Pin It
Favorite

I Ain't Afraid o' No-Stalgia 

The re-release of Ghostbusters takes a critic back to a formative movie summer

click to enlarge film1-1.jpg

You're forgiven in advance if you roll your eyes at the blatant pandering to nostalgia that is to follow. It is the very nature of nostalgia to feel rich and relevant to those who are cohorts — generationally or otherwise — while it looks merely self-indulgent and irrelevant to those who are not. I was there when my parents' generation American Graffiti'd and Happy Days'd and Big Chill'd itself toward a conviction that its formative youth experience was the formative youth experience. You'd think I'd have learned a thing or two.

But age does things to our relationship with memory, and as Ghostbusters rolls into theaters this weekend for a one-week-only 30th anniversary re-release, it's hard for me not to wax rhapsodic about the cinematic summer of 1984. In a practical sense, it's the reason I'm writing about movies at all.

For you see, 1984 was the year I got my first real job, at a six-screen multiplex in Bakersfield, California, just before the end of my junior year of high school. I didn't choose working in a theater because I was already intensely into movies, like several of my coworkers; it was just one of those jobs a 17-year-old who needed to work around a school schedule could get, and it was better than McDonald's.

I knew when I was hired that free movies at the theater where I'd be working were one of the fringe benefits; I did not know that we had a reciprocal agreement with the other two main first-run theaters in town, which totaled eight additional screens between them. That meant, in effect, I could see for free every movie that opened nationally between April 1984 and June 1985. So I did, and like the obsessive teenager I was, I started logging them on 3x5 index cards and eventually wrote reviews for my high-school newspaper.

Not only did I see virtually every movie that opened in that time span, but I almost always saw them on opening weekend, generally with a group of my coworkers. And so it was that we slipped into a matinee of Ghostbusters on Sunday, June 10, at one of the theaters where I didn't work — and watched it proceed to blow the roof off the place.

It's hard to convey to those growing up in an era of nonstop prerelease movie coverage what it was like to watch a blockbuster come out of nowhere. Yes, Bill Murray was already something of an established comedy star after Caddyshack and Stripes, and yes, it was a movie with special effects. But summer 1984 was supposed to be about Indiana Jones and Star Trek sequels.

I'd be lying if I said that Ghostbusters in particular was a defining moment of that movie year. Since it wasn't showing in the theater where I worked, I only saw Ghostbusters a couple of times, as opposed to the dozens of times I made my way into the back of the theater during The Karate Kid to watch an audience erupt during the climactic "crane kick," or caught certain key moments of Beverly Hills Cop that left the crowd breathless with laughter.

Even so, I might still find it hard to resist catching Ghostbusters in a theater during this limited run, because on some level I feel certain it's going to take me back to 1984. That was when I discovered not just a love of movies, but a love of going to the movies — sharing in that uniquely transporting communal experience of laughter, fear, anticipation, surprise, awe. I'm not nostalgic for my youth so much as I'm nostalgic for what seems like a different way of watching movies — undistracted by phones, unswayed by a year or more of rumors and trailers.

Of course, that's the "things were better when I was a kid" trap all nostalgia sells us. Maybe it's enough to remember fondly, and to acknowledge that it's foolish to expect a similar feeling in anyone for whom a certain song, a certain place or a certain movie wasn't part of a defining experience. Whatever may irritate me about the state of moviegoing in 2014, on this weekend I can watch Ghostbusters like it's 1984, when movies felt new. ♦

Ghostbusters
Rated PG · 107 minutes · 1984
Official Site: www.ghostbusters.com
Director: Ivan Reitman
Writer: Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis
Producer: Bernie Brillstein, Michael Gross, Joe Medjuck and Ivan Reitman
Cast: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Sigourney Weaver, Rick Moranis, Annie Potts, William Atherton and Ernie Hudson

Now Playing

Sorry there are no upcoming showtimes for Ghostbusters

Tags:

  • Pin It

Latest in Film

  • Print (and Reprint) the Legend
  • Print (and Reprint) the Legend

    Jackie keeps repeating its intriguing ideas about turning people into icons
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • Gangster's Bore
  • Gangster's Bore

    Ben Affleck directs and stars in Live by Night, but forgets to add some excitement
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • Crucial Stuff
  • Crucial Stuff

    Hidden Figures rights wrongs both cinematic and historic
    • Jan 5, 2017
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue

All of today's events | Staff Picks

or

More by Scott Renshaw

Most Commented On

Top Tags in
Music & Film

Review


Film


Music


Readers also liked…

  • Where Are the Women?
  • Where Are the Women?

    A critic's year-long deep dive into the way movies portray half of humanity
    • May 12, 2016
  • Spy vs. Spy
  • Spy vs. Spy

    The Man from U.N.C.L.E. carves out a unique space in a crowded espionage marketplace
    • Aug 12, 2015

© 2017 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation