Screenwriters love structure: it gives them something to focus on as they plow ahead in their storytelling or to retreat to if they get off track. Familiar structures include the road movie (looking for answers), the journey film (home to Ithaca) and the sit-by-the-fireplace flashback (“Let me tell you about Heathcliffe”).
The first “ghost comedy” was an effervescent 1937 charmer called Topper, in which two of the most elegant high comedians in movies, Cary Grant and Constance Bennett, crashed their roadster and immediately rebounded, their insouciant personalities utterly unchanged, as specters. That’s the joke on which ghost comedies are premised: death doesn’t alter a thing except corporeal reality.
The frightening downturn on Wall Street has caused even some staunch antigovernment pundits to begin rethinking their assumption that all government regulation is bad. That is a rethinking this country desperately needs.
There are no plumy accents when traveling by coach, just ordinary people going about extraordinary lives. The bus grinds through small, forgotten villages, stops for elderly women with rheumy eyes dragging plaid shopping trolleys, stops for old men under flat woolen caps, hearing aids at odd angles whistling in their hairy ears, stops for weary young mums with impossibly complex prams. We bump by sodden fields of sheep, into market towns no longer proffering produce, only plastic. Yet three times on this journey I have seen standing stones, great, gray plinths alone in fields, reminders of time immemorial, reminders there is more than what appears to be. They watch us hurtle by.
“Our best college students are very good at being critical. In fact being smart, for many, means being critical,” says Wesleyan University president Michael S. Roth. In the last half century an emphasis in education on inquiry has been reduced to exposing error and undermining belief. Not only does this stance not get college graduates very far later in life, “fetishizing disbelief as a sign of intelligence” has diminished our culture. Liberal learning, argues Roth, should have an equal commitment to finding meaning in culture and becoming absorbed in creative and compelling work (New York Times, May 10).