Saturday, 3 October 2009

I tried to think of the most harmless thing. Something I loved from my childhood. Something that could never ever possibly destroy us. Mr. Stay Puft!

No 189 - Ghostbusters
Director - Ivan Reitman

Ah nostalgia! It is a truly beautiful thing. The Ghostbusters were a big thing when I was a kid. I admit that I didn't have much experience of the actual film, but the cartoons were fabulous and the toys were pretty much the coolest (non Lego) toys I had. You could squeeze their arms and their head would change expression. Genius. Incidentally.... why is Egon blonde in the 'Real Ghostbusters' cartoon and toy franchise? What a strange thing to change....

The problem about nostalgia is it makes everything seem better than it was. However, Ghostbusters is not a victim of nostalgia at all - it is brilliant.
The film is really well made, mixing slapstick comedy with witty banter and moment that are genuinely creepy. It also introduces the character of Peter Venkman - I don't care how much I loved the cartoons, there is no way that cartoon Peter could ever challenge the mighty Bill Murray. Murray is one of the best sarcastic deadpan comedians and Venkman might be his greatest character. A charismatic coaster using science and psychology as an excuse to meet girls.
He is fantastic, and it is his banter with the rest of the crew that shines as one of the highlights of the film.
As we talk about the rest of the crew, I feel sorry for Ernie Hudson. Winston doesn't get as much to do as the other 3 Ghostbusters and he certainly doesn't seem as integral. It is why I'm happy for the sequels - gives him more time to shine.

This is a film that shines because of its cast. The titular Ghostbusters are fantastic and have a very relaxed relationship - the true heroes being the arrogant and sarcastic Venkman and the strung up nerd-Messiah that is Egon Spengler. I think Egon is hilarious. I don't know if it is the voice, or the rigid body language... but he makes me chuckle!
But the genius casting continues outside of the Ghostbusters, it is time for me to talk about a much maligned figure of cinema. A key player of the 80s and early 90s who has vanished. What has happened to Rick Moranis?! Man was a legend of dweebish weirdness. So smooth. So suave!
Even IMDB doesn't help... With the exception of voice acting he hasn't been in ANYTHING. Last time I saw him he was flouncing around in prehistory. But he was in so many pivotal things in my youth... (mainly ghostbusters, Flintstones and Honey I blew up the Kid but still). It would be good to see more Rick Moranis, the weird googly geek.
With Egon, and Mr Moranis and the wonderful Annie Potts as Janine, Ghostbusters is a celebration of Geek Chic, which is good because it gives something the kids can aspire to. Incidentally, Annie Potts also did the voice of Bo Peep in Toy Story! What a versatile voice actress.

So, I think it is good that this celebration of Nerd is there... because the rest of the film (especially Venkman) is a terrible influence. This film is not an all out kids film, but it is certainly a family film and there are some shocking references for a PG. Firstly, everyone smokes. Everyone. But that is just a change in culture from then and now. Secondly there is a lot of swearing. Not a ridiculous amount but certainly a fair amount of shits and dicks get bandied around the place. Finally, the sex.
The film's central plot revolves around Sigourney Weaver's character of Dana Barrett. Dana must be the most spiritually unlucky person in the world! In both Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II, the entire apocalypse seems to revolve around her. In this case, whilst Peter vies for Dana's attention she is possessed by Zuul, a minion of the ancient god Gozer (worshipped by the Hittites, Mesopotamians, and the Sumerians around 6000BC). Zuul's true form is essentially a dog beast and therefore Dana develops a very predatory and feral sexual appetite. Which is quite unsuitable, if you ask me.
But NOWHERE NEAR AS UNSUITABLE as Ray's ghostbusting dream. During a montage of successful ghost busting, Ray dreams he is visited by a pretty ghost who floats above him. Slowly her ghostly form moves down, Ray's trousers unzip and the ghost goes invisible. What we have here is a spectral blow job! Which is a bit of a turn out for the books in a PG. It doesn't even add anything to the plot... I'm really surprised it is in the film at all to be honest. But it does make me chuckle.

But amongst the smoking and the smut, lie the ghosts. The ghosts are definitely designed to please the kids. They're big, brash and bright primary colours which - even today - help to mask the fact that the SFX have dated. The opening scene, setting up the haunting in the library, is genuinely quite creepy and whilst some ghosts look human (like the librarian) others, such as the infamous Slimer (who later became the mascot of the cartoon series) are just weird dribbling blobs.
But the daddy of the villains, is Gozer's form as destructor. Gozer's initial form looks like an evil La Roux, but becomes the Stay Puft Marshmallow man - stomping through New York like the Pillsbury Dough Boy's evil bastard drunken father. There is something both terrifying and awesome about a giant Godzilla sized marshmallow terrorising and destroying the Earth. It is ridiculous, but at the same time a bit creepy and very brilliant. His face, at the point of being destroyed (replicated here in the game - as I can't find a screenshot) is really tragic, and disturbing... and... funny. Which is the best summary of Ghostbusters I can think of.

So I'm going to leap off into the Ecto 1 and whizz away.

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