Ghostbusters Annotated (Part Two)

In honor of the July 15 release of the new film, Deadshirt movie editor and known Ghostbusters obsessive Max Robinson attempts to pseudo-scientifically analyze the original 1984 film in a four part commentary. 

28:12 – 28:35

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Back at the firehouse, we find Ray, Peter and Egon eating Chinese takeout (a classic New York staple) and drinking Budweisers. This is a great little scene, with the proton pack wand just sitting on the table next to the food. The visible bedroom behind the three of them suggests that they live here at least some of the time, like actual firefighters? How does that work, exactly?

28:36 – 29:53

Annie Potts plays this scene so perfectly. Janine’s SURPRISE that someone would actually call them up to hire the Ghostbusters, her “WE GOT ONE!” before she slams down on the alarm. There’s some excellent little jokes in how each of the Ghostbusters comes down the firehouse pole totally differently (Egon appears to be terrified of it). The Busboys’ “Cleaning Up the Town” plays over this bit, the less discussed of the movie’s two separate pop songs that are literally about the Ghostbusters. Hey, it’s the Ecto-1! Apparently they used animal sounds to make the siren.

Hey Ghostbusters, maybe you wouldn’t be scraping nickels together for lo mein if you hadn’t bought like two arcade cabinets and a pinball machine? These are fascinating background props because we never see anyone use them.

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29:54 – 31:03

We arrive at the fictional Sedgewick Hotel. Even more terrific background here with the hotel manager’s mention of the “original staff knowing about the 12th floor.” That it’s been “quiet for years up until two weeks ago” is a kind of throwaway line that suggests something important: the level of psychokinetic activity in New York is clearly rising in conjunction with the eventual arrival of Gozer.

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The snooty hotel manager (Michael Ensign) really serves to drive home the “slobs vs. snobs” framework of Ghostbusters. You notice in watching this that our heroes are constantly clashing with people like this, it feels like a natural extrapolation of the conflict of say John Landis’s Animal House (which, surprise surprise, was also written by Harold Ramis). The Ghostbusters are academics, but they’re also working class schlubs who more often than not have to clean up after the posh. That’s probably about as much of a class warfare reading you wring out of a movie about guys who fight ghosts with laser guns, though.

SPEAKING OF ONE-NOTE JOKE CHARACTERS, how great is this old Jewish guy who seems really bemused/weirded out by the Ghostbusters? “I’ll take the next one.”

31:04 – 31:29

Another really good quiet moment before a significantly bigger scene. This is the first time we really get any sense for what the Proton Packs *do* and how unbelievably dangerous they apparently are.

31:31 – 33:19

“WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOIN’?”

The hotel maid putting out the fire from the proton blast with a bottle of Windex is one of the best background gags in this whole movie

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ENTER: SLIMER. Slimer (who is never specifically referred to as such by anyone in the film or in the credits) is introduced as a “disgusting blob” eating leftovers off a dining cart. The gag here is really that Slimer probably ends up doing far less damage to the hotel than the Ghostbusters’ proton streams. There’s an excellent detail in the fact that the cart follows Slimer as it runs away from Ray.

33:22 – 34:38

Arguably the funniest scene in the whole film, Peter getting slimed. Bernstein’s score suggests Ray’s going to find Peter seriously hurt but nope, just covered in goop. Ray and Egon’s complete delight at this on a purely scientific level is great.

34:39 – 39:05

Egon explains why crossing the proton streams is bad, a bit of information that will in no way become important again in the last five minutes of the movie.

You have to love that this entire scene is really just about watching three guys completely wreck a fancy ballroom. Do you think Slimer tastes food and drink? Look at that bottle of wine just go right through it. I don’t think Slimer has a gender since he’s most likely not the ghost of a specific person but rather a sentient collection of psychokinetic energy (this has been pretty much confirmed by Dan Aykroyd).

The button on this scene has some great subtle work from Ramis, where Egon’s kind of rubbing his chin in fake-contemplation as Venkman’s spinning bullshit about the cost of busting the ghost. 

