Movies! I like them! I spend a lot of time thinking about them! Sometimes I talk to friends about them without recording it for a podcast and it seems like a WASTE. So I’m going to make an effort to post more reviews like this one of Captain America Civil War. The reviews will be broken down into SEVEN categories: My Twitter Review, Why I Saw This Movie, Big Theme, Favorite Things, Questionable Things, Favorite Lines, and What This Film Inspires Me To Do. SPOILER LEVEL: There are only mild spoilers! Let’s do this!
MY TWITTER REVIEW:
Here’s my spoiler free review of #Ghostbusters:
— Joseph Scrimshaw (@JosephScrimshaw) July 16, 2016
WHY I SAW THIS MOVIE:
Like a lot of people, I’m a fan of the original Ghostbusters. I remember next to nothing about the sequel, and I really like the episode of the cartoon where they just straight-up fight CTHULHU. Or as they call the unspeakable monster, Cathulhu.
I’m also a big fan of horror comedy in general. Both horror and comedy function on tension and sudden surprise–but with the different goals of screaming or laughing. It’s fun to see them mashed-up in an attempt to create the perfect audience noise of a laugh-scream. I’m also delighted by the contrast of truly terrifying malevolent creatures going up against nature’s idiots: comedians.
The original Ghostbusters took the old “monsters plus idiots” formula of Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein and pushed it in a new direction by making the comedy idiots pro-actively chase the monsters.
The new Ghostbusters movie felt like another step in the evolution of the genre: horrible monsters versus comedian idiots who are (gasp) LADIES!
Sadly, the monsters they faced were not just in the movie, but lurking on YouTube and Twitter and the subbiest of sub-reddits across the internet.
I was (and am) thrilled with the casting of the new movie. I think equality is important for the sake of equality, but I also think new voices and perspectives make our art and entertainment fresher and more interesting. I think breaking down gender barriers is good for everyone. I personally don’t want to be defined solely by a stereotypical masculine archetype any more than I think women should be confined to specific, outdated feminine stereotypes. I don’t think anyone anywhere on the gender spectrum should be limited in what roles they can play in the story of our culture. More on that below.
I genuinely enjoyed the movie as a movie. (Even though I thought there were a lot of plot issues and missed opportunities, I laughed the entire time and walked out of the theater very happy.) But I also think Ghostbusters is an important step forward culturally, artistically, and I hope, financially. If this review can sway even one person to go see the movie, it will be worth my time. Ghostbusters had a great opening weekend, but since it got locked out of China, its ultimate undebatable financial success still depends on its second and third weekends in theaters. There’s a lot of distraction between Star Trek and San Diego Comic-Con and whatever the hell is happening at the Republican National Convention, but if you want to see a variety of people and voices in the theater I hope you go bust some sexists’ predictions and see the movie in theaters.
I thought the movie had two strangely complimentary themes: Friendship and F**k the haters.
I enjoyed that the movie built its foundation on the bonds of friendship between the Ghostbusters. Initially, between Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates but building between all of the central characters–Jillian Holtzmann, Patty Tolan, and even big, dumb, beautiful, and beloved (by me) Kevin. The emphasis on friendship and shared experience made you care about the characters instead of just making them puzzle pieces to act out a plot or what passes for a plot in a lot of modern comedies i.e. getting diarrhea. Mostly importantly to me, it allowed a lot more of the comedy to come from character moments.
A lot of that friendship was forged by facing down haters. The haters took many forms: Bosses, the government, ghosts, pale guys, YouTube commenters, etc. Outside of a few specific and pointed lines (“ain’t no bitches gonna bust no ghosts” was a great line), it felt very universal. I think the best storytelling is reaching the universal through the very specific. Most of us are not brilliant, well educated, hilarious women who fight ghosts professionally, but life is challenging for all of us. We all have days where we feel like the forward movement in our lives is blocked by a different asshole with each step. For every step, a new asshole. (It’s not a saying, but it should be.) For me, the movie was an incredibly cathartic experience of seeing four very specific characters overcoming that very universal feeling.
I feel like a lot of modern comedies just point the camera at a funny person and let them make faces, weird noises, and generally improvise. It’s very broad comedy because it’s not grounded in the character or the moment. It’s just throwing potential trailer moments at a demographic and hoping they stick. I think a huge part of Deadpool‘s surprise success was that it was full of specific, structured, well delivered JOKES. From the initial trailers, I was terrified that Ghostbusters would just point the camera at Melissa McCarthy and make her do “bits.” Instead, there were a ton of specific thoughtful combinations of words and ideas that formed actual humor jokes based on the characters and the situations. I’m sad that that feels novel, but thrilled about how much I laughed because this comedy movie had actual jokes.
Kate McKinnon and her character Holtzmann deserve every syllable of praise typed or spoken and a million more. Leslie Jones and Melissa McCarthy were both great, but for my personal comedy taste, I thought Kristen Wiig was amazing. I’m a big fan of what I’ll call “leading person comedy.” The kind of character who is not intrinsically the zany one, but a character who does the heavy lifting on holding up the plot and the heart of the thing but still manages to be super funny. Wiig’s performance might not be as memorable when you first walk out of the theater, but she walked a fine line of being vulnerable, relatable, tough, and consistently hilarious.
