Friday, January 31, 2014

where are you going?

I begin today's entry in San Francisco. I was going to start it on the first leg of my journey but instead I slept most of the flight from LA. Should be boarding the plane to Chicago soon, then a drive to Woodstock and the weekend gets underway.

On the official list of events, I will have missed four by the time I get there: the Lion's Club Pancake Breakfast last Sunday morning, the "Awakening of the Groundhog" Thursday morning, and Groundhog Trivia and a Chocolate & Wine Pairing also on Thursday. There's a Groundhog Day Dinner Dance tonight. I won't make it in time for the dinner, but I do hope to make it to the dance, not that I intend to dance or anything. The dance is at the Woodstock Moose Lodge which, apparently, is where they filmed the banquet for the movie so it would be cool to see it, get some photos.


Continuing this entry in the air headed out of San Francisco. A bit of a delay at the airport, but on the go again. Got Captain Philips playing on a small screen in the back of the seat in front of me, got my iPad and wireless keyboard on the tray table, and no particular topic planned... so how about a little more preview of the weekend ahead?

There's Groundhog Bowling at Wayne's Lanes from 8 AM to 4 PM tomorrow, Saturday. That's the bowling alley seen in the film, and unless it's undergone some expansion since the time of filming, it's only got about 7 lanes, so even though Woodstock doesn't get nearly as crowded as Punxsutawney for Groundhog Day, the lanes could easily be filled up. I may not get to bowl, but hey, Phil didn't bowl in the film anyway. Still, I'll go check the place out.

Classic Cinemas Woodstock Theater, the Alpine Theater in the movie, will be screening Groundhog Day three times, Saturday at 8 AM and 10 AM, Sunday at 10 AM. I plan to go to the 10 AM screenings both days.

I'll be skipping probably, Jim May's Groundhog Tales, the Chili Cook-Off unless I happen to be near it, the Woodstock Rotary Bags Tourney... which I'm not even sure what that is, something to do with "throwing bags." That actually could be interesting.

There's a Walking Tour of Filming Sites at 1:30 Saturday, 12:30 Sunday. Bob Hudgins, location scout for the movie, leads it and I may go both days.

The big event for me is the "Groundhog Day" Movie Symposium run by "educator and film enthusiast, Dr. Mitchell Olson" with whom I've exchanged emails. And, the special guest this year is supposed to be none other than Danny Rubin, the writer of Groundhog Day.

Sunday morning, just like in Punxsutawney, Woodstock has its Groundhog Day Prognostication. No Punxsutawney Phil, of course; rather the've got Woodstock Willie.

And, after the prognostication, there's the Official Groundhog Day Breakfast, with a polka band and "actor Richard Henzel will recreate his role from the film," the description says. As I'm on the plane and don't have internet access, I must admit I don't know which guy that is rather than just fake it and check on IMDb (or even look at my printout of the cast and crew list in my binder--I left the binders at home).

For now, though, I'm at 35,000 feet up, somewhere over Nevada--there's a nice map setting on these back-of-the-seat screens, and we just flew past Hawthorne--traveling at 620 mph. And, it's time for a break from typing.


Over Nebraska now. Captain Philips has just ended. Will be turning on Groundhog Day soon. There was a city out the window just now, in the distance south, barely visibly through the cloud cover--plus, the sun has gone down behind us so it's dark out there. I guess it's dark out there everyday. What is this, Miami Beach?


Ands it's a few hours later now. Made it to Woodstock. Later than I hoped but still made it. Stopped by the dance which had died down already--and apparently I missed Danny Rubin stopping by. Wandered around Woodstock Square (Gobbler's Knob in the film), with hardly any people around. My old camera probably didn't get too many great night shots, but it was still cool to see the town empty of people and already get the lay of the land. Really, as I tweeted under my personal account:

@robertegblack: Weird thing (or maybe not): i kinda know my way around woodstock even though i've never been here

Mentioned my blog to the bartender at the dance and had a conversation with a few people in the attached bar in the Moose Lodge. One guy--and I should've gotten his name--told me his Lutheran church showed part of Groundhog Day recently in making the point that we should do good for the sake of doing good.

Back at my motel room now, going to get some sleep so I can do a lot the next two days. Photos will have to wait until I am home, as I cannot connect the camera to my iPad. But, anyway...

Today's reason to repeat a day forever (in Woodstock): to drink at every bar a la The World's End... not pints though, because I don't like beer. The Moose Lodge bar (the dance side, at least, maybe not the actual bar) had $4 shots of vodka tonight, so I could just do that... except there are a lot of bars in this town, so it might still end up a) costing a lot of money and b) killing me.

P.S. Richard Henzel was one of the DJs on Phil's radio every morning.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

she wants to see paris before she dies

I forgot to mention my theory about Doris yesterday... I mean aside from the Felix thing. I think that it would have made more sense if someone in Punxsutawney had cursed Phil rather than Stephanie on the outside--

and for those who have not been keeping up, Stephanie Decastro is the girl Phil went out with a few times but he didn't "have time for a real relationship right now." She was presumably added in Rubin's first revision of the screenplay (but I haven't read that one) and is in Ramis' second revision. She's in all of two scenes. In the second one, she's got a "thick book" called "101 Curses, Spells and Enchantments You Can Do at Home" and she proceeds to put a curse on Phil

--because that character would be in the film more. Since Stephanie is barely present, and is not in the story at all once the curse is in place, the motivation is questionable. She will never benefit from the curse; even if Phil decides that, in being a better person (or whatever it is she wants) he wants to be with her again, he can't. Of course, we can't be sure what Stephanie actually wanted out of the curse because "she mutters incantations in a secret language."

My thing, though, is that it would make more sense if someone like Doris--you know, she watches WPBH news every day, she's got a bit of a crush on that weatherman of theirs and Groundhog Day is coming up, so she gets out her book of curses and traps the man of her dreams in Punxsutawney for a good while. The catch(es): a) she's only got ten bucks to spend at the auction, so she just hopes no one else will want him, and even worse, her ten bucks are a roll of quarters because she had to hook up with Felix for a quickie on her break from work and b) her curse made it so that, while Phil can remember the day repeating, she can't, so she doesn't even know what's going on, maybe doesn't even remember she knew Phil Connors was coming to town and she used a spell to trap him. But, she sure is enamored when he shows up at the Tip Top.

Or not.

Ultimately, Doris loses out at the auction, but maybe she makes do with her dance partner. And maybe he takes her to Paris.

Doris will not be in Woodstock this weekend. She doesn't exist... there. But, I'm sure she will be at the Tip Top (or whatever is currently in that location--I think it's ABC something) in spirit. I will say hello.

Now, I must bid you all adieu as I pack some clothes and things for the trip tomorrow. When next I post, I will be in Woodstock.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to see Paris... with someone named Doris.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

i got ten bucks that says you're mine

There's something a little off about Doris. She stares at Phil on Day 3 when he's at the Tip Top... and she doesn't just stare; she leans toward him, over the table, staring. Sure, he's a sort of celebrity, but it still comes across a little weird.

Then--and this is a new extrapolation--she's got a thing going on with Felix, who's married. She adjusts her bra as she approaches him, then she asks him for a roll of quarters? Yeah, there's no innuendo there at all.

And, at the big party, she's dancing away with some other guy, but drops him like a bad habit when it comes time to maybe buy herself some Phil Connors for ten bucks.

And, it's hard to write more tonight. Allergies and a long day, and I'm getting old--it's my birthday today, January 29.

