Monday, April 30, 2007

A Top 5

After getting into a brief discussion with Jim at his Talking Moviezzz blog over the supremely depressing ending of the 1980's cult classic The Last American Virgin, it got me thinking. What better time for a list! This is something I hope to continue doing, as well as my ongoing "What's In the Netflix Queue" posts and a few more appreciations of a given director. It seems the niche for blogs right now is finding something that makes your blog unique and invites participation. This is my feeble attempt at something like that. And, just for kicks and because you can find some of the best blog links ever assembled in one post, check out the recent writings by online buddy Piper over at his Lazy Eye Theater blog.

So, feel free to add your list in the comments section and let us know what you feel are the your top 5 most depressing endings in movie memory. With "The Last American Virgin" firmly holding its place, here are four more titles that will bring you down no matter how happy you feel:

2. "Laws of Gravity", Nick Gomez (1992)- internet friends will recognize my praise of this film since about the mid 90's when I first stumbled across it on VHS. Not only did it introduce me to the electric acting skills of Peter Green (Zed, from "Pulp Fiction" and one helluva screen presence who allowed his personal addictions to override his professional career), but it opened my eyes to the talent of a great director named Nick Gomez. And for us "Sopranos" fans, it features a young Edie Falco, just as saucy and tough as ever. While the film itself pretty much epitomizes the mid 90's indie feature template of handheld camerawork unobtrusively documenting a day in the life of young mid level urban hoods, "Laws of Gravity" also does something else. Yes, these guys are kinda dumb, and they grate on your nerves with their pseudo tough guy attitude, but you end up caring for them in the end. And its not only the disastrous way in which Gomez quick cuts the final moments to a black screen, but the timing in which he allows the screams of Jimmy and his entourage linger on the soundtrack. It's probably one of the most perfect (and yes, depressing) denouments in the last 20 years. I urge everyone to seek this one out. Hell, I'll even make you a VHS copy if you can't find one!

3. "Hustle", Robert Aldrich (1975)- Even though you can feel the cynicism reeking through every scene, the ending to Robert Aldrich's well crafted film noir still shocks and, yes, depresses. Burt Reynolds plays a California detective trying to solve the case of missing girl whose biggest problem is not the case itself but the girl's avenging father who constantly impedes the investigation with his old-school sense of pride and justice. After 105 minutes, Reynolds breaks out of the moral quagmire that's been slowly building and heads home for the day. And that's when Aldrich sucker punches you with the film's boldest disaster. I fully understand the need for film noir to engulf everything into a black hole, but for the first time, you think there's going to be a light at the end of the tunnel and then "Hustle" brings us back to reality. Some may feel cheated by the ending, but it fits.

4. "Don't Look Now", Nocholas Roeg (1973)- This is a film that could make several lists. It's on my 15 favorite horror films blogathon entry, it's a devastating psychological thriller, and how could anyone forget the climax? With all of the film's attention to fractured narrative and disconnected memory, the viewer soon starts to realize that nothing will turn out well, but when the final few minutes do play out, its still something terrifying.

5. "Chinatown", Roman Polanski (1974)- This film and Hitchcock's "Vertigo" are perfect specimens of film writing. Not only do their screenplays expose deep rooted layers of psychology amongst their characters, but they create a time, mood and place that's unforgettable. The mood of Robert Towne's script for "Chinatown" is morbid and cynical. Jack Nicholson's evocative embodiment of Detective J.J. Gittes is memorable and full of witty non chalance. But it's exactly that air of non chalance that marks the film's ending as one of the most depressing. Not only does "Chinatown" reserve the harshest punishment for the film's sympathetic female lead, but it places a blanket of malaise over the city of Los Angeles, the time, and the country's attitude toward political and economic change.

4 comments:

weepingsam said...

Boy, this is a cheery list! just in time for spring!

Anyway - you can always count on Chinese films for misery: the Killer, Bullet in the Head, even routine actioners (Righting Wrongs! Best of the Best!) and comedies seemed to end with everyone dead for many years... Though the champion (which I hesitate to mention, but... I mean, what can you do?) has to be Expect the Unexpected - Milky Way production, with Simon Yam and Lau Ching Wan leading a bunch of cops chasing two gangs.... the ending is - what it says....

I suppose on the high end, there are few things sadder than the ending of Ozu's Late Spring - and it is really the ending, or the last act - it's a surprisingly light film for much of the way.... Marriage is supposed to be how comedies end, but not here....

Moviezzz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Piper said...

I don't have a great list, but here it is.

Vanilla Sky - It's a terrible movie, but the idea that everything we think is real is only a dream is really depressing to me.

Open Water - This movie is too long, but the ending and the admission of the woman's death either by her own hand or the sharks was extremely depressing.

Million Dollar Baby - I cried the hardest I have ever cried at the ending of this movie.

The Giving Tree - A Book by Shel Silverstein is incredibly depressing. This tree provides for the boy all the way through manhood and the never asks for anything in return. In the end, the boy is an old man and the tree is but a stump but it provides a set for the old man to die. Good Lord.

Piper said...

Let me also add that Blow Out has a pretty damn depressing ending also.