Criterion Wishlist: Ghost World(2001)


The Criterion Collection has been known to release the best Blue Rays and DVD’s ever made. They are be considered the Coach brand of handbags or The Harley of motorcycles, the Cristal of champagne. They are the cream of the crop and getting a film released by this company is even better then winning an Oscar. The following movie I am listing on here is one that is not part of the collection, but I’m hoping that one day it will be.

Ghost World

Cast: Thora Birch, Scarlett Johannson, Steve Buscemi

Writers: Daniel Clowes(Based on his comic) Terry Zwigoff

Director: Terry Zwigoff


To a few of the great readers who visit this site.  The characters of Enid(Thora Birch) and Rebecca(Scarlet Johannson) may come off as being nothing more then hipster snobs. Two girls who enjoy being different from everyone else and make fun of things that are too cliche or generic. They speak to people in this sarcastic tone that some may find off putting, but I along with many others found to be very funny.  Seeing high school portrayed through their eyes was pretty actuate of how I felt back then. Especially the graduation scene at the beginning. OK, so maybe my school didn’t have some girls sing a rap song, but I do remember a lot of those assembles(assemblies, assembly, I don’t know) and how stale and sanitized they felt. During their summer vacation both ladies like to find people who they think are odder then them. The satanic couple who visits their favorite cafe, the waiter of Wowsville(Authentic 50’d diner) Weird Al, and Norman. The guy who has been at the same bus stop day in and day out. When they both decide to prank a record collector named Seymour and pretend to be the girl he wrote a personal ad to. Enid becomes interested and starts to follow him. They eventually start up a friendship and she tries her best to hook him up on a real date.  While her relationship with Seymour is going good. Her one with Rebecca is slowly starting to fade. Rebecca wants very much to get away from this town she spent so many years ridiculing. While Enid on the other hand is some what fearful of having to take that step towards adulthood. In her world everyone is basically a ghost. The average ones who work jobs and own homes are basically dead in her mind . Enid doesn’t want to end up like that.  She’s afraid to grow up and take some responsibility because she feels she will loose her personality. She will become just another ghost.

Enid-ghost-world-2813176-900-599All of the actors in this are at the top of their game.  Thora Birch and Scarlett Johanson have amazing chemistry together.  I’m sort of upset that this didn’t take off because I would have loved to see a sitcom with both of these characters before they graduated High School.  I still want that show, but it wouldn’t be that good without both of them in it.  Thora Birch as Enid delivers one of her best performances ever.  She creates a character that you despise, but also are very sympathetic with.  I know what it’s like to want to stand out when it feels like everyone is trying to box you in. She got a well deserved Golden Globe nomination for her work in this.   This was Scarlet Johannson’s first starring role in a movie and I could barely notice that it was.  For me she was just as good as she was in movies like “Lost in Translation” and “Match Point“.   Steve Buscemi as Seymour, is a character I find a lot of connection with.  I had a good amount of friends then and now, but I could still understand the isolation and loneliness of that character too.  Being a movie geek didn’t score me a lot of popularity points back in high school, and it was really difficult to find people who shared my interests.  Most women I met were not impressed that I knew about the differences between  screen aspect ratios and the names of directors.   Seymour likes old jazz 78’s(records) and finds it difficult to find any common ground with most people.  At least 99 percent of them. So when he does start to make a connection with Enid and others I was rooting for him.

Ghost-World-ghost-world-7152797-853-480This is only the second feature from director Terry Zwigoff who got big critical acclaim for his documentary “Crumb“(also on Criterion).  He  then went on to have a big box office success with “Bad Santa” a few years later.   He has not made a movie since “Art School Confidential” in 2006 which is kind of sad.  However “Ghost World” stands out as a modern classic for me.The way it pokes fun at popular norms really spoke to me, but I have a feeling it  might irritate others.  If you are one of those who finds most things trending  to be a bit ridiculous.(or just hate the word trending in general) You will enjoy this.  It’s a very unique movie with a good cast, a wonderful script(Oscar nominated: Best Adapted Screenplay) and great music.  The piano theme by David Kitay is really beautiful too.

Special Features.

Commentary by Director Terry Zwigoff, Writer Daniel Clowes and actor Steve Buscemi

Commentary by Thora Birch and Scarlett Johansson

Interview with Daniel Clowes about the making of the graphic novel and adapting it to the screen.

Interview with Terry Zwigoff about making his first narrative film.

Deleted and Alternate scenes(taking from the MGM DVD)

Making of Promo (Taking from the MGM DVD)

Gumnaam Music Video: “Jaan Pehechaan Ho” (Taken from MGM DVD)

Back to Ghost World:  A reunion with the cast and crew.

Remembering Josh:  A Tribute to actor Brad Renfro

Booklet that contains behind the scenes photos and a reprint of the actual graphic novel


About The Vern

I love movies and I enjoy writing about them too. They both go pretty much hand in hand with each other and it's fun to discover new classics. I co host the podcasts The Film Pasture, ScreenTrax, and soon Cinema Recall. While also contributing reviews and articles to other great sites when I can.
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12 Responses to Criterion Wishlist: Ghost World(2001)

  1. Dan Heaton says:

    Vern, I’m right with you on this one. I’m a huge fan of Ghost World and love its constant wit. The Blues Hammer scene still pops into my mind a lot, and I haven’t watched it in a long time. Both Thora Birch and Scarlett Johannson are great, and it’s easily re-watchable. This should happen.

  2. CMrok93 says:

    I really do like this movie. I can’t say I love it because of that constant red herring of the old man on the bench that seemed to get in the way of everything, but other than that, the wit is painful, honest and downright hilarious. Also, makes me downright depressed to see how far Thora Birch has fallen, although, from a recent article I read, apparently it’s with good reasons. Hopefully she makes it back to being in movies again, because she truly is a talent. Good review Vern.

  3. The Vern says:

    I would be interested to read that article about Birch. After American Beauty and this I thought she was the one poised for Stardom. not Johannson. Thanks for the comment Dan.

  4. jjames36 says:

    I have never seen this, but now I want to change that. Sounds pretty fascinating. Great review!

  5. ninvoid99 says:

    Oh, I’ve been wanting Ghost World to be in the Criterion Collection as I mentioned in my Criterion Wishlist a few years ago. There’s a bunch of extras it needed like the ones you mentioned although I think an interview with Scarlett Johansson is more realistic than a commentary track considering how thriving her film career is. Plus, I think the booklet should include an essay on the film by… me. Here is that essay.

  6. Bubbawheat says:

    I just watched this movie for the first time and really loved it. It would be pretty sweet to see this as a Criterion disc. I’m wondering if I missed the talk of the ghost world in the movie since I watched it somewhat piecemeal and was wondering how the title fit into the actual movie. If so, that would ease my only problem with the movie, which was the ending.

  7. The Vern says:

    I took Ghost World as a metaphor of how Enid and Rebecca viewed their world. Everyone who lived there were just soulless and therefore ghosts, Read The essay by NINvoid99 in the comments. He explains about the ending. Thanks for visiting.

  8. Pingback: LAMBcast #230 Ghost World(Movie of the Month) | The Vern's Video Vortex.

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