Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Thoughts and Reflections on Beetlejuice

What I really love about getting to do this podcast with Claire is that the premise affects both of us. She gets to look at these movies objectively, she gets to deconstruct what's happening and can ground the episodes in reality, good storytelling, solid foundation, things like that.

For me, the podcast is an opportunity to deal with nostalgia fog on a fairer level. Some movies live up to the memories, some don't. Ostensibly, it's my job in the discussion to defend the movies. Whereas she is coming at them from an objective reality, one of moviemaking and fantasy world building, it's up to me to fill in the gaps, to justify inconsistency, and try and enlighten her to the idea that the movie succeeds in what it is trying to do. Whatever emotion it is trying to evoke, whatever action taking place in the movie that it attempts to justify, I try to defend the movie on its own merit.

Sometimes, I feel like I succeed for the most part, or at least in some of the important things elements of it. Clueless for me represents the most common middle ground the two of us had. We generally agreed with each other, while still have a fascinating discussion about a movie that definitely deserves more credit than people realize. I think when we discussed Batman, many of the things she initially was hesitant about, she was soon agreeing with me. Batman as a larger element of pop culture may have been our middle ground for that one, so we could find things to discuss. Sometimes, I definitely feel like I fail. Point Break, I knew I couldn't formulate enough of an argument to justify the skydiving sequence for her. In Hook, I felt like we met halfway on Dustin Hoffman as the title character, which she was initially not jazzed about.
I think considering how outside of everything Claire enjoys in movies Labyrinth was, there was nothing I could have said to convince her. I also loved Labyrinth as a kid, and for me the story was secondary to everything else, and that's a really difficult argument to defend.

Beetlejuice though, I felt was a turning point.
But it wasn't so much that she had remained unconvinced, it's the fact that throughout the discussion, I felt myself getting unraveled.
I was realizing slowly and surely that I understood very little about what Beetlejuice was trying to be, what it was trying to accomplish. I was realizing I was getting my love for the cartoon series mixed up with my feelings for the movie. They were slowly confabulated into the same thing for me years later.
As the conversation unfolded, I realized how much ground I was losing. It's not a competition, by any means, and it's certainly not a debate, that's not the purpose of the podcast. No one's trying to convert the other person. It's just that when we first set out to do this, I was pretty confident in the idea that some of the movies might be weird and some might be difficult, but all of them were pretty strong fundamentally to merit it a good movie.
It just simply wasn't the case with Beetlejuice.
Very quickly, you realize you don't really have a protagonist to stand behind.
You're given a glimpse into an alternate world where there are rules and limits, while the "real" world of the movie is sorely missing those.
The title character figures into very little of the proceedings and you're unsure of what his goals or even motivations are.
But whenever I deconstruct any movie, I think about how easy it would be to fix any possible glaring flaws. Yes, there's a suspension of disbelief, but that can only take you so far. There are some things that are just problematic. And to think they could have been covered in a simple line addition or a re-ordering of scenes, or a strengthening of a specific element, and to think how often that was brought up while we were discussing Beetlejuice, it was just disappointing.

But like I said in the wrap-up, it's early Burton. He's still finding his voice, his point of view, his style. It's all prototype here. It all comes to fruition with Edward Scissorhands and the like.

Anyway, that's Beetlejuice.
And here's the episode!