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“We have the tools, we have the talent!” Josh Enjoys Ghostbusters Back on the Big Screen!

October 17th, 2011
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Did you know that Ghostbusters is back in theatres???  It’s true!  At select cinemas across the country, Ghostbusters screened last Thursday night, and there are showings scheduled for this Thursday and the following Thursday as well!  I was delighted to have been able to be at one of the screenings this past Thursday, and it was a blast.

One of the best movie-going experiences of my life was getting to see Ghostbusters on the big screen, about a decade ago, at one of the big Boston movie-theatre chains.  This theatre used to screen old movies at midnight on Friday and Saturday nights (for all I know, they still do!), and although I didn’t have the stamina to go every week, I certainly did attend a number of those midnight screenings.  They were always a huge amount of fun, and I relished getting to see great films like The Goonies, Batman, Beetlejuice, Raiders of the Lost Ark, etc., on the big screen and with a packed house of fans.  But by far the best midnight screening I ever attended was the showing of Ghostbusters.

Although I distinctly remember seeing Ghostbusters 2 in theatres, I am pretty sure I never saw the original on the big screen.  My memory of seeing it for the first time was watching it on TV with my dad (and running out of the room during the scary parts!).  So when I went to that midnight screening, I was excited to get to see this film that I loved so much on the big screen for the first time, and that was indeed super-cool.  But I was unprepared for the crazy energy of that sold-out theatre, stuffed to the gills with Ghostbusters fans.  People went crazy right from the opening shot, singing along to the music, laughing and joking around and having a grand old time.  About half of the people in the theatre were doing all of the lines right along with the characters.  Even better, the other half of the people weren’t just saying the dialogue, they were making jokes and shouting things at the screen that were funny because of the line of dialogue that we all knew was coming a second later.  It was like seeing the Rocky Horror Picture Show! An amazing movie was made even more spectacular by the insane energy and love for the film felt by everyone in the theatre.

I knew nothing could ever top that particular screening, and sure enough, when I saw Ghostbusters this past Thursday night, the crowd was far more sedate!  But that is not to diminish the great pleasure of getting to see Ghostbusters — one of my favorite films! — back on the big screen.  (And the print of the film I saw last week looked a whole heck of a lot better than the beat-up version I remember seeing a decade ago!)  (My supposition is that the print that is being shown in theatres this month was drawn from whatever scan of the negative that was done for the film’s blu-ray release from a few years ago.)

I am a huge fan of revival screenings.  I had an incredible time seeing Back to the Future on the big screen (almost exactly a year ago!) when it was re-released to theatres for a one-night engagement to celebrate the film’s 25th anniversary (and promote the trilogy’s release on blu-ray!).  I don’t know why the big movie studios don’t do this all the time.  Surely all of the moola that Disney made when they re-released The Lion King to theatres last month is proof that there’s a lot of money to be made from fans who would LOVE the chance to see their favorite films back on the big screen.  DVDs and blu-rays are awesome, but nothing quite beats the theatre-going experience, in my opinion.

So, anyways, Ghostbusters. I absolutely adore this film.  It is so funny and so quotable from start-to-finish.  Is there a single scene in the film that doesn’t have a famous line of dialogue?  But what I really love about the film is the way that all of the craziness is held together by a story that actually has some dramatic tension, and some real peril for our heroes.  That’s a tough trick for a film to pull off.  Most comedies are so crazy and ridiculous that either any attempts to get serious seem bizarre and off-putting, or those moments are impossible to take seriously because the rest of the film is so light-hearted.  But Ghostbusters makes it look easy, and I think that’s an important key to the film’s longevity.  We can laugh hysterically at all the jokes, but the film’s strong narrative story keeps us engaged.  Take the scene, late in the film, when Ray and Winston are driving back to Manhattan in the wee hours of the morning.  They’re exhausted from all the over-time they’ve been putting in catching ghosts.  Winston reminds Ray of the book of Revelations, and suggests that maybe the reason they’ve been so busy lately is because the dead HAVE been rising from the grave.  It’s a really creepy, spooky scene, and there are no jokes at all.  But it’s compelling and really drives home the tension at exactly the right point in the film, when things are taking a turn for the worse for our heroes.

The film has aged remarkably well.  It’s a hoot to see Larry King looking so young, and it’s a little sad to see the shots of the Twin Towers.  But for a film made in 1984, Ghostbusters looks pretty dynamite.  I credit Ivan Reitman’s skilled direction and some really terrific production design.  The visual effects hold up remarkably well.  Other than some dodgy shots of the two dog-creatures (particularly when one of them is chasing Louis out of his apartment and into the park), I think most of the effects still look great today.  It helps that the design of the film is so weird and so unique.  The imagery of Gozer’s temple — first seen when poor unsuspecting Dana opens her fridge, and then made manifest at the end of the film — is pretty far out and remains delightfully so to this day.  As another example, I’ve also always loved the shots of New York after the containment is blown in the Ghostbusters’ HQ.  We see the escaping ghosts as streaks of multi-colored lights, streaking through the skyscraper canyons of the city.  I’ve always found those shots to be hauntingly beautiful, and seeing them on the big screen only enhances my opinion.

Speaking of which, I love how Ghostbusters is such a love-letter to New York and New Yorkers.  The film is a quintessentially New York film.  Ivan Reitman and his team lovingly shot the architecture and statuary of the city, so that every frame of the film is filled with incredible imagery from around the city.  But it’s more than that.  All of the characters in the film are so New York!  From Annie Potts’ classic delivery of “Ghostbusters, whaddaya want??” to David Margulies’ often over-looked but absolutely spot-on performance as the Mayor (does he not perfectly embody what you think the Mayor of New York should be like??), the film lives and breathes New York.  The characters and the film embody the New York attitude and spirit, and the film doesn’t shy away from both the negatives and the positives of that (always to comic effect).  And, of course, the film climaxes with Winston’s grand proclamation: “I love this town!”

Oh man, and how great is the film’s score?  The combination of Elmer Bernstein’s orchestral music and the well-chosen pop songs results in a propulsive, eminently sing-alongable sound-track!  This is a particularly fun aspect of seeing the film back in theatres.  Ray Parker Jr.’s Ghostbusters theme is the most famous of the film’s pop songs, but I have always been partial to the use of “Savin’ the Day” (by the Alessi Brothers) at a key point late in the film.  (It’s a real hand-pumping “YEAH!” moment for the audience.)

What can I say?  The film is magic, at least for me, and it always has been.  Director Ivan Reitman and an extraordinary cast captured lightning in a bottle, and all the other elements that I’ve been discussing (the visual effects, the score, etc.) came together to create something really special.  Seeing the film on the big screen, one is able to revel in all the little details.  It’s cool to be able to see Dana and Louis’ skeletons flash when they’re zapped by Gozer and transformed into dog-creatures at the end of the film.  (That’s a visual effect detail hard to make out when watching the film on TV.)  It’s awesome to be able to soak up Rick Moranis’ performance as the possessed Louis when he’s taken in by Egon.  (In the scene in which Peck comes to shut down the Ghostbusters’ containment system, watch Mr. Moranis’ performance.  There’s so much craziness going on in that scene that it’s hard to focus on him when watching the film on a small TV.  But on the big screen you can really see the nuances of his performance, and it is a riot.  While Peck and Egon and Venkman and the cop are all yelling at one another, Moranis is quietly mimicing everyone else’s performances.  It’s genius.)

I’m thrilled to have been able to see Ghostbusters on the big screen.  It was an amazing time in a movie theatre.  I would love to see some more classic films back in theatres!  Are you listening, studios??  I am ready to give you my money!!

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