Wednesday, July 30, 2014

and you'd be an expert

Day 363 seems, to me, like a perfectly reasonable recap number. Consider: I recapped on Day 62. That is hardly a good, obvious, round number. Day 60—that would make sense, but that day, I was busy nitpicking Maggie Crane of Woodstock, IL. And, now I’ve namechecked her again, which is not only rude but, well, somewhat pre-loop Phil Connorsian—

Yes, that’s a thing.

Anyway, I recapped again on Day 121. Again, not a good, obvious, round number. Day 120 would have made more sense, but I was busy tying impromptu quotations to Groundhog Day.

I recapped again on Day 180 and Day 240, and Day 300 because I do know how to do things on nice, obvious, round numbers.

So, now, the Day 363 recap:

Day 301: you never talk about work was a sort of behind-the-scenes look at the research—deliberate and more casual—that goes into this blog.

Day 302: what high school did you go to? deals with the short film, The Other Side of Yesterday before moving on to the high school lives of the likes of Phil Connors, Rita Hanson and Larry… whatever Larry’s last name might be.

Day 303: play it ‘til the bitter end is a confused little piece that involves old poetry and an old novel of mine, and The Game of Life.

Day 304: over and over and over again is not like anything else.

Day 305: closing the road is probably my final obsession about locations in the movie. Alas, I still am not sure where they filmed much of the chase scene after Phil steals the groundhog.

Day 306: you get your sleep deals with dreaming and false awakening.

Day 307: up next: entertainment editor breaks down the opening credits of Groundhog Day.

Day 308: a thousand people deals with extras.

Day 309: what are you dying of? is my first brush with Edge of Tomorrow. Day 310: doubly dying shall go down is me framing Edge of Tomorrow’s hero in terms of the Kozlovic scale of Christ-Figuring. I return to Edge of Tomorrow again in Day 350: why couldn’t i get that day?.

Day 311: to the vile dust drifts into a non-time loop (and non-timey wimey at all) movie, The Fault in Our Stars to make a point about, you know, life and love, and good happiness stuff.

(If you know where that last phrase comes from, good for you.)

Day 312: but i think is brief, oh so brief, the calm before the storm of summer break perhaps.

Day 313: and makes noises deals with silence.

Day 314: the same. that’s my favorite drink is a shallow use of Howard Giles’ Communication Accommodation Theory applied to Groundhog Day.

Day 315: the end of a very long day involves Phil telling Rita about the time loop after the movie has ended.

Day 316: some warm weather tomorrow, I start watching Tru Calling.

Day 317: i’m not easily amazed is me picking on Rita with four different YouTube videos.

That’s just one.

Day 318: a large squirrel predicting the weather is all about my student/friend Tracey watching the movie for the first time. For the record, Victor was also there, but he fell asleep at one point and had nothing interesting to say afterward.

Day 319: hello, father deals a bit with the Old Man (O’Reilly) and a scene from the original screenplay involving a priest.

Day 320: you must really enjoy it is a weird sort of transition from the topic of O’Reilly to Harold Ramis’ third revision of the screenplay for Groundhog Day

But, I don’t get to that screenplay in Day 321: i thought you were supposed to disappear because I’m watching some more Tru Calling.

Then, I get to the screenplay in Day 322: this is your third, Day 323: down and down and down i go and Day 324: five, four, three…and Day 325: okay, that’s enough.

Day 326: you gotta check your mirrors, Day 330: we could do it again sometime, Day 331: the ticket for you (which also includes some of my final thoughts on Paul Hannam’s The Magic of Groundhog Day), Day 332: you think i’m acting like this…, Day 334: he’s gonna swerve first and Day 335: is that not good? deal with Tru Calling, while Day 327: how much longer… backtracks into other Time Loop TV with Seven Days and Fringe.

Day 328: …do I have to sit here? is about a rock. Seriously, a rock… and therapy and the speech team for which I coach and life and, of course, Groundhog Day.

Day 329: if it’s not too boring has got to be the shortest entry of this entire project.

Day 333: because i’m egocentric is an update involving a cookie, a party and a prospectus.

Day 336: i wait for your command deals with the movie Somewhere in Time, Day 337: why I still keep coming back instead of runnin’ with the movie Run Lola Run, Day 338: deep inside i can’t accept with the movie Primer, Day 339: so, what do you want out of life, anyway? with the movie Sliding Doors

Do you notice a trend here? At this point, I was deliberately trying to move away from Groundhog Day.

But then, Day 340: i’m sure i can think of something instead avoids the six Time Loop TV episodes I rewatched that day, to consider the idea of how this blog might be connecting me with others (a topic I may revisit tomorrow).

Day 341: i can’t wait to do this with my own children mostly involves my 11-year-old daughter’s thoughts on Groundhog Day and this project of mine. Also, here, I invite all of you to submit your thoughts on either the film or this project for me to share with everyone on Day 365; just email them to robertegblack@hotmail.com.

Day 342: even though it’s just pretend reveals some of the work going into Groundhog Day: The Board Game. This continues in Day 344: tiny village in western pennsylvania and Day 345: by the rules.

Day 343: this big mass coming out of the north deals with the movie Timecrimes, Day 348: among the people with the movie Blind Chance… and books, Day Day 349: can i have a rain check with Once (the Musical more than the movie, but really just as a launching point for a brief bit about life and being positive about it), Day 351: you don’t remember me with a forgotten Bill Murray movie called Nothing Lasts Forever, Day 352: every morning i wake up without a scratch on me with Mr. Nobody, Day 354: small town people are more real with Doc Hollywood, Day 355: the world is about to explode with Source Code.

Day 346: i gotta go is me preparing for the end… of this project. As is Day 356: you don’t want to rush back.

Day 347: where have you been? deals with games and timing.

Day 353: you seem like the most popular person in town deals with an episode of Community and the butterfly effect.

Day 357: are you trying to make me look like a fool deals in the holy fool, the Shakespearean fool, and the role of a) Ralph and Gus for Phil, b) Phil for all of us in the audience. Day 358: he must have just snapped! continues on this vein with the yuordivy and the Tarot’s Fool.

In Day 359: we know that winter, I finally get to Chekhov, realizing that his plays are mostly not as bleak as Phil makes out.

Day 360: but why are you still here? deals with the movie Boyhood and things we want to happen in our movies, even when they don’t make logical sense… like Rita and Phil ending up together, for example.

Day 361: this is bill is me dealing with the worst of Bill Murray and wondering if that changes the best.

Day 362: four to five hours a day is mostly photos of my LEGO Gobbler’s Knob.

Day 363: and you’d be an expert is the final recap of entries before Day 365.

Day 364: i, for one, am very grateful to have been here contains my final thoughts on Groundhog Day and this project and what it has meant for me to have done all this.

Day 365: so this will be the last time we do the groundhog together recaps the Day 365 party and shares the thoughts of others—family members, friends, and those I have come to know along the way doing this project.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: (I may have used something like this before) to categorize every day of real life and give it a title.

four to five hours a day

Thirty-one minutes into the movie tonight before I start writing. I don’t have much to say. But, I did want to share the following photos, for those who can’t make the Day 365 Party on Friday.

I made some stickers for a few signs in the crowd, the big sign behind the stage and the banner hanging over that. I’m usually a LEGO purist—I occasionally enter contests so I never use non-LEGO pieces in a LEGO set—but I thought I could make an exception just this once.

And, really, that is all for today. Just a few days left. I just went a while without typing anything—1 hour 5 minutes in, Phil just jumped to his death—but I figure on having something more to say in the next couple entries… actually, tomorrow’s entry should be the final recap entry, detailing all the entries since Day 300. Day 364 will mostly be my “final” thoughts on Groundhog Day and on doing this project. Day 365, I hope I will have words from some of you to share with everyone else, plus a recap of the goings on at the Party.

I have spent a lot of time with Groundhog Day in the past year. I could find new angles to approach it from, but they would probably just be rehashed versions of old angles.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to have days where I don’t feel the need to accomplish anything, at all.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

this is bill

It seems like I write about Bill Murray every day. But, really, I think I only ever focused on him once or twice. I know there was Day 196 – keep the talent happy, for example, in which I place Groundhog Day in context of his larger career, but without actually getting into a lot of detail about each and every film he’s been in because that would be tedious. I wrote about Murray’s feud with Harold Ramis on Day 214 – i am not making it up and I wrote a little bit about Murray’s marriages in on Day 267 – this glass is half empty… usually I just write about Phil Connors instead of Bill Murray. But, today, for practical reasons—

I think I’ve mentioned my folder of unused Groundhog Day articles; well, it’s got nothing but Bill Murray articles left inside

—and because I can generally label myself as something of a completist—

seriously, it bugs the hell out of me, for example, when the new set of collectible LEGO minifigures come out and I’m missing just one; similarly, as I’ve gotten into tabletop games a lot this summer, it bugs me that, for example, I’ve got expansions 1, 3 and 6 for Carcassonne when there are 9 total. It isn’t even that I want the others. I’ve looked at them and don’t particularly need any of them, but, well, it would be really cool to have all of them

—I would be bereft if I did not devote an entry, finally, just to Bill Murray. The thing is, I think, here and there along the way, I have said so much about Murray already that I don’t have much else to say.

