The original post for this episode can be found here.
John August: Hello and welcome. My name is John August.
Craig Mazin: My name is Craig Mazin.
John: And this is Episode 163 of Scriptnotes, a podcast about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters.
Now, Craig, on previous episodes we talked about Raiders of the Lost Ark.
John: We went deep on Frozen.
John: We talked about Groundhog Day.
Craig: And The Little Mermaid.
John: And The Little Mermaid. Actually, The Little Mermaid was our first one.
Craig: That’s right.
John: So, it’s another one of those, and this was your idea from last week.
Craig: It was my idea?
John: I think so. We said Ghost and you said we should do that.
Craig: Yeah, we should do that.
John: We should do that right now. So, our episode this week is talking about the 1990 film Ghost.
John: And talking about it in sort of the kind of depth that only we would want to talk about it in.
Craig: Only we can do what we’re about to do.
John: Yes. We will unchain our melodies and get into Ghost.
Craig: [sings] Ooh…my…
John: But first a little bit of follow up. John Miller wrote in and said, “What is the 12 Days of Scriptnotes I see on the back of the sexy new t-shirt?” So, he’s talking about the Scriptnotes t-shirts. Craig, we sold a whole bunch of these Scriptnotes t-shirts.
Craig: I’m not surprised. It’s a great t-shirt. I think everybody should own one, whether they listen to the podcast or not.
John: Well, it’s the softest t-shirt we’ve ever made. And if you remember the first batch of t-shirts we made, they were supposed to be just the world’s softest things. And they were really incredibly good. But I challenged Stuart Friedel that, you know what — we need to make an even softer t-shirt. And Stuart’s sense of softness is just remarkable. And so he found the t-shirt. He says the paragon of softness is this American Apparel shirt from 2008 that doesn’t exist anymore.
Craig: That was the 10 on the scale. That’s the diamond —
Craig: I see.
John: Yeah. And so like nothing can actually, like if you were to scratch something against it, it couldn’t even scratch. It can scratch nothing.
Craig: Yeah, it’s maximum soft.
John: I think the reason they don’t make that t-shirt anymore is they use it to swaddle newborns.
Craig: Because air scratches the shirt.
John: Yes. So, the closest we were able to come to it is actually not an American Apparel shirt. It’s the next level shirt. It’s a blend and it’s kind of great. And so I tested it and it’s really a wonderful shirt. So, we’re making them only in gray, only with or sort of Sons of Anarchy tour band, just sort of world tour logo kind of thing. So, they’re only available for one more week, so people need to click on them to get them. So, store.johnaugust.com and you can order them.
And they run sort of in American Apparel sizes. So, if you are between a medium and a large, you get the large, so aim up is what we’re saying.
Craig: And what is it actually — do we know what it’s made out of? Is it some kind of chemical? How else is it so soft?
John: It is a blend. And so that’s the thing, to make really soft t-shirts they can’t be 100% cotton. They have to be a blend of cotton and two other fibers. So, it’s a tri-blend.
Craig: But they won’t say, because those fibers are — they’re made in a lab, deep in a lab under micro —
John: No, I think actually, I’ve listened to another podcast that was talking about sort of how fabrics were made, because I listen to a lot of other podcasts, and so it’s actually not —
Craig: Wait, there are other podcasts? [laughs]
John: There are other podcasts in the world.
Craig: I thought this was it. I thought this was the —
John: There’s us and the Slate Culture Gabfest, then one that we’re —
Craig: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
John: October 8.
Craig: So, there’s two now?
John: So there’s now two podcasts.
John: And so it must have been on the other podcast where they were talking about how fabric is soft or hard, sort of how fabric works is really about the way you’re twisting the fibers. So, it’s not about the things that it’s actually made of. It’s how you’re twisting it that makes the biggest difference.
Craig: Well, I’m educated.
John: You’re educated now. So, remember, pre-orders. If you want this t-shirt, you have to order this week or else you’re not going to get one because we’ll only print as many as people order for them.
Craig: Now, what is the answer to this question? What is the 12 Days of Scriptnotes on the back of the shirt?
John: So, we were trying to figure out what to put on the dates. The back of the t-shirt has all of the live show dates that we’ve done in the past and in the future, because we didn’t want this to sort of immediately be out of date, because a real tour shirt is talking about the future events, the future live shows.
And so we knew we had Austin, so that’s on there. We knew we would have the Slate Live Culture Gabfest. But we knew there was going to be some kind of Christmas show, and so we had to figure out what to call that Christmas show that would be funny on the t-shirt. And so we had all sorts of discussion around the office, and so one of the top contenders was The Passion of the Craig.
Craig: I can’t believe that didn’t…
John: So, my argument against The Passion of the Craig is that that’s really an Easter thing.
Craig: Well, that’s true.
John: So for the Easter show we can call it The Passion of the Craig.
Craig: Yeah. That’s true. Technically, theologically, that’s correct. Although —
John: I want to be a theologically correct podcast.
Craig: I mean, as long as I’m compared to dying Christ, then I think it’s accurate. It’s fair.
John: Craig died for our sins.
Craig: Every day.
John: Every day.
Craig: Every day.
John: Another correction. On the last podcast we were doing questions-and-answers and there was a question from John Schurmann, the Playwright, but it wasn’t John Schurmann, The Playwright. It was John Schurmann the TV Writer. So, he had deliberately in his question said, “I’m not the playwright, I’m the TV writer, and I completely reversed it. So, anyway.
Craig: Well, that’s a disaster.
John: Yeah, so I apologize to both John Schurmanns.
Craig: I assume we’re getting sued?
John: Well, actually we fixed it in the transcript so that when they Google it it will never actually show up wrong.
Craig: Oh, thank god.
John: So, I should say, the reason why we sell t-shirts in the first place, sort of to back into this whole the thing is we are a money-losing podcast. We don’t have ads or anything like that. So, we sell t-shirts, and the t-shirts really help pay for things like the transcripts, the hosting, and for Matthew who does such a great job of cutting our shows. So, it’s kind of the only way we kind of pay for what it is that we do.
So, if you’d like a t-shirt, it helps us pay for the whole show.
Craig: And just be aware, if you buy five shirts, if everybody you know buys a shirt, don’t worry, we’ll still be losing money.
John: We will still lose some money. Even if you are a premium subscriber for $1.99 a month, we will still manage to lose some money.
Craig: Yeah. That is our promise to you, the customer. We will never be profitable. [laughs] We will always lose money.
John: Yes. We will always meander for a long time before we get to our actual stated topics and we’ll always lose money.
Craig: [sings] Ooh…my love…
Okay, so Ghost.
John: The film Ghost is written by Bruce Joel Rubin and directed by Jerry Zucker, which I always forget that he directed this movie.
Craig: It’s Jerry Zucker [pronounced Zooker].
John: Oh, Z[oo]cker’d it instead of Zucker’d it.
Craig: It’s Z[oo]cker. I don’t know, okay, so I have the new iPhone, this is awesome. I have the new iPhone 6 and you know how they have this thing where like you can tell Siri to start talking to you without pressing any buttons?
Craig: Well, I said something that made it think that I wanted Siri to come on and it, oh well, that’s interesting.
John: Jerry Zucker sounds like Hey Siri.
Craig: It’s Jerry Zucker.
John: Zucker. I’ll never get —
Craig: Zucker. So, the first time I met David —
John: So, David is David Zucker.
Craig: David Zucker, his brother. I was talking to a guy who works for him and I said, well this is very exciting meeting David Zucker and he said, “It’s Z[oo]cker. Rhymes with Hooker. If you say Zucker it’s going to go poorly.”
John: Ah! Yeah. Because Zucker rhymes with another word.
Craig: It does. And they’re very finicky about it.
Craig: They’re very finicky about it. So, it’s Jerry Zucker. Yes, directed by Jerry Zucker, coming off of all the spoof movies.
Craig: Airplane! And Top Secret! And I don’t know if The Naked Gun had — had The Naked Gun come out prior to this?
John: I think Naked Gun is after that, because Naked Gun happened after the TV show, didn’t it?
Craig: It did. Yes. So, this was after Police Squad and Kentucky Fried Movie. So, obviously not at all continuous with his other work with David, his brother, and Jim Abrahams.
John: So, this movie comes out in July 13, 1990. It’s a long movie. It’s 126 minutes. I looked up budget and box office for it. So, back in 1990 it was budgeted at $22 million, which inflations up to about $40 million.
John: Box office, it made $505 million, which in modern terms would be $900 million.
Craig: Wow. Unbelievable. And that is a worldwide number I assume?
John: Uh…yes. I think it’s a worldwide number.
Craig: That’s just unbelievable. Can you imagine a $40 million movie today making nearly a billion dollars? Wow.
John: So, Whoopi Goldberg went on to win the Oscar, the BAFTA, the Golden Globe for her performance, and Bruce Joel Rubin, the screenwriter, won the Oscar for Best Screenplay.
Craig: Well deserved by both.
John: So, I also wanted to look and see how was this movie perceived when it came out. And so challengingly it’s actually kind of hard to find the reviews from that time, because a lot of times there will be links to those old reviews and they’ll be completely dead. So, when you try to go through everything sort of disappears.
But I was able to find the Ebert review and Peter Travers. So, Peter Travers first. His little quote, he talks about sort of the antecedents for Ghost, which I think is actually useful framing for this. He talks about “Blithe Spirit, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, just to name three classic movies with the same theme. And there have been many sentimental botch jobs, including Kiss Me Goodbye, Chances Are and Steven Spielberg’s dreary Always.”
Craig: Yeah, okay. All right, Peter.
John: But I think it’s worth noting that Ghost wasn’t the first time we ever had the sort of romantic movie with the Ghost and the living woman.
