Articles Tagged with: books

End Of The Movie

I’ve lately become somewhat obsessed with a particular type of movie ending.

You know the one.

Our protagonist/antagonist has overcome whatever it is Joe Campbell said they must overcome. Happily ever after feels imminent, as underlined by perhaps the opening riffs of a familiar pop-tune. But our hero, they’ve still got one final punchline to drop, whether verbal or otherwise, right before a cut-to-black.

And that music? It plays. We hit the chorus, or an ironic line, or something that makes us smile almost as much as the punchline, hitting its stride just as the first names appear.

It’s a very specific type of ending, and to be honest, I have no idea if there’s a particular cinematic term for it. But you know what I’m talking about, right?

In case you’re unclear, here’s one – the final scene of the Wachowski’s paranoid red pill, The Matrix:

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At this point of the movie, we’ve just seen the protagonist literally return from the dead, a god reborn. The new, subversive king of an artificial world populated by human slaves spending their entire life asleep as part of the plot’s major twist: as our evil robot overlord’s organic power supply. Seeing Neo fly up out of shot like that for the first time, it’s a real moment. People do superhuman things inside the Matrix, but nobody’s ever flown. And to suddenly drop an entirely fresh twist like that, literally a few frames before the cut to black? The effect it has on the average nerdy viewer is close to orgasmic. But then consider the tune itself : Wake Up, by Rage Against The Machine. One of the seminal anti-establishment protest songs of that odd late-90s era, with no accident that it both matched the subversive themes of the film itself, but also that it quite literally has a title matching the central demand placed on all the major characters (and presumably the millions of sleepers) as the film closes – an awakening this new god will hopefully bring about.

It all works. All a bit obvious, perhaps, but in the heat of the moment, if you’re too caught up in the action to ponder it, the resulting end-of-the-movie moment is electrifying.

Though this technique does not necessary have to be a high-powered fist-bump, of the likes of Fight Club (‘Where Is My Mind?’) and Iron Man (though does that one count, the music starting arguably a touch late?) There’s also the softer, smoother exit via the exact same route, often creating as evocative and energetic a moment as the punches-in-the-face.

Take the final scene Wes Anderson’s classic, Rushmore:

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While our protagonist doesn’t actually do much more to advance the plot here, he does succeed at taking the hand of the woman he’d attempted to woo so unsuccessfully throughout the film. And perhaps in that final moment as the music begins to play, by hearing the mature way Max accepts his defeat, in taking his glasses off, Rosemary’s finally looking at him as a man, not the ridiculous young boy he’d been throughout the film. And the song itself… well, that says it all. As the verse swells, the film slows to almost a halt, as we see all major characters assemble for one final photo, our couple still very much the focus of the frame. And just as the cut to black (or in this case, the curtain close) finally occurs, the music reaches the chorus: “I wish that I knew what I know now”; a line whose relation to everything else one can hardly ignore. But are these the character’s thoughts, or that of the director himself? With Anderson’s name revealed immediately as the line is sung, perhaps this busts the fourth wall for us slightly, the director having said on occasion how much of his own past he threaded into the film’s central character.

I love these moments, and yes, I’ve become obsessed.

Taking note of them for months. Collecting them. Stashing them away for some unknown purpose, unknown even to me at this point. The novel I’m currently developing has accidentally wound up with moment like it winding through the narrative and tying up the ending. Part of me even thinks there might be an idea buried amongst this odd collection to form the premise of an entire story in itself. Perhaps a tale about someone bound by a collection of endings, the same way the protagonist in High Fidelity (another great end-of-the-movie play-out moment) seems bound by the songs and playlists of the women in his past.

Or is that just too obvious? Would it be more appropriate for a literary tie-in of this device to be something more down the ‘random swing track’ path Die Hard treads, or merely a stretching of the final mood as per the much-drooled-at Gosling-fest, Drive? Or is it foolish to even be trying to force this round cinematic peg into square literary hole?

I don’t know. And if I’m completely honest here, I have no idea why I’m collecting these. And yes, I am collecting them. Check out these sweet puppies on Spotify. Each one of them one of these very deliberate end-of-the-movie music moments (if you can guess them all). Well, not this one, which I kept on the list for no good reason than… well… who doesn’t think every playlist deserves a little Backstreet? And no, it really doesn’t count as one of my obsessional types. Party tracks, such as the play-out at the end of Dirty Dancing, or the odd moment at the end of 40 Year Old Virgin; this type of ending isn’t quite the same. They’re literally just playing the track, delivering a performance. Where’s the irony, the punch-in-the-face, protagonist’s final punchline? No, not quite as magical, no matter how awesome or appropriate a party playout can be as an ending.

My search shall continue, but until I reach whatever the unknown destination is, let me know if you think of any more.

And like, don’t you… forget about me…


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My Top 5 Novels Of 2012

This year has been a big one for me and books. Part of my New Year’s Resolutions included seeking out the best possible sources for filling up the upcoming reading list, and, as a secondary directive, to try to keep a good flow of material coming through from authors whom I might want to be like, should all those theories about osmosis hold true.

As a result, coming up with a 2012 Top 5 has proven a little more tricky than in previous years, as apart from a few obvious disappointments (eg. Room by Emma Donoghue seemed like a great premise, but damn if she killed it in the execution) I’ve walked away from most books this year with at least a rating of “meh”, with a good 80% landing squarely in the category “would recommend to a friend”. Of those, a good ten or so were outstanding, this list then becoming more culled down based on the sorts of characters I tend to fall in love with in a book: highly-intelligent and focussed yet intensely flawed in some (largely) uncontrollable or irrational/erratic kind of way. A good story with an ending that stuck with me long after I’d put it down never goes astray either.

