Yes, we live in a world where people get outraged by chicken sandwiches, sexually revitalized by a trite novel and proudly patriotic behind a genetic athletic freak. But, sadly we also live in a world where people in their mid-20′s have not seen a film called Beetlejuice. I work with a lot of people younger than me by five, ten years and I am always depressed by the gap between our generations in areas of pop music, history, sports and so on. However, I fail to rectify the difference in the movies that I’ve seen and they haven’t. One of my idols, writer/director Peter Bogdanovich once said, “There is no such thing as old movies, only movies you’ve seen and movies you haven’t.” Unfortunately, that message falls on deaf ears because they’re too busy lining up for the new Adam Sandler movie, even though Adam Sandler stopped being funny when I was their age. Billy Madison and his comedy albums were a LONG time ago. But, Beetlejuice? These kids eat every single piece of crap that Tim Burton has put out in the past eleven years like a trail of Reese’s Pieces, but somehow managed to miss his masterpieces? I am including Ed Wood in that category as well and that movie even had Johnny Depp!
In this clip, Patrice O’Neal talks about how he’s unsettled by young men who aren’t fans of football. I feel the same way when I talk to younger guys and can’t speak in that movie short hand I’m accustomed to speaking with other males of the species. It is how our gender communicated when I was growing up. If I’m speaking to another man, be he a family member, friend or work colleague, I should be able to say something along the lines of, “Lee Harvey, you are a mad man,” or “My advice to you is to start drinking heavily” and another man should be able to come back with, if not the following line, at least a quick retort of “Army training, sir!” or “TOGA!” Kids today only know Bill Murray as the old guy from Ghostbusters, (but couldn’t name the other three Ghostbusters) and think John Belushi has a show on ABC. As a man, if you cannot relate to another man with a general knowledge of sports, you need to pick it up with the male oriented comedies. And if anybody thinks that I am misogynistic in my views, trust me, teenagers these days are not getting together and running down an academic discourse in post modern art or Russian literature.
Airplane!, Blazing Saddles, CADDYSHACK?!?!? Nope, audiences today are more interested in watching a seemingly endless line of unfunny, critically reviled comedies so offensive to my sensibilities, so profound and disgusting that decorum prohibits listing them here. I tweet a lot of about watching newer movies and usually, smoking a little pot before going in to see them. It’s almost always for the reason I’m afraid if I’m not a little relaxed and open that I might sprain my eyes from rolling them so hard in whatever stupid movie I am being dragged to see that night.
Like most social issues plaguing us as a nation and yes, this is amongst the forefront of my personal battles, I blame the parents. My parents sat down and watched movies with me when I was a child as I’m sure most of yours did as well. And not just the usual kids movies of the mid-Eighties that we wore out on VHS, like Tron, The Neverending Story or Goonies, but they also they decided when my brother and I were age appropriate enough to watch the tamer (by current standards) R-rated movies of the 70′s and 80′s. Do you know how many kids I work with that have never seen my favorite films? All of them! I’m reduced to showing them Youtube clips in the break room at work and trying to push them down the path to comedic enlightenment. Somewhere along the line though, parents have become perhaps too over protective and in a way, have taken the argument of whether the nude David is art or obscene to the next logical step. Again, instead of engaging in a dialogue openly with their kids or other adults as to whether these movies are crass and unwatchable or if they are really worth watching. Even though I would argue that these such movies are a higher level of sophisticated comedy reaching the heights of genius, we should at least consider ourselves fortunate enough to have them to watch and enjoy.
I don’t have children myself, for though I am selfish, I am not so narcissistic to think the world needs more on me in it. But, I have a five year old younger brother that I dote on, most of my friends have young children and almost all of my cousins have children too. I’m looking forward to being cool Uncle Mike, especially for the times when I get to sit around with them and spend some time together. In addition to showing them the movies I saw when I was a kid, like Muppets Take Manhattan or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I’m going to be grateful when me and my brother Marcus will bond together while watching an old Mel Brooks or Woody Allen movie. Those types are comedies are broad enough to be funny to young people and smart enough for me to enjoy them as well.
I know that I have written a lot lately about a seeming disconnect from myself and my love for film and have also tried many times to explain my feelings behind it. I apologize if this seems repetitive at times, but this time, I truly believe again in the ability of films to bring people together. I wrote many years ago about how I learned to start sharing my DVD collection with people and not worrying so much about when I would get them back, if at all. Instead, I get a little bit more satisfaction from the fact that I introduced someone to something that I think they might appreciate and enjoy and discussing it with them, finding out whether or not they think it’s funny or if they liked it at all. Movies are how I used to make friends and I’m glad that I still get to do it the same way now.
By the way, the whole Beetlejuice conversation got started with some friends of mine when one of them told me that she wanted to dress her two year old daughter up like him for Halloween and she was thinking of dressing as Winona Ryder. I told her that was a great idea and I was totally onboard as long as I could dress like Alec Baldwin.
As a ghost.