Beetlejuice | Tim Burton | 1988
Arsenic and Old Lace cryogenically frozen, thawed out in the 80s – Cary Grant has degraded into Alec Baldwin, Raymond Massey upgraded to Michael Keaton, and the hack comedy has made a noble if futile (/impossible) stab at deteriorating even further. Riddle me this: if normativity is lunacy, but if lunacy is normalized, and if thin sheets of plexiglass ‘camp’ soldered on to a Reagan-friendly wireframe are the far gone postmodernist’s suboptimal substitute for subversion of suburbia, and if 1980s Hollywood is a black hole of so-cozy-it’s-asphyxiating astro-turf auto-nostalgia (phew) insidiously manufactured with disregard for the genuine article,* and if Catherine O’Hara’s genius is met with no rejoinder from a stuffed-animal cast and falls on the deaf ears of a multiplex crowd and just wastefully wafts away into the atmosphere with no one perceptive or talented or worthy enough to even hope to harness or intensify or even bottle it (leaving it at the level of firefly ephemera, when it should blaze about as once it did on a certain sketch comedy show that reigned over the netherworld of late-late-night comedy many moons ago…), then what are we left with? Utter meaninglessness masquerading as the cinematic equivalent of a dimestore knickknack, prompting a marginally less meaningless exercise in strangulation-by-language, as only a lowly loaf of mystery meat is capable of administering. The thrashing I just gave this shitfest is too good for it. 😦
*Nostalgia (as defined by mystery meat, with some assistance from Terence Davies and Marcel Proust): the arbitrary sediment of lived experience that inexplicably, indefatigably rises to the surface of one’s memory — memory being the one thing that cannot be replenished at will or furiously bartered for or selectively destocked or customized according to our whims — such that whatever glints through its landfill of undrainable sewage can be nought but really and truly and purely and eternally treasured. To attempt to mass produce a generalized, commercially appealing on-demand nostalgia is the closest thing in our culture to a Faustian tampering with the cosmic order of things, and this particular cafeteria item emphatically rejects it!