Discussion of movies and ReelThoughts topics

It is currently Tue Sep 30, 2014 6:42 pm




Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 22 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next
Snake Eyes, or Can a Bad Ending Ruin a Good Film? 
Author Message
Post Snake Eyes, or Can a Bad Ending Ruin a Good Film?
From Roger Ebert's 1-star review: "It's the worst kind of bad film: the kind that gets you all worked up and then lets you down, instead of just being lousy from the first shot."

James' 2 ½-star review: "Is it possible for a bad ending to ruin an otherwise good film? Can one horrible decision on the part of the screenwriter and director wreck the impression developed by 90 solid minutes of cinema? Snake Eyes causes me to ask these questions because, after offering an hour and a half's worth of well-fashioned entertainment, the movie elects to end with that most dreaded of motion picture devices - the deus ex machina. Although this cheat is hardly noticeable in mediocre films, it is magnified in a movie like Snake Eyes, where we are expecting a conclusion on par with everything that has led up to it."

The Rotten Tomatoes meter for Brian De Palma's vilified 1998 Snake Eyes lies around 41% for the critics, 43% for the top critics, and 40% for the fans. No matter how nitpicky the review however (there were a few bad lines of dialogue, how could this detail from this scene be plausible, etc.), the overall criticism of the film always lies in its ending. The fourteen-minute long opening sequence may be referenced, but it never receives as much notice as the contrivances and implausibility’s of the ending that for many people break apart the film into a million little pieces.

The films opening scene.

Watch the camera as it glides through the back tunnels of the arena, pay attention to the little details, the characters, lines of dialogue, locations that receive notable attention by De Palma and his cinematographer Stephen H. Burum. Everything in this scene, from what is obvious ("You will be the one who is sorry."; "Here comes the pain!") to a specific detail of a shot you may have missed.

Image

This film shows all the signs of De Palma’s signature aesthetic and mise-en-scene that was missing from The Untouchables. There are a few shots in the scene when the boxer is recalling how the fight really went down, where the screen is focused on the face of the fighter in one side of the screen, and besides a segment of the other side of the screen the rest is blurred, as in this picture example from The Fury…

Image

This shot is also used early on in The%20Untouchables during the failed raid, when Costner is speaking to an officer in the truck, waiting for their queue to move in, but to what point? There is nothing to focus on in the background of that shot, no point but for stylish excess in a movie with no substance to involve the style. The same is not true in Snake Eyes, where this shot is used to focus on the boxer and the man in the background yelling “Here comes the pain!” which is of great significance to the film. There is another shot when Carla Gugino’s character is explaining the truth of the situation to Cage’s character, in this scene De Palma uses split screen to effectively show two angles of one scene, as well as a shot staring down at the characters as they sit on a stairwell, the image of the spiraling stairs descending into eternity is eerily reminiscent of numerous scenes of sadness and revelations in Vertigo.

Image

In Jim Emerson’s Opening Shots series, a reader evaluated the beginning of Femme Fatale as the screen draws away from a television screen playing Double Indemnity to then display Rebecca Romijin stretched out on a bed. De Palma seems to have a thing about television screens, as he uses them in the film’s opening sequence the give us information at a clip, then later to further a chase sequence and also during the dramatic reveal that sets off the films climax. The climax is, of course, where things start to go wrong for many people.

