Posts Tagged ‘Ernie Hudson’

If you’d like the shortest review for Ghostbusters that I can provide, it’d be this: It’s a fun, hilarious, if flawed action comedy starring some of the funniest women in movies and television.0004565435-ew-1420ghostbustters_612x380

It’s not hyperbolic to say that Ghostbusters is significant in the current landscape of Hollywood. It is both an example of the cinematic malady of reboots, remakes, and “reimaginings” of previously existing franchises as well as the agonizingly incremental shift towards female-led movies as viable properties regardless of genre. Unsurprisingly, then, that a lot of people would find “issues” with it, the reasons of which range anywhere from “Another reboot?” to “They’re ruining my childhood!” to, my personal favorite, “[insert expletives about women here.]” But whether you think Ghostbusters is the next step in the vast conspiracy of women taking over the film industry or it managed to “ruin your childhood” – somehow – I can’t stress just how important Ghostbusters is to the next generation of moviegoers. Yes, the 1984 film means a lot to the young men and women who grew up imagining themselves as Peter Venkman, Egon Spangler, Janine Melnitz, or maybe Slimer, but this new generation of girls and boys will be spoiled for choice as they get to pull from two casts of funny, smart, and competent Ghostbusters to emulate on the playground or dress up as for Halloween.

Having those options is a huge deal. Huge. As a tomboy who watched the gendered cartoons of the 80s and 90s, I often found myself gravitating towards the “boys’ cartoons,” which included Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, G.I. Joe, and The Real Ghostbusters. On the playground, however, I was still “the girl,” so I could only be a girl character because playground logic sucks. But it’s that basic kind of logic kids latch on to and when girl characters are ditzy blondes, secretaries, or the sexy evil counterpart while the boys get to play quippy heroes and awesome villains, it sends a message. Thankfully, some of us grow out of the gender binary as law mentality, but giving kids that ability to see male and female characters in similar roles goes a long way to ensuring they see equality as the norm. And if Ghostbusters can contribute to those future generations’ acknowledgment of women as comedians, action heroes, scientists, and yes, Ghostbusters, then the film is a success in my book.ghostbusters-full-new-img

What I find most interesting, though, is the way Ghostbusters addresses the “controversy” surrounding its main characters without really addressing it outright. It starts with a short, to the point question Martin Heiss (Bill Murray) asks of the Ghostbusters in the wake of their first successful capture of a monstrous apparition:

Why are you pretending to capture ghosts?

It didn’t really hit me until that moment, about halfway through the movie, that Ghostbusters, directed by Paul Feig and co-written by Feig and screenwriter Katie Dippold, is held up by a spine of subtext most women recognize immediately. The “controversy” surrounding the film being what it is, it’s impossible not to see the through-line that informs the Ghostbusters’ most prominent threat outside of actual ghosts: skepticism.

It makes sense, then, that Heiss, a skeptic, asks the question in such a condescending manner. He, along with the main antagonist Rowan North (Neil Casey), are part and parcel of the misogynist culture that continually thwarts women where matters of respect and legitimacy are concerned. While the movie itself never flat-out makes gender an issue within the plot or the story – save for an added scene blasting YouTube commenters and a quick, “You shoot like a girl!” towards the end – it’s constantly present in the external forces acting against the team. To wit, it isn’t a coincidence that these external forces are male. Heiss, Rowan, the ‘Buster’s secretary Kevin (Chris Hemsworth), and the Mayor of New York (Andy Garcia) all present minor and major hurdles for the team as they try to prove themselves in a city determined not to believe them. ghostbusters-2016-ghosts

The most fleshed out character arc in Ghostbusters concerns Dr. Erin Gilbert’s (Kristen Wiig) struggle to be taken seriously as a scientist. At the beginning of the movie, she’s obsessed with getting tenure at Columbia University because tenure equates to status within academia. When her book written about the paranormal with childhood pal, and fellow scientist, Dr. Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) resurfaces, she seeks Abby out to keep anyone at the university from finding out about her dalliance in pseudo science; thus the plot begins. The importance of those early scenes, however, feed into the movie’s subtext. Erin wants to be acknowledged by her peers and her university; she wants the pride associated with legitimacy and the respectability that comes with it. Her concerns and actions are deeply rooted in how she wants to be viewed by the rest of the world, which keeps her from throwing herself into her true passion. This is reinforced throughout the film as the media questions the veracity of their first paranormal catch, the Mayor’s office’s actively calls them frauds despite knowing the city’s ghost problems are real, and Erin’s personal trauma of seeing a ghost as a child only to ridiculed by other children with the moniker “Ghost Girl.” With each new development, Erin’s frustration and her desire for legitimacy become more apparent.