Craig: No, it is not. And The Ghost and Mrs. Muir probably the closest, although they’re not — what this, this one is very different than The Ghost and Mrs. Muir because she’s sort of inherited a ghost. And she falls in love with a ghost because it’s like she has a meet-cute with a ghost and then they fall in love. Peter Travers says, and I quote, “Ghost belongs with the treacle…Zucker dutifully pushes all the buttons — romance, thrills, laughs, tears — that have been pushed before by more assured hands…There is little else to admire other than Whoopi Goldberg, except for some nifty special effects,” which in the lens of today not at all nifty. “For the rest, Ghost succeeds only at being insubstantial.” And I think with this review we can say that Peter Travers, once again, has succeeded only in being insubstantial.
That’s just a dumb review of a much better movie than what he’s talking about.
John: I think it’s a better movie than he’s seeing, but we do have the benefit of knowing that it became this incredible phenomena and sort of touchstone movie. And he had to review it in the week that it came out. And so sometimes —
Craig: But then to be fair to us, we were alive in 1990. We were young adults. I was 19 years old. And I loved this movie. I remember loving it in the theater, crying and laughing in the theater, and feeling like it was one of the best movies I had seen ever. And it wasn’t my kind of movie. And I loved it. I just loved it. And I watched it again in preparation for this, and I still love it, and it’s so — I mean, we’re going to talk, obviously because we’re a screenwriting podcast I want to talk mostly, I’m sure you do as well, about Bruce’s script. I’m going to call him Bruce even though I never met him, and how good it is, and how sad it is to read some dumb review like this.
This review, you have to dig up and find in some dusty archive, look at it and laugh at it as an absurdity. And happily the movie lives on and I haven’t shown it to my daughter yet, but I bet she will love it. This is her kind of movie. She will love it.
John: The thing that really struck me as I watched the movie again is you can take a look at the movies that came before it, but what I think this really paved the way for is movies like Twilight. It’s really one of the first breakout supernatural romances that sort of had audiences, especially women audiences, going to see it ten times in the theater.
And it just hit all of those notes exactly the right way so that people loved it and that people wanted to see it again and again. And they wanted to sort of live through all of those experiences again and again with the movie.
Craig: Yeah. Ghost, to me, is a masterpiece of tone. Bruce Joel Rubin is writing and his entire oeuvre seems to be centered around questions of death. So, he wrote Jacob’s Ladder, and I believe there was another movie called My Life I believe which was also — which are meditations on death and how we handle our own mortality.
And obviously this movie has a supernatural fairy tale approach to death, but it concentrates on the living to some regard. So, you have this very deep tone of a dead man and the woman who loved him and they cannot be apart. And it’s a tragic romance. You also have a comedy. You also have sort of a crime/caper mystery. All of those things are handled perfectly well by his script. And where I think Ghost triumphs is in its precision point tone.
John: I agree. One of the criticisms of the film as I looked through sort of people who are not fans of it, they say that it shifts gears too often, or shifts tones too often. But what I think is interesting is you talk about the different things that it needs to do. It needs to have this much plot so that it makes sense. It needs to focus on the romance in these ways. It needs to have humor so that you can sort of have the relationships between Whoopi Goldberg and Patrick Swayze, and Whoopi Goldberg and Demi Moore, and sort of what’s going to happen. And it manages to do those very deftly.
The comedy works in the ways it needs to work without going so big that it eclipses the actual threat and it makes it feel like this isn’t a serious movie where people could be facing true harm.
Craig: Well, what Rubin does so well is avoid — so he avoids a mistake that I see all the time in screenplays that I get sent. And he embraces the opposite. And that is a question of reorientation to extraordinary events. A character faces an extraordinary event and the — sometimes I read scripts and the characters simply don’t behave in ways that you or I would behave in the middle of an extraordinary event like that.
Craig: There’s no time for them to behave. This movie takes its time and has no problem saying, okay, you’ve just been killed. We’re just going to spend 10, 15 minutes with you absorbing that. We’re going to spend 10 or 15 minutes with your not-wife but your girlfriend, your surviving girlfriend, absorbing what this means.
When you discover someone who can actually hear you, and a wonderful choice to make the psychic a fraud until this moment, she’s going to spend time just absorbing the fact that this is real. He’s going to spend time absorbing that she can hear him. Everything is allowed to just breathe and people are allowed to react the way I think you would normally react. And that’s why we go along for the ride, even when it gets wild.
John: It would be fascinating if we could somehow take a development executive and remove Ghost from their experience, so basically they’ve never seen Ghost, they have no idea Ghost exists. Then give them the script, because I really do feel like their instincts are going to be to make huge cuts to the first act and really the start of the second act. And basically get plot started much faster. And they would want Patrick Swayze’s character killed as soon as possible.
John: They would want to skip over a lot of the little sort of comedy beats and sort of get things going and really ramp up the tension and the stakes and all the things that you’re supposed to do. And it would really be to the detriment of the film.
Craig: I think also that they would force a genre on it.
Craig: They would say, look, either this is All of Me, which was, you know, All of Me was a similar kind of movie that was all about being a comedy.
Craig: And all about a dead person moving inside of a live person’s body. So, either do All of Me and make it a total comedy, or so this is a sad, weepy tragedy. But what’s this whole thing about where you want to have your cake and eat it too? Well, you can, as long as you give the characters time to absorb what’s happening. [laughs] Then I think it’s okay.
John: So, let’s start in. I have the movie here in front of me. I’m going to be skipping through some things, but I really want to see how the movie unfolds as it plays because it’s not what I remembered it being, and it begins in a very different way than I expected.
So, it’s a Paramount movie. You’ve got the stars flying in. Then we’re fading into what seems like we’re in a scary movie.
John: And I did not remember this at all. And I don’t know if you remembered it when you saw it, but it’s dark, it’s shadowy, we’re not quite sure what this place is that we’re in. It’s a pretty font, so it doesn’t look like scary murder font, but it’s one of those long opening title sequences.
So, it’s dusty and what we’re ultimately going to see is that Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, and Tony Goldwyn are sledge-hammering down this wall to open up this new loft that they’re going to be moving in to.
Craig: Right. And as we’ve talked about, these opening moments, this is why even though we don’t insist that your first three pages be the pages you send in for a Three Page Challenge, it’s good often that they are because those are the pages that are teaching us how to watch the movie. So, when the title comes on, it comes on with a jarring jump scare tone. And then the credit sequence is giving you a horror movie vibe. And by doing so it’s saying, hey, take this seriously. This is not going to be what you’ve expected from Jerry Zucker before.
Craig: It’s not the just light romance or romantic comedy. We’re actually taking this real. When we say Ghost we don’t mean like Wocka Wocka Ghost. We mean there is going to be some serious stuff going down. And when the credit sequence ends, what we are revealing is essentially three of the four people that are in this movie. And this is a movie with very few characters.
And here we are meeting three of them and learning very quickly that Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore’s characters, Sam and Molly, are together. And then there’s this friend that they have, Carl, who is played by Tony Goldwyn.
John: Yes. So you see the three of them smashing through the wall. Essentially they all have weapons. They’re not using them on each other quite yet. It’s sexy. I mean, Tony Goldwyn is in really great shape here.
Craig: I mean, both of those guys are ripped.
John: They’re ripped. I mean, Patrick Swayze you always sort of knew was the, but I mean Tony Goldwyn, this was his moment. And so it’s going to be this love triangle between the three of them is the sort of central drama of this thing. And the music sort of threw me, but I think you make a good point is that starting in this movie, if you had sort of the more romantic sort of music, or if you had the comedy kind of music, you would be expecting this to be a funny movie right from the start.
So, in a weird way the misdirect of sort of the — it’s not Aliens, but so it’s Maurice Jarre, sort of his more sort of mysterious — it’s an interesting way to start the movie. And it sort of gets you taking the movie seriously.
John: We meet our three main characters. So, Patrick Swayze’s character is named Sam Wheat. Wow. There’s a name.
Craig: It’s just a bad name. It is, especially because it’s said over and over and over. I mean, look —
John: Has anyone in the world ever been named Wheat?
Craig: I mean, I’m sure there are people named Wheat, but Sam Wheat sounds like a bad cereal. So, I mean, look, these are the things you point out when you love a movie because there’s like little things that stick out as wrong. And there’s very few of them, but I’ll point them out as they come. But Sam Wheat is just a dumb name.
John: Molly Jensen, which is sort of a perfect name for a Demi Moore character.
John: And then Carl Bruner.
Craig: I mean, what a great villain name, right?
John: It’s sort of a great villain name. It sort of tips that he might be a villain.
Craig: Everything tips that he might be a villain.
John: And it’s Carl with a C which is especially — you don’t really see that in the movie, though.
Craig: It’s like a Nazi name, you know, Carl Bruner.
John: Yes. So, she is an artist. We don’t sort of know that she’s a potter yet, but they are living in scary New York, not sort of modern New York. And it’s going to become important that they’re living in a not yet gentrified neighborhood.
Craig: Right, so in the late ’80s, or this movie comes out in 1990, so they shot it in the late ’80s, downtown areas, downtown that we think of as super hip now like Meatpacking or even Tribeca or so, were kind of scummy. Alphabet City, totally off-limits. And it seems like they’re living down there. Yeah.
John: So, we see their new loft and sort of the plans for the new loft. They’re moving in together for the first time.
John: Next scene we’re seeing Carl and Sam in the elevator. They’re dressed up in suits and we see that they work in Wall Street banking, some sort of financial thing. It’s a first comedy bit really which is faking that Carl has a terrible disease in a crowded elevator and they make everyone really uncomfortable. So, we’re seeing that they’re buds, and they feel like kind of frat boy buddies.
Craig: That scene is the one thing I know for sure is that that was not Bruce Joel Rubin’s idea. That was something that Jerry, and Jim, and David would do themselves in elevators to entertain each other. I think that goes all the way back to their time in college. And I’ve actually been in elevators when they’ve done it now, which is even scarier because they’re older now. So, god knows what they’re hacking up. So, Jerry just has these two guys do it.
But what I love about it is that it is essentially pushing a button in the audience’s brain. And it’s saying here’s kind of a cliché scene of two guys yucking it up. And while it is cliché and has nothing to do with story, doesn’t move the plot along at all, what it’s doing is it’s tapping you in a spot that goes, oh, these two fit into this cinema box of wacky buds. And that’s going to help kind of misdirect us until the movie can’t bear any more direction in part because they seem to be missing one character. [laughs] I feel like the movie is short one red herring character.
