Tuesday, December 31, 2013

that's not the worst part

Sometimes.... no--often, lately, I've come to this blog without a plan. It's my winter break from grad school so I should be doing some of the time intensive stuff. Hell, a few days ago I did some of that; I finally did the third TV Time loop day and I watched a couple time loop movies. I don't even remember what else I did this week. I know I talked about being in a relationship with Groundhog Day, and last night I wrote The Ballad of Phil Connors. But, the days blend together...

But, maybe that's the point. You may notice that, here on Blogger I don't number the entries. But, I do number the Word files, and on both my Facebook page and Twitter I number them. But, here I let them be... timeless, sort of. And, in my head I not only forget what I've done lately--I swear, for instance, that it was recent that I wrote extensively about eternal recurrence (39,40,41) and Christ-Figures (93,94,107,110) and deja vu (14,15,16), yet those topics were long ago.

But, it gets worse. In December I broke the cardinal rule... the cardinal unspoken rule... an unspoken rule of The Groundhog Project. I repeated titles. And, I only just noticed it.

Day 125, in which I finally (and hardly as deeply as I probably implied I would) dealt with matters of race in Groundhog Day, was entitled "this is a restricted area."

Day 146, in which I renamed Christmas and shared the O'Reilly "death" scene from Ramis' second revision, was also entitled "this is a restricted area."

Now, I can--and probably will change... no in fact, I will change one of those titles before getting past the very next sentence. But, unfortunately, the addresses won't change, so, like the very first entry, and the second entry in this blog, there will be a noticeable discrepancy between the title and the address for the entry... so the links on Facebook and Twitter still work.

(By the way, it wasn't until Day 3 that I decided each entry would bear a title taken from a line within the film, hence the discrepancy with those first two. Also, I believe one entry had a typo in its title initially and was only corrected after Blogger had already assigned the address, but I cannot remember which entry that was.)

Now, a drum roll, please.

The new title for the entry about race is "for you, miss?".

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to never make a mistake or repeat anything.

Monday, December 30, 2013

you don't like poetry?

It's day 150, so I wanted to do something special. This was written only in the time it took for the movie to play (actually, a little less, as I completed writing it and typing it up just as the last day of the loop was just beginning), so I don't figure it's the best poem ever (and I can't believe I couldn't fit in the name Punxsutawney). But, I think some of the lines turned out quite well. So, without further ado...

The Ballad of Phil Connors

Come all and hear of the hapless weatherman
Who in cold midwinter couldn't predict a storm.
Time started repeatin', he had no choice but transform.

Come listen to the sarcastic weatherman
Who ridicules the townsfolk, tricks a local filly,
Steals a bag of money, drinks and drives willy nilly.

So, come all and hear of the sad weatherman
Who, stuck in coldhearted curse of "I Got You Babe,"
Learned to lie and speak French better than ol' Honest Abe

Come all and watch the lonely old weatherman
Who for no reason takes a shovel to the head,
And after his biggest failure is dead, dead and dead.

You ask:

What's the biggest failure of this weatherman?
Cold and isolated, he pursued his producer.
Robotic, suspicious--still he tried to seduce her.

Come all and hear of the bitter weatherman
Who saved an old man and changed some old ladies' tire,
Only after losing out on his heart's desire.

So, laugh at the pain of the cold weatherman
Who got what he asked for when he laid out his traps.
He said that he loved her but he got back only slaps.

Come all and learn from the pained weatherman
Who, left with nothing, no possibility of deaths' end,
Could do little else but set his broken life to mend.

You ask:

How did he fix it, that wasted weatherman?
Limited by timelessness, he read every book,
He chose to be good and honest, no longer a crook.

So, come all and sing of the gay weatherman
Who content in the long winter of old Chekhov,
Sculpted ice and keyed tunes by Rachmaninoff.

Come all and sing of the happy weatherman
Who lost an old man but still accepted death's place
As long as he could still party and sculpt Rita's face.

Come all and sing of the sated weatherman
Who in fixing his ego also mended his heart,
But still had the wherewithal to say, "We'll rent to start."

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to sing of Phil Connors to everyone I meet.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

you're playing yesterday's tape

The trailer for Groundhog Day, as my daughter said after seeing it, is cheesy. See for yourself.

I don’t mind the cheesiness, or how much more the trailer feels like the early 90s (not the 80s) than the film itself does. Things I do mind:

1. That alarm buzzer. Considering “I Got You Babe” was in the script from the beginning, it’s a little weird they go for the buzzer. I get that they need the buzzer for how they use it, as a reset noise for new days within the trailer, but, well, I just don’t like it.

2. Giving away the punchline on the déjà vu exchange with Mrs. Lancaster… but I guess you’ve got to give away some jokes.

3. The “Why?” at 1:16. Phil does not ask “Why” when Rita ughs at him eating the cake. But, they edit it so he’s responding to Rita saying, “Don’t you worry about cholesterol?” So, they change the line. I don’t like that.

4. That “Ned!” before Phil punches Ryerson at 1:22. I’m not sure why they dubbed a different “Ned” than is in the film. Or maybe the one in the film is the dubbed one, in which case I am glad they dubbed over the higher pitched one in the trailer.

5. At 1:36 the extra I call “black camera man” gets in the trailer. I don’t like him because he so obviously positions himself to remain in the shot, framed between Rita and Larry more than once, even looks directly at the camera one time. But, at least the annoying dancing couple (I labeled them before) didn’t get in the trailer.

6. Putting Rita on the screen along with the voiceover “what his heart wants most.” No wonder everyone interprets it so specifically as Phil winning over Rita being the thing that ends the time loop. They were told as much in the damn trailer.

7. That scream at 2:20 as the truck goes over the cliff. It’s a cheesy scream that doesn’t match Murray’s voice. Plus, combined with using his gleeful “Yes!” wake up afterward, it not only avoids the suicide but it implies the truck thing was not intentional and something as depressing as death will have nothing to do with this film. I understand that’s a way to get the audience in and they’ll invest their time because of the comedy and stay for the depression. But… maybe it’s just that looking at the trailer out of context—advertising a film I haven’t seen yet—bugs me because stuff doesn’t fit right.

8. The bouncy titles at the end. Reminds me of Home Alone and I’m not even sure it even resembles those titles. It’s weird to think about but Groundhog Day came out February 12th, so it’s trailer might’ve been playing in front of nice family friendly films like Home Alone (which came out November 16, 1990), so that’s why this trailer is so cheesy. That’s the audience this was supposed to appeal to.

9. The sound effects in general, the buzz when he electrocutes himself, the loudness of the slaps… I already mentioned the buzzer.

I do like that cut at 2:15, straight from Phil’s “I’d like to say a prayer and drink to world peace” to the truck smashing through the fence. I also like the use of Phil’s piano solo throughout.

I also like that numerous people have put together their own trailers for the film (as more of a serious drama)…

Oddly enough, I think putting together a trailer for this film must have been pretty easy; play up the different versions of the same events just enough to intrigue but not enough to spoil, rinse and repeat.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to produce a trailer from Groundhog Day footage that plays as an epic adventure film, a straight romantic comedy (sans time loop), a science fiction film, a horror film (which those other trailers above almost get), and whatever other genre comes to mind.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

looking foxy tonight, man

Just one more note about her: though it's set in the near future, there is a certain style about the film, especially in the clothing, that makes it seem more like the 1950s. And, that got me to thinking about the costumes in Groundhog Day. Now, this isn't a film you'd necessarily think about having costumes. But, since the film is set on the same day over and over, I'm sure the costume department may have had several of each of Phil's shirts and ties, and Rita's blouse and vest and maybe even something like Doris' waitress outfit. A lot of the stuff with extras outside, like the Ned Ryerson bit, would have been filmed each version all in one day so costumes for the extras wouldn't have mattered much.

Still, notable extras, like the ones I've called Pimp and Pimp's Boyfriend (also Earmuffs and Outdoor Yellow Hat Guy), also show up at Gobbler's Knob in the same outfits, so there was some consistency even with sequences that were not filmed on the same day… or maybe the Gobbler's Knob stuff was filmed along with the Ryerson bit each of those days that they repeated stuff; that would save time and money with the extras.

Lead characters, though—they'd need either multiple copies of stuff or some good time spent on caring for the singular items. Phil's coat, for example--there seems to have been only one; Harold Ramis mentions more than once in the commentary track how he kept that coat after production was completed.

But, I don't want to talk specifically about costumes but the general style in the film. It can be boiled down pretty simply what I want to say. The costumes, for the most part are somewhat timeless, not pinning the film in 1993 (Larry's jeans might be a little bit 1980s, but he's Larry, maybe he just wears weird jeans). Separate from costumes, while there are numerous examples of 80s style hairdos in the film, especially among the extras, the leads hair is pretty much what their hair has always been. Murray seems to have always had that same curly hair with the receding hairline, though recently it's gone gray. MacDowell and Elliott have always had the same hair as well.

Still, there are some definite examples of 80s style…

Otherwise, the look of this film is timeless (with a dash of 1950s).

And, well…

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to label everyone and everything in this film (and of course memorize the labels because I won’t be able to record them anywhere)

Thursday, December 26, 2013

i think this is getting too personal

So, today I was at the movie theater watching her

—which, since several people have had no idea what movie I’m talking about when I mention it, I’ll describe. Spike Jonze writes and directs. Joaquin Phoenix stars as Theodore Twombly, recently separated with divorce pending, unable to really get on with his life. For a living, he works for Beautiful Handwritten Letters (a dot com I was actually surprised to find didn’t exist) crafting notes, postcards, and letters for other people based on whatever little information they provide. Arguably, he’s more responsible for some relationships than the people involved, with all the work he puts in. The film begins, in fact, with him composing one letter then immediately starting on the response to that very letter. Out one day he buys a new artificially intelligent operating system—OS1—for his computer/phone. His personalized OS—voiced by Scarlett Johansson—names herself Samantha because she likes the sound of it. She calls him at work and during the night. She composes bits of piano music to capture the events of their life together because photos are impossible.