Here’s the cream off top of the pile which went through my iPad this year:

A Fraction of the Whole

By Steve Toltz

A Fraction Of The Whole (Steve Toltz)

This was by far my favourite read this year, and almost, I dare say it, a contender for “current all-time favourite”. A rambling series of tall-tales based around the lives of a father, a son, and an extraordinary set of circumstances. It’s like a cross between the best bits Forrest Gump, Ned Kelly, Underbelly, and anything great that’s ever been written about Australian suburbia, the madness of crowds, and the complexities of how you end up loving the people the way you do.

What I loved about it the most was how much of the internal monologue – the voice of the author himself – matched my own thought processes. Especially the secret, maddened stuff, and the random mocking observations about people, especially Australians. This book felt like home in a way I can’t easily describe.

It’s a hard book to sum up, so I won’t try any further. Just read it.

Capital: A Novel

By John Lanchester

Captal: A Novel (John Lanchester)

This one I enjoyed the way I love a good Robert Altman film : a huge swag of characters and lives, entangled in unpredictable ways (or perhaps not even entangled much at all) and playing out multiple, occasionally-overlapping stories from several different angles. That, and it felt like London. The language, the snobbery, the filth, the racism, the unfathomable love of football, and the occasional terror plot.

The characters and stories, while essentially linked geographically by the one street they all live (or work) on, manage to cover an awful lot of ground, make a lot of good commentary, and make for a cracker of a good read. Couldn’t put it down.

The Sisters Brothers

By Patrick deWitt

The Sisters Brothers (Patrick DeWitt)

A classic journey tale set in the wild west, but do leave your preconceptions at the door. I’ll be honest, I was dubious that I’d enjoy this as much as I did – the premise of a couple of gunslingers on their horse-bound way to hunt down a man for cash – didn’t have much appeal to me. Very glad I went there. You fall in love with the main character. Sharp, obligated (often brutal) actions keep the story moving forward at an enjoyable pace, while underneath, so many moments of regret, sadness and the sort of quiet three-dimensionality you don’t expect from such a simple tale. Reminded me very much of how a Coen Brothers novel would go if they ever decided to stop directing and start writing books.

The Teleportation Accident (Ned Beauman)

This book is crazy. So much of what kept me ploughing through the pages at an epic pace I can’t really speak of here without giving away what’s great about it, but suffice to say, it ticked all the right boxes for me regarding nuttily brilliant central characters marred by one central immovable flaw. With a curious story quickly hopping between decades and centuries, time and time again repeating the same themes, jokes and coincidences, I loved that it wasn’t pretending to be anything other than tongue-in-cheek and ridiculous, setting up for several pages something which  firmly resorts to the impossible for the sake of slipping in a good one-liner. I didn’t think I liked it at first, but once I got a few chapters in (then definitely confirmed by the very last paragraph of the book), I was completely hooked by the cyclic madness of this odd, 2012-Man-Booker-longlisted tale.

A Confederacy of Dunces

By John Kennedy Toole

A Confederacy of Dunces (John Kennedy Toole)

Hardly a new book (written in the late-60s, author committed suicide in 1969, his mother posthumously getting the manuscript published in 1981) this easily slips into my top 5, primarily for the belching/flatulence. Centred around a wholly unlikeable, overweight, gassy, smelly, arrogant and decidedly delusional main character, this picaresque tale hooked me early and never let up. The world revolves around Ignatius J. Reilly, and no matter how much distain or disgust he treats it, somehow everyone’s life he encounters is irreparably changed, while he largely stays the same. I kept waiting for massive u-turn character development, but it never comes, and I love that : sometimes being an asshole is ok, cause sometimes the assholes win…

There were plenty of others that nearly made the list this year, both new and old: The Lies of Locke Lamora (Scott Lynch), Union Atlantic (Adam Haslett), Gone Girl (Jillian Flynn – actually really good, even with all the hype!), The Maltese Falcon (Dashiell Hammett), Solar (Ian McEwan), Great North Road (Peter F. Hamilton – still reading it now, but loving the living shit out of it as epic holiday sci-fi..) and definitely, definitely Reamde (Neal Stephenson). (Additionally, 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami would’ve made the list for sure except as I finished reading it on December 31 last year, so can’t be permitted!). So much good stuff, especially once I began trawling the Man Booker long-list for ideas – there were a few not to my taste in there, but hitting up the award-nominations are always a great place to start if you’re stuck.

The only other significant thing I have to say regarding books this year is that this is the first year I’ve not read a single novel in paper form. That’s right : 100% ebook, baby. While I agree there’s something nice about holding a book in your hand (and all that usual stuff about “smell” and “feel” I keep hearing), I don’t think I’ll be turning back now. The benefits of digital far outweigh the nostalgic stuff (or the visual/spacial clutter), and things like tap-to-define-tricky-vocab and the automatically-collated database of colour-coded highlighted passages waiting for me at the end of each book are things I can’t imagine reading without anymore. 

Whatever your poison, I just hope you’re all reading your hearts out. Flipped through anything awesome? Let me know – always on the look out for anything new, unique and interesting….