Sunday, July 17, 2016

The "Beach Blanket Bingo Test"

This is a ramble, but that's what happens sometimes.

I've always had a two-tired system that differentiates between "movies" and "films".  For example, my favorite film is Lawrence of Arabia, while my favorite movie is The President's Analyst.  [If you don't know that one, it's one of the most entertaining satires from the late 1960's, ridiculing everything from Cold War espionage to the evil that is...the phone company.]

A film is intended to be a serious work of art; a movie is an entertainment.  One is not better than the other, as a good Neil Simon play can be just as diverting as well-produced Shakespeare.  It's just that there is a different emphasis and the audience is seeking that difference from the respective productions.

In the summer, movies tend to dominate the cinemas as it is an apt time not for art, but for pure entertainment.  That's why we see so many comic book adaptations these days.  [Honestly, if I were still a twelve-year-old comic fan, I would be in the closest thing to heaven to be able to see good movies about my early heroes.  I'm no longer twelve, though, and find the sheer volume of Marvel and DC adaptations a bit much.]  But, what I don't savor are the remakes, of everything from old, not-so-great TV shows to movies that, let's face it, were really not all that good, either.

For example, Ghostbusters.  The original was a pleasant diversion in the summer of 1984, but I mainly remember it not as a seminal moment in my appreciation of cinematic story-telling, acting, or direction, but because I went to see it on my second date with she who would become my wife, after a pleasant meal at Manhattan's only Vietnamese restaurant.  Yes, that's how long ago that was.  By the way, the Saigon Pavilion used to have really good Tonkin Gulf shrimp.

So, the other day, as I was walking in front of the local cinema, I was approached by a young woman with a clipboard who wondered if she could ask me a few questions.  She looked like the politically active young people with clipboards who used to stop me on Thayer Street in Providence back when I lived and worked adjacent to Brown University, so I assumed that her questions would be about the upcoming election.  Nope, her questions were about...Ghostbusters.

Clipboard: Do you plan on seeing Ghostbusters?
Me:  No.
Clipboard: Is this because of the all-woman cast?
Me: No
Clipboard: May I ask why you won't be seeing it?
Me:  Well, I thought the original was really just a celebration of Hollywood's fondness for cocaine in the 1980's, and I don't care for re-makes.
Clipboard: What if I told you it was a "re-boot" and not a re-make?
Me: Then I would still not want to re-see it.  Besides, does it pass the "Beach Blanket Bingo Test"?

She paused, pen hovering above clipboard, somewhat dazed as if I had just responded not in English, but in Serbo-Croat.

Clipboard: The Beach...I don't...what?
Me:  You are unfamiliar with the enviro-feminist classic, Beach Blanket Bingo?

She shook her head.

Me: It's from the mid-sixties.  It re-works environmental and feminist themes into the common tropes of the patriarchal life of a California tribe.
Clipboard:  Wow, I've never heard of it.
Me:  It also has Don Rickles.
Clipboard: I don't know...?
Me: He taught Lenny Bruce everything he knew.
Clipboard: Wow.
Me:  So, if a movie may be at least as entertaining as Beach Blanket Bingo, then I'll go see it.  Otherwise....

She scribbled away on her clipboard and I started to feel a little guilty.  I suggested that she find it online.  Unfortunately, she'll probably be disappointed if she's looking for any obvious redeeming social value.  Perhaps even triggered.

Of course, only a straining academic could ever make BBB about anything other than silliness.  Which, I think, was and is my point with all of this.  It's summer, no one wants to be "guilted" into seeing a movie, as the marketing for the latest Ghostbusters suggested that if one didn't want to see it, that was because one was sexist.  The first film was appropriate for its time.  Perhaps the second version is also evocative of the times in which we live as it posits that one must do what the media-entertainment realm desires, speak the words they want us to speak and hold the thoughts they want us to hold, or else bear a noxious label.  Yes, that sums up the 21st century fairly well.

And people wonder why I surf.