Original Ending: Enid (Thora Birch) breaks Seymour’s (Steve Buscemi) heart after leading him on the entire movie, ends her friendship with Rebecca (Scarlett Johansson) after she’s been a terrible friend to her ever since they graduated from high school, and sees an old homeless man, Norman, the most predictable part of her day, leave on a mysterious bus route discontinued years ago. She is then seen boarding the same mysterious bus the next evening, leaving for a destination, which will bring success no matter where it is because it is not her town.
I’ve never read the Ghost World comic, so perhaps there is some kind of “depth” that I’m missing in the movie (I doubt it), but I think the entire film is setting up the viewer for a big finish of learned maturity that never comes. I think this movie is fantastic with its quick wit and spot-on acting, and it carefully walks the line between showing Enid and Rebecca as they see themselves, as unique individuals, better and smarter than those around them, and how others perceive them, as stand-offish poseurs. Enid learns nothing from her experiences or from Rebecca’s changing attitude and subsequent social success (of course that may have had something to do with Johansson being a total babe, but I digress). Instead, Enid simply runs away from her problems into an uncharted future. Sure, it’s a big step when you realize you need to get the hell out of your one-horse town, but she shouldn’t be rewarded for her behavior with a free ticket away from her problems. And, after all, no matter where she goes, Enid will still be Enid. A change in scenery won’t solve her discontent.
Alternate Ending: An alternate ending would have Enid realize that she’s been a complete bitch (no matter how funny her snarky comments), and that she’s been the problem in her relationships, not the other person. Moving away from her hometown may still be the ultimate goal, but she needs to grow up first before she’ll be happy in a new town.
Original Ending: The end begins with a musical montage that shows the post-finale fates of major characters, which is about one step above those text wrap-ups at the end of shitty teen comedies. (“Dexter Bernstein went on to become a top researcher at NASA… He still lives in his parents’ basement.”) Then the show cuts to the main character, Jimmy McNulty, overlooking Baltimore from a highway shoulder. This five-season “television novel,” billed as a modern day Greek tragedy, concludes with Jimmy’s last line, “Let’s go home.”
What? Are we talking about a contemporary masterpiece or a rough draft from my ninth-grade creative writing class? In its attempt to end with neither a Sopranos-style statement nor a happy cliche, The Wire lands in the middle with a dull thud. It doesn’t leave you a profound impression, and it certainly doesn’t make you feel good.
Alternate Ending: While I’m not qualified to craft a suitable avant-garde outro for such a great show, I’ve seen enough Hollywood movies to give the mega-happy ending a go.
I think we can stick with the montage motif, but the song’s gotta’ change. Instead of a somber cover version of Tom Waits’s “Down in the Hole,” I like the Jackson 5’s “ABC.” We’ll keep one shot from the original ending, where the litigious lovers, Judge Rhonda Pearlman and Counselor Cedric Daniels, face each other in the courtroom. Only in my version, Daniels is decked out in full police commissioner’s regalia. Mayor Carcetti, realizing that a smart, principled commissioner means more than political appearances, reinstates Daniels as head of the Baltimore Police Department. But why is the police commissioner also a practicing attorney? Duh!
Cut to Johns Hopkins University, where season four’s teen team, Michael, Dukie, Namond, and Randy, walks the campus grounds with big smiles on their faces. They’ve all been accepted into the school three years early on a new community outreach program. (Dukie is no longer addicted to heroin because he’s addicted to friendship instead.)
We return to the Police Department, where star detective Lester Freeman is also commissioner. He stands before a room full of slick-looking middle-aged men in suits and handcuffs. By following the money, he’s arrested two-thirds of Maryland’s state senators. A cacophony of ‘sheeeeeee-it’s briefly overpowers the music.
At the Pulitzer Prize acceptance ceremony, a huge statue of H.L. Mencken topples over, crushing Baltimore Sun writer/fabricator Scott Templeton, his managing and executive editors, and the concept of prestigious journalistic awards underneath. Back at the paper, the principled Gus Haynes is promoted from copy editor to Editor-in-Chief. He sends all of his reporters out into the streets to do long, deep investigations with no pressure for results, and the Sun becomes something like the New York Times and Washington Post combined, only better. It also makes tons of money.
