Thursday Movie Picks: Let's Start At The End

This week's Theme from Wandering Through The Shelves is all about those movies that begin at the end. There's so many to choose from so I went with three films that start out with the main character's death before we see how they got there.

1) American Beauty

Lester Burnham tells us right from the get go that "in a few months, I'll be dead." This remains my all time favorite movie.

2) Sunset Boulevard

This is one of the best films I've seen on my Blind Spot list and one of the first things we see is our lead's lifeless body floating in a pool. 

3) Into The Wild

We know immediately that Chris' wilderness trek isn't going to end well. This was a wonderful little film that despite being an Oscar nominee, feels a bit underrated. 

18 comments:

  1. A somewhat grim theme within the theme but death does seem to be a leitmotif in films with this sort of structure.

    I thought highly of American Beauty when I saw it but I must confess I haven't watched it since nor had any great desire to. I will say that it turned me into more of an admirer of Annette Bening than I had been previously. To that point outside of The Grifters she never really impressed me but she's excellent here. I'll never be what you could call a devout fan but I will watch something of hers with a certain expectation now.

    Sorry I hated Into the Wild. I thought the main character was a foolish, selfish, often flat out stupid little bastard and while his end was tragic it was his own bullheaded fault. The only thing I admired in it at all was Hal Holbrook's gentle performance.

    Hey, Hey we match!!! LOVE Sunset Blvd. in all its dark shadows and its unyielding gaze at fame gone wrong. Gloria Swanson is both scarifying and heartbreaking. It's a pity that it typed her so severely that afterward she was offered nothing but repeats of the role and effectively ended her screen career. Having read her autobiography she was as far away from the character as possible (outside of the grandness) though she did acknowledge that there were other performers from that era (Mary Miles Minter being the prime example) whose fate was similar to Norma's.

    Death also plays a role in all three of my picks, though not necessarily the leads.

    Memento (2000)-Leonard (Guy Pearce) is tracking down the man who raped and murdered his wife. The difficulty however of locating his wife's killer is compounded by the fact that he suffers from a rare, untreatable form of memory loss. Although he can recall details of life before his accident Leonard cannot remember what happened fifteen minutes ago, where he's going, or why. His solution is to tattoo clues onto his body to arrive at the answer. Complex mystery begins at the end and works in fractured time lines throughout.

    Sunset Boulevard (1950)-As the film opens failed screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden) is found floating face down (but facing the audience) in the swimming pool of former film queen Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). Harking back we then learn how things came to such a sorry pass. Brilliant, tragic, pitch black Billy Wilder masterpiece of broken dreams and dashed hopes with vivid performances from the entire cast and a dazzling iconic one by Swanson.

    Double Indemnity (1944)-Los Angeles insurance agent Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray) stumbles into his office late one night with a bullet in his shoulder falls into his office chair and starts recording his confession for his boss and friend Barton Keyes (Edward G. Robinson). We then flashback to how his foolish involvement with the amoral, heartless Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck) lead to duplicity, deception and murder. Another Billy Wilder noir classic.

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    1. Yay a match! The last pick is the only one of yours I haven't watched. I tried not to pick Memento because I figured it would be popular.

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    2. You really should make the time to see Double Indemnity. It's an essential, all three of the leads are just great, it's beautifully directed and the cinematography is top flight.

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  2. I LOVE Sunset Blvd in all its madness, truths and scariness. Billy Wilder was a master. I almost chose American Beauty which is another great film and I love the take out food sequence. I haven't seen Into The Wild which, I think, is based on a true story?? I wouldn't mind checking it out

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    1. Yep! It's based on a true story. Emile Hirsch is really good in it.

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  3. I've seen all. I love your theme within a theme.
    I love American Beauty.
    Sunset Boulevard was a surprise for me. I tend to not like some of the classic black and white films, but I ended up liking this one.
    I like Into the Wild too. I don't think it is quite underrated, it generated positive buzz around its release, just a little forgotten over time.

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    1. I'm with you on classics. I think I prefer modern films, it's just the way the actors carry themselves, but Sunset is marvelous.

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    2. I agree with you about the actors. I think because some of them probably started during the silent era or began on stage where acting had to be "dramatic" to compensate for either lack of sound or the artificiality of a stage. And when they do the movies the actors sort of still carry on with the affectations. Which makes some of those movies unwatchable for me.

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  4. I liked your first two picks but I never finished Into the Wilde 😅 I've been meaning to give it another chance though

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  5. I'm still mixed on American Beauty as I had issues with the film but it's watchable while the other 2 picks you have are awesome.

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  6. Oh Sunset Boulvard is fantastic! That finał shot is chilling

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  7. OMG I can't believe I didn't think of Into the Wild! I liked the movie and loved the books it was based on.

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    1. I never read the book. I should look for that one day.

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  8. Man, almost have seen all 3 picks. Almost! Saw Into the Wild in bits, and didn't really want to finish it when I found out how it ends. But like, I'm surprised myself, that I have seen your 2nd pick! :D

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    1. Yeah..no happy ending for Into The Wild, which isn't surprising considering he didn't exactly plan anything very well.

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