Saturday, August 31, 2013

there's a lot of things really wrong with...

To err is human. To point out someone else’s errors is, presumably, extra-human.

So, let’s look at the errors in Groundhog Day. And, I don’t mean Phil’s errors in judgment or anything like that. I mean filmmaking errors. We’ll work off the IMDb goofs page for the movie and go from there.

First category is “Audio/visual unsynchronized”

In the last part of the movie, Phil is seen playing the piano on stage at the party. As he finishes up song before going and talking to Rita, the piano in the soundtrack is playing a glissando (running a finger rapidly down the keyboard) while Phil is still playing as he was before. Finally, at the last run, Phil's hands match the sound.

Don’t have a screencap for this one (as you’ll see, I’ve got screencaps for a lot of the other “goofs” below), but I’m not seeing it—and I had two different screens going for the movie today, two different copies of the film. Aside from a possibly inaccurate use of “glissando” Phil does run his hand across the keys and you do hear the accompanying sound.

As Phil walks off the stage after performing the piano number, two background actors behind him are visibly 'fake clapping', but there is no clapping sound to accompany it. Whilst this is a technique used on set when recording dialogue, so the background actors' clapping does not get recorded by the actors' microphone, for some reason the sound editor missed this or decided not to dub it with 2 people clapping, giving this strange looking result.

Yes, a couple old people are still clapping, lightly, as Phil leaves the stage, and we do not hear them. But, as I said, they are clapping lightly. This isn’t much of a “goof.”

The next, rather silly category is “Character error”

In the Bavarian restaurant, a poster appears on the wall reads "Alles Gute Zum Erdhörnchentag". This is supposed to mean "Happy Groundhog Day", but is, however, a mistranslation because "Erdhörnchen" means "Gopher". The poster should have read "Alles Gute Zum Murmeltiertag".

Apparently correct. Erdhörnchen does mean gophers. And, Murmeltiertag means Groundhog Day. Presumably a set decoration error, so… well, I don’t know how IMDb categories work, but this doesn’t seem like a “character error.”

At the beginning of the scene where Phil and Rita talk in the Bavarian restaurant, a waitress crosses carrying 4 large steins of beer. She sets them on the table behind Phil and Rita. Watch as she walks away from the table. She touches the shoulder of the older gentleman seated at hat table and leaves foam on the top of his jacket sleeve.

This one is interesting, because what is described here is not a “goof” with the film but, yes, the character. There is arguably a continuity error here as well, since on Day 9 she gets foam on the guy’s shoulder but doesn’t do so on Day 10.

Day 9:

Day 10:

The next category is “Continuity”

The outside of the car while Phil is driving with the groundhog.

That is a fragment. I don’t think it’s fair to try to critique continuity without even bothering with a verb. Still, let’s assume whoever wrote this one meant that the outside of the truck changes in some notable way—if I recall correctly, one of the Film Flubs books referred to the broken grill as jumping from broken to unbroken and back again in various shots, but I don’t see it. Plus, no verb.

During the police chase when Phil is being chased down the railroad tracks, the police car has a rotating light bar. In close up shots the police lights flashing behind the vehicle are clearly strobe lights.

While the lights seen from inside the vehicle with Phil and Ralph and Gus are clearly not from a police car (but probably on a set where they had a bit of Gus’ car for the dialogue), they do seem to be rotating just like the police lights, not “strobe lights.”

As Phil is about to drive the truck over the edge, Larry is filming and Rita is watching; her hair is protruding in many places. In the next shot, her hair is neatly pinned in place.
Not a huge problem, as even her “neatly pinned” hair is not all that neat.

Unpinned:

Pinned:

On the first day Phil wakes in the hotel he looks out of the window and sees certain cars moving and turning. The next day he looks out of the window again and sees exactly the same cars etc as though it is exactly the same time, but the time is different which we know because the radio show that we can hear is at a different point.

This is true. On Day 1, Phil sees the following just as the DJs are saying “Groundhog Day!”:

On Day 2, he sees the following when the DJs have moved on to another whole sentence (about 4 seconds have passed):

As Phil is walking toward the town plaza and he rounds the corner and passes by the old beggar, a number of shops can be seen over his shoulder to the right of the screen. This scene is repeated many times in the movie, and sometimes there are flags flying over the shops, while other times there are none.

