General

Why Ghostbusters?

Ghostbusters.

It’s a name that evokes all kinds of emotion and claims of its godlike status among film, and I can’t help but wonder why that movie so damn particularly?

As soon as the remake was announced (besides the misogyny) fans got their underwear in a twist because the original was “the funniest movie ever made” and therefore remaking it with a different focus would be nothing short of blasphemy.  In the interests of full disclosure, let me say I really disliked the original Ghostbusters.  I thought the main character was a creep and couldn’t get behind him as the protagonist.  In film noir (my favorite genre), you expect the protagonist to be a creep; it comes with the territory.  In a movie like Ghostbusters, you need to get behind the protagonist at some level, and when the movie opens with him sabotaging his own research so he can try to get into a student’s pants, well… most of my goodwill went out the window there.  But that’s neither here nor there.

I genuinely want to know what makes it the funniest movie. Why not Horse Feathers or something else with the Marx Brothers?  Why not an Abbott and Costello movie, like The Naughty Nineties, where we get the famous “Who’s on First” routine?  Why not a screwball comedy like Bringing Up Baby or It Happened One Night?  Why not The Producers, Young Frankenstein, or even God help me, Blazing Saddles?  Is it the supernatural element?  Is it the action?   Is it a generational thing (if that’s the case, let me ask why not BeetleJuice? It’s even supernatural!)

Or is it because people like to hate on environmentalists (and by extension the EPA)?  For that matter, William Atherton, who played Peck of the EPA still has trouble going out without someone yelling “dickless” and challenging him to a fight.  Obviously, other actors have trouble with people not recognizing that they are in fact, actors, but still… I have to ask, why Ghostbusters so damn particularly?  Everyone’s got a movie they’re irrational about (mine is Bram Stoker’s Dracula— we’re talking Clue levels of hate here.  And for that matter, why not Clue?)… but I’m incredibly detailed regarding why I love or hate movies that I have illogically strong feelings for.

So, I might be opening a can of worms here, but I’ll be honest with myself… I don’t have that big of a following.  I’d love to know exactly what makes Ghostbusters the funniest movie of all time, and why it elicits such a visceral response from people.  The usual litany of house-rules… no spam, I don’t mind cursing but try not to talk like Scorsese protagonist, put thought into your comments, and don’t harass people.  Thanks!

smiley

PS Happy Halloween!

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General

My Own Dear Monster, Poor Unhappy Erik

One of the iconic shots of the make-up wizard.

One of the iconic shots of the make-up wizard.

Over the past year, I haven’t kept up with the blog.  This time last year I could blame my thesis.  Since I graduated, I just haven’t been able to create much of anything.  I’ve always been prone to periods of depression, and I’m this summer has probably been the worst batch of it since I was 13.  It’s zapped my energy and spirit, and I haven’t been able to do much of anything but go to work, be nice to the customers, and try to keep my spirits up with fluffy things when I get home.  But things are looking up, and it’s almost Halloween… my favorite non-liturgical holiday.

My depression, and the season, have made me think about one of my favorite monsters… the Phantom of the Opera.  I can’t say for sure, of course, because not even my memory goes back this far, but I think he might have been the first monster I ever “met.”  My dad likes to tell the story about how he took me for a walk in a city that once had storefronts, and we saw a 2-foot figure of the Lon Chaney Phantom in a window.  It made a big impression on me (I was one or two at the time), and Dad told me that the Phantom was very sad.  But not anymore.

It wasn’t quite the beginning of a beautiful friendship, but it was close to it.  For years after that, the Phantom was the monster I was the most afraid of.  I had a stuffed Frankenstein Monster since kindergarten, felt sorry for the Wolfman, had one of my first crushes on Bela Lugosi when I was in 4th grade, and thought the Mummy was really tragic and scary.  But it was always the Phantom who made me feel something like fear.

Then I discovered the musical, which I still love to turn up when I have to work for a long stretch of time.  I read the book, and started seeing what I could of the movies.  Then I started to see some parallels.  I hated the way I looked and sometimes wanted to hide my face and body.  I did receive plenty of flak for my appearance, which only underscored those feelings.  And the only outlets I had were through art– in my case drawing and writing.  I could sing fairly well then, but it was never my big focus.

But the connection was formed.  I’m not entirely sure what the tipping point was.  Hell, it might have been the time I made a gory Phantom costume to myself, got to the Halloween block party, found it to be full of kindergartners, and subsequently I spent the rest of the time there hiding in the shadows, covering my face.   How Phantom can you get?

But beyond the Halloween episode… part of it comes down to a line from the book.  “All I ever needed to be good was to be loved.”  Poor, unhappy Erik!  And that might be at the heart of it.  Besides the Phantom’s appearance, I think he aroused discomfort in me more so than the other monsters because I was afraid of becoming what he was… or being what he was.   For years I hated the way I looked, and while I didn’t think I was a monster, it was hard to believe that anyone could be genuinely attracted to me.  Sometimes it wasn’t hard to believe that some weird underground lair where I could write and paint was the only place for me.