Generally, I like Murray as an actor but I’ve got the feeling that he’s a bit like Phil Connors, actually, charming and witty one moment, but a little arrogant and rude the next. I don’t know how much of what his ex-wives have accused him of is true but it actually wouldn’t surprise me much if all of it turned out to be true. I’m the bad guy in a debate who will defend the jerk when no one else will sometimes, so I must also say, I’m not sure that any of that stuff necessarily even means he’s a bad guy. I think we are all capable of doing bad things, of being cruel, of cheating on spouses, of getting violent. But, we are also capable of doing good things.

I have avoided details. I should stop that. Allow me to backtrack.

For example, in 2008, Jennifer Butler Murray accused Bill of, among other things, the following (taken from the divorce complaint):

Defendant has physically abused the Plaintiff on more than one (1) occasion during the marriage. The latest altercation occurred in November, 2007 at Sullivan’s Island when the Defendant hit her in the face and then told her she was “lucky he didn’t kill her.” Defendant’s violent, abusive and erratic behavior toward Plaintiff has destroyed the marital relationship between the parties and Plaintiff no longer feels safe being in the presence of Defendant.

On the positive side—and coming from one of the four articles left in my folder—Josh Tyrangiel describes in Time International, January 10, 2005:

Following The Razor’s Edge, Murray basically took four years off. He studied French at the Sorbonne, traveled extensively and turned down lots of easy money. He was very happy. “A lot of us work in whatever we can and let the locusts come in and clean our bones,” says [Dan] Aykroyd. “Billy’s different. He’s off on another kind of journey that people, including me, don’t always understand.”

Of course, this aloofness—the whimsical traveling for example—had its darker side later, according to, again, his second wife, Jennifer. Again, from the divorce complaint:

In 2006, the Plaintiff moved to Sullivan’s Island with the parties’ four (4) minor children due to Defendant’s adultery, addiction to marijuana and alcohol, abusive behavior, physical abuse, sexual addictions, and frequent abandonment. Defendant would often leave the state or country without telling Plaintiff. Defendant left for extended periods of time without speaking to the Plaintiff or his children. Often Plaintiff is unaware of the Defendant’s whereabouts. On information and belief, Defendant travels overseas where he engages in public and private altercations and sexual liaisons.

From Tyrangiel’s article:

As weatherman Phil Connors, Murray was doomed to relive the same day until he got it right, in the process evolving from a surly (but funny) egoist into a sweet (slightly less funny) human being. “In the role he actually got at the edge between the better, higher, gentler Bill and the bad, cranky, dark Bill,” says [Harold} Ramis. “He figured out how to project the entirety of himself through characters. When we were making the film, I’d launch into some explanation of the scene we were about to do, and he’s say, ‘Just tell me—good Phil or bad Phil?’”

Good Phil or bad Phil.

Good Bill or bad Bill.

(Those injuries are not real. This is from the set of St. Vincent de Van Nuys. But, I felt this image invoked in a backward way, some of what I had to say today.)

It’s really only because Bill Murray is a public figure that we can readily access a copy of his wife’s divorce complaint and dredge up accusations that have power, regardless of truth, just to share them again in something like this blog. As I said above, I wouldn’t be surprised if his wife’s accusations were true. His idiosyncrasies, his eccentricities, his aloofness—these things fall right in line not only with the kind of guy who would drop his agent and get an 800 number he sometimes doesn’t even check because he’s busy but also the kind of guy who would travel the world without notice to his wife and have sex with other women.

Interviewed on About.com regarding Lost in Translation, when asked, “What was the biggest challenge in expressing this character’s issues?” Murray answered:

We’ve seen a movie where there’s a guy who’s conflicted and he’s married [and] he’s away. The thing for anybody who’s ever been married and away - whether you’re a man or a woman - you’re married and you’re away, so what does that mean? Does that mean you don’t meet people? Does that mean you don’t talk to them? Does that mean you don’t have interchange? Does it mean you don’t flirt with them? Does it mean you don’t talk to them? Is it wrong to be up in the middle of the night with someone that’s not your spouse? Well, if you’re 13,000 miles away, all of a sudden it’s like what else am I going to do? It sort of comes to that. And then there’s this moment where you kind of go, “Oh, we could sort of tumble down and end up complicating things more. Are we going to do that?” Then [it’s] like, “Well, I don't know. It’s not really on my mind. I’m just sort of lonely, really.” So you go a little further and you spend more time with someone.

As an actor, and as a writer/director, the question is is it going to be very noble here? [Is] this guy going to say, “I just can’t call you. We can’t share room service anymore?” Is it going to be like that sort of thing, or is it going to be a little more real where they actually get really close to it?

I think there’s one interesting scene - well, there’s a lot of interesting scenes - but there’s sort of a tricky scene where they’re in the same room and they’re watching “8 ½” and they’re talking about stuff. I’ve been in this situation before and I’ve seen people do it. I’ve seen other people do it in other movies. I know that you sort of want to, because you’re so close to somebody… It’s so promising. It would be so easy to do this right now and all I’d have to say is, “My wife is a bitch. My wife is a pain and my kids drive me nuts. I love them but they drive me nuts.” And that, to me, was the moment where, “Okay, how is this guy going to be respectable and not in a politically correct way, but in a way that I can feel like it’s true?” It validates all the complication of it. It’s going all the way and just saying, “Okay, and there’s more to it than this. Even though you’re with a beautiful girl and it’s the middle of the night in Tokyo, you’re never going to be one of my kids. Once you know that, now what are you going to do? Let’s get that straight.” Instead of saying, “This is the end of the conversation. I’m not going to walk out the door and slam it or anything. It’s just matter of fact. This is who we are.”

It’s strange; I find myself wanting to come to some conclusion about Murray—is he a good guy, is he a bad guy? But then, I’m reminded of another of my favorite movies, Zero Effect. At one point, Steve Arlo (Ben Stiller) insists, “There aren’t any good guys. You realize that, don’t you? I mean: there aren’t evil guys, and innocent guys. It’s just - it’s just... It’s just a bunch of guys.” I don’t need to justify his bad acts or even stress his better ones. In one of my favorite novels, Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card—

and there’s another example, perhaps, of needing to separate the author from his material, or to accept the juxtaposition of the two

—the main character works as the titular Speaker; he comes after someone dies, spends time around and talks to those who knew the deceased and he speaks not a eulogy, tending toward the positive, but something… else, tending toward objective truth. He has no investment in saying the deceased was a good person or a bad person, only really in pointing out that the deceased was a person, like we are all people.

Ultimately, anyway, Bill Murray is not Phil Connors.

Though, I figure Phil is capable of some pretty bad stuff as well. Think about it; one of the first things he does after figuring out there are no consequences to his actions is punch a guy just for being a little annoying. In the moments we don’t see—because Groundhog Day is a relatively wholesome family-friendly comedy—Phil probably gets up to stuff as bad as the drug-filled party in Danny Rubin’s original screenplay, or worse…

But, he’s also capable of what James Parker, writing for Atlantic Monthly, March 2013, describes thusly:

But Phil learns. He learns contentment, and he learns forgiveness, and he learns kindness. He sits in the Punxsutawney diner [the Tip Top Café], happily reading—but he’s not just reading, he’s radiating Buddha-nature. It’s all expressed in the trajectory of his relationship with Rita. He wants her, he tries to seduce her—first with meanness, then with fraud, then with recitations of French poetry and engineered perfect moments. It is only when he gives up, when he accepts the blessing of her company, free from desire—at which point she, too, magically becomes a far more interesting character—that she is delivered into his arms.

Does Bill Murray also learn? Has he become a better man in as many days, like Phil?

Allison Hope Weiner and Karen Valby, writing for Entertainment Weekly, October 10, 2003, suggest Bill Murray might be a “mad genius.” But they also describe how, for example, when the makers of Bad Santa wanted him for their lead, “‘Everyone eventually lost their patience” trying to woo the star, and Billy Bob Thornton was cast in the title role instead.” Murray operates on his own, unique wavelength. At his best, at his worst, he’s someone capable of… the unexpected. Harold Ramis told Jeff Labrecque, writing for Entertainment Weekly, July 2, 2010: “[Murray] was always unexpected. Where anyone else would go subtle, he would go huge. And where anyone else would go big, he would go very subtle.”

Murray told Charlie Rose earlier this year, “I live a little bit on the seat of my pants, I try to be alert and available,” he said. “I try to be available for life to happen to me. We’re in this life, and if you’re not available, the sort of ordinary time goes past and you didn’t live it. But if you’re available, life gets huge. You’re really living it.”

Murray told Tom Huddleston at Time Out, January 29, 2013:

‘As I once said to one of my brothers, “This is your life, not a rehearsal.” Somewhere there’s a score being kept, so you have an obligation to live life as well as you can, be as engaged as you can. The human condition means that we can zone out and forget what the hell we’re doing. So the secret is to have a sense of yourself, your real self, your unique self. And not just once in a while, or once a day, but all through the day, the week and life. You know what they say: “Ain’t no try, ain’t nothing to it but to do it.”’

We are each and all an amalgam of our parts, the good, the bad and everything in between. To pretend otherwise would be to be dishonest.

Bill Murray is Bill Murray. Phil Connors is Phil Connors. I am me. You are you. No matter what we have done or will do.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to be myself.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

but why are you still here?

Watching Boyhood this morning, and a few times there were things I expected might happen that didn’t. The movie—if you don’t know it—was filmed over 12 years and evokes a sense of real life more than the Hollywood-constructed life. A boy doesn’t turn into a man in a single summer that lends itself easily to film—at least not all the time. It takes years. But, anyway, those moments.

