Posts Tagged ‘Kristen Wiig’

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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With filming already begun on Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters reboot, the director has taken to Twitter over the last few days and revealed the team’s old yet new accouterments. Working from the original premise of paranormal investigators who treat ghosts like a one would treat roaches or rodents, Feig and his costuming/props departments have taken what worked in the 80s and found a way to make it even more rough and ready for the next generation of ‘Busters.

Slated for release in July of next year, Ghostbusters stars Feig’s veteran ensemble players Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy as well as Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon. The plot goeth thusly:

Wiig and McCarthy play a pair of unheralded authors who write a book positing that ghosts are real. Flash forward a few years and Wiig lands a prestigious teaching position at Columbia U. (Like the original, the story takes place in New York City, even though it’s being shot in Boston.) Which is pretty sweet, until her book resurfaces and she is laughed out of academia.

Wiig reunites with McCarthy and the other two proton pack-packing phantom wranglers, and she gets some sweet revenge when ghosts invade Manhattan and she and her team have to save the world. [Source: The Boston Herald]

Well, if the “phantom wranglers” are going to get their sweet revenge, then they’re gonna need the right equipment. First, Feig gave us a look at the jumpsuits the ladies will be sporting.

 

While this isn’t a huge deviation from the original uniforms from 1984, it’s worth noting that those were flightsuits while the newer jumpsuits are playing up the firefighter motif that makes sense when the team operates out of a refurbished firehouse. Even a little thing like adding the reflective stripes plays up the “emergency service” aspect and shows how the Ghostbusters approach their job. It’s splitting hairs, but the attention to detail shows that Feig and his team aren’t playing around with the concept.

There’s even a pick of McCarthy wearing her jumpsuit.

 

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via FlameFlynet

 

Next, Feig showed revealed the new proton packs along with a helpful diagram of the various components for those in need of the terminology when constructing their own.

 

 

Again, it’s the details that really set the newer model apart original. The look of the old proton pack was slightly more put together than this, though it still had a polish that gave the audience the feeling that Spengler and Stantz had already gone through a refinement stage, but didn’t have time to do a proper field test. Hence, the elevator scene. The new model looks like how I imagine the ’84 pack would’ve looked during phase one of construction. It’s rusted and dirty, giving off the vibe that the team had to pick through a scrap yard to find the right pieces.  Best of all, with the main pieces of costuming down, we get to see things like this:

 

 

Women cosplaying as Ghostbusters isn’t new, but the fact that a little girl is already enjoying the fruits of a new team of Ghostbusters, who all happen to be women, is just heartwarming. She now has a group of smart, science-oriented women to look to and go “I wanna dress and be just like them!” For Science!

Lastly, Feig revealed the new wheels our ladies will be driving.

 

And no your eyes aren’t fooling you, that’s a hearse dressed up as the new Ecto-1. The concept hasn’t changed at all. In the ’84 movie, the Ecto-1 was a ’59 Cadillac ambulance/hearse. Makes sense, if you operate out of a firehouse then your vehicle would most likely be a revamped ambulance with awesome sirens and lights. The new Ecto-1 doesn’t mess with what was already a good idea, though there is something hilariously morbid about using  just a repurposed hearse to catch ghosts.

Overall, the design aesthetic of the new Ghostbusters is coming along nicely and I personally can’t wait to see the movie. But what do you think? Let me know in the comments.

Walter Mitty PosterI wasn’t entirely sure I wanted to write a review of Ben Stiller’s latest film, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty – based on the short story by James Thurber. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy it (I did immensely), it’s more along the lines of wanting to hold on to something and relish the moment, value the message without immediately having to critique it or assign it some kind of arbitrary value. So I decided not to write a review, but instead write about how Walter Mitty’s journey has a lot in common with my chosen profession as an archivist and what that means to me.

Right from the get-go, I can tell you that Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller) is an archivist. His title in the film is Negatives Asset Manager for Life Magazine, but he is, for all intents and purposes, an archivist. If you want to get really specific, he’s a photograph archivist. One that embodies some of the stereotypes of the profession as depicted in film and television. He works in the basement of his building with only one assistant, Hernando (Adrian Matrinez), and the space is wall to wall boxes of photographs and negatives with Walter a small, and fairly meek, man dwarfed by shelves and reels of places he’s never been but only seen through the eyes of others. For the purposes of the film, the focus is on enigmatic photographer Sean O’Connell (Sean Penn), who has a “working” relationship with Mitty in that Walter has always made sure O’Connell’s photographs were treated right, making sure the covers matched the majesty of what O’Connell captured on film. The two have never met in the 16 years Walter has worked for Life, at least not until the climax of the film, but they still manage to understand each other. When Walter goes in search of O’Connell to find the missing negative meant to serve as the Life‘s final print cover, he embarks on a journey many archivists have and are now taking in order to stay relevant and visible.

