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David Poland

By David Poland

20 Weeks To Oscar: The Trouble With Endings (spoilers)


This piece deals with the end of three Oscar Best Picture candidates, revealing the ending of American Sniper, The Imitation Game, and Unbroken. DO NOT PROCEED is you haven’t seen the films or do not want to know the endings… you have been warned!


If there is a theme to this award season aside from all the biopics, it is this… movies that end and then tell us what happens after the film is over, which seems like something that should have been a major event in the film itself.

I’m not talking about the often clever “what will happen to” titles that end a lot of “real-life” movies, as well as film comedies like Animal House. I’m talking about “this is what this movie was really about and I can’t believe they didn’t show us this.”

In three major cases this Oscar season, two are specifically about the death of the lead character just after the last time we see them in the film. In the third, Unbroken, it seems like the title card replaces not only what could have been a very interesting (read: more interesting) third act of the film, but what could well have been the dominant story.

In alphabetical order:


I don’t know what the thought was here. Perhaps Eastwood and/or screenwriter Jason Hall just didn’t want to have a veteran kill the hero to end the movie. Perhaps they just felt this was in better taste. I don’t know. But I think that a movi, which is now taking heat for a lack of perspective on the war from liberal quarters would have been well-served to engage the horrors of war back at home—which is the third act of the film already—in a more direct way.


A lot of the complaining about the lack of gay content had overshadowed my central probably with the film, which is that the ending was not as poetic and painful as I think it deserved. Moreover, as I here it, the real Alan Turing died with a half-eaten apple next to him on his bedside table. Did he dose the apple with the cyanide that killed him? I don’t know. But, Snow White… Adam & Eve… just a magical, visual metaphor that was not exploited.


2 hours and 40 minutes of people trying to break this guy… and then we find out on a card that he broke wide open after he got home. That is the movie that I want to see from Angelina Jolie. Not so clean. Not unblemished. Not just relentless. Human. Fallible. And then, in recovery, powerful… perhaps more powerful than ever. Where was that movie?

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7 Responses to “20 Weeks To Oscar: The Trouble With Endings (spoilers)”

  1. Breedlove says:

    Would have loved to have seen Spielberg wrestle with that American Sniper ending. Amazing that Kyle’s murder is reduced to a title card.

  2. K. Bowen says:

    I don’t know …. I think the ending shot is one of the best moments in The Imitation Game. It may be the only great visual moment.

  3. John Rieber says:

    David, I totally agree! These endings were surprising – and frustrating – because these were major points in the story, and in two cases I felt so disappointed that such a major plot point was revealed in such a way, especially because both “Imitation” and “Sniper” ended in such an unsatisfying manner…

  4. John E. says:

    On the flipside, I really liked how Selma told the story it told and then title-carded other elements at the end.

  5. David Poland says:

    Dancing around a campfire in slow motion?

  6. lazarus says:

    RIght. Because Spielberg’s been really great with endings. Maybe we could have seen Kyle break down and ask his wife if he was a good man, while we half-dissolve to an American flag waving in the background.

  7. Breedlove says:

    Ha. Fair point.

Quote Unquotesee all »

It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon