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Left Coast / Right Coast: Great Endings

I’m certain we all have our favorite movies and television series. Both of these media types have a common thread. They tell a story which in all cases has an ending. As I look back on my own viewing habits, I can recall those stories that have great endings and some that are not so great.
Mike Gold living the dream in the Pacific Northwest. Photo credit: Nancy Gold.

By Mike Gold, a retired entrepreneur "living the dream in the Pacific Northwest."

I’m certain we all have our favorite movies and television series. Both of these media types have a common thread. They tell a story which in all cases has an ending.

Let’s take a look at some of these endings. The writers of these stories, in most cases, write an ending that attempts to gather up all the threads of the story and tie them up in some fashion.

As I look back on my own viewing habits, I can recall those stories that have great endings and some that are not so great. They are very much like real life.

I like to refer to one of my favorite writers and the ending of one of his best movies, Woody Allen and his academy award winning (best picture 1978) "Annie Hall."

The ending is a bitter-sweet melancholy reflection of the relationship between these two former lovers. The moral, which Allen brilliantly summarizes himself as the ending unfolds, is that he wanted to provide a perfect ending to the story because unlike real life the situations don’t always turn out perfectly. Life, he says, is messy and often incomplete.

Seinfeld: This great groundbreaking series ran for nine seasons. The brilliance of the show was it looking at ordinary life situations always from a humorous perspective. Something as trivial as picking up dry cleaning or waiting for a table in a Chinese restaurant.

With Seinfeld there were always two or more interpersonal situations and threads that led up to some every day chore. The beauty of the end of the series is that the four principal characters are devoid of all human decency and awareness. None of them have any clue of how decent people behave in society. So naturally the ending had them committing some “usual” aberrant behavior resulting in them getting arrested and having to spend a year in jail.

The ending was perfect for these four miscreants. However, the fans of the show were in many cases unhappy with the “less-than-perfect” ending for the principal characters.

Larry David, the show’s creator and principal writer created another succeeding show, "Curb your Enthusiasm" (in which he plays a fictionalized version of himself).

Recognizing how unpopular the actual Seinfeld series ending was, he created an alternate ending which he inserted into one of the "Curb your Enthusiasm" episodes. In general, the alternate ending was far better received than the actual one.

Every Monster Movie ever made: Whether it’s "Jaws," "Alien," "Predator," "King Kong," "Godzilla," or even "Snakes on a Plane," you always know that at the end whatever horrible people eating/killing creature is tearing the world apart will be vanquished and peace will return to civilization.

Even King Kong, where the “girl” (played by Fay Wray – actress) is very distraught at the death of the giant gorilla (who after all was simply trying to protect Wray from those horrible humans) has an ending that while far from perfect is certainly understandable.

I find it interesting that in many of this genre of film, the audience actually feels sorry for the death of the creature. (Come-on now, didn’t any of you feel badly when Sigourney Weaver blasted the alien creature into the void of space? Just think of all we could have learned from the beast. Its “metal dissolving blood and other attributes” for example.)

Mash: This wonderful TV show ran for ten seasons. Its ending was just about perfect. The entire show’s run was about a mobile army surgical unit who every day tried to save lives of soldiers wounded in Korea.

The show featured unbelievably excellent acting by the principals (Alan Alda – the top one) as they dealt with life and death issues.

As Alda flies away from the unit in a helicopter, he glances a long slow look at his work and friends who we know for certain he will miss.

Then there is what is considered to be one of the most perfect endings to any TV show or movie, that being "Casablanca." Two friends who have been through a series of adventures walking away together into the fog saying how good the future looks.

If only real life ended so perfectly in every situation.

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