For example, Mason camps out with some other teenager boys at a house under (mostly done) construction and they’re drinking beers and breaking bits of wood, kicking them while another boy holds them. And, they also throw a saw blade into a spare bit of what looks like sheetrock. So, the end of the scene, oldest boy is going to punch a board held by the one kid who doesn’t want to drink, he’s holding it right in front of his face, and that saw blade is in the wall behind him. In a scripted film—especially a Final Destination film—this is a setup for a horrible injury and a lesson learned about going out and drinking underage. But, since this movie evokes reality, or tries to as much as it can, older kid breaks the board, and scene. Going out and drinking when you’re young does not automatically end badly.

This next example is more SPOILERy.

(If you don’t want the SPOILERS, drop down two paragraphs, past the image.)

Mother’s second husband is a belligerent bordering on abusive alcoholic. Mother finally takes her two kids and leaves him, but because she’s not the legal guardian for his two kids, she can’t take them. She called child protective services but we aren’t privy to what happens with them because we are following her and her two kids. Here again we have a setup for a whole other subplot in a scripted film—not a common one, but one that occurred to me maybe because I felt sorry for those other two kids and would actually like to think that, in that situation—which, technically, I couldn’t be in—I would have taken them as well, damn the law. Since the movie involves a jump forward in time here and there, those other two kids could have just been there again later, so we know that the mother managed to do something, but the movie doesn’t have time to take care of that many characters as it keeps moving ahead.

This one is also SPOILERy since it concerns the very end of the movie. That alcoholic husband makes Mason cut his long hair off at one point and Mason goes to school with a buzzcut and kids laugh at him. But one girl, Nicole, passes a note to him—she thinks his hair looks “kewl.” Years pass, girlfriends come and go, and on his first day at his college dorm, Mason meets a girl named Nicole. She may or may not be the same girl—an IMDb thread suggest it is, indeed, the same girl playing both Nicoles—but the movie does not make any point of suggesting it is the same girl. A scripted film might make a big point of it, like it’s fate and Mason and Nicole are meant to be. At least two people on IMDb say her presence means just that. And…

…the thing is in real life, nothing is meant to be. You run into an old friend, it’s a nice coincidence, it isn’t fate. If you happen to end up in a romantic relationship with a childhood friend or your high school sweetheart, even after time away from each other—and for those who skipped the SPOILERy paragraphs, I am not saying that is what happened in Boyhood—that still does not make it fate or destiny. It does maybe make it a little poetic, and that’s why we like that sort of things in movies. We want things to wrap up nicely. We want coincidences to bear meaning, for young love to have the potential for true love down the line. Even in a movie like Boyhood that insists on something more like reality, we want Nicole to be Nicole, because… poetry.

Similarly—and this segue was entirely planned—we want Phil to end up with Rita not because it makes logical sense but because Phil deserves something good, and however much we might like or dislike Rita—

(I understand that most people like Rita upon watching the movie, but watch it often enough and you grow to dislike her… and to like her again… and to dislike her again.)

—Phil clearly likes (or at least liked) her. So, Rita is a worthy sort of—and this is horribly sexist to say—trophy for Phil having bettered himself. It’s like a basic human condition to think if we do good things, if we be good people, we deserve happiness and a good love interest and success in school and career. There’s an amazing detail in Boyhood—has nothing to do with the story so I won’t SPOIL-tag it—though the mother manages to go back to college and get her bachelor’s and then her master’s degree and get a good teaching job, the family still is always just barely getting by, because one success is not necessarily the equivalent of another, especially financially.

Phil’s success is mostly inside him. He’s learned to care about other people, even strangers he used to loathe. He’s learned to appreciate finer things like just sitting around reading a book. He’s learned to play the piano. And, while he demonstrates these improvements visually, we want there still to be some more obvious result. And we get it in the form of two things: the end of the time loop and Rita’s acceptance (and presumed love, because in Hollywood, love comes that easily… for her; it’s clearly not easy for him).

When the piano teacher is proud of her student who we can see is obviously advanced beyond her teaching skills, we don’t wonder if maybe Phil told her all about the time loop and she knows she’s actually been teaching Phil step by step (from his perspective), and we also don’t immediately question it. We maybe think it a little odd, but we run with it. Similarly, there is no reason for Doris or Nancy to necessarily know who Phil is on that last day of the time loop, let alone be so enamored with him as to battle over him in a bidding war in the bachelor auction; seriously, he presumably has not had time to hang out at the Tip Top or go on a date with Nancy—hell, if he had done the latter, that would put a crimp in our subconscious plans for Phil and Rita to end up together. But, we have come to appreciate what Phil has become, so we take the people of Punxsutawney as our proxy, appreciating him, thanking him, bidding on him in our stead. Essentially, we want the much-improved Phil Connors, so internal reality be damned, they can all love and appreciate him as much as they like.

And, Rita can spend the night with him, not just because the peculiarities surrounding him might make for an interesting story, but because Phil has miraculously turned around from a smartass jerk to a wiseass gentleman… For those of us who reached the point of not liking Rita much anymore—a shout out to Kyle Sweeney if he’s still reading, because he knows what I’m talking about, also to my daughter Saer, because she also gets it—maybe the original ending to Rubin’s Groundhog Day in which Rita is now stuck in her own time loop on February 2nd would help these two out in really getting together. She could learn not to insult people using poetry, for example.

My point is, the onscreen story is subservient to the whims of the author and the audience. I am no longer the normal audience.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: unlike Rita, to learn to insult people using poetry.

we know that winter

Maxim Gorky once said of Anton Chekhov, “Beautifully simple himself, he loved everything simple, real, and sincere.” Schmidt (1997) expands on this, saying, “Simplicity was his touchstone for art. He hated pretentiousness and fuss” (p. 2). I’d wager Chekhov, like Harold Ramis, was a beloved writer who the theatergoing masses loved. Schmidt, again, tells us,

All Chekhov’s plays are based on the traditional themes of middle-class melodrama: hopeless love, money, marriage, and who owns the house. In that sense, he was a playwright of his time, trying to write the kind of plays audiences wanted. It’s important to remember that in his lifetime his most popular plays, and the ones that made money, were the one-act comic “sketches” he wrote over a period of five years. These he wrote easily and quickly, because the comic sketch was the genre with which he began as a writer. (p. 3)

This is not the Chekhov Phil Connors speaks of, one who “saw the bleak winter [and] saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope.” That Chekhov, it seems, is a simplistic construction for the audience of this comedy. We imagine Russians as more serious, full of mirth and woe and, stuck in their cold, barren landscape as they must be, certainly never happy. So, Russian writers must be serious and they must write depressing and bleak material. It’s notable, by the way, that in earlier drafts, there was no actual mention of Chekhov by Phil, rather Rita saying to Phil, “That was great what you did there with Chekhov and the long winter” (Rubin, 2012 (1990), p. 57)). I think Rubin thought it sounded clever and Ramis ran with it, and made it... better. Better, but apparently inaccurate. Chekhov was a medical doctor and a playwright and, it seems to me, he was probably a fairly upbeat guy, not unlike Harold Ramis.

Butsch (2001), writing about movie audiences in the 1930s, juxtaposes an audience for which, “poverty was not pejorative; being poor and working-class was a badge of authenticity” (p. 112) with the urge to “hav[e] a good time” at the movies (p. 113). Even if we assume—and we Americans love to assume—that Tsarist Russia was a cold, bleak landscape, that would not mean the audiences wanted cold, bleak entertainment. Not anymore than American audiences today, still trying to recover from economic recession, seek out bleak entertainment. Hell, just tonight, a couple of my kids were finally watching the last couple episode of Breaking Bad, which is certainly a darker brand of entertainment popular of late, but it is hardly bleak, and even has elements of wish fulfillment to it.

It was Stanislavsky (according to Schmidt) who called Chekhov’s plays “tragedies.” That was not the reality of his plays, which were mostly comedies. Schmidt writes, “And if any one author ever had a sense of the human comedy, the heartbreaking ridiculousness of our everyday behavior, it was Chekhov” (p. 1). Chekhov is the kind of writer who might have fashioned a story like Groundhog Day. Similarly, since I referenced Shakespeare the last couple days, it’s worth saying that he might have told a story like this, too. Shakespeare, whether he was a singular author or just a name, whether he wrote original stories or stole the broad strokes of most of them from previous works, wrote a lot of universal stories that we can all relate to. The Russian names make it harder, but Chekhov seems to have done the same. And he made things simple. Schmidt writes,

Over and over, we see Chekhov reducing action and dialogue to their simplest terms, to ensure his audiences’ identification with their own lives. He wanted the people onstage to be recognizably normal for the audience and to speak a language that the audience understood was theirs. (p. 4)

Groundhog Day has a very simple plot, even a quite simple story. Phil Connors is a character we can all not only enjoy but relate to, even if we don’t want to admit, pre-loop, that we have much in common with the jerk we see on the screen. Actually, that jerk is quite charming. He’s charming, but he’s got potential for something terrible.

I’m reminded of the notion of Tom Hanks being the early choice to play Phil Connors. The Wire reports,

Hanks reportedly told Ramis it was a good thing he declined the movie. “Audiences would have been sitting there waiting for me to become nice, because I always play nice. But Bill’s such a miserable S.O.B. on and off screen, you didn’t know what was going to happen.”

(I had to look this up anew because, just like before, I could not remember where I first read about why Tom Hanks wasn’t right for the part—I thought it was Gilbey, but no luck there. Thought maybe it was something Rubin (2012) said in How to Write Groundhog Day but no luck there, either.)