Walter at WorkThe movie itself is thematically trying to convey an overall message about connection. We’re fully immersed in the Digital Age, but in overly relying on digitization and the anonymity of the internet, we lose the basic element of interaction, of forming a true connection with another human being. For all of the connectivity we have over the internet, loneliness still prevails. We stay glued to our computers instead of interacting with the world and the people around us. Interestingly enough, the film starts with Walter trying to make a connection, via a wink on eHarmony, with Cheryl (Kristen Wiig), a woman who he sees on a regular basis at work. Instead of talking to her, he’d rather stay within the relatively safe realm of “interacting” from afar. Walter’s fantasies are indicative of his sense of self; he feels unremarkable, unimportant, irrelevant, so he imagines himself as the exact opposite. It’s only when he goes outside of his comfort zone and ventures beyond the familiar that he makes himself as remarkable as he always imagined. He enjoys the moment, he lives, he experiences, and he connects. Feeling Small

Archivists run into the same problems in their repositories and how they interact not just with their institutions but also their user base. There are a lot of assumptions made about archivists, stereotypes that continue to inform the public that we’re basement dwellers covered in dust. We’re part of a company or an institution, but we’re never entirely understood. Part of the job is just getting used to explaining what it is you do on a near constant basis. Because of this perception, archives aren’t always considered a top priority, if they’re considered at all. We’re always five to ten years behind the technology because there isn’t enough time, money, or manpower to help users and take care of backlogged material while converting already processed or to-be processed material into digital records that will be outdated in a few years. Like Walter Mitty, it’s easy for archivists of any institution to feel small, unwanted, unremarkable, and irrelevant. Like Walter, we only become important when we can provide a specific service at a specific time, regardless of how long we’ve been around or the continued services provided outside of anniversaries or big events. Like Walter, it’s easy for archivists to feel disconnected.

Patton Oswalt as ToddLuckily, archivists aren’t entirely alone. We’ve built a community, one that brings us all together on an annual basis and allows us to meet each other. We connect through our shared profession, love of the job, and our passion for our function within society. What’s been so remarkable now, thanks to the Digital Age, is the speed in which those connections are made and how friendships can be forged out of them. In Walter Mitty, Walter forms an unlikely friendship with an eHarmony IT technician, Todd (Patton Oswalt), who acts as a sort of anchor to chart Walter’s progress. What begins as disembodied voices over the phone turns into a real friendship by the end of the film, something that many archivists can relate to. We find each other via Listservs, email threads, and roundtable groups, but by the time we meet each other in person, whether at a conference or on our own time, we solidify the friendships that may have started only as a short note or a question asked in a forum. Soccer in Afghanistan

There’s also the ongoing professional debate over how much we should interact with the subjects that we document. Some would have us remain the silent observers, forever disconnected from the people who produce the materials we archive in order to maintain purity of the record. This camp wants us to be the Walter Mitty of the film’s beginning, maintaining our distance, stuck in the basement surrounded by our boxes. Others, however, believe that archivists should be more proactive in seeking out materials to document, connecting with the people who produce the materials and inserting ourselves into the narrative. These are the people who are Walter Mitty by the film’s end, the archivists who end up on the cover of Life because they made themselves relevant by making others relevant. The value Walter puts into his work, and the value he places on himself, is only rewarded when he sees the world, when he makes those human connections with a drunken pilot in Greenland, a Chilean sailor, Sherpas in the Himalayas, Afghani kids playing soccer, and even an IT guy from Los Angeles. It all adds up to something extraordinary that others see value in as well. Archivists can do the same. We can go outside of our comfort zones and connect with different communities, insert ourselves into what’s happening, and show our own value to others through the work we do.

But those are just my thoughts. I really enjoyed the film and found it to be one that made me think about how my life, my profession, and my experiences have influenced the connections I’ve made even within the last year. Not too shabby of an accomplishment for a film, if you ask me.