Immanentize the Eschaton
The ending of a film, or any narrative, bears a disproportionate amount of the artistic weight. Endings are the last thing we see, and the thing most likely to stay in the memory. And there's a natural inclination, in any long and complex work, to focus on the ending: Art, like life, often passes by in a state of semi-confusion, but a solid ending proves to the audience that the director had control all along. And the power of a good ending has particular resonance in a "closure" society, a society that strives for finality in things of the heart (closure after grief) and clairvoyance in most everything else (how's this going to turn out?).How Hollywood (and Western culture at large) fetishizes endings.
But Hollywood has fetishized endings to the extent that they've taken on an exaggerated and distorting importance in the evaluation of film. All threads must be tied up, as in the ostentatious multiple endings in the last installment of "The Lord of the Rings." Films that win critical plaudits often do so by virtue of clever endings that subvert every premise or assumption upon which the audience has built its understanding of the movie. The hero is in fact the villain. The whole thing was in fact a dream. The type of subterfuge that filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan ("The Sixth Sense," "The Village") traffics in. It is a symptom of a nervous and suspicious age that we consider a deft disillusionment the height of cinematic complexity. And the effect on criticism -- most reviewers and even many serious critics feel constrained never to give away an ending -- is pernicious. If the ending makes the film, how can the critic discuss the work without discussing the conclusion?