Storylines you wish you could change when thinking back.

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Welcome to the human race...
Speaking of ambiguous endings - it's what hurt the otherwise excellent No Country For Old Men (2007) for me...

WARNING: "Spoil" spoilers below
The protagonist is seemingly randomly killed off in the second half.
Tommy Lee Jones sits in his kitchen and soliloquizes.
And the bad guy rides off into the sunset.
WARNING: "NCFOM" spoilers below
How is any of that ambiguous, though? You know where all three of the leads have ended up by the time the credits roll.


In the Departed:

WARNING: "Holy Cripes, don't click" spoilers below

I'm often stuck on the premature killing of protagonists. I usually hate it.

For instance, was I supposed to maintain interest once Leonardo DiCaprio was killed? Seemed like a silly and meaningless death. I wasn't rooting for Matt Daemon's character....so who was left? Wahlberg?

But THEN, if they follow too much of a predictable path, they'd run the risk of being accused of "conveyor belt writing".
WARNING: "Departed" spoilers below
I mean...yes? Damon is the co-lead - regardless of whether or not you're "rooting" for him, you should have some interest in seeing how he turns out by the end of the film, especially when you consider the complicated nature of his double life (and how he was essentially pushed into it by Nicholson) that ultimately leads to him wanting to make up for it (and whether or not he ever truly can). DiCaprio's death isn't silly and meaningless, it's an actual tragedy that the closest thing this movie has to a hero is unceremoniously killed off (and the fact that it happens after Damon is working to redeem himself by killing Nicholson only compounds matters). It's worth noting that, in the original film Infernal Affairs, the Wahlberg character does not exist so the Damon character is left alive at the end to think on his mistakes whereas Departed just has Wahlberg neatly tie things up by killing Damon, who bluntly accepts his death. I've always thought that was the fundamentally lesser ending, but I think it makes sense when considering Infernal Affairs' emphasis on Buddhism versus Departed's emphasis on Catholicism.
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WARNING: "NCFOM" spoilers below
How is any of that ambiguous, though? You know where all three of the leads have ended up by the time the credits roll.
I'll concede that the movie breaks with formula - which is usually a good thing. Surprises are usually good. But...

WARNING: "NCFOM" spoilers below
Killing off Josh Brolin (the protaganist) in a way - if I remember correctly - that wasn't really related to the main story - his hunt for the killer - seemed to "end" the story there before the movie was over.
His dying, Jones' apparently just giving up (if that's what happened - it's been years since I've seen it - I don't even remember Jones's role in the movie - just that he has a philosophical monologue at the end) and Bardem's just getting away left me feeling very unfulfilled storywise. One could argue it was a realistic ending, as killers get away and heroes die in real life, and it's an unexpected ending, but it wasn't fulfilling as no protagonist's quest was fulfilled, no revenge taken and no justice carried out.



Welcome to the human race...
I'll concede that the movie breaks with formula - which is usually a good thing. Surprises are usually good. But...

WARNING: "NCFOM" spoilers below
Killing off Josh Brolin (the protaganist) in a way - if I remember correctly - that wasn't really related to the main story - his hunt for the killer - seemed to "end" the story there before the movie was over.
His dying, Jones' apparently just giving up (if that's what happened - it's been years since I've seen it - I don't even remember Jones's role in the movie - just that he has a philosophical monologue at the end) and Bardem's just getting away left me feeling very unfulfilled storywise. One could argue it was a realistic ending, as killers get away and heroes die in real life, and it's an unexpected ending, but it wasn't fulfilling as no protagonist's quest was fulfilled, no revenge taken and no justice carried out.
WARNING: "NCFOM" spoilers below
I figured that it was kind of the whole point that Brolin's entire "quest" was a fool's errand - he even admits as much to himself when he plans to return to the scene of the crime with water for a man who is long dead, which is what puts him in the criminals' sights for the first time. The main story isn't that he ever starts hunting Bardem but that he's trying to get away from anyone who wants the money back - the deal was between Americans (who Bardem is working for) and Mexicans (who are ultimately the ones to track and kill him), so he underestimates just how ruthless any of these people can be (even in something as simple as putting two tracking devices in the briefcase of money). Jones thinks he can help Brolin out, but he is also in over his head when it comes to dealing with these criminals - he shows up too late to save Brolin (or try to, anyway) and that inability to keep up and deliver justice is what prompts him to retire (and the monologue about his dream is to that effect). As far as it being "fulfilling", I think it works precisely because it's about an ordinary guy who thinks he can get away with millions of dollars of drug money (and in doing so gets himself, his wife, and however many other people killed). He's not a hero, so he doesn't automatically deserve to fulfill the hero's journey.



"Sooner or later, you'll be a he-man woman hater"
I'll concede that the movie breaks with formula - which is usually a good thing. Surprises are usually good. But...

WARNING: "NCFOM" spoilers below
Killing off Josh Brolin (the protaganist) in a way - if I remember correctly - that wasn't really related to the main story - his hunt for the killer - seemed to "end" the story there before the movie was over.
His dying, Jones' apparently just giving up (if that's what happened - it's been years since I've seen it - I don't even remember Jones's role in the movie - just that he has a philosophical monologue at the end) and Bardem's just getting away left me feeling very unfulfilled storywise. One could argue it was a realistic ending, as killers get away and heroes die in real life, and it's an unexpected ending, but it wasn't fulfilling as no protagonist's quest was fulfilled, no revenge taken and no justice carried out.
Yes, precisely.

It was an empty ending for the character.
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He's done no wrong - no not the slightest thing.
I see no reason, I find no evil--this man is harmless so why does he upset you?

Pontius Pilate, pleading with the mob for calm, from the landmark Broadway musical Jesus Christ Superstar by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice



WARNING: "NCFOM" spoilers below
I figured that it was kind of the whole point that Brolin's entire "quest" was a fool's errand - he even admits as much to himself when he plans to return to the scene of the crime with water for a man who is long dead, which is what puts him in the criminals' sights for the first time. The main story isn't that he ever starts hunting Bardem but that he's trying to get away from anyone who wants the money back - the deal was between Americans (who Bardem is working for) and Mexicans (who are ultimately the ones to track and kill him), so he underestimates just how ruthless any of these people can be (even in something as simple as putting two tracking devices in the briefcase of money). Jones thinks he can help Brolin out, but he is also in over his head when it comes to dealing with these criminals - he shows up too late to save Brolin (or try to, anyway) and that inability to keep up and deliver justice is what prompts him to retire (and the monologue about his dream is to that effect). As far as it being "fulfilling", I think it works precisely because it's about an ordinary guy who thinks he can get away with millions of dollars of drug money (and in doing so gets himself, his wife, and however many other people killed). He's not a hero, so he doesn't automatically deserve to fulfill the hero's journey.
Looks like I'm due for a rewatch... as I just don't remember a lot of the details.
(And who knows what state I might have been in when I first saw it!)



"Sooner or later, you'll be a he-man woman hater"
WARNING: "Hancock ending" spoilers below
I think I have a problem with this idea as it stood in the film:

(Image removed by author because it shows through the spoiler tag for some reason).

Absolutely no one is going to appreciate having the moon marred up unless there's an accompanying line:

Hancock: "Don't worry, it's designed to fade in a month."

Yes, the entire movie requires stretching the limits of your willing suspension of disbelief; all superhero movies do this. But to go from hero to the biggest graffiti artist in history seemed ........ to not fit.



"Sooner or later, you'll be a he-man woman hater"
Nice that the spoiler containers don't hide images, lol...



Welcome to the human race...
I guess there's the assumption that, if he's capable of putting it there in the first place, then he can clean it up if necessary.

Anyway, the movie version of Doom changes the monsters' origins so they are not demons from Hell like in the games but are now the result of humans being mutated by an ancient alien virus, which definitely makes it a bad adaptation (not least its third-act twist).



"Sooner or later, you'll be a he-man woman hater"
Also... if I remember correctly, Fredo's not completely ineffectual. Wasn't it his selling out the family that enabled rivals to try to commit the hit on Michael and his family (Fredo's own niece and nephew) at their Lake Taho residence? If so, then Fredo could be considered a liability and a danger.
Others seemed to agree with this, so I wanted to take some time to think about it.

The reason I don't think this justifies it is because Fredo had already proven himself completely ineffectual in the time afterward until his mother's death. The guy was a mental mess, but I still can't imagine him ever making that mistake again.



Welcome to the human race...
I thought we'd been over this. The fact that it can't be justified is the point.

I know someone has already posted but the point of Michael taking out Fredo is to show how despicable he has become, cruel, selfish, paranoid beyond belief and mad with power. This is the final nail in the coffin and should have ended the saga....bring him back in Godfather Part III and trying to get us to root for him was massive mistake and one of the major reasons I dislike that film.
I think I'm due for a rewatch of Part III, if only because I get the impression we're not supposed to actively root for him but still want to see what happens when he actually tries to make an (almost certainly doomed) attempt to redeem himself.

