You know I love lists, and this Top 50 Movie Endings one hit the spot -- Say Anything, Big Night, Some Like It Hot and (duh) Casablanca were properly honored, IMHO. I loved Boogie Nights but it has about 6 endings in a row, and I like the one with Burt Reynolds puttering around the house the best, not the Dirk's Unit Revealed one. The Usual Suspects is good, but there are other snappy switcheroo-heists done nearly as well: Nine Queens especially, but also Layer Cake, even The Italian Job. I'd swap out one of the golden oldie 70's classics for Master & Commander, too: "He died of fever weeks ago...ah."

In the spirit, here are my picks for Top Five Lamest Endings, a tough choice to make, there are so many semifinalists. I tried to pick movies that were otherwise redeemable, too, thus getting George Lucas off the hook:

5. Contact -- I really liked this movie but still felt a little WTF when David Morse's head blurred into view.
4. Smilla's Sense of Snow -- Not only is this generally one of the worst novel adaptations ever filmed, they managed to blow the amazingly suspenseful and ambiguous ending of the book ["There will be no resolution."] by chopping it off entirely. Crap casting, fx, sound and film editing didn't help either.
3. Natural Born Killers -- As if you needed more convincing that Stone had completely lost it, and you didn't care, that giant rabbit hops into frame.
2. The Abyss -- Like Spielberg, James Cameron's films usually go on 10 minutes too long. Here, those 10 minutes turn a thrilling, grubby actioner into a candy-coated disco neon lame-fest faster than you can cry, "Nooooooo!"
1. Four Weddings and a Funeral -- All right-thinking people wanted that final lightning bolt to strike Andie "The Robot" MacDowell dead on the spot.

I'll also give a Last Minute Reprieve Award to Shrek, My Best Friend's Wedding, Proof Of Life, Collateral, and American Beauty for an ending that somehow manages to save the picture from running aground altogether. And since I'm feeling generous, Ferris Bueller gets the Cherry On Top Prize for his turbaned "Go home! Go!" appearance post-credits.
"Gun-slinging females, some sporting fake beards..." -- Now that is how every police blotter story should start.


"Moneyed Beirutis drank vodka and Red Bull, and swayed while Israeli jets flew menacingly low overhead. Were it not for the warplanes, it could have been Los Angeles or South Beach." -- Anthony Bourdain, culinary rogue of the Travel Channel, happened to be taping in Beirut when Hezbollah and Israel went at it. He was evacuated to Cyprus -- not exactly embedded with the Israelis or fleeing with the Lebanese, but his grim perspective on "the story he didn't get to tell" is worth a read.


Here's something I've been thinking of doing for a long while -- sometimes it seems like strange trends emerge in the blogosphere, like a whole string of posts in a row, as I hop from blog to blog, share a certain something. This week has been full of highs and lows among my favorites -- check it out:

* The Barmaid Blog -- The ex turns up at work: "This is a three-years-later booty call?"

* Orangette -- Preparing a perfect pickle: "A little green sidecar, if you will, or the dinghy that floats obediently alongside the ship."

* David Lebovitz -- August in Paris: "I ran over a not-quite-yet-dead pigeon by accident with my shopping cart."

* Suburban Bliss -- Gettin' crafty with it: "Spread the prongs and you're ready for a game of Uno. Or strip poker."

* Fussy -- The imperfect childhood brownie: "That's how much we ate before I threw them in the garbage."

* WaiterRant -- Brush with greatness! "Actually I thought Mr. Crowe looks smaller in person than he does on screen. But what do I know?"


PIRATE! -- How deeply awesome is this handmade Captain Jack Sparrow? He is so awesome that if I could, I would place him on my shelf, right next to my knitty Ford Prefect.


It's summertime, the time of strongly-airconditioned moviegoing, and thus Ticket Stubs:

* While honeymooning in the Berkshires (awwwww), Nat and I took in two silent era classics at the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington -- I'll send you to his review, and just add that I think there's a place for live orchestration in modern films too...wouldn't it be cool to watch The Godfather or Chinatown or even Back to the Future with a live score? And for god's sake that is not a reason to bring these films to Broadway. By the way, if you ever get a chance to see the 1922 Grandma's Boy, watch out for the Attack of the Kittens! (A+)