It makes the scene with Heiss that much more significant within the narrative. Everything about how Murray plays him is a reminder that women are scrutinized far more than men when it comes to verifying their work, actions, and words. Protection of female sex workers, reporting domestic violence and sexual assault, and even the concept of “Fake Geek Girls” are only a few examples of how women rarely get the benefit of the doubt. We’re liars until proven innocent and even the truth doesn’t guarantee anything. To put it another way, when Venkman says, “Back off, man, I’m a scientist,” he says it cooly and with smarmy confidence. When Erin says, “We can figure this out. We’re scientists!” it’s said desperately, as if everything’s riding on proving themselves as such. And for Erin everything is riding on proving that, as scientists, the Ghostbusters can fix the problem. Her confidence and her self-worth are tied up in her credibility more so than Abby, Holtzman (Kate McKinnon), and Patty (Leslie Jones) so her departure from the team after being called a fraud, yet again, rings true.logo

It’s unfortunate, though, that the scene in which Erin leaves the team is missing from the theatrical cut of the film. One of the consistent pieces of criticism towards the movie is its pacing issues, which I agree is problematic. The story has been building to Erin’s crisis of confidence and departure from the very beginning, so to lose it and what I assume would be an emotional moment between her and Abby as long-lost friend reunited, then torn apart again, is an odd choice. It’s a pivotal moment and the loss of it adds to the messiness of the third act. Her return to the group feels less triumphant and less emotionally resonant when we’re not really sure she left the group at all.

Erin’s return to the group is similarly an important moment because of the message sent. Yes, it’s okay to doubt yourself. Yes, the world may constantly try to weigh you down and question everything. But it’s through the strength and resolve of friendship, of a community, that keeps us going. Erin is the most like herself with Abby, Holtzman, Patty, and even Kevin. She’s more confident, self-assured, and she pushes herself to do things she never would have done before – because her friends are there to help her succeed and lift her up if she fails. She, in turn, will do the same. If you take nothing else away from this movie, at least let that be the one thing that sticks.

If you’ve been on the fence about Ghostbusters, I’d encourage you to go see it because it is a fun time at the theater. There are plenty of homages to the original film, but this new batch is doing their own thing and carving out a new branch of the Ghostbusters franchise. Hopefully, a sequel will give Feig and Dippold more time to flesh out the characters and give us an even more entertaining story starring these hilarious women. More importantly, Ghostbusters is a step in the right direction for women in Hollywood. We can bust ghosts with the best of them and the more chances we get, the more this won’t seem like a “big deal.”

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This year marked the 30th anniversary of Ghostbusters, which first premiered on June 1, 1984. Strangely enough, this is also the year that’s seen the most traction on the much rumored, only dreamed about, and highly divisive continuation of the 212992-ghostbustersfranchise. While many fans of Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II, have longed for a third installment in the supernatural undertakings of New York’s finest paranormal experts, getting the movie off the ground has been a long and arduous process. The biggest hurdle in getting a third film made was the apparent lack of interest on the part of co-stars Bill Murray and Harold Ramis as well as director Ivan Reitman. Considering the cast and crew were essentially pressured into making the sequel by Columbia Pictures in 1989, it’s not surprising that there would be some hesitancy in making a third.

Plans to revive the franchise have been bandied about for over two decades with interest waxing and waning depending on popular trends in Hollywood and the state of the film industry itself. The project appeared to be moving forward in 2010 when Reitman announced he’d be directing and that Murray, Ramis, and Aykroyd would make cameos in order to pass on the torch to the next generation of Ghostbusters. The death of Harold Ramis in February of this year, however, followed by Reitman dropping out of directing a month later seemed to be the last straw for the franchise. With the need for nostalgia-fueled movies running high, was a third film even worth attempting if Ramis was gone, Murray a probable no-show, and Reitman backing off to produce rather than direct?

ghostbusters3The fact that Ghostbusters III is now a highly anticipated reality speaks to the franchise’s viability. With Reitman taking a back seat as the director, it was announced in October that Paul Feig would take over those duties, adding that he intended to make the next movie about an all-female team of Ghostbusters with screenwriter Katie Dippold. Neither Feig nor Dippold are strangers to projects with hilarious women – the two worked together on the buddy cop comedy The Heat (2013) starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy. Prior to that Feig gained critical acclaim with Bridesmaids (2011), featuring an all-female cast of comedic actresses, while Dippold cut her writing chops on MADtv and Parks and Recreation. Their comedic backgrounds in sketch, improv, film, and television make them highly qualified to take over the reins of a huge comedic franchise that includes cartoons, video games, and comic books.

The only sticking point is Feig and Dippold’s plan to turn Ghostbusters III into a hard reboot, starting from scratch instead of building off of the first two films. Feig told Entertainment Weekly:PaulFeig_KatieDippold-585x424

I had lunch with [Sony Pictures co-chairman] Amy Pascal when I got back to town. She was just saying, gosh, nobody wants to do this. I said, yeah, it’s really hard to take that on, especially since it’s 25 years later. how do you come back into a world that’s had these ghosts and all this? It just felt too difficult. How do you do it and not screw it up? But then it was bugging me for the next few days because Ghostbusters is such a great thing and everybody knows it, and it’s such a great world. It’s a shame to just let this thing sit there. I want to see another one. My favorite thing to do is work with funny women. I was like, what if it was an all female cast? If they were all women?  Suddenly, my mind kind of exploded: that would be really fun. And then I thought, well, what if we just make it new? It’s not coming into the world that existed before. It’s always hard if the world has gone through this big ghost attack, how do you do it again? I wanted to come into our world where there’s talk of ghosts but they’re not really credible, and so what would happen in our world if this happened today?