Bill Murray, on the other hand, as Gilbey (2008) describes—he looks “like he might really do some damage, if he could ever be bothered to get out of his pyjamas, clear away the three-day-old-pizza boxes, brush his hair, finds his keys...” (p. 27). But, we still like him. We see his flaws, we reject the worst of his behavior, but we still accept him and like him and we want him to get what he wants (even if he doesn’t know what that is right away).

Going right along with the time loop way of life in Groundhog Day, Schmidt tells us how, with Chekhov,

The rule of causality, the idea that every act is subject to consequences, that morality is a matter of rectitude or retribution—all that vanishes. Chekhov’s characters pull actions and phrases out of the air (as happens in reality) and let them loose. His characters are unaware of, or ignore, the effect of what they say and do. (p. 5)

Like Phil Connors early in his loop. There’s a great bit from Chekhov just after that Schmidt passage:

What happens onstage should be just as complicated and just as simple as things are in real life. People are sitting at a table having dinner, that’s all, but at the same time their happiness is being created, or their lives are being torn apart. (quoted in Schmidt, p. 5)

I like the idea that each and every moment, regardless of how it might appear to an observer, is a moment in which our happiness is being “created” ...or destroyed for that matter. Life is not built simply on the big moments that push us one direction or another obviously, but all of the singular moments that might provide only an immeasurable nudge. Groundhog Day then, is Chekhovian in its simplicity, and Shakespearean in its scope. And is definitely one of the greatest films, well, ever.

Even if Rubin and Ramis and Phil misuse Chekhov.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to create happiness.

Works Cited:

Butsch, R. (2001). American Movie Audiences of the 1930s. International Labor and Working-Class History 59. pp. 106-120.

Hudson, J. (2012, February 12). No, Tom Hanks Did Not Star in ‘Groundhog Day.’ The Wire

Schmidt, P. (1997). Introduction to The Plays of Anton Chekhov. New York: HarperCollins. pp. 1-7.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

he must have just snapped!

The yurodivy is a kind of "holy fool" - the person who sees what's really going on in society and has the audacity to say it, but only in a kind of code. If there's a crooked government, the holy fool will maybe perform a weird pantomime or tell a story, one that gets everyone to laugh at first; sooner or later, the more perceptive members of the yurodivy's audience will also recognize in the fool's antics a hidden message. – (Saint Paul Sunday)

The… article quoted above goes on to use Gogol’s Dead Souls as an example, and I loved that book (though I admit I probably didn’t get all of the nuance of its satire). Groundhog Day isn’t satire, though. Still, it comments so readily on the human condition in the modern world, repetition and inanity hitting us from all side. Yesterday, I suggested a) that Ralph and Gus were Phil’s holy fools and b) that Phil was ours. Phil’s sarcasm, his dry wit, his sardonic humor—this is all him commenting on the world, sure from the standpoint of someone far too bitter to really qualify as a hero, but also from the standpoint of someone who has clearly seen a great deal of the world and knows that there’s enough bad stuff out there that you just have to have not only a sense of humor but a sense of the negativity just to survive. Pre- and early-loop Phil is definitely a “glass is half empty” kind of guy. Hell, after his night with Ralph and Gus, he’s more a “grab that glass and drink it so it’s all empty” kind of guy.

The holy fool “employ[s] shocking, unconventional behavior to challenge accepted norms, deliver prophecies or to mask [his] piety” (Mellergard, maybe… it’s hard to tell with a quotation that shows up all over the place online). Phil Connors robs an armored truck. Phil Connors dresses up like a cowboy just for the hell of it. Phil Connors commits what I once called time loop date rape. Phil Connors lies to Rita Hanson day after day after day to manipulate her into his bedroom, and even tries to physically block her from leaving (though that last bit is subtle enough most people probably don’t notice it). Phil Connors kills himself repeatedly. He may not be masking piety, per se, but I think we can assume a certain part of late- and post-loop Phil was already within Phil to begin with; he is still the same character in the end that he was in the beginning, he has not actually become an entirely new person. You have to watch something like a David Lynch film to see that happen. Levin (1971) suggests that Shakespeare’s fools serve as “an emotional vacation from the more serious business of the main action" (p. 142). The question then: is Phil’s time (loop) in Punxsutawney the emotional vacation for us for the more serious business of our lives?

I’m not talking escapism, simply, but rather the idea that this film in particular serves specifically to separate us, for 1 hour 41 minutes, from our lives outside the theater, or away from our television (or our computers or tablets, these day—I’ve got the film playing here on my iPad right now, right by my computer screen), from the humdrum, hectic workaday chaos of life.

(And, I choose those words knowing full well that they contradict each other somewhat.)

Groundhog Day is on its surface a light story, that of a bad man forced by circumstance to become a good one. But, underneath, there is so much more than that… which I am required, probably by law, to say after this many days of writing about the film.

Biddy Tarot tells us that The Fool

shows the highest potential for your life, reaching a state of renewal and new beginnings, where each day is an adventure and each moment is lived to the fullest. The Fool card represents the beginning of all creativity and a desire to accomplish new goals (or to, at least, start the process of working towards those goals). The Fool indicates that anything can happen and the opportunities are just waiting to be taken advantage of.

The Fool, in this case, is obviously Phil, but also me when I started this blog. There is only one week to Day 365. A year of Groundhog Day. The Fool “encourages you to believe in yourself and follow your heart no matter how crazy or foolish your impulses may seem” (Biddy Tarot).

I will end with this, again from Biddy Tarot:

The Fool is always whole, healthy and without fear. He is the spirit of who we are, the spirit expressed and experienced as wonder, awe, curiosity and anticipation. We never know what is in the future but like the Fool we must blindly go forward. You need to trust that you are a spirit born into flesh to enjoy life and grow in experience. Take a chance and see what happens.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to experience wonder, awe, curiosity and anticipation. And, to experience their opposites as well.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

are you trying to make me look like a fool?

William Shakespeare never made use of the time loop. Which is unfortunate, really.

And yet, I find my viewing of Much Ado About Nothing this evening bringing me back around to Groundhog Day nonetheless. Really, I suppose, at this point, everything leads me to Groundhog Day, or vice versa, or both. Groundhog Day binds me and undoes me, and I remain and I change and neither the same nor different will I be when this Project has come to its first end. Or its second end, if one does count the beginning of the line of its progress as one end, and the finish of it as its second.

(Forget for now that that second end may be naught but a new beginning for a secondary phase of that which has been singular but now will expand and include much more.)

I need to work on my Shakespearean writing. I think I end up just creating convoluted sentences to convey simple ideas.

But, anyway, Dogberry in particular, if not the love story betwixt man and woman who come late to their attraction, brings me to Groundhog Day. As I mentioned in yesterday’s concise entry, I wanted to write something about Ralph (and perhaps Gus, because they are forever bound in their brief appearances within the film), and it occurs to me, though it may not be obvious because there is so much comedy in Groundhog Day that it’s hard to call any particular character(s) comic relief. But, taken as it is, I would, and will, argue that Ralph and Gus are Shakespearean Fools, or perhaps holy fools, if there’s even a distinction to be made.

Or maybe Phil instead (or as well) is the holy fool.

Ralph (Rick Overton) and Gus (Rick Ducommun) have very few lines…

Here:

Gus: Phil? Like the groundhog Phil?

Gus: Look out for your shadow, there, pal.

Gus: You know, some guys would look at this glass and they would say, “You know, that glass is half empty.” Other guys would say, “That glass is half full.” I peg you as a “glass is half empty” kind of guy. Am I right?

Ralph: That about sums it up for me.

Ralph: Good luck. I’ll drop you off. This thing sticks a little bit. You got... You gotta jiggle it.

Gus: Come on up here, pal.

Ralph: Oh my God...

Gus: Give me your keys, pal. Give me the keys. Friends don’t let friends drive, right? Come on, stand up here. Take a deep breath. You feel okay? Really? Okay, you’re all right.

Ralph: I think... both.

Gus: I really don’t think I should be driving.

Ralph: Hey, who else could go for some flapjacks right now?

Ralph: Shoot.

Gus: No tomorrow? That would mean there would be no consequences. There would be no hangovers. We could do whatever we wanted!

Gus: Hey Phil, if we wanted to hit mailboxes, we could let Ralph drive!

Ralph: Yeah.

Gus: Whoa. Hey, Phil, I think they want you to stop.

Gus: Phil, that’s one I happen to agree with.

Gus: Hey, we’re talking in here.

Gus: Uh, Phil.

Gus & Ralph: Phil! Phil!

Ralph: I noticed that.

Gus: Oh, my knee.

Ralph: And some flapjacks.

Gus: Well, I could have retired on half pay after 20 years.

That’s three scenes, most of that is just at the end of Phil’s Day 3. If not for that last line from Gus on god day (and Ralph checking out Nancy Taylor after Phil mentions her making “noises like a chipmunk when she gets real excited”), they might as well be gone before we even get to the second act. They are there to push our protagonist forward, to help him with “discovering the possibilities and living life like there’s no tomorrow” to quote the original trailer for the film. This one:

When I wrote before about Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief (as they are commonly known), I pointed out that the stages are not all neatly packaged, separate entities lining up in the perfect order. In his first two resumptions, Phil already experiences anger, evident, if by nothing else, by his throwing Chubby Man up against the wall, denial, evident, if by nothing else, by his asking the piano teacher where everybody is going, bargaining, evident, if by nothing else, by his asking Mrs. Lancaster if she ever has déjà vu, or his 80%, 75-80… hell, asking Rita to slap him in the face is basically his attempt to bargain with reality over whether or not he is actually awake for this first resumption. More anger, a confused anger—or a depressed anger, but still potentially classified as anger nonetheless, when he drops the microphone and leaves Gobbler’s Knob midway through the ceremony. And, what is this but an attempt at bargaining for control?

