Start at the beginning…

harehatterSpeaking of movie trends that annoy me (which I was, though you’d have no way of knowing since you aren’t here listening to me rant) in recent years, a lot of films have messed around with the order of things. They obviously haven’t listened to the sage advice of the March Hare and Mad Hatter in Disney’s version of Alice in Wonderland,

Mad Hatter: Something seems to be troubling you. Won’t you tell us all about it?

March Hare: Start at the beginning!

Mad Hatter: Yes, yes….and when you come to the end…..STOP!

It seems that once “Pulp Fiction” came along, the whole space-time continuum was thrown to the wind with scenes falling wherever they landed. The value of that gimmick can be debated in PF, but it doesn’t always work. (Opinion: It does more than work in “Memento”; it’s crucial and brilliant.)

bttfThe only places where messing around with time is always excusable are time-travel movies: the “Back to the Future” trilogy, “Déjà Vu”, “Terminator” movies, and all the rest, some good and some (and I’m thinking here of “Somewhere in Time”) excruciatingly bad. The only truly meaningful time-travel movie is the one that treats the concept with the flippancy it deserves: “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure”. (Good news: There will be a third B&T movie with them as adults… or as adult as they could possibly be, I’d guess.)

Less adventurous directors have decided they can hedge their bets by swapping just one scene: The end.

I can’t even count the number of films I’ve seen post-PF where the first scene is the end of the movie. This technique has been used effectively in great films such as “Sunset Boulevard” and “Citizen Kane”. None of the movies I’m thinking of are “Citizen Kane”.

Here are a few possible reasons directors use this cliché:

  1.  It was used in successful films such as “Sunset Boulevard” and “Citizen Kane”. Wrong answer.
  2. The last scene is usually a “grabber”. There’s no point grabbing the audience’s attention at the end of the movie. That could be too late. Grab’em right up front.
  3. You’re unsure whether the audience will stay awake until the end so you want make sure they see it ASAP. If that’s it, you got bigger potatoes to fry.
  4. No point waiting for critics to give away the “spoilers” when you can do it yourself.

That last one is the one that bugs me. Should these movies have a warning at the beginning the way some reviews do? Warning: This movie contains its own spoilers. They all want to be Lucy, the ultimate spoiler:rosebud

I’m waiting for this movie opening:

butler

I have the mixed blessing of a miserable memory. True story: My wife and I were watching a movie not too long ago. As it approached the denouement, I called out – as I am wont to do – what I thought would happen next. My more able spouse corrected me. “No, he gets shot. Don’t you remember they showed it at the beginning?”

sunsetboulIt wasn’t ruined for me, but it was for her and all the other non-brain-damaged folks who watched it. The “good” news is that the movie was a flop and pretty much no one saw it. So much for copying “Sunset Boulevard”.

As a public service, I’d like to list here all those movies with built-in spoilers… but I forget what they are.

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