It’s not like that now, but I keenly remember it.  Most of us have probably been there at some point, and it might explain the Phantom’s enduring popularity (an easily identifiable figure despite his many flaws).  He’s passionate.  He’s intelligent.  He’s misunderstood.  He’s creative.  He’s ruthless. He’s sick.  There’s no place for him on the outside.

But he has something beyond that, that keeps him going and going for more than a century.  We’ll see if I have that, too.

So I send Erik my love, and I hope he finds some good wherever fictional characters spend their time.

 

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General

Kathy the Semi-Visible

In lieu of a picture of me.

In lieu of a picture of me.

September 23rd is Bi Visibility Day.  Since I identify as bisexual, I thought I’d write a little about what that means to me.

I don’t have both feet out of the closet.  Maybe someday I can finally come all the way out, but right now one foot at least is always stuck in the door. Closets are dark, creepy places meant for clothes.  Humans aren’t supposed to be in there longer than the average game of hide and seek.

And being as out as I am… well, it could obviously be a lot worse.  I don’t fear for my safety, which is a blessing, but it isn’t a bed of roses, either.  Coming out now might pose problems for some relationships that would be inconvenient to drastically change.  And I still deal with microaggressions from the people who already know.  Example… once I casually mentioned in my other life that I am bi.  I immediately got a Facebook message congratulating me on being “not normal” in a way that still “fosters respect.”  Yes, somebody actually told me that.   I’m one of those, but not one of those.  Binormative, maybe?  But biphobia is a topic for another day.

Being engaged to a man also makes my identity a little more ghostly, though he himself is not part of the problem.  He even encourages me to a certain extent.  The problem is other people.  When we first got engaged, the question that irked me most (after people inquiring if I was still a virgin) was, “So you’re straight now?”  No.  I’ll always be attracted to women… like how straight couples don’t stop being attracted to other people, even after they’ve committed to each other.

And yet, it’s not all bad.  I feel a lot more at peace with myself just acknowledging it as much as I have.  It’s not a creeping doubt at the edge of my mind and heart every time I see an attractive female, and tell myself, “It’s just aesthetics.”  Being honest with oneself is a good thing, even if it isn’t inherently painless.  Yet here it was relatively painless.  I know, and even though I’d like it if I could be more out and visible, I still know.  And I like being knowledgeable.  I can live with that.

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My Danish Love, or an Ode to Vodka

So wild and frosty is she thought to be.

And she brings fire to my lips, it is true.

Yet so gently she waits, not far from me,

ready for the days when my soul turns blue.

It may be shameful to covet her kiss,

so sharp and full of the fire of white nights.

Yet I am drawn to that cold, smoky mist,

to ease my pain, and to renew my might.

I take care not to love, need her too much,

but I have no wish to hide in the dark.

The world’s pain she dulls with her burning touch,

and there is no harm, in a one-off lark.

I feel guilty to use her so simply,

still, the Danes have taught me to drink deeply.

 

*****

Like this sonnet? Check out the rest of the book.

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Cinderalla, a Story About a Pumpkin

Pumpkin CoachThe summer I turned three, I was miserable.  My mom was on bed-rest with my brother-to-be, and my dad was in graduate school in Moscow. So I was obsessed with Disney’s Cinderella, a story about an orphan (which I felt like).  I watched the damn movie every day and did things like scrub the kitchen floor and carport floor while singing “Sing Sweet Nightingale.”  That’s a lot of days off my life I’m not getting back.

And I haven’t really watched the movie since then.  I had no intention of seeing the live-action remake.  The only reason I saw it was because my boss was playing it in the video store where I work.  I didn’t like it, but it made me curious enough that a few days later when I was minding the store on my own, I put on the cartoon.

I remembered why I liked it as a kid, and why I don’t like it so much now.  But also why it’s better than the remake (sorry, Dad).  Let’s look at the checks against the original.  Cinderella isn’t very bright.  The mice are in nearly every scene.  It’s sexist.  The Prince doesn’t have much personality.

Now let’s deconstruct.  Cinderella isn’t very bright, but she still behaves like a person.  She gets angry when she’s mistreated, and she fights to get out of her tower when she’s locked in. Basically, she’s been a victim of abuse for years (she looks like she was about 10 when her father died), so that probably has messed with her head some, but she also still has an inkling that she doesn’t really deserve for the stepmother and stepsisters to treat her like garbage.  And she does stand up for herself from time to time.

The mice might be too much.  I don’t know.  I just liked them better than the stuff with the Prince and his father in the remake.  And now for a defense that isn’t my opinion… in the original movie, it’s mentioned hurriedly that Cinderella and the Prince are in love.  But what’s more emphasized is that the King has basically told his son that he was to get married and start producing heirs pronto.  The old King is as much if not more of a driving force behind the search for the maiden with the slipper because of his desire for a dynasty.  It offsets the “they can’t be in love after two hours” argument somewhat.  As well as the Prince not having much personality.  With his father having him under the gun to get married, what Cinderella sees in him isn’t as important.