This one just seems wrong. The flags are not only always there, given the way they filmed stuff like this, it would be somewhat impossible for them to go away—these scenes were likely all filmed on the same day… The way Stephen Tobolowsky—Ned… Ryerson!—describes it in The Tobolowsky Files, they filmed the different versions of the same scene in a row, then would film them again with different weather conditions on different days, so later they could match up all their weather conditions from day to day. What we see on every day except for the day Phil steals the groundhog (because that was only filmed once) is the grey overcast takes, filmed together.

Since every day takes place on the same day there should be the same amount of snow every night. However, there are clearly some nights where there is a lot of snow and others where there is no snow at all.

Given that we don’t often see the same location with snow more than once, I’m not sure what to say to this one. Gobbler’s Knob has a lot of snow every time we see it at night. Cherry Street has a lot of snow on it. The streets around town don’t. The consistency is between locations, not within them, so there’s no real goof here. Plus, you know, butterfly effect; Phil’s different actions could literally (at least in part) “make the weather.”

When Phil waits for Felix to drop coins so he can grab one of the money bags, his coat is open except for one shot where it is neatly closed.

While Phil’s coat does blow somewhat closed as he crosses the street…

… it remains unfastened the entire scene, all the way until after he grabs the bag.

In the scene at the quarry the police car's overhead warning lights alternate between being on or off depending on the shot.

My first thought reading this was, of course blinking police lights would go off and on. But, actually, there are about 8 shots during the chase that include the police car and every time those lights are clearly on. This one is just wrong (though I did not get 8 screencaps).

When the three ladies with the flat tire are rolling to a stop, the pavement and tire are wet. In the wide shot and while changing the tire, the pavement is dry.

Well, yeah, the close up shot on the flat tire is definitely on shinier, presumably wet ground. And, the rest is dry. This one is totally correct.

As Phil opens the door to leave the Bed and Breakfast on the second morning he has no gloves on and his scarf is outside his coat. As he exits the Bed and Breakfast he is still holding the coffee but now has gloves on and his scarf is neatly tucked in his coat.

Yes, if dialogue and Phil’s behavior did not clearly indicate the following scenes were still Day 2, I could take this as being a jump from one day to the next—though the film doesn’t do quick cuts like that until later and not on walking through doors because, well, walking through doors is not all that interesting. Still…

Inside:

Outside:

The chocolates on the bedside table are in different positions as are the flowers in the arrangement. They should be exactly the same as they were on the first morning since Phil wakes up every morning (until the last) back on Groundhog Day in his room.
The thing is: they are in the same position every morning. Here are some shots for you:

Day 1:

Day 2:

Day 3 (not a nice closeup on the table like before, but you can still see the chocolates and flowers):

Day 4 (an even harder shot to see, but they are still right there where they always are):

And, we don’t really see the flowers or chocolates again until Day 22:

And a nice clear shot for Day 29:

But, even better than those things not moving is the following from the morning of February 3rd—the next day, they are still there:

During the police chase scene on the railroad tracks, there is a shot where the train's headlights illuminates the tracks in front of the Phil's car. In that shot we can see that there is no break in the tracks. In the next shot they veer off the tracks, via a road without any rail crossings, and escape.

Yep:

When Phil is being chased by a police car and the news van out to the quarry, he drives through a stone railroad underpass that is clearly too small for the news van to fit through. In subsequent shots, the news van still appears right behind the police car as if nothing has happened.

My problem with this one is the use of the word “clearly.” When the underpass is shown directly, the rather large pickup clears it by quite a bit. As the camera moves, though, the space does look smaller, and that antenna array or whatever those things on newsvans are is pretty big. But, since it is possible for the van to have gone around or maybe even fit under, though probably only by slowing down to do so carefully, I don’t like this one.

During the police chase on the railroad tracks, the police car is following closely behind. When the car driven by Phil swerves to miss the train, the police car behind them would be destroyed by the train, but seems to have vanished.

Well, since there is no crash/explosion just out of frame, I assume that police car swerved off the tracks into the gravel. See earlier shots of the cars; there’s plenty of space. Phil just happens to have turned off onto a street.

When the police are chasing Phil in the Cadillac convertible, he wrecks into a row of cars, the first one being a 1983 AMC Eagle wagon. In the next scene, the Cadillac is crashed against a small Chevy, and the Eagle is on the other side of the Chevy.

Somebody clearly wanted to show off his ability to identify cars. Rather than make fun of him, I will commend him and say, save it for something other than IMDb; that site is for movies, not cars. As for the possible mistake, you be the judge (the cars look the same to me):


Early in the film, Phil breaks a pencil in half and we see that it's back on top of the clock radio, intact, in the morning. Later in the film, the pencil is not on top of the clock radio. If everything were resetting the same way every day, then the pencil would always be there.

Nitpick: that pencil is never on top of the clock radio. Even after Phil breaks it, he places it on the table in front of the radio, and the “next” morning he has to find the intact pencil down below the tabletop.

During the final party scene, the engaged couple approaches Phil, and he introduces them as the newly-married "Debbie and Fred Kleiser." However, earlier in the movie in the diner, the indecisive bride-to-be is already introduced as "Debbie Kleiser," prior to the wedding having occurred, presumably prior to her having taken her husband's last name.

While this is weird, I’ve already covered a few possible explanations for this one back in my gender entry. Short version: Debbie and Fred could be related, could just happen to have the last name, or Fred took her name because he’s progressive like that (or his “maiden name” was Zod and Kleiser just seemed more normal).

When Rita identifies Phil after he jumped from the tower, we see that Phil's eyes are closed. In the next shot, as the blanket is moved to cover Phil, his eyes are open.

Yep:

When Phil wakes up with Rita at 6AM on Feb 3, his clock flips to 6:01 and then time stands still as several minutes pass.

First, I must complain. “Several” minutes do not pass. We needn’t exaggerate just to prove ourselves great. However, from the click from 5:59 to 6:00 to the 6:01 getting panned out of the shot, it is longer than that 1 minute, 59 seconds that would make it possible. It’s about 2 minutes, 27 seconds, in fact.

At the beginning of the movie, while the white van is going from Pittsburgh to Punxsutawney, the WPBH signs stuck on the van's sides move from near the back of the van to near the front (see the 4 semicircular holes above each sign).

This is correct but, alas, I didn’t get any screencaps. The logo on the driver’s side of the van is at the midway position as the van drive in Pittsburgh, then is at the forward position when they reach the Pennsylvanian Hotel. The logo on the right moves a couple times, notably in the shot where they pass the big Punxsutawney sign.

On February 3rd, when Phil and Rita are leaving the place Phil has been staying, the shots of the gate in the fence show the gate closed in the shots from near the building, but show the gate open in the shots from the street.

Well, this one is tricky. Consider this shot of the bed and breakfast on the morning of February 2nd:

The gate also looksopen there. But, I think it’s a trick of the angle because the gate is actually slightly forward from that arch. Here it is on the 3rd:

I think the gate is closed and the position makes it look open, but it certainly is not definitively open.

The next category is “Crew or equipment visible”

As Larry films the flaming wreckage of Phil's truck in the quarry, the lights used to create the glow of the fire can be seen reflected in the lens of Larry's camera.

Red lights used to simulate the glow of the flames of the burning pickup truck after it explodes after being driven over the quarry cliff, can be seen in the reflection on the lens filter on Larry's camera.

A) These are both the same “goof” so I will have to take one off the IMDb page for sure. B) Yes, those lights are visible:

The next category is “Errors in geography.” How these aren’t just “factual errors” I don’t know.

Sunrise in early February in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania is not until around 7:25 am, so at 6 am it would still be fully dark.

In fact, the apparent sunrise in Pittsburgh that day, according to NOAA, was 7:28. In Philadelphia, according to timeanddate.com, the sunrise in Philadelphia was 7:08. Punxsutawney would be somewhere in between—closer to Pittsburgh, I believe—but all of that is long after the bright 6:00am we see in the film.