But, regardless, that does help quite a bit.
John: It does. So, the elevator takes us into the financial offices which are the saddest financial offices I think I’ve seen in this kind of movie. It’s just such a little set. And it feels more like a bank in Wichita than a high stakes financial office. Partly, the fault of movies is movies really kind of, from the time of Wall Street, but really as long as we’ve always thought about big New York City corporate movies, they always have the glamour shot, like windows that look out over the city.
John: It’s always this high power thing, and this is not that at all. It’s like they sort of ran out of money for like trans lights or things, so that you don’t really see out the windows. It was odd to me that it was just such a boring office set.
Craig: It is a bizarre space. There’s a weird lavender carpet. It probably actually is more accurate to what those spaces look like, because real estate is a premium in New York and only enormous firms can afford these super fancy looking places.
But, I have to say that while sometimes the movie does seem a little cheap, and frankly it wasn’t made for a lot, I mean $40 million today is not a lot of money to make a movie like this, there was some already — even before we got to this point, or maybe, I’m sorry, just following there’s going to be some really nice directorial touches. You can see that Jerry is pulling some cool moves.
But in this sequence, we learn a couple of facts that are fairly nicely layered in.
Craig: We learn that Patrick Swayze’s character, Sam, seems to be a little more senior than his buddy, Carl, and that Sam is in possession of certain codes that allow the transfer of money and, in fact, he’s changed one of those codes and maybe there’s a little bit of that later, but we’re learning at least there’s a hierarchy here. They’re in charge of money. And Sam has a code.
John: Exactly. And so this ability to put stuff into accounts is something that Sam has and something that Carl needs. And we’re going to learn down the road that Carl put some money into an account and then can’t get it back out. And that is the reason for the plot of Ghost in terms of the villain plot of Ghost is just about this code got changed.
John: So, we see their offices. We see what that is. There’s the Japanese. We are coming back to the beautiful loft apartment which Molly is fixing up.
Craig: And is this where the angel is being…?
John: Yeah, the angel.
Craig: Right. So, it’s a nice little visual thematic thing. They’re hoisting this wooden angel up. You know, and listen, foreshadowing comes in all sorts of flavors. Sometimes it’s punch you in the face foreshadowing, but I didn’t mind it so much here. There’s a nice moment where we see Sam go to help get the thing in and you almost think like, oh my god, is he going to die here? But he doesn’t die here.
There’s a very nifty little shot that Jerry does with a mirror. I don’t know if you noticed that or not. I liked that one a bit. But, again, we see they’re all together and they’re all buddies.
John: Yeah. It is actually a very clever shot. I was playing it right as I’m watching this right now. So, essentially Sam’s helped get the angel inside and there’s a shot which you think is real but is actually in a mirror that’s being carried back away from you. And that took probably half a day to choreograph, but it does help give you sense of the space really nicely.
John: So this is our first apartment together. It’s all about sort of their love and sort of their being together. It’s the first time we have the I Love You words spoken, I believe.
John: And the lack of that.
Craig: Yeah. So, there’s this exchange that they do here, and we’ve talked about this before. You can’t write great dialogue. You can’t. You can write dialogue that becomes great. But you can’t sit down and say now I’m going to write an iconic line. I can’t sit down and say I’m going to write, “You had me at hello.” I love you and Ditto became a thing.
It was just so perfect because it wasn’t as blatant as I love you and then, “Oh, you know, you mean so much to me, too,” and this very on the nose thing. He’s saying ditto and she’s laughing. It’s their gag. But there’s a little something missing there and transitions into this very interesting expression of pessimism from this character. And maybe that pessimism kind of gives a hint as to what his little journey is going to be all about. But essentially saying every time things are going well for me it seems like — he’s kind of discussing the sort of Damocles and the idea of the other shoe dropping and he’s worried just that the good times will end.
John: Yeah. If I had a criticism of the movie up to this point is that I haven’t had a very good perspective on what he wants. And I know he has a job. I know he has this beautiful wife — or not wife — girlfriend. This is one of the few moments where he’s talking about his inner life, but we don’t get a lot. And it would be better to see sort of what his flaws are before this moment. But, movies only have so much time.
Craig: Well, that’s true. And I would also say that I’m not sure how I would have done it differently, because in the way the movie is going to work we know that what he’s going to want is such a big want. I want to save the woman I love from a terrible end, that that would dwarf anything that comes before it. And so what he’s expressing here is an inability to just be happy with what he has.
Craig: And I think that that’s a nice thing to do for a character that’s going to lose everything and then appreciate even the smallest thing, like being able to just touch the person you love.
Craig: So I thought that was a good choice actually.
John: So, 13 minutes in is where we have our iconic pottery scene.
Craig: [laughs] Right.
John: And so what’s so funny, obviously everyone knows this scene. But watching it again, I had never realized how incredibly phallic it was. Because I always think about it being like sort of sexual touchy, but you realize she’s crafting a giant penis in front of her.
Craig: That’s right. Uh-huh.
John: And then the penis will collapse.
Craig: Yeah. What she’s doing is she’s jerking him off in this scene.
John: Yes. She is. And the young me did not recognize that.
Craig: No. I don’t think young me recognized it either, [laughs]. But in watching it now, it couldn’t be more obvious. She’s masturbating him. But, so a very — there’s just so much about this scene that’s fascinating to me.
Okay, first of all, again, does absolutely nothing to move the plot forward. And when we talk about rules and how rules are rules until they’re not rules, this is a great example. This doesn’t move the plot forward. It doesn’t even really move the information of their relationship forward because we already know he loves her. Or, he may be conflicted in not being able to express it, but he certainly likes her a lot. They’ve moved in. They’ve been hugging and kissing.
So, what is this for? And ultimately it’s for a feeling. It is a scene that evokes something that is more than just information. It makes me believe that these two people are soul mates.
John: Well, the moment is actually genuinely cinema. It’s not just story. It’s the thing that can only be captured by sight and sound and the great music playing underneath it. It’s all those things put together as a package.
And reading this on the page would not have anywhere near the impact of seeing these two attractive people rubbing their hands all over this clay and being intimate with that song playing. It is truly a cinematic moment.
Craig: It’s gorgeously done. I love what she’s wearing. It’s so sexy. You know, that kind of like overall but no shirt underneath. It’s great. And the music — when you get a song like this, and it doesn’t happen often. This is an old song, Unchained Melody, had been around forever. It was from the ’50s. And yet it was one of those “what’s old is new again” songs. I love the way that they have the old style jukebox moving the record around, which is gorgeous.
But, a song like that you get like I Will Always Love You, from The Bodyguard, My Heart Will Go On, from Titanic — it’s just one of those things that is so right for the moment that the movie becomes defined by it, you know?
John: 100 percent. And so sometimes they’re songs. Sometimes they are poses. Sometimes they’re just little snippets. I mean, Flashdance, she pours the water down on herself. That’s the iconic image from it. It’s not that it was the one sheet, but it sort of had to be the one sheet, because that is the thing sort of encapsulates what the experience of the movie is. And the pottery/clay moment is that moment here. And it’s interesting because if you look at the posters for it, a lot of times it’s like Patrick Swayze all glowy, but that’s not really what the movie is about. It’s about the two of them, and touching is what you want to see them be able to do, because of course we’re about to take away their ability to touch each other.
Craig: And, again, you could play the what would the studio executive say game, and they would probably say, “Well, yeah, but this should end in a fight. Somehow move the story, Make a change in this.”
But, no, this scene is why the movie works. I really believe that in my heart. We would not care so much if we didn’t see the two of them actually have sex without having sex. And it’s like great sex. It’s great movie sex. It’s spectacular. And it’s the buy-in for women, for men, for anybody that knows what passion is, this is the thing that gets your heart pumping for these two characters so that when they are rendered asunder it matters.
John: Yup. Immediately after this scene it is daytime and we’re going to a new plot moment. So, like we’ve had our love and now it’s plot. We are close in on a green CRT monitor and someone is trying to access an account. And stuff has been changed. And so this is where Patrick Swayze suddenly looks like, wait, something is wrong. There’s too much money in this account. He has to change the codes on things. So, he’s going to fix this thing and he’s going to tell Carl, huh, I’m going to have to stay late tonight to figure out what is wrong with these codes.
Craig: Right. And Carl is asking, oh, I could do it for you. No, no, I’ll do it. No suspicion there whatsoever. I don’t think we’ll ever understand, we’re ever made to understand why there is extra money in the account, where it came from.
John: Yeah. The sort of thrown away explanation is that Carl is laundering drug money. And so whoever the people are, they’re incredibly dangerous. But, we never see them. They never become a real threat. Apparently they’re enough of a threat to Carl that Carl is willing to do terrible things. But, we don’t know this yet.
Craig: Yeah. I mean, the fact that we never see them is probably a good thing because it would just end up being a guy. Carl’s plan to use these accounts to launder money is not a particularly good one if it could be that easily discovered, plus in order to launder the money I would think you would need to be able to actually move money around, which he doesn’t have the ability to do. So, there’s a lot of issues with that and we don’t care.
John: We don’t care.
John: It’s one of those things where it has to be — it’s movie logic. Do you believe that it could kind of happen? Yeah. Is it crucial to your understanding? Nah.
Craig: I mean, yeah, it’s like one of those things where, well, it’s possible that if you work for the SEC this movie just wouldn’t work for you, but most of us don’t. And we understand essentially that there’s a crime going on here and it doesn’t flout logic, it’s simply leaving things out. Essentially the movie is saying you don’t need to know.
John: Many science fiction stories sort of do that sort of shorthand with science where it’s like, okay, we’re skipping over 15 steps and because we’re skipping over all these things it’s actually impossible, but most people say like, “Yeah, that feels good enough.” And that’s what it probably feels like to anyone who has any sort of accounting background. It’s like, wait, no, no, that’s impossible. And yet…yeah. Because it’s not important.
