Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thoughts on the Happy Ending

You know what is perhaps the most underused and under-appreciated narrative trope in contemporary media? A happy ending. It's dismissed as simplistic and childish and unsatisfying. While I can appreciate a complex ending, even a completely open ending, a well-done happy ending satisfies on many more levels.

As an example of an unhappy ending, consider Shutter Island. It's a complex ending, and it leaves the viewer uncertain as to the decisions made, if any, of the main protagonist. As someone who loves literature, I can get behind that. Another good example of this ending-with-questions is Gone Baby Gone. Is the child better off with her birth mom? Evidence says no, even though our sense of right and wrong yells yes. Take just about any film noir, from The Maltese Falcon to Chinatown, and you have powerful endings that are compelling and meaningful and artistic and blah blah blah. Super good. Oh yes. But you leave the characters lower than when you found them, and that leaves you lower as well. Wiser, certainly. But lower.

Take an open ending, like Michael Caine's The Italian Job. The original one. It literally has a cliff-hanger ending. You can guess how the rest is going to play out for the gang, but they've worked hard to achieve the impossible so it's not out of the question that they could pull out of it. But probably not. These dilemmas are polarizing because some people like to invent the ending, others are frustrated by no one providing an ending for them. I can get behind that. Even though I gave that movie away and just stuck with the Mark Wahlberg version.

I wish contemporary film had more respect for a happy ending. Where the characters don't necessarily come out unscathed, but give the bad guys a thorough whooping, and all the arcs and tensions are complete and resolved. The first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. The Princess Bride. Return of the Jedi, even. Though all of them dancing around the campfire was a little much, I could get behind that. The overall narrative is stronger for it. There's more purpose in it. Watching the heroes go through hell and then come out stronger and kick butt is better than watching them kick butt first and then sacrifice themselves for the "greater good" or whatever.

Does that make me shallow? Tell me this: Doesn't saving all the complexity and struggle and depth for the ending make the narrative shallow? Ooh. Socratic.

Bring back the happy ending. I'm tired of my heroes dying, no matter how heroic they go out. Now, when the entire crew survives it's a novelty (Why Wash, Joss? Artistically I can totally understand it, but that marred Serenity for the happy part of me). Bring back the happy ending, Hollywood. It doesn't suck.

PS -- just to be clear: I'm not saying we should only have happy endings -- I just want to see more of them. I love film noir and open-endings; I just want more happy endings. And Joss Whedon is awesome.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sucker Punch

o, there's a lot of hate surrounding this movie. It's got something like a 19% rating on rottentomatoes, IGN said "it's for suckers," worstpreviews (which is largely viewed by trolling prepubescent morons) gave it something like a 2 out of 10. On top of that, it was beaten at the box office by Diary of a Whimpy Kid 2. So, all of that is not good.

Rottentomatoes I have given up on, but worstpreviews has trailers early and reliably and IGN is a fun site overall. Most of the time, I enjoy visiting these sites.

Okay. I saw this movie last weekend. I haven't been able to see movies lately because I'm a stay at home dad and super poor. I haven't posted in a long time for the same reason. But check this out. I felt so passionately about this movie that I had to post.

Unfortunately, everything I have to say about it has already been said in the video I'm linking here. Basically, my opinion is if you hate this movie you're either a moron or a misogynist. There's my line in the sand.

PS. Just to be clear, this is not my review. I just totally agree with it. It's Movie Bob's review from Escapist Magazine. I take no credit for this review, or any of that.

A few things I would add though. Reviewers have said that Gugino's Russian accent is so over the top it's ridiculous. Well, are there any other characters in that setting who are less? I would say Blue is just as ridiculous. So it's a theme of the world. It's a fiction.

Reviewers have also said Browning's Babydoll has a face that doesn't change. She has one look throughout the movie. That's obviously not true. I saw subtlety and a fairly deft touch when balancing courage and terror, defiance and sadness.

Oh, and one more thing. It's important to note that the stage for the crazy fight sequences that IGN says looks like a "bad video game" (remember my misogynist comment? IGN has a section called "Babeology" that features pictures and videos of models in sexy cosplay. Just saying.) are when Babydoll is dancing for the male onlookers in the brothel. Now, her dance is designed to excite the men with pure fantasy and spectacle. We never see her dance. We see a film version of fantasy and spectacle. I would argue that the ones being sucker punched are us. The nerds who went to the movie expecting to see hot girls fighting samurai robots. We got that, but we also got a movie about strength in women and the evil that men are capable of waging upon them. I loved it.

Despite what it seems everyone is saying, this movie doesn't suck at all. It's great.