Monday, June 3, 2013

'Ghost' Story

Director: Jerry Zucker
Cast: Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg, Tony Goldwyn, Vincent Schiavelli
Released: July 13, 1990

Oscar nominations:
Best Picture (lost to Dances with Wolves)
Best Supporting Actress - Whoopi Goldberg (won)
Best Original Screenplay - Bruce Joel Rubin (won)
Best Editing (lost to Dances with Wolves)
Best Score - Maurice Jarre (lost to John Barry for Dances with Wolves)

I should preface this review by saying that I really love this movie and it's a favorite of mine. I first saw it when I was ten, but I didn't finish it because I got bored (oh, okay, I'll admit it, I got too scared...shut up! I was ten!) Actually, the opening titles start the film off as though it is a horror movie with the creepy single-note piano music and the sudden flash of the title on the screen. But this is no horror movie. It's a supernatural romantic thriller (if that's a genre!) It wasn't until just a few years ago that I actually saw the movie in full and that's when it became a favorite of mine.

We start off by meeting Sam Wheat (Patrick Swayze) and Molly Jensen (Demi Moore), a couple who are madly in love and are moving into a ridiculously huge Manhattan loft. Sam must be making some serious money as a banker because I hardly doubt Molly, an artist, is bringing in any money. The best artists don't make any big bucks until after they've died. Maybe they would have been better off if Molly had been the one who died....wait, I'm getting ahead of myself!

One evening, after attending a play, Sam and Molly are walking through a dark alley (don't ask me why) and realize they are being followed by a creepy guy. Sam tells him they'll give him all their money if he just leaves them alone, but he gets into an altercation with him and ends up getting shot and dies. But he has not completely left this world as his spirit has decided to stick around in this world because he has unfinished business, namely the guy who killed him has his wallet and comes to Molly's apartment while she's in the shower. Of course, since the place is so freaking huge, she doesn't even realize there's somebody in her apartment.

Sam has no way of warning Molly of the trouble she is in, so he does what any ghost would do in his situation: he goes to a spirt communicator, Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg) who is clearly conning her clients out of money, but she can hear Sam and is surprised herself. She can't see him and thinks someone is playing a joke on her at first. She reveals to Sam that her grandmother and mother had "the gift" but she had never had any communication with dead people until now. Sam asks her to tell Molly that she is in danger, but she refuses, saying she will look like a loon and Sam drives her crazy (singing to her at night) until she finally agrees to see Molly.

Like any sane person, Molly is skeptical of Oda when she is told her dead lover wants to send her a message that she is trouble, but when Oda tells Molly only things Molly would know, she agrees to talk to Oda. She is still skeptical of Oda, but once Oda tells her that Sam said "ditto" after Molly said she loved Sam, she believes Oda has to be real because Sam saying "ditto" after Molly told him she loved him was their little thing. I love it when Sam tells Oda, "Tell her she's in danger!" and Oda says,  "Molly, you in danger, girl!"

Sam soon discovers that his murder was no accident! And that his supposed best friend and co-worker, Carl, was the one who had him killed off because he wanted the codes Sam had on his computer to steal millions of dollars. Sam finds this out when he follows his murderer to his apartment and soon after Carl shows up and it is revealed they were in on Sam's murder together! And not only that, but Carl has his eye on Molly and is trying to get with her! First he took Sam's life and now is he trying to take Sam's girl! Oh no, he did not! There is one scene where he's over at Molly's place because she invites him in to have coffee and talk and when Molly isn't looking, he spills coffee all over the front of his shirt so he can take it off and impress Molly with his abs. That must have been some lukewarm coffee because he didn't even wince in pain!

Because Sam is a ghost, he has come in contact with other ghosts (only a couple though, not that many ghosts still loitering around in NYC...) and one of these ghosts (played by Vincent Schiavelli) spends most of his time on a subway which he is very possessive of. ("GET OFF OF MY TRAIN!") He can move objects and shatter glass windows, so a determined Sam seeks him out to ask him for his advice and the Schivelli ghosts shows him he has to use his mind to move objects. It is a bit surreal seeing Patrick Swayze and Vincent Schiavelli, both actors who have passed on to the great beyond, playing ghosts. I did find it amusing that even though nobody can see or hear (with the exception of Oda Mae) Sam, his shoes still make sounds when he's walking...guess they forgot to take that out in post! There is a great scene where Sam goes to the office to scare Carl who is there after hours and he moves chairs and types "MURDERER" on the screen. Carl is totally freaked out and it's just the greatest scene. Sometimes I wish I were a ghost so I could haunt certain people and mess with their heads, but then that means I would have to die, and, eh, while it might be fun at first, I might miss the living part.

So the most iconic scene in this movie is the pottery/love making scene that is set to "Unchained Melody." This scene has been parodied on so many shows and other movies. On a recent episode of Glee a couple were singing it while they were, yep, you guessed it, working a pottery wheel. I don't think they were doing it as a parody, though, which is the sad thing. I wonder if pottery lessons skyrocketed after this movie was released? Haha. I once tried doing pottery and it's not that easy. Ghost was not my inspiration because I did it before I even saw the movie (though, of course, I knew that was a popular scene in the movie because unless you live under a rock, everybody knows that scene). Because this scene is set to the entire length of "Unchained Melody", which is a little over three and a half minutes, and because watching two people play with a pottery wheel for that long would be boring, they move on to the most awkward "sex" scene that has to be ever filmed. They never had sex, but they were just standing and caressing each other in certain areas and showing close ups of Sam's abs and Molly's lips...yeah, it was weird and awkward and laughable. It went from being a pretty sensual scene when they were at the pottery wheel to a totally odd about-to-have-sex scene.

This movie also has a pretty gruesome death when Carl, who has come to Molly's apartment to murder her and Oda Mae because they know what he has done and because Oda Mae has taken the stolen millions of dollars out of his account and given it to a church, becomes pinned under a window and a sharp blade of glass falls into his chest. Ouch. He is soon taken to hell by some hell devils that were created with really cheap and awful effects. I will forgive, though, since this did come out in 1990. But they were pretty bad. But despite that bad effects and awkward sex scene and noisy shoes on a ghost, I totally love this movie and I highly recommend it because it's a classic and a must see!

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