Monday, January 03, 2011


Happy New Year from the Working Stiffs.  It is my pleasure to kick off the New Year for the Working Stiffs.  I planned on talking about beginnings, but something diverted my attention to ends.

So, why talk about ends?  Well, we did just close the cover on 2010 and I wanted to stay away from beginnings and New Year’s Resolutions, especially since I didn’t come up with any for myself.  Okay, I do have a goal to finish my current work in progress, but it isn’t a formal resolution.

The real reason for talking about ends, or endings to be more exact, is because I received a Blu-Ray copy of the movie Inception for Christmas and finally watched it the other day.  For those of you who don’t know, Inception, with Leonardo DiCaprio is about…  Well, I think it’s about the process of entering dreams and stealing ideas when the mind can be manipulated. 

The special effects were phenomenal.  In fact, the movie was worth watching just for the effects.  I’ve watched the movie twice and I’m still not sure I really know what it is that I watched.  There seems to be a raging controversy about the movie on the Internet.  Many people have postulated various meanings; one being that the entire movie was Cobb’s (Leonardo’s character) dream.  Did the Christopher Nolan intentionally try to confuse us by ending the movie without clearly wrapping things up all nice and tidy?  Or did he think that the storyline was nice and tidy and the audience is trying to read things into it that weren’t meant to be read into it?  In Inception’s case, I think the movie divided the audience into two camps.  If you like stories that are clearly wrapped up and have everything nicely explained in the end, then you didn’t like Inception.  On the other hand, if you like ambiguous storylines that let you interpret the outcome, well, you should go out and watch Inception immediately.  That probably explains the wide variability in the reviews the movie received. 

I’ve heard that many novice authors find it difficult to carry a story through to completion without leaving loose ends dangling.  That is a whole different issue than intentionally leaving an ending open for interpretation.  One is inexperience or lazy writing, the other is an issue of style. 

For me, I don’t mind movies and books that leave endings to interpretations.  It’s kind of like not describing a character in detail, leaving the reader to decide for himself/herself what the character looks like.  My wife, on the other hand, hates movies or books that don’t have everything wrapped up in the end. 

On the other hand, what I do not like is movies or books without a clear ending.  I may not be able to state this clearly, but a good example was the 2nd in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie trilogy.  Nothing was resolved at the end.  It just served as a cliffhanger for the third movie. 

So how about you?  Do you like books/movies that give you the freedom to interpret the ending?  Or would you rather have the author do all the work?

If you did see Inception, read on…  If you didn’t and you plan on seeing it, stop reading now.

It is my opinion that the entire movie was Cobb’s demented dream or it was all in his mind.  The subtle clue I focused on was that we were given glimpses of Cobb’s children in his dreams.  They were always kneeling in the grass in the same clothes and in the same position.  At the very end of the movie, in Cobb’s reality, we see him finally walking out of the back door to see his kids.  Low and behold, they are in the same grass in the same position and in the same clothes.  If you saw the movie, you’ll know what I mean.


Joyce Tremel said...

I haven't seen the movie, and probably won't. I don't care for movies like that. I want everything wrapped up nice and tidy. And preferably no special effects.

Gina said...

Will -
What I want is a satisfying ending, whether it wraps up loose ends or not. Inception worked for me; the ambiguity of the film mirrored the world of dreams, one of my favorite places to visit.

Ramona said...

Will, I love this topic, because I love interpretive endings.

But I've been shocked a few times by writers who call a story that isn't neatly wrapped up the work of a lazy writer. I disagree with this about 600%. It is much harder to write an ending that leaves the reader some work to do on their own, than to tie every strand neatly in a bow. I like to work when I read, so I'm all for the challenging stuff.

Good topic!

Wilfred Bereswill said...

See, I figured I'd get about a 50/50 split. I talked to a few people about Inception and found close to an even split on whether they loved it or hated it. There wasn't much inbetween.

Joyce, there seems to be many degrees of "wrapping things up." Sometimes interpretive endings don't work.

Gina and Ramona. I thought Inception was almost bordeline too interpretive. But it's hard to argue with the box office results.

Gina said...

Ramona -
I think we need to distinguish between a story that ends on an ambiguous note and one that just peters out, apparently because the writer ran out of steam or ideas.

Joyce -
I'm not wild about some special effects, but there are special effects and there are the really special special effects. Inception has the latter - you get to see a city fold in half! All in all, Inception's effects manage to capture the feel of dreaming.

Will -
Inception too interpretative? Surely you jest.

Patg said...

I haven't seen Inception, but as a major SF fan, dreams are a Yeck, lazy, you gotta be kidding tack that is quite sneered at. So, if it were dream manipulation, it might be interesting, but that it is the main character dreaming--sorry, to me, that's just lazy, or not enough science to do the idea justice.
I read 90 percent for pleasure, and while I don't mind straining the brain to solve a puzzle or mystery, I do not feel I should have to come up with my own solution. I'm in the camp that says when that happens the author had a great idea that he/she couldn't handle or interpret to conclusion.
Movies-100 percent entertainment. I paid my money, chose a story that I expect to entertain, not teach, and I expect the production company to present something satisfying for me. If I wanted thoughtful documentaries that required thinking, I wouldn't go out to a theater and ruin an outing that takes me home feeling unsatisfied, much less pay money for it. I pay enough to my cable company.
Thanks Will for providing your take on the ending, I never mind that, but then I read endings after a few chapters. I'm no longer mainly a reader, I'm a writer, so I'm always interested in the author's journey. I believe in writing your endings after getting that idea solitified in the opening chapter or chapters. I find how the author got to the solution the most interesting part of a mystery.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Gina, I agree, the effects were "Special" in this movie and did add to the story. This was not a movie built around a special effect, but special effects were added to give the feeling of the dream world. Watching in Blu-Ray was a treat.

Pat, while I feel that the entire movie may be an altered reality, or dream state, there are many other interpretations to it.

This one is definitely not lazy writing.

Gina said...

Amen, Will. Pat - this is not lazy writing or Dallas-type cleverness. This film really takes you into the world of dreams, and whether you think the action is happening in dream space shared by a crack team of dream invaders or within the dream of one man, it provides an intriguing, thrill-packed thought-provoking journey into an internal space we've all experienced.

Patg said...

Hmmmmmmm, okay, always willing to be persuaded for something interesting. Will Rent.

Ramona said...

Gina, yes, there is a definite distinction between a story that is ambiguous by design, and one that has a flawed or weak ending.

I like the kind of story where the author *chooses* to leave certain elements to the reader's interpretation. I understand that that is personal taste and many readers hate it, but if the intent of the author is to let the reader interpret, that's a particular story type. It is so much easier, in my POV, to tell the reader what to think, than to pull back and allow the reader to make what they will of things.

What can I say--I also love unreliable narrators.

Jennie Bentley said...

Damn, Will, why couldn't you just have gone to see True Grit instead, and we would have had something to talk about. Nice, simple, simplistic even... But I haven't seen Inception, don't think I ever will - especially after this - and I hate movies and books that make me make up my own mind. I read/watch so I don't have to think; if I want to think, I'll just do the writing myself.

Hope everyone had a lovely holiday season. Happy New Year to y'all!

Wilfred Bereswill said...

So, there you have it.

2 - Yay
2 - Nay
1 - Undecided.

I call that 50/50.

Jennie, I planned on boycotting True Grit due to my alligence to John Wayne. I've heard it's different enough to make it worth while. I'll have to reconsider.