In our first of two Best Ending installments, we concentrate on the films of Joel and Ethan Coen, movies which typically finish with fascinating, fantastic flair.
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#5 - The Duck Stamp (Fargo)
All throughout this tale of a local car salesman (William H. Macy) trying to stage a fake kidnapping (he needs to ransom money to pay off the money he's been embezzling) and the local cop (Frances McDormand) investigating the quasi-crime, there's a backstory involving said pregnant policewoman and her husband's artwork. Seems he's entered one of his duck paintings into a competition for placement on an USPS stamp. Finally, after all the loose ends of the primary case have been wrapped up and the bad guys captured, our happy couple discuss the results of the contest. After the spectacle before, it's a tiny and telling victory.
#4 - H.I.'s Speech (Raising Arizona)
We've been rooting for outlaw turned 'good guy' H.I. McDunnough (Nicolas Cage) ever since he proposed to his policewoman bride (Holly Hunter) and set up housekeeping in a trailer somewhere in the Southwest. Even when they kidnapped a baby from unpainted furniture magnate Nathan Arizona (Trey Wilson), we want him to have the happy home life his actions constantly try to create. Finally, in a sensational voiceover, H.I. dreams of a future "where all parents are strong and wise and capable, and all children are happy and beloved." His final words let us know that, through it all, our hero should be all right.
#3 - Hotel Image Deja Vu (Barton Fink)
For the struggling New York writer of the title, his time in LA has been like landing on an alien planet. Between insane studio execs and worn out producers, not to mention the insurance salesman/serial killer in the hotel room next to his, California offers none of the sunny serenity suggested in the painting adorning Barton's squalid living space. Once he's been through the entertainment version of Hell, losing his livelihood but, perhaps, regaining his soul, he heads out to the beach with a defeated look on his face and something...unidentified...in a box he is carrying. There, his vision of the West Coast finally comes "to life."
#2 - Tom's Look (Miller's Crossing)
As the mastermind behind one of the greatest intra-mobster cons of all time, Tom Reagan (Gabriel Byrne) has every right to be arrogant. He's managed defeat the interloper, both anger and endear himself to former boss Leo O'Bannon (Albert Finney) with his intricate plot, and he's even made the woman he loved (Marcia Gay Harden) expose her true colors. Now, everything can go back to normal, right? Well, not in Tom's head. As a matter of fact, as Leo heads off with his former fling, Tom stands alone in a wooded glen and then does something so...ambiguous that fans of the film are still debating it to this day.
#1 - The Wrath of God (A Serious Man)
As a test of faith, physics professor Larry Gopnik is truly tormented by his Creator. He has to put up with a sick brother, an unfaithful wife, and two clueless kids. At work, he believes a student is cheating and wants to make sure this fact won't affect his desire for tenure. Constantly seeking guidance from his lawyer and his rabbis, Larry learns to weather the storm and always "do the right thing." Just as it seems he will get everything he wants, our hero questions his God and does something slightly immoral. Soon, the doctor is on the phone with some awful medical news...and a tornado is bearing down on his pot-smoking son's school. Talk about Old Testament justice!
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