Because what’s going to happen next is that Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore are walking through their dangerous neighborhood. A guy comes up to them, insists on his wallet. He’s going to hand it over, but a scuffle breaks out and suddenly Patrick Swayze is collapsed to the ground.
John: He gets up. He chases after the guy. And as he returns he sees Demi Moore huddled over his body and he is not himself.
Craig: Right. So, a good misdirection here. There’s a struggle. We’re on Demi Moore when we hear a gunshot go off. And then the next thing we see is the bad guy running away, followed by Patrick Swayze chasing him. We presume in that moment perhaps the gun just didn’t hit anyone and was just a random.
But then when Patrick Swayze comes back, he experiences something on his face and then we see what he’s experiencing. That’s the way to write movies like this, I think, so that everything is through the perspective of a character and we’re watching them absorb this. And this is the first moment where I was so grateful that the movie said what would people actually do. You know? What would they actually do?
And what they would actually do is spend a lot of time doing nothing except watching and feeling what’s happened to them. And that’s exactly what this movie does. A great choice by Bruce Joel Rubin.
John: Yeah. So, a moment of glorious light comes. Patrick Swayze has the opportunity to follow that light and leave, but he does not want to leave. And so he stays with Demi Moore. And ends up in the hospital, which is where we’re getting a little bit more of the sense of the rules behind things.
Craig: A little bit, yeah. So, what we see is that another person dies and he goes into the light. So we understand that that’s an option. And Patrick Swayze encounters another ghost, so we know he’s not the only one. Which, again, you’d think like, well, okay, there’s this other ghost that shows up. He’s like an old Jewish man. It’s played for comedy, which I love by the way that it’s played for comedy.
But it’s a very smart choice. It’s not just a random thing. Because these are the little questions that sometimes we forget to ask when we’re writing a movie. We know the movie is about a ghost and da-da-da. Well, here’s a question: is he the only one?
John: Yup. Can ghosts talk to each other? Can anyone see ghosts? Can ghosts walk through things? Yes. But it’s not easy and it’s not necessarily easy to walk through things. They can’t magically appear places. They actually have to travel and walk places.
Craig: Right. And all of those things are answered in the scene without really being expository. It’s a very different kind of scene than what we saw, for instance, in Beetlejuice, where they go into a place and someone delivers a whole bunch of exposition to them. They literally sit at a desk and are told things.
This is much more impressionistic. Somebody just sits down and just starts talking to them, an old man starts talking to Sam as if he’s known him his whole life. Says a bunch of things that are cryptic and yet informative. And then he’s gone.
John: Yeah. So we see another patient die. The patient goes up into the glorious light. The old man says, “Oh, it’s better than the other way.”
John: So the sense of like, oh okay, so there is a heaven and a hell concept in this universe. A guy with a gurney walks right through Sam and it’s horrifying, because he sees sort of all inside the body. And then we’re not rushing the plot ahead. We’re not — Sam’s not looking for his killer. He’s just sort of hanging out with his wife.
Craig: He’s doing exactly what somebody would do. The whole point is I’m not ready to move on, and by the way, I don’t believe in any of this baloney, but it’s fun for the movie. He’s not ready to move on, so what would you do? You would stay there and just stare at your girlfriend while she cries. And that’s exactly what he does.
And by doing that, our heart already starts to go — because we’ve put ourselves in our shoes. And every person in the audience was imagining this with their partner. Guaranteed.
John: So, we are — this is classically the end of the first act, start of the second act. And this is sort of where you would expect this to be time wise in the movie. We’re about 30 minutes in. And so Patrick Swayze is dead. He is in this new land of being a dead person and sort of having to learn new rules which is what it’s like to be a ghost among these living people and what other ghosts are like.
He is looking at his life from the outside, so he sees his beautiful girlfriend going through his stuff. He sees his best friend there to help her out. He is sad. He’s lonely. He’s despondent. Demi Moore is sad, and lonely, and despondent. And neither is able to help the other one.
Craig: Exactly right. And we feel it and we buy it, we believe it. We have absorbed with ease the supernatural incursion. And we’re perfectly happy.
John: One bit of rule logic we’ve encountered is that their cat is able to sense him. And so the cat knows that Sam is around and does not like it one bit. So the cat will hiss and snarl at him. This becomes important because Demi Moore and Carl, or Molly and Carl go off, leave the house. They leave Sam in the apartment. And the guy who killed Sam shows up at the apartment. He’s going through things.
So, suddenly we are back in a thriller. This is actually a point of danger. Who is this person? Who is this person who is in our house. Molly comes back. She is now in danger. He is powerless to keep her from being in danger.
John: And that sense of really emasculation is incredibly frustrating. So, he’s able to use the cat to scare off the intruder, but it’s the first sense that the A plot has not ended because he’s dead.
Craig: Right. So, obviously some big information is learned here. The person that mugged him and killed him was not just a mugger. Something else is going on. He was- – this was intentional. And if you haven’t at this point already figured out that Tony Goldwyn is involved, your brain isn’t functional well because, again, he’s the only other character in the movie. Who else could it be.
But the emasculation you describe, that’s dead on. And a lot of what’s going to happen now is watching someone be frustrated their inability to save the person they love. And this is a very lovely escalation because when you die that’s enormous, right? That’s a huge problem. How do you top that?
Well, I’ll tell you how you top it. You’re going to have to sit there and watch the person you love mourn you. Oh my god. Well, how do you top that? Ah-ha, you’re going to have to watch passively as somebody tries to hurt them.
Craig: And that’s a great escalation. I mean, talk about how do you escalate something that’s already fairly well escalated? And, of course, the wonderful concept of stakes comes into play. When you have a movie where your hero is dead and cannot die what are the stakes? Somebody that he loves dying.
John: Yup. Just thinking aloud here, I mean, if you look at this first half of the movie as basically being the emasculation of Patrick Swayze’s character. It’s all about sort of like he’s bringing this big statue into his apartment, building this clay phallus that collapses. He’s being killed. He is powerless to stop this person from hurting his girlfriend. And he’s giving chase to this guy who he can’t even sort of stop.
So, it’s a frustrating thing. And I think you’re exactly right. You would think like, well, there can’t be anything worse than dying. It’s like, oh yeah, there actually can be something worse than dying. It’s dying and being powerless to fix the things around you.
Craig: Mm-hmm. And this is also where I think when you talk about a movie that makes what the equivalent of today’s billion dollars, you don’t make a billion dollars off of one gender or the other. This is where I think men are watching this movie and completely involved.
Craig: Because there’s this protective instinct that has been — either it is innate or it is a gender role and a construct. I don’t care. All I know is that it’s there. And this is tweaking that in men. This protective instinct and the inability to protect is enough, I think, to make every man in the theater lean forward in their seat and be involved.
John: Yes. So, in giving chase to this guy who invaded his apartment, he goes into the subway. And so one of the weird rules of this movie is like he can take the subway to get around places. And it’s on the subway that he meets another ghost, a really crazy sort of aggressive ghost, Vincent Schiavelli.
Craig: Vincent Schiavelli.
John: We’re not sure [how to pronounce].
Craig: Well, Schiavelli would be the proper Italian pronunciation.
John: But we’ll see how he pronounces it.
John: If he’s still alive. I have no idea.
Craig: He is not alive, sadly.
Craig: No, he died actually fairly young. Vincent Schiavelli’s character emerges here. And this is maybe my favorite scene in the movie and it’s very, very short. And it’s followed by another Vincent Schiavelli scene later, which is terrific, but I love this scene. I love the way that Rubin did it.
So, up until this point it’s been fairly procedural. Our ghost is wandering around, following people, and we understand that in some ways he has this omniscience. He can be anywhere and hear anything. But on the other hand he has this powerlessness. He can’t actually touch things or move things or impact the physical world around him. So, it’s an interesting collision of ability and disability.
He’s following this guy, but for what? What could he possibly be able to do? Well, he’s following him because he wants to know the truth, I suppose. And he’s on this train and we are completely in that moment and then suddenly out of nowhere this other ghost starts screaming at him in the most frightening way, “Get off my train,” and it’s frightening.
Craig: And he pushes our guy, not only pushes him off the train, but as he pushes him off the train breaks physical glass, which is making us think, wait a second, perhaps there’s more that ghosts can do. Tonally speaking, it was a reminder for me in this movie that we’re dealing with serious stuff and potentially very scary stuff. And Vincent Schiavelli is so — his face is frightening. The way he yells at him is frightening. The whole thing is creepy and it’s very Bruce Joel Rubin. It’s the closest scene in this movie to the sort of creepy stuff we see a lot of in Jacob’s Ladder.
John: Yes. So, following the subway moments, we get to the mugger’s apartment where the mugger is on his phone, his sort of powder blue classic rotary phone, which is so great. It’s one of those things like your daughter would see it, it’s like, “But what is he talking on?” Oh, that’s a phone. Phones used to look like that before the iPhone 6.
And so he’s saying, he’s calling someone and saying, “I wasn’t able to get it,” and basically letting us know that he wasn’t a random — obviously we knew it wasn’t a random thing because it’s the same guy from before, but he’s in cahoots with somebody. And who that person he’s in cahoots with, that’s the question.
Craig: It’s probably the other character in the movie.
John: [laughs] Exactly. There’s almost no one left. And so —
Craig: There’s no one left.
John: And so if you were to add in, because I was thinking like sort of how do you put in a red herring there. I wonder if there is some way to take the character who is the banker, who is going to show up later in the story that Whoopi Goldberg has to deal with. If you could somehow bring him into the story earlier on, like somebody who is fulfilling that function so you think like, oh, there’s another person who it could be.
Craig: I’m with you 100 percent. That’s the way to do it. You take that guy and you put him in the beginning of the movie as a jerk. As a bad guy. And he should be a bad guy. He’s just not a criminal but he’s a jerk. And he’s sleazy. And there’s something off about him. And we just assume it’s him and it’s not him at all.
Craig: You need, I mean, this movie really could have used that red herring because when the big reveal comes it’s such a, well yeah.
John: Well, yeah. There’s no, “Oh my god.” Even in the moment I’m sure it didn’t have that kind of impact.
