Harold Ramis and the Death of Baby Boomer Subversiveness
I've got a piece up at Time.com about the death of Harold Ramis, the writer-director-actor who played a leading role in many of the biggest comedy films between the late 1970s and early 1990s. Here are some snippets:
Ramis was nothing less than one of the subversive auteurs behind a whole new way of laughing at the world that mixed brains (he was a National Merit Scholar after all), cheap gross-out gags (see Caddyshack's scene in which a Baby Ruth candy bar is mistaken for a turd in a swimming pool), and unapologetically anti-authoritarian antics (Ghostbusters enjoys a strong reputation as the most libertarian movie ever due to its hostile depictions of regulators as figuratively "dickless").
From the mid-1970s through the early 1990s, he made it seem as if the Boomers were not simply going to inherit the Earth but transform it into an edgy paradise that our parents, stuck in a past where Bob Hope and Johnny Carson and other dinosaurs still roamed the world, could never really grok….
Ramis's oeuvre flattened out after Groundhog Day. In the wake of critical and commercial success, his output became increasingly programmatic and uninteresting. Rather than taking chances and blow up comic forms, he directed movies such as Analyze This and Analyze That, schmaltzy, safe-as-milk comedies featuring Billy Crystal as the shrink for Robert DeNiro's by-the-number mob boss. He appeared in vanilla roles in forgettable movies such as Baby Boom, a late '80s fantasy in which Diane Keaton's businesswoman protagonist not only turns her back on New York's demanding capitalist but gets rich by pushing gourmet baby food.
The raging bulls and easy riders of the boomer generation — who had turned Hollywood and America on its ear in a sustained blast of antinomian anger and humor — slowly became as dulled and self-satisfied as their parents had seemed.