Saturday, 26 June 2010

2009 in Review: The End (s)

Good God, this is late...even for me. In March, while recapping 2009 I listed my favourite beginnings, my favourite scenes and was supposed to list my favourite endings...well never too late - here they are.
The last few minutes of a film can completely change our feelings of it. A fair film can be changed by a surprise ending and a good film can be destroyed by a poor one. Surprise endings have a better chance to be remembered, but sometimes an ending can be equally satisfying without being a shock. In 2008 there was an embarrassment of richest when it came to endings. There were the subtly surprising like Revolutionary Road and Burn After Reading. Both took secondary characters and made them the focal point for arresting and startling conclusions. There were the tense like Doubt and even In Bruges to an extent. As much as I am reiticent about Streep’s work in the former, she excels in the end. And In Bruges endings is not the copout many claim it to be. There were important closing shots of our protagonists like in The Wrestler and Changeling but my favourite was the sweetness that was The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – episodic, I know, but a lovely ending.
Now, on to 2009…Here are the ten closings that were memorable, the top 5 in particular made their films all the better for it. Ummm, spoilers ahead. Obviously. (Couldn't find pictures for the exact scenes in all, apologies), click on the links for my reviews.
Runners Up: A Single Man, Three Blind Mice, Bright Star, Avatar, The Road

#10: 500 Days of Summer: “A New Season”
I liked 500 Days of Summer, even if I was a bit disappointed. Nevertheless, the ending with all the pithiness that I love was just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek. After Tom finally reaches the 500th day of Summer he meets a girl at a job interview. She doesn’t seem interested, but eventually she acquiesces. Her name? Autumn.You have to love that sort of self awareness in comedies...
#9: Brothers: “A Confession”
I know some weren’t too fond of Brothers, but I was. Tobey MaGuire did make my list of favourite actors and though his breakdown scenes are what many remember it is this confession to Portman that sticks with me (not pictured above). Sheridan knows when to tone it down, and it’s the moment we’ve been waiting for. As Sam tells Grace about his role in the death of his friends and as the tears roll down his eyes while U2’s 'Winter' plays in the background, I couldn’t help but be impressed.
#8: Moon: “The Journey”
As Rockwell launches himself to earth amidst the voices of news reporters speaking of his appearance on earth I realised that Duncan Jones had done something brilliant with Moon. It wasn’t my favourite film of the year or anything but it sure was a formidable debut and the way that a clichéd theme like cloning could seem so original impressed me.
#7: Inglourious Basterds: “The Twist”
I’m mixed about the ending of Inglourious Basterds. On one hand it lends an irreverence to the piece that’s notably good, but for some reason it doesn’t make my praise turn into anything particularly voluble – it’s probably the school boyish insolence of that final line. Still, as Landa is outmanoeuvred by the unassuming (or at least boorish) Basterds a sense of significance is felt. I won’t say it’s iconic, but it sure is memorable.
#6: Drag Me To Hell: “The Button”
Drag Me To Hell is one of the better films of its genre and that depends – to a large extent – on the brilliance of Alison Lohman. As Justin Long takes out that envelope I already get that foreboding sense – though I know I can’t stop what’s coming. It’s a brilliant script decision and it’s so perfectly executed. What came before was good, but it’s the ending of this film that makes it worth it.
#5: The Fantastic Mr. Fox: “Success”
The Fantastic Mr. Fox is so much fun, it should be illegal. When Fox carries his family, and best friend, up to the supermarket he’s found there’s a sense of ease that I love. Sure, George Clooney is voicing him, but on rare occasion he doesn’t annoy me – and this is one of them. With the imminent baby and the ensuing speech it only gets better, but what really cinches the brilliance is when the camera pans out and we see the owner of the supermarket that will soon be raided -  Pure brilliance.
#4: Duplicity: “Together At Last”
In some ways Duplicity depended on having this twisty ending. Gilroy's script (though excellent) sometimes tried to do too much, so the audience expected something ludicrous to be the end-all – and it was. The solution for the mystery was satisfying and irreverent all at once. And our protagonists do end up together, although Julia’s Claire isn’t too thrilled at the prospect.
#3: In The Loop: “Credits”
Unlike the others the genius in In The Loop’s ending comes form the incongruity of it all, as the credits roll  (not pictured above) and we see the fate of some of our characters. We see Toby leaving the office, Simon after being demoted; and I love Kennedy’s lines to the young (and voracious) up and coming politician as they sit and play Facebook chess.
#2: Nine: “Curtain Call”
When people say that Rob Marshall’s unoriginality in Nine was obvious I often wonder if they saw the ending. Sure, he wasn’t as inventive as he was in Chicago but as the melody from "Be Italian" and "Folies Bergeres" play and as I watch Guido’s imaginary world merge with his reality it’s easy to see where Marshall was heading, and I can’t help but respect the guy. Seeing Saraghina putting on her makeup next to a priest and watching Claudia and Stephanie having a conversation all combine and we watch him he actually sit down to make the movie we’ve just seen. It’s an ingenious idea and Marshall doesn’t always succeed, but it works here and concocts a truly memorable ending.
#1: Chéri: “A Face in the Mirror”
Bright Star wasn’t the only period piece unfairly ignored last season; at least it got an Oscar nomination. Pfeiffer’s face in the mirror has become an important shot but what makes Chéri work so brilliantly is the cold narration of Stephen Frears as he tells us of the suicide of the eponymous Chéri It throws the audience, but it’s not just for show. It’s an excellent bit of filmmaking and my favourite ending of the year.
So with the endings I close on all things 2009. And it's about time, really. Which ending pierced you the most and made you see the movie with new eyes?


Luke said...

Oh man, the Drag Me To Hell ending was fantastic! It was just like a punch in the gut immediately followed by that title shot just smacking up on the screen. It was just merciless! :)

Simon said...

I think endings are the most resonating part of a movie (duh), and you picked somegood ones. Don't much care for 500 Days' ending, though.

Runs Like A Gay said...

Oh, that shot of Michelle, superb ending and a masterclass in screen performance as a huge amount of emotion is transmitted through tiny imperceptible movements.

Great list.

Anonymous said...

Chéri? I really can't see it. Few things were more boring to me in 2009.