Thursday, May 30, 2013

# 78: Ghost (1990)

Code-name: Legit Psychic

Director: Jerry Zucker
Type: Chick Flick, Drama

Sam Wheat- Patrick Swayze
Molly Jensen- Demi Moore
Oda Mae Brown- Whoopi Goldberg
Carl Bruner- Tony Goldwyn
Willie Lopez- Rick Aviles
Subway Ghost- Vincent Schiavelli

Notable Awards & Nominations:

OSCAR- Best Supporting Actress- Whoopi Goldberg
OSCAR- Best Original Screenplay- Bruce Joel Rudin
Nomination-OSCAR- Best Score- Maurice Jarre
Nomination- OSCAR- Best Picture
Nomination- OSCAR- Best Film Editing
GOLDEN GLOBE- Best Supporting Actress- Whoopi Goldberg
Nomination- Golden Globe- Best Picture Comedy/Musical
Nomination- Golden Globe- Best Actor Comedy/Musical- Patrick Swayze
Nomination- Golden Globe- Best Actress Comedy/Musical- Demi Moore


First off...
I knew for a fact that Whoopi won the Oscar for this role, but had no idea of all these other accolades. Calling it a comedy/musical is a bit of a stretch, but then again, it was a really competitive year for awards.
Some of other trivia's really interesting too. Like all the differnet people they auditioned for the lead roles, how some people didn't even want to do this movie. Bruce Willis was the biggest standout in that he didn't see how this type of role would work... then after seeing it, he declared himself an idiot :-P later he'd be treated to a little redemption known as "The Sixth Sense" 

from this point on, be wary of spoilers...

Personal History
This was one of many chick-flicks my mom introduced me to when I was younger. I think I was at least 10. The story was great, but it'd be years before I fully appreciated it. 
I loved how funny Whoopi was... so much so that I knew a lot of those scenes by heart, starting with her first encounter with Sam. 
Come to think of it, many of the times I saw the movie, I only saw the first half of it because that's where all the great lines were. 

After that, two things stood out:
1) The really creepy moments where the bad guys died and were dragged to hell by the shadows
2) The ending is a guaranteed tear-jerker

Retrospective at Present
I can't remember the last time I saw this movie, but it's been quite a few years. 
But I know it so well that I knew the first AND last names of all the main characters, even to this day.

The basic premise is as follows:

Sam & Molly are a happy couple living in New York, just moved into a brand new apartment together. On their way back from a play one night, Sam gets killed. (Shockingly, this is within the first 10-15 minutes of the movie, territory few had treaded on before). His ghost remains behind because he doesn't want to leave Molly behind. 
After doing some "detective" work, he finds out who his killer is, finds that he's going back to Molly's apartment, and needs to warn her. This is where Oda Mae Brown comes in. She's a psychic from Brooklyn and ironically, after doing this phony business for years, she finds out that she actually has a gift to contact spirits.

The acting, on behalf of everyone, is pretty amazing. Nowadays anyone can say what they will about Demi Moore, but her grief over Sam's death is just moving. The love was definitely there between the two characters. And with Sam, even though he has the chance within seconds of his death to cross over, he decides to stay behind to make sure Molly is taken care of.
Then again, if he did cross over then and there, we wouldn't have much of a movie, would we? Closure sounds so much nicer especially because the murder scene was very emotional.

With the main trio, the two of them and Whoopi, it was my first encounter with all of them. So I easily associate all of them with this movie... a great movie at that.

The interaction between Sam and Oda Mae is one priceless moment after another.
First, her reaction when she realizes he's a ghost calling out to her and she's freaking the HELL out.
Then he convinces her to go to Molly's apartment to deliver the message... keeping her awake by singing "I'm Henry the VIII I am"... I didn't know what the hell he was singing, but she cracked me up so much I'd always say her lines right along with her.

Molly's a non-believer, ready to walk out on their first meeting until Sam has Oda Mae say "Ditto," something he always said instead of "I love you."
Probably this movie's most iconic quote: "Ditto."