Yeah, Sport, I know there’s a blizzard. When are the long-distance lines gonna be repaired? Well, what if there is no tomorrow? There wasn’t one today. Hello?

The pencil breaking? Denial wrapped in bargaining. He’s still trying to gain control over a situation far greater than he is. More anger on Day 3 when he shoves Ned Ryerson away. More bargaining when he tells Rita what’s going on and asks for help—

(and Ralph and Gus makes their first appearance and Gus has his first two lines, including that, oh, so meaningful “Look out for your shadow, there, pal”)

—and when he subsequently sees a doctor and a psychiatrist. He’s denying and bargaining and angering (which is not used properly here, but so what?) all at once. It is not until that night, sitting at the bowling alley bar with Gus and Ralph, then leading the police around town with them as well, that Phil’s situation shifts and acceptance, if not understanding, comes into play. Without Ralph, we don’t have the time loop so readily and succinctly summed up as a metaphor for modern life—see any of my discussions of Hannam’s (2008) The Magic of Groundhog Day, or just watch this video:

Ralph, and presumably Gus as well the way he downs that shot in that moment, is stuck in a rut without any time loop. Without Phil helping Ralph to the car, I think, we don’t see Phil doing anything good until much later. Without Ralph in the car—and just to harp on old nitpicks, despite what Benesh (2011) says—Phil could not reach the epiphany that a time loop is a space for no-consequences adventures in absurdity and sex and fun and whatever you want to do. Without Ralph and Gus to egg him on and scream as he already figures out how to take things too far, Phil would not have his adolescent phase. They are the Shakespearean fools there to open Phil’s (and our) eyes to the flaws in the normative way of doing things and the possibilities of pushing right past all of Mother Culture’s boundaries. Pyle (1998, by way of Geritz, 1999) suggests “the holy fool promotes harmony and goodwill by curing the flaws of pride, envy, wrath, sloth, avarice, gluttony, and lust that infect the human community” (p. 584).

Actually, that makes Phil more the holy fool, for we the audience anyway. Pyle notes the Shakespearean holy fool’s “noting their Christ-like willingness to humble themselves and appear foolish for the welfare of others. She also emphasizes the metaphysical medicine of medieval mirth and morality, the holy madness, which Shakespeare's holy fools employ to cure sinful individuals and corrupt societies” (pp. 584-585)—

we must ignore that suggestion by Felver (1961, by way of Sanders, 1963) that Shakespeare’s fools were the way they were mostly because he was catering to a particular actor available in his company. It’s an interesting idea, perhaps even historically accurate, but I think we should ultimately measure Shakespeare’s fools not entirely by how Shakespeare wrote them, intended them, or even how they were received at the time, but by how they speak to us when we watch them, how they affect the characters in each adaptation we see, how they read when we sit down to one of Shakespeare’s plays in print. Similar to the way I read far more into Groundhog Day than Danny Rubin or Harold Ramis may have ever intended and might not even have hoped for, we can do the same, surely, and probably moreso, with Shakespeare.

Anyway, Phil may be the holy fool for us. But, for Phil, Ralph and Gus fill that role.

And, the film is ending, so this discussion will continue tomorrow.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to be the holy fool for whomever needs one. To promote harmony and goodwill, but to do so by showing you all of your flaws—I think I would be good at that, am good at that.

Works Cited (outside of the usual Benesh or Hannam):

Geritz, A.J. (1999). Review of the book Mirth and Morality of Shakespeare’s Holy Fools by S.J. Pyle. Sixteenth Century Journal 30:2, pp. 584-585.

Sanders, N. (1963). Review of the book Robert Armin, Shakespeare’s Fool. A Biographical Essay by C.S. Felver. Review of English Studies 14:53, pp. 100-101.

you don't want to rush back

A few notes and that is all for today.

That New York Times article I mentioned a good while ago—reporter I talked to in Woodstock in February—that isn’t happening. I don’t know if I should share details, but the article is supposed to happen, different publication and probably not until winter (think Groundhog Day-ish).

Another thing I currently am feeling I should keep details under wraps… someone who is in Groundhog Day sent me a message today in response to a message I wrote about the Day 365 Party next week. On a long shot, I asked if he would attend or send a message to those who do. The conversation is ongoing.

More publically, the Overview with Rick Overton, AKA Ralph in Groundhog Day, now follows the Groundhog Day Project on Twitter. I feel the need to write about Ralph now. But not today. It has been a long day.

Borrowed a projector for the Day 365 Party, by the way, and this evening I watched Groundhog Day projected onto the wall of the living room. While I could not actually work on this blog at the time—it was my iPad wired into the projector—I actually wasn’t feeling the urge to do so anyway, with the bigger “screen” going on. It felt more like a movie, which Groundhog Day really hasn’t since I saw it on the big screen in Woodstock, February 1st and 2nd.

And, I noticed something I hadn’t noticed before. It wasn’t anything important or worthy of lengthy discussion, but I thought it was interesting that there are still things to see. What was it? The following will be a letdown.

Seriously, this is not a big thing I have noticed today.

I noticed before that the Tip Top “Chef”—presumably Doris’ brother Carl—is visible just standing around in the background of the scene where Phil’s feeding the Old Man. This scene:

On the right.

This is not the new thing.

The new thing is the waiter coming out of the door of the kitchen—it’s the waiter who drops the tray.

I told you it wasn’t big.

But, it was new. And, that’s cool.

Anyway, that is all for today. Tomorrow, something more interesting… maybe.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to write more.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

the whole world is about to explode

Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes on a train outside Chicago. He sits across from a girl he doesn’t know (Michele Monaghan as Christina Warren), and she refers to him as Sean.

It hadn’t occurred to me in regard to Groundhog Day being filmed nearby (and partly within the city) that Chicago is a great city to film a time loop movie—they call their train “The Loop.” Anyway, before Groundhog Day today is Source Code.

Train explodes, Stevens wakes up in the dark... seems like a sensory deprivation tank... at first. Colleen Goodwin (Vera Farmiga) asks him about where he was and what he saw. Can’t be a deprivation tank because Stevens has some sort of backpack on, and there’s a video screen where he can see Goodwin.

(I know where he is, but I don’t feel like SPOILING it yet.)

Stevens was on the train to figure out who bombed it. He’s got 8 minutes each time. And, he’s back on the train again. Loop markers: Christina telling him she took his advice. A woman spills her coffee. Christina’s phone rings with the ringtone “One and Only” (a song featured in Doc Hollywood). One passenger asks if they’ll make up the 10 minutes—apparently, the train left late. Another calls the ticket taker “Grampa.” Knowing now why he’s there, Stevens makes an effort to look at all the people on the train. He finds the bomb already, second try (to be fair, he couldn’t remember why he was there the first time), but he doesn’t know how to disarm it. He tried to talk to Goodwin, but she’s not with him on the train.

Famous last words, Stevens says, “There’s not going to be a next time,” the train explodes, and he’s in the tank again, Goodwin’s talking to him. Stevens thinks he was in Afghanistan yesterday, but Goodwin says he’s been with them for two months. And, contrary to what Stevens thinks, the train is not a simulation.

Third time, Stevens is nicer to Christina now that he realizes she’s real. Sidenote: apparently Sean is (or was) a teacher. They get off the train rather than stick around for the explosion. The true nature of the loop here hasn’t been explained yet, so while Stevens did follow a suspect off the train, he’s potentially playing with reality itself by taking Sean Fentress’ body where it wasn’t supposed to be. Stevens gets hit by a train, after the explosion killed him before, and wakes up in the tank. It’s colder than before and the communication channel to Goodwin isn’t working.

Suspicious question from the guy in command (Rutledge played by Jeffrey Wright), when Stevens refers to the “capsule” he is in, “Is that where you are now?”

The “Source Code” is quantum mechanics, parabolic calculus... complicated stuff. Rutledge explains it like they are just looking at Sean Fentress’ short term memory from the eight minutes before he died. Except, Stevens is manipulating “Source Code is not time travel, rather Source Code is time reassignment. It gives us access to a parallel reality.” Though Stevens insists he saved Christina, Goodwin explains that Christina died on the train this morning.

Fourth time, with information from Goodwin, Stevens goes for a handgun in a strongbox in the next train car. But, he’s tazered and ends up handcuffed and unable to do anything as the train explodes. Stevens has asked about his father a couple times talking to Goodwin. Now he tells Christina that with a minute to live, he would call his father.

Stevens spots the patch on Goodwin’s jacket and doesn’t recognize it. Back on the train—fifth time—he asks Christina to look him up on her phone. She finds that his “friend” was killed two months ago. This knowledge makes the visuals glitch a bit, like he is in a simulation. He flashes on some images from Afghanistan and wakes up again in the “capsule.” He gets Rutledge to agree to let him be dead if he completes this mission.

Stevens’ time loop was forced upon him, apparently, and he has an even smaller geography available and smaller loop length than Phil Connors has. He can’t become a better person, or anything particularly meaningful. He will save lives from a second attack, and he must come to accept his own death. But, mostly, the film works like a self-contained action film. A smart action film, but still an action film.

(Meanwhile, Stevens has found the bomber, but the guy has an even bigger bomb in his van.)

