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Harold Ramis Tag

Thanks to a welcome new trend of special event screenings at certain theater chains, this past year I’ve had the pleasure of revisiting Sixteen Candles (1984) and Back to the Future (1985), the subject of my very first Revival House installment. The latest of these films returning to the big screen is Ghostbusters in selected theaters October 13, 20 and 27.

1984 was one hell of a summer for movie nerds like me. May 23 brought us the highly anticipated Raiders prequel Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, while the following week allowed us to discover what happened after the death of a beloved character in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Back in the day when a film wasn’t considered “dead on arrival” if it didn’t open in the #1 spot, June 8 saw the arrival of two big summer films, Ghostbusters and Gremlins — but that didn’t stop both movies from breaking $100 million at the box office that year.

In the weeks before these four films opened, I remember sitting in my high school Calculus class attempting to draw the logo lettering of all of them with the exception of Ghostbusters, which to be honest I wasn’t anticipating as much as the others. But as it turned out, even though it was a comedy, Ghostbusters (thanks to help from the excellent special effects by Richard Edlund) was as epic in scope as the other films in the summer of ’84.

Ghostbusters is directed by Ivan Reitman, who at the time had previously directed Meatballs (1979) and Stripes (1981), in addition to serving as a producer on National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978). The screenplay is written by Dan Aykroyd (who also wrote 1980’s The Blues Brothers) and Harold Ramis (co-writer of Animal House, Stripes and 1980’s Caddyshack; director of Caddyshack and 1983’s National Lampoon’s Vacation).

“I wake up every day, right here, right in Punxsutawney, and it’s always February 2nd, and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

A couple of years ago I was in a record session for the animated series, The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack. One of the stars of that show was Brian Doyle-Murray, the venerable character actor who has been a mainstay in comedy films and television since the late 70’s. During the session, Brian’s cell phone began to buzz, interrupting the session. Brian, the consummate professional, was a little embarrassed as he pulled out the phone to turn it off. However, when he looked at the caller ID, he paused and said, “Uh, I have to take this real quick.” Then he answered the phone, “Hey Bill, I’m in the middle of a record session.” I have no idea what he said after that because my eyes went wide and I turned around to look  at the recording engineer and the voice director, who both had the same expression I did. “That’s Bill Murray on the phone,” we all said, like giddy little boys.

Obviously, Bill Murray calling his brother shouldn’t be a big deal, but to anyone who grew up in the late 70’s and early 80’s, Bill Murray was king. Just even in the same room in which he was on the phone made this small group of us feel privileged. Bill Murray was the guy you imagined you could toss back a couple of beers with, discuss baseball or politics, and probably laugh your ass off for hours. I watched all of his movies on VHS at one point during the early 80’s. including the perplexing Where the Buffalo’s Roam and Murray’s first true dramatic film, The Razor’s Edge. Even though those movies didn’t work for me, I still appreciated that he was taking risks as an artist.

In 1993, Columbia Pictures release what may be argued as Murray’s greatest film achievement, Groundhog Day. I believe the film surprised a lot of people as it wasn’t your typical slapstick comedy, as we’d all come to expect from Murray.  In Groundhog Day, longtime Murray fans, like me, were dazzled by the actor’s ability to incorporate the many facets of his acting career into a single performance, helping to create one of his most memorable characters, Phil Connors.

I believe it was Shakespeare’s King Lear who said, “When we are born we cry that we are come to this great stage of fools.” He was kind of a pill, that King Lear. Because let’s face it, what would life be without fools to keep us entertained and occupied, and make us feel smarter than maybe we actually are? It would be the PBS NewsHour, that’s what.

Of course, in real life we have no shortage of fools. (I’m not mentioning any names. Sarah Palin.) But what about in the cinema? In honor of April Fool’s Day, here’s a random sampling of film fools who may have spread their film foolery over the years.

Lethal Weapon 2 (1989). I’d already pretty much written off Mel Gibson after the whole anti-Semitic rant episode, but I really got upset when he mouthed off to that reporter in Chicago. Maligning an entire religion is bad enough, but don’t mess with journalists, Mel. You might make one of us mad, and then we’ll talk about you behind your back.

But while I’m loath to recommend any of Mr. Gibson’s work these days, no discussion of cinematic fools would be complete without Joe Pesci’s Leo Getz. Pesci had been little-seen since his intense role in Raging Bull (1980), and was still a year shy of his Oscar-winning turn in Goodfellas when he stole this movie right out from under Gibson and Danny Glover. Just think, if it weren’t for Pesci, we still might not know what they do to you in the drive-through.

It’s been a while since I’ve contributed a Farkakte Film Flashback here at Popdose, but I have a good excuse: I’m freakin’ freezing! It’s hard to type when you’re under three layers of sweater and a Snuggie.

Still, winter can be an evocative time, especially in cinema. In movies like Fargo, A Simple Plan and The Shining, the season is almost like another character in the film: a big, cold, snowy character. And even when it’s subtler, like in some of the flicks below, that cold winter wind almost always packs some dramatic bite. Especially if they’ve got the AC cranked in the theater.

So enjoy the snowbound random rewind below, share your wintery cinematic suggestions in the comments, and pass me my hot water bottle. If you don’t ask me where I’m going to put it, I won’t tell.

Groundhog Day (1993). I thoroughly enjoyed Groundhog Day when it came out in 1993, but frankly I can say the same thing about Hot Shots, Part Deux. Unlike that Charlie Sheen classic, though, Groundog Day has evolved over the years into what I’d argue is one of the most enduring and frankly philosophical of all screen comedies. It also makes me wonder where the heck Chris Elliot has been – Cabin Boy 2, anyone?

And for our purposes, it’s one of the great winter movies, in that Phil’s odyssey (I recall reading one estimate that his Groundhog Day must have lasted at least five years) wouldn’t have been nearly as wrenching (and hilarious) had it taken place on the Fourth of July. Being trapped in an endless summer doesn’t have nearly the comedic possibilities of an everlasting February; when Phil says, “It’s gonna be cold, it’s gonna be gray, and it’s gonna last you the rest of your life,” you get what he’s talking about.

You don’t know how badly I want to slap the words “Electric Boogaloo” onto the end of Ghostbusters II (1989). Actually, I think any movie sequel whose title ends with the number two should have “Electric Boogaloo” tacked on.

Think of all the possibilities. Grease 2: Electric Boogaloo. The Godfather Part II: Electric Boogaloo. Or my favorite, Kill Bill Vol. 2: Electric Boogaloo.

But I digress. Then again, I didn’t really start anything from which to digress, did I? Sorry about that — my brain crossed the streams. (Thank you, thank you. I’m here all week.)

I’ll bet you’re wondering why I’m writing about Ghostbusters II when I haven’t written about the first Ghostbusters yet. Well, first of all, the sequel’s soundtrack is out of print and harder to find than the original’s. Second of all, this soundtrack has BOBBAAAYYY!!! (if you don’t speak cracked-out Whitney, I’m referring to Bobby Brown) and Run-D.M.C. on it. Also, after the serious tone of last week’s post, I wanted to write about something silly. And finally, because I’m still in disbelief that Hollywood’s going to make “Ghostbusters III. (I know Pete from Ickmusic and Jason Hare are disappointed that this post isn’t about Short Circuit 2 or Cocoon: The Return, but I hope they’ll get over it.)