Craig: No, we’re literally out of people that have names [laughs] by the time we get to that.
John: Another sort of small criticism, there are a lot of like single use characters in this. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but like Stephen Root shows up as a police detective and, well, he gets one scene.
Craig: Yeah, he shows up in one scene. And curiously in that scene he is accompanied by a female cop who has I think one line, which I don’t know, maybe they were doing somebody a SAG favor and then that was it. It just didn’t need to happen.
Although, because I know David and Jerry, I know that for instance the woman at the bank who — we’ll get to Oda Mae — does her signature card with, that’s their mother. And she’s always in —
John: That’s awesome.
Craig: She actually does a very fine acting job I have to say.
John: No, she’s great. I have zero complaints. And so that’s not a blanket dismissal of using characters and then never seeing them again. That’s completely good and valid. I just felt like there was an opportunity to take one of these characters from later in the story, pull them back earlier, and let them be useful in your story.
Craig: I agree. It would have helped.
John: So, one of the things I found fascinating, which I hadn’t remembered until rewatching the movie, is that Patrick Swayze encounters Oda Mae, this is Whoopi Goldberg’s character — well, first off, he encounters her quite late in the story. We are about 40 minutes into the story before Whoopi Goldberg’s character shows up. And it’s just location coincidence. It’s right across the street from the mugger.
And you say like, well, that’s just really convenient, but it ends up becoming very, very useful because later on in the story she’s in danger because she’s right across the street from the mugger.
John: So, it’s one of those things where it feels convenient in the time that you first introduce it, but then it ends up having a plot consequence that’s actually genuinely helpful.
Craig: So, Oda Mae Brown is this fascinating character. And, again, the confluence of good choices. Physics in movies, I mean, look, they could have just gone the easy way and he gets in touch with a psychic and so forth, but she’s a fraud.
She’s not only a fraud. She’s a fraud with a backstory. She’s a fraud, but her mother, and her mother, and her mother who we presume before her, the whole line was supposedly had the shining as they say. And she doesn’t. She’s never had it. She’s a complete fraud until suddenly she can hear Sam. And they play it for comedy. And we believe it because, again, they let Oda Mae, they let Whoopi Goldberg react as somebody actually would. And they let her play it.
Everybody in this movie is constantly denying the call to action as cowards would and then finally getting pushed into it reluctant. Everyone feels like a reluctant hero to some regard.
Craig: And that was a great choice because we believed it. We also then understood that she had absolutely no idea how to navigate this.
John: Yeah. So, I think Whoopi Goldberg is fantastic in the movie. I think it’s a really good character. Looking back at the reviews at the time, and sort of the reviews since that time, there’s criticism that her character sort of falls into the magical negro problem. And very quickly summarized, it’s when you have an African American character in a story whose function is to sort of help the white people do their things and sometimes teach them a wise, valuable lesson. But they’re supposed to put their entire life on hold to help the white people.
And you can level that to Oda Mae Brown, but I think she actually transcends it in ways that are really interesting. She seems — she wants her own things. We don’t know her whole life, but she didn’t just show up at the start of the movie to help the white person. She would have had a whole story if Patrick Swayze had never entered into that room.
Craig: Yeah. I don’t think she fits. I think that she fits only nominally in that she is African American and she is magical, which you would think would be enough to fit the checkboxes of the magical negro stereotype. But, she isn’t magical. The point is that she’s not magical until this moment. And so that surprises her as much as it surprises him.
She clearly has her own volition. She does not exist to serve this guy, and in fact, doesn’t want to. And is continually convinced to continue to help him because she’s in danger. She makes choices based on what is good for her. Granted, she’s presented as a kind of sexless woman living a spinster life with her sisters, which is — that is magical negro territory. But she’s not particularly wise. She’s not coddling this character. She doesn’t particularly like him for most of the movie.
What I was struck by, actually, was how different her performance was here than what we would come to see from Whoopi Goldberg as her career went on. And interestingly, I found at times that when she was doing some of the comic runs that at times she seemed like she was copying Eddie Murphy a little bit. Certain Eddie Murphy intonations and moves that she was doing, because he was like at the height of his powers.
And it felt like she was kind of doing some Eddie Murphy stuff here and there, particularly just the way she would say certain words, or kind of pull a couple of things. But so much of it then is her own deal and it is that — she is a unique character. And watching her relationship with him develop is one of the pleasures of the movie.
And one last thing. Another argument against magical negro-hood for this character of Oda Mae Brown is that she gets something from him. And that is a realization that she actually is more than she thought she was.
John: And that in helping people, ultimately she’s going to help not only him but sort of other ghosts who need to contact the living, she has a purpose to her life, which is a good thing as well.
John: One of the other things that’s remarkable about her performance, which you sort of can easily forget because she does it so well, is that the rules of the movie is she doesn’t see him. She can only hear him. And so whenever they’re having a conversation, she has no eye contact with him. And so we have to believe that she’s hearing him and yet not seeing him and being fully engaged with the people around her instead.
And she does that incredibly well and that’s not a simple thing.
Craig: No it’s not. It’s completely believable. And you have to give Jerry credit for keeping everybody on point there with that and moving Patrick Swayze around so that Whoopi’s eye line doesn’t change, but Patrick’s position changes quite a bit. It’s done very, very well.
You know, occasionally the shtick between them gets a little recycled.
Craig: She has a tendency too often to go to the well of the joke of I’m talking to you in front of somebody else who doesn’t know that you’re there, so I sound crazy.
But by and large it feels natural.
Craig: And so it doesn’t grate.
John: If I were to have a — this is a terrible thing to say about an actor who is no longer here with us, Patrick Swayze’s character I feel is better than Patrick Swayze’s performance. And watching this again, there were moments where I could imagine, wow, a different actor, that could land better than it did right there. He felt sometimes just a little light for the movie.
Craig: I agree. And it is — listen, never speak ill of the dead. This, at times, he was not able to convey what I would call the most convincing agony. He struggled with the agony part. The confidence part, the romantic part, nailed it. The agony at times felt a little forced.
Now, interestingly with Demi Moore, let’s talk about her performance for a second. It’s not screenplay stuff but… — So, I mean, a couple of moments here and there where, okay, particularly when he died she seemed a little too dead for the moment. But, throughout the movie she actually does what I think is a terrific job of quietly expressing this grief. And she cries better in this movie than just about any actor I’ve ever seen in any movie.
Craig: There’s about seven times where she very naturally produces like two or three tracks of parallel tears from her eyes, moving at like a perfect uneven — it’s gorgeous.
John: Her tears have this amazing viscosity of sort of how they fall. It really is remarkable.
Craig: It’s amazing. And she’s so beautiful. And I love her hair in the movie. And I talk with Lindsay Doran all the time about hair. Because Lindsay, you know, her whole thing is, you know, all the stuff that we do, if it’s bad hair the movie is dead. She’s got great hair in the movie. Much better than his hair. And her crying is just like, it’s so good. It’s hard to do that.
John: Have you met Demi Moore at all?
Craig: No, never met her.
John: So, my only experience with her was for the second Charlie’s Angels. And so while we were writing the first Charlie’s Angels I said if we ever make a sequel, the villain is, her name is Madison Lee and it has to be Demi Moore playing an angel from the ’80s. And everyone was like absolutely that’s what’s going to happen.
And so then we got Demi Moore and it was great. And so I had a meeting with her over at the Peninsula Hotel with McG and it was on my birthday I just remember because it was my birthday. And we were just sitting around the Peninsula Hotel and she managed to drink like three large Starbucks coffees. She’s just a person who drinks a lot of coffee.
But she’s really — she’s really cool and fascinating. She was ultimately I think, because it was at the time of the Bruce Willis — she had split from Bruce Willis. She was there with Ashton Kutcher. She ended up overshadowing the movie in ways that wasn’t helpful. But she’s still kind of great. And in the right things she’s an amazing actress.
Craig: Someone once said, I don’t know who said this. Ted Elliott told me this, but I can’t remember who he was quoting, that we don’t cry when we see actors crying. We cry when we see actors trying to not cry.
Craig: And when she’s crying, she’s trying to not cry. You can tell. So, it’s so real and so all that’s sort of — all you’re getting are the two tears that slop over the resistance, which is just beautiful. I mean, she just does such a good job. All right.
John: All right. So, we’re 47 minutes into the movie and Patrick Swayze has convinced Whoopi Goldberg to go to my apartment, tell my girlfriend what it is and I will tell you things that only I will know. And so this is a moment that happens. Whoopi Goldberg is yelling up to the apartment. Demi Moore finally comes down. Says Sam’s here. I’ve got this information.
And Demi believes him. I mean, Molly’s character does seem to believe that this is real in this moment.
John: And so if everything had gone exactly this way, the movie would be over. Well, actually, Patrick Swayze doesn’t actually have information. Doesn’t know how her life is in danger. Just saying her life is in danger.
Craig: Yeah. There’s still this plot that’s going on. But what we’re playing now is this reconnection between these two. And this is where I think Roger Ebert lost his mind in his review where he was complaining that, “Well, this is what people do when they’re dead? They come back and start telling people about what shirt they were wearing to prove that they’re really there?” Yeah. I think so. That’s probably what they would do, because they care about the people they love and they want them to know that they’re still there and they’re trying to warn them that they’re in danger. Yeah. It’s totally okay. I love this stuff. I think it’s great.
I mean, and by the way, absolutely necessary. I won’t like her if I think she’s just a nut that naturally believes in ghosts. I only like her if she’s convinced. Similarly, she becomes unconvinced when Tony Goldwyn’s character kind of does a number on her, and then also Stephen Root shows her that Oda Mae is basically a criminal. She’s a fraud with a record. And so, yeah, of course this is emotionally you’re going to be caught between wanting to — am I fool for believing this? Or am I fool for not believing this? It’s a very normal, Demi Moore plays it perfectly. I believed it the whole way. And so enough with these critics who don’t understand how the human mind works, frankly, or the heart.
Because, again, I’ll just point to a billion dollars of people loving this movie. I mean, it’s just.
John: Yeah, people who love it. Another example of how this movie feels like it’s missing a character is like Demi Moore has no friends. It does feel a little bit strange that like there’s no one else she can turn to for help other than the guy who is ultimately going to be the villain of the story, Carl, who comes by, very deliberately spills off his coffee, and takes off his shirt.
Craig: He does. So, here he’s going to do the seduction. But you’re making a very interesting point. This is under-populated movie in a large sense. As we’ve said, the movie opens on three characters. We’re going to add a fourth character in Oda Mae. And that’s it. There’s the bad guy, Willie Lopez, who is just, you know, he’s just a bad guy. He’s not a real character.
And there’s no one else in the movie.
John: Yeah. And this may be partly why it’s so successful.
Craig: I was going to say that. Exactly. Because really the movie is boiling down a certain kind of tragedy to its barest essence. It’s just mainlining it into your veins. There’s no reason for funerals. You know what I mean? There’s no funeral, no burial. Oh, there is, I’m sorry.
John: Oh, there’s a burial, yeah.
Craig: You’re right. They did a quick funeral and burial. And actually a very beautiful moment where this one ghost sort of smiles at him and walks off, which I loved. But there’s no like we don’t — all the people at that burial, we never meet them again. Although one of them is Jerry’s sister I know. [laughs] So, the Zuckers show up. The entire family always shows up.
But it’s under-populated for a reason and I kind of think it works that way. It’s very atavistic. This is the romantic man. This is the romantic woman. This is the snake. And this is the sage, I guess, you know. This is the wise — even though I’m now going against my whole thing about how she wasn’t that wise, but regardless.
So, now, in order to crank this thing up yet even more, not only is Tony Goldwyn a murderer who is placing her in danger, he’s now also seducing her sexually which is just like — and poor Patrick Swayze has to watch.
Craig: And now he realizes —
John: This is the hell he’s in.
Craig: And now because the stakes have been ratcheted up even more, and because the frustration is ratcheted up even more, he now pays off my favorite scene in the movie. He goes and he finds Vincent Schiavelli.
John: Well, importantly, before he goes to find Vincent Schiavelli, he’s so angry that he dives across and ends up knocking a photo off.
John: And so it’s the first time where he’s actually been able to affect the physical world. And there’s a light bulb moment like, wait, this is something I can do.
Craig: It’s something I can do, but I can’t reliably do it.
John: Yeah. How do I do it?
Craig: I don’t know how I just did that. How do I — wait a second, where have I seen that before? That’s right, that lunatic ghost on a train who scared the hell out of all of us and this is Bruce Joel Rubin. This whole thing with Vincent Schiavelli is so Bruce Joel Rubin to me.
John: So this would the training montage. In other movies this would be sort of like the wax on/wax off, this is how you do your thing. There’s that moment that I think Patrick Swayze does a really good job with, because it suits his physicality really well. And so he’s learning how to move things, how to make things as a ghost affect the world around him.
So, kicking the can, hitting the signs. He’s gradually learning how to touch things.
Craig: Right. And I like that the movie makes a choice to reduce him down to this very, very tiny thing. You’re going to be able to just now move things around in small ways, but we’re going to force you to go through that. We’re going to start with a bottle cap and work our way up to bigger things. But, of all the scenes, I think this is the one that may be the most useful to consider for those of you who are screenwriting and getting into screenwriting and trying to make your scripts better.
Here’s a ghost, an angry ghost, who tells you, okay, if you want to learn, you stubborn son-of-a-bitch, I’ll teach you how. You have to focus all of your anger and emotion and then you push the thing. And Patrick Swayze pushes a thing and it’s a success. Good job. That could be pretty much the end of the scene. I think a lot of people would have ended it there and Vincent Schiavelli would have said, “All right, kid, go get ’em.”
That’s not how it ends at all. How it ends is that Patrick Swayze asks him have you been here, how long have you been here. And suddenly Vincent Schiavelli makes this angry speech about he was pushed and he was pushed onto a track in front of a train. And Patrick Swayze says, “You were pushed?” And Vincent Schiavelli says, “What? You don’t believe me? You think I jumped? You think I jumped!”
And you realize, oh man, this is what happens to you if you never resolve your life.
Craig: He obviously did jump. He can’t handle the fact that he killed himself, and now he’s stuck here forever. And that is scary stuff.
John: So, the lesson, I think, the take home for this is obviously the purpose of the scene is to teach Patrick Swayze how to do these things. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the scene needs to only be about that, or has to end there. It should have some other secondary story purpose as well.
So, not just functional, but really fill in the sort of tonal details, the themes of your piece. And ending it that way is exactly the right choice there.
Craig: Yeah. You can feel everything coming together and working hand in hand here. It’s not enough to give your character a tool. When we watch movies and somebody goes somewhere and someone says, “Here is the blade of blah, blah, blah that will slay the dragon,” and you walk out of the cave with it you think, oh, well, good. I’m glad I got the blade of blah, blah, blah. Was there anything else there except that you needed him to go get the blade of blah, blah, blah?
Well, this is that scene. He’s going to basically be taught how to move stuff around, but then you get this thing that impacts his understanding of his own circumstances and does so in a tragic way. And the tragedy of failure here as relayed through Vincent Schiavelli’s character is palpable. And it’s disturbing. And it’s exactly right. It’s so smart the way that Rubin wrote that and Vincent Schiavelli — it’s the performance everybody remembers. He was a character actor that was in so many things, including One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. I think a lot of people remembered him from that. But this one, this is the one I think people remember and always will.
John: The other nice thing about sending off his character that way is we don’t ever expect to see him again in the movie. So, it’s a nice way to like that was his moment, he’s gone, he’s done, let’s keep going with our guy.
Craig: That’s right. And thank god the imaginary studio executive that we keep proposing didn’t exist, because that person would have said, “And then at the end of the movie can we see him come back and he’s happy now and he goes into the light?” No.
Craig: [laughs] No we can’t.
John: So, Patrick Swayze now with the ability to move things goes to find Oda Mae Brown and Oda Mae Brown has a very crowded room because a bunch of other ghosts have shown up now because with her ability to really see ghosts and talk with ghosts now, a bunch of ghosts want her help to contact their loved ones.
Craig: Yeah. Exactly. And she’s frustrated with this whole thing. And this is a scene where we learn some information. One of those ghosts occupies her body and it’s funny. We do bits, you know, again, this is an Oda Mae bit.
But when he falls out of her body, he’s on the floor, he can’t get up.
Craig: He’s exhausted. And another character says, “Don’t you know that occupying bodies wears you out, and that’s not good.” That was a not good moment where somebody just announced a rule that we just saw. And announced it in a way where we thought, right, so Patrick Swayze will be doing that later and it’s going to be a problem.
John: It’s hanging a little lantern on that.
Craig: And I’ve got to say, also, not necessary.
Craig: I think if we had never seen that happen and if she had just said, “Why don’t you come into my body and let’s try this,” and he had done it, and then been exhausted from it we would have just assumed it’s part of it.
Craig: It just didn’t need it.
John: I agree. We can’t sneak in there and cut it out of the movie.
Craig: Well, no, we could.
John: We could. Totally can.
Craig: I spent time with Jerry and David and Jim talking about how they were re-cutting Top Secret!
Craig: Yeah, maybe we can re-cut this, too. [laughs] Just get rid of that line.
John: So, meanwhile Carl Bruner is back in the really boring office and he’s freaking out. He’s sweating. He’s on the phone and he’s got to get that money. He’s got to get that money transferred. He has a plan for transferring that money which involves putting it in this other account and he’s going to open an account with this other name. So, that plot is still happening. But things are ticking.
Craig: Yeah. So, here’s where, I mean, at this point in the movie you would imagine the plot sort of starts to take over. And it does. And it’s all fine. It works out well. Basically, he goes to the apartment, gets the code that he was looking for. You know, a little convenient that he just walks in, opens a box gets it. But fine. He then follows instructions to put the money an account under the name Rita Miller. And that he’s going to transfer it at this certain time. And, of course, Patrick Swayze is there to hear it, so when he goes to Oda Mae he’s able to say, look, I have a plan.
And their plan is simple. And, again, it involves comedy. Pose as Rita Miller and following the instructions I’m going to be whispering into your ear, go ahead and essentially withdraw all that money so that Carl won’t have it and then he’s going to face a terrible end. And that’s exactly what happens.
John: And what is fascinating about this moment is that it’s played as comedy. There’s suspense in the sense of like will she get found out, but race underlies all this as well. So, not only is she really flamboyantly dressed, but she’s this black woman impersonating a presumably white person, or fictitious person, in this all white establishment bank.
This is a case where like the bank really looks like a bank. You know, that stock office didn’t look like a good stock office, but this totally feels like a bank, and a big old, fussy bank. And she is the bull in the china shop in the ways you sort of want her to be in this comedy/suspense moment.
Craig: Yeah. And this is the scene where I felt most like she was kind of doing a version of Eddie Murphy because it felt very Beverly Hills Cop. A black guy in the middle of wealthy white territory kind of flimflamming them and with sort of a fast talking attitude and getting away with it, but it works.
Craig: You know, it works. It’s the funniest stuff in the world, but there’s so much charm to her, you know. It’s remarkable how charm can get you by. And she’s so goodhearted. You can just tell, like the character and Whoopi Goldberg herself is just so goodhearted about it. There’s a wonderful moment where she smiles this beautiful smile and it just makes the whole scene work.
Craig: I think it’s to Jerry Zucker’s mom, I think. She just smiles this great smile.
John: So, they’re able to get the money. They get a cashier’s check for the money that was in the account and Whoopi Goldberg thinks she’s rich and Sam convinces her, no, no, you have to give it to the nuns because it’s not your money.
Now, I don’t think you would necessarily give it to the Catholic Church.
Craig: [laughs] And that actually did feel very Jerry Zucker to me. The idea of nuns. Those guys have always found nuns funny. And just the idea of nuns on the street somehow representing the best use of a $4 million charitable donation. But, you know, it’s a little dated. The moment is dated. And there’s a button on it that is, you know, you can see coming a billion miles away. But, again, it’s charm. You know, there’s just a charm to it.
