Samuel L. Jackson is right about bad Hollywood endings, but then real life isn't much better

At work, in love and in life, no one has worked out the third act

Share

For reasons no one quite understands, film directors have lost the knack of the satisfactory ending.

Films tend to continue well after their natural ending, according to the actor Samuel L Jackson, who cites Steven Spielberg’s latest, Lincoln. Some meander, others go off in a new direction, or close with modish, irritating ambiguity.

Ben Affleck, another Hollywood man, has blamed the need to pitch film ideas. “The thing about a pitch is that it does a great job figuring out the first and second acts, but no one ever sits down and works out the third act.”

Take these words away from the world of film, and they help explain many reasons for contemporary unhappiness. At work, in love and in life, no one has worked out the third act.

It is a good moment in the calendar, just as things are starting, to consider the art of ending. If only more in life could close like the old year – a drink, music, maybe some fireworks, a hug or even a snog, and then it’s gone.

There is a useful self-help book to be written about how to leave a relationship or a job in a positive way, but it would probably sink like a stone in today’s market. We have been brain-washed into believing that what really matters are the relatively easy  stages of experience – the hope of January, the energy of May, the pleasure of July, the nostalgia of October. We prefer not to think too much about December.

It feels like a recent cultural shift, this infantile reluctance to let go of what we like. Film executives have associated the increasing length of new productions with audiences’ need for value for money. The same greed is evident elsewhere: if something is good, the attitude seems to be, it should not be taken from us. We resist even considering how anything will end until the slow-motion crash is under way, and it is too late.

Admittedly, conclusions tend to be tough. Only the exceptionally evolved and adult can end a serious relationship with a shared admission that what was once good is now something else altogether, that it has simply run its course. Instead, there is blame and bitterness, a looking back at a history now poisoned by failure.

At work, even the most civilised and well-planned parting of ways tends eventually to be accompanied by an expected sense of anti-climax and disappointment. There are few good professional farewells.

It may be seen as a weakness, in a culture obsessed by dynamism and success, to be prepared in advance for the moment when something ends. We believe ourselves more likely to succeed, if we remain blinkered by expectation and hope. But knowing how to close a show with dignity and generosity is one of the better tests of maturity and character.

www.terenceblacker.com

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Packaging Operatives

£7 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for two indivi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

£20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

Recruitment Genius: Estimator

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a major supplier of buil...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer

£28000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A screenshot from the trailer for Hatred  

I love violent video games, but you'll never catch me playing Hatred

Alex White
 

The Top Ten: Words In Christmas Carols That Ought To Be Revived

John Rentoul
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas