of the rest of the film can sometimes make a film that much more memorable. For example, "The Last American Virgin" totally surprised me with that ending ... it didn't match the tone, but it did go with a more realistic ending and for that I applaud it.
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#19 of 21 OFFLINE   Holadem


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Posted October 12 2004 - 09:19 AM

I think downer endings are being equated with reality a little too aften. Reality is grey, i.e. somewhere in between. Realism is dealing with the complexities and nuances of a given situation, not whether or not it ends happily or sadly.

I do not find House of Sand and Fog, Requiem for a Dream or {insert greek tragedy} any more realistic than {crap, I can't think of a single feel good flick right now Posted Image! }.

To say that downers are automatically (or mostly) realistic is to have a pretty depressing view of life.


#20 of 21 OFFLINE   RyanAn



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Posted October 12 2004 - 01:12 PM

Corey, where did you get your information on Blade III? I heard it was a blood-bath and the freakiest one so far... Ryan Reynolds is supposed to do some seriously evil things to Blade. Posted Image



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