Next Time, Stay for the Credits



Judging from the haste of most moviegoers to leave a cinema after the final scene of a film, I doubt many people are aware of this, but here goes:


Filmmakers today are putting more and more detail, color, and action onto the screen while the end credits roll.  Some reveal the fate of minor characters left behind early in the story.  Others offer hilarious out-takes.  Historical films often match photos of the actors with portraits of actual characters they play.


Dustin Hoffman’s Quartet, a huge success with the Screening Room’s elderly patrons, matched photos of its aging cast to photos of themselves in their prime.  Often we have patrons return to see a film a second time.  Quartet drew second viewings for its credits.


Saving Mr. Banks went a step further.  In addition to Tom Hanks matched with Walt Disney and Emma Thompson matched with P.L. Travers, it ran the 50-year-old audiotape of Disney and Travers bickering—just as we heard Hanks and Thompson—over the making of Mary Poppins.


The few who stayed got a good laugh when the tape, spinning on screen, ran out before the argument was resolved.


And there are now many end credits that link a film to issues and causes of the day, as Dallas Buyers Club did with AIDS awareness and prevention.


As I write, there’s something uncanny about showing a film titled Nebraska during the heat of debate over the Keystone XL Pipeline.  I say “showing” rather than  “watching” because I’m a projectionist who sees a film numerous times, always through the credits.


Most everyone is gone by the time “shot on location” comes on screen, and so there’s no chance that the list of Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota and Nebraska might impress itself as the proposed pipeline’s route.  Much less as the last laugh in a hilarious modern-day parable about chasing the illusion of wealth, a pointedly black-and-white comic antidote to the all-so-serious No Country for Old Men.


Not a great loss considering that most moviegoers are out to get away from news of the day, many may not have seen—or read—No Country, and there’s certainly not much more in common in the two films than the title of one and main character of the other.


What is regrettable is that audiences miss the film’s music.


I’ve long thought that there should be one more Oscar tacked on to those for Best Soundtrack and Best Song.  End credits give us the theme heard throughout a film, developed just as themes are in symphonies and concerti, in rock-and-roll instrumentals heard more in concert than on disc, in jazz clubs, and in all kinds of folk, bluegrass, and ethnic venues.


First noted this years ago when people paused at the door—delaying others trying to leave—to watch me pumping my knees and elbows in the projector’s booth to the music of Shipping News.  Years later it was A Prairie Home Companion rolling credits to a sizzling jazz romp with the Guy Noir Theme, the Guys All-Star Shoe Band showing what 30-plus years of jamming on a live radio show can produce.


Music for the closing credits of Nebraska is in that class.  Nothing to dance to nor anything to sizzle, this is a plaintive, reflective mix of acoustic guitar, accordion, and trumpet, as slow and sumptuous as your favorite family meal, as satisfying as memories that reach through generations, with hints of both Mexican and East European flavors as accordion and trumpet probe temperatures and tastes, and the strumming guitar sustains an appetite for more.


With the new digital technology I am no longer confined to the booth and can stand—or dance—in the back of the theater to hear all this.  It’s tempting to urge people to stop and stay to hear it, but the music that ends Nebraska—right through its four-state route to the singular illusion of wealth—is too gorgeous, too pure for me to pipe up in any way or for any reason.  If they won’t hear it themselves, what is my voice worth?


An Oscar for Best Music with Credits might help.  One for Best Credits, now an obvious need, would cover it.