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20 FANTASTIC FINALES FROM FILMDOM (4 of 4)

If you’ve been following us for the last month and a half, you know that we partnered with BoxingUweBoll to bring you The TOP 20 CLOSING SCENES in film, as selected by the writers on both staffs. And today we bring you the final installment, numbers 1-5:

5.) Inception (2010) –  Christopher Nolan

[by Sean Carnegie]

The dream is over. Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) wakes up upon successfully completing the process of inception and walks dazedly through US customs, back to the home he once knew. Once he arrives at his house, he instinctively pulls out his totem and gives it a spin to reassure himself that he isn’t still dreaming. His attention is soon drawn away however, by the sight of his two children and as they rush into his arms the camera pans back to the now forgotten top. The music builds, the top wobbles and… Cut to black.
I have never heard so many theater goers simultaneously exhale in surprise at the ending of film as I did during that final cut of Inception. With this movie, Christopher Nolan built something as puzzlingly complex as a house of cards stuffed inside of a Russian nesting doll. All the way through my first viewing of the movie, I was convinced there was no possible way for him to land a satisfying ending after creating such a wonderfully complex narrative. Yet all it took was the slight wobbling of a top and a perfectly timed cut to knock the wind out of my lungs and set the internet on absolute fire with the question, “Is Cobb still dreaming”? Even though there have been millions of words spent on the subject, the bottom line is that the question is far more important than the answer. Nolan left the blank. It’s up to you to fill it.

[admin. note: embedding has once again been disabled – but please follow the link to see the ending.]

4.) The Thing (1982) – John Carpenter

[by Boaz Dror]

Carpenter’s soon-to-be-prequel’d remake of the Howard Hawks‘ classic begins with a bang and spends the entire 2nd act building suspense as an alien shape-shifter infiltrates a rag-tag pack of Alpha Males and wreaks havoc on their minds, bodies and souls. Against a harsh arctic landscape, the twists and turns hold increasingly higher stakes, as the fate of the world hangs in the balance. And though the eye-candy that fuels this film is Rob Bottin‘s amazing creature effects, the ending is as bare-bones as possible: having seemingly killed the creature, super-cool helicopter pilot R.J. MacReady (Kurt Russell) stumbles to what his final resting place by the camp’s flickering remains. Suddenly his rival Childs (Keith David) appears, “you the only one who made it?” the weight of his words filled with meaning. “Not the only one,” MacReady replies, insinuating what we’re all thinking. As Childs protests that he’s as human as the next guy, it occurs to us that the next guy – Mac himself – might not be so human. “Why don’t we just wait here a little while… see what happens.” Carpenter drops the curtain on the two men and freezes them figuratively in our minds before winter freezes them literally in their tracks, and whether we’re watching two combatant species or two of humanity’s unknown saviors, it’s a perfect ending to a movie in which no one is what he seems, and nothing can be trusted. It’s a delectably open-ended resolution to a masterpiece that won’t be topped anytime soon.

[admin. note: for a more in-depth review of the Thing look here.]

3.) The 400 Blows (1959) –  François Truffaut

[by David Micevic]

When Truffaut shot The 400 Blows, he was an outsider in the film industry, more than that, a hostile adversary—a fiery critic who famously wrote a call-to-arms deriding the stagnation he saw enveloping French cinema. At odds with the industry, by the famous final shot of his groundbreaking debut, he arguably now was the industry. With The 400 Blows he placed an indelible mark on the French film landscape, ushering in a new era of auteur cinema. To watch this scene in isolation doesn’t do it justice. It requires that you come to fully understand the plight of the film’s protagonist, renegade youth Antoine Doinel; to witness his persecution at the hands of authority figures, his eventual confinement in a juvenile detention center and his sudden escape from it all. If cinema, to paraphrase Godard, is not the station, but the train, Truffaut knew that his film needed to expresses that sense of endlessness. To convey the open-ended nature of Doinel’s journey, Truffaut employed a simple, but now-legendary cinematic technique. As Antoine makes his way onto the isolated beach, the camera zooms in on a freeze-frame of his face, and then the film abruptly ends. Truffaut leaves us with a haunting image of absolute uncertainty. There is no resolution; no reprieve. Antoine remains forever frozen in our minds, caught between the captivity of his past and the endless expanse of the unknown future.

