Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Who you gonna call?
I just picked up Ghostbusters on Bluray. It has long been one of my favorite movies, but I haven't watched it all the way through in several years. You never know what to expect re-watching one of your childhood favorites as an adult. Penn Jillette once shared a quote by Eddie Gorodetsky (a very funny guy who is one of the writers on Two and a Half Men) about the entertainment of your youth. His quote goes something like this...you are unable to be objective about any music or movies that you watched or listened to five years before or five years after your first blow job (or thinking about your first blow job). Basically, all the memories from that period in your life are tainted by nostalgia. I have to say that I think there is a lot of truth to this (there is no other reason for me to listen to Slaughter still), and I just assumed that this was why I loved Ghostbusters so much. But when I put it in yesterday, I realized that it meant so much more to me today than it ever did as a kid. Let me explain. (what follows is a movie review by a guy who works at a grocery store and knows nothing about movies...or anything else for that matter...so relax already!!)
Less than five minutes into the film, Dr. Peter Venkman (played by Bill Murray) is doing research on psychic powers and ESP (extrasensory perception) with a pair of students. One is a very attractive female and the other is a nerdy looking guy. His test consists of holding up a card with a design facing away from the two subjects. They are asked to identify the pattern on the card using only their psychic abilities. Every answer that the pretty girl gives is "confirmed" by Venkman as true, while each answer given by the guy is pronounced wrong (leading to a small electrical shock). This is about as scientific as all research on ESP is. I am disgusted by people like John Edward who take advantage of grieving people by passing themselves off as "psychics" (yet I watch him every time he is on TV..don't ask, I'm weird). It's not quite the same thing, but I like how the movie dismisses "psychic powers" as junk.
After losing their university funding, Venkman and his two partners decide to continue their research by creating the Ghostbusters, a paranormal extermination business. After finding a building and a vehicle, they receive their first distress call/customer. The manager at a high end hotel asks them to investigate a "haunting". They locate and capture the ghost (with more difficulty and destruction than they would like) and inform the manager of the bill. He balks at first, but then they inform him that he doesn't have to pay, they'll just release the ghost back where they found it (of course the manager becomes much more agreeable at this point). This is a very pro-capitalism, pro-free enterprise message. They lose their government funding, but create a business that is able to satisfy a consumer demand. And when their is a disagreement over the fee, they are able to work it out without intervention from Big Brother. Beautiful.
Uncle Sam takes a few more lumps in the film. As the number of customers increases, the team decides they need to hire another employee. They hire Winston (a black man played by Ernie Hudson). The Ghostbusters are equal opportunity!!! Minority hiring without government force...impossible you say? Not in this movie!!!
The biggest asshole of the movie is EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) agent Walter Peck. His constant intrusion into the Ghostbusters' operation leads to the release of hundreds of captured ghosts into New York City. Then, not content with creating total chaos, Peck has them arrested and fights to keep them in jail rather than let them clean up the mess (a mess that he created). It always seems that the wacky environmentalists assume the worst of all businesses. In this instance, it doesn't just meddle in and hamper business, but creates a real disaster that needs fixing. Of course, the EPA doesn't have any solutions to this disaster...shocking.
There is a period in the movie when "Doomsday" and "End Times" get mentioned a lot. During the debate over how best to solve the crisis, a member of the church is brought into the Mayor's office. You'll notice that the church official, who thinks that all of this is a "sign from God", doesn't want to comment publicly on the "implications" of what is happening, nor does he offer any solutions (and the mayor at one point says, "well, I'm not going to ask people to pray this thing away"). I couldn't help but take note of how in the darkest part of the film, government and religious officials stood by helpless while the scientists saved the day. It's not anti-religion, because it does show religion as something that people lean on to get them through a painful and scary ordeal. But it does portray the scientists as the real heroes. Also, when Dan Akroyd's character is asked, "do you believe in God?" he replies with, "I've never met him." That's a GOOD answer to that question (but I'm an atheist, you may disagree).
Throw in some cool 80's music (admittedly "cool" because I grew up in the 80's) and some cheesy special effects and Ghostbusters is a great movie. Lets recap...pro-science...pro-capitalism...anti-government...anti-environmentalist...and it relegates religion to something comforting, but also impotent to solve any problems. To wrap up, I think that Gorodetsky is right when he says that the movies you enjoyed in your youth will always have a special place in your heart because of nostalgia. But for me, Ghostbusters is better today than it ever was in the 80's. Or I'm completely full of shit and hopped up on caffeine, bored out of my mind on a Wednesday night and I'm getting all romantic about an older flick...I'll never tell.