The Boneyard: How Important Are Movie Endings?

The Boneyard will feature the best of Daniel and Sean’s daily email chain twice a week. Yes, we broadened the definition of “best” to make this happen.

Sean: I am going to treat this email chain like a Moran orgy: Anything goes.

Daniel: (afraid to type anything)

Awkward email pause.

Daniel: How important is an ending to a book or movie? Is it the end all be all? Does it depend on the genre? How often does an ending stick out for you for being great? Not that often, right? Is that because it's so hard to stick the landing?

Sean: Endings mean nothing. The ending rarely sticks out for people. Endings may stick out if it was a bad move, a twist, or a very nicely shot scene. Otherwise, endings are nothing. You remember everything that happened before it. For me, the opening scene is where it’s at. You grab your audience and pull them in to your world and then you work at keeping them there. If they are in at the end, you've done your job. The ending matters if you are ending a series of some kind.

The only ending people truly remember is Free Willy because of the scene where the whale leaps over the kid. You think, 'What parent would be okay with this? That whale could drop from the sky and crush that child. Why are his parents not worried?!?!"

Daniel: Ha. You said Free Willy.

I agree. I'm much more inclined toward beginnings. Part of the reason is that I'm so much better at writing them. Setting up a world, a tone, and a character are easier than figuring out how to shut the curtain on all of the above. And twists suck. You have the occasional Sixth Sense or A Beautiful Mind, but what's the shelf life on those movies? I remember being blown away by A Beautiful Mind when I saw it in the theater (even before the twist). It was even one of the first DVDs I ever bought on my own. You know how many times I've watched it since I bought it? Once.But does that make it a bad movie? How much of a factor is re-watchability in how good or bad a movie is? Are Terrence Malick films (What the fuck was Tree of Life about? Seriously, what the fuck?) inherently bad because you can barely sit through one showing, never mind snooze to it on TBS on a Saturday afternoon? But don't those films you can get into channel flicking no matter where you pick up the action have something wrong with them if that's true?

Sean: A little rant on a A Beautiful Mind before I answer. I really enjoyed that movie when I first saw it. Then I read about the real John Nash and found out that during his "episodes" he would go on racist filled rants, he had more than one gay relationship, cheated on his wife who was Cuban and not white like in the movie. Good job Ron Howard! I would have loved to see that movie about a smart guy who goes crazy and starts screaming the N-word while making out with some guy while his Cuban wife watches from the sidelines. Tell me you would not watch the movie! Tell me!

But back to our topic. You’re right that movies with twist endings are only fun to watch the first time when you have no idea what is going to happen. After that, what is the point? You know what is going to happen next. The only other time you can watch a movie with a twist ending is when you are watching the movie with someone who has never seen it before and you watch their reaction to the big twist.

The re-watchable factor shouldn’t judge if a movie is good or bad (Tree of Life, what the hell is going there? How do you go from The Thin Red Line to Tree of Life? How?!?!). What makes a movie re-watchable is the connection you had to the movie when you first saw it. I don't like some movies because it reminds me of a bad date I went on, but others remind me of Friday nights spent my friends. I have a connection with Jingle All The Way because one afternoon my mom and I sat down and watched it together. Is it a good movie? No! It's awful! But if it’s on, I will watch it because I remember how my mom was happy and smiling when we watched it. A connection is what matters.

Would you re-watch an awful movie with someone who has never seen it just to talk about it with someone?

Daniel: I would 100% do that. I'm sure my girlfriend would say that happens all the time.

I love Jingle All the Way for a lot of the same reasons. My younger brother and I used to watch movies and television shows with my mom growing up which included a good number of chick flicks. For instance, One Fine Day. That movie is terrible and inaccurately depicts what it’s like to be a writer in New York City. I made a lot of bad career decisions based off of George Clooney's character. But I’ll always love it forever because I watched it with my mother and it made me fall even more in love with New York City. Plus, Michelle Pfeiffer is still throwing a 95 m.p.h. fastball.

Sean: I brought it up because I do it all the time. It's always good when you can vent your anger of a movie toward someone else who is in the same boat.

I have never seen One Fine Day all the way through. Go back and watch Batman Returns. Pfeiffer is purrrfect. Get it? She plays Catwoman.

It's good to have a connection to a movie like that. Having connection with bad movie or one that’s not your taste to it because of someone in your life makes it great.

On the flip side, you have the movies that are good, but you can’tenjoy because of something bad. I can't watch Black Swan because I saw it with an ex-girlfriend.

Daniel: Pfeiffer is a total badass in Batman Returns. In fact, Batman Returns holds up as a movie so much better than Tim Burton’s first Batman movie. I remember going to the movies and my younger brother and I were wearing matching Batman Returns hats. Some guy behind me told me to take it off. Fuck that guy fir ruining a perfectly good childhood moment. I spent a lot of the movie feeling bummed that guy was a dick.

But the penguin scene at the end blew my childhood mind. Which leads me to admit that I like Batman Forever because my older brother took us to go see it. He said we had to go pick something up for our father and we ended up at the movie theater. I loved every second of that movie. I still do. He took us to see Batman & Robin in a similar fashion, but I don't have the same love for that movie. Sometimes even nostalgia can't overcome a craptastic flaming turd.

Sean: Batman Returns is overlooked. And you are totally right that it stands up much better then the first one. The first one is hard to watch now. There are some scenes that just bleed early 1990s. The second, despite its oddball plot line, is not bad.

I like Batman Forever as well. I understand it's not as "dark" as the first two, but when it came out I enjoyed it and I still like it now. Val Kilmer is not a bad Bruce Wayne or Batman, he was just more detective Batman then action hero Batman. Batman & Robin is…awful. I saw it in theaters and I hated it then and I hate it now. I just can't watch it. It's not Batman.

And that was a really touching story up until the point the guy was a dick to you. Yeah, Robin should fuck that guy. 

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