The great thing about Groundhog Day on the other hand, is that on its surface it plays like a simple enough comedy but underneath it’s far more. 355 entries of this blog more... so far. I don’t think I could write anywhere near as much on Source Code. It starts to get into something bigger when the bomber explains his motivation—the world is hell and we need to bring it down to rubble so we can start over—except there’s no room for discussion, and obviously the film doesn’t want us to consider the bomber’s motivation. At all really, but definitely not as anything legitimate.

SPOILERS necessary now, because the quick flashes as Stevens jumped back into the “capsule” included events that a) did not happen in the original timeline and b) have not yet happened for Stevens—a scene from the end of this film, as Stevens (in Sean’s body) walks toward the Cloud Gate with Christina.

The Cloud Gate is a sculpture by Anish Kapoor. Its mirrored surface implies an infinite reflection.

Stevens wants to save the people on the train, even though he’s given them the name of the bomber to catch him in their reality. He wants to go back in and save the people, even if it is in another reality. And we learn—more SPOILERS—that Goodwin can’t even see Stevens; he’s just text on a screen to her. Goodwin sense him again, but says she will terminate his life support at the end of this source code.

He’s on the train one more time. And, he’s got everything down. He disconnects both cell phones hooked to the bomb this time, steals handcuffs from train security...

Meanwhile, Rutledge tells Goodwin to wipe Stevens’ memory so they can use him again. Memory wiped, it will be like eternal recurrence for Stevens, reincarnation. If they can really wipe his memory, Rutledge has a point about using this one soldier they know can handle the source code,

...Stevens handcuffs the bomber on the train, and calls the police (or Homeland Security or something) to report him. Then, Stevens emails Goodwin and calls his father. He claims to have served with Stevens to talk to him. Meanwhile, Goodwin looks in on Stevens’ body, barely half there, hooked to machines. Gyllenhaal does a good job here with a pseudo-apology to his father which we the audience don’t even know the lead-up to.

There’s a human heart to Source Code but mostly it remains within Stevens. We aren’t particularly privy to it.

Goodwin shuts off Steven’s machines, time in the train freezes... but then it keeps going after we’re shown the flatline on Stevens. In this reality, he’s still there in Sean’s body, and he leaves with Christina, and they head for the Cloud Gate, which Stevens seems to recognize.

He asks Christina if she believes in fate.

Also in this reality, Goodwin receives that message from Stevens and knows Source Code worked. In this reality, Stevens is still alive hooked to those machines waiting to go on his first Source Code mission.

Monday, July 21, 2014

small town people are more real

Dr. Benjamin Stone (Michael J. Fox) is headed for Beverly Hills. Another doctor, one who will not be seen again in this movie, critiques his choices because cosmetic surgery is clean and no one dies... apparently medicine is only meaningful when it is a matter of life and death.

Oh, watching Doc Hollywood before Groundhog Day today. If you haven’t seen it, think Cars minus the cars, and Lightning McQueen is a doctor instead of a professional racer.

Apparently it’s based on a book—”What? Dead... Again?” Who knew? I’ve seen this move numerous times and would not have expected an actual source... not to imply that all book sources involve some clearly noticeable depth.

Anyway, like Phil Connors getting stuck in Punxsutawney, Dr. Stone is about to get stuck in Grady after he gets off the main road to avoid traffic and ends up crashing his Porsche convertible into a fence. Problem is, the local judge built that fence, so Dr. Stone is sentenced to community service. Initially, only 16 hours, but he talks back so it’s 32.

Grady is, especially at first, a lot of folksy charm and rustic naiveté. Mayor shows Dr. Stone to a cabin where he can stay and three old ladies are there with food, for example. SPOILERS—Stone is going to end up having to become a little less self-centered, learn to care about others, and all that stereotypical stuff that comes with this sort of film. Gene GeRue (2009) writes, in How to Find Your Ideal Country Home: A Comprehensive Guide, that it’s “tempting to romanticize small towns and life therein [because cultural, if not personal] Memories persist of clean, uncrowded, crime-free communities, of warm evenings on front porches, of shy boys kissing giggling girls behind blue lilac bushes.” Davies (1995), who writes about Groundhog Day as a film about white masculinity in crisis, suggests also that Groundhog Day invokes “the down-home values of small-town America” (p. 215).

GeRue, amusingly, quotes Garrison Keillor’s regular opening line from The News of Lake Wobegon “Where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.”

Meanwhile, as I’m getting into the idea of romanticizing the small town, Stone has been offered a permanent position in Grady, and he hasn’t even done any work yet. There was a nice line, when Stone was asked what he thought of the town, he said he didn’t know because he hadn’t seen all of it yet, and the Mayor corrected him, yes he had. The town is very small. I’m reminded of Arthur and the princess of a country so small, “Rhode Island could beat the crap out of it in a war. That’s how small it is.” And something about how they recently carpeted the entire country.

Anyway, as Stone gets to know Lou (short for Vialula), the Ambulance driver (they still make house calls), who he’s already dreamed about and seen naked, and starts to see some of the small-town patients—one couple is there just to have him read their mail because they can’t read—isn’t that quaint?)—I’m wondering... well, no, I’m not wondering, but I am concerned that we have a need to treat the small-town as some special, near-magical place that can transform a man in a matter of days.

We get a montage of cutesy scenes with patients and it’s like Stone is already the saviour come to Grady. But then, he, for lack of better terminology, overdiagnoses a boy’s condition, and the regular doctor, an old man who doesn’t even bother coming to the office, suggests a Coke. Of course, Doc Hogue is right, Stone is wrong. His new-fangled medicine is no match for the results of home-grown antacid after the boy ate some of his father’s chaw. A humbling moment for Dr. Stone.

And, by only his second day in town, seemingly, the townspeople all know who he is. And, a whole lot of them go to the local cafe for breakfast. Hank Gordon (Woody Harrelson) tries to sell Stone some life insurance—I guess life insurance is a metaphor for that down-home security of the small town. Which means Phil’s purchase of all that insurance from Ned is representative of his acceptance of Punxsutawney just as much as his knowing all the locals, saving lives, and entertaining everybody at the Groundhog Festival Banquet.

Meanwhile, one of Stone’s patients pays him with a pig (which townspeople tell him is a “fine pig”). And since the local mechanics don’t take credit or checks and Stone is working for free and his breakfast was free, money has become meaningless in Grady. Just like money means nothing for Phil Connors in Punxsutawney. Stone barters the pig for the part his car needs... I was thinking earlier, as I do, about stuff Phil Connors does when he’s not on screen. Those Wrestlemania tickets, for example, maybe he didn’t even pay for those; maybe he traded a favor for them. With the knowledge Phil has accrued by then, he could have traded a lot of disparate things back and forth around town to get what he wanted, like Jake and Nog in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine‘s “Progress.”

“You can’t poop in this town without everyone knowing what color it is.” - Lou

Stone has to go back for the pig after Lou mentions it. The pig going to him saved it from slaughter.

Stone: “You take plastic?”

Butcher: “Not unless it’s wrapped around a stack of cash.”

Stone barters some time carving meat to get the pig back.

GeRue (2009) leads me to an interesting idea. He writes:

Bona fide small-town atmosphere is the result of generations of people who have lived by the demanding natural rules of their place. The elements of small-town quality are natural and man-made beauty, stable economy, strong community, low population density—and time. Only in low-density beautiful, natural places is the human spirit preserved and nourished. Compacting people causes certain social disease. Again—never forget—all cities once were villages.

I take from that a simple idea—of course small towns are simpler, more stable, more natural, because the growth of such a place, in size and population comes hand in hand with transforming from the quiet, peaceful place, to something approximating a place with those “problematic issues” of sex and violence Davies (1995) suggests are deliberately mentioned in the opening scene of Groundhog Day. I don’t totally buy into Davies’ ideas about Groundhog Day, but clearly the cinematic small town is far from the usual violence. Violence in a small town is more personal when it’s present. Hell, everything about the small town, inevitably becomes personal, when the horrors of the big city are impersonal. Maybe that’s why the small town appeals to us—even if we might not want to admit it—the urban and even the suburban environment is so impersonal that the individual gets lost in the mix, working in a cubicle maybe. But, in the small town, your job matters, and you affect other individual lives directly. But, that isn’t necessarily a positive thing. While one might be able to “fan the flames” of a local girl’s passion for her fiancé, negative acts have effects as well. GeRue writes:

When everyone you meet smiles and greets you, when the bank employees all address you by your name, when your neighbors all address you by your name, when your neighbors put out your trash cans because you forgot, it is not because these are members of a superior species living on a higher plane than mere humans. It is at least partly because everyone knows that the least slight, the most minimal of neighborly indiscretions will become instantly known by everybody in town and remembered for at least three generations.

Being known cuts both ways, just as anonymity does. GeRue quotes Will Rogers: “So live that you wouldn’t be ashamed to sell the family parrot to the town gossip.”

Personally, I like the small town... to an extent. My visit to Woodstock six months ago—I liked that there were familiar individuals I’d see around town, that in a matter of days, I got to know a bit about some of them and missed the place after. When I lived in Arkansas for a few months a decade and a half ago, my front door opened on woods; it was barely even a town I lived in, though there was a bigger town within a good walking distance. My personal life there didn’t work out so well, and some of the right-wing tendencies of some of the locals didn’t sit well with my California liberal ways. But, I liked the place, I liked that if you walked down the road you’d pass relatives’ and friends’ houses, I liked that at the local employment office you’d run into old friends from high school. I only run into old friends from high school on Facebook. I have to drive to get to relatives’ houses.

I guess I romanticize the small town as well. I like the idea of Groundhog Day or Doc Hollywood or Cars or the down-home interconnectedness of The Straight Story or Nebraska or... whatever else small-town movies I’ve seen over the years.

With the internet, the opportunities in the big city don’t even seem all that exclusive anymore. I’m primarily referring to movies, of course, because that’s my thing. I don’t want to leave Los Angeles, but I’m sure I’d like to visit some smaller towns in the future.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to get out of the big city... then to come back all over again.

you seem like the most popular person in town

Seven friends gather for a housewarming party. Pizza arrives. A die is rolled that create six different timelines.

This is Community‘s “Remedial Chaos Theory” episode.

Having written about some alternate reality movies lately and also playing a lot of tabletop games lately—in some of which the roll of a die or the the drawing of a certain card decides your identity.

First timeline, Annie goes. Pierce makes a remark about having sex with Eartha Kitt. Britta smokes marijuana in the bathroom, Jeff hits his head on the fan.

Second timeline, Shirley goes, Britta goes to the bathroom again. Pierce makes a remark about having sex with Eartha Kitt. Jeff hits his head on the fan. Shirley’s pies get burned because she went downstairs for the pizza.

Third timeline, Pierce goes, after making a remark about Eartha Kitt. Britta goes to the bathroom, but Troy joins her after getting upset when Jeff and Annie make fun of his apartment. Jeff hits his head on the fan and Annie checks his wound.

Fourth timeline, Britta goes. Pierce remarks about Eartha Kitt. Jeff hits his head. Annie checks his wound. They nearly kiss in the bathroom. Britta brings the delivery guy back with her, saying “I know this is going to sound crazy: we’re in love and we’re getting married.”

Fifth timeline, Troy goes, Pierce remarks, Britta smokes, Jeff hits his head, Annie trips and breaks the coffee table, which knocks her purse down and the gun inside goes off, shooting Pierce in the leg. Britta drops her joint and sets Jeff’s spilled drink on fire. Troy screams because he missed everything.

Sixth timeline, Abed goes, Pierce remarks, Britta smokes, Jeff hits his head. Britta comes back out before the pizza arrives and eats Shirley’s pies—they had all agreed not to eat them so she wouldn’t make baking into her thing. Jeff and Annie kiss in the kitchen, but Annie has “a weird deja vu” and it gets awkward. Troy and Pierce fight, Britta and Shirley fight, and other than Abed, everyone is in a bad mood.

Final “prime” timeline, Abed figures out Jeff’s die idea meant he could never go, and they vote for him to go. Jeff hits his head and goes. Every other timeline, Jeff stopped Britta from singing along with “Roxanne” and now she sings and everyone starts dancing and having a good time.

Final scene returns to the fifth “darkest” timeline, in which Pierce has died from his gunshot wound, Jeff lost his arm, Troy lost his larynx, and Shirley’s drinking... and Abed makes them all felt goatees to be their evil selves.

The butterfly effect in action.

Phil Connors doesn’t have the time for the butterfly effect, unfortunately. As Gilbey (2004) describes, in Rubin’s first revision (which I have never read), Phil “devises some short cuts to help maximize his limited hours. He places a rock in the road so that the lorry carrying the fish to the restaurant—the fish [changed to a steak in later revisions] Buster will later choke on—will not make its delivery… And he puts chewing gum on the pavement to delay the old woman one her way to the road” where a truck will hit her (p. 76). Relying on some Rube Golbergian setups like this could have demonstrated a lot of cleverness on Phil’s part—like Xena figuring out the ideal throw for her chakram in Xena: The Warrior Princess’ time loop episode, “Been There, Done That.”

We don’t know all the details of what Phil Connors does on that last day of the time loop. But, I assume that, if he had done some cleverly complex setups to save people later when he’s off in a new location saving someone else, we would have seen it.

And, for the record, no, I don’t actually believe Phil Connors, you know, existed, and did things and the camera only caught some of them. I think I’m actually more sane in regards to Groundhog Day than when I began this blog, so no, I don’t think Phil Connors is a real guy.

I know he’s just Bill Murray in a Phil Connors suit because the real Phil Connors is busy at the West Pole, fashioning toys for all of the time looping boys and girls of the world.

See, and now I have to sit on Bill Murray’s lap and ask for gifts if I ever get to meet him, just to prove I’m not insane.

And, that last statement makes absolutely no sense.

Anyway, my point—we get to see that somehow, inexplicably, Phil Connors has not only improved himself but has done so in such a way that in a matter of hours he wins over many people around town and is celebrated for it, at Gobbler’s Knob, at the Groundhog Festival Banquet. But, we don’t get any particularly clever example of Phil saving the day. He just runs from “errand” to “errand” and we only see a few of those. The rock thing, the gum thing—these are details that would have added to late-loop Phil Connors. I wish they had remained.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to find the real Phil Connors and demand he give me a time loop… which also makes no sense, because this whole “Today’s reason to repeat a day forever” thing implies I’m already in a time loop. Maybe I will just ask for some sanity.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

every morning i wake up without a scratch on me

”Anything might have been anything else and had as much meaning to it”
--Tennessee Williams, “The Malediction”

The thought is a complicated one—and I’ll get to it below—but first, I like the idea of that quotation given what I’ve been doing with this blog a lot, lately; I’ve been sublimating my interest in Groundhog Day with other, albeit thematically-related, films. The discussion continues, though the angle is twisted.

Tonight it was Mr. Nobody, a film that doesn’t deal in a time loop but does deal in disjointed time and alternate realities based on choices—a lot like Run Lola Run, Sliding Doors, Blind Chance. Nemo Nobody (Jared Leto) is the last mortal human in the year 2092 (maybe), and he is either being hypnotized by a guy with facial tattoos or being interviewed by a reporter using a tape recorder he “borrowed” from a museum. And, he’s recalling his life, but especially certain moments where choices led to his life changing one way or another (or sometimes another). He’s telling each version of his life after these moments as if they are all real. He goes with his mother when his parents separate, he goes with his father after his parents separate. He marries three different women (each of which are introduced as children but reappearing later), though—SPOILERS—he seems to keep coming back around to one of them. It’s a fascinating film, though I’m not sure it’s quite about what it’s narrator thinks it is about.

Take, for example, the moment he has to choose between his parents. Nemo is nine, the three of them (Nemo and his parents) stand on the platform at a train station called Chance (literally; it’s on the sign). His mother is leaving and he can go with her or stay with his father. The way the film ends up taking us, we learn that this moment is the singular moment that ties all the various threads of Nemo’s life together. In fact, the entire film might be taking place within nine-year-old Nemo’s head there at the station. And, old man Nemo seems to think that this was a matter of choice. It may be that, but not initially (more on that in a moment). We see Nemo run after the train and get on with his mother. Through more of the film, he will, by living with his mother, get together with Anna, the girl who is supposed to be his stepsister, which is part of what breaks up his mother and her father, separating he and Anna. He will meet her later at Grand Central Station (I think) along with her kids. We also see Nemo—and here is why I think calling this choice is problematic—run after the train, lose a shoe, stumble and be left behind with his father. He never chooses his father.

The combination of two versions of his run here reminded me a great deal of Everclear’s “Wonderful” video, that moment where the little girl splits in two to be with her mother and chase after her father.

Anyway, because Nemo lives with his father, he will try to get together with Elise at a school dance. This won’t end well, at first—later he will rewind to their parting moment and they will also marry eventually, though she will hold onto feelings for another guy, which will eventually end the marriage and Nemo will find Anna again—and Nemo will make up his mind (at 15) that he will marry the first girl who dances with him at another (?) school dance; thus, he also marries Jean.

If you’re not getting a Groundhog Day vibe yet, here’s Anna’s response to Nemo telling her that he can tell (or possibly remember, given the end of the film) the future sometimes: “It doesn’t seem like it can be much fun knowing what’s going to happen.” Phil has fun with it, and eventually finds ways to maximize the good he can do with it, but I imagine he had those moments where knowing what was coming just made life boring. Repetition is not good. But choice is difficult because it negates all other possibilities. That’s sort of the point, or a point anyway, to Mr. Nobody. Nemo, as the three girls say hi to him at age 9, explains: “If you mix the mashed potatoes and sauce, you can’t separate them after. It’s forever. The smoke comes out of Daddy’s cigarette, but it never goes back in. We cannot go back. That’s why it’s hard to choose. You have to make the right choice. As long as you don’t choose, everything remains possible.” At one point later in the film, he will scrape YES and NO onto opposite sides of a coin and flip that coin to make his decisions, like Two-Face without the acid scars.

Phil gets to play with the possibilities. But, I would suggest that too many possibilities would be just as bad as narrowing them all down to just one (in Nemo’s terms, anyway; in reality, the latter is just life). Too many options reduces the importance of each one. I’m reminded of Grant Morrison’s Arkham Asylum, to come back to Batman. In trying to cure Two-Face of his obsession with duality, he is first given a die to roll to make decisions then a card deck. But, imagine having to assign six choices to the numbers on a die, or 52 choices to the cards in a deck. By the time you even know what your options are, you’d be out of time for a few of them to be possible anymore, I would think. Similarly, Nemo’s life story here is so convoluted and contradictory that it’s a wonder that it makes sense at all.

And yet it does.

Too many options—Weick’s equivocation—or just two, Platonic white and black horses, I suppose.

