Sunday, January 30, 2011

The End of the Caboose

Remember when you used to see a train go by and, as a kid, we all waited on the edge of our seats for our favorite train car, the caboose?  It was every kid's favorite.  Sure, we all said we liked the engines or the coal cars (who actually saw one of those, really; weren't they all retired by the time we were all born?), but it we were honest with ourselves and the world, we lived for the caboose.  Because the caboose was a great ending.  It meant the train was over and we could get on with our lives, but it was also a dynamite payoff at the end of a great build up.  If only writers could grasp that concept.

I just spent two hours of my life watching the movie Knowing starring Nicolas Cage and for about an hour and a half, I was enthralled.  A mystery involving creepy numbers written by a young girl in the 1950's that are placed in a time capsule set to be opened fifty years later... Nick Cage's kid in the movie getting the envelope with the girl's numbers written on the paper (and if his kid hadn't gotten the numbers, where would the movie be, right?)... and the arrival of creepy men who bore a strange resemblance to the Nick Cage in his angel movie... it was a terrific build up.  See, the numbers foretell future disasters and Cage is trying to stop these horrific events from happening.

I won't ruin the ending, although I should because no one should subject themselves to this drivel.  Suffice to say that it was like the writers were in the room working on the script and were churning out great ideas.  Creepy ideas, full of mystery and intrigue and suspense.  But they had to come up with an ending and nothing was working.  Someone looked at the clock, saw it was getting close to happy hour and announced to the room, "Aw, hell with it; it's 2-for-1 margaritas at the Chili's.  Let's just take the easy way out and finish this thing."  The room agrees, the script is finished, and in T-minus twenty minutes one of the girls is gonna take her top off because as we all know tequila makes her clothes come off.

Movie writers aren't the only people who do this.  In The Firm, John Grisham had such a great build-up that rumor has it, he sold the movie rights before the thing even went to press.  It was the hottest thing made of paper than hadn't burned up.  A lawyer novel with (gasp!) excitement!  A legal thriller?  What the hell was going on in the world?  Sell that thing, now!  Who cares if the book just... ends!  We don't need no stinking ending, print!  Print the money now!

Remember reading the classics?  Huck Finn had an ending, and a good one.  Gatsby, whatever you think of it, had a fitting ending.  It might not have been the best ending in the world, but it was satisfying to a degree.  The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler?  Yep, it had an ending.  What about good movies?  The Godfather?  The door being closed on Kay as Michael becomes the don; there can't have been a better and more fitting ending than that.  Even Avatar, as clich√© and Dances With Wolves-in-space as it was, it had an ending.  Come to think of it, so did Dances With Wolves.    

I realize there are things called deadlines.  I also realize that there are, especially in the movie business, people who have a say in how the script comes out before it is on my television set, but really? That's what you guys came up with?  That's what you were paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for?  Do they even have beta readers in Hollywood?  Maybe that's why they're losing money.  My solution:  take the extra time, so that maybe the movie won't come out next summer, but rather in the spring of the next year.  But at least it'll have an ending that won't make someone throw their remote at their brand new TV.

And by the way, Nick Cage... where's National Treasure 3?  You made this Knowing piece of crap when all we want is an answer to what was on page 47.  And it better have an ending.  Kind of like this.


  1. Bring on National Treasure 3! I loved the first two. And which of us writers can't either relate to now, or foresee ourselves being "Riley Poole" to our friends and family. To paraphrase: Please read my book...what you haven't even taken it out of the wrapping yet? love it lol