Interesting thing about today--14 years ago, Danny Rubin was working his way up to writing Groundhog Day... actually, it was probably still just called Time Machine in his head. See it was that day that he figured out what day would be looping. He figured "that the film could revolve around the main character’s birthday or some anniversary significant to the character." And

While pondering all of this I started thumbing through my calendar, looking for ideas. Perhaps something would jump out at me. I didn’t have to thumb very far. The day I began working on all of this was January 29. The first day of interest that I encountered?

February 2, Groundhog Day,

So, it was on my birthday that Groundhog Day became Groundhog Day. I figure that makes it a gift Danny Rubin gave to me, except it took this many years for me to realize it and he still doesn't know. I also won't tell him if I get the chance to talk to him this Sunday in Woodstock. That would be awkward. I might have to offer to buy him a drink, though...

Then, I'll order whatever drink he does and claim that's my favorite drink, it always make me think of Punxsutawney (or would Woodstock make more sense?), the way the snow sits on the ground in the winter time.

Not really. I'm not that crazy. Although, if I get the chance to buy him for ten bucks, I will totally do that.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever (maybe this coming Sunday): to Phil Connor Danny Rubin.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

it would be a great idea to stay for some of the other events

Day 62 and Day 121, I recapped entries so far. And, now it’s time to do so again. I also just—finally—went back into all the entries and put in subject “labels” so the entries should be more searchable.

(I’ve also got business cards and postcards to give to people this weekend in Woodstock, so I am hoping the traffic here gets a good boost starting next week.)

Day 122 – you’ve totaled it involved the Bechdel Test of women in film.

Day 123 – i’ve got some errands to run deals with Groundhog Day as Jewish film.

Day 124 – i thought we were going back discounts the cultural crisis surrounding Groundhog Day.

Day 125 – for you, miss? deals with the presence of non-white characters (read: extras) in the film and discuss the concept of the magic negro.

In Day 126 – oh, i’m sorry, I apologize for the magic negro thing… sort of.

Day 127 – this sounds like a science experiment break down the DVD and blu-ray chapter headings.

Day 128 – thanks for watching deals with the way scenes are framed in the film.

Day 129 – i hate fudge starts linking some impromptu quotations to the film, then Day 130 – give me another chance continues that batch.

Day 131 – go with the flow, see what happens involves a bit of a ramble.

I wrote Day 132 – thank you for fixing… after finally correcting the IMDb goofs page for the film… which still hasn’t updated with my changes, 7 weeks later, the slow bastards.

Day 133 – what is the rhone? breaks down the episode of Jeopardy! seen in the film.

Day 134 – there’s something really wrong with… adds a few more goofs for that IMDb goofs page.

Day 135 – i gotta go do this report deals with the redemption of Phil Connors in relation to his role as Christ-Figure.

Day 136 – please believe me details a bit of the benefits and drawbacks of researching other people’s writings about Groundhog Day.

Day 137 – you’ve got to believe me covers a cynical look at the film and introduces the world to the What Would Phil Connors Do? bracelet.

Day 138 – what is going on? provides my edited down version of the film that focuses just on Rita’s experience outside the time loop.

Day 139 – it’s led you here returns to the movie About Time and what I would or wouldn’t do with the ability to travel in time.

Day 140 – it’s hard down there at the bottom deals with O’Reilly—the film does not tell us he’s a wino—then gets into the broader issue of the homeless. And, Day 141 – let’s get you someplace warm continues on with the homeless.

Day 142 – you just fell to sleep happened after I spent a few hours fixing the transcript of the all the film’s dialogue.

Day 143 – we made love like sea otters explores a cheesy TV movie that involves a time loop, 12 Dates of Christmas.

Day 144 – and we’re clear gets us finally to the third (after this one and this one) TV Time Loop Day, in which I watch 7 TV show’s episodes involving time loops.

Day 145 – our nation’s high deals with a Canadian thriller involving a time loop, Repeaters.

Day 146 – this is a restricted area details the death of O’Reilly.

Day 147 – i think this is getting too personal jumps from some comments on the movie her to the question of whether or not I am in a “relationship” with Groundhog Day.

Day 148 – looking foxy tonight, man deals with the 80s-style clothes worn in the film.

In Day 149 – you’re playing yesterday’s tape I review the original trailer for Groundhog Day.

For Day 150 – you don’t like poetry? I composed “The Ballad of Phil Connors.”

Day 151 – that’s not the worst part involves me catching some repeated titles in my entries and going back to fix them. Then, in Day 152 – the fastest jack in jefferson county I go back and fixed titles that had misquotes or typos.

Day 153 – does he have to use the word poopy? is not my return to the topic of poop; rather, it deals with Phil’s attentiveness.

Day 154 – this is an art form compiles the various videos (many of them mashups with other films) I’ve put onto YouTube for this blog.

Day 155 – people just don’t understand what is involved in this provides a look at some of the material I’ve got for this blog.

In Day 156 – we’ve got work to do I finally get into Mary Ellen Benesh’s dissertation, “Becoming Punxstuawney Phil: Symbols and Metaphors of Transformation in Groundhog Day.”

Day 157 – i got your first victim involves Benesh again, specifically on the topic of mandalas.

Day 158 – this thing sticks a little bit returns to About Time because a review in The New Yorker made comparisons to Groundhog Day.

Day 159 – do i hear more? returns to Benesh and the topic of confirmation bias and symbolic convergence,

Day 160 – let’s not spoil it deals with a stage play, Sure Thing which seems suspiciously similar to some elements of Groundhog Day.

Day 161 – don’t mess with me, pork chop deals with Groundhog Day as a metaphor for the ups and downs of dieting.

Day 162 – did you sleep well? details briefly a dream I had involving Ned Ryerson and Phil Connors.

Day 163 – you look like an angel deals with the idea of a shoulder angel, which Phil doesn’t have.

Day 164 – good, clean fun returns to Benesh on the topic of spheres and the color white.

Day 165 – wears on his… starts with a nitpick of Benesh then catalogs the outfits of Phil and Rita through the film.

Day 166 – well, you went to college, right? returns to the breakdown of the script structure in response to something Benesh said.

Day 167 – look out for your shadow, there, pal deals with Jung by way of Benesh.

In Day 168 - wait in the van I share my paper about cinematic Christ-Figures, “From Man of Steel to Groundhog Day: A Proposed Redefinition of the Christ-Figure in Popular Film.”

Day 169 - what’s the worst part? laments the forgetting of a discovery made in regard to Groundhog Day while on the road.

Day 170 – we better get going… drifts away from the memory problem of the day before into sticky wet dreams (which is not as perverse as it sounds).

Day 171 –...if we’re gonna stay ahead of the weather will tell you how sticky wet dreams connect to the theme of Groundhog Day.

Day 172 – sweet dreams finishes up the sticky wet dreams trilogy as I theorize about Phil Connors’ dreams, which brings me back to Benesh in Day 173 – who dreams of you at night, moving from Benesh to Izod to Jung and dream interpretation.

In Day 174 – clear across the rockies and great plains I imagine making a documentary film in which I share Groundhog Day with the world.

Day 175 – i met a girl gets back to Benesh yet again, this time to explore the females in the film as Phil’s anima.

In preparation for my upcoming trip to Woodstock, Day 176 – don’t drive on the railroad tracks positions the filming locations in the movie onto maps of the town. Then, Day 177 – pull over immediately! and Day 178 – i think they want you to stop compare those locations to their current versions by way of Google Maps.