At one point, Nemo nearly dies in an accident—assuming I lines up certain events right—and his wife suspects it was no accident when she finds this bit he has written:

There comes a time in life when everything seems narrow. Choices have been made. I can only continue on. I know myself like the back of my hand. I can predict my every reaction. Everything is predictable. My life has been cast in cement with airbags and seatbelts. I’ve controlled everything. I’ve done everything to reach this point and now that I’m here, I’m fucking bored.

I can imagine a similar sentiment from Phil Connors when he’s in the middle of his depression.

So much of Nemo’s story hinges not on choice but chance, though, which bothers me a little. Old Nemo clearly thinks it is about choice, but most of the film doesn’t agree. Eventually, we learn of a third option that day at the train station. Instead of yelling after his mother when he can’t reach the train, or going back to his father, Nemo turns and runs up the nearby road, into a future we (probably) haven’t seen throughout the film. But, the movie saves this third option for so late that it almost seems contradictory to the theme. Like Helen in Sliding Doors or Witek in Blind Chance, Nemo’s life comes down to catching or not catching a train. It’s the butterfly effect—happenstance more than choice creating a chain of events that can twist and turn with each successive “choice.” Nemo actually explains, when a raindrop makes Anna’s phone number unreadable:

You know why I lost Anna? Because two months earlier an unemployed Brazilian boiled an egg. The heat created a microclimate in the room, slight difference in temperature. And heavy rain two months later on the other side of the world. That Brazilian boiled an egg instead of being at work. He could have lost his job in a clothing factory because six months earlier I would have compared the price of jeans and I will have bought the cheaper pair. As the Chinese proverb goes, “A single snowflake can bend the leaf of the bamboo.” Jeans production will have moved to other countries…

Nemo removes his own agency time and time again in his story, with comparisons like this. Is there a butterfly effect to everything we do or everything that happens to us? Sure. But, just like each link in that chain of events is influences by what came before it, it is also influenced by our conscious intervention. Nemo chooses to pursue Anna because he loves her, Elise because she seems interested at least briefly, and Jean because, well, she’s there. Phil pursues Nancy because she’s there, Laraine because, well, willingness to wear a short skirt on a cold night, and Rita because he thinks he loves her (or simply wants to conquer her because he’s conquered everyone else, and the love and/or admiration comes later). Different reasons, similar choices. And it’s how we each build ourselves, choice after choice after choice. Plenty of outside forces jumping into the mix as well, of course. But, as Phil learns in the time loop, if you focus on the parts you can control, things can go as well or as poorly as you want them to go. Doesn’t mean you have to rush; Nemo quotes a hindu saying, that “if you slow your breath, time slows down.”

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to breathe… slowly.

Friday, July 18, 2014

you don't remember me

Many people thought I would run out of things to say about Groundhog Day long before Day 365 (another 2 weeks away). This evening, as I sit down to watch the film and write something about or inspired by it, I have an inkling not that they are right, but that I had too much other stuff to do today. Work on my card game, work on my short film, a trip to the science center with my daughter. And, I didn’t even get to revising my paper to be published or prepping lesson plans for my speech class for the fall, or even going over a lesson plan for the speech practice this Wednesday. Made dinner, got Saer to Improv class, and now here I am… sitting… with nothing particular to say.

I got out my Chekhov book so I would remember to read one of his plays. I’ve got 2 outings of a sort in the next couple weeks (before the Day 365 party) for this blog, but I cannot do either of those at 10:00 P.M. on a Friday.

As for topics at hand, my folder of unused Groundhog Day-related articles has a handful of articles about Bill Murray, but aside from one specific angle, I think I am finished with writing about Murray. So, those articles just might sit there in that folder, remaining unused.

As for the specific angle, that would be Nothing Lasts Forever, Bill Murray’s unreleased film from 1984. Victor (previously speech team’s president, now a fellow coach) sent me a link to an article about the film; I had never heard of it. While it “Nothing Lasts Forever has been shown at a handful of screenings (and aired on German television) over the years,” according to Rolling Stone, 11 July 2014, “it's never been released on DVD or made available in a commercial format.” But, it showed up on YouTube, but if you just clicked on that link, you’ll see it has been taken down because of that pesky thing called copyright.

Now, imagine that I am watching the movie, though I admit to no such thing. Groundhog Day on the iPad, volume low, Nothing Lasts Forever on the computer, next to this Word window. I will use my imagination as well and come up with an idea of what the movie is.

Imagine a black and white film, made to look like it was filmed in maybe the 40s, long opening credits, music playing loudly. The film stars Zach Galligan from Gremlins. The Telegraph, also 11 July 2014, tells us, “The film was intended for a September release, so as to capitalise on the success of both Ghostbusters and Gremlins, but MGM postponed the release date and then canned it altogether.”

It’s already a bit surreal, guy on the train telling the lead—character’s name is Adam Beckett—that he’s in the middle of a dream.

Meanwhile, Ned just met Phil. I’m not sure how small Murray’s part in Nothing Lasts Forever is, but he hasn’t showed up yet.

Los Angeles has been destroyed in an earthquake. I’m not sure in what year this movie takes place, but I suppose I don’t exist in its future. Meanwhile, New York is under control of the Port Authority after a general strike by bus drivers.

This Port Authority customs scene reminds me of Brazil, and that is a good thing—I love that movie. Adam intends to be an artist but has no portfolio, so he has to take an art test.

I swear the shot of the city from the sky used ants for the people down below. Awesome.

The art test works like a peep show. Curtain opens, woman drops the sheet wrapped around her, and Adam has 3 minutes to draw her as accurately as possible, while a mechanical voice tells him what to do. He fails, he manages to draw no more than, apparently, her pubic hair. So, he’s stuck with a Port Authority job in the Holland Tunnel.

His supervisor’s played by Dan Aykroyd—he overexplains Adam’s job in maybe 30 seconds. I didn’t catch enough of it to know quite what he’s doing, though part of it involves watching out for out-of-state vehicles, and part of it involves him getting a gun because, “You don’t know who’s out there.”

Now, a homeless guy tells Adam life is a dream. Adam is nicer to homeless guys than Phil Connors. He already gave money to one earlier, and this one he gives his own breakfast.

Adam’s father offers to talk to the dean of Columbia Art School to get him in, but Adam wants to do it his way. He’s an idiot.

Mara Hofmeier (Apollonia van Ravenstein), another failed artist working for the Port Authority, arrives at Adam’s booth in a gas mask… I’m not entirely sure why. They go out to a bizarre restaurant with a crooked table and people wandering around like zombies (mindless, not living dead) in the background.

They go to an art installation, a guy on a treadmill counting to a million. They get a sort of dating montage (briefly) just as “date night” gets going in Groundhog Day.

Homeless guy shows up again to introduce Adam to… well, doors that apparently open by magic, to go to a “secret subterranean sanctum” to see that “New York City is a dream created by higher beings.” The film turns to color as they descend.

The first homeless guy Adam gave money is down there, in a “chamber of purification” with a bunch of old men—it’s a sauna. They strip Adam and carry him in, then scrub him and stick him partly into a furnace “to burn out any impurities” he may have brought with him from “the physical plague.” Ticker tape representing human souls, guided by these people… I’m not sure where this is going, but the concept is interesting. It occurs to me, though, the audience for this kind of film isn’t likely to match up with either Gremlins or Ghostbusters.

Adam’s going to the moon—he’ll meet his soulmate there, her name is Eloy, pretty close to the “good” people in Well’s The Time Machine. Film goes back to black and white as Adam wakes up back outside those magic doors from before.

Murray finally shows up—he’s the bus’ “sky host” Ted Breughel. The destination sign on the front of the bus, went from New York City to Miami Beach—nice Groundhog Day link there—to the Moon. The bus took flight just as Buster’s stolen truck did. Of course, the bus kept flying, the truck hit the ground as usual and exploded.

Bus has been going to the moon since at least 1953, which seems to be a long time ago despite the look of the “reality” of the film. But, since that reality is just a dream, I guess the details don’t matter except as much as they evoke the feel of a certain era.

The bus is bigger on the inside than the outside—it’s got a nightclub inside—like the TARDIS. It’s got a “Galaxy Deck” where dinner is served as well. Reminds me of The Big Bus… which, quick sidetrack, I always assumed that was a TV movie, but it was out in 1976, so I guess I saw it on TV later.

Phil wakes for act three and the bus lands on the moon. The movie is in color again (though the lunar backgrounds are very cheesily fake. Hula dancers and leis. That makes perfect sense for arrival on the moon.

Luna 2, the first spacecraft to reach the moon in 1959, is just a prop. Even the moon tour has a lot of fake stuff. Adam hides behind the prop to get away from the tram.

Eloy is one of the hula girls, who apparently are mistreated and forced to work. There’s hint of a satire that doesn’t quite congeal here.

When Adam and Eloy kiss, the underground guys watch on a monitor, and Murray and his guys arrive to stop him. One knocks him out and he falls back to Earth. But, the trip was a success because Adam proved he could love another soul. And, Adam can now play piano, magically. How very Phil Connors of him.

And, at the piano at Carnegie Hall, right where the film began, Adam can play this time.

Eloy comes to the show—Adam got a standing ovation and thrown flowers after one song—and all is well. The End.

Or so I imagine.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to just once (at least) convince everyone I met the secret cabal that runs the world and Father Knickerbocker wants to send my on a bus to the moon. Then, surprise, made it all up (or stole it from Nothing Lasts Forever) and you are all so gullible, but only because I’ve spent innumerable days figuring out just what buttons to push to get you to trust me.