John: Yes. Well, with the money withdrawn, Tony Goldwyn’s character is not happy. He’s looking at this monitor and all the money is gone. And he’s going to smash his monitor. Now, that monitor probably cost $3,000 in those days.
Craig: And incredibly expensive 10-inch green CRT monitor. But in this scene now, finally it appears that Sam Wheat has full possession of his Vincent Schiavelli learned powers. And he can knock things around. He can make his presence known and he uses the computer keyboard to let Carl know that he’s there. He says murderer and then his own name — Sam, Sam, Sam, Sam. So, now he’s all confident.
He feels like he’s done it. He’s won. And that carries through when Carl returns to Molly because now he’s freaked out and he wants to know if this is real, is Sam real, what did that lady tell you. And Patrick Swayze is kind of acting out here. He’s pushing him around. He’s proving to Carl that he’s real. And Carl makes this threat basically because now Carl knows that Oda Mae was at the bank and she took the money. And he says to nobody but assuming that Sam is there — I’m going to come back at 11 and if the money isn’t her I’m going to kill her.
So, now, once again, we have that final escalation. And we can feel that the movie is essentially presenting us with our climax. That at 11 o’clock everything will be figured out, for better or for worse, but before 11 o’clock comes Sam knows that the first thing Carl and his henchmen, Willie, are going to try and do is kill Oda Mae and get the money from her.
John: Yup. So this is a very classic sort of screenwriting thing you do is you state a destination or a time. And so you publicly say what needs to happen before this or we are going to this place. And it gives the audience a sense of, okay, I know where we’re headed. I know what to expect. And I can sort of forecast the time ahead of me and therefore the stakes feel increased because there’s a clock ticking.
Craig: Right. So, it’s not particularly great screenwriting to have a character say, “I’m going to come back here in four hours to finish this when I could just probably do it now, or maybe in an hour,” I don’t know why 11 is so important. But one thing that it really provides the audience with is comfort that this is ending. Just so that everybody knows like, okay, if you’ve gotten a little squirmy in your seat, don’t go pee now, this thing is pulling into the station. It’s going to happen. Everybody settle in for the big final showdown.
John: Yes. And this big final showdown is going to happen because Sam is going to have to go get Oda Mae. Oda Mae’s life is in danger. Of course, she lives right across the street from the mugger. The mugger is going to come after her. This is a moment where Sam Wheat gets to use his powers to harass and sort of throw the mugger around. Honestly some very clever sequences where opening doors, closing doors, riding on things, making this guy think that he’s crazy. Ultimately our mugger is going to get hit by a car, smashed, and he will himself die, be a ghost. And then we see what happens to a bad person.
John: They get dragged by the shadows into the abyss.
Craig: The Rotoscope shadows. And I have to say as cheese ball as the Rotoscope shadows are, it made me kind of yearn for those days because the more realistic you make those things oddly the less threatening they seem to be. I just find that like perfectly rendered CGI shadow demons are just not as scary somehow. I don’t — isn’t that odd?
But we can’t go back. We can’t show like lame-o Rotoscope shadow demons anymore, so we’re kind of in this weird middle ground. It is interesting that the movie very carefully follows a certain PG-13 ethic of only really bad people murdering. So, for instance, when Carl shows up and meets up with Willie Lopez for the first time in the least climatic reveal of the bad guy ever, he announces that all he intended for Willie to do was just to mug Sam and steal his wallet so that he could get the code. He never meant for him to be killed.
Similarly here, this is a classic movie trope. Good guy chasing bad guy. We want the bad guy to die, but we don’t want the good guy to kill him, so let’s have the bad guy run in front of a car. Which they always do. And he gets killed. But again, they let it play and I like the way they let it play. And they let Willie have his moment.
John: Yes. So, the witching hour has come. Sam and Oda Mae show up at Molly’s house, Molly’s apartment with the news “You in danger, girl.” And this is sort of the iconic moment of, oh, that’s right, she can be possessed. And this is the one moment in which Sam will be able to touch the love of his life.
Craig: Yeah. So, we bring back this little bit of nice foreshadowing. The very beginning of the movie when they break through the wall they find this old jar with an Indian head penny in it. And then sort of in the middle when Molly has had her experience with Oda Mae and then I think she’s already been to the police and they’ve told her that Oda Mae is a fraud and she’s starting to question whether or not any of this is real, she rolls that jar down some stairs where it smashes.
So it’s this idea of like the lucky penny and all the rest of it has kind of been going on through the movie. And here, in order to finally prove to Molly that he’s really there, he has Oda Mae push a penny under the door and he lifts it. And it’s beautiful. It’s just so small. Sometimes when you can focus all of this tragic loss and yearning into something as simple as this penny, and then as the penny is floating across to her, because we see him carrying it. And then the reverse is just the penny floating, because of course he’s invisible in her perspective. And she starts to do that perfect two-tear thing. That’s when I think everybody starts balling for the first time. It won’t be the last time in this climax.
John: Yeah. The original tag line for Ghost was Believe. And this is belief. I mean, it’s a way of visualizing that sense of even though I can’t physically see this thing in front of me, I believe it’s there. And it’s a way of just cinematically showing something that you cannot otherwise see.
John: So, it’s love. It’s faith. But belief is sort of the combination of the two of them here. And so it’s a single shot in which the penny floats in towards her face. And, again, I’m watching this right now. She’s got the perfectly —
John: Viscous tears that are clinging in her eyes.
Craig: And they’re real, by the way. Those aren’t like glycerin. Those are real. You can just tell.
Craig: Even if they’re not real, then whoever came up with them is a genius. But they just seem so real to me. I mean, god, it’s so good. So good.
John: So, here’s the trick. You tilt your head up, the tear falls down, and right as it touches the edge of your mouth you sort of taste it a little bit. That’s a great cinematic tear.
Craig: So good. She just is the best crier. And we do believe it here. This is, by the way, one of those moments as a screenwriter that can be very frustrating for us because we see this so clearly. We understand that he will be there, we’ll see him lift the penny, we’ll see him carry the penny, and then we’re going to do a reverse shot — so she’s not in that frame. And then we’re going to come around and then he’s not in the frame that’s on her on her single. And the penny will float to her. And he’s invisible. And I cannot tell you guys how many times we will write scenes like this and people will go, “Wait a second. Why can we see him sometimes? Why can’t we see him other times?”
It’s like oh my god. This is where it gets so frustrating because you know, you’ve seen the movie, you know it works. Of course it works that way.
Craig: You know, I’m so curious to hear if they ran into those kinds of frustrating discussion when they were writing this. Because it’s exactly the way it should be done. It’s gorgeous.
John: Yes. Because what it is, as you’re looking at the moment from Demi Moore’s point of view, that’s why he is not in the frame and the penny is floating by itself. And it’s so obvious.
Craig: So obvious.
John: And yet before you shot the scene, if you were to try to describe it that way, you would encounter resistance.
Craig: You would encounter resistance, confusion. It’s amazing how — look, there’s a skill to screenwriting and directing. And I would imagine that this is where it’s like, okay, if Bruce and Jerry together were like, “No, no, no, we’ve got this. Trust us on this,” everybody would be quiet. But when it’s only a screenwriter, sometimes people are like, “Wait, I don’t get it…”
It’s the worst.
John: Oh, the classic thing I stole from somebody and I say a lot is that you have to remember that as a screenwriter you’re the only person who’s already seen the movie. And so your job is to reflect on the page that movie that you see, but oftentimes you will have to go back many, many times and talk through people so you can make sure you are seeing the same movie that they are seeing.
In this case, clearly Bruce Joel Rubin and Jerry Zucker —
Craig: Well done.
John: Did see the same movie, especially at this one moment which is crucial.
Craig: Yes. So, following this there is this — we’ve been told that they’ve called the police. The police never show up, by the way, because again New York in the late ’80s —
John: [laughs] They’re in a bad neighborhood here, so —
Craig: There’s a bad neighborhood and there’s crack and, you know, they’re busy.
John: So the police never show up, the drug dealers never show up.
Craig: The drug dealers never show up. None of the people that are supposed to show up show up. But, in this pause, he occupies Whoopi Goldberg’s body. She lets him, which is a big deal because she’s starting — now that she knows that these two are together and they believe, you can see her just softening and giving herself up to it.
And in that moment it’s done perfectly. And, again, Roger Ebert completely wrong, felt that this should have been done with — the entire thing should have been done with Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg dancing together and caressing each other’s faces, which is ridiculous.
Craig: They did it exactly the right way, which is start with Whoopi’s hand and Demi’s hand intertwining to understand what was happening there. And then to go to a single of Demi, and then bring in actual Patrick Swayze, which we know is — her eyes are closed, which that’s key. That’s what direction is, by the way. That’s great direction. Bad directors would have had her eyes open and then it wouldn’t have made sense. And, by the way, I’m sure that Bruce called that out in the script as well.
And then , so this is her imagination, Roger Ebert. It’s her imagination! That’s why it works.
John: Yeah. It’s her point of view on what the moment is. And that’s crucial.
Craig: Right. Why would we give a damn watching her dancing around with Whoopi Goldberg? That would have been bizarre.
Craig: It just would have been so dumb. So, of course, now we’re just crying because finally at last they’re holding each other and they’re together. And, of course, what do they do? He starts playing — and it’s an interesting choice — he starts playing Unchained Melody. That is Jerry starts playing Unchained Melody. And now, what’s the word? Is it like…what’s that…Stochastic? Diacaustic? Diastolic? What’s the word for — ?
John: Oh yeah, when something plays in the scene.
Craig: Right. So the first time we heard the song it was playing on a record in the movie. Now it’s score. It’s imposed from above by god, which is an interesting choice. Regardless, it works. We all just start balling because it’s paying off that moment from before. And we believe it and it’s gorgeous. And then as we knew it happened because of the bad line, [laughs] —
John: I’ll be back at exactly this hour.