Day 179 – it’s gonna entertain ya present the awesome news: there’s a Groundhog Day musical in the works.

And finally, Day 180 – it would be great to stay for some of the other events lists the last three score or so entries for the ease of you people reading this.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to figure out how to create these indexes more automatically. The labels are nice, but don’t quite do it.

Monday, January 27, 2014

it's gonna entertain ya

I've joked--I think more than once--about creating a one man show version of Groundhog Day, I've shared how my daughter recently dreamed about being in a stage production of Groundhog Day. So, it should come as no surprise that Groundhog Day may soon be a musical. Broadway World proclaims:

MATILDA THE MUSICAL's Tim Minchin and Matthew Warchus could have theatergoers returning again and again... and again for their upcoming musical adaptation of the 1993 movie GROUNDHOG DAY.

Danny Rubin, who doesn't tweet very often, confirmed the news with a photo of himself with Tim Minchin.

Now, I haven't seen the musical version of Matilda; I'm not sure it's even come to Los Angeles yet. But, I like Minchin's other musical works, comedic songs like "You Grew On Me" or "Prejudice." I've got a good feeling about this project.

It won't just be a copy of the film, of course. Minchin writes on his blog:

Our version of Groundhog Day is going to be both instantly recognizable, and utterly different.

The central conceit is perfectly suited to the theatre, in my opinion. In fact, I think many of its ideas could be enhanced by the stage. It has the potential to be complex, dark, visually fascinating, and thematically rich, whilst still being a joyous romantic comedy with cool tunes and lots of gags. It’s certainly not an easy job, and I’m truly honoured – and genuinely excited – that Danny is letting me have a crack at it.

Workshops are coming in the spring or summer, and then it will open in London or New York. So, timewise, geographically, this won't get to be covered much by this blog. But still, I like the idea of it. I like Groundhog Day... obviously. I like musicals. The combination--that can be nothing but entertaining, and possibly amazing.

In other news, from a comment on Minchin's blog to the official Woodstock events schedule, I have just learned that Danny Rubin himself will be in Woodstock this weekend, a special guest at the symposium I plan to attend.

Anyway, Rolling Stone quotes Minchin as saying, "Maybe the whole project will get caught in a temporal vortex... and we won't be able to finish writing it until we've achieved wisdom."

Let's hope Minchin, Warchus and/or Rubin achieve wisdom sooner rather than later.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to get that one-man show version of Groundhog Day completed already.

i think they want you to stop

Fewer words today than yesterday.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to not obsess about the details.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Friday, January 24, 2014

don't drive on the railroad tracks

There will be very few words in today’s entry. And yet, this entry took over 4 hours of work. I have, previously used Google Maps to identify a few locations in Groundhog Day. Today, I took that further, identifying a whole lot of exterior locations from the film, to a) be more thorough than before and b) prepare for my trip to Woodstock a week from today. They’ve got a walking tour of filming sites on both Saturday (the 1st) and Sunday (the 2nd) but I want to know more locations than they will probably show.

(I will admit that I got a little help from Chas Demster’s Filming Locations of Chicago and Los Angeles blog. But, I did not get help from Julie Boggie, who might have photographed the right tree from which Zacchaeus fell but she got the photo from a bad angle to be sure. And, she did not show where the previous shot with Phil checking his watch then running was filmed. I think it was up the street (she puts the tree—and she went on the walking tour—on Madison between Mary’s house and the Cherry Street Inn), so the busy street in the background would be W South St aka US 14 Business Route, but Google’s street view photos seem to have been shot when the trees were a lot more green so it’s hard to tell.)

(Final note: I think I just proved Boggie correct in the tree’s location as I was about to post this entry. But, Phil checking his watch definitely has to be farther up the block. I should get some screenshots.)

Anyway, following are four images. First the larger map of Woodstock with notable locations outside of the town square’s vicinity.

Next, a larger view of the downtown area.

Next, the car chase on Day 3 with Ralph and Gus. The red is where we see exterior shots, the pink where we’re inside the car with them. The darker blue is exterior shots of the car in reverse, the lighter blue where we’re inside the car with them.

And finally, the second car chase, at least until they leave Woodstock. The straight highway where we get bits of dialogue from Rita and Larry and Phil talking to the groundhog—I have no idea where that is. And the quarry is actually like 31 miles west of Woodstock in Loves Park. Also, note, at one point this chase makes a leap that doesn’t work in the real world of Woodstock, heading northwest on Washington St (marked as 120 on this image) then suddenly turning off Lake St onto E South St to head southeast only to, as I already said, end up west of town to reach the Nimtz Quarry.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to do this sort of thing to every movie’s filming locations.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

i met a girl

It's been over a week since I wrote about the male characters as Phil's Jungian shadow. Though I had suggested I might deal with the female character in relation to anima the next day, I got sidetracked by that big roadtrip thing.

As Benesh (2011) puts it, "the male characters represent archetypes of shadow, or disowned aspects of self; the female characters the anima, or contra sexual aspects of self" (p. 116). The female characters, Benesh tells us, "embody aspects of the anima archetype. Rita, in particular emerges as an anima figure, the anima being the bridge between consciousness and unconsciousness, and the path to one's self completion and wholeness" (ibid).

I must admit, again, I don't know much about Jungian psychology. To be fair, I'm more interested in Benesh's use of Jung than Jung himself here, but since I liked picking on Benesh I thought I'd mention something I noticed when I was looking online for the chapter on anima from Understanding Dreams—I didn't find that, but I did find the chapter on the spirit, and found its start quite interesting in that Jung writes of an old man who comes to the hero when he is at his most desperate. Specifically, he says:

The frequency with which the spirit-type appears as an old man is about the same in fairytales as in dreams. The old man always appears when the hero is in a hopeless and desperate situation from which only profound reflection or a lucky idea—in other words, a spiritual function or an endopsychic automatism of some kind—can extricate him. (p. 105)

This old man represents, according to Jung, "knowledge, reflection, insight, wisdom, cleverness, and intuition on the one hand, and on the other, moral qualities such as goodwill and readiness to help" (p. 107). Not to echo phrases from that quotation, but on the one hand, I don't know enough about Jung's concept of this spirit/old man to be sure of the link between it and O'Reilly, but on the other hand I'm surprised Benesh didn't make the connection, at least in passing, since she takes a Jungian approach.

Barbara McManus (1999) tells us of the anima as a "peer figure of the opposite sex to the ego-bearer to whom he/she has a strong and compelling tie or bond (often a lover, brother/sister, soul-mate). Jung said that the animus is more likely to be personified by multiple male figures, while the anima is frequently a single female." Benesh (2011) mentions the piano teacher, the piano student, Nancy, Mrs. Lancaster and, of course, Rita as "embody[ing] aspects of the anima archetype" (p. 116). She spends more than a page breaking down aspects of Rita in anima-related terms from Beebe (2001). But, I think it's worth mentioning how the other female characters within Groundhog Day (including but not limited to the ones Benesh mentions) all operate in relation to men... I admit this doesn't necessarily fit with the anima discussion, but I've got two pink tabs on the same page of the dissertation and the two subjects seem closely related to me even if maybe they shouldn't be.

