Number 19 of #52PickUp brings you one of the most hard-to-nail-down genres in all of film; the 1990 Romance, Horror, Supernatural Thriller, Buddy Comedy:
Ghost is a film that shouldn’t have existed. The parts independently would never work on paper. First, “Let’s have David Zucker, co-writer of Airplane!, The Naked Gun, and Top Secret! helm this mostly serious, romantic film!”
Next let’s have a writer named Bruce Joel Rubin with barely any credits (aside from a crappy Wes Craven horror film that doesn’t begin with A Nightmare… [Called Deadly Friend]) write it!
Plus this film has no real discernible genre, and we’re not sure who it’s for really, maybe females. Until demons start to show up. Yeah, that’s romantic.
Seriously, folks. Ghost plays out a like bad sketch’s fake movie pitch, but it’s those disparate pieces that come together to make one of the better films of the decade and an instant classic as soon as it opened. It raked in $505 Million on a $22 million dollar budget. It was nominated for FIVE Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Score, Best Editing, Best Supporting Actress (Whoopi Goldberg), and Best Screenplay; winning the last two.
The movie has a Japanese/Korean production remake, and has been parodied countless times in pop culture, especially the oddly sexual clay pot spindle scene. It single-handedly launched the career of Demi Moore, and carried those of Whoopi Goldberg and Patrick Swayze.
To say this film had a cultural impact would be an understatement. But does the film hold up twenty-six years later?
Where/ when did I first see it?
Bet you thought “How does it hold up?” was next, yeah? We’ll get to that.
I told you that I’d return to movies first seen at my babysitter Gigi’s house again. But it was at her house (and only in a few short months) that I was first introduced to dozens of then-modern classics. This was around 1994 when I’d first seen Ghost.
How does it hold up?
I feel like a broken record playing “Unchained Melody,” but the special effects don’t hold up. This should go without saying at this point, most of these films’ effects are dated because… well, they’re dated.
But I’ll keep saying it just because it fills space on these posts. It’s in that noticeable era of picking out the green screen stuff. In one shot it’s cinematically beautiful, then it cuts to a special effect shot, and it’s obvious. But hey, it was great then! It’s not like they expected the visual effects to hold up decades later like other films…
The one effect I hated however were the shadow demons. Now don’t get me wrong, the effect looked pretty cool, but at the end, they have dumb anthropomorphic faces and arms. Their appearance would have stood the test of time if they were simply shadows like they first appeared to have been when introduced.
The story is one of the strongest elements of the film, and the one that most stands the test of time.
Funnily enough, the editing (which again was nominated for an Oscar) felt at times, disjointed and random. We would go from one shot, to a random shot of Demi Moore rolling a glass jar down the staircase, then back to another shot. I know this was edited by the master, Walter Murch, but it’s still a bizarre edit.
What did I like about it and why?
Again, the quality script (with special attention to its approach), is something I admire greatly. It’s one of the few romantic movies that transcends that formula, and makes the film interesting to all who watch it.
The acting was top notch. Everyone truly embodied their roles– Patrick Swayze was great playing a character that couldn’t really interact, and he fought like crazy to try. Paul Hogan (Crocodile Dundee) was almost cast to play Sam Wheat. That would have been a nightmare.
Demi Moore was ultimately cast because she could cry on command from either eye, and she used that talent to full effect to get the audience themselves crying.
Vincent Schiavelli was one of the most terrifying parts of the film. His voice was booming, his presence intimidating, and his laugh unnerving; he had such a great arc for such a small role. And he helped Sam learn a valuable lesson. He was just as creepy as he was in that trip cave episode of Punky Brewster.
Whoopi Goldberg was funny, charming, and loud; a combination that usually doesn’t work (unless you’re Chris Tucker, and even that’s a stretch), but it fit well here. Can you believe they almost cast Jackeé Harry as Oda Mae Brown, but when Whoopi signed on, they cut her out?
We could have had Paul Hogan as Sam Wheat, Andie MacDowell as Molly Jensen, and Jackeé Harry as Oda Mae Brown.
- Casting decisions can sometimes be perfect, even while at first, they may seem odd.
- Patrick Swayze had a stellar career and this was only one of his biggest achievements.
- Be a good person, because those shadow demons are horrifying.
Where can you see it?
Check out Ghost on CanIStream.It?
What I DIDN’T Like About it (also a truncated excerpt from an upcoming chapter of My Cancer Story): When I was hospitalized for Leukemia, I would occasionally get a visit from a Catholic Priest. He had once mentioned to me that he loved this movie. At the time I had seen it twice, and agreed. “Yeah, it’s pretty good.” I thought it weird that a Priest would try and recommend it to me, considering it’s a Hollywood production and doesn’t mention the words “Heaven” or “Hell” in it. But I figured that was the end of the topic.
But when he returned later in the week, and presented me with a gift: My very own copy of Ghost. I was happy to see he had thought of me, and went out of his way to buy me the movie and said thanks and thought that would be it. But then he asked: “Would you like to watch it now?” Horrified and afraid to say no to a Priest, I reluctantly said yes. So we sat down, me on my hospital bed, and him in the recliner next to me and watched the entirety of Ghost.
It was one of the most awkward things that has ever happened to me, and I can never forget it. The most disturbing part was when the clay pot scene started and “Unchained Melody“ roared out of the television’s speakers. I wanted to rip my IV out, run out of the room and never go back. But instead I just sat there, never breaking my sight from the T.V.
After the movie ended, he promptly left, and I hadn’t watched Ghost for over seven years.
But I still have the very same copy… It was the one I used for this #52PickUp.