Image

In the end, after Cage has had the shit beaten out of him, he walks to the place where he has hidden Gugino’s character. Gary Sinese’s character has placed a tracking device on Cage and is following him so as to dispose of Gugino. There is a beautiful tracking shot here that starts with Sinese walking up towards a corner, the shot moves over, staring at the wall until it meets Cage wobbling towards the locked door. De Palma uses shadows here to great effect to show Cage realizing he has been used once again by Sinese so achieve his goals. Outside there is a strong hurricane going on (another problem, why would there be a championship boxing match going on while there is a hurricane outside?) that has dropped a large globe off the top of the casino, which is rolling around on the pier. The news crew is outside attempting to get some shots of the iconic globe rolling in the winds, as in the distance the police are driving towards the casino. As the ball rolls past the room Gugino is in, the cops just happen to drive into the room while Cage is standing in front of the woman to protect her from the silenced gun Sinese is pointing at them. Cage and Gugino just happen to drop in time for the police van to drive over them, leaving them unscathed (from that particular incident at least) while the cops proceed to pull out their guns at yell at Sinese to drop his… even though he is dressed in full army attire. Also, the camera crew just happens to walk in and catch the whole situation on camera. As Sinese realizes he can’t get away with what he has done, he then proceeds to aim the gun at his own head and kill himself after Cage yells a “satisfying” one-liner Sinese used against him earlier (“You’ve got Snake Eyes!” It reminds me of the Family Guy episode 4:20, “OH! HE SAID IT! HE SAID IT!” :D ) The film then proceeds to show Cage being acknowledged as a hero, then vilified when people discover how corrupt a cop he was. The film ends with him and Gugino speaking on the pier in front of the newly renovated casino, exchanging a kiss and leaving. The camera then focuses in on a large pillar being set in place by construction workers where we know two characters who were murdered earlier in the film were placed in the mold, the camera centers on what appears to be a jewel (never seen before in the film), which then glimmers in the sun, a fourth wall breaking wink at the audience in the vein of Haneke’s Funny Games.

Image
Wink, nudge.
Image

The film is a directorial tour-de-force. People lambast Snake Eyes to the end of the day (even admirers of De Palma’s work have a hard time trying to defend it) when for some reason The Untouchables, a shallow exercise in half-assed aesthetic and overall poor screenwriting is praised and sits in the eightieth percentile on Rotten Tomatoes. People hate this film because of its ending, but what about The Untouchables? That film was on a steep (and I do mean steep) downhill slide before the ending, where for some reason the lawyer decides to randomly yell out against his clients wishes, “Guilty!” How could you praise that film with its contrived, lazy ending and hate on this film for its contrived, lazy ending? To be perfectly honest the more egregious error in the films ending is that it goes on for a few minutes too long, after Sinese’s character has committed suicide.

Snake Eyes is some of the most fun I’ve had evaluating a film in a while. Eric Henderson was dead on when he wrote for Slant Magazine, “Rather than attempt to stay way ahead of the audience, Brian De Palma's thrillers just are usually one step aside you—the better to lull you into admiring the scenery before guiding you smack into the seedy part of town.” Snake Eyes is a perfect embodiment of this statement. It’s not particularly deep, but the aesthetic that De Palma employs to tell this conspiracy thriller is, well, thrilling. From the camera compositions to the editing, the film is grade-A work until the final ten-minutes. To brush off the film as a failure because the ending is below par when the rest of the film is this level of quality film making is rather diminutive of the project as a whole. Go ahead, re-watch this film with an open mind of its rather unfortunate finale, and with that you just may have a great time deconstructing this (mostly) masterfully told thriller.


Mon Oct 04, 2010 12:18 am
Post Re: Snake Eyes, or Can a Bad Ending Ruin a Good Film?
Sad day. Lots of replies :|


Mon Oct 04, 2010 11:21 pm
Post Re: Snake Eyes, or Can a Bad Ending Ruin a Good Film?
JJoshay wrote:
Sad day. Lots of replies :|


If it's any consolation, the essay is very good. If anything, you've done a good job of convincing me to see Snake Eyes.


Mon Oct 04, 2010 11:25 pm
Post Re: Snake Eyes, or Can a Bad Ending Ruin a Good Film?
had you kept it to "can a bad ending ruin a good film" i'm sure you would have gotten responses. Your initial post is too long and the thread is too specific as it is.


Mon Oct 04, 2010 11:32 pm
Post Re: Snake Eyes, or Can a Bad Ending Ruin a Good Film?
Thank you Alex, just remember that I still said the ending sucks ;)

True enough Spencer, however I disagree with the assessment that I kind of left that initial question on the cutting room floor. I went into why I thought the film was very well made and why I think its lazily written ending doesn't negatively effect the film as a whole. I brought the question back up at the end. I will admit its long but I feel its as long as it needs to be to support my stance.


Mon Oct 04, 2010 11:48 pm
Post Re: Snake Eyes, or Can a Bad Ending Ruin a Good Film?
I didn't understand what was so terrible about that ending.


