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Ghost World: the comic-book movie that refused to conform

In the 20 years since Ghost World was released, nerd culture has become dominant culture, turning a term once associated with the dweeby outcasts of 80s comedies to a shorthand nearly everyone can self-apply. Now you’re a nerd for seeing Ant-Man and the Wasp on opening day. In truth, the term was always meaningless, whether it applied to pitiable dorks with taped-together glasses and pocket protectors or the hordes jamming Hall H at ComicCon every year, hyped up over the biggest movies on the planet. Authentic nerds are exiled from the culture entirely – few people want to spend time around them, much less pay money to see them on the screen.

And so despite excellent reviews, superb performances, and abundant insight into the lives of such alienated misfits, Ghost World was not a hit in 2001, but has a cult following, which is perhaps the proper fate for a film that clings to the arcane. Based on Daniel Clowes’ comic book and directed by Terry Zwigoff, who co-wrote the script with Clowes, the film clearly loves these salty misanthropes and brings the audience into the private spaces where they dance along to 60s Bollywood numbers or pick through 30s blues rarities on 78, with their pops and cracks and evocative warps. But Clowes and Zwigoff have the integrity to allow their characters to be off-putting or cruel, and to make the kinds of terrible mistakes that account for their loneliness… read more >

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