During the opening credits, the news van is shown heading WEST on the Parkway East in Pittsburgh, and taking a ramp headed north on Ft Duquesne Blvd. To be accurate, to be headed to Punxsutawney, the van should have been driving in the other direction (East).

Sounds like someone showing off their knowledge of Pittsburgh. Thing is, unless the van is coming from a good distance farther southeast—and it may have just pulled out from one of those buildings just before it is first seen—the best way out of Pittsburgh to get to Punxsutawney is by the Allegheny Valley Expressway, which is north of that peninsula and right in line with where we see the van turning.

The next category is “Factual errors”

At the beginning of the movie when Phil is giving the weather report he claims that if he had a choice of where he could be, he would choose Elko NV, because that was the location of the nations [sic] high of 79. On February 01, the day before Groundhog's Day, Elko would be very cold. It would not be a place that would have the nations [sic] highest temperature in February. The highest temperature in Elko NV in the last 75 years was 21C (about 69F) and that was late February 1905.

Yeah, usclimatedata.com puts Elko’s average temperature in February to be a high of 43.

The next category—to which I will have to add some of the other “goofs” on the list—is “Incorrectly regarded as goofs”

We never see Phil try to leave first thing in the morning before the highway gets blocked, but that doesn't mean he didn't try, fail, and give up; there could be many things he tried that we don't see before he finally decided to settle down.

Whoever thought this qualified as a goof is an idiot. But, someone should point him to Rubin’s original screenplay. Phil does get past the blizzard; he takes a plane to visit his mother.

The next category is “Revealing mistakes” and I’m not sure what it is, exactly, that they are revealing.

During the police chase with Phil's drinking buddies, no back-up lights are visible on the car tail lights while Phil is backing up the car to elude the police.

This is only a “goof” if, in fact, we know those lights work on that car. Since we don’t see the back of that car while it is backing up any other time, I think we can assume Gus just doesn’t deal with the upkeep too well. Since he fantasizes about crashing his car into things (in Rubin’s original), I wouldn’t expect him to be the best at keeping the car in good shape.

When Phil is driving his car down the quarry ravine in a suicidal attempt, there is clearly no driver visible.

True:

While on his death binge, the pickup truck Bill and Phil uses to drive over the cliff clearly has no engine or drive-train components. The underneath shot is even depicted in slow-motion, and one can see clear through to the radiator.

True:

Phil's room in the Cherry Street bed and breakfast is on the top floor overlooking the street. The sizes and number of windows inside his room do not match any combination of those from the exterior shots, which is due to the fact that the interior shots were not filmed on location.

The room actually fits surprisingly well considering it is a set and they never filmed inside that house. Note this shot:

Phil’s room fits with that third floor, on the right (our right, looking at the house). It’s got those three rounded-top windows… but, the little alcove with the sink in it doesn’t fit too well. And… the shots out the window (scroll up if you want to see them again) are from the angle of what would be the left side (our left, looking at the house) of that third floor, and those are not Phil’s windows.

In the beginning of the movie when Phil is reading the weather forecast. We can clearly see him standing almost against the blue screen which casts a very strong shadow. Yet in the preview window he appears clear on the projected background. In reality Bill Murray's shadow would have cast a terrible blue screen shadow that would have been impossible to remove using the chroma key.

Which is why Phil’s got a clear shadow on the monitor. The small monitor we see on the wall is too small to see “clear” on that projected background, but when it’s shown bigger, I definitely see a shadow… see what I did there?

The north side of the plaza (filmed in Woodstock, Illinois) is shown when the insurance man appears. There is a store with a large "WOODSTOCK" sign, although the town is supposed to be Punxsutawney, PA.

There’s also a Lloyd’s and a Frame’s but we don’t assume we’re suddenly in Lloyd’s, Pennsylvania or Frame’s, Pennsylvania. In the context of fictional Punxsutawney, there is a store called Woodstock Jewelers, perhaps named after the bird from Peanuts.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever (or at least once, anyway): to go edit the goofs page on IMDb to make it accurate and maybe even credit my blog for the changes and proof.

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