While Theodore still daydreams about his relationship with his wife and while interactions with a female friend (Amy Adams) imply a possible future between them, the film is about his relationship with Samantha. With his phone in his shirt pocket, a safety pin holding it high enough for the camera to see out, he takes her everywhere. And, oddly enough, the film doesn’t really suggest that the relationship is necessarily strange. Reminiscent of Lars and the Real Girl, the film treats the relationship itself as rather genuine and suggests, with its near-future setting, that we have all moved so far into impersonal interactions that this will be commonplace.

I won’t SPOIL the film further except to say that this is common enough in Theodore’s world that sexual surrogates for the OS’s come into play and Theodore and Samantha go on a double date in which the other couple don’t blink an eye at Samantha being a phone. Theodore’s soon-to-be-ex-wife is really the only character within the film to suggest outright that Theodore’s relationship is inherently flawed. All that being said, the film also doesn’t promote this type of relationship either—

Anyway, as I was saying, I was watching her and a thought occurred to me. Theodore is in a relationship with his OS and I think I might be in a relationship with Groundhog Day. I mean, at a basic level, it’s almost obvious. I spend time with Groundhog Day regularly. I’ve spent a lot of time exploring stuff we have in common. I’ve explored Groundhog Day’s interests (eternal recurrence, Christ-Figures, time loops, etc.) and forced Groundhog Day into my interests (all those impromptu quotations, my arguments with religion… actually that one’s probably a shared interest). I can finish all of Groundhog Day’s sentences, though I don’t think Groundhog Day can finish mine…

Let’s do this a little more systematically. Like with the whole Christ-Figure thing, I will start with a single checklist for assessment. In particular, I’ll go with Ask Men’s “Top 10: Ways To Tell Your Casual Relationship Isn’t Casual.” Some of this obviously will not apply. While Theodore Twombly and Samantha do manage a sort of sexual relationship, I must say that Groundhog Day and I do not.

10: Assumed Dates

CHECK. In fact, Groundhog Day and I have not only assumed “dates” but somewhat scheduled ones. Ask Men suggests that these dates are “mapping out invisible rules and boundaries that are difficult to reverse.” In fact, early on in this project, I hadn’t officially set rules, then I did. And, yes, they are hard to reverse. I can’t just skip a day or it seems like the project so far will lose some value. I’ve got to get to some legitimate round number, six months at the least (which is why I began on August 2nd, so the 6-month mark would fall on Groundhog Day [day before it, actually… oops]), a year optimally. Today is Day 147. One could make an argument that 150 days would be okay… but I managed to keep up this blog and the daily “dates” with Groundhog Day throughout the whole fall quarter of grad school, I figure there’s no point in stopping right in the middle of winter break.

9. Pet Names

CHECK (SORT OF). While I do not have pet names for Groundhog Day itself, I’ve got some for its characters and its extras, some of which I listed a while back. If a character doesn’t have a name—the boy who falls from the tree, for example—I will assign him one; that boy is Zacchaeus when I refer to him on this blog and sometimes just Zach if I refer to him out loud. Extras get names like Walrus and Goober and Stache (which I really pronounce Stashy). Groundhog Day, though, is still just Groundhog Day.

8. Public Displays of Affection

CHECK (with a caveat). Obviously, I do not kiss, hold hands with, or cuddle with Groundhog Day in public. But, considering the nature of this blog, the accompanying Twitter and Facebook, and my recent invasion of the IMDb board about the film, I’d say my displays of affection for the film are definitely public.

7. Repeat Phone Calls

NOPE. No phone calls at all. In fact, if Groundhog Day ever calls me, I will be very very alarmed.

6. Dropping the Word “Boyfriend”

NOPE. As far as I am aware, Groundhog Day has never called me its boyfriend.

5. Less Emphasis on Sex, More on “Quality Time”

NOPE. While Groundhog Day and I are clearly more about quality time, we never had an emphasis on sex, so I cannot say this one applies… BUT, then there’s this:

If she’s booking cultural events or holiday time with you months in advance, she is projecting into the future and putting you there.

In fact, it’s me who may be booking some holiday time with Groundhog Day pretty soon, arranging to go to Woodstock for February 2nd. So, in spirit, I think this one might actually apply.

4. Four Words: “We Look Good Together”

NOPE. Aside from the fact this one is a bit sexist—maybe I shouldn’t have just picked a random google result for my checklist—suggesting only the woman could be “fantasising about a world in which the two of you are together and happy.” Groundhog Day and I have yet to be photographed together and we often sit across from one another when on our “dates.”

3. Staring: Lovingly, Adoringly or Longingly

CHECK. Seriously, while I often work on my blog entry during the film, Groundhog Day does nothing but sit there staring at me for 101 minutes at a time. If one can stare without eyes. Well, Groundhog Day has many eyes actually, though they are two dimensional and only occasionally look directly at me. Maybe that doesn’t qualify as staring. I stare at Groundhog Day sometimes, though I let my attention wander to Groundhog Day-related things.

(This is another very sexist one, by the way. “While she is in this trance-like state, get up slowly and back out of the room,” it says. Like we males can’t also stare adoringly.)

2. The Toothbrush Syndrome

NOPE (except maybe in spirit). Groundhog Day has no teeth. Or has many teeth but only in two dimensions like those eyes mentioned above. And, they don’t respond to toothpaste, not that I’ve tried any. However, in spirit, the whole casual moving vibe might apply, considering I’ve got a DVD, a blu-ray, a beanie baby, a signed script, three books and a copy of an old science fiction magazine, and a binder full of printed articles that Groundhog Day has brought into my house.

1. Meeting the Fockers

CHECK (SORT OF). Depending on who the “Fockers” are in this case, I think I spent enough time with Rubin’s How to Write Groundhog Day or dissecting both Rubin’s script and Ramis’ revision that if Rubin and Ramis are the parents in question, I’ve gotten to know them somewhat… Haven’t actually met them, though.

On the other hand, if the parents of Groundhog Day are Ramis’ earlier films or Murray’s earlier films, then I actually knew the parents before I ever met Groundhog Day.

If the parents of Groundhog Day include the likes of 12:01 P.M., the short film, or “12:01 P.M.,” the short story, then I’ve spent some time with those parents. I’ve also spent a lot of time with some of the children of Groundhog Day on my three TV Time Loop Days.

So, my final score is five CHECKS, five NOPES (unless we count that “Quality Time” one as a CHECK). Groundhog Day and I must still be keeping things casual.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to take things to the next level (whatever that means).

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

this is a restricted area

Today for Connorsmas, my daughter got me this:

Two things:

1. That’s the Beanie Baby version of Punxsutawney Phil (his name is Punxsutawn-e Phil). Inside this tag is the following poem:

At Gobbler’s Knob in Punxsutawney
Lives a groundhog who’s big and brawny
Punxsutawney Phil’s the name
Predicting spring is his game!

And he was born February 2, 2002. Twenty years after Rubin et al went to Punxsutawney to see the festivities to figure out what they could use in the film.

2. Yes, I called today—December 25—Connorsmas. Yet another way for me to be blasphemous and cute at the same time. It occurred to me recently that Phil is not the only person to die in Groundhog Day and come back. O’Reilly does the same, and he dies without the expectation the next morning that he might be alive and… as well as could be expected for a homeless man.

Speaking of O’Reilly, what kind of nurse tells the next of kin (as far as she knows) that his loved one (as far as she knows) “was just old” and “it was just his time”? You might tell a kid that… about a pet. You don’t tell an adult that trite nonsense. How about a medical diagnosis? He succumbed to the elements, maybe. Or his alcoholism—remember Gregory Solman (1993) calls him a “wino”—finally got the best of him. A bigger issue is that this nurse seems to know that “the old man” is no relation to Phil, which a) sort of excuses her silly diagnosis and b) implies that she also probably has an idea who the old man is. He does seem to be the only homeless person in Punxsutawney, so probably everyone knows him. In Ramis’ second revision of the screenplay, the last we see of O’Reilly (dead) also implies a local fame/familiarity. It goes like this:

EXT. ALLEY – NIGHT

Phil kneels on the cold ground beside the old bum who lies huddled against the wall, immobile.

Rita is standing by at the end of the alley, watching as Phil examines him.

Phil writes something down on a small pad. He finishes, and sets it down by the old man. Then he takes his coat and uses it to cover the man up. A siren is heard.

Phil stands and walks away, as an ambulance pulls into the alley.

RITA
Is he—?

PHIL
Yeah. Let’s go.

RITA
In a minute.

She waits and watches.

The paramedics, BUD and ANDY, get out of the ambulance and inspect the scene.

BUD
It’s O’Reilly.*

ANDY
That’s a shame.

BUD
Look here.

Bud picks up the note Phil left.

Rita steps closer.

RITA
May I see that?
(reading aloud)
”Every night, by cold bricks glow
I watch the shadow rising
from this old man in the snow
AT 8:02 we let it go.”

ANDY
(repeating)
”At 8:02 we let it go.”

BUD
Wow, that’s nice.

Rita hands him the note and quickly walks away.

ANDY
Suppose he wrote it?

BUD
(doubtful)
Are you kidding?