2.) Chinatown (1974) –  Roman Polanski

[by Steven Short]

Although it’s remembered both for its technical dexterity and its unflinchingly bleak view of humanity, the ending to Chinatown is perhaps most revered for it astronomically high tragedy-per-minute ratio. In a scant five minutes, the hero is falsely arrested, his lady is shot in the head, a screaming child is carried away in the arms of an elderly pedophile, and the film’s main villain skulks away into the night. The gravity of the sequence is bolstered by a jarring lack of music, and an incorporation of eye-level shots and sparse editing lend the otherwise stylistically bold film an unpredictable, documentary-like feel. Through Polanski’s smart use of shaky P.O.V. shots, the viewer is standing right next to protagonist Jake Gittes as this shocking display of inhumanity unfolds. Everything Gittes has accomplished up until the film’s final moments has been for naught, and before all hope is extinguished a colleague mutters the famous phrase, “Forget it, Jake; it’s Chinatown.” As viewers we know those words have fallen on deaf ears, as his already dreary worldview was shaped by a similar incident in the past. He won’t forget Chinatown, and his compounded cynicism speaks to those of us who know the world can really be that bad.

1.) The Usual Suspects (1995)Bryan Singer

[by Boaz Dror]

There are gimmick endings and then there are outright shocks, culminations that cause us to question not only what came before but also the very nature of storytelling. The Usual Suspects, which pushes the concept of an unreliable narrator to dizzying heights, proves that “the bigger the lie, the more will believe it.” As smug agent Kujan (Chazz Palminteri) – with whom we’ve identified the entire film – bullies lowly Verbal Kint into finishing his account of Satanic Keyser Soze, we know his betrayal will earn him death. We pity Kint as he’s released, which is our undoing – for in the ensuing moments everything is transformed. Without Kint to lead him, Kujan finally sees the truth – and we see through his eyes. As Spacey shapeshifts from Kint to Soze in one of the greatest tracking shots in film, the audience’s collective jaw drops beyond the fourth wall. We realize we’ve not only been the victims of the greatest sleight of hand in film history, but that we’ve been active participants in our own undoing – we wanted this unbelievable tale-within-a-tale, of a mythical superman and a pathetic gimp, of colorful bad guys and outlandish double-crosses. And as Soze disappears forever, his greatest triumph is the one bit of fiction proven to be true: of his own greatness. Though as an audience we’re left exposed – swindled even – this fleeting fiction is an ultimate Truth we can cling to, a wisp of smoke in a hall of mirrors. The perfect ending to a perfect lie. And then – poof – it’s gone.

[admin. note: unfortunately, embedding has once again been disabled – but please follow the link to see the ending.]

What do you think? You agree/disagree? Either way, we hope you’ve enjoyed our countdown – be sure to revisit parts 12, 3, and to also visit Boxing Uwe Boll for the first installment, The countdown of the top 20 film openings! Please keep visiting both blogs for fantastic writing about movies, and look for more collaborations in the future! Thanks!

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August 8, 2011   3 Comments

Fantastic Fifties’ Noir – PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET

PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET is what happens when a hardboiled director makes a hardboiled movie.

Samuel Fuller was a maverick filmmaker, a true independent whose direction was economical yet dynamic, filled with inventive camerawork and characters that felt grittier and more real than their mainstream counterparts. Never really achieving Hollywood success, Fuller worked on the fringes, on low-budget B-grade pictures where he could experiment without having to backlight the stars. In the 1960’s he became a darling of the French New Wave, who championed Auteurs and criticized the hacks who were killing Cinema (oh where are you now, Cahiérs du Cinema…?) Loosely adapted from a story by Dwight Taylor by Fuller himself, Pickup on South Street (1953) is a fine introduction to Fuller’s universe, where everyone is always at the end of their ropes, dregs of society just trying to survive. The underrated Richard Widmark plays Skip McCoy, a petty criminal who accidentally pickpockets microfilm on the subway and gets into a whole heap of trouble. The Feds suspect he’s involved in a Communist plot and set out to bust the spy ring, but Skip doesn’t like being pushed or manipulated, which leads him – among other things – to utter the classic anti-patriotic line, “don’t wave the flag at me!” which disturbed audiences at the time to no end. There’s an edge to the characters in this movie that you don’t get from movies of this era, in the naivete of the gorgeous-yet-victimized Candy (Jean Peters) and the backstabbing stool-pigeon (Thelma Ritter, who was nominated for an Oscar). The performances are pitch perfect and the black and white cinematography perfectly captures the urban world of gray. If you ever find yourself hankering for a good old fashioned piece of pulp, I suggest you pick this one up – it’s a masterpiece. In fact I’ll start you off, because even though there doesn’t seem to be a trailer on youtube, there is the entire movie in 9 parts. Here’s the first:

And check out Sam the man himself, as he talks about the movie’s opening and other subjects as well:

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June 25, 2010   3 Comments

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