Monday, June 11, 2007

"Sopranos": Who needs closure?

If you haven't seen the grand finale of "The Sopranos" yet, please skip this and move to the second segment of this post.

For those who did watch it, the last scene will certainly stir debate. I'll throw it down first: I flat out loved it.

Chase spent much of the episode like most TV finales do, wrapping up loose ends. Tony consolidates power once again with some of his best manuevering, visits Sil in his hospital bed and Uncle Junior in the state mental hospital, and tries unsuccessfully to get Paulie to take on a key new mission.

OK, so far, so good. At the end of a traditional finale, of course, we'd then want to know what happens to Tony. But instead David Chase threw a curveball with a final scene that brilliantly leaves us guessing.

I watched the last five minutes or so again this morning, and it's just perfectly constructed. Every sound and camera move adds to the tension, undercut by Journey playing in the background and Meadow's comical inability to parallel park her car (a skill which I've never felt the need to master.) And then, of course, it fades to black.

Were we cheated? I say hell no. Chase's point, if I may be so bold to guess, has always been that, no matter how hard he schemes to hold on to power, Tony will never live in a world full of certainty. He'll always be in danger, and that's the way we (or at least I) like to see him.

I know there are many people out there who would have liked to see the scene end with more closure, but this mini-season, especially in the penultimate episode and this brilliant lack-of-finale, was just pitch-perfect to me.

HBO's third best show ever (behind only "The Larry Sanders Show" and "The Wire") has gone out on top. Agree? Disagree? Please let me know what you think.

Van Sant to drink the Kool-Aid

Gus Van Sant is a director who frequently just makes my blood boil. Capable of greatness ("Drugstore Cowboy" and "Elephant"), he just as often turns out treacle ("Finding Forrester") or, because he has no original thoughts of his own, just copies a great movie, shot-for-shot ("Psycho").

Now, however, he's got his hands on something that just might inspire him to greatness again. He's set to direct a big-screen version of Tom Wolfe's (not Ken Kesey's, as frequent visitor Bill was kind enough to politely point out) "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test," with "Big Love" scribe Lance Black writing the script.

It's been a long time since I read the book, but if I remember correctly it's about Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters driving cross-country to the 1964 World's Fair in New York, spreading LSD and good cheer along the way.

Sounds tailor-made to Van Sant's strengths, and he's clearly loved Kesey for a long time, casting him in his truly odd take on "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues." Van Sant's current project, "Paranoid Park," based on Blake Nelson's novel about a skaterat who is involved in the accidental death of a security guard, got good notices this year at Cannes, and will get at least some kind of U.S. release this fall.

Time-waster of the day

Premiere magazine, which I believe now only exists in digital form, has performed a generous public service for those of us who would rather read about movies than do our actual jobs.

They've compiled a list of the 20 films they'd most see like to get out of development hell and on to the big screen. You can find out the status of not only classic failures like Terry Gilliam's "The Man Who Killed Don Quixote" but also movies based on two of my favorite books, "The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay" and "Confederacy of Dunces."

It's incredibly addictive reading, so don't start unless you've got 20 minutes or so to spare. Click here to enjoy, and have an entirely bearable Monday.


bill said...

"Electric Kool-Aid Test" is by Tom Wolfe, not Kesey. Though much of does tell the story of the Merry Pranksters driving across the country in their bus. Wolfe recreated many of those scenes by watching hundreds of hours the pranksters filmed of themselves. I think Wolfe wrote the book while Kesey was in jail for drug charges and after he faked his death and hid out in Mexico for a while. If you like Kesey, I recommend his second novel, "Sometimes a Great Notion." One of the great works of American fiction. Paul Newman was in the movie version--haven't seen it.

There's also "Demon Box," an odd collection of stories. Some are fictional, there's a couple stories he wrote for a running magazine, then there's the semi-fictional biographical stories of him hiding out in Mexico and his later life of just living on his farm in Oregon and dealing with all the pieces of his past life that keep showing up. Fun story about going to England with the Hell's Angels to see the Beatles.

Reel Fanatic said...

Thanks for the correx, Bill ... I write these things very early in the morning, and though I knew that one was by Wolfe, I made a mental goof .. I'm gonna go ahead and fix it so as to avod further embarassment ,,, Abd I have read "Sometimes a Great Notion," but now "Demon Box," so I'll definitely have to check that out

bill said...

No problem, it did read like a typo; however, I've come across across plenty of people who having only heard of the book assume Kesey wrote it. People who only know of Kesey through "Kool-Aid" or "Cuckoo's Nest" really need to read "Sometimes a Great Notion." He does amazing things with the narrative voices that he only hinted at with "Cuckoo's Nest."

renee said...

I loved the finale as well. I think Chase did a brilliant job in that last scene. He ratchets up the tension like Hitchcock - you're just convinced that he's going to end it with Tony getting killed. But nothing's happening and the family is gathering, so you're convinced, no, it's going to be a happy ending, with Tony and his family all in a good place, at least for then. Then BAM! end of show. You can interpret it so many ways.

I'd put Oz up there with HBO's best as well. When Sopranos first came out, I preferred Oz and was a bit annoyed by the hype when my favorite show was ignored.

Reel Fanatic said...

I have to admit I've only ever seen a couple episodes of Oz, Renee, but I've been catching up with HBO shows of late on DVD, so I should definitely add that one to the list

Bob said...

I've been dying to see "Kavalier and Clay" (probably my favorite novel) and "Tripoli" for what feels like ages now. Oh I hope they get made.
Also, Johnny Depp needs to stop pirating around and make Hunter Thompson's "The Rum Diary" already. Not only do I love "Fear and Loathing" but "Rum" is also bringing Bruce Robinson back to directing. He made the wonderful "How to Get Ahead in Advertising" and my favorite movie of all-time, "Withnail and I." "Rum" would be his first movie in 15 years! Even more than "Kavalier," "Tripoli," or Gilliam's "Don Quixote," THAT is the movie that needs to get off the ground.

