My favorite movie endings are unexpected. Any film that doesn’t end “happily ever after” wins in my book. If there’s a surprise twist that leaves me staring at the credits dumbfounded, that film will likely be a favorite of mine. A couple of examples that pop to mind are Oldboy and Fight Club. Both of those movies, when I first saw them anyway, took the wind right out of me. I have watched both films dozens of time since, even though I know exactly what’s coming.
Then there are the movie endings that are just perfect without a surprise twist ending like Casablanca, Gone With The Wind and Once Were Warriors. They perfectly encapsulate the way life really happens without all the nice, neat resolutions. “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” is just about the most perfect line ever uttered. None of those movies conclude with boy gets girl or riding off into the sunset on a horse.
Hollywood used to do things right. They used to make a fair number of movies with unhappy endings, or at least, endings that weren’t ridiculously happy. There used to be a note of reality to cinematic storytelling, but those days are mostly gone in the big studios. If Casablanca were made today, Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart would have most assuredly ended up together and there would have been a few more CGI explosions.
It seems that reality has little place in film making anymore. The American public is perfectly happy swallowing the same, clichéd storyline over and over again. Hollywood’s main products are just repackaged foreign books or films, comic books or old television shows. Creative thought is almost nonexistent in American mainstream cinema. It doesn’t make money. Why take a risk on something new when you can clearly resell the same old tired crap and know it will make money? I am not alright with that. It’s part of the reason why I rarely watch Hollywood films; I refuse to give money to a system that promotes rehashed mediocrity and shuns creativity. I know that my measly $12 for a movie ticket doesn’t count for much in the vast sea of complacent movie viewers, but it’s my own tiny protest. I prefer to spend my money on creativity.
Somewhere along the way, America seems to have lost that spirit of ingenuity for which we were once known. We have become fat, unthinking and indolent. Americans will greedily watch, read or listen to whatever flavorless, repackaged composite is put in front of their gaping maws with abandon. The fact that most of the movies made in this country these days are just remakes of something else proves this to be true. Americans spend billions of dollars a year to entertain ourselves with things we’ve already experienced.
So, when you ask for an alternate ending of a film, I go the way of the cop out answer and don’t select one, but most. If I were the head of a major Hollywood studio, I would stop throwing money at repackaged material. I would have my staff scour the world for scripts that no one has read. I would sift through countless words to find projects that are original or real. I would prove that creative thought is not actually dead. I would prove that originality can make money, too. The unhappy ending would make a comeback.