CUT TO:

* The copy of this screenplay available online (and which I’ve got a physical copy signed by Bill Murray and Chris Elliott) has the name as “ol1 Really.” I’ve assumed since I first read the second revision that the original was scanned and run through a reader program, and it mistook what should have been O’Reilly.

(And, I apologize for the screenplay formatting not working quite right. Trying to blockquote lines and go back and forth between paragraph tags and line break tags does weird things to line spacing)

My point in including this scene in entirety is twofold: 1) I think it’s nice to see stuff that didn’t make it into the movie. 2) Bud and Andy both know who O’Reilly is, so the still unnamed nurse probably does as well. She just calls him “the old man” but I’m sure she’s seen him when she’s down by Gobbler’s Knob. Hell, she probably saw him just that morning when she went to see the groundhog festival along with everyone else.

Phil’s final lesson in Groundhog Day (arguably) is that he cannot save everyone. It’s a weird lesson where it comes in the filmic presentation of Phil’s journey as we have not seen Phil save or even try to save anyone prior to O’Reilly. O’Reilly’s death still demonstrates Phil’s limits. And, on the final day of the loop, Phil makes something of O’Reilly’s sacrifice by performing all his good deeds for the people of Punxsutawney. Phil may have sacrificed himself earlier—or as I’ve suggested rather glibly before, he died for us—but O’Reilly died for Phil. So, maybe I shouldn’t call today Connorsmas but O’Reillysmas.

Or maybe I’ll just stick with Noel.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to invent new and interesting holidays befitting whatever calendar day my repeating day happens to be, and to trick all those around me into celebrating.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

our nation's high

Rita’s imitating a groundhog right now, and Phil just called her “new.” But, just like the last couple days, I’m going to be talking mostly about something other than Groundhog Day today. I watched another time loop movie this morning, a Canadian “thriller” called Repeaters. Imagine if the time loop followed, instead of weatherman Phil Connors, a few drug addicts. The basic premise, three addicts get a day pass out of rehab, the day doesn’t go so well, but then, through mostly unexplained circumstances, the three of them get to repeat the day again and again. Like Phil Connors...

Assume SPOILERS ahead.

Like Phil Connors, these three get out of the loop by doing good, sort of.

Day 1 starts with Kyle woken by—I guess he’s a doctor, his name is Bob—telling him it’s 7:30. Then we meet Michael, who, though he turns out to be the id of the group, seems the more put upon, getting tripped by a fellow “inmate” (patient?). Kyle, who will turn out to be more the ego of the group, here is short-fused, not with violence but immediately defending his friend and demanding the tripper clean up the mess. The third in this trio is Sonia, who is carving her 92nd notch in the edge of the table (and who tells Kyle she was hit on last night by Bob). In this same rehab cafeteria scene we get a guy not quite getting his tray onto the tray cart, and it falls to the floor in what I presume is a deliberate nod to Groundhog Day.

Anyway, it’s day pass day, and Kyle waits outside the local high school to talk to his sister Charlotte but she sees him and refuses to talk to him. Michael goes to visit his father in prison—guy doesn’t want anything to do with his son because, though we never get any details, Michael got him sent to prison. Sonia goes to the hospital where her ailing father is but doesn’t actually go in to see him. Back at rehab, Sonia gets the call that he father has died. Then, after a well-placed news report about a suicide jumper at the local dam, the power goes out. Our trio, in separate locations all get shocked at the same time as they check on various electric bits. And, thus the trigger for the loop (but not an explanation, and as someone points out on the IMDb board for the movie, all the other people in rehab could probably use a repeated day to get their shit together also).

Day 2, Kyle is woken again and doesn’t realize it’s the same day. Every day is the same in rehab, and presumably in his drug addled life before as well. Only in the cafeteria when Sonia is confused because she’s not on the 93rd notch and that other guy drops his tray again, do they realize it’s the same day. Still, it’s more confused deja vu than recognition, like Phil Connors on his Day 2. The trio go see their sister, father and father again, though it goes a little differently for Kyle and Michael; Kyle doesn’t talk to his sister and Michael sits silently as his father yells at him through the glass. Recognition is setting in. Back at rehab, Sonia gets the call that her father has died. Then, the trio discuss what to do with the repeat. Michael mentions the suicide jumper and off they go to save her. At the 17-minute mark—see my three part (1 2 3) breakdown of screenplay structure as to why that’s important—they’ve just said “fuck curfew” and cut to the water falling over the dam. Problem is—and this is a big part of the theme of the whole movie—they are too late to stop Chekhov’s Jumper (trademarked) but do see her jump.

Day 3, Kyle and Michael go steal some alcohol from the liquor store, get drunk and trash Bob’s house. They don’t even have three days for a pattern before they give in to the hedonistic phase.

Day 4, along with Sonia, they go to a bar to get drunk, then put on masks and armed with pistols, they rob the liquor store. Then, they go find their old dealer and discover Kyle’s sister Charlotte and her friend are there getting high. They don’t get drugs there but I suppose they’ve got a second dealer because then they all smoke. While smoking, Michael mentions that he thought the sister’s friend was hot. She’s only 15, Kyle says. Michael laughs. Then they return to the first dealer and Kyle tazes him and they take him to a field, Kyle points a gun at his head and forces him to eat cow shit. Ultimately, they leave the dealer unharmed and end up back at the dam. Michael successfully balances on the railing but when Sonia tries it she falls to her death. This makes for an amusing exchange on the morning of Day 5, when Kyle finds her in the cafeteria.

Kyle: Jesus!
Sonia: Yeah, only it took him three days to rise from the dead.

Also, Michael has a great line at the end of the day: “See you this morning.”

Later on Day 5, Kyle and Sonia manage to save the jumper, with a shallow bit of scripting... like the “it’s not your fault” bit in Good Will Hunting, this is a notable flaw in an otherwise... well, actually, this script could use some work, but this is a low point. Back in town, Kyle and Sonia follow a police car and find Kyle’s sister’s friend who has just been attacked. Kyle makes the obvious logical leap and goes to find Michael and attacks him. Michael’s defense is the obvious one: tomorrow it will be like it never happened. Not to be flippant about it, but he realized didn’t need to bother Phil Connoring the girl, he could just have his way with her and it would be erased.

Day 6, Kyle gets his sister and her friend to go for food with him and Sonia. Michael shows up with a gun, proclaims “you don’t know what you’re missing,” and proceeds to shoot two cops.

Day 7, Kyle gets to Michael first thing in the morning, knocking him out with the chair leg, and chains him up down in the boiler room. Kyle takes Sonia to see her father, who we learn now molested her when she was a kid. She still doesn’t go in to see him. They return to rehab and this exchange happens with Michael still chained up:

Kyle: There’s got to be some deeper meaning to this.”
Michael: I just took a piss in my pants. There’s got to be some deeper meaning to that, right?

And then, Sonia wraps up the time loop problem in a nutshell (to mix metaphors); she asks Kyle: “If every good thing we do is erased and every bad thing we do is erased, does it matter what we do?”

His response: “I guess I just need for it to matter.” It’s not profound my any means; as I said the script could have used some more work. But, it does encapsulate a whole lot of the human experience nonetheless. We all want what we do to matter. And, these three (well, two really, since Michael has given in to his id) really want good deeds to matter to make up for the bad they’ve done. Repeaters benefits from not being a nice family-friendly comedy like Groundhog Day, getting into more gritty material like The Butterfly Effect.

Day 8, Kyle goes for Michael first thing but he’s already gone. He finds Michael at a barn—these characters have a tendency to find one another fairly easily, but we’re never really told the town is particularly big, and it’s a movie, so it’s forgivable as just watching Kyle search all over town all day would probably be boring—with the dealer from Day 4 and Sonia tied to chairs. Michael holds a gun on Kyle and tells him to cut the dealer’s throat. He even gets into a bit of a moral argument (or was that after Kyle confronted him about the girl he attacked?), asking why it was okay for Kyle to point a gun at the dealer or for all three of them to rob the liquor store. He shoots Sonia in the leg so Kyle will finally kill the dealer and Kyle, his hands covered in blood, drops Sonia at the hospital. If the metaphor of the drug addicts life hasn’t set in at this point, the drop off and leave bit plays like a don’t-do-drugs PSA (not that it’s unrealistic, mind you). Kyle finds Michael again and Michael shoots him. Rather than cutting straight to the next morning, instead we get Kyle on a gurney being rushed into emergency, blood gushing, a lot of pain, then we cut to the next morning, the same morning.

At this point, though I’ve already scribbled some notes about the Freudian trio, I’m now realizing this is playing out a lot like Chronicle did. Escalation and escalation as one member of the trio loses it.

Then comes Day 9, which tonally seems out of place, falling between two violent days. But, structurally, it’s necessary as Sonia actually goes in to talk to her father (a scene which we could have done without, in retrospect, because nothing really gets said except she gets to tell her father he’s going to die tonight... which is a bit problematic as far as emotional catharsis goes. The implication is that she just wanted revenge when that is not what she’s been trying to get. An explicit conversation about what her father did to her might have been too much of a downer even for this movie, though). And, Kyle goes to see his sister at home and talks to her. This conversation is a little better, but it’s hard to gauge exactly why it’s the sister that has an issue with him. He mentions at some point that he got beat up in front of her once by some guys he owed money (they also ransacked the house) but if that’s the issue, that doesn’t quite mesh with the sister using drugs herself (necessarily) and makes the ending to come a bit... off.

So, Day 10 comes and Michael’s got Sonia again. This time he’s just got her at the barn and he gives her and Kyle a one minute head start for a game of “hide-and-seek” in the nearby woods. Really, he just chases after them on a dirt bike in more of a hunt than hide-and-seek. He catches up to them by an old boat and shoots a guy who emerges while they are hiding. Then, when he’s got the chance to kill Kyle and Sonia, it starts to snow. Thing is, as Michael points out, “it doesn’t snow today.” See, they all got out of rehab so quickly that morning, none of them noticed it was actually the next day now. Sonia talking to her father, Kyle talking to his sister—that was apparently enough to end the time loop. This is the third-act twist.