Tue Oct 05, 2010 9:46 am
Director
User avatar

Joined: Sun Jun 20, 2010 4:04 pm
Posts: 1727
Location: New Hampshire
Post Re: Snake Eyes, or Can a Bad Ending Ruin a Good Film?
I haven't had time to do much at-length reading lately, but I'll answer the basic question.

Can a bad ending ruin a good film? Yes, most definitely. I've seen movies that have built up a lot of goodwill only to throw it away with the ending. A subpar ending can turn a great film into a merely good one. A good example of this is the Spike Lee film Bamboozled. For about 3/4 of the way, this film is brilliant. But by the end, it seems as if Spike has written himself into a corner and doesn't know how to get out. A shame, considering what came before.

The converse is also true. A good ending can help redeem a so-so film. Prime example: The Godfather Part III. There's moments in this that are really lumpy and don't quite work well, especially when Sofia Coppola's on the screen. But man, does FFC nail the ending, and redeem some of what came prior.

_________________
Death is pretty final
I'm collecting vinyl
I'm gonna DJ at the end of the world.


Tue Oct 05, 2010 12:42 pm
Profile
Post Re: Snake Eyes, or Can a Bad Ending Ruin a Good Film?
Sexual Chocolate wrote:
I haven't had time to do much at-length reading lately, but I'll answer the basic question.

Can a bad ending ruin a good film? Yes, most definitely. I've seen movies that have built up a lot of goodwill only to throw it away with the ending. A subpar ending can turn a great film into a merely good one. A good example of this is the Spike Lee film Bamboozled. For about 3/4 of the way, this film is brilliant. But by the end, it seems as if Spike has written himself into a corner and doesn't know how to get out. A shame, considering what came before.

The converse is also true. A good ending can help redeem a so-so film. Prime example: The Godfather Part III. There's moments in this that are really lumpy and don't quite work well, especially when Sofia Coppola's on the screen. But man, does FFC nail the ending, and redeem some of what came prior.


This.

I haven't seen Snake Eyes and am such a spoiler phobe that I skipped your lengthy (but undoubtedly well written) post about it Josh. However I absolutely agree with the idea that an ending can make or break the experience of watching a film. It's simple really. The end is by definition the last thing you see. If you're happy about the conclusion you can often forgive what came before.


Tue Oct 05, 2010 2:24 pm
Post Re: Snake Eyes, or Can a Bad Ending Ruin a Good Film?
The guys at Spill.com have an interesting rating system: some ol' bullshit, rental, matinée, full price, and better than sex. When they did the review for No Country For Old Men, most of them were split between full price and matinée due to the ending. Everything preceding that was better than sex. However, one of the guys was so pissed off at that ending he gave it some ol' bullshit.

I guess I told that story to say this: yes, a bad ending can ruin a good film. I don't think it can or should ruin a great one, though. If Citizen Kane ended with Charles jerking off onto his own dead body, it still would be impossible to ignore what came before it. In analyzing films, one should be a reasonable human being. Does No Country deserve some ol' bullshit due to its ending? Maybe I'm biased, but fuck no! No Country is so much better than 27 Dresses.

I haven't seen Snake Eyes, nor do I plan to for a while, but if you can appreciate parts of it and denounce other parts, and it deserves that treatment... well, you sound like a reasonable human being.


Tue Oct 05, 2010 2:41 pm
Post Re: Snake Eyes, or Can a Bad Ending Ruin a Good Film?
Pedro wrote:
The guys at Spill.com have an interesting rating system: some ol' bullshit, rental, matinée, full price, and better than sex. When they did the review for No Country For Old Men, most of them were split between full price and matinée due to the ending. Everything preceding that was better than sex. However, one of the guys was so pissed off at that ending he gave it some ol' bullshit.

I guess I told that story to say this: yes, a bad ending can ruin a good film. I don't think it can or should ruin a great one, though. If Citizen Kane ended with Charles jerking off onto his own dead body, it still would be impossible to ignore what came before it. In analyzing films, one should be a reasonable human being. Does No Country deserve some ol' bullshit due to its ending? Maybe I'm biased, but fuck no! No Country is so much better than 27 Dresses.


Wait a sec, are you saying that No Country For Old Men has a bad ending? That's just crazy talk.