(Some of this gender-related stuff, including the feminine- and masculine-quest stuff from Daughton (1996), has provided an angle I think could work as a master's thesis topic, especially if I deal in the mirroring and matching stuff from "date night" in relation to, say, communication accommodation theory... I don't know. I haven't even decided if I'm doing a paper on Groundhog Day this current, winter quarter yet; one of my possibilities for a rhetoric class would involve compiling a lot of the religion-related stuff I've covered in this blog, especially the Buddhist stuff, but I haven't decided yet.)

Anyway, before I get to Rita as anima for Phil, I'd like to point out that all the women in the film exist in relation to men, and not just to Phil.

  • Rita is the object of Phil's affections and, though she is supposedly really nice and generous, we learn about her from what Phil says far more than from what Rita does.
  • Nancy exists as representative of the numerous women that may have been Phil Connored within the time loop. Even when Phil has moved on, she still shows up the night of his date with Laraine, and gets sized up by Laraine as if they are in competition with one another. Even later, Nancy shows up again on the last day of the loop, no longer connected to Phil, sure, but now the object of Larry's interests instead—as Benesh puts it, "Larry has assumed the position of pre-transformation Phil Connors" (p. 118).
  • Laraine, in her french maid costume, serves only as an object, subject to Phil's whims.
  • Florence, aka Mrs. Lancaster, is relatively submissive to Phil, though there is a matronly side to her. She also, on Day 4, gets kissed by Phil (and, of course, I've theorized about the possibility that he may have Phil Connored her at some point as well).
  • Doris exists in relation to her brother-in-law Carl who owns the Tip Top, she stares (somewhere between longingly and creepily) at Phil on Day 3, and of course her bra gets mentioned, drawing attention to her secondary sex characteristics.
  • Debbie is getting married and having second thoughts about her "passion" for Fred, a fire which Phil somehow fans.
  • That one old lady mimics kissing after she calls Phil "the fastest jack in Jefferson County." And, there's certainly no innuendo in that descriptor at all.
  • Felix's wife and Buster's wife have lines but no names. They exist merely to link Phil to their respective husbands.
  • Mary, aka the piano teacher, is not sexualized. She might even be considered to embody a mothering role for Phil. On her piano there's a wedding photo, though, so she too is identified in relation to gender roles.
  • The piano student is not sexualized, of course, but Benesh suggests that her outfit of blue and pink--which, I would mention, is the same combination Rita wears in most of her scenes--"evok[es] a bridge between masculine and feminine" (p. 79).

    But, as for Rita and anima, Benesh cites

    Beebe (2001, pp. 210-212) [in] list[ing] the following as characteristics of an anima figure, in film; and I [Benesh] have commented on how these characteristics appear in Rita‘s depiction of these characteristics:

    1. "Unusual radiance" — Rita is repeatedly compared to an angel, having been shown surrounded by blue, repeatedly shown with arms (wings) extended, sculpted in glittering ice, and Phil says, "You look like an angel in the snow."

    [That quotation is, of course, incorrect as Phil says, "When you stand in the snow you look like an angel." Also, it's worth mentioning that one of Benesh's examples of Rita's extended arms is when she slaps Phil, which is hardly angelic.]

    2. Demonstrating a desire to make connection — Rita is always friendly and issuing invitations and compliments.

    3. Having come from "another place" — Rita has come from Pittsburgh, and from being a French major to television broadcasting "a long way from here."

    [While I wish people, especially scholars like Benesh, would quote correctly lines from the film, no, Rita does not say this. She refers to "here" as "about a million miles from where I started out in college" and the barely different "a million miles from where I started out in college."]

    4. Being the "feminine mirror" of the male protagonist — In her first appearance, Rita imitates Phil in front of the blue screen, her arms extended, and her extended arm becomes a motif, as she slaps Phil numerous times and eventually hands over all her money at the bachelor auction. Rita and Phil also imitate one another and Punxsutawney Phil on their way to Punxsutawney.

    5. "Unusual capacity for life" — in contrast to Phil, Rita embraces the spirit of the Groundhog Day holiday and the Punxsutawney townspeople; she even likes blood sausage and thinks groundhogs are cute.

    6. Offers "life-changing advice" and 7. "Exerts a protective and often therapeutic effect on someone else" — At the film‘s turning point, Rita tells Phil his plight is "an opportunity," changing the course of his life.

    [Rita doesn't call Phil's plight an opportunity, though that is implicit in what she does say: "Well, sometimes I wish I had a thousand lifetimes. I don’t know, Phil. Maybe it’s not a curse. It just depends on how you look at it."]

    8. "Leads another character to recognize a problem in personality that is insoluble" — Rita tells Phil she can never love him because he can only love himself; he replies that he doesn‘t even like himself.

    9. "The loss of this character is associated with the loss of purposeful aliveness itself" — Phil is bereft without Rita, referring to the moment when "Larry will take you away from me again."

    [Why must she misquote such simple lines? Phil says, "in ten seconds Larry is gonna come through that door and take you away from me." The feeling is much the same, but the wording is off.]

    Rita provides inspiration in that Phil Connors tries to be what she wants (playing an instrument) and also emulates her good character. The piano teacher represents daily effort and is also associated early on with the groundhog in that she is the first person Phil Connors comes in contact with outside the bed-and-breakfast on the first Groundhog Day, heralding the day and occasion.

    And, that's more than enough Benesh (or me) for today.

    Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to fashion a new psychology, unique from Jung, unique from Freud, unique from... whatever else people use, and then to lose it to the resumptions of time.

  • Wednesday, January 22, 2014

    clear across the rockies and great plains

    I'm not going to write about dreams again today, but I had to share one thing: my daughter had a dream involving Groundhog Day. She doesn't watch the movie every day like I do, of course, but she sees parts of it at least pretty regularly. Anyway, she's in a high school production of To Kill a Mockingbird as Scout--that's all the setup you need. In her dream, she discovers they're also doing a stage version of Groundhog Day and wants to try out for that. The role of Phil Connors, of course. But, then it turns out her rehearsal schedule for To Kill a Mockingbird is going to interfere with Groundhog Day so she can't play Phil. Instead, she's offered the consolation role (my phrasing) of Rita.

    In other news, my recent trip to Utah allowed me to watch the movie (or part of it anyway) in three states beside California. Watched about half the movie in Nevada, the first third or so in Arizona, all of it in Utah. My upcoming trip to Woodstock will add Illinois to the list. Had I the time and the money, I would now set the goal of watching the movie in every state. My son suggests I count all the states I fly over--this after I said I'd also be watching the movie on the plane. As you know if you've been following this blog lately, I also "watched" the movie in the rental van three times on the Utah trip.

    Actually, the bit about watching the movie in every state gives me an idea. A documentary in which I do just that, go to each state and host some free screenings of the film, interview people about the movie and what it means to them. In the process I could also cover the religious audience bit from my paper last fall, testing out the biases of audiences, and really I could just the make the world a little bit of a better place by sharing Groundhog Day with a whole lot of people.

    But, not too many. I've already warned how that could end badly. Of course, I was just playing at debate when I wrote that entry. Really, if we could get everyone to appreciate the same film, that would probably go a long way toward getting everyone to get along.

    And, after the first documentary with me in all 50 states, I could travel the world for a sequel. The documentary would be like a Matt Harding video, except instead of dancing in front of the peoples of the world I would sit down with them and watch Groundhog Day.