Nowhere near as important as four women in lead comedy roles in a reboot of a beloved previously all-male man all the time men film BUT it was great to see Chris Hemsworth who is normally a great, big stud play a great, big idiot. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s great to see stereotypes of all kinds played with and I want to live in a world where our biggest action heroes can also be beloved comedy idiots.
Everything at the metal concert:
I have always loved the inherent weirdness of heavy metal and this scene mocked and celebrated the weirdness of worshipping demons and being super precious about your chord progression at the same time. Also, for me, one of the most successful mash-ups of horror and comedy in the movie.
It wasn’t just a movie, it was an EVENT.
I was lucky to see the movie on Friday the 15th, opening night, 8 pm in the Dome at the Arclight Theater in Hollywood with several hundred people. Granted, this is an ideal time and place to see a movie if you want to get a super excited, communal experience. There were many lines I didn’t hear because there was too much laughter, there were cheers for the main characters and all the cameos of the classic actors, screams of delight in moments of the heroes’ victory, there were other noises that might have been moans of sexual awakening, there were honest quiet moments where a few jokes didn’t land. I think I moaned in comedy joy at Kevin’s glasses. But it was more than just an audience enjoying a movie. It felt like an explosion of joy at experiencing something truly DIFFERENT. I’m thrilled that I got to have that experience and I think it makes seeing the movie in theaters rather than waiting for Blu Ray or streaming worth it.
Bill Murray’s role:
I was bummed by Bill Murray’s role in the movie. Not really the role, but the execution. I like the idea of Bill Murray playing the pompous, establishment character who exists to shake his head disapprovingly and doubt the “inferiors” around him. It’s the kind of character Bill Murray usually attacked with comedy in his younger days. So it’s a neat idea that Bill Murray basically plays his own anti-archetype. But unlike most of the movie, he didn’t have many jokes to work with. The character wasn’t fun to hate. He just bummed me out. Which might have worked if he was used as a foil to get some great comedy out of our new heroes, but the whole scene felt flat. I think it would’ve been an amazing feat to use Bill Murray as the ultimate asshole and even make the audience FURIOUS but he was just a truly unlikeable character and then he was gone. All the other cameos felt like celebrations and this was literally and figuratively throwing Bill Murray out the window.
Villain’s Scheme and Ghost Rules
I’m glad that the plot was new and not the very Lovecraftian summoning of a great old one from the 1984 Ghostbusters. I liked the idea that the villain was a “pale, sad one” who wanted to get power for himself but I thought that idea was underdeveloped. The movie had great moments celebrating how much our heroes value knowledge. I would’ve loved a scene where the heroes laid out the rules of the ghostly realm and its interaction with the mortal plane a little bit more clearly. I think that would have upped our investment in the story even more. The fact that his plan stopped and started a bit too much in the second act also undermined the huge amount of forward energy the audience seemed to feel every time our heroes had a victory.
Without going into too many details, I felt like there were some weird choices in the editing. It felt like bits of logic were maybe left on the cutting room floor. And one big scene that seemed to have moved from the movie itself into the credits for time. It’s rare that I look forward to the extended version of a movie on Blu Ray, but I think and hope there’s a longer cut of the movie which flows better in the second half and doesn’t skip any beats in the relationship of the awesome characters.
So those are some fairly major critiques, but they didn’t really impact my enjoyment of the movie. To me, it’s so successful as a comedy and as a vehicle for new voices that those thrills far outweigh some of the typical big budget summer movie and reboot problems.
“Face bidet”- Garret
Why: This was the first joke-joke in the movie and I was thrilled to hear an actual joke (and a funny one) right off the bat. Also, my wife and I have both worked in historic mansions and museums over the years and this joke nailed that vibe. Talk to me about Humphrey Man-Lifts someday.
“One? Two? Is it one?” – Holtzmann
Why: I love the subversion of escalation. It’s also the kind of almost Marx Brothers-esque word play you don’t hear in comedies as often.
“Okay, room full of nightmares” -Patty
Why: This line is the perfect mash-up of horror and comedy. It comes from that character’s voice but represents a relatable human reaction to confronting something horrific.
“Burn in hell.” -Erin
Why: I loved Kristen Wiig’s delivery. It felt like these weren’t the words she meant to say in reaction to being quoted a monthly rent, but she couldn’t stop herself from letting the sub-text become text.
“Mike Hat.” -Kevin
Why: I loved Kevin’s whole interview scene. All of his absurd jokes were delivered dead pan and made even funnier by the Ghostbusters reaction. It was particularly fun to see Melissa McCarthy stare at big, dumb Kevin like he’s an idiot.
Holtzmann licking the weapon she designed – Holtzmann
Why: It’s not a line, but it sums up a lot of her weirdness, her energy, her forward momentum. It’s strange and specific and makes sense for her character. It also feels iconic. Twenty or thirty years from now when there’s a reboot of this Ghostbusters movie, it’s going to be the thing the new heroes do to nod to the classic 2016 Ghostbusters.
WHAT THE MOVIE INSPIRED ME TO DO:
Write more comedy and horror mash-ups myself, keep supporting different voices in art and entertainment to the best of my ability, and look into purchasing a face bidet.
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