You seem like someone that appreciates the art of openendedness. Many do. My film history instructor in college always did, explaining as we went frame by frame through scenes. Personally, I don't. It always makes me feel uncomfortable and like the movie pulled a "fast one" on me by leaving me with unresolved feelings.

For instance, I'm still a little irked when in Brokeback Mountain, they never made it clear which of these 3 scenarios were true:
And what about it? You're supposed to feel that same level of uncertain anxiety that Ennis does and understand why he would assume the worst upon finding out about such a sudden and violent death (especially when the sheer variety of possible scenarios - maybe it was a tire, maybe it was a beating - and people's reluctance to even talk about it, including his own, means he would never get that particular closure).

Anyway, another one I just thought of - Alison getting the makeover in The Breakfast Club.



"Sooner or later, you'll be a he-man woman hater"
I thought we'd been over this.
So "we're" going over it again.

The fact that it can't be justified is the point.
If you read the part I quoted (the part I was responding to) you'd see that I was addressing this (IMO) errant notion that Fredo was still somehow a threat just by being alive.

You seem like someone that appreciates the art of openendedness. Many do. My film history instructor in college always did, explaining as we went frame by frame through scenes. Personally, I don't. It always makes me feel uncomfortable and like the movie pulled a "fast one" on me by leaving me with unresolved feelings.

For instance, I'm still a little irked when in Brokeback Mountain, they never made it clear which of these 3 scenarios were true:
And what about it? You're supposed to feel that same level of uncertain anxiety that Ennis does and understand why he would assume the worst upon finding out about such a sudden and violent death (especially when the sheer variety of possible scenarios - maybe it was a tire, maybe it was a beating - and people's reluctance to even talk about it, including his own, means he would never get that particular closure).
I explained "what about it", but I guess I'll repeat then. I myself pointed out the interview where the director had the wife act it both ways (same script). It's just not something I'm comfortable with. To me, leaving the audience hanging, intended or not, is an uncomfortable movie ending.



Others seemed to agree with this, so I wanted to take some time to think about it.

The reason I don't think this justifies it is because Fredo had already proven himself completely ineffectual in the time afterward until his mother's death. The guy was a mental mess, but I still can't imagine him ever making that mistake again.
One would think.
But in the scene where Michael officially announces his break up with Fredo, Fredo confesses how disenfranchized he always felt from the family - which drove him to colluding with the family's enemies.
So (from Michael's POV) someone who feels that way (and had already turned on them once) could never be trusted or considered loyal, and might again get to the point where they stab the family (or those they perceive passed them over) in the back out of a sense of revenge.



Setsuko Hara is my co-pilot
Romantic films oftentimes end on a sad note whereas you wish they ended happily, and vice versa. Not that I watch many romances, and if I do, they're Asian, because nobody wants that half-assed American crap, besides I need to have a bunch of unseen ones to watch with my future girlfriend (okay, who are we kidding - to watch as an old bachelor)... but... but there's a strong trend of such endings in those I've seen, which led me to believe perhaps the screenwriters subversively toy with viewer's expectations, which is fine, I guess, but I prefer films that play out 100% the way I wanted them to. It's incredibly rare, but there is such a film, and it's Postman Blues - needless to say a tremendous masterpiece by the one and only SABU, but also a film, that played out exactly the way I anticipated, and if I was a director, I would've directed it just like that!



Oh, and possibly the best romantic drama (along with The Road Home, because the Chinese are the best at this game) is Romancing in Thin Air. It escapes the issue I described above by subverting the borders of its genre in one of the most unexpected yet satisfying twists in history of romances.



Those are two masterpieces I recommend to everybody. But what are actual films I wish I could change? Dunno, I'd rather blabber about those I wouldn't.
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I am the Watcher in the Night
I thought we'd been over this. The fact that it can't be justified is the point.



I think I'm due for a rewatch of Part III, if only because I get the impression we're not supposed to actively root for him but still want to see what happens when he actually tries to make an (almost certainly doomed) attempt to redeem himself.
I think we are certainly meant to root for Michael in part 3, it is pretty obvious in the way they represent him trying to grow close to Kay again, in his love for his daughter, in his willingness to let his son do his own thing AND to really pull himself out of the criminal world, once and for all. It is meant to be designed as a story of redemption.
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Welcome to the human race...
That sense of redemption is still tempered by how we expect him to either fail or succeed at a great cost, especially considering that the previous films were about him ultimately getting away with various crimes but at greater costs to his humanity before

WARNING: "Part III" spoilers below
he gets the ultimate comeuppance in watching his daughter take a bullet meant for him and there's no sense of redemption left in watching him grieve this and then ultimately pass away old and completely alone.