For My Moviegoing Public: Two “Cult” Remakes

What is a cult film? I had a hard time finding a consistent definition, but the lowest denominator seems to be any movie with a “large following.” But that’s very simplistic; Star Wars has a large following but I don’t remotely consider it a cult film. I would define it as “a film that was initially unsuccessful but built up a large following over time,” for starters.

By this definition, the original Ghostbusters fails, because I remember it being hugely successful out of the gate. That damn Ray Parker, Jr. song hung out on the top 40 list for nearly a year three weeks (Christ, it felt like a year).

So I was mystified by the brou-ha-ha over the all-female reboot among cries of “ruining my childhood” and messing with a “cult classic.” As I defined above, no, not a cult classic. And it’s already had a pretty crappy sequel as well as two animated TV shows.

Oh, oh wait. I think I can spot the difference. The problem is with the ladies. Right? It’s hard to believe that in a post-Xena/Buffy world we still have to fight to have female heroes, but here we are.  That’s the problem with herstory: every victory has to be won multiple times before it sticks (for instance, the way we’re still battling for reproductive rights in places).

And yes, I agree, wouldn’t it be nice if we could have some original material? But in a market saturated with remakes because Hollywood is pretty damn lazy, this isn’t by a long shot the worst option out there. Arthur? Total Recall? Footloose? I mean, the list goes on and on, but you get my point. Lots and lots of rehashes we didn’t need, but you didn’t see the internet losing its mind over them (to my knowledge. I might be hyperaware of the Ghostbusters nonsense thanks to my friends on Facebook).

So, right or wrong, I watched this slightly determined to like it just to spite all the boys wailing and wringing their hands over it.

Yes, the movie is very, very similar to the 1984 version plotwise. Not identical, but I won’t deny there are vague parallels. This created the opportunity for several homages that I thought were very well done and a nice touch for fans (at least the ones who weren’t wishing painful deaths on everyone involved in making it).

And, as much as the Ray Parker, Jr. song drove me crazy that summer, I still got chills when it started playing over the opening titles.

The highlights were obviously the cameos from all the original cast (even the late Harold Ramis appears as a bust outside Kristen Wiig’s office), except for mysteriously absent Rick Moranis, who I googled and apparently he’s become “more picky” with his roles (although if he’s waiting for Hollywood to tap him as the next Sir Ian McKellan I hope he isn’t holding his breath) and “didn’t see the point” in a cameo. I’m sorry, but this reads as a polite way of thinking himself above the project, when Bill Murray and Sigourney, both of whom I consider far higher acting rank, found time in their busy schedules.

I thought the movie was surprisingly entertaining, considering the ridiculously high standards it was expected to live up to. I’m reminded of this old chestnut:

Is it Citizen Kane? No. But neither was the original.  But as a summer blockbuster, heavy on the special effects, it more than delivers if you can get over the lack of male genitalia.

There’s some there if you count the other highlight, Chris Hemsworth as a very, very, VERY dumb but (just as many verys) pretty receptionist, who obviously had great fun with the role. Yet I’ve seen more than one comment about how incredibly sexist it was. PLEASE tell me you’re trying to be funny, when women have played this role practically to the exclusion of any others for decades, with zero tongue-in-cheek.

More importantly, is it funny? Well, I thought so. Is it fair to judge its humor by comparing to heavy hitters (near legends) in comedy like Murray and Akroyd?  I don’t think so, but I also don’t remember the original being consistently side-splitting.  Surprisingly, freshmen Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones have the lion’s share of the jokes over old timers Wiig and McCarthy.

Speaking of unfair, McKinnon’s wacky but brilliant Jillian Holtzmann (who seems to be Egon on a permanent sugar high) gets some odd criticism in reviews. The one memorable thing I read was she was acting “as if we already knew her character.”  What does that even mean?  Unlike other movie characters that step out and introduce themselves before joining the story?

A YouTube commenter said she had a “creepy demeanor.”  No she doesn’t, little boy.  This is what confidence looks like on a woman. Too much for you? More for the ladies then (“I’d go gay for Holtzmann” has made more than one appearance on my Facebook).

My biggest regret is not getting on this in time for Halloween

The second strangest complaint was about the “dragon ghost,” which was clearly a (granted hamhanded) setup for the heavy metal concert gag. “Why a dragon ghost?” I read. Which would only be fair if you can explain to me what your beloved Slimer is supposed to be.  Since you’re hellbent on all apparitions only having human forms, but apparently only for this one part of the franchise.

