Julian’s Unifying Theory of Endings He Thought of After Watching 1917

And what Rush Hour 2 thinks about your problems

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Greetings, Sternal Journalists!

As a prolific and snarky reader of the SternJourn once said, the excitement of reading it is that you never know if it’s going to be good until you get to the end.

And {perfect segue} speaking of endings, it has come to my attention that in Sternal Journal 051721: Smooches and Ginger Ale, I referenced a little theory I have and then never actually explained it!

I promise you that literally two or three people asked me about it, so here it is:

The last moment is the only real moment in any movie.

Okay, lemme rewind:

Sam Mendes’ World War 1 movie, 1917, was released in 2019 (confusing!). If you’ve never seen it, that’s okay. All you really need to know is that:

  1. the main characters cross enemy lines, and try to dodge planes, bullets, gas—the deadly kind, not the funny kind—bayonets, and general Germanity, as they attempt to deliver a message to another group of soldiers. And—

  2. —the movie ends (this isn’t really a spoiler) on one of the characters plopping down under a tree and opening a locket to reveal… a picture of his wife and daughter!!!

And when I saw that ending, I thought, Damn! We didn’t know he had a wife and daughter! He didn’t tell us about that! He went through allll that hootenanny and cockamamie and he’s keepin’ a cool when he’s got a wife and daughter at home? Yipshaw!

And then my wonderful partner turned to me and said, “Do you think he survives?” Which is a totally normal response to an open-ended finale: “What do you think it means? What do you think is gonna happen to him?” It’s the type of question I’ve asked and pondered hundreds of times after similar endings.

But for some reason, as I was about to answer something like “I dunno, he’s got aloooot more kerfuffles ahead of him in this damn war!,” I thought about it a little more and said something along the lines of, “I don’t think we’re supposed to know yet.”

Because I sensed that the whole point of the ending, and therefore (I’m arguing) the whole point of the movie, is to give you all of the context—both emotion and plot—so that you can fully inhabit and feel and know the (what we Sternal Journalists would call) DANGUS CARANGUS moment at the very end.

Because you wouldn’t naturally ask “What do you think is going to happen next?” when looking at a painting, right? Well, the movie is just a painting of the final shot, colored by all of the moments we watched up until that point.

I love endings like this because they feel so much more honest to the human experience. Don’t get me wrong, I love plenty of movies with tightly-wrapped-up endings. Rush Hour 2 is my favorite movie of all time, and the only emotional complexity is about how bad guy Ricky Tan conveniently killed Lee’s dad a long time ago (random family connection between hero and villain? no connection to the bigger story? smells like a studio note!) There’s no emotion to sit in at the end of a movie like that.

So it’s not necessary, but the ending-I-thought-of-after-watching-1917-even-though-it-was-no-way-invented-by-1917-style movies feel just a bit more empathetic.

If you told Rush Hour 2 about your problems, they’d be like, “Don’t sweat it. One day, you’re gonna get paired up with a wise-cracking LAPD officer who’ll help you solve the case and feel 100% good about everything. You will literally dance through an airport the day after watching your father’s killer die.” Fun idea. Not gonna help.

But if you tell 1917 your problems? They’ll be like, “Hey! it might work out... But to be fair, even if it does, you will still have to deal with more tomorrows every day until you die. And you don’t know what they’ll bring, but… you gotta keep living, that’s the deal, soooo…”

Less fun, but might actually be exactly what you need sometimes. So it’s a little messy, but there’s the theory. I don’t think it’s wild or new, but for me, it’s helped me make sense of and process the endings of some things I’ve watched recently. The Sound of Metal did this in a big way as did the series finale of Shrill. If you have a third one you can think of to fulfill the rule of 3’s, drop it in the comments!

But then again… now that I’ve typed all that out… am I just saying that “an ending is a thing that all moments in the story build towards?” Was this the stupidest Sternal Journal I’ve ever written?

Oh geez. I guess I’ll just sit down under this tree and think about that for a little while.

Recommendations

Rumors. Song. Cardi B and Lizzo? Lizzo and Cardi B.

Slow Journalism. Article. This (quick!) column about a journalist who’s walking the 21,000 mile path that humans took to migrate from Africa through Asia and to the Americas has a couple really interesting tidbits about storytelling and journalism today.

Middle School Weezer Cover Goes Horribly Wrong. YouTube video. My sister sent this to me and I’ve watched it three times. I promise it’s worth a minute of your morning.

Tyler, The Creator’s Hot 97 Interview. YouTube Video. This is mostly a note for Joe Cabello in case I forgot to text, but also for anyone who like Tyler, it is was an hour and thirty seven minutes and thirty seconds of your time, I swear.

Until next week, sending you all of the love!

Julian