39:07 – 41:03

This is such a great passage of time montage. It accomplishes so much in such a short timeframe (without showing a single ghost!). The Ghostbusters have become media darlings, complete with their own magazine covers and talk show appearances. The Atlantic cover gag (“Do Ghosts Have Civil Rights?”) is genius. Janine’s gone from being incredulous that people would call to dismissing people’s ghost sightings if they don’t even have arms or legs.

41:05 – 41:35

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The movie where Dan Aykroyd gets oral sex from a beautiful lady ghost inspired a long running children’s cartoon, folks!

This was apparently originally a part of a much longer scene where the Ghostbusters end up at an old military base (note Ray’s jacket here) that was cut for pacing and edited so it looks like a dream sequence. A dream sequence of Dan Aykroyd getting blown by a ghost.

41:36 – 42:33

Heyyyy it’s Winston. Winston doesn’t show up until about 40 minutes into Ghostbusters, which is crazy because he’s such a big part of why people love this movie. The fancy Ghostbusters sign replacing the crude paper one as an indicator of the ‘busters’ success is a nice touch. Love that Winston is pretty much just hired on the spot because they’re all so overworked. Notice that the Ghostbusters’ workload appears to be growing over time.

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42:34 – 45:06

More great chemistry between Murray and Weaver as they talk in front of Lincoln Center. “You’re good, most people can’t hear me with the whole orchestra playing.” And we get another glimpse at the underlying supernatural mythology of Ghostbusters with the details on the Zuul/the Gozer worshippers. Gozer being an ancient Sumerian god rather than a generic monster or a dead person really indicates the level of thought that went into this movie.

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Dana seems to find Peter’s persistence somewhat charming now instead of totally irritating. Luckily any thought that Peter isn’t still a big asshole goes away when he completely torpedoes Dana’s attempt to explain away who he is to her guy friend. Is this the man she ends up having a kid with in Ghostbusters II? We’ll never know.

45:07 – 47:57

Peter’s obnoxious wiseass schtick finally bites him in the ass here as he meets with EPA rep Walter Peck. Watch Peter and Janine’s interaction here: Peter is a stone cold dick to her (pretty reasonable) complaints, telling her she can basically go screw herself. When Peter and Peck meet, Peter’s immediately antagonizing him for no reason by wiping slime on him.

There’s been some weird misreadings of Peck and his role in Ghostbusters as some kind of Reagan-era anti-government regulation sentiment on the part of the filmmakers (usually by conservatives desperate for movies to fill listicles with). Two crucial things: Peter messing with Peck is funny to us, but within the plot of the film, it’s the reason why everything goes to shit at the end of Act II. Peck’s hesitation about what the Ghostbusters do isn’t portrayed as totally unreasonable, it’s just that he happens to be the exact kind of snooty establishment jerk the Ghostbusters clash with throughout the movie. Peck’s another mini-antagonist in the same vein as the Columbia dean or the hotel manager, he even has a fraternity club pin on his jacket. Venkman winds him up just as he did with the others and this time there’ll be real consequences.

Sidenote: Janine’s head popping around the corner is another fantastic “blink and you’ll miss it” gag this movie really excels at.

47:58 – 48:37

Egon and Ray finally put into words something the movie’s been implying, that the psychic activity around New York has grown exponentially to dangerous levels. Egon’s offhand note that the containment unit is bursting at the seams suggests all the hours they’ve been putting in isn’t doing anything to stem the metaphorical ever-growing Twinkie.

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As an aside, it’s astounding watching this movie now and seeing how much everyone’s smoking. We opened on three guys scarfing down Chinese food, we end on three guys sitting in a basement, smoking cigarettes and talking about how everything’s going to shit.

Check back next week for Part Three.  

Post By Max Robinson (105 Posts)

Deadshirt staff writer. Conceived by the unholy union of Zeus (in the guise of a corn dog) and ED-209. Has written for City Paper, Courthouse News. Twitter famous.

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