Ghostbusters

For the last October movie of the week, I let myself bend the rules and watch a movie I’ve already seen. This was partly a birthday present to myself, and partly a chance to spend some long-distance quality time with my girlfriend. We kept a Skype session open and watched it simultaneously, 100-some-odd miles apart. It was worth the compromise.

Ghostbusters is somehow fundamental to my understanding of how cinematic entertainment works. Because I grew up in the 80s, because I grew up watching this over and over, having videotaped the censored version from network TV (I can’t remember what Ray calls Peck in that version but it’s not “dickless”), this feels natural and unmediated and inevitable, the way a movie would be made if it were possible to make a movie without really thinking about how to do it. It’s not just that many of the moments are imprinted on my mind, it’s not just that they’re good scenes (funny, well-constructed, fresh despite their age), it’s that they somehow could not be any other way than they are. It’s as though this movie has always existed and just needed to be uncovered, like a perfect fossil covered with a thin layer of dust.

So I can’t really be critical about it. I was as entertained last night as I’ve ever been by it, which is to say thoroughly. It still amazes me that someone came up with the premise, particularly at just the right time for me (preadolescent encyclops loved to haunt the paranormal section of the Dewey Decimal system), and it makes me happy that that someone was Dan Aykroyd. I’m still impressed by how snugly the script fits, how charming it remains, how little it’s dated if you’re not looking at it. I still love how Sigourney Weaver elevates her part from damsel in distress to what seems like a credible woman (albeit one understandably out of her depth), how adorably nerdy Rick Moranis is, how appealing Ray and Egon and Janine are as characters (Venkman…well, he has his moments), how wacked-out-new-wave-video Gozer is. I love how there’s just enough religion in it to create a sense of foreboding, but how the instrument of apocalypse is a Sumerian god and how she’s dispatched by (weird) science. I love the practical effects, and the not-so-practical effects, the only unforgivable ones being a few stop-motion superimposed dog sequences that don’t quite work. I love that there’s really no message, no theme, no art here of any kind: just pure, honorable, good-hearted entertainment of the sort that only the 80s have really been able to deliver since they decided black-and-white movies were finally passé.

Or maybe I just think that because the 80s were when I formed my ideas of what movies were. The result, for me, is the same either way. Sitting on the couch, next to my girlfriend (or at least my girlfriend’s face and voice on my iPad), sharing a childhood classic that’s funny with just the merest hint of spooky: I can think of no better way to celebrate Halloween.

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