    I'm not even sure it would require a translation. I've got the script pretty much memorized at this point so I can't objectively watch the movie without the sound (the closest approximation to the untranslated version for someone who didn't speak English that I could manage) and see if I can gauge what's going on without the dialogue. I still might watch it without sound again sometime. I mean on purpose. I have watched it when I couldn't hear it, back in the early days of the blog when I went camping and watched the film on my iPad while sitting around the campfire. Aside from the rental van viewings I watched a good chunk of the movie sitting outside in Utah and really couldn't see the screen because of the sunlight, so I turned the volume all the way up and just recited bits along with the movie while playing with some snow. I even suggested that when the movie got to the snowball scene (either incarnation, obviously) I would have to throw snowballs at the people with whom I was sharing the lunchbreak (i.e. three members of my team). They were dressed up for the competition, so I didn't do that. Well, I did at least one, and it was, as Phil might say, a humdinger.

    And, I digress.

    I was talking documentaries. Honestly, it could work. But, I know nothing about how one goes about doing that sort of thing, getting equipment, getting funding, and whatever else is involved. The structure seems like Super Size Me, Religulous or a Michael Moore film--there's got to be a subgenre name for those kinds of documentaries, but I don't know what it is. My conservative readers might be tempted to jump in with some political joke, since my three examples are a bit Left. And, so am I, of course. But, for the most part, I think I've done pretty well at keeping politics out of this blog. Plus, I couldn't think of any Right-skewed documentaries of the same type.

    Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to see how many different places around the world that I could reach within that one day... Would the time loop obey time zones or would I just have 24 hours? If time zones apply, could I simply keep moving west and never move forward in time? Would I go backward in time like Superman? Would that make me now a Cinematic Christ-Figure if I documented that on film? Am I overthinking this?

    Tuesday, January 21, 2014

    who dreams of you at night

    Benesh (2011) relies on John Izod’s (2000) Journal of Analytical Psychology essay, “Active imagination and the analysis of film” in linking the viewing of film to the process of dreaming. Izod’s original piece is interesting in that he argues, “Screened fiction has… the potential to help the individual grow in self-awareness” because “Experiencing affects aroused by fictions can resemble being drawn into a rehearsal for a possible, imagined future that just might (but more likely never will) occur in the individual’s life in the real world” (p. 267). The interesting thing here is that Izod’s description here implies that dreams lead to self-awareness. I like the idea of that… and maybe it seems obvious, but, of course, there’s still the possibility that dreams are simply the random firing of synapses as the body shuts down and lets the mind have some fun…

    But, even if—and I’d wager that as a big if—dreams are random, the specific contents still have to come from the material we’ve got stored away in our brains. So, there would have to be something in each dream that would link, at least indirectly, to who and what we are. I’ve actually cited Izod through Benesh before, quoting the following:

    …for viewers, no less than for Phil, an imprint remains as during the film the audience members “introject” or take in its psychic content including symbols, images, and narrative, as well as projecting individual personal concerns. After the film, if it is particularly “resonant,” the process continues as the film “plays on” in the viewer’s mind. A personal “edition” of the film is thus created and is assimilated into the psyche of the viewer. (Benesh, 2011, p. 8)

    Izod specifically suggests:

    A lowering of the level of consciousness is experienced in the dark warmth and security of the cinema as it unreels its manifold diversions. Its sumptuous images and sounds, its compelling characters and stories arouse many emotions and stir drives of which the individual may be unconscious. Because of the fictionality of their object, whatever the specific nature of these emotions (fear, anger, desire, wonder, horror), they are usually experienced as virtual rather than actual, and therefore ultimately as pleasurable. (Izod, 2000, p. 272)

    I don’t know if the reality of this notion—that we experience film as we do dreams—is accurate, but it seems a reasonable metaphor. A great film will certainly play back in our heads afterward. Groundhog Day certainly does for me. Izod suggests, “Full engagement with a symbolic film… has no less potential than to change individuals’ consciousness. It can alter the way they feel and think about themselves or the world” (p. 274). And, I would say, not just because I sprinkle my everyday conversation with lines from the film… Oh, he wasn’t specifically referring to me. Really, though, I don’t do that… Well, I don’t do that much more than I used to. I—and a couple of my sisters—have had a habit since as long as I can remember of quoting movies in regular conversation.

    But, let’s not get sidetracked by that.

    Izod quotes Jung in defining the visionary text, which I would argue, Groundhog Day is one. Jung says:

    it can be a revelation whose heights and depths are beyond our fathoming, or a vision of beauty that we can never put into words…[Most works of art] never rend the curtain that veils the cosmos; they do not exceed the bounds of our human capacities… But the primordial experiences rend from top to bottom the curtain upon which is painted the picture of an ordered world, and allow a glimpse into the unfathomable abyss of the unborn and of things yet to be. (Izod, 2000, p. 276, citing “Jung 1950, para. 141)

    Groundhog Day does indeed “rend the curtain that veils the cosmos,” I would say, which is interesting because I was asked a few nights ago why Groundhog Day followed by a line implying it’s a film with no depth. And, people who don’t read this blog regularly ask me, of course, what I write about. Clearly, they haven’t done what Izod suggests we all do, and certainly not consciously; they haven’t reexamined the film in their heads.

    If you are one of those people, I would recommend that you do think about film after you watch it, and not just this film. Citing Hillman (199), Izod tells us, “What Hillman advocates is naked, emotionally unguarded self-exposure to the symbol, which should be encountered and watched as if it were alive—almost like a person” (Izod, 2000, p. 280). Benesh says the next step, after one has built that “personal ‘edition’” of a film in one’s head, is to watch the movie again, “comparing that imagined text with the original text to see what is legitimate and what must be discarded” (p. 63). Since I’ve already touched on Jung today, I suppose now is as good a time as any to bring back Nietzsche; specifically, I’d cite his notion of eternal recurrence (covered in this blog on Day 39, Day 40 and Day 41). What Benesh (by way of Izod) is suggesting a researcher do with a text (in this instance, a film) is what Nietzsche might say we should all do with our lives every day. Life shouldn’t be some passive thing we let happen around us. Nor, really, should the viewing of film be. Every act should be deliberate, every act as revealing of self as our dreams may be. That isn’t to say that all acts will end up being good, of course. Being deliberate does not mean we will never make mistakes or do regrettable things. But, at least, if we are deliberate in the doing, we can also be deliberate in making amends if it comes to that.

    I will end today by suggesting that there is a song missing from Groundhog Day:

    Row, row, row your boat
    Gently down the stream.
    Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily,
    Life is but a dream.

    Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to dream and to live and know that everything I do is a reality that continues on even if I do not.

    Monday, January 20, 2014

    sweet dreams

    You give your hand to me
    And then you say, “Hello.”
    And I can hardly speak,
    My heart is beating so.
    And anyone can tell
    You think you know me well.
    Well, you don’t know me.
    (no you don’t know me)
    No you don’t know the one
    Who dreams of you at night;
    And longs to kiss your lips
    And longs to hold you tight
    Oh I’m just a friend.
    That’s all I’ve ever been.
    Cause you don’t know me.
    (no you don’t know me)

    These lyrics play on "date night" as Phil and Rita dance in the gazebo. My recent mnemonic device when I was driving and couldn't write down notes, remember, included dreams. That came from this song.

    " don't know the one / Who dreams of you at night..."

    A couple things occurred to me. The first: is it Phil who dreams of Rita or Rita who dreams of Phil? Consider: Phil does know Rita. She just doesn't realize it and so his familiarity comes off as creepy. Rita does not know Phil, on the other hand, yet she's dancing with him. I think the choice of that song in that scene was obviously meant to refer to Phil dreaming of Rita... especially with the echo later of Rita telling Phil, "you don't even know me."