Michael does not respond well. He runs off and ends up at Kyle’s house, taking hostage Kyle’s sister, her friend, and some other people that happened to have been there (since he doesn’t kill any of them, I’m not sure why they were there). Kyle, over the phone, then in person, tries to stop Michael, but Michael shoots himself. All of this right next to Kyle’s sister, who we’ve been led to believe had a big problem with her brother because she saw him get beaten up. Now, his friend just blew his brains out next to her and this is the happy ending? Well, it’s not supposed to be a happy ending, but is supposed to be an up ending. The loop’s over, Kyle and Sonia have dealt with their shit. And, Michael is dead, outside the loop. All is well, or as well as can be expected where the two surviving leads will now return to rehab to be there a while longer.

Except, then there’s an extra little scene after the movie has apparently ended. Michael wakes up in his bed in rehab and screams. On the one hands, it makes sense that he’d still be stuck in the loop because he hasn’t dealt with his problems. On the other hand, if he is still in the loop and will only get out by doing so, then how was the Michael on the following day still homicidal? Minus the extra scene, the movie works pretty well despite some predictability and a script that could use at least a polish. The acting is fine, and while someone on IMDb calls this “Groundhog Day for Crackheads” and another calls it “A thinking person’s Groundhog Day“ (which I find offensive because it suggests Groundhog Day is not for thinking people), it actually holds up well enough on its own.

And, O’Reilly—or now to occasionally be called Chekhov’s Homeless Man—is dying in an alley right now as locals party a couple blocks away. Groundhog Day is nearly over for today.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to do drugs, jump off dams, and kill cops... kidding. Better to make amends, to stop suicides, and find love with one of my fellow inmates.

and we're clear

Subtitle this one: TV Time Loop Day Part Drei: This Time It’s Less Interesting.

Seriously though, after two previous times doing this (here and here), the structure is rather obvious. You got your central plot with the protagonist and then various side bits put there just so they can solve other stuff (like Phil’s good deeds but less… important). For example… actually I’m not sure any of these episode involved solving other stuff, but there were things obviously there to prove the loop was happening; in Smallville, for example, Clark knows to whom the flowers are being delivered and tells Chloe to prove it—it’s a girl who works so hard Chloe says she can’t have had a date in years, so Clark isn’t just guessing.

It is interesting in these episodes that characters have to deal with the deaths of people close to them, sometimes the deaths of several people, depending on what resumption they’re on. Phil deals with his own death, of course, and O’Reilly’s death, but some of these episodes involve the death of series regulars—SPOILERS AHEAD—and in the case of Smallville a death that survived beyond the episode.

Anyway, on with the shows. Once again, seven episodes, each from a different series. Today’s shows were:

  • The Outer Limits - “Déjà Vu”
  • The Dead Zone - “Déjà Voodoo”
  • Haven - “Audrey Parker’s Day Off”
  • Xena: Warrior Princess - “Been There, Done That”
  • Seven Days - “Déjà Vu All Over Again”
  • Farscape - “Back and Back and Back to the Future”
  • Smallville - “Reckoning”

”Déjà Vu” (the The Outer Limits episode) involves an experiment in teleportation that goes wrong, creating a time loop. The main guy—able to recognize the loop because of some pseudoscience explanation involving an electrical arc hitting him just at the teleportation experiment explodes—even calls it a “time loop.” The loop only lasts a few iterations, each one shorter than the one before, as the loop collapses and the implicit destruction of all reality approaches. Like the Lois & Clark episode I watched on the second TV Time Loop Day, Mark (played by Kevin Nealon) is able to bring another character with him on one of the loops—well, that isn’t quite how it happened in Lois & Clark but close enough—and so they are able to work together to figure out why the experiment is going wrong. Long story short, it turns out to not be sabotage per se but a deliberate attempt to weaponize teleportation.

Like all episodes of The Outer Limits, this one opens and closes with some “meaningful” narration:

We exist in time. Moving forever forward through moments in our lives. Moments that which, once experienced, can never be relived, or can they?

Of note: this had a time loop caused by science, like 12:01 P.M. and 12:01, or Stargate SG-1’s “Window of Opportunity” or either of the Fringe episodes I’ve watched for Time Loop Days.

I’d probably seen that episode of The Outer Limits when it was on originally because I used to watch that show, but I didn’t remember it. I did remember the time loop episode of The Dead Zone, though. At least vaguely. “Déjà Voodoo” doesn’t set up any crime at its start, unlike how I remember a lot of The Dead Zone’s episode going; instead, Johnny’s vision if of he and a stranger he’s bumped into at a bar kissing later that night. Ultimately, he follows her, and gets her to the location in his vision, and they kiss, and only then does something bad come into play. An apparent mugging ends in her death. And, then, jump back to the bar because the whole thing was an extended vision for Johnny. Next time through, he tries to save her but she still ends up dead, and so does he (actually, he might have been getting shot as the first iteration transitioned into the next also). Things get complicated as Johnny tries to figure out who wants this woman dead while still trying to save her.

Because this episode is not setting up a long-term love interest for Johnny, this episode has a bit of a downbeat ending; while Johnny manages to save the woman’s life and figure out who is trying to kill her, in the final iteration he barely even interacts with her.

Of note: technically, there is no “time loop” here. Rather, Johnny has a series of visions nested within one longer vision. And, there is really no explanation why this particular vision would work any differently than usual, except we get to see Johnny hook up with another woman (other than his ex who is now married to the local Sheriff, that is) and have nothing really come of it.

Haven’s “Audrey Parker’s Day Off” reminds me of what I liked and disliked about Haven. Individual episodes work well enough, but the premise of the show limits itself so that it’s a bit like Cabot Cove where you have got to wonder why people even live there anymore with all the death and mayhem going on. Hell, both towns are in Maine; maybe Haven is just Cabot Cove plus the supernatural. Still, there’s some nice stuff going on in the time loop here in that Audrey has to deal with first the death of a child, then when she keeps that from happening, the death of Duke (series regular Eric Balfour) instead. Then, when she keeps that from happening, Nathan (series regular Lucas Bryant) dies instead. Then, she keeps that from happening and her boyfriend (Jason Priestly) dies instead. Ultimately, she finds out who is responsible—if you’ve never seen the show, there are these things called “The Troubles” that makes paranormal things happen to various townspeople—a guy with OCD whose guilt over a) not being there for his daughter and b) being indirectly responsible for his daughter dying on that first day of the loop caused time to repeat around him. Audrey, as usual, is immune to “The Troubles” so she can recognize the loop and work to stop it.

Of note: Nathan, upon hearing about the time loop, tells Audrey that she’s living in his “second favorite Bill Murray movie.” Since the show is filmed in Canada and the actor here is Canadian, I can only assume his favorite Bill Murray movie is Meatballs. Also, like in Eureka’s “I Do Over” Audrey is able to be injured in one iteration of the loop and still have the injury in the next.

I never watched Xena: Warrior Princess regularly, maybe only ever even saw a couple whole episodes, but you don’t need to know much about the series to get into “Been There, Done That.” I didn’t quite know who Joxer was, but could tell it was a big deal when he died early in the episode. I did know there was a lot of “shipping” Xena and Gabrielle and those shippers must have loved when Gabrielle fell asleep on Xena’s chest grieving over Joxer’s death. Anyway, day repeats, and there are some amusing iterations, like when Joxer suggests maybe the cause is the rooster that wakes Xena each morning so the next morning she kills the rooster.

Ultimately, it’s a… whatever the opposite of a curse is, from Cupid, helping out some star-crossed lovers, the female of which has taken poison and will die by tomorrow—the “curse” means tomorrow will never come until a warrior arrives to fix everything. Problem is, girl takes poison just after sunrise, and across town from the barn where Xena et al have spent the night. This leads to an amusing, albeit unbelievable, bit involving Xena’s signature weapon, her Chakram, being thrown across town, caroming off walls, knocking a guy’s hat off so he doesn’t walk in front of a wagon—I guess one of these shows did involve a side event being solved—and eventually breaking the bottle of poison so the girl cannot drink it.

Seven Days has a frantic way about it. “Déjà Vu All Over Again” suffers a little because of this. To raise the stakes, Parker’s Backstep puts him, as far as he knows it, within an hour of Talmadge’s (series regular Alan Scarfe) death. They’ve got a seven day window to figure out what happened to him and end up with no useful leads. It’s a cheap conceit to add tension, but it works somewhat. More problematic for me, since I watched this series regularly when it was on, was that I don’t think Parker’s “Time Burps” existed outside of this episode. Basically, all of his time travel has led to moments of déjà vu (and a hankering for fried chicken), and he sort of manipulates one of these time burps into repeating the Backstep (I once wrote an essay about how the basic time travel of this show didn’t make sense, so that lack of understandable explanation here is par for the course).

Of note: as the loop repeats, Parker actually has less use for explaining what’s going on to the other regulars and mostly just goes it alone. It’s the opposite structure of many time loop episodes in that, narrowing its focus rather than widening it.

Also, Parker has an interesting conversation about experiencing seven day loops on a regular basis and how it can be annoying to know what people are going to say before they say it sometimes.

Farscape’s “Back and Back and Back to the Future” finds its time loop in a fragment of a black hole, but I’m not sure there’s any particular reason that Crichton is the only one to experience the looping. Of course it isn’t quite looping going on at first so much as Crichton getting premonitory flashes. It becomes whole loops later. This is a fairly standard Farscape episode. There are many better ones.

An amusing exchange:

Zhaan: He says he is experiencing the future.
Aeryn: The future? He can barely function in the present.

While watching this episode again, I didn’t see it as all that important an episode (hence just calling it “fairly standard”). Executive Producer Brian Henson apparently thought differently. He’s quoted on the Farscape wikia, saying:

Farscape started exploring darker themes. Even the love scenes here are a little creepy. We were feeling our way into a visceral and twisted tone that would become signature territory for the series, making this episode one of the most important of season 1.

Of course, he’s talking about the sexual bits in this episode and maybe some of the violence. And, I was looking at it today for the time loop. The viewpoint certainly affects the interpretation.

This TV Time Loop Day ended with Smallville’s “Reckoning.” The episode isn’t really about a time “loop” exactly but merely a single repetition of one day, because apparently Kryptonians have the technology for that, but you can only use it once—the premise is actually kinda lame if you put any thought to it. The setup: Clark finally tells Lana his secret and proposes marriage. That night, as Clark’s adoptive father wins the election for senate, Lana goes to see Lex Luthor (who just lost to Jonathan Kent; I’m guessing the campaigning lasted a while in the lead up to this episode) and he knows she knows Clark’s secret (which is a weird intuitive jump), then Lex drives after Lana as she leaves and inadvertently causes her death by car accident. Within the episode, Clark inexplicably goes to the Fortress of Solitude and questions the voice there—I know it’s his father’s voice, but this episode gives no explanation as to why Clark is directing his ire here—as to why he took Lana from him. The Wikipedia entry for the episode explains, Clark was resurrected by Jor-El in a previous episode and promised there would be a price. So, Clark makes a new deal to save Lana and is told there will be a price, some line about the universe balancing things out. And, Clark is sent back to the previous morning, proceeds to not tell Lana his secret, she breaks up with him, ends up with Lex that night anyway and nearly gets killed again if Clark weren’t there to stop the bus that hit her before.

That balance comes when Jonathan Kent meanwhile gets into a fight (another thing not readily explained within the episode) with Lionel Luther. The fight gets fairly physical and I guess it was too much for Jonathan’s heart (I really hope the show had set up his having a bad heart or there really is not “balance” here but just Jor-El being a dick) as he ends up getting outside just as Martha and Clark arrive home, and he collapses and dies. Long before the series got to this 100th episode, I’d stopped watching, but I would guess that for regular viewers, Jonathan’s death would have been more dramatic, but he actually isn’t in much of the episode as it is.

Of note: when Clark tells Chloe about the time loop, she asks him if he flew around the Earth and spun it backward on its axis, one of the possible explanations for what Superman did in Superman II.

So ends TV Time Loop Day: Part Drei. There are no more batches of shows to watch, though I may watch Day Break or Tru Calling for something different in the future.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to edit these time loop episode together into one 24-hour long mega-episode… except then I’d never get to watch it. So, gotta do the editing beforehand, then just watch the mega-episode all day every day as the time loop repeats. Because real life is boring.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

we made love like sea otters

Today was going to be the third TV Time Loop Day, but I got to it too late. Instead, I'm watching 12 Dates of Christmas, a 2011 ABC Family original... that is far too cheesy just during the opening cover of "The Twelve Days of Christmas" and a montage of New York City street scenes. This might actually be painful. But, if Phil can put up with Rita for all those years of Groundhog Days, I can watch this movie for 1 hour 26 minutes.

Even the opening line, "What is a calling bird anyway?" is kinda lame. And, Amy Smart is now in this, with some trite dialogue and I'm wishing I were watching The Butterfly Effect instead, because she's far better in that than I imagine she will be here.

This girl has a "life plan"--she should watch Groundhog Day. And get out more.

Five minutes in and we get another version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas." I get that the title of this movie is a play on that song, but, still, could they not get any other Christmas songs?

Girl gets spritzed by some magic negro woman at the perfume counter and I guess that's where her time loop gets started--I should have mentioned that already; this movie is a part of the Groundhog Day Project because it's got a time loop. Anyway, she gets spritzed and then we get the usual string of scenes that you just know are going to get repeated later: a guy with tangled Christmas lights, her neighbor bringing her... I suppose it was a fruitcake, but I'm not sure...

Horrible bit where she goes on her blind date and thinks one guy--who is totally awful, of course, because, well, he's got glasses... I don't like this girl, she's got some issues--is her date then her real blind date stands up behind that guy. Mark-Paul Gosselaar's the real date... but now some other guy is on screen, main girl's ex, out walking with his new girlfriend. I swear these characters have names. His new girlfriend in Nancy and they reconnected at their high school reunion--I hope his name is Phil, but I doubt it. There is a character called Phil--main girl's father just mentioned him, but I don't know who he was talking about.

His name is Jack. Blind date is called Miles. Main girl's mother just said "you blew your chance [with Miles], you can't go back and change it." Well, there's the message of this movie. Only 15 minutes in, not 17, but close enough.

TV turns itself on, dog barks at it, close up on clock--midnight, not 6:00. Then the clock runs backward and main girl wakes up after getting spritzed. I'd brag about calling that one, but it was so obvious, I really don't want points for it.

Sure enough, Kate--which is apparently main girl's name--points out the guy with the Christmas lights on the first resumption. And, her neighbor comes out again to give her a... still not sure what the hell they called it, but it is not a fruitcake.

Kate thinks this is a dream, so she can do whatever she wants. I guess that's a simplistic way of dealing with it, at least for Day 2.

Current problem, though I like Amy Smart, her character is less interesting than her best friend. They should recast.

Another casting issue: Kate calls Nancy "cheerleader-looking" but Kate looks far more like a cheerleader than the actress they got for Nancy.

Really lame "Noooooooooooooo!" when Kate wakes up for Day 3... or Eve 3 I guess. It's just Christmas Eve repeating. And now a doctor is telling her how her subconscious is trying to tell her something, yet he doesn't look like he's supposed to be a psychiatrist.

Meets Jack earlier on Eve 3, freaks him out by knowing he's proposing to Nancy later, and Jack is a bit of a goober, telling Kate she needs to be open to new experiences to find what he has. Kate goes to the bar and meets her blind date early, not letting him know who she is. Interesting, but I'm sure this won't go anywhere. By the way, the guy who wasn't good enough, the guy with glasses--his name is Toby and he just introduced himself to Kate. I figured he'd get set up with the best friend two Eves ago. Now that he has a name, he's got to be something later.

Third outing and Kate is already getting nicer. Neighbor left the cake outside her door and she knocked to thank her. Now she's in the neighbor's apartment baking. And, I know Kate is apparently "not at home in the kitchen" but had she never poured anything in her life? You just don't pour a cup of sugar from... that had to be about three feet above the bowl. That's just asking for a mess.

Eve 4 and she wakes up without any shock. Just like Phil Connors.

And now she's found Jack at noon to help him pick out the engagement ring. Jack gets to assess her faults again--she was never "in the moment."

Bad line: "Deja vu, literally." No, not literally. Actually experiencing the same day again is not deja vu.

Jack believes in fate. To quote Rita Hanson, "Yuck."

Kate sees Toby again, and we hear--apparently in her head--"You know something, don't you?" She thinks Toby's controlling it, and she messes up her date with Miles, then buys Toby a drink. Now, I almost hope she'll end up with Toby and Miles will go be on some CW show... which isn't a fair joke because I'm probably one of the only people who liked Mark Paul Gosselaar's WB show Hyperion Bay.

Eve 5, and Kate is far too happy considering the previous resumption didn't go well.

Kate is a jerk. Midnight mass, her neighbor is there alone and Kate tells Miles she doesn't want to be like her, alone at midnight. Kate spent time in her neighbor's apartment just a couple tonights ago and it is Jack, not Kate who heads over to sit by the neighbor.

Eve 6 and Kate's attitude has changed. She just compared her life to a parking garage, and I'm not sure the metaphor made sense. She should be in a better mood--yesterday went well.

Now, she asks Jim (an old guy who is there each time she wakes up) what he would do in her situation. Ultimately, his response: anything.

Sixth day and Kate is just getting to the hedonism period. Shops at Versace and gives it away. Gets a sports car. Gets a tattoo. Eats a huge donut while getting her hair dyed. But, her friend had returned. Now, Kate is hanging out with Lee (Christmas lights guy's girlfriend), neighbor lady, and best friend. Midnight comes and back to waking up in the department store.

Eve 7 and Kate is helping Christmas lights guy.

Midnight comes and she and Jack are about to kiss--after a cheesy date sequence--and waking up in the store, she's kissing the air.

Moving on to meaningful discussions about their past relationship on Eve 8 and apparently Jack was going to propose to Kate back when her mother died, but then she got obsessed with being married. Apparently, Jack only proposed to women who don't want to get married. Nancy should probably leave him.

Eve 9, boring. Kate has the chance to go out with Toby but passes.

Eve 10, Kate seems to have figured out the third act is about being better. But, this day amounts to one scene. [Or maybe this is supposed to be later the previous night, considering the miscount below.]

Eve 11, Kate tries to help Christmas lights guy and spots homeless kid... I didn't mention that. Jack apparently coaches a hockey team full of kids from a group home. Kid gets away from Kate with a pointless slow motion jump bit.

Eve 12, Kate goes after the kid, wears leggings for exercise, though she doesn't actually run after the kid, just kinda follows along. And, the kid had run away from his home because he couldn't have a dog. Kate asks Jack out and... did I miscount or was the title deliberately incorrect?

Eve 13, and Kate thinks Toby shouldn't have glasses. She's kind of a jerk to guys with glasses. She hooks up Jim with neighbor lady (who seems to have been named Margine the last couple days), tells Jack and Nancy they're happy together (which I would think they know without her), helps Christmas lights guy propose to Lee.

Kate hooks her friend--apparently named Miyoko--with Toby, sans glasses... and lameness ensues. Parents' party and the hockey team is there, and Lee and boyfriend, Miyoko and Toby, Margine and Jim, and everyone's singing "The Twelve Days of Christmas."

The title for today's entry, by the way--my daughter suggested that line after I asked if Phil ever said, "This movie is so cheesy and awful" or something like that. Though it was only an hour and a half ago, it feels like it was... well, a dozen or so days ago.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to remake a different cheesy TV movie each and every day, because they really cannot take that much time.

you just fell to sleep

Despite the title of today’s entry, I will not be listing off the many faults of Rita Hanson, who says that line just before the end of the film. Instead, I use that line because it was the last correction I just made in a 3 hour plus process of fixing the transcript I have of the movie. See, I got the transcript online and use it occasionally to find lines to use as titles, but far too often there are mistakes.

Prior to today, I’d reformatted the transcript that existed—if you click on that link above, you’ll see how it’s organized (I get the feeling the “transcript” was actually just pulled off the subtitle file, hence it being broken up as it is)—and corrected some lines. But, tonight I set out to fix the whole thing.

(Now, I can print a copy and mark each line I’ve used for titles and mark off new ones as I go so I can be sure not to repeat myself.)

At first, I thought it wouldn’t take too much longer than simply watching the movie. But, 20 minutes into the process I was only a handful of minutes into the film because the transcripter or subtitler apparently didn’t like the verb tense. “I’m gonna have to” became “I will have to” and stuff like that. Not a big deal except that for my purposes I want the lines to be accurate… even though at this point I’ve mostly got the movie memorized, it’s nice to have backup.

So, this blog entry will not be very long for the very simple reason that I have been working with this movie for more than three hours now, it’s after 1 AM and, well, in the immortal words of Rita, I need to fall to sleep.

Not, fall asleep.

Not, go to sleep.

No, that would be normal. And, Rita the Robot is not normal.

It was tempting to put the entire transcript here for this entry, but at nearly 10,000 words, it would be a bit unwieldy and no one would read it… Still, while there might be some copyright issue with putting the whole thing online, I will consider doing it (wink wink).

I still might format it a little more like a screenplay or at least put labels on who’s saying which lines before I print it. But, for now, I’ve got my transcript.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to take my transcript and turn it into a one man stage production, one night only (obviously), just me playing all the parts, Phil, Rita, Larry, Buster, Doris, Debbie, Fred, Bill, Gus, Ralph, Nancy, Laraine, Florence, Buster’s wife, Felix, Felix’s wife, Herman, the nurse, the barman, all three old ladies, and Punxsutawney Phil himself with some original dialogue in Groundhogese.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

let's get you someplace warm

Les Podewell, who plays the old homeless man O'Reilly, died in 1998. He was 91. Hospitalized after a stroke, the Chicago Tribune reports, 26 November 1998, Podewell, asked the usual questions to test his coherence—who's the president? how many fingers am I holding up?—he instead, at his daughter's urging, "regaled [his doctors] with the Player's Speech, a soliloquy from Shakespeare's 'Hamlet,' which he last had performed in the 1930s." The same Chicago Tribune article tells us, “Mr. Podewell's career spanned 70 years, and he had more than 100 productions to his name. In the film ‘Groundhog Day,’ Mr. Podewell played a homeless man befriended by Murray's character.”

Podewell seems like he was a cool guy. Aside from that Hamlet thing, According to his daughter, he “was very unassuming; he never talked about himself--which is unusual for an actor.” In Groundhog Day, of course, he doesn’t even speak. He barely even make a sound (and the sound he does make may have been dubbed in later from someone else). I wonder sometimes why, with so many characters getting to speak here and there, O’Reilly never says a line. Other times, I assume it was a deliberate choice to not give a voice to the homeless guy. On the one hand, you don’t want to get to know the homeless character too well, especially, the homeless character who is doomed to die, because that will be too depressing. On the other hand, to give him voice would be, on a meta level, giving a voice to the homeless out in the real world. And, one could almost see Phil’s failure to save O’Reilly not simply as the one thing Phil cannot change, thus proving he is not a god, but also as representing an incurable condition in our modern world. Or at least, presumed incurable. If Phil represents all of us, then of course he wouldn’t be able to cure homelessness, because we cannot cure homelessness…

For a point (or points, plural, I guess) of reference, the National Coalition for the Homeless website reports the following:

• 633,782 people were homeless on a single night in January 2012. This is largely unchanged (-0.4%) from January 2011, and a represents a reduction of 5.7% since 2007. Most homeless persons (62%) are individuals while 38% of homeless persons are in family households.

• 62,619 veterans were homeless on a single night in January 2012, and veteran homelessness fell by 7.2% (4,876 persons) since January 2011 and by 17.2% since January 2009.

• Persons experiencing long-term or chronic homelessness declined 6.8% (or 7,254) from last year and 19.3% (or 23,939 persons) since 2007.

• Homelessness among individuals declined 1.4% (or 5,457) from a year ago and 6.8% since 2007. Meanwhile, the number of homeless families increased 1.4 % from last year though declining 3.7% since 2007.

• Street homelessness (the unsheltered population) was unchanged since January 2011, yet declined 13.1% (or 36,860 people) since 2007.

And, we can look at stuff like that and just see numbers. It’s unfortunate, but there’s nothing we can do about it, like O’Reilly’s death for Phil Connors.

Except, that isn’t quite true. I don’t mean the Phil Connors side, though we don’t see him try to help O’Reilly starting in the morning so maybe the old guy would have more of a chance. I think we are supposed to assume that Phil could not save O’Reilly, no matter what he did for him. What isn’t true is that homelessness, strictly speaking, is not curable. A Nation Swell article from just yesterday (as I write this), reports… well, just look at the headline: “Utah Is on Track to End Homelessness by 2015 With This One Simple Idea.” Sure, the headline is a bit simplistic and reads like a come on ad you might see in your Facebook margins. But, the idea within actually is quite simple:

Utah has reduced its rate of chronic homelessness by 78 percent over the past eight years, moving 2000 people off the street and putting the state on track to eradicate homelessness altogether by 2015. How’d they do it? The state is giving away apartments, no strings attached. In 2005, Utah calculated the annual cost of E.R. visits and jail stays for an average homeless person was $16,670, while the cost of providing an apartment and social worker would be $11,000. Each participant works with a caseworker to become self-sufficient, but if they fail, they still get to keep their apartment.

Wyoming News reports more detail:

Utah started a pilot program that took 17 people in Salt Lake City who had spent an average of 25 years on the street and put them in apartments. Caseworkers were assigned to help them become self-sufficient, but there were no strings attached n if they failed, the participants still had a place to live.

The “Housing First” program’s goal was to end chronic homelessness in Utah within 10 years. Through 2012, it had helped reduce the 2,000 people in that category when it began by 74 percent.

Lloyd Pendleton, director of Utah’s Homeless Task Force, said the state is on track to meet its goal by 2015 and become the first state in the nation to do so.

And this:

If we first provide shelter to those who desperately need it, with no strings attached, people then have a fighting chance to battle whatever problems led them to live on the streets in the first place.

By giving them a roof over their heads instead of a hospital bed or jail cell, Wyoming communities can show they are both compassionate and good stewards of public funds.

There’s plenty of room to write more about homelessness, but this isn’t the place for that… well, really this is the place for anything I can justify connecting to Groundhog Day. Within the context of the film, though, as I said above, we are supposed to assume that O’Reilly cannot be saved. It’s easier for us to assume the same of the real homeless. And, we can walk past them like Phil Connors, maybe not even bother patting our pockets like we intend to offer them money, and get on with our business because it’s not our problem, and even if it were, we can’t do anything about it. And, remember how I started yesterday’s entry, with Gregory Solman calling O’Reilly a “wino” in Film Comment November 1993. If we assume a homeless person is a wino or a drug addict or a criminal, then we can get to the point where it wouldn’t matter if we could do something because it’s their own fault and they don’t deserve our help.

Unable to save O’Reilly, specifically, though, remember what Phil does. He doesn’t give up on helping anyone. He maximizes his potential to help anyone and everyone he can in the short time he is allotted. And, I don’t think I’ve made this particular argument before, but his Chekhov report from Gobbler’s Knob and his performance at the Groundhog Day Festival Banquet count as part of that maximization. Inspiring people with a simple location report, keeping the locals happy with a good bit of entertainment—these may be at a different quality level as far as good deeds go, but they are still useful acts that make the world a better place.

Hell, even his attempts to save O’Reilly serve a positive purpose in the effect on the audience, anchoring the positive message we get from Phil’s journey in a melancholy center.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to experience the melancholy center and the positive purpose of every act, and to share that experience with others.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

it's hard down there at the bottom

I don't like that Gregory Solman, writing for Film Comment in November 1993, calls O'Reilly a "wino." But, even more I don't like that Solman labels the old man pejoratively yet suggests that his death is undignified... as if a "wino" would have any other kind. Even worse, though, he says Phil "is doomed to witness daily" O'Reilly's death. The first two things were somewhat subjective, but that last one is not. Phil does not witness O'Reilly's death until the day he takes him to the hospital. On screen, that is only two nights before the end, which means Phil witnesses O'Reilly's death twice. Even if we assume (appropriately) that many days are not shown on screen, putting the old man's death this late in the presentation implies that it became a part of Phil's experience late in the loop. So, no, Phil is not "doomed to witness daily" the old man's death. He's not doomed to witness it at all, in fact, because he doesn't have to be there in that alley at that time. He could be with everyone else at the party instead. Or, in Rubin's original script, he could be throwing his own drugged-up party back at his room.