Finally, the sexism.  I’m not going to defend it per se.  All I’ll do is give the movie a certain amount of credit for being upfront about it (sewing is women’s work, the king sees his future daughter-in-law as a walking uterus, beauty or the lack thereof is a personality trait).  The remake is still sexist, but a ton of its publicity was taken up with assuring the public that it wasn’t, and that this Cinderella was no victim, and all that.  Then they bungled it (and my disappointment comes at a price).  At least with a fairy tale made in the 1950s I know what I’m getting into.

In the end, though, it’s still a familiar story about a girl and a pumpkin.  Or a girl and the holy family.  Or a skeleton.  Or a dog.  Or whatever version you please.  I didn’t like the Disney remake of its classic, but I don’t care enough to rail against it.  Or even the first one.  I have a long history with Cinderella, and even though it’s a little embarrassing now, it was all pretty harmless.  And I’d be interested to see somebody else give the story a try.

Bippity boppity boo.

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Suspense and Good Ideas

On a recent road trip, I was listening to some Suspense! episodes and was struck by their politics.  One was on the side of three guys who hijacked an airplane (because they were trying to get out of the Soviet Union).  Another one was interestingly anti-vigilante, and more importantly, anti-stand your ground.  This was an episode called Holdup, from 1956.

It opens when a grocery store owner drills a holdup man with five shots through the head.  His wife is scared of him (that’s played subtly).  The police are obviously hostile to him, but can’t do anything to him because all of his homicides (3 in 18 months) were legally justifiable.  The newspapers like this guy, a decorated vet of the Pacific theater from WWII, with his tough talk and apparent gun fetish.  Seriously, the guy talks about his guns like they’re his friends, pets, or lovers.  It’s unnerving to listen to.  The actor, Joseph Kearns, doesn’t lay this on too thick, but it’s not a point of the episode you can get away from.

Things start to go awry, though, when the police warn him that the last kid he killed had a violent, older brother who just got out of prison.  A hostile closing customer puts Tim, the main character, on edge, and he closes up the store early while his wife calls the train station to see if their son’s train has come in yet.  Someone drives up to the shop, and bangs on the window, calling for them to open up.  Tim panics and drills the newcomer with his gun.

It was his son.  End of the episode.

It might be something easy to laugh-off (how would he not know his own son, I own a gun and I’m not an animal and so on).  But it rings true.  How many people accidentally shoot somebody every year?  Every day?  How many people have been killed by toddlers this month?  And when people get scared, they aren’t rational.  My brother once gave Mom a black eye with his teddy bear when she startled him in the dark (he was five).  He felt terrible about it afterward, but what if it had been a weapon?  Or what if he’d been older and stronger?

The Suspense episode goes on to argue that the police are the only ones to be trusted to handle thieves and so on, which has its own set of problems, but given the attitudes of the 1950s with McCarthyism, the thought that you always had to defend yourself against the so-called Red and Lavender menaces (as well as the rise of the revenge-themed western), it’s interesting to find something so against the idea of shooting-first and asking questions later.

It’s an episode that should be revisited (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_VFwRJeD18), and it’s an idea that really needs to be brought out and held up with respect.

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Lists

Top 10 Movie Romantic Moments #1 Brian Slade and Curt Wylde

Also one of my favorite cinematic kisses.

Also one of my favorite cinematic kisses.

Yes, the rock’n’roll Citizen Kane… a dark horse for a romantic award if I ever saw one!

But that’s not why I chose it.  I really, really love Bryan and Curt’s big moment doing the interview.  It’s a moment of visual poetry about the phoniness of stardom (Bryan reading his answers off cue-cards) and the intrusiveness of the paparazzo (the way the flashbulbs burst in on their genuine moment).  And it’s romantic as all hell– for Oscar Wilde’s beautiful words as much as anything else in the scene.

Brian is being interviewed at the height of his Maxwell Demon-mania, and even though director Todd Haynes isn’t very good at putting believable estranged couples in his movies, the wedge between Brian and Mandy is actually pretty seamless, but you know that the wedge is firmly driven in here.  And yet it doesn’t take away from the beauty of the scene.  Anyway, Curt Wylde interrupts the interview with champagne for him and Brian.  Brian gives the press one flippant line, and then turns all his attention to Curt.

Curt quotes Oscar Wilde and says, “The world has changed because you are ivory and gold.  The curves of your lips rewrite history.”

They kiss.  And then flashbulbs jolt them out of their moment.  You can see in their faces that they’re startled and annoyed by this intrusion.

What makes the scene so romantic, at least to me, is that all the showbiz phoniness, which is the two characters’ lives at the moment, is forgotten.  Utterly and completely.  And the Curt Wylde plot of the movie is one spot where Brian Slade comes out looking better than Charles Foster Kane.  Brian definitely loved Curt.  It’s foggy whether Kane really loved Susan, or if he was just tired of Emily.

But back to Velvet Goldmine… it’s a genuine moment with beautiful (if somewhat inappropriate, considering they were describing The Picture of Dorian Gray) words.  And it’s sad when the moment ends (not to mention the imagery is gorgeous in all its glitter), even with the kickass soundtrack following the moment’s end.  So, it stands at the top of my list of Romantic Movie Moments.  Check it out here (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ETC5CG4tpAI).

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