Monday, February 24, 2014

A tribute (and a thank you) to the late, great Harold Ramis

It's no secret that while I may have been during the tail end of the 70s, I consider myself an 80s kid, through and through. I mean I may have been born 3 years before the decade started, but I grew up in the 80s, and something like is bound to have a big effect on a growing boy. Like everyone who was a child during the greatest decade there ever was, there's one thing that influenced me more than any other, beyond Transformers, or He-Man, or Duran Duran, or Robocop, or Frankie Goes To Hollywood, or any of that stuff.

Yes, I'm talking about Ghostbusters, a movie that, in hindsight, had a spectacularly big effect on how I write, and how I even think about plot-lines. And so, it was with a heavy heart that I read the news today (courtesy of The BBC), saying that Harold Ramis has died, aged 69...

I've often said that Ghostbusters was the best movie of the 80s by a country mile, and a huge part of why it's such a classic movie (still fantastic even today, 30 years later) is the script, co-written by Ramis and Dan Aykroyd. Of course, Ramis's turn as Egon Spengler was also one of the stand-out performances of the 80s, for me, but it's that script that makes the movie so timeless. Lest we forget, though, it's not just Ghostbusters for which Harold Ramis was accoladed as a writer. There's Meatballs. There's Stripes. There's Groundhog Day (which he also directed). Oh, and let's not forget those two ever so slightly well-known films, Caddyshack and National Lampoon's Animal House.

When I look at that list, I can't help but notice that a sizeable chunk of my childhood memories are defined by his work. Harold Ramis, it turns out, was the man who made me want to have a pet gopher, while driving around in a weaponised Winnebago and wearing a toga.

With a proton pack on my back, naturally.

I'd be lying if I said that his style of writing hadn't an influence on my own, too, with his trademark combination of humour, intelligence and note perfect pacing. Consider the Twinkie scene in Ghostbusters, or the rounded, three-dimensional characters in everything he wrote; that, along with the work of Terry Pratchett, is the yardstick next to which I aspire to measure my own writing.

The simple truth of it is this: cinema and television have today lost one of their greatest voices. But let's not get bogged down in the bad feelings. Let's instead remember the legacy Ramis left behind (and it's a big legacy), and revel in the glory of that scene...

And finally, on a personal note, thank you, Harold Ramis. Thank you for giving a 6 year-old boy something to aspire to while he was growing up. Of course, that aspiration might not have panned out since it's remarkably hard to find someone who'll build me an unlicensed nuclear accelerator and go hunting ghosts with me, but the other aspiration, the one to write as well as you did, well... that's still something I can aim for!

R.I.P. Dr. Spengler. We'll miss you.

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