The chick-flick elements are as cheesy as they get, between the dialogue, the scene with the pottery wheel, a memorable theme song ("Unchained Melody" by The Righteous Brothers), and several tear-jerking moments.

The comedy is an element that pops up frequently and is very much appreciated... and it's all Whoopi.... with one exception.

I included the Subway Ghost in the cast list because in the 2-3 scenes he was in, he was not only unforgettable, but he was important to the overall plot.
His character is just so melodramatic.

Sam encounters him on a train and is floored when he sees this ghost moving objects out of his way just to get to him. Later on, he seeks out his help to learn how to do the same.
For a while, it seems like the two are getting along until their actions opens up a cigarette dispenser. 
The ghost falls to his knees and moans "I'd give anything for a dreg." 
Sam asks if he's all right and he immediately turns on him, telling him to leave him alone before he runs off into another train.

Cruel irony: Vincent died of lung cancer... 
and supposedly at the same age (although some years prior) Patrick Swayze lost his battle with pancreatic cancer.

Bleck... on a personal note, I really hope one day we find a cure for pancreatic cancer. It's robbed us of some amazing people in this world.

During the second half of the movie, Sam discovers who Willie's accomplice was... and supposedly he was killed because he was about to uncover the fact his partner Carl was embezzling money in an account under a made-up name. If I remember right, it was something like $10 million.
So he pays Oda Mae another visit (the psychic business is BOOMING, hilariously enough, with actual ghosts) and asks her to do him another favor. 
She poses as Rita Miller (the name on the fake account) and withdraws it in the form of a cashier's check.

Come to think of it, that seems like a LOT of money to put on a check... red flag anyone?
Sam has her endorse the check and donate it to a couple nuns who are collecting donations.
She of course thinks it's crazy, but everyone watching laughs hysterically knowing full well of her connection of nuns via the "Sister Act" movies.
I saw both of them just a year ago: great stuff!

Tony Goldwyn plays a pretty good baddie in this, which kinda sucks because he's a good looking guy. But once you learn about his role in the plot, you just dislike him more and more. As if it's bad enough he had Sam killed, he starts putting the moves on Molly... as if he spent their lives being the third wheel and seizing the opportunity to take full advantage.

Throughout the movie, he also puts seeds of doubts in Molly's head about whether Sam is really communicating through Oda Mae to speak to her. Sure, it does sound a little crazy, but c'mon... we're watching this, knowing that she's right to be curious and want nothing more than to tell Carl to shut up.
The police aren't much help either, but they really don't have a lot to go on other than heresay. Willie Lopez didn't have a police file and instead, they dug up some files on Oda Mae who supposedly had a tricky past, making forgeries and so on. Their conclusion was that this Willie Lopez character was an ex-boyfriend she was retaliating against.
Thankfully, the trust is there between them when they really need it to be... where the bodies start to fall.

The creepy moaning shadows come in when they get killed, and they really did deserve to go to hell for what they did.

Then we have probably one of the saddest happy endings in the history of fim.
The spirits come down, Molly and Oda Mae get to physically see Sam, say their goodbyes and he departs. All with the theme music playing softly in the background...

OMG, I'm getting choked up right now just thinking about it.
We all kinda know this was coming... ghosts stay behind because they have unfinished business to take care of and once they do, they go to heaven and leave the world behind.
I think I wrote a piece of fanfiction that paid homage to it... taking care of unfinished business with someone who'd passed some time ago and saying a tearful goodbye.

At this point, I just gotta add that I dare anyone to get through that finale without tearing up. It's impossible. 
I'd put some sad films pretty low on this list and others I refuse to watch entirely because of moments like this that make me sob uncontrollably for minutes, if not hours, afterwards... but there are so many good elements to this one that it's worth coming back to every now and then. 

A great Whoopi Goldberg performance, if not the best EVER.
And recalling Patrick Swayze, regarded as one of the most handsome, most beloved actors by anyone of the female persuasion, this is one of the best ways to remember him. 
"Dirty Dancing" is the only other performance, for me, that comes close to being as brilliant and memorable.

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