The wino thing bugs me, though. I can't remember if back in '93 it was common to call every homeless guy a wino... Hell, I just realized something. The film not only presents no evidence O'Reilly is a wino, it presents no real evidence that he's homeless. He's dirty, he's disheveled, and he takes money from people on the corner. While that is shorthand for homeless in filmic terms, it is not definitive. But, I wonder why Solman (or any of us, for that matter) see an old homeless guy and assume he's got an alcohol problem to boot. I try to keep my politics out of this blog--I've got another one for that--but I imagine it's an American thing; we choose to assume homelessness doesn't come from systematic structures in our social order but rather from personal failings, like drinking too much.

White and Crawford (2008)* tell us that "advances in past research" give us "a greater understanding of the pathways into homelessness. The evidence points to structural factors such as the lack of affordable housing, loss of high quality jobs, and reduced public aid" (p. 190).

* White, D. & Crawford, C. (2008). African American Males and Homelessness: Voices from the Shelter. Printed in McNamara, R.H. (editor) Homeless in America. Westport: Greenwood. p 189-204; and referencing Rossi, P.H. (1989). Down and Out in America: The Origins of Homelessness. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

The National Coalition for the Homeless, in 2009, listed causes of homelessness, putting addiction among "Other Factors" listed after foreclosure, poverty, eroding work opportunities, decline in public assistance, and housing (listed separately from foreclosure because of the particular year in question). In the "Other Factors" list before addiction disorders: lack of affordable health care, domestic violence--

(One of the apparent two shelters in Punxsutawney in the present day is a domestic violence shelter run by Community Action, Inc. The other is Holmes House, a 30 day emergency shelter for men.)

--and mental illness. The conclusion being: "Homelessness results from a complex set of circumstances that require people to choose between food, shelter, and other basic needs. Only a concerted effort to ensure jobs that pay a living wage, adequate support for those who cannot work, affordable housing, and access to health care will bring an end to homelessness."

Now, I'll get off my soapbox (or is it their soapbox that I'm borrowing?). The point is that I don't think it's fair to call O'Reilly a wino. He may actually have an alcohol problem, but that doesn't make him any less human than Phil or Rita or Doris or Debbie or Larry or Nancy or Buster... or you or I.

(For the record, yes, I realize I'm blurring the line there between fictional characters and you the reader and me the writer in reality. I would contend that, if that line weren't easy to blur this film (or any film, for that matter) wouldn't be as relatable or enjoyable.)

...

My question, for the world within the film, is not how did this old man become homeless, necessarily, but why did it take self-centered Phil Connors to try to help him when locals see him every day?

O'Reilly's death is effective again. But, as sad as his death may be, to quote the Nat King Cole song over the end credits: "there's a smile on my face for the whole human race."

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to help the homeless, to save the dying, to change tires but not light cigarettes... like the Doctor in "The Doctor Dances", my motto for the day would be "this time everybody lives."

it's led you here

I saw About Time again today, and I was reading over my entry here about that film, and I noticed an error. POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD… Taking the protagonist’s do-each-day-twice methodology and twisting it together with Nietzsche’s eternal recurrence, I suggested the following:

1) live each day as if it were the specific day you had time traveled to, as if it's the most important day you have and 2) do with that day only things you would be willing to do again and again and again. I'm certainly not suggesting that eternal recurrence is real, but it's a great way to look at the present. If something isn't worth doing again, why do it once?

And, no, that’s not the mistake. I still like the idea of that now, about five weeks later. And, considering this blog (and Groundhog Day is so often about the passage of time, it’s remarkable how recent that blog entry seems to me. But, anyway, I do think the day can be so much better if you both relax into it and make the effort to make the most of it. Do stuff for yourself, do stuff for others, do stuff to make the world a better place. But, anyway, I was getting to my mistake. The About Time entry at The Groundhog Day Project, 15 November 2013, continues:

In that light, there are moments I'd travel to if I had Tim's ability, moments I would want to fix. But, I don't think I'd want the time loop Phil Connors has. There's this moment in About Time, after Tim has explained how he lives each day twice, where he's on a train with his wife and kids and he says some days he doesn't repeat. I forget the phrasing in the voiceover, but the implication was that a perfect moment is perfect perhaps because it's fleeting.

Perhaps it was I thought about the meaning of that voiceover line and the shot accompanying it before I realized the context, perhaps it’s because that “implication” is still true regardless of the mistake, but, no, that line is not to imply the moment on the train is a “perfect moment” that is perfect because it is fleeting. That moment is Tim and his family on the way to his father’s funeral. He doesn’t want to repeat it because it’s not a happy day.

Still, I do think the “implication” is true, nonetheless. Before, I went on to say:

For me, a few moments like that come to mind right away, lying in a park in San Francisco, a motel bed in Winnetka... but I don't want to think about such things right now. But, I think that I believe both Tim's approach to each day and the value of what is temporary are both valid. That's why I like his solution later; living each day for each day, paying attention to all the details, all the beautiful things you might miss because you're on your way to work or school.

Now, I marvel at the moments fixed in my mind because of their fleeting nature, things both right and wrong that I wouldn’t change because they make the memory more unique from all the other days. On the drive to Vegas to get married, my son Kieran, all of two years old, standing up in his car seat (and, don’t worry, there was traffic due to roadwork so he wasn’t in danger)—I wouldn’t change that because it’s a detail that makes the memory more interesting (as if running off to Vegas to get married weren’t already interesting). My daughter Hayley, nearly seven, begging for a break when we were walking home from the museum… actually, I’d change that. In retrospect, I’d say we take a break or I’d put her on my shoulders sooner. But, as it is, it’s a vivid detail that puts me in that time, January 2002, and that place, Pittsburgh, PA. Similarly, Hayley again, but a year or two later, asking why we paid to kill ourselves on the Ferris Wheel at Santa Monica Pier. Or, my daughter Saer, when she was nearly seven, meowing for the crowd as we waited for the award ceremony to start after the Watson-Lancer tournament. I’d get a gold medal in debate that day but before the awards, to pass the time, they did a contest of animal sounds from the audience. A bunch of college students and my kid, and she won. For me, a rant during a debate that very morning stands out. If I were repeating that day, that rant wouldn’t have the energy, wouldn’t have the spontaneity… of course, it might have made a little more sense and had better structure. But, it’s a more powerful thing in my head because of what it was, not what it could have been. Falling asleep on a bench on the Point Loma campus between rounds—that’s a unique memory for me. If the day were repeating, I wouldn’t be so mentally and emotionally and physically exhausted, maybe, and I wouldn’t have that. Blanking on a single line in a cultural artifact speech—“Hegemonic decline be damned”—and taking 3rd place (and losing the cash prize of $100)—that’s something I’d probably fix if I was in a time loop, or something I might fix on a whim if I had the ability Tim has in About Time. But, really, what’s $100 versus the story I’ve told about that moment numerous times? What’s $100 versus one of the more memorable events in my four years of speech and debate competition? That $100 would be long gone, but that moment will be with me until I am old and grey and forgetful.

I wonder what moments stick with Phil Connors. Late in the loop, does he still go drinking with Gus and Ralph and does he reminisce about the first time he tried sweet vermouth on the rocks with a twist? Does he remember every time Rita slapped him (10 times that we see, but maybe more)? Does he remember his first report from Gobbler’s Knob (the year of the time loop, that is, but also from three years before)? Does he ever stop to regret mishandling his relationship with Stephanie?

(That’s the ex who curses him when Rubin and Ramis were attempting to explain the time loop. She’s not in the movie at all.)

It may seem trite, but I like that “moment” is an instant in time and it is also importance. I like that it comes from the Latin momentum for movement. A moment is not about movement at all, at least the way we think of it, but I suppose that’s what gives it moment (i.e. importance). Each moment is a tiny piece of the forward progression of our lives, the movement of time. The moment itself goes nowhere, and so often lingers on and on in our heads. But, each moment… as Phil says to Rita on date night, “It's led you here.” She started off studying 19th-century French poetry in college but for some reason moved on to maybe journalism, maybe film, whatever got her to producing the news. What she studied before is neither good for a laugh nor irrelevant to who she is in the present. Recently, in one of my graduate school classes, some of my fellow students were surprised to learn I was communication studies major and not a television and film major (the class involved both groups) because of this blog, because my prospectus was about the cinematic Christ-Figure… When I first went to college (as I mentioned before), I wanted to major in film. And, obviously, I like film. I obsess about the Oscars every year and I watch more movies than most people I know. That is still a huge part of who I am. And, I’ve got plenty of memories wrapped up in movies, so much so I could probably frame my autobiography around them someday like Nick Hornby framed Fever Pitch.

Deliberately setting the movie section of the newspaper in front of my father to get him to take me to see Project X—that’s a memory that sticks with me.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to live it in such a way that every memory sticks with me, no filler. And to watch all the movies I’ve still never seen. All of them.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

what is going on?

Today's entry will contain very few words. That doesn't mean it didn't take some effort (and a lot of computer time). See, today, I cut two different versions of Groundhog Day. Nothing too fancy, just used Windows Live Movie Maker. The longer version (actually 6 minutes shorter than the real version) is not online yet, but the shorter one, which I call Rita's Groundhog Day is online.