    But then, there's the other thing that occurred to me. Does Phil dream? I mean, we assume the loop runs from 6 am to 6 am (or rather 5:59 to 5:59). Phil tells Rita it's "not until six." That is not exactly a precise measure. He could easily be rounding off. The latest time we see in the film is 4:05 am, the night Phil breaks the pencil (the end of Day 2). But, I think it's safe to assume Phil stays up to check the limits of the loop at some point that we don't see.

    But, what if he didn't? What if the loop actually runs from, say, 5 am to 5 am, or 5:30 to 5:30. Does he dream in that bit of time before he wakes? If so, is it the same dream every morning?

    Or, does he not dream at all?

    I got to wondering why we dream... not that I haven't wondered that before, or read plenty of explanations before. But, I wondered if it wouldn't be possible that not dreaming would mess with Phil's head a bit, make it hard to live his life. Physically, he wakes up in the same body he had on that first February 2nd. But mentally--mentally, he wakes up an older, more experienced and, eventually, wiser man. Anyway, it's not the why of dreaming that got in my head the other day but how important was it that we do?

    Time magazine, 14 January 2014, tells us:

    From a strictly biological standpoint, scientists have learned much about the physiological process of dreaming, which occurs primarily in REM sleep. “During dreaming,” says Patrick McNamara, a neurologist at Boston University School of Medicine and the graduate school of Northcentral University in Prescott Valley, Ariz., “the limbic part of the brain—the emotional part—gets highly activated while the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex, the executive part of the brain, is under-activated. So the kind of cognitions we experience during dreams are highly emotional, visually vivid, but often illogical, disconnected and sometimes bizarre.” That suggests that our dreams may have some role in emotional stability.

    That does not necessarily mean, most dream researchers believe, that dreams are random expressions of emotion or devoid of some intellectual meaning. While some scientists maintain that dream patterns are strictly the result of how different neurons in the brain are firing, Deirdre Barrett, a psychologist and dream researcher at Harvard Medical School, believes they represent something more. “I think it’s a fallacy that knowing brain action negates a subjective, psychological meaning any more than it does for waking thought. I think dreams are thinking in a different biochemical state.”

    That makes it sound, to me, almost as if dreams are just some accidental thing that happens because we sleep. National Geographic, 29 November 2011, tells us of a recent study that "suggests that REM sleep may help us work through difficult events in our lives." We certainly like to think that dreams are somehow meaningful, even conscious, that they connect to our everyday lives. Whether they do or they don't, sleeping and dreaming do have a positive effect on us, obviously. Phil Connors would be missing out on that...

    This topic will lead me right back into Benesh (2011), because her study uses "hermeneutics and a specific method of dream interpretation" (p. ii).

    But, I will save her for tomorrow, when I am at home again... actually, I will probably write tomorrow's entry on campus, but it will be back on my usual campus and not this one. We are heading home from Utah soon.

    Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to not need to dream because I'm already doing everything and anything I can think of that there is to do.

    Sunday, January 19, 2014

    ...if we're gonna stay ahead of the weather

    This is like part four: written in a lounge area on the University of Utah campus. Just judged some informative speeches, not judging this round. So, it's time to explain what the sticky wet dreams referred to.

    First up is sticky. Really, it's stick and it's not that exciting. In fact, having just checked the transcript of the movie, it's not exciting at all. I thought I had a line wrong in the transcript. When Phil describes "the same old schtick" of the Gobbler's Knob bit, he says "the guy comes out with a big stick and raps on the door." I thought I had it wrong--something like the guys comes out and raps on the door with a big stick. Nothing major. But, I want my transcript to be as accurate as possible. The version I shared here has already undergone some changes--well, the changes were made to my annotated copy, anyway. Interestingly, I didn't misplace the stick but I did leave out the and. So, there is something to fix. But, as I already said, nothing exciting.

    So, next up is wet, actually weather. It's the line I mentioned two days ago... maybe. I still harbor the secret hope that there's some other awesome or profound line that stood out on that particular viewing and will stand out again. But, anyway, the line:

    We better get going if we're gonna stay ahead of the weather.

    Larry says it three times, and it's arguably the ultimate detail in the god day diner scene that proves to Rita that Phil isn't lying. I noted, back when I was breaking down the screenplay structure,

    Phil Dyer in his Doctor My Script blog suggests that the first few pages of a screenplay should include someone actually stating the theme of the story. He cites When Harry Met Sally when "Billy Crystal tells Meg Ryan that it's not possible for men and women to be just friends because the sex always gets in the way."

    I couldn't find that line for Groundhog Day, at least not conclusively. I noted how a couple lines--"I want to spend an extra second in Punxsutawney?" and "She's fun, but not my kind of fun."--have a retrospective irony, as does "Someday somebody will see me interviewing a groundhog and think I don't have a future." But, those don't really tell us the theme of the story. The 17-minute mark moment--Phil proclaiming himself a "celebrity in an emergency" as if that entitles him to special treatment over everyone else--does tell us what the film is going to be about, storywise, but not necessarily thematically. Plus, not in the first 10 minutes, so it doesn't fit Dyer's point.

    Neither, of course, does Larry's weather line. But, hearing it without seeing the scene, I heard the line in a different way, and I think it does evoke and invoke a certain theme that runs throughout Groundhog Day. Metaphorically, of course. Consider those days (and I won't link to all of them) that I took the impromptu quotations from speech tournaments and linked them all to the film--and, I've got a page of quotations from yesterday burning a hole in my bag, by the way. If the quotation I had was "We better get going if we're gonna stay ahead of the weather" this is how I would link it to Groundhog Day:

    The metaphor is simple. To get going is to make something of life, to do something instead of just lazing around. The weather is all that can get in the way, the hardships that make us not want to get up and get out and do things. I think this is one of the themes to Groundhog Day despite the fact that it would be hard to argue that pre-loop Phil Connors is a) lazy or b) doesn't get up and do things with his life. But, he's stuck in a job he certainly doesn't appreciate, if not outright dislikes. Some people might think that his womanizing means he is "making the most" of his opportunities, but obviously it has left him empty, and leaves him empty within the span of the film as well. This is one of those times I think it's good that part of Rubin's original got left behind. The film only shows us the Phil Connoring of Nancy and Rita. Rubin's original script includes this bit before the Phil Connoring of Tess (later replaced by Rita to give this scene to a main character):

    Of the sixty-three eligible women in Punxsutawney, only forty-nine have so far been--accessible. The last few are proving more of a challenge.

    This Phil who has accessed 49 women within the time loop does bottom out, of course. But, the narration (this was voiceover, of course) makes the Phil Connoring process into a far more deliberate and potentially heinous thing than it is in the final film. Phil Connoring Nancy just kinda happens, out of nowhere, and we're hardly given time to think about the moral and ethical issues at play. The Phil Connoring of Rita--that's trickier because by then we have a good inkling or two that Phil is interested in Rita on a deeper level than even he realizes. That stare when he first sees Rita, plus saying her name when he's with Nancy--these things are like cinematic shorthand for being in love. In all the days of "date night" I don't think Phil is pursuing love, of course. But, even then, we the audience can see that he wants more on the inside than he is seeking on the outside. He's still operating in his shallows but he's clearly got some depth.