Tue Oct 05, 2010 4:08 pm
Post Re: Snake Eyes, or Can a Bad Ending Ruin a Good Film?
Also, my memory of Snake Eyes is hazy, having watched it for the first and only time about 5 years ago. I remember that before I watched it I had read Ebert's negative review, so after it was done I couldn't really understand the hate. Yes, from what I remember, the ending is ridiculous, like any other movie forced to use a deux ex machina to wrap everything up. Still, Nic Cage is his usual crazy self, and it's all directed in that usual De Palma style that makes it all very interesting to watch. The opening shot that starts the film is one that has to be seen to be believed. My general impression of Snake Eyes is that, while I wouldn't call it great, it's nevertheless an enjoyable ride, regardless of the weak ending.


Tue Oct 05, 2010 4:12 pm
Post Re: Snake Eyes, or Can a Bad Ending Ruin a Good Film?
Blonde Almond wrote:
Pedro wrote:
The guys at Spill.com have an interesting rating system: some ol' bullshit, rental, matinée, full price, and better than sex. When they did the review for No Country For Old Men, most of them were split between full price and matinée due to the ending. Everything preceding that was better than sex. However, one of the guys was so pissed off at that ending he gave it some ol' bullshit.

I guess I told that story to say this: yes, a bad ending can ruin a good film. I don't think it can or should ruin a great one, though. If Citizen Kane ended with Charles jerking off onto his own dead body, it still would be impossible to ignore what came before it. In analyzing films, one should be a reasonable human being. Does No Country deserve some ol' bullshit due to its ending? Maybe I'm biased, but fuck no! No Country is so much better than 27 Dresses.


Wait a sec, are you saying that No Country For Old Men has a bad ending? That's just crazy talk.

It'd be crazy talk if that was actually what I was arguing. :lol: Allow me to clarify: these motherfuckers at Spill.com think No Country has a bad ending. I love it. The film's in my top ten of all time.


Tue Oct 05, 2010 4:23 pm
Post Re: Snake Eyes, or Can a Bad Ending Ruin a Good Film?
Pedro wrote:
Blonde Almond wrote:
Pedro wrote:
The guys at Spill.com have an interesting rating system: some ol' bullshit, rental, matinée, full price, and better than sex. When they did the review for No Country For Old Men, most of them were split between full price and matinée due to the ending. Everything preceding that was better than sex. However, one of the guys was so pissed off at that ending he gave it some ol' bullshit.

I guess I told that story to say this: yes, a bad ending can ruin a good film. I don't think it can or should ruin a great one, though. If Citizen Kane ended with Charles jerking off onto his own dead body, it still would be impossible to ignore what came before it. In analyzing films, one should be a reasonable human being. Does No Country deserve some ol' bullshit due to its ending? Maybe I'm biased, but fuck no! No Country is so much better than 27 Dresses.


Wait a sec, are you saying that No Country For Old Men has a bad ending? That's just crazy talk.

It'd be crazy talk if that was actually what I was arguing. :lol: Allow me to clarify: these motherfuckers at Spill.com think No Country has a bad ending. I love it. The film's in my top ten of all time.


Ah, of course, I see the picture now on your list. I got confused. But yes, anyone who argues that No Country has a bad ending is clearly wrong.


Tue Oct 05, 2010 4:28 pm
Critic
User avatar

Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:35 am
Posts: 7433
Location: Easton, MD
Post Re: Snake Eyes, or Can a Bad Ending Ruin a Good Film?
I don't remember the specifics of Snake Eyes nearly enough to comment on it, but a bad ending can absolutely ruin an otherwise good film

Three Examples:

Sunshine (2007)
House of Sand and Fog
No Country for Old Men *wasn't completely ruined, but goes from very good to good when it loses its fever-pitch intensity

_________________
I'm lithe and fierce as a tiger


Tue Oct 05, 2010 4:29 pm
Profile
Post Re: Snake Eyes, or Can a Bad Ending Ruin a Good Film?
I felt Knowing (another Nicolas Cage vehicle) was at the very least intriguing up until about its ending, where then it was just funny.

Image

Somewhere...

Image

around...

Image

there.

Image

Anyways, I'm rather surprised to see this much disappointment in No Country for Old Men's ending, which I felt was rather perfect.


