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My new book A Convenient Parallel Dimension: How Ghostbusters Slimed Us Forever was only released in the UK eleven days ago but already it’s sold out. It may have actually sold out well before the release date, as I’ve heard from people who preordered months ago and still haven’t received their copy. What can I say but thanks, UK! More books will wash up on your shores next month. I’m sorry they can’t get there sooner. Apparently the publisher sends them on a boat. Too heavy for a plane, I guess. At any rate, I appreciate your patience and hope it’s worth whatever wait you must endure.
Would you like to hear me talk about A Convenient Parallel Dimension on yet another podcast? You’re in luck. I was recently a guest on the Ghostbusters fandom podcast Extraplasm. Click here to listen to my chat with show host Jim Maritato. We chop it up about all sorts of stuff. And unless he cut it out, you can hear me rant about how John Landis should be in prison.
In a related story, I wasn’t expecting a single mention of Ghostbusters when I started Punk Paradox, the memoir by Bad Religion singer Greg Graffin, but that’s my fault for not remembering Bad Religion’s emblem (a black cross in a red circle with a slash through it). Graffin spends a few pages in the book discussing the creation of that emblem in 1980 and how prevalent the red negation symbol became thanks in part to Ghostbusters.
“It’s likely that our fortuitous association with this friendly red circle backslash helped to pave the way for our band’s logo over the years,” he surmises. “In America at least, I’m sure that the Ghostbusters symbol and the ‘No Parking’ graphic image helped to diffuse any possible antagonism from religious groups. We were never antagonizers — we were simply the antithesis of the symbol we were slashing: you won’t find religion in this house.”
I’m halfway through Punk Paradox and it’s tough to put down. I’ve been into Bad Religion since I was a teenager in the Freaking 1990s but I never took the time to learn very much about their history as underdogs in an underdog genre. I always assumed Graffin was more or less a good egg — thoughtful, principled, compassionate. His book confirms that. And he calls out bullshit when he sees it. Case in point: he really tears into Youth Brigade for all the baloney they put in their famous documentary Another State of Mind.
Another cool memoir I read recently is Bob Odenkirk’s Comedy Comedy Comedy Drama. Nothing about Ghostbusters in there that I can remember but plenty about how miserable he was writing for “Saturday Night Live.” Has anyone ever had a good time working on “SNL?” Anyone besides Kenan Thompson and Don Pardo?
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Steven Spielberg’s 2017 newsroom drama The Post signals early that it will be cliché-ridden hokum. As the production company logos vanish, we see military choppers hovering over a steamy jungle while Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Green River” takes off in the background. Pairing Creedence with footage from Vietnam was overdone 30 years ago; any first year film student would be docked a letter grade for such a boring, obvious move. Of course, by the time The Post is over the viewer has been so assaulted by the plain and the literal that they might forget there ever was a scene in Vietnam.
I’ve read that Spielberg considered The Post an act of resistance against Trumpism, a counter-attack on “fake news” that for some reason absolutely had to come out when it did. One might argue the story of Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon Papers, and The Washington Post’s fight to print the shocking truth about the Vietnam War is more prescient now since Trump decided to cap his anti-media, fib-laden presidency by swiping classified documents. At any rate, The Post was flung together very quickly, without pulp or artistry, condemning it to die in the shadow of All The President’s Men (still the greatest film ever made about the freedom of the press).
Tom Hanks does not transform into Bill Bradlee, the gruff editor pushing to serve honesty to Washington Post readers. Meryl Streep does not transform into Katharine Graham, the beleaguered Post owner trying not to tarnish her legacy. All you see is Hanks and Streep vying for more Oscars with nothing but cold wet ham for dialogue. The Post’s supporting players fare no better. The front page story is on their faces: I’m doing this because it’s Spielberg.
Only Bob Odenkirk rises to the occasion in the lynchpin role of reporter Ben Bagdikian. A much better film could have been made out of the story threads wherein Bagdikian secures the bulk of the Pentagon Papers from Ellsberg. Odenkirk’s comedy partner David Cross is in The Post too, looking like the saddest version of Martin Balsam you can imagine.
The most laughable part of this whole cornball affair is that it concludes with a Marvel-style cliffhanger at the Watergate Hotel. Oh no! A burglary? Cue the typewriters! Even more pathetic are the final frames, which have Spielberg copying one of the most indelible shots from the start of All The President’s Men. Working on Ready Player One at the same time as this film must have given him brain damage.
At least Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman don’t cruise by in the DeLorean.