* Pirates of the Caribbean 2 -- I dub thee, The Empirate Strikes Back! A little darker, a little moodier, with more characters, more conflict, eye-popping visuals and a giant cliffhanger? Yup, that sounds like an inadvertent homage to The Greatest Sequel of All Time. Except with pirates, and not in space. I was delightfully overtaken by the first movie -- the power of low expectations at work again. Considering it's based on a theme park ride, it's even more amazing now that the second film has built up these characters and their surrounding lore in such a winning way. Johnny Depp once again provides the wonky center to an overstuffed plot as Capt. Jack Sparrow, the unrepentant (or is he?) pirate rogue in trouble with an evil pirate honcho, in this case the nearly unrecognizable Bill Nighy as Davy "Octopussy" Jones. The romance once again falls by the wayside as Keira and Orlando merely try to keep up with Jack, trailing the jaded Commodore and new baddie Tom Hollander (who appeared opposite Keira in another film of late) in their wake. Intriguing little plot threads are introduced, but flit past without enough time to take root -- what is the deal with Will's dad? Is Elizabeth in love with Will or the pirate life? To whom do those boots belong? The ride would have been smoother with less plot told more slowly, but then, what kind of amusement park ride would that be?

Once the film found its stride in some cleverly goofy action sequences, I was hooked -- sure, it could have used a 40-minute trim, but I said the same thing about King Kong and I wasn't bored or grossed out for a minute here. The special effects were truly awesome, delightful and at the same time a little distracting since I could not stop tallying how much they must have cost to pull off ("That guy is made out of coral!"). It's not just that one or two characters had splendid effects, every single one did, down to the last barnacle and beribboned ponytail. LOTR and TV shows like Lost ushered in an age of carefully deployed fx to embellish a minimal shooting set; here we get both blazing fx and old-school locations, extras, and set pieces. Aside from Pirates 3, I don't know if we'll see many more movies with this kind of deep-pocketed lavishness -- Disney bet the farm on this movie, and despite its success I think it's more of a high-water mark (ha!) than a signpost to future blockbusters. In fact, my recommendation for the third installment would be to chop 15% out of the fx budget, and pick the best 6 out of 10 sequences, instead of spending enough to make them all look good (not that I didn't appreciate that, since Chronicles of Narnia really suffered from selective cheapy-tude), because it turns out there really is too much of a good thing. After all, Empire clocked in at 124 minutes and left us desperately wanting more. And look how that turned out. Avast! (A-)

* Strangers With Candy -- Either you get the Sedaris family, or you just don't. If you don't, do not see this movie. I went with two gals who'd never seen the Comedy Central show it's based on, and they fared OK, but that's not wholeheartedly recommended either. It's the story of 46-year-old Jerri Blank, who returns to high school after 30 years in jail for drug-fueled mayhem, and burns down the Science Fair while rocking out to Indonesian gamelan music. Along the way, she and her nerd posse fend off the closeted Christian science teacher (played with aplomb and rage by Stephen Colbert), her stepmother's "meat man," and learn absolutely no life lessons. She is a foulmouthed sex maniac with abominable table manners ("Next time you stick a hand in my chow space, you're pullin' back a bloody stump") and a lipstick-stained overbite. Love it! Extra points for Principal Onyx Blackman's fearless sauna scene, complete with salt scrub, burning eucalyptus oil, and a black Speedo. (B)


Things Said, Done, or Seen in the last 23 Days:

1. "Hey, don't touch my groin ice."
2. Approximately 33 bobbypins pulled from my own hairdo.
3. Making pasta at 1:20 am, T-minus 12 hours, 40 minutes before chapel must be gotten to on time.
4. Wedding guests wrapping napkins around their heads, babushka/homie style.
5. "Honey, turn the air conditioner back on, I can hear the cabbies."
6. Opening night Tanglewood fireworks out our hotel bathroom window.
7. Second night Tanglewood lawn illuminated by waxing moon and Liberace candelabra.
8. "Oh my god, THAT's the BOAT?!?!"
9. People waiting in line for sliced fruit while licking cupcake icing from cupcakes.
10. Chocolate-covered Swedish fish (not consumed; sorry, I'm a purist).
11. "Is this the French King Bridge or the French Lick Bridge?"
12. Dragon Fries -- neither dragon nor fries. Discuss.
13. My Restoration Hardware deco-porn fantasty bathroom come to life.
14. A very, very, very slow-moving midway.
15. "I'm just shoving it through the buttonhole."
16. Home-made sausage (unrelated to Nos. 15, 12, and 5).
17. "Get ready for the cannon!" and also "Oh man, look at the cannon!" (Not same cannon.)
18. The nubbly Green Mountains of Vermont.
19. A tower of cardboard shipping boxes high enough to blot out the sun.
20. A ferociously happy, heavily drooling cat.
21. "What is this, the Pregnant Ladies' Bathroom Parade?"
22. Two large aluminum baking pans of leftover slices of bread, in the freezer.
23. "I do."