Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Movie Endings

This post is a contribution to the Endings-Blogathon hosted at Valley Dreamin'.

What makes a great ending? I don't know if I can put it into words. Or if anyone can. We just know when an ending is perfect. Whether it leaves us with a gasp or a smile or a devastated feeling of being punched in the gut, films can achieve a cathartic transformation when they end on just that right note. My favorite ending and a very worthy entry into this blogathon has to be the final scene in Nick Gomez's 1992 indie drama "Laws of Gravity"... which I wrote about here earlier this year. Little seen and even more under represented on any home video form, the film is a cinema verite observation of four New York hoods, scratching and clawing their way for survival through petty shoplifting, incessant shit-talking and dealing firearms. It may sound especially hard to gain empathy for these lackluster burn outs, but actors Peter Greene and Adam Trese form a unique brotherly bond that echoes quietly throughout the film. As Jimmy, Peter Greene is constantly trying to simmer the short fuse that often explodes within Tommy (Trese). **Spoiler.. if you care, read no further** After 90 minutes of protective shelter, Jimmy turns his back for one second and the inevitable happens. But the power of this film's final scene is not in the death of Tommy, lying bleeding on the sidewalk in front of a bar, but the helpless way in which Greene hovers over the lifeless body, screaming for people to get back and give him some air, and constantly yelling out for "Sal!" "Sal!".. as the neighborhood father figure who never comes to help. Then, the sharp fade to black as the voice of Jimmy lingers over the fade out for a good minute, desperately pleading for people to "get the fuck back! Go home! Go home! Sal!" In the crowd of 90's indie cinema that charts some of the same territory, the desperation is the same. But in "Laws of Gravity", director Gomez makes you feel the loss of one life wasting away on the hot New York sidewalk like no one else.

One example of the languid brilliance of "Laws of Gravity". Admire the long take:

And a few honorable mentions:

Peter Weir's "Fearless" from 1993. This ending gives me chills everytime. Rent it today!

Abel Ferrera's "King of New York":

Paul Thomas Anderson's "Magnolia"
Roman Polanski's Chinatown

Stanley Kubrick's "Dr Strangelove":


Matt said...

yeah, I love how the ending to Dr. Strangelove is even more zanny and over the top than the movie itself... chinatown ends in a rush of noir-ish sublimity

Joseph B. said...


Everytime I watch "Dr. Strangelove", I find something new to laugh at. It's just an amazing film.