Ghost the musical builboard

Saturday night in Times Square

It has come to my attention, via the larger than life – i.e. Times Square sized – advertisement pictured above, that my favorite movie (if I had to choose just one, but of course there are many movies which are my favorite) is being made into a musical. This gives me occasion to discuss why this movie rates higher than all the others.

Let’s start at the beginning. Not of the movie as it plays out, but rather of it’s entrance into my consciousness. I didn’t see it in the theater. I was about ten or twelve and my theater goings were still under parental directive. I didn’t see a lot of movies in the theater growing up – but, on a tangent, that did make the few I did see that much more of an occasion. Movies in the early 1990’s took a while to end up on VHS. I’m not going to lie and say how long it took – I really have no idea. My sense of time has been warped and distorted since then by the very act of growing up and taking on employment. But it was not the instantaneous thing it is today where movies can be seen on pirate-sites or pirated DVDs before they are even released in theaters. (I suppose there was a pirate VHS market, but that sort of thing was unknown in my household growing up – and there certainly was no “internet” to speak of back then, not in the early 1990’s, not for regular folks like my family anyhow…) The point being it was probably a year or two after the initial theater release of Ghost before I ever saw the movie. [IMDb says it was released on VHS in 1991 and it may have been that year or the year after when I saw it first. ] I remember liking it, despite all the “mushy crap”.  Present in my mother’s living room during the “family film screening” was my brother , myself and a friend of ours, along with my mother and our friend’s mother. I honestly don’t remember our friend’s mother’s name, but let’s give her one as it’ll be easier. We’ll call her “Anna”. At the end of the movie, “Anna” was crying quite profusely, and we boys thought it rather silly of her and told her so, in some unremembered amount of words. She told us we found her crying to be silly because we didn’t understand love, and that when we did, we would cry during Ghost too. We had a good laugh at that! After all, who doesn’t understand love? Well, to make a long story shorter, I guess I understand a bit more about love now than I did then, for I can no longer watch Ghost without letting loose the “waterfalls of love”, if you will. Those of you who recall my tears from Rosenstrasse may think me a balling sob-bucket at this point, but I assure you the number of movies which contain that rarefied quality sufficient to elicit such a response from me is exiguous, and as such, members of the club merit mention and public adulation, despite any ego-loss on my part.

First off, let’s consider the supernatural aspects of the movie. Today may be the age of vampires, and rumor has it their successor may in fact be ghosts (although, I suspect, they’ll be popularized in the same effeminate, emasculating way vampires were) but let’s face it – ghosts and all things supernatural have always, and I mean always, been popular subjects for entertainment purposes, and the eighties (when the movie was created despite its 1990 release date) were no exception. Being a child, I was especially interested in ghosts and ghost movies. Ghostbusters was probably my favorite movie as a child (it’s still up there somewhere) and I remember my brother and myself going around the house and yard with a tape recorder trying to capture ghosts like Venkman and the guys (and scaring the crap out of ourselves with the awesome power of suggestion in the process!).  So a movie called ghost was going to be good, no matter what. And it was, with the whole idea of not being able to be seen or heard, to be able to pass through doors and walls and be able to scare cats, who can of course always see ghosts because they’re cats… The supernatural aspects were entertaining to us children, even if this was no Ghostbusters II – which of course would emerge in due time (and now even III shall be upon us soon). But the emotional aspects were something for us to be patient with until the next “cool” scene started.

The usual run time in my childhood home was about 8 million showings, after which the movie of the month would be retired and replaced with whatever new thing arrived on VHS from wherever things come from when we’re children. I don’t know – maybe my Mom bought them at a store? Maybe they just showed up somehow? But somehow or other the stream of movies continued and Ghost was soon a thing of the past.

But not for ever. I don’t recall when or why or how, but something about Ghost stuck with me and I found myself one night longing to see it again. I lived alone at this point and maybe it was a longing for the joy of the good times with family together; the sound of my mother laughing at Oda Ma Brown walking, if you could call it walking, down the street as if she had never worn a pair of shoes before in her life. Or maybe it was some subliminal sense that I was ready to view the movie through new eyes. At any rate, I recall spending some time searching for the movie on DVD, hoping that I would be able to find a copy before Patrick Swayze succumbed to the illness which did eventually send him home. I feared the sellers had deliberately created a shortage in order to re-release it at an inflated price as a memorial edition or some such sick marketing event. (And when Mr. Swayze did pass on, may he rest in peace, I couldn’t help but wonder if his experience was at all similar to that of his character’s experience when he finally passed on. Silly, I know, to even bother to ponder the unknowable, and certainly to make the childish association with what we see on the screen with what the actor would have been going through during production, but let’s be real – haven’t you ever wondered about such things? From a mental perspective, it has to cross your mind at least for a second…) At any rate, I found a copy tucked away in a bin at a now shuttered media store, and rejoiced that I would again be able to watch that funny and mysterious movie that I remembered fondly from my youth.

The funny was still funny – no, even more so now that I understood everything that was being said – and the mystery and supernatural revenge quest were still there to be savored, but there was a whole new layer for me to explore. That elusive thing which life provides in due course as it will, namely experience, added a new dimension to this movie that I had been cognizant of the 8 million times I had watched it as a child, but which I was now experiencing for the first time. I connected emotionally with this movie. With the characters and their love for one another. I could relate to their shared lives, ripped apart, and the pain they felt as they lost each other. And yes, at the end I was crying. And I was dragged back to that time, a decade and change ago, when we mocked the tears of our fellow human “Anna”, and I felt a bit like Carl, being dragged by the shadows to an unspeakable fate. Well, okay, I didn’t feel that bad – we were dumbass kids and hopefully “Anna” knew as much and didn’t take to heart our callous ignorance. But I did make a profound realization at that moment that I was not the person I was those years ago. And yes, I’m sorry I told you it was stupid to cry at this movie! Please forgive me.

So, here we are in 2012 and I’m walking home when I actually look up at one of the glaring billboards that bedazzle tourists around the clock in Times Square. I don’t know why I looked up as I make it a rule not to ruin what’s left of my eyesight on the sparkling bling-dung which is Times Square. Call it fate, or call it a coincidence, but tonight I looked up and I’m glad I did. I don’t do musicals on any regular basis – I can recall seeing Spamalot, and have fuzzy recollections of what may be a second show, or may not be – but I think I will make an effort to see Ghost the musical. It may not be to my liking, it may even ruin the warm fuzzy I currently get when I think about the movie, but I’m going to take a chance. It just might be worth it.

So tell me, what’s your favorite movie and why?

One comment

  1. I just rewatched this recently with my husband and daughters (ages 9 & 10). We all loved it. Although not my favorite (and I can’t just pick one) it holds up well. I felt a saddeness when reflecting on Swayze’s passing, so very much before his time.

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