The 10 best movie endings are delineated in today's Independent by Anthony Quinn. I've seen six of the 10, and I heartily agree with his inclusion of The Third Man (perhaps the best movie ending ever), The Conversation (a practically perfect ending to a practically perfect movie) and Chinatown, of course.
The inclusion of Chinatown allows me to address, for the first time, the title of Blog. "As little as possible" not only indicates my affinity for brevity but also serves as a tribute to an almost inaudible line at the conclusion of Chinatown. SPOILER ALERT. Jack Nicholson (as private eye J.J. Gittes, my namesake) has just witnessed the shooting of his lover by trigger-happy cops. He stands by the scene, blank-faced. You can see his soul shriveling up. After a moment, his mouth mutters, "As little as possible." The line is almost impossible to hear on first viewing, yet it makes the movie. People remember "Forget it, Jake, it's Chinatown," but it has a fraction of the emotional devastation of "As little as possible."
Earlier, we learn that Gittes was once a detective in Los Angeles' Chinatown area, and that he left (or was forced out of) the business when a case went wrong and someone got hurt (presumably a love interest). When he's asked what he did on the Chinatown beat, Gittes wryly admits he and his colleagues were encouraged to do "as little as possible." Why fight corruption if it only results in strife? At the end of the movie, Gittes finds himself again in Chinatown. Again, his well-intended meddling has resulted in the death of someone he cares about. He doesn't scream or cry or rend his clothing; he simply chastises himself with a whisper. "As little as possible." It's a line that encompasses the futility of his existence. It's a killer.
What would you add to Quinn's list? My top pick would be David Mamet's House of Games, which ends on a seductively sinister note. Who knew the quiet theft of a gold cigarette lighter could be so damn delicious?
Update / 10.23.07, 6 p.m. / I forgot to mention that there is at least one other blog out there that takes its name from a line in Chinatown. This would be Bad for the Glass, a culture blog. "Bad for the glass" is uttered several times by Faye Dunaway's groundskeeper. It proves to be the clue on which the plot hinges.
A Pfeiffer Portrait of Devastating Despair
16 hours ago