Hardwood and Hollywood

GOAT Week: The Greatest Ending to a Film

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Hardwood and Hollywood’s G.O.A.T. Week is a series of posts on various categories to be published in two-week period. Yes, there were so many categories, we had to do two weeks, not one! Here’s the schedule: August 7th – Basketball PlayerFootball Player; August 8th – Drama Film, Ending to a Film; August 9th – Sports Announcer, Sports Cult Hero; August 10th – Baseball Player, Movie Athlete; August 11th – Ending to a TV Series, HBO TV Series; August 14th – Movie Actor, Movie Actress; August 15th – TV Series, Album; August 16th – Comedy Film, Film Franchise; August 17th – TV Actor, TV Actress; August 18th – Musician, One Hit Wonder 

Mike Bitanga – Before Sunset (2004) 

There are plenty of movies that floor you at the end with twist-endings or sweeping reveals; however, most of them lose their effect after multiple views. I find it difficult to recapture that feeling of the reveal most of the time, so twist-endings are out for me. My choice isn’t one that would typically make a list for best ending, but it’s exactly that. The ending of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset  is perfect.

The film manages to capture the stars aligning for love in one scene. It’s simply beautiful, and couldn’t have been shot or acted any better. Nine years after Jesse and Celine had their one night in Vienna, they unexpectedly meet again. They recapture the magic that they left behind in that one night together, picking up right where they left off. By the end, Jesse is at Celine’s apartment before he has to catch his plane, and as she’s dancing, she tells him, “baby, you are gonna miss that plane.” Jesse simply replies with “I know,” as he looks at her while she sways to the song, completely wrapped up in her presence. The scene fades to black. The chemistry between the two leads, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, is right on point, which makes the scene even better. It’s truly one of those endings that you just can’t shake, and it’s arguably the best ending in the trilogy.

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Lenny Burnham – Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Many films end in a stand off followed by a bloody shoot out, but I’ve never seen it as well-executed as Reservoir Dogs. The friendship between Mr. White and Mr. Orange builds perfectly. It’s one of the most nuanced and genuine relationships I’ve seen on film. In the final sequence, each step towards their tragic end is heart-wrenching.

While Mr. Orange and Mr. White are the emotional center, the other men in the stand off each have a pay off of their own. There’s something chaotically satisfying about things going poorly for everyone but the unlikable and pragmatic Mr. Pink.

Each small, technical choice in the ending’s execution is perfect. Whenever the credits roll and I hear “Coconut” by Harry Nilsson, I re-experience the feeling that I’ve watched something special and unique.

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Tyler Birss – Warrior (2011)

I initially pondered choosing a movie with greater dramatic heft as my choice in this category. However, as film endings flooded through my brain, Warrior’s remained firmly attached inside my head as one of the most satisfying. I enjoy movies that accurately explore the complexities of dysfunctional families. When the family is presented in its dysfunctional manner in a realistic fashion, the payoff becomes tremendous once that family is able to collectively experience closure or growth. In Warrior, the payoff literally came as the film ended.

After Joel Edgerton’s Brendan Conlon and Tom Hardy’s Tommy Riordan finished their gruesomely hardfought championship match, a beautiful moment transpired. To frame the moment, Conlon and Riordan had said little to one another all movie, and deep seeds of resentment had grown into gardens of disdain in both of their lives. With their father Paddy Conlon (Nick Nolte) looking on, the breakthrough occurrence finally arrived. Brendan told the severely injured Tommy that he loved him, that it was okay to tap out, and Tommy did.

Listening to “About Today” by The National as the brothers battled it out was a breathtaking cinematic experience. Tommy was emotionally and physically broken, and it was as if Brendan’s therapeutic words temporarily fixed what was ailing his brother. The two of them exiting the ring and our screens with arms wrapped around each other was a special scene. The emotional strength of the scene grew when the audience saw Nolte’s character witness the connection between his sons. In terms of film endings, Warrior makes a case for being one of the more powerful finishing moments.

Dennis Velasco – Irreversible (2002)

Irreversible watches as one reads fine literature whereupon you cannot put down the book. Or a tablet or phone as appropriate in ones’ lives. This sentiment has been said many times by those curious and strong enough to stomach the infamous and brutal rape scene somewhere around the middle of the movie, symbolically enough. Further symbolism abounding by the location of it and the dominant colors thereof. I won’t give away too much in my entry as I hope you watch the film as I think it’s a brilliant work of art that ignites visceral feelings that edges that fine line of humanity and animalism, a tangible theme in the movie.

For context, the beginning of this movie is hell – drenched in darkness, full of sin, sociopathic, with a complete disregard of consequences – all in the name of revenge. Punishment has to be wreaked. The movie’s pulse “slows” as the movie goes along until the rape scene that provokes a spectrum of many emotions. The story continues with each scene explaining what has happened before. And then, this end:

Life begins in the womb. But, first there must be fertility, which is represented by the bright green grass here (colors play a huge role in the film; the contrast from the beginning and end is striking), before there are children and the beating that goes forth until death. And while the children play, spinning counter-clockwise, they cannot escape the wet reminder of the sprinkler, which spins clockwise. Time keeps going. As we begin to live, we begin to die. And the final words encapsulates the movie – Les Temps Detruit Tout – “Time Destroys Everything.” It’s effect is “irreversible,” even if you show a story from end to beginning as Irreversible does. So, this ending, is actually the beginning and vice versa. And we spin and spin knowing this.

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