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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Conclusiveness, Controversy and Entertainment

Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father prepare to die.

Remember how great that moment is, in THE PRINCESS BRIDE? When Inigo finally meets his nemesis? How conclusive and book-ended and emotionally satisfying that was? We humans need closure. We need to see revenge wrought, passion fulfilled, heroism rise ascendant.

The Wave-inatrix loves a good movie argument and Margaux's post yesterday did seem to stir up the bee's nest. That's a good thing. Movies, like scripts, are largely subjective. Of course, one can (and has to, when reading a script) deconstruct them and examine the moving bits for story soundness, originality and artistic merit but the Wave-inatrix has more than once read a script for a production company, rated it not just PASS but GOOD GOD IS THIS A PASS and then seen stars like Hilary Swank cast and the movie produced. I have seen scripts that I thought not great do very well in competitions and scripts that I thought (and think) are outrageously good wallow for years without recognition.

Recently, a friend who was working below the line on a network top 3 mega-hit was laid off due to the strike. The show has gone dark. She has been offered production jobs on projects already bought, paid for and ready to be shot. The other day she brought me the script for a job she's up for - The Wave-inatrix is not at liberty to divulge the television entity making the project but suffice it to say you're very familiar with it. The script is abysmal by any standard. The action lines go on for miles and are written terribly. The plot is thin and unoriginal. The dialogue is awful. As my friend put it - you could have written this with mits over your hands, legs tied and in a gunny sack! - and yet, this sucker is currently going into production. Why? How can this be?

How can it be that The Wave-inatrix hates - yes, I'll admit it - hates CITIZEN KANE? Is it possible that some people disagree with The Wave-inatrix that Woody Allen is one of the top American directors in movie history and that actually, he is a whiny, neurotic and unfunny? Yes, Wavers - gasp collectively - those words have been uttered. SLEEPER - the orgasmatron - not funny?? BANANAS - coleslaw for 900 men - not funny?? PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO, BROADWAY DANNY ROSE, HANNAH AND HER SISTERS - not brilliant??

Opinions are like - embarrassing body part here - everybody has one. I personally agree with Margaux and The Other Pete - I do enjoy some bloody conclusiveness when I see a movie. Doesn't have to be happy but damn it, my own life has rarely had closure - and when I go to the movie picture show, I want an experience that takes me out of my world, transforms my thinking for just that 90 minutes and, yes, that gosh darn well sews it all up in the end so I can make some sense of it. The Wave-inatrix is a formidable cinefile and can go toe-to-toe with the most intense movie viewers out there. My tastes run far and wide - if you can name it, I've probably seen it. One of my favorite movies of all time - all right, my absolute favorite - is HAROLD AND MAUDE - would the movie have satisfied as much if we'd not known whether Harold really died after the car went off the cliff? Not me. The punctuation mark at the end of that dramatic sequence is powerful and uplifting. It could have been powerful and tragic and been just as good. But there's a punctuation mark.

The Wave-inatrix is also a literary hound and has formidable shelves and shelves of books which no, you cannot borrow - so of course there are many examples of great literature in which the ending sort of trails off and the reader is left to draw his or her own conclusions. And that can satisfy perfectly, yes, but psychologically, having read both popular and literary fiction over the years, I do prefer an ending of some sort.

It is the Wave-inatrix's observation that more and more, literary short fiction is populated by writers who seem to claim by some sort of default, a certain literary cool but simply not concluding anything at the end of the story. Balderdash, I say. Just effing entertain me.

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the other pete said...

Oh, don't get me started on short stories.

Otherwise, well put...and not just because you agree with me.

the other steve said...

one of my favorite endings is LIMBO by John Sayles. when I saw it in theaters and the credits came up there was grumbles in the audience by some - but I thought it was perfect. I agree with Sayles that the outcome was preordained: in about 10 seconds we would have found out who was on that plane - it could only have been one of two results - and either one is anticlimactic.

however some people clearly didn't feel they got their $14 dollars worth (well, I guess $10 back then). bummer for them.

Kevan said...

Hey, I like this Steve. Come over to my place Steve and we'll watch some movies together..

Down endings, despite their description and concept within story-telling are equally as valid as an up ending or as it is known a, "happy ending". Chinatown by Polanski resonates with me because of that very reason. But I like up endings too.. I like both, that's why I love movies so much "it's life with the dull bits cut out"..

the other pete said...

I feel the need to clarify something here:

The opinion I gave earlier does not apply to down, sad, unhappy or any kind of ending that doesn't fit the "Happy Ending" paradigm. My opinion, which I took to be the same as Margaux's, regards the absence of an ending at all.

From there on, we can agree to disagree. At least as much as is possible when it comes to something we feel as passionately about as movies.

Anonymous said...

Well, as much as I respect your opinion (you are after all The Wave Princess), it's my opinion (and we know what that means, as for as body parts go anyway) that the job of the writer or storyteller (print or film) is to be true only to the requirements of the story.

It's not a requirement to provide answers in storytelling, only to raise questions and entertain. Sometimes this means not giving the story closure.

Anonymous said...

I bet the ending of Lost in Translation just drives you over the edge.

Julie Gray said...

Hello. My name is The Wave-inatrix. You dared disagree, you cheeky, cheeky-- damn you for such a great example, IM! :)

I looooooved Lost in Translation. I know others who didn't but it wasn't the ending,it was the fuzzy navel-gazing nature of the whole thing. But yours truly loved the experience. Also: good soundtrack.

But hey, I loved Marie Antoinette too. What can I say, I was there when Video Killed the Radio Star. Ms. Coppola might be slightly young but the kid has great taste in music.

Conclusions are where the Great Circle of a Posited Theme comes to make nest after that first foray into the clear blue. In movies like LOST IN TRANSLATION, the inconclusiveness of the ending perfectly matches the inconclusive nature of the story itself. If SEABISCUIT had not ended with an ending, or GONE WITH THE WIND, or THE WIZARD OF OZ or others with a similarly Vogler-Campbell-Aristophane-esque traditional, archetypal narrative thrust, the Great Circle of Dramatic Law would have been broken.

The ending must suit the story. LOST ended in perfection. I cannot speak to NO COUNTRY, not having seen it and honestly, based on that hairstyle Bardem sports on the poster, it's not likely.

angelula said...

Good movies are like a beautiful piece of orchestral music, all the peaks and valleys, the dramatic and the sublime. Like good music, movies are best when they 'resolve' thematically, not necessarily literally, happy ending or sad. LOST IN TRANSLATION is a beautiful example, with a wistful and exquisite open-ended 'resolution.'