On the west side of town, a hot new club throws the event of the season, attracting a diverse array of characters. Marlo Stanfield, Avon Barksdale, Maurice Levy, Bill Rawls, Clarence Royce, Spiros, The Greek, Michael and Namond’s mothers, Nerese Campbell, Herc, Jimmy’s ex-wife and her lawyer, Stan Valchek, that guy who kept robbing Bubbles, Judge Phelan, Cheese, Ervin Burrell, Clay Davis and The System are all in attendance. A drunk Bunk Morland stumbles by, his arm around a voluptuous woman. He flicks his cigar butt into a pool of gasoline, which ignites under a propane tank. The whole club blows up, and everyone inside dies a horrible, burning death.
Quick cut to McNulty in a hotel room, making out cathartically with Kima Greggs because all it takes is a real man to un-gay a committed lesbian. As they crash onto the bed, a light flicks on, and they both turn towards it. Out from the bathroom stride saucy campaign manager Theresa D’Agostino and principled reporter Alma Gutierrez, both topless. Jimmy and Kima look at each other and nod approvingly: “Aw-right.”
Finally, we’re in heaven, watching Omar swagger through the pearly gates with beautiful, luminous wings. His murdered partner Brandon lies on a crisp white bed, waiting for him with a sly, boyish smile. D’Angelo and Wallace are there too! As the camera fades to black, they all begin to undress…
Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope
Original Ending: The Rebels attempt an all-or-nothing assault on the Empire’s Death Star, hoping to take advantage of the space station’s one obvious weakness: a vulnerable exhaust port. After a grueling space battle, Luke Skywalker remains the only X-Wing fighter able to fire a missile into the port. He hears Obi-Wan Kenobi’s voice, telling him to “use the Force,” turns off his targeting computer, and sinks a missile into the exhaust port. The Death Star explodes, Darth Vader’s Tie Fighter goes hurling through space, and the Rebels celebrate their victory by getting smashed. Luke and Leia hook up, before realizing they’re brother and sister in Return of the Jedi, and it’s really awkward.
Alternate Ending: I know that sometime within the next eight months, George Lucas will decide he doesn’t have enough money and re-re-release the original trilogy, adding more gratuitous special effects and probably following suit with Spielberg’s ET freak out by replacing the Jedis’ lightsabers with walkie-talkies. Since Lucas has proven himself incapable of writing a single coherent sentence, I took the time to draft a new ending on his behalf.
Rebel Base: Luke, you turned off your targeting computer.
Luke: Don’t worry. I’ve got this.
(Luke misses the shot. Awkward pause.)
Rebel Base: What the fuck was that?
Luke: I missed.
Rebel Base: No kidding you missed. Why didn’t you just keep your targeting computer on?
Luke: Obi-Wan told me to use the Force.
Rebel Base: Who is Obi-Wan and what the fuck is the Force?
Luke: Obi-Wan is my dead uncle, and the Force is a mystical, magical thingamajig, which it turns out, in Episode I: The Phantom Menace, are actually midi-chlorians—
Rebel Base: What the fuck are you talking about? Oh my God! We’re screwed, you fucking idiot.
Han Solo: Hey, Han here. What happened?
Rebel Base: Luke missed the shot. Something about his dead uncle and “a Force.”
Han Solo: That shit again?
Rebel Base: Seriously.
Luke: Look, guys, I’m sorry. I thought that–
Rebel Base: Are you on crack? That was the most retarded idea ever.
Han Solo: Shut the fuck up.
Rebel Base: Why didn’t you just use THE GODDAMN COMPUTER?
Luke: I thought the Force would be more accurate.
Rebel Base: More accurate? You thought that a computer that can do hundreds of thousands of calculations per second, designed specifically to do that task, would be less accurate than you closing your eyes and tripping balls on crack?
Luke: Well, hindsight is always 20/20.
Rebel Base: Apparently your eyesight isn’t, you fucking jackass.
Han Solo: SHUT UP!
(Cue credits and John Williams’ score.)