Journey, not the destination.
I’ve talked about the fallacy of resolution before, how the need for your movie to be wrapped up in a bright blue bow is preached by the endless parade of screenwriting books and 3-day writer’s conferences.
It’s not true, you know.
I could give you five great movies without resolutions from each of the collected works of Cassavetes, Altman, Fellini, Wells… but that would be too easy. Doesn’t take a brain surgeon to know that every movie doesn’t have to be Air Force One, yet you’d be amazed to hear the so-called experts harp upon the R Word. Kinda like Syd Field telling you you MUST outline your movie ahead of time. What was it the great William Goldman said? “There are no rules.”
Just to be clear: You do not need a resolution for your movie. But you do need a great story. You do need–almost always– character change. Or, without character change, the WORLD around that character change. Here are ten great movies that prove you don’t need classic resolution.
Mankind finds a mysterious, obviously artificial, artifact buried on the moon and, with the intelligent computer HAL, sets off on a quest.
I got that part. What I don’t get, never got, and would welcome opinions on, is the ending. Where exactly does our astronaut hero, Dave Bowman, go? Well, he goes into a VOID, and……what?
Blew me away. Like no movie I’ve ever seen. Let me repeat that: Like. No. Other. Movie. Lasted in Chicago only a week. I sat down for the last show of its last night. As the lights went down there were 30 of us in the theater. When the lights came up, there were no more than 10 people left. I had to have the movie so I bought the DVD. It sits, still, in plastic wrapping, never opened. I can’t force myself to watch it again. Gaspar Noe destroys any conception of resolution (and in last year’s Enter The Void, too) The end of this movie is the beginning is the end. If you want to understand what that means, watch the movie. I dare you.
Wall Street banker Patrick Bateman happens to be a serial killer. This adaptation of the Bret Easton Ellis novel strikes a blackly comedic tone showing Bateman maim street people, kill dogs and women and banker rivals and… you get the picture. We see all of this mayhem. In most movies the killer must get his comeuppance at the end, but not here. In fact, there’s a conversation that leads us to believe none of it actually happened, except in Bateman’s mind. No clean, blue-ribbon ending here.
Wait. Stop. You don't seem to understand. You're not really
comprehending any of this. I killed him. I did it, Carnes.
I'm Patrick Bateman. I chopped Owen's fucking head off.
I tortured dozens of girls. The whole message I left on your
machine was true.
Carnes stares at him in confusion and annoyance.
But that's simply not possible. And I don't find
this funny anymore.
Why isn't it possible?
Because I had dinner with Paul Owen twice in
London...just ten days ago.
Now, if you'll excuse me.
Times are tough in a Chicago real-estate office; the salesmen (Shelley Levene, Ricky Roma, Dave Moss, and George Aaronow) are given a strong incentive by Blake to succeed in a sales contest. The prizes? First prize is a Cadillac El Dorado, second prize is a set of steak knives, third prize is the sack! There is no room for losers in this dramatically masculine world; only “closers” will get the good sales leads. There is a lot of pressure to succeed, so a robbery is committed which has unforeseen consequences for all the characters.
The neat, concise IMDB sum-up above doesn’t tell you much about the resolution because…there is none. We follow a half-dozen Chicago real-estate salesmen, the Glengarry leads come into the office, the office is robbed. Who did it? When we find out, the movie is over. But this isn’t a caper film, and it’s not a crime thriller. It’s straight up character-driven drama. The Jack Lemmon character will lose his gig, maybe even do some time in jail, but that’s it. For every other character, when all is said and done, it’s just a really bad day-at-the-office. When the smoke clears it’ll be the same old shit tomorrow. They hate the job but it’s all they know. Coffee is for closers…
I’d offer you 10 bucks to send me a chronological breakdown of the linear progression of this movie but I bet a hundred of you folks have already done so, so I’ll just ask the rest of you: Where does this movie begin and end, in real time? Resolution? We don’t need no stinkin’ resolution!
Max is a genius mathematician who’s built a supercomputer at home that provides something that can be understood as a key for understanding all existence. Representatives both from a Hasidic cabalistic sect and high-powered Wall Street firm hear of that secret and attempt to seduce him.
216. The narrative driver of the movie is a 216 character number that might unlock the mysteries of God’s design, or just fix the Stock Market for shady Wall Street types that put the Occupy Wall Steet villains to shame. Aronofsky’s first, it’s a $60,000 brain food thriller with zero plot resolution, but a flick that grows on me each time I see it.
The 162 page Oscar-winning script rolls out at 120 minutes–so much for the page-a-minute rule. The Aaron Sorkin dialogue flies off the screen, but why? Think about this: The framing device is the courtroom battle between the Winklevoss twins vs. Zuckerberg. This leads us into linear flashbacks showing the founding of Facebook. The ending of the movie happens just before the Winklevoss hearing ends and a settlement is reached. Not exactly epic resolution for a movie that is all about journey, not the destination.
William Miller is a 15 year old kid, hired by Rolling Stone magazine to tour with, and write about Stillwater, an up and coming rock band. This wonderfully witty coming of age film follows William as he falls face first to confront life, love, and lingo.
Somebody’s gotta get the girl, right? Nope. Rock star god Russell Hammond doesn’t get her. Neither does up-and-coming protagonist kid reporter William. The super charismatic groupie Kate Hudson ends up solo in Morocco. William ends up back at mom’s, Russell back on the road after reconciling with William. It’s warm and fuzzy, but not exactly Terminator 3.
In rural Texas, welder and hunter Llewelyn Moss discovers the remains of several drug runners who have all killed each other in an exchange gone violently wrong. Rather than report the discovery to the police, Moss decides to simply take the two million dollars present for himself. This puts the psychopathic killer, Anton Chigurh, on his trail as he dispassionately murders nearly every rival, bystander and even employer in his pursuit of his quarry and the money. As Moss desperately attempts to keep one step ahead, the blood from this hunt begins to flow behind him with relentlessly growing intensity as Chigurh closes in. Meanwhile, the laconic Sherriff Ed Tom Bell blithely oversees the investigation even as he struggles to face the sheer enormity of the crimes he is attempting to thwart.
This one stuck in my craw, right between cheek and gum, like some saliva-brown Texas chaw tobacco. What the fuck kind of ending was that? Good guy killed (and we don’t even get to see it), bad guy limps away, Tommy Lee Jones quits and has bad dreams.
The lesson here is that a great movie needn’t have clear resoluti0n. Great art goes against. Its greatness is proven by its very rarity, fearless endings you just never see in most movies.
That said, I still wanted Anton Chigurh dead with that cattle prod up his….