I believe I’ve made my point. That being, it’s enormously hypocritical to claim a violation of sacred ground just because the stars have boobs this time.  Surely we have space on our shelves for both. In fact, my sister tried showing the original to my niece, who was bored witless within fifteen minutes. No one wants to wait thirty minutes for a plot to gather steam anymore. “Classic” isn’t better for everyone. And lord knows our girls could use a few more role models. So give it a rest, poor victimized man children.

Oh,  and Ghostbusters is NOT A CULT CLASSIC.  Classic yes, but stop elevating its status falsely to validate your sexism.

oooOOOooo

You know what is?  The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  I hope you don’t mind indulging me in a little walk down Memory Lane.

In the summer between high school and college, I was a shy girl working at McDonald’s. One of my coworkers was Jason Broadpecs (note: an alias) who, despite having such a rugged, manly name was actually a pale, slender androgynous creature. I fell in lust immediately.

One night after our shift, he invited me along to a Rocky Horror showing (where he actually played Frank with the local players).  The first glimpse of Tim Curry in drag became a seminal moment in my impressionable young life (and I’m sure not just mine).  It rocked my entire world view.

He’ll always be the sweetest transvestite

I went to the after party at someone’s house, which turned into a sleepover with a carpet of bodies on the living room floor. There might have been more than sleeping going on, but I passed out (sadly).  It was probably the wildest night of my life.

(Jason and I dated briefly but disappointingly. I suspect he was gay and trying like hell to be bi, utterly unsuccessfully.  I didn’t take it personally.)

I spent another year with this group every weekend at the late night picture show, and met my first girlfriend through them (she played Janet) when I realized I WAS bi. It was the first time in my life I felt like I had found “my people.”

So when I say Rocky Horror is really important to me, I’m not just blowing smoke to give my opinion more weight. It wasn’t my childhood (hopefully it wasn’t anyone’s; the film is wildly inappropriate for kids) but the attachment is just as intense.

I wouldn’t say the new remake “ruined my childhood,” but it’s in no danger of usurping the original either. And, like many, I question why it needed to be made (which is probably what the Ghostbusters fans thought too).

The part I actually liked was how it tried to re-create it so faithfully with staging and choreography (when I realized that’s what they were doing, I felt some warm fuzzies); except that just made me miss the little things from the original they skipped, like Frank dry humping the pommel horse or Magenta sliding down the banister.

There were some new things that worked, like Frank descending on a giant King Kong hand for “Don’t Dream It, Be It” (the opening line of which is “Whatever happened to Fay Wray?”) or Brad leaning into camera to see who Dr. Scott is talking to during his little asides.

But there were a lot more changes that were unwelcome.  Like Rocky’s gold lamé shorts being downgraded to basketball length (in fact, unsurprisingly the entire production suffers from heavy censoring; the bedroom scenes are unbearably vanilla, Eddie’s murder and cannibalization are sharply muted, and Riff and Magenta’s incestuous relationship is as good as nonexistent (so long, elbow sex. Too racy for this crowd)). I visibly cringed at the clumsy, totally random cutaways to a theater full of people yelling lines–trying WAY too hard to wink at the fans.

Then there’s Frank’s entrance, which one could argue the entire show was riding on. It was certainly the moment I most antici…pated.  And they, in my opinion, utterly flubbed it.

Original:

2016:

The rest of the film is literally a frame-by-frame duplication. If you’re going to mess with the most important scene, you should have made it truly special. There’s nothing tantalizing or exciting about this.  (What’s worse, there’s an old-timey elevator later in the movie. So you HAVE an elevator.  WTF?)

Look, I like Laverne Cox a lot. She’s gorgeous and formidable, and I’m happy she realized her lifelong dream to play Frank. But…she’s a woman in women’s clothing. Not a transvestite (which seems a petty bone of contention, except the sight of a man in drag (and not hiding the fact he’s a man) is more subversive and shocking than even a transgender person). If there had never been a Tim Curry version she would have owned it, but there was and he left some King Kong-sized high heels to fill.  He was aggressively male and yet hot AF in fishnets. He had an air of sexual menace that was enthralling, that made everyone in the room want to fuck him. If you could bottle that you’d be a gazillionaire. Laverne…doesn’t.

The remake suffers from being too polished and pretty (and also felt really rushed, to make room for over thirty minutes of commercials. Eddie comes and goes so quickly, you almost immediately forget he was there). The original is dirty, tawdry, sordid and dangerous. They scrubbed it within an inch of its life and classed up the makeup, and sucked out its soul in the process.  You didn’t ruin my childhood, Fox, because I’ll always have 1975 (or more accurately 1987). But I just don’t see this creating a new generation of creatures of the night.

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