    But, I was talking about the metaphor. Phil ultimately learns to make something positive of his life rather than be lazily stuck in his shallows, pursuing women and giving in to hedonistic urges. Giving in may be an active step but that doesn't mean it isn't lazy. It is certainly lazy to take the easy road, and pre-loop Phil and early-loop Phil are definitely taking the easy road. Arguably, his disdain for his Channel 9 Pittsburgh job and his need to claim he's leaving comes from an unconscious recognition that he's already going nowhere. So, the entire film, then, can be taken as Phil learning to get going rather than just be where he is and complain about it. Ironically, he learns to not be stagnant by being stuck in one place.

    The weather that he's got to stay ahead of: his own selfishness, the shallow pursuits of modern life--I don't have my Groundhog Day Project binders with me in Utah or I might look to Foley for a good quotation about Phil as representative of modernism--his panic and dismay at being in the loop, and for that matter, his dismay at his pre-loop life. There is no Stephanie in the final film because it's not some ex-girlfriend who is in all of two scenes who has cursed Phil to be trapped in Punxsutawney; it is Phil himself. He has cursed himself and that blizzard that forms the physical trap--that's the weather that, at the time anyway, he cannot get ahead of.

    And, taking this metaphor broader to all of our lives, we can only get going by getting ahead of, avoiding, beating all the things that weather us down and keep us from doing something with our lives.

    Tomorrow: dreams.

    Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to mess with people by always starting in the middle of things I've already got going on.

    Saturday, January 18, 2014

    we better get going...

    Part two: written not in a hotel room but a university auditorium in Salt Lake City, waiting for awards after today's tournament. Had Groundhog Day on out in the snow... well, snow on the ground, not in the air. Anyway, movie was on during the lunchbreak. I even made a round of After Dinner Speaking wait an extra minute as the movie finished.

    (For the record, I had walked, with movie still playing in my hand, to the room and let them know of the delay and the reason why. One guy's response: "you got to have hobbies." A better response I got from another guy when I told him I've been watching the movie every day for 170 days was that I was awesome... I believe he called me "a gentleman and a star." So, I got that going for me.)

    But anyway, yesterday, I wrote of "watching" the movie in the van while still on the road. Had to do that again later yesterday--which means I have watched at least part of Groundhog Day in California, Nevada, Arizona, and Utah--and was paying attention for the two things I mentioned.

    I think I figured out what line it was I wanted to write about as having different meaning, but that whistling echo--totally missed it (and didn't think to listen for it today).

    But, before I get to that line, a story:

    Obviously, I couldn't, again, write down what I noticed (or noticed again) because I was driving. So, I tell Victor--President of our team, broke to finals in two of his 4 events today, and happened to be in the front passenger seat yesterday--I needed to remember "stick weather dreams." His immediate response was "sticky wet dreams." He had no idea what I was talking about or what I was trying to remember, but he got those three words stuck in my head.

    (Sidenote: today I added "pause" to the list so now the mnemonic device is "sticky... wet dreams." Note the pause. Since, I won't expand much on the pause been, I will explain in this parenthetical. So, Buster's got his speech at Gobbler's Knob:

    This February at 7:20 and 30 seconds, Punxsutawney Phil, the seer of seers, prognosticator of prognosticators, emerged reluctantly, but alertly, in Punxsutawney, PA and stated in Groundhogese, “I definitely see a shadow.” Sorry, folks. Six more weeks of winter.

    Thing is that on Day 2, Buster pauses a little differently than Day 1. Day 1, he says, "reluctantly. but alertly" but on Day 2, he says, "reluctantly. but. alertly." It's a minor difference in how he pauses between words, but since I like to obsess about the film--surprise, surprise--I've been trying to come up with a legitimate, explainable, reason why Buster would say things differently from one day to the next--think more butterfly effect because of Phil Connors, not random variation from day to day. But, I got nothing.)

    So, where was I?

    Ah, sticky wet dreams.

    Now, consider this part three: written in a hotel room in Salt Lake City. See, awards started and then we went to dinner and then did some speech work for tomorrow. But, I am totally going to remember those three things for inclusion in this blog today...

    Or maybe tomorrow. It's after midnight here, getting up about 6 tomorrow. So, I will leave you with this, one more time:

    Sticky wet dreams.

    Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to leave everything unfinished--our obsession with getting stuff done is ruining us.

    Friday, January 17, 2014

    what's the worst part?

    Part one: written in a hotel room in Vegas, considering posting this as a very short entry... maybe ad part two later today after I "watch" the movie again.

    Yesterday, Groundhog Day was "viewed" on the road. I put watch and viewed in quotation marks because I was driving at the time (and may do the same today), so I really didn't look at the movie much. I recited the lines along with all the characters, though. And, surprisingly, there are still a few lines I don't always get right. Had I not been driving at the time, I could have catalogued what I got wrong. But, I was driving.

    The worse bit, though, was I also couldn't "catalog" a couple things I noticed because I was focusing on the audio. One, I remember, was about a specific line of dialogue that seemed to have new meaning. But, I cannot for the life of me remember what line it was. I hope it's noticeable again today.

    The second thing I should be able to come up with in my head. I remember noticing an echo of Ned's whistle thing he does (pulling Phil's coat open before guessing Phil doesn't have life insurance) near the end of the film. The film is full of echoes throughout its structure and I thought I'd noticed them all, so it was interesting to notice a new one... but, like the dialogue thing, without writing it down or typing it as it happened, I lost it. I'm going through the third act in my head now, and cannot recall any whistling off hand. Like that bit of dialogue, I hope it's noticeable again today.

    Part two later.

    Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to leave nothing unfinished.

    Thursday, January 16, 2014

    wait in the van

    Heading off to Utah today—taking a few members of our speech team to a tournament out there—not sure if I will have wi-fi tonight, so I’ve unfortunately got to do a “filler” blog. Since, I only posted a portion of my “Christ-Figure” paper in the fall, I figured I’d share the whole thing. There’s a lot that isn’t about Groundhog Day in here, but also some that is.

    It’s entitled: From Man of Steel to Groundhog Day: A Proposed Redefinition of the Christ-Figure in Popular Film.

    The text—longer than many of my blog entries, so feel free to skip ahead to tomorrow (an easier task for someone not reading day to day, I realize)—follows:

    The Christ-Figure is a common element in modern American film. The Christ-Figure, on the one hand, works as shallow shorthand to suggest depth and meaning to a character that may not be there; on the other hand, it links the modern hero to a long-standing religious tradition, building on that depth. In the Western world, we understand the Christ-Figure regardless of our religious background. Indeed, modern cinema seems like an obvious extension of Bormann’s (1972) rhetorical vision of the masses, serving to “sustain the members’ sense of community... and to provide them with a social reality filled with heroes, villains, emotions, and attitudes” (p. 398). In fact, Kozlovic (2004) maintains that Christ-Figures exist in modern films because Hollywood films especially are “frequently created within a Judaeo-Christian context. Therefore, it is almost a natural response for Western scriptwriters looking for ideas and archetypes to tap into this familiar religious heritage when creating their new heroes.” Larsen (2013) counters, though, “If any figure who dies and returns; any figure who offers sacrifice in any way; any figure who comes from another world to do good, is a Christ figure, then how is Jesus all that different from so many of our movie heroes? At what point does Superman become less like Jesus and Jesus more like Superman?” In the following paper, I will be proposing that we need to redefine the Christ-Figure or accept the flaws in utilizing the term. If we are not careful, we will find any similarity at all and call a character a Christ-Figure. But, I would suggest that there is no bright line between what is and isn’t a Christ-Figure, so we need something of a sliding scale to measure the christic nature of a character. To do this, I will be comparing Christ Figures from several modern films, from the obvious to the less obvious Phil Connors.