Marina said...

I can't say I was completely disappointed by the ending but I did feel a bit cheated. This last season of the show had not been what I had expected (I really thought there would be more action) but I think it was a solid finish.

Not as good as "Six Feet Under" but not bad either.

Reel Fanatic said...

I'm definitely with you on "The Rum Diary," Bob, but I have no idea when Johnny Depp will get back to doing any kind of serious movie work ... I know he's set to play the demon barber of Fleet Street in Tim Burton's "Sweeney Todd" for Christmas, which will hopefully be tons of fun.

Divinity said...

Gilliam and a movie adaptation of Good Omens!?! Ack, someone get it going!

Crystal Green's Blog said...

Renee, I love OZ, too--I couldn't stop watching that darn show, LOL.

Count me in with the SOPRANOS love, even if I felt like a rug was yanked out from under me at the end. But you're right about the show being all about the uncertainty of Tony's life. Remember when Melfi was raped? Chase didn't satisfy the audience with any expected closure there, and that's why I'm okay with the ending--because we were set up for this a long time ago....

As far as development hell pix, I keep wondering what happened to plans for one of my fave books, THE SECRET HISTORY. At one time, I heard Christopher Hampton (DANGEROUS LIAISONS) was scripting it and Gwennie Paltrow was set to star....

Divinity said...

There was supposed to be a live-action version of The Last Unicorn in the works years ago with Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Schmendrick, Christopher Lee as King Haggard, Mia Farrow as Molly Grue, Angela Lansbury as Momma Fortuna, and Rene Auberjonois as the Skull. Of course, it was too perfect to be true...
Unfortunately, all plans have been halted and, if they don't get it going soon, most of that cast is going to be too old/deceased to play the roles... :P

Reel Fanatic said...

If only movies were funded with only ideas! The one that I think would just go crazy for if I were in charge would be a new version of the old novel "Zazie dans le Metro" ... it was made into an enjoyable little flick way back when starring the late Philippe Noiret ... With the new technology (and the right spirit), that could be a true wonder to behold.

Mercurie said...

I also loved the end of the The Sopranos. It was wonderfully unpredictable. To be honest, I think I would have been disappointed if it had a definite ending (such as Tony getting whacked).

And it looks like Van Sant is back on track. If his adaptation of Wolfe's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (which I agree is right up his alley) turns out good enough, I might actually at long last forgive him for that remake of Psycho...

Shorty said...

Well said about the Sopranos...that David Chase is a sonofabitch...My Top 5 HBO Shows...
1. The Wire
2. Sopranos
3. OZ
4. Curb Your Enthusiasm
5. Entourage

Reel Fanatic said...

What would have really bothered me, Mercurie, is if the show went out with not only Tony getting whacked, but at least Carmelo and AJ too, which was clearly what could have happened ... That clearly would have just been the definition of overkill

Invisible Lizard said...

Throwing in my two cents' worth about the Sopranos finale:

It would have been a great SEASON finale, in that it added some new twists (Sil in a coma, Paulie, for the first time ever, declining an offer to advance [and why was that?], whatshisname turning evidence against Tony, even Meadow's new boyfriend was added in just a few episodes back and she's now dating a guy who's connected to Tony's family *and* who is going to be a criminal lawyer... could be trouble) and it left me wanting more.

But as a SERIES finale, I have to ask: why go to so much trouble to leave me wanting more? Why leave all of those new story-lines unresolved? Why introduce them at all in the eleventh hour? David Chase: if you're leaving this open for a Sopranos Movie, you'd better pull through for me, or I'm going to be pissed.

I liked the series finale to Six Feet Under (which was one of my other HBO favorites, by the way) much better. True, it cut against the established grain of all the other 6FU episodes, but it wrapped things up in a way that left me satisfied and not hungry for more.

Maybe I was looking for closure but after 86 episodes (at ~50mins each, that's almost 72 hours of my life) I felt I was owed something a little more substantial than that.

Reel Fanatic said...

I can definitely see where you're coming from, Mr. Lizard ... I have yet to find anyone who is devoted to the show who comes down neutral on this ... As I said, I just loved it so much stylistically that I was willing to let him get away with this gambit ... I will, say, however, that if he turns around and quickly turns out a movie that picks up right where this left off, it had better be a damn good one!

James said...

I was one who felt cheated and even furious. I tried to look at it from the point of view of "leaving it up to ourselves to decide" but I just can't swallow it. I watch TV to suspend my mind and let others tell me a story.

Call me old fashioned but when I was a theatre major--a story and/or scene always had to have a beginning, middle and an end.

Fading to black isn't imaginative or genius to me. It reminded me of some kids sloppy, clearly amateur submission in a high school film class.

I would have been happy with ANY ending as long at it gave me something--ANYTHING to have closure.

Yep, I'm one of those people who needs closure and has come to EXPECT stellar endings to their seasons so why shouldn't I expect the same and more from the finale?

Instead they cop out and give me the cheap-trick of fade to black??

Come on. I'm frankly surprised at the amount of people who are happy with the ending. I guess I'm in the minority.

Now. If they end "Lost" that way too then I'm going to officially give up on TV.

In short. I'm still pissed. :/

Reel Fanatic said...

Not that these two dudes are an authority, James, but they took a poll of 83,000 people who listen to the "Mike & Mike" show on ESPN radio, and it split just about even: It was like 50.8 percent loved it and the rest hated it, so you're far from alone there ... As for Lost, in reaction to the Sopranos finale, I've already read several stories where they promise that show won't go out without a lot more finality