Recall my entry about Rita's perspective and why she would have any interest in Phil. Or, if you missed that one, go have a read. It was one of the more fun entries to write. Anyway, this short version of Groundhog Day cuts out the time loop entirely and ignores stuff Rita is not there for--

(Except for Larry hitting on Nancy, though I probably could have cut that as well. I think I may have a second go at this particular version of the film, cutting out the Larry and Nancy bit, which means a more complicated cut from the establishing shot of the exterior of the Pennsylvanian to the dance, with Phil's piano coming in over the former... basically, I'll have to pull the audio track out separately and deal with it apart from the video, which isn't easy to do on the free programs I've got.)

--leaving us with an impression of Rita's experience. I will admit up front that the edit in the middle of Phil's Gobbler's Knob report is sloppy. Really, cutting as I do... Well, see for yourself if you've got the time--this version is about 26 minutes long. Below the embed, I'll explain in more detail (which means, if you don't have the time, just scroll down and keep reading).

So, as I was saying, there was no easy way to cut from the beginning of any of Phil's reports to the Chekhov version and have it make visual sense. The people would suddenly be crowded around him and the vocal quality would just be too different. As it is, I wish the edit had been cleaner, so it went straight from Rita giving Phil thumbs up to the Chekhov speech. Instead, there's a tiny bit of Phil starting to explain, "Then it's the same old schtick."

The other cuts here work much better. The transition from treetops in the morning to Phil arriving at Gobbler's Knob works pretty well and the cut from Rita's "I thought we were going back" to the exterior of the Pennsylvanian is quite clean.

As for the content and editing choices involved, it was pretty straightforward. I had to include all of Day 0, and all of Day 3. Creating February 2nd from Rita's perspective, on the other hand was a little more complicated. I obviously wanted the Chekhov bit and everything from the party--I think it makes for a shared confusion between the audience and Rita when all these strangers thank Phil--but I didn't just want to cut from the end of Day 0 (Phil getting back into the van after Rita's dropped off) straight to Chekhov. So, while there is some obvious sarcasm and smartassedness in Phil's initial report, I think it started just fine. In his weather report on Day 0, we see that Phil is the kind of weatherman who makes jokes throughout his report. So, this starting bit actually works:

Once a year, the eyes of the nation turn to this tiny hamlet in western Pennsylvania to watch a master at work. The master? Punxsutawney Phil. The world's most famous weatherman, the groundhog who, as legend has it, can predict the coming of an early spring. The question we have to ask ourselves today is, "Does Phil feel lucky?"

The weird thing is that, while the short is still about Groundhog Day, cutting from Rita's thumbs up means we never actually see the groundhog or get to know if he saw his shadow. But, for the Chekhov bit to work at all, I couldn't show Buster with the groundhog or have the audience booing. So, I'm stuck with a sloppy cut from Phil reporting humorously, to Rita giving thumbs up, to Phil entirely serious and now with a crowd gathered around him. Otherwise, I'm fairly happy with how this turned out.

As for interpretation, I've explained before that Rita should not be interested in Phil at the end of February 2nd; in fact, she should be perplexed by his drastic change. Of course, that could be the very reason she's interested. Consider: if the world were ending, she tells Phil, she would "just want to know where to put the camera." This womanizing jerk from the station didn't want to even go to Punxsutawney yesterday and now he's citing Chekhov? That is a story worth investigating. Plus, with the absence of the whole date night sequence (lost along with the rest of the time loop), we don't know, in watching this shorter cut, that Rita isn't one to move quickly on the first "date." Instead, we can actually assume she's as easy as Nancy seems to be (not that we have any idea who Nancy is in this cut).

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to leave people with only pieces of who I am and what I'm doing so they are all confused.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

you've got to believe me

I like that Gregory Solman, writing for Film Comment in November 1993, agrees with me that Phil Connors merely “memorize[s] French poetry” rather than the usual interpretation people make—that Phil actually learned French. I, of course, also contend that Phil didn’t necessarily master the piano either—we only see him play two songs... but there’s a problem with cynicism on that second bit. See, presuming the Phil doesn’t learn French but merely memorizes enough to impress Rita fits with the flow of the story; at that particular point in the time loop and in the filmic representation of Phil’s journey through the loop, it makes sense that Phil would take the shortcut. But, later, on the final day of the time loop, it doesn’t make as much sense to assume Phil isn’t really making the effort. But, that’s just the obvious take—that Phil improves himself in act three and that’s a bit of the lesson he learns: bettering himself makes him worthy of release from the time loop.

Of course, there’s still room for cynicism.

As I’ve suggested before, and as I’ve now found someone who agrees with me, Phil might not be improving himself because it’s the right, or a good, thing to do, or even because he’s been inspired by Rita (an argument I’ve made), but because he had little else left to do. Jaci Stephen writes in The New Statesman, 7 May 1993:

In fact, Groundhog Day has a more cynical agenda. Sure Phil is improved, but for all the wrong reasons, and in all the wrong ways. He can become the perfect man purely because he has nothing else to do, having exhausted all the day’s other possibilities. Given time, he becomes a god, omniscient and omnipresent, and when that’s driven him mad, maybe then he’ll settle for being a nice guy. But he’s only officially a nice guy when the woman he’s lusted after all along (Andie MacDowell) recognises him as one. And that’s where the film ends up, in a perfect have-your-cake-and-eat-it male fantasy. Yes guys, even a repellent jerk can get off with Andie MacDowell in 24 hours flat.

The probable reasons for Groundhog Day‘s massive US success is that it appeals at once to absolute idealism and to absolute cynicism. It comes packaged as a moral lesson about human perfectability, but its deep structure allows for total amorality. Phil gets to do horrible things to other people with impunity, because the next day it’ll all be undone. That’s the principle behind Tom and Jerry violence, but Groundhog Day is a first in applying that principle to the comedy of manners.

With fewer words, Brian D. Johnson makes a similar point about Phil’s self-improvement. Writing for Maclean’s, 22 February 1993, Johnson says, “But the thrill of instant gratification soon wears thin. To break the tedium, Phil tries self-improvement.”

I like that there are others cynical enough to read the film this way. I also like that there are those optimistic enough to read it the more positive way as well. I not only agree with Stephen’s assessment about Groundhog Day appealing “at once to absolute idealism and to absolute cynicism,” I think it appeals to both of these things at the same time and, for me, in the same person. I mean, the film appeals to my idealism and my cynicism at the same time. I see Phil improving himself because it’s a good idea and he’s seen a better person than himself in Rita and seen a potential better version of himself in her eyes as well. I also see Phil improving himself because everything else was already done; he’d tried hedonism and gluttony, he’d Phil Connored more than just Nancy Taylor. Reading the local library’s entire catalog, learning to play whatever instrument was available nearby from the one teacher who still gave lessons on the town’s biggest day of the year, learning the most transient form of art you could find in midwinter—these are the obvious ways to spend time when you’re caught on Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, PA. The rest is details.

I can almost appreciate Ramis’ second revision now, with his version of the last day of the loop. See, Rita follows Phil around as he performs his good deeds, so she knows firsthand that he’s been saving the townspeople. She certainly doesn’t understand how he’s doing it, but she can see that he is. This puts the onus for Phil’s release not on him and his good deeds but on Rita happening to be inquisitive enough that particular resumption to follow along.

The film has only just begun for me today, and I see Rita’s amusement at Phil making fun of her in the van and I can suppose that she’s already got a thing for him. And, that isn’t an abrupt change of subject, by the way; I was just about to counter Ramis’ second revision version with the film version, in which we only accept Rita’s acceptance (and even, arguably, pursuit) of Phil on the last resumption because of our own knowledge of how far he’s come and what he has gone through to get there. If we think about it, we should realize that Rita should not be that impressed. As far as she knows, Phil is just playing the good guy for the locals because, well, it amuses him to do so. I can imagine the basic beats of the last day of the loop happening much earlier, Phil saving lives, doing good deeds, if Phil had just started the loop a little differently. A “better” man might have looked to save lives as soon as he understood the situation. A “better” man might have improved the lives of those around him from the start. And, only when that Good Samaritan routine got old (and the inevitable return to the status quo every morning made good deeds seem meaningless) would he turn to Phil Connoring the local women, to robbing the armored car, to dressing up in costume just to watch a cheesy family classic. That Phil’s loop experience went in the order it did, hedonism first, good deeds later, is more a measure of Phil’s personality regardless of the loop than the possibly conscious purpose behind the loop. A different man may have tried something else first, but given enough time, would have come to all of it eventually. Like the proverbial infinite monkeys with infinite typewriters, eventually any man would get to bad deeds and good deeds if he had enough time and not enough consequence.

And, there’s my cynicism and my idealism in a nutshell. I believe that given the right time, the right circumstance, we are all capable of doing horrible things and amazing things—

(And, obviously, I use “amazing” to refer to something positive, even though it isn’t really a value judgment so much as a measure of scale, in and of itself.)

—I think we tend toward the better behavior, the more noble action, but often just because it suits us to do so. I don’t think morality comes first and then we act in accordance with it. I think there are actions we tend to do because evolutionarily it behooves us to do so and we define our morality accordingly. The definition blurs and changes from time to time and from culture to culture but some basics stay the same. No culture that favors murder, for example, would survive as lengthily or as strongly as so many other cultures have, for example. So, of course, the cultures that remain tend to frown on murder. But then, they also make exceptions. Because, like Phil Connors, they understand that there is a time to do just about anything. People do “bad” things sometimes. So, the rules adjust where they can, punish where they can’t, and we all wake up each morning to face another day, to do the same old thing or to try something new...

I propose a question. Ask this before you try anything: What would Phil Connors do?

Then, regardless of your answer, you still might want to try whatever it is, because sometimes that is just what life is about.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to try anything and everything new that comes along until even newness loses its novelty.