Ghost World
Starring Thora Birch and Steve Buscemi
Directed by Terry Zwigoff
Co-Written and based on a Comic by Daniel Clowes

My Rating:

This weird little film is a total success, even without my innate sympathies.

Plus a Super-Double-Bonus Review of Bootmen! Free!

Bitable Bytes:
"A Faceted, Touching Tale!"
"I Love This Movie!"
"Brainy, Artistic!"
"[Bootmen is] Thoroughly One-Dimensional!" ­Warson Goody

What to do while watching:
If you share my sympathies, think tender-yet-naughty thoughts about Ms. Birch.

What to eat while watching:
Beef jerky.

If you've read my column with any regularity, then you know that I am not a fish who swims along the main streams. I tend toward films that come from other times and places. Many multi-million-dollar blockbusters leave me feeling that a lot of money has been wasted. My tastes are consistently my own, going far beyond film. I've sipped Coca-Cola maybe four times in the last decade (twice by accident when I ordered a root beer), and I've never owned a pair of Nike, Reebok, or Adidas sneakers (though I will confess to a phase of adherence to Chuck Taylors in fashion colors).

I did read and enjoy Robert Crumb comix long before Terry Zwigoff made the movie, Crumb, his second documentary about the underground cartoonist and quintessential weirdo. And I bought Eightball 11-18 by comix-maker Daniel Clowes when they came out. These are the original sequential-art pieces (comic books, in lay terms) that form the basis of Ghost World, a faceted, touching tale of two people who just can't buy into the homogenous pabulum of American life as dictated by the dominant (lack of) culture. Maybe that's why I love this movie so. I, much like Enid Coleslaw (played by Thora Birch, non-traditional hottie) and Seymour (played by the quintessentially Clowesian Steve Buscemi) can't learn to enjoy the rigorous homogeneity of popular culture.

Enid and her friend Rebecca Doppelmeyer (Scarlett Johansson), like so many youth these days, have a strong relationship with irony. Enid especially recognizes the strange insincerities of "normal" life. She's brainy, artistic, and fascinated by the fringes of society, from the couple she assumes are Satanists, to the old man waiting at an unused bus stop, to the adult bookstore and its strange objects and patrons. Rebecca, too, is jaded by MacCulture, but she is better adjusted to making her way in the world, partly because, of the pair, she is the one that their male peers approach first with flirtatious intention. Rebecca and Enid share the dream of moving into their own place and making a living. But Enid isn't cut out for it.

Meanwhile, the two pull a prank that evolves into a full-blown plot. Enid and Rebecca, perusing the personal ads in a cornball 50's-style diner, find one from a lonely heart addressing a woman he'd met serendipitously The girls decide to con the pathetic guy. They call him up, posing as the woman, and spy on him on his doomed date.

Well, it breaks Enid's heart, and not just ironically. Partly from guilt and partly from fascination, she manages to meet Seymour and investigate his lonely life of antiques and old records. As Enid starts to know Seymour, she begins to recognize a kindred spirit. She begins to take an interest in his life, striving to get him a girlfriend. She explains that she can't tolerate the thought of a world where a guy like Seymour (and, similarly, a girl like herself) can't get a date.

As Seymour is older, his sense of irony has congealed into a bitter loathing of contemporary culture. Popular blues-rock is one target: Seymour sees it as a soul-drained, dissipated shadow of the music he loves. It's dark comedy to see the veteran blues singer get drowned out by a television in the blues bar, and then see a young white man sing to an enthusiastic crowd about how blue he is from picking cotton all day long. It's obvious he has no idea what a cotton plant even looks like.

Seymour is heavily based on Crumb, who is also a collector of old records and a Luddite with passionate distaste for most modern things. Director Zwigoff, long-time friend of Crumb, collaborator on Weirdo Magazine, and a record collector himself, is also wrapped into the character of Seymour. As an underground cartoonist, malcontent and maladroit (these all go hand in hand), Daniel Clowes surely recognizes Crumb and Zwigoff as elders. So on one level, the film is a love story between Crumb and Daniel Clowes, whose name is the anagram of Enid Coleslaw. (Incidentally, "Thora Birch" is an anagram of "harbor itch." Coincidence?)

Engaging things transpire between these characters. Relationships are left sloppy and open-ended. Unexpected turns occur, but nothing hysterical or unbelievable. The dark comedy of Seymour's loneliness and Enid's hopelessness are brightened with bits of high slapstick in the form of Dave "Doug" Sheridan, the nunchuck-wielding red neck, and other odd ducks.

The ending is inconclusive and realistic in its non-commitment. Seymour seems somewhat wrecked by his dance with Enid, and Enid just sort of vanishes into the sunrise. The faintest perfume of hope hovers over both their fates, however, as he actually seems more alive than before and she, at least, vanishes into a sunrise rather than sunset, suggesting that her youthful energy and love of adventure will take her where she needs to go. The up beat of the ending is faint but somehow sufficient. It may be the aspect that lets almost anyone enjoy this film, not just curmudgeonly homunculi. Try it. I think you'll dig it.


And now, your Bonus Review!
Once again, a promo copy of a 9-star film has passed to a reader willing to waste 90 minutes. Watch this space for the next giveaway! It's going to be at least as good. (Why, people really do win at

Giving Bootmen the Boot
By Warson Goody

I just saw a promotional copy of the movie Bootmen. On the video's jacket was the message: "Not for rental or sale." That is the best advice anyone could give. The whole mess summarizes easily: "How Down-Under lowlifes live, love, and die while dancing."

Mrs. Goody and I naively popped in the flick, knowing it somehow related to Aussie teens and tap dancing. "No sweat," we figured. We saw and enjoyed Footloose and Stomp. We remember Gene Kelly's imaginative hoofing and Bob Fosse's high-energy choreography, and those enjoyable Australian flicks, Strictly Ballroom and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

Except for one amusing tap scene using tin toilets for percussion, dance sequences were thoroughly one-dimensional. Additionally, Bootmen took predictability to new heights. We accurately predicted a half dozen plot "twists" and even long dialogue lines that had yet to be uttered. Admittedly, we did not predict the scene in which repeated collisions between a speeding car and a motorcycle left both drivers highly pissed but neither dead nor hurt.

We forgave the prior viewer for not wasting the watts to rewind this dog.

Want to share a happy story with Gooden?

Gooden loves to share!

For your collection: Ghost World(VHS), Ghost World(DVD)

Gooden's enjoying the sounds of: Ghost World Soundtrack though it's all good, the main reason I got it was the opening song: "Jaan Pehechaan Ho" by Mohammed Rafi

Bootmen (promotional VHS) Write to Warson Goody at this e-mail and I will arrange to get the tape forwarded to you. I can't guarantee it will be rewound, though.

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