Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Yes, Really with Wilde.Dash #20: Ghost (1990)

The usual caveat: Believe it or not, for someone totally obsessed with movies, I do a lot of selective editing, snubbing, and ignoring. That is to say: there are a whole lot of well-known movies I've actually never bothered to watch. I've spent a lot of time hunting down obscurities and not quite as much time seeing the movies you've probably been watching since you were 10 years old. Because of this, in conversation I frequently have this interaction. Me: "I've never actually seen that movie" You: "What? I've seen a movie you haven't?" Me: "Yes" You: "How have you not seen that movie?" Me: "I never wanted to" You: "Really?" Me: "Yes, really." Thus: Yes, Really with Wilde.Dash a feature in which I fill in my pop culture education, watch all the boring basics, and let you know whether or not I decided they were worth my time. Get it? Got it? Good.

Last month I ran a poll asking you to help select the order for the subjects of this little feature.  This month, I’m regretting putting Ghost on there.  I hate myself for that, but I definitely hate all the people who voted to make it the NUMBER ONE MOVIE I MUST WATCH even more.  You people are sadistic.  That was malicious, obviously, because Ghost is like 100% pure nonsense where the only good points are Whoopi Goldberg’s facial expressions.  I’m befuddled, people, as to how this movie has remained in our pop culture vocabulary, because seriously?  Casper was a better movie about ghoulish crushes.

First, I was bored. Then, I was like, really?  Following this: my face became Whoopi Goldberg’s face because it was experiencing a constant state of “oh no they didn’t” and “you’ve got to be kidding me.”  There are at least four different movies going on at once and the only thing holding them together is, essentially, Patrick Swayze talking to himself.  Here’s my count:  1. Love story (between Molly and Sam) 2. Undead comedy buddy movie (between Sam and Oda Mae) 3. Corporate crime thriller thing (between that crazed man and everyone) 4. Supernatural self-discovery film (between Sam and himself...deep).  Note to Hollywood: mixing any two of these puts you on exceptionally unstable ground.  Mixing all of them?  Are you a mad man?  This movie is like putting together a Frankensteined chimera: you absolutely should not let it happen.  It’s amazing any viewer fell in line with this because where Swayze's Sam may be a character, Demi Moore is just a prop. Molly isn’t fully developed.  Instead, she's a mechanism with a pulse and a trendy haircut who occasionally says something to a more developed character which thus allows the plot to move forward.  Any of these, for example:  “She knew things about me.” “What was that woman’s name?”  “Does this have anything to do with the woman at the bank?”  Those are paraphrased, but that’s really it.  In essence, this is a love story between a dead man and a vacant woman.  There's nothing there.  I'll ask again: how is this one of the most culturally recognized romances of the 90’s? 
Oh yeah, because of that “Unchained Melody” scene, which was the biggest cinematic surprise I’ve had since I learned that Patton’s speech in front of the flag was that film’s opener.  Here was what I always thought Ghost was (and the poster really supports this theory): a movie about a lady getting it on with a ghost.  I’ve lived my life sure of this because the pottery scene out of context seems like something she could totally be imagining…with a ghost.   When I discovered that the "sexy time pottery scene" was in the first ten minutes of the film, and that Patrick Swayze’s character Sam was still alive for its duration, I was pretty disappointed. I knew everything would be downhill from there because this clearly was not a movie actually about paranormal passions and would thus have to have some other narrative elements apart from “sometimes there’s this ghost who visits me and we get it on.”  I’m not sure if the movie I described would be better or worse, but it would definitely be slightly more hilarious.

Instead, the only reason I kept watching this movie was because Whoopi Goldberg was comedically compelling in it.  I like to think that Whoopi was fully aware that she was saving this movie by playing it like the comedy it should have been. Much like Johnny Depp in The Tourist, Whoopi appears to have received a different script.  Whoopi's character is engaged in post-modern folly and she's the only person who seems to be aware that Ghost is ludicrous.  Whoopi acts the way I want to act as I watch the film.  She is there to tell Patrick Swayze he's full of it.  I to want to be able to yell at the movie's characters, to run around going “would you leave me alone already?” at the air.   Even so, I’m kind of amazed Whoopi won an Oscar for playing Oda Mae Brown in this though, because it’s pretty much identical to her performance in Sister Act, except just not as fun.  My only theory on this is that the Academy was confused and they were just so sucked in by Swayze playing dead that they considered Whoopi's channeling significantly more complicated than the average performance.  You know, because in 1990 they were very befuddled by the advanced special effects that allowed Sam to walk through a door and completely forgot that Whoopi was actually talking to a real person, in the same room as her.  Which, as you can see, makes it significantly more challenging than any other role ever.  Obviously.  Sarcasm.
The biggest shocker, though?  Um, that would be that not only is the ghost/lady interaction not a thing that happens, but when it gets close to happening, it becomes incredibly creepy.  I’m amazed people’s moms were so easily sold on this idea because apparently if Molly wants to get it on with a ghost she actually has to get it on with Oda Mae...which might be the very definition of the exact opposite of “romantic night with your dead husband,” but which definitely is exactly what’s going on at a climactic point in the movie.  Seriously, people, if you just thought Sam’s ghost was taking over Oda Mae’s body to make sweet love to his lady and that was all peachy keen, please imagine how awkward that scene actually is. If you’re not getting this, let me run through the details: 

Point: Oda Mae may be possessed by Sam, but Molly is still consciously making love to a psychic con woman who showed up screaming at her window the other day. An earlier scene of possession indicates that all Molly would see would be Oda Mae looking constipated as she attempted to ape Sam's manner of speech.  

Point: Oda Mae does not have the right equipment for this exchange. IE: male genitalia.

Point: I don’t think this is how spiritual exorcism works. I'm also not sure sex via third party qualifies as unfinished business.  Bust the crime, don't waste the time.

Point: even if you believed someone was hearing the voice of your dead boyfriend, would you really be cool when they were suddenly like “hey, I’m going to let him inhabit my body now, so, if you want to make out, that’s fine”?   Think about this.  Think about it really hard.  That’s a leap of logical faith that makes the whole movie one big steaming heap of collective insanity.  

In summary, Ghost is a movie about a tragic loss that ends with the dude’s wife running the bases with a con woman’s unconscious body.  The musical cues suggest we're supposed to swoon at this, but I’m quite positive that in some states, even though Oda Mae claims she’s cool with Sam moving in, what’s going on here is textbook rape.  Let's consult the state law on this, shall we?  Oh wait, we don't have to, because letting a ghost inhabit your body so that the two of them can have a talk about murder plots is not consent for that ghost to let his girlfriend get all up on a body that isn't his.  

Lesson of the day, kids.  Demi Moore=supernatural rapist.  I’m worried about this movie’s fan base
Stay tuned.  Next time, I take on the Bill Murray summer camp flick Meatballs. 

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