Craig: Exactly. He comes back at this hour and the other bad line that says when I fall out of a body I’m weak, he falls out of the body, he’s weak and helpless at the worst time because here comes the bad guy with the gun to chase Demi Moore and Whoopi Goldberg.
John: Yes. So, the chase goes outside the window up to another level. And I honestly got really confused at the geography because I started feeling like, wait, is this still their apartment? Is this the apartment above them that’s half done up? It felt like the set that I saw originally when they were first moving in. I got a little bit confused about where they actually were in this final sequence.
Craig: I had the same confusion. And I think what’s intended here is that it’s just this building is a lot of those rooms. Like old boarded up rooms. Again, different time in New York when there were just empty lofts available for anybody. But, I think that it was meant to say like, oh no, it’s on a floor above.
So there’s this chase and Tony Goldwyn grabs Whoopi Goldberg and he’s got a gun to her. And I want my money. We already know she doesn’t have it. He doesn’t believe her and he’s going to kill her. And then like Han Solo, here comes Patrick Swayze who has, I guess, gathered up enough of his energy. And he starts slapping Tony Goldwyn around, knocks the gun out of his hand, pushes him backwards. Tony Goldwyn tries to escape, or gets thrown into a window. And, again, I’m going to chase you and then you’re going to get yourself hit by a car —
Craig: I’m going to chase Tony Goldwyn and you’re going to get yourself gutted by a falling piece of plat glass which, folks, you really shouldn’t have.
John: You should not have plate glass. There’s a thing we’ve learned in movies. You should not have plate glass.
Craig: Plate glass, super dangerous. You got a put a film on that or replace it with tempered glass. [laughs] But anyway, he dies. He comes out of his body. He sees his friend. Patrick Swayze gives him an “Oh Carl,” like, “Oh, boy, this isn’t go well for you.” And the shadow —
John: The shadow comes and Tony is dragged back by a dolly and then handed over with shadows.
Craig: Dragged back by a dolly, painted over with shadows, and now we get our final moment where Patrick Swayze is okay with going into the light now because he’s done his job. And this is just about the best way to end the movie.
John: Now, it takes a while here. And so I will say that watching this movie again, looking at this ending, so Demi and Whoopi are sort of huddled together. And so Sam comes over. First he talks to Demi. Then he talks to Whoopi. Then he talks to Demi. Then the light comes. And then he goes. And it feels like a stutter step and yet I understand why ultimately they did it. Because you need to wrap up both of those relationships and it feels weird to sort of start with Whoopi.
John: So you kind of had to do it.
Craig: That was the only way to do it. And, you know what? It was a stutter step but it worked. I mean, there’s a small uncomfortable moment when he turns to Oda Mae and sort of says kind of “I’ll miss you most of all, Scarecrow,” kind of moment. And you think, but your wife. Your almost wife, she’s still there. Why are you talking to Oda Mae, you just met her?
But then he comes back to her and delivers one of the great, I mean, first of all they kiss.
Craig: And it’s so gorgeous because you know that they’re not really touching, but they are. And he’s now — now he’s a ghost. He’s not like fake ghost, but he’s like an actual glowy ghost, and she can see him, which is awesome. And they kiss. It’s so romantic and it’s just so right. And they’re committed to being super sentimental about this, which is what it should be.
And then he says this great, great final line, which I just love. “It’s amazing, Molly, the love inside you. You get to take it with you.” Which is a really nice refutation of you can’t take it with you, the idea of the things you can’t take with you, but that you get to take love with you.
And with at line, what he’s saying, and this is why it’s such a great line. Not only is it nice in and of itself, but he’s giving Molly permission and the audience permission to not be sad.
Craig: To be happy that he’s going, because he’s taking all this love with him and it’s over. Naturally I feel terrible for whoever the next guy is that has to date the character of Molly Jensen, because how do you beat that?
John: That’s tough.
Craig: It’s tough! But it is the perfect end because he’s giving everybody permission to feel good about the fact that he’s leaving.
John: And he’s walking away into Close Encounters of Third Kind.
Craig: He walks away into Close Encounters of Third Kind, which is appropriate, because the movie is giving that moment dignity. It’s saying this should be awesome because the truth is after all the kooky stuff that’s gone on, we are suggesting that there is some great, beautiful thing waiting for us all. And the movie takes it seriously so that we can take it seriously.
John: Yeah. I agree. And we get the final Demi Moore tears, which are crucial.
John: Those are perfect. So, this is Ghost. And, you know, it’s so fascinating because I think we’ve — obviously when a movie is this incredibly successful it has an impact that resonates, you know, sort of kind of forever. And we are making movies differently because of this movie.
So, some things you can see in this movie is like, well, that’s obvious, but they weren’t necessarily obvious when Ghost was made.
Craig: Yeah. They’re obvious because Ghost was made. They’re obvious now because Ghost did it. But like I hope that people get a sense from the way we’ve talked about this that there were a hundred ways they could have gone wrong. So, we see what’s right, we don’t see all the ways that it could have been wrong, whether characters weren’t reacting appropriately or at length enough to the moments. Or whether the rules had been discarded. Or whether some scenes had just been sort of on the nose like, here, let me teach you how to move things and not layered in with tragedy and that character being a real character.
All those choices made this thing great. And if there’s a lesson for today, I think it’s this: original movies can make a ton of money.
Craig: And this movie was not a book. And it was not a remake. And it was just original to itself and it connected in such a huge way. Romance has been taken over at the box office by YA. And this is an adult romance.
John: Yeah, it is.
Craig: And I would love to see some adult romance come back. I think it’s gorgeous.
John: I would argue that it’s an adult romance, but it’s not — I mean, their love is real and they’re kind of grownups, but they’re also kind of — they’re a little simplified versions of grownups. The same way that the movie feels like there’s not enough people in it. They’re somewhat perfected grownups. I think it’s part of the reason why it is so successful. This feels like a great YA novel before there were great YA novels.
Craig: Yeah, but they’re not teenagers.
John: They’re not teenagers. That’s exactly 100 percent.
Craig: They’re 30 years old in the movie I expect, something like that. They feel like they’re 30 years old. They have jobs and lives. You’re right. They don’t have children. They don’t have friends. They don’t seem to have like — they don’t go to doctor’s appointments or, you know, and they are idealized.
And, you know, it’s funny. As you go back, even 1990 which to you and I, I expect we feel similarly about this, that doesn’t seem like that long ago at all. It is long ago. It’s nearly 25 years ago. And just as movies 25 years before 1990 felt old fashioned and kind of fake, this feels fake in that regard, too. Like they’re not as real as we ask our characters to be now. But unfortunately this overdose of reality has kind of killed romance a little bit in movies.
So, it would be nice to see something like this again, I would think.
John: I agree with you. So, Craig, thank you so much for talking through Ghost with me. This was really fun. It was a good sort of spontaneous suggestion last week. And it’s still a good movie.
Craig: It is. It was fun to watch again. I thought that Jerry and Bruce did great work. The cast did great work. And, by the way, great to see a screenwriter win an Oscar for a movie that at least was partly a comedy.
John: And a movie that was hugely successful. Because so often the screenwriting award kind of goes to this was a really, really good movie that we’re not going to give other awards to, so therefore we’re going to give it to this. So rarely does the most commercially successful movie reward with Best Screenplay.
Craig: Yeah. We used to give Oscars to big Hollywood movies. And now we find that distasteful somehow. We have to give an Oscar to the small Hollywood movie, or the small not-Hollywood movie.
John: Exactly. And we give it to really great movies, but it’s also nice to celebrate great movies that are also huge successes.
Craig: Yeah. Fun. Fun. Good stuff.
John: So that’s our show this week. You can find us on iTunes. Just search for Scriptnotes. While you’re there subscribe and also leave us a comment. We love those. If you would like to listen to all of the back episodes, including the Raiders of the Lost Ark, and The Little Mermaid, and Groundhog Day, you can find those at scriptnotes.net. There’s a subscription for $1.99, the premium subscription, that lets you listen to all of those back episodes and bonus episodes. You can also listen to it on the apps for Android and for iPhone.
I think there’s a new iPhone app coming, which would be great because the current iPhone app is not fantastic, but it’s out there.
If you would like to say something to Craig or I, Craig or me —
Craig: Say something. To Craig or me. To Craig or me.
John: I said that aloud. You can write to Craig. He’s at @clmazin on Twitter. I am @johnaugust. Longer questions are at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can find show notes for the things we talked about at johnaugust.com as well.
store.johnaugust.com is where you need to go if you’re going to get a t-shirt. Because you should get a t-shirt, because why not get a t-shirt.
John: While you’re there, we still have a few more of the USB drives which now have the first 150 episodes of Scriptnotes on them.
John: You can buy those all at once if you’d like to. Scriptnotes is produced by Stuart Friedel. It’s edited by Matthew Chilelli. And we have outros every week, so if you want to give us a new outro, just send that to email@example.com.
Craig: Oh, yeah, baby.
Craig: Woo-hoo. By the way, this movie was edited by Walter Murch.
John: I know! Isn’t that sort of amazing?
John: Famous for many other things.
Craig: Many, many other things. Great book, In the Blink of an Eye. I believe it’s called In the Blink of an Eye. A great book on editing by Walter Murch.
John: Yes. He’s also one of the first proponents of Final Cut Pro. And so he was one of the first people to cut features, big features, on Final Cut Pro. Craig, thank you so much. We’ll talk to you next week.
Craig: Thank you, John. Bye.
- Our episodes on Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Little Mermaid, Frozen and Groundhog Day
- New shirts are available for pre-order now through September 30th in the John August Store
- Get tickets now for October 8th’s live Slate Culture Gabfest with guests John and Craig
- Planet Money’s T-Shirt Project and the Planet Money Makes a T-Shirt web app
- Get premium Scriptnotes access at scriptnotes.net and hear our 1,000th subscriber special
- Ghost on Wikipedia, IMDb, Netflix, Amazon and iTunes
- Ghost on Box Office Mojo
- Reviews by Peter Travers and Roger Ebert
- In the Blink of an Eye by Walter Murch
- Outro by Scriptnotes editor Matthew Chilelli (send us yours!)