Tue Oct 05, 2010 6:12 pm
Post Re: Snake Eyes, or Can a Bad Ending Ruin a Good Film?
JJoshay wrote:
I felt Knowing (another Nicolas Cage vehicle) was at the very least intriguing up until about its ending, where then it was just funny.

Image

Somewhere...

Image

around...

Image

there.

Image

Anyways, I'm rather surprised to see this much disappointment in No Country for Old Men's ending, which I felt was rather perfect.


Nice. I like.

I thought No Country's ending was apt. Part of the problem may be that the audience initially believes that Josh Brolin plays the "main" character. We go on to learn that it's really more about Tommy Lee Jones' character. As such, the ending makes perfect sense.


Wed Oct 06, 2010 3:08 pm
Critic
User avatar

Joined: Wed Jul 29, 2009 9:35 am
Posts: 7433
Location: Easton, MD
Post Re: Snake Eyes, or Can a Bad Ending Ruin a Good Film?
ed_metal_head wrote:
Nice. I like.

I thought No Country's ending was apt. Part of the problem may be that the audience initially believes that Josh Brolin plays the "main" character. We go on to learn that it's really more about Tommy Lee Jones' character. As such, the ending makes perfect sense.


I agree with what you say and think it's an intelligent, astute observation, but at the same time I find the ending lessens the movie. The Josh Brolin arc is told with a lunatic intensity: the conflict between Llewellyn and Chigurgh makes for an edge-of-the-seat thriller for a good hour and a half. And then Josh Brolin dies, and the movie abruptly becomes quiet and contemplative. Is that a bad thing necessarily? Maybe not. Does it turn an exciting movie into a slow one? Yes I think it does. So while I understand completely why people like the ending, I find it disappointing.

_________________
I'm lithe and fierce as a tiger


Wed Oct 06, 2010 3:56 pm
Profile
Post Re: Snake Eyes, or Can a Bad Ending Ruin a Good Film?
JamesKunz wrote:
Sunshine (2007)

This, so much.


Wed Oct 06, 2010 7:42 pm
Post Re: Snake Eyes, or Can a Bad Ending Ruin a Good Film?
The end of Snow Angels comes to mind. In fact, I found the last 15 minutes so baffling that I adjured to the people of this forum to help me out: viewtopic.php?p=12964#p12964

Yes, Jjosh, a bad ending can ruin a good film. For all of the reasons that have been cited and argued about for who knows how long and by the simple virtue of a story having to at least resolve a conflict or two in a manner congruent to which the story was told. Snow Angels, for example, ends after a character behaves in a fashion completely untrue to her character. Cheat for shock! This betrays a total lack of confidence in the screenplay's direction and opts for something viewers can warn their friends about. And while I movie can just end (No Country For Old Men, A Serious Man) the story can be concluded by the audience with no help from the filmmakers. I'm fine with that.

And then there are the movies that could reasonably end one or so hours before the actual ending. The Return of the King, for example. A.I., in my opinion. While the endings of these films don't ruin the whole they do add an extra layer of icing that nobody wants. Nobody meaning me.


Wed Oct 06, 2010 11:13 pm
Post Re: Snake Eyes, or Can a Bad Ending Ruin a Good Film?
Actually I felt the ending of A.I. was the best part of the movie (another film I need to rewatch). After a long and slowly paced, sometimes seemingly rambling but always maddeningly intriguing film, its conclusion to me seemed, well, perfect. It completely elevated the film over the possible mess that might have resulted and turned it into one of Spielberg's (and Kubrick's) most human films. This is all based off my memory of rewatching the film a few years ago, but the ending still impresses me deeply by how truly felt it was, yet not at all schmaltzy.

As for the question at hand I didn't mean to say I thought a bad ending can't ruin a good movie (by all means, a bad ending can show off how good the preceding film was and also highlight more of its flaws), just that for Snake Eyes I don't believe it did.


Wed Oct 06, 2010 11:44 pm
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 22 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2  Next


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google Adsense [Bot], nitrium, patrick, Vexer, Yahoo [Bot] and 1 guest


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group.
Designed by Vjacheslav Trushkin for Free Forum/DivisionCore.
Translated by Xaphos © 2007, 2008, 2009 phpBB.fr