 

gb33-ghostbusters-3-dream-cast-kristen-wiig-and-emma-stoneThere are pros and cons to this approach. On the one hand, I can totally see why rebooting the property and starting from scratch works to Feig and Dippold’s advantage. If the movie functions as it’s own thing, removed from the previous films, then it gives them the ability to establish their own rules as to how the paranormal works in a modern day setting. It also sets a new tone for possible sequels going forward that would allow them to do more world-building, making the movies as funny and scary as they want without having to stay true to what came before. Their Ghostbusters would be “spiritual” successors to Reitman’s in that the general premise would remain the same while giving them the freedom to branch out with their own brand of Ghostbusters.

On the other hand, Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II never concretely established the mechanics of the paranormal, so it would still be possible for Feig and Dippold to establish their new team of Ghostbusters while building off of the first two films. Yes, the tone of Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II was mostly lighthearted fun with a few freaky moments, but in the thirty years since Gozer tried to destroy the world and Vigo tried to possess a baby, there’s plenty of room to explore how the world has adjusted to ghosts being a thing and whether or not the Ghostbusters have thrived or faltered.

That’s why I feel like there’s more potential in at least keeping the next Ghostbusters film in the same reality as the first and second. One of the charms of the first film was the idea of treating ghosts like vermin, something that needed to be exterminated with the Ghostbusters taking on the role of blue collar working stiffs who just happen to take them out with highly unstable proton packs. The simplicity of the premise is how easy it would be to introduce new characters into the world.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that the Ghostbusters, in-universe, have expanded their business to other cities outside of New York, recruiting young, eager scientists, engineers, and your typical blue collar types in the same vein as police and fire departments. Depending on your team, there are plenty of ways to introduce the new characters. If Peter Venkman had a local tv show in New York, it’s not out of the question that one of the new Ghostbusters, or all of them, watched his show as children. cartoon ghostbustersRay owned a bookstore, so someone could have been a former employee. Maybe others took classes from Egon in college. Hell, Winston could have taken over the business himself, acting like the beleaguered captain to a bunch of newbie Ghostbusters. Or it could simply be a case of having characters who want to bag ghosts. Look at the plethora of “ghost hunting” reality tv shows; the paranormal is of definite interest to the viewing public and I could see a Ghostbusters parody of those reality shows, only this time the ghosts are proven to be real and the ‘Busters are cashing in on the trend.

Of course, the same parody could occur in a universe where the Ghostbusters are reintroduced via reboot. While trying to be “ghost hunters” a la the tv shows, a group of female scientists and enthusiasts discover real ghosts, which leads them down the path to becoming Ghostbusters. So, yes, it’s possible for in-universe and new universe explanations, but I still like the idea of one of the new Busters being such a fangirl for Venkman’s show that she went into paranormal studies because of him.

Ghostbusters is a franchise made to be updated as new teams are introduced. Dan Aykroyd definitely sees the same potential in the franchise, telling Dennis Miller on The Dennis Miller Show in 2011 that:

What we have to remember is that ‘Ghostbusters’ is bigger than any one component…The concept is much larger than any individual role and the promise of Ghostbusters III is that we get to hand the equipment and the franchise down to new blood.

enhanced-30907-1410210614-1The “new blood” in question may be actresses like Kristin Wiig, Emma Stone, Melissa McCarthy, Lizzy Caplan, Jennifer Lawrence, and Amy Schumer. But the recently leaked emails from Sony reveals another possible spin-off starring Channing Tatum and Chris Pratt, with the Russo brothers (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) producing, that could turn the Ghostbusters franchise into a multi-movie spanning universe where various teams from around the country, or the world, join together to defeat a major threat.

Yes, I know it’s wishful thinking, but in the post-Avengers world of movie making, I guarantee you the thought has crossed the mind of at least one executive at Sony. Anything that can be turned into a franchise of movies with tie-in comics, tv shows, and toy lines is ripe for the picking. So, yeah, DREAM BIG! And much like J.J. Abrams taking on Star Wars VII, Ghostbusters will be in the hands of a director and writer intent on honoring what came before while still pushing forward. There’s also a whole generation of actors who are passionate about being involved in the project because they grew up with the movies. As daunting as the task is to “get it right”, it’s also not about reinventing the wheel. Ghostbusters lends itself to finding new angles of storytelling within a familiar setting. All you need is a team, cool gadgets, some humor, and a lot of ghosts!

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But what are your thoughts on Ghostbusters III? Should they work within the already established universe or branch out on their own? Who would be your dream team of female Ghostbusters?