    Purpose and Description

    My research questions are simple. First, in regards to an obvious example, how does Superman (in any of his incarnations but especially his presentation in Man of Steel (2013) serve as a Christ-Figure? Second, in regards to a less obvious example, how does Phil Connors in Groundhog Day (1993) serve as a Christ-Figure? Then, to expand the study necessarily, I will be asking the same question of the likes of William Wallace in Braveheart (1995)., John McClane in Die Hard (1988). John Coffey in The Green Mile (1999), Max Rockatansky in the Mad Max series, but especially Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985), Neo in The Matrix (1999), James Cole in Twelve Monkeys (1995), Truman Burbank in The Truman Show (1998), John Connor and other characters in the Terminator series, and Max Da Costa in Elysium (2013). Comparing these Christ-Figures and others, I will formulate a list of characteristics necessary in the modern cinematic Christ-Figure. I will not be starting from scratch, however, but building on the work of Kozlovic (2002, 2004, and 2009) in defining the cinematic Christ-Figure. Finally, I will answer an additional set of research questions: first, do we need to redefine the Christ-Figure in order to continue to meaningfully utilize the term; and if possible, I will also attempt to answer, even if the Christ-Figure is used to exploit long-standing tradition in relation to religious beliefs, does that make it an invalid use or comparison? Essentially, is Larsen correct in suggesting that we reduce the biblical Christ by using him to create Christ-Figures?


    After reviewing the literature (see the abbreviated review below), I will be examining the texts in question, from Man of Steel to Groundhog Day, using Kozlovic’s criteria. For example, his 2004 list, without in-depth description and analysis, follows:

    1. Tangible
    2. Central
    3. Outsiders
    4. Divinely Sourced and Tasked
    5. Alter Egos
    6. Special, Normal
    7. Twelve Associates
    8. The Holy Age
    9. Betrayer Associate
    10. A Sexually Identified Woman
    11. A Pointing Prophet and Baptism Rites
    12. A Decisive Death and Resurrection
    13. Triumphalism
    14. Service to “Lesser,” Sometimes Ungrateful Others
    15. Willing Sacrifice
    16. Innocent
    17. Cruciform Pose
    18. Cross Associations
    19. Miracles and Signs
    20. Simplicity
    21. Poverty
    22. Jesus’ Garb: Physical and Spiritual
    23. Blue Eyes
    24. Holy Exclamations
    25. J.C. Initials and “Christ” Referents

    [I must interrupt this copy-and-paste job to point out that I wish I could figure out how to quickly format the table I made for my presentation handout to include in the blog. I had Kozlovic’s 25 criteria, then a Superman symbol next to each one that applied to Man of Steel, a small groundhog head next to each one that applied to Groundhog Day and a Die Hard battery next to each one that applied to Die Hard. I will have to format it for the blog at a later date.]

    For an example of use, in a quick analysis (Black, 2013a, 2013b), Phil Connors fits 22 of those 25 criteria, though he is rarely described as a Christ-Figure. I will necessarily be taking into account Larsen’s (2013) critique of the Christ-Figure and expanding on it to find the weaknesses in Kozlovic’s lists. I will also explore Deacy’s (2008) critique of Christ-Figuring in general; Deacy points out, correctly, that “nobody functions in a cultural vacuum, and there is no such thing as a definitive, normative or objective theological lens through which one may embark upon a theological conversation” (p. 2). However, I would argue that Kozlovic’s lists, if standardized, could give us a definitive lens through which to embark on a cinematic conversation. Downing (1968) suggests a look at the literary Christ-Figure as well; I would use his exploration to further isolate the unique qualities of the cinematic Christ-Figure such as Kozlovic’s (2004) #23: Blue Eyes as this is a cinematic conceit dating back at least to King of Kings (1961). Additionally, I will be consulting Bentz and Shapiro (1998) to explore in a “mindful” manner what it means to be a Christ-Figure and what it means to experience the presence of a Christ-Figure as a member of the audience. Ultimately, I expect to expand and/or refine Kozlovic’s list so that the criteria are clear, specific, and less open to interpretation.

    Literature Review

    Before getting to the more in-depth comparison necessary for this study, I would explore (briefly) one of the more obvious Christ-Figures, Superman, in order to get into some of the other literature about Christ-Figures. In the latest Superman film, Man of Steel, we see once again deliberate similarities between Superman and Christ. Metaxas (2013) suggests that these similarities are not deliberate this time but rather that the “oft-noted parallels between Superman and Christ” are simply not obscured by director Zach Snyder. For example, Superman, in this film is 33, the age of Christ at his death. In 1978’s Superman: The Movie, Superman was 30, the age of Christ when he began his ministry. This is just one of many parallels. For more, we can turn to Kozlovic’s (2002) exploration of Superman as Christ-Figure, in which Kozlovic outlines twenty Superman-Jesus parallels and eight Christic personality traits shared by Superman. More generally, Kozlovic (2004 and 2009) outlined 25 structural characteristics that all cinematic Christ-Figures share. Kozlovic (2009) points out, “not all of these elements must exist in the one character, or in the one film, or at any one time to qualify as a legitimate Christ-figure, but the more of them, the stronger the christic construction, the more profound their holy resonance and the better the sacred storytelling parallels” (p. 4).

    But, there may be a rhetorical danger in linking the modern hero to Christ too readily; as Walsh (2013) tells us, “Basting heroes with allusions to the Christ, then, is part of film’s deifications of the modern individual, and an interpretive focus on Christ figures runs the risk of turning from this modern context to ancient religious traditions too quickly” (p. 81). Larsen (2013) takes this one step further; he suggests that “the practice of identifying Christ figures almost always brings more to the movies at hand than it does to our understanding of Christ. It adds a religiosity and resonance (even if neither are intended), yet rarely informs our faith. As a theological exercise, Christ-figuring is a one-way street.” For students of film or communication in general, the search for the Christ-Figure then, in Larsen’s terms, would be useful. But, Larsen would certainly not recommend such a search for students of religion. Kozlovic (2002) counters, “Seeing biblical resonances in secular films may seem a theological heresy, but it is a legitimate activity.” Miles (2001) argues, “Contemporary movies can be seen as part of a long tradition in which images have been used to produce emotions, to strengthen attachment, and to encourage imitation. To neglect to analyze these images is to grant them an unexamined role in our attitudes, values, and relationships” (p. 70).

    Larsen (2013) may have a point when it comes to the big heroes of cinema like Superman, but not all cinematic Christ-Figures are big. Kozlovic (2004 and 2009) cites Selma Jezkova (Bj√∂rk) in Lars Von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark (2000), Bess McNeill (Emily Watson) in Von Trier’s Breaking the Waves (1996), Karl Childers (Billy Bob Thornton) in Thornton’s own Sling Blade (1996). None of these three is an over-the-top action hero like Superman (2013’s Henry Cavill or 1978’s Christopher Reeve). In fact, none of these is an obvious hero in our usual cinematic terms at all. Yet these sacrificial characters can be explained in christic terms. I would argue that despite Larsen’s complaints, the problem is not in simply identifying a character with Christ but in the message one takes away from that character. While 2013’s Man of Steel is a notably darker film than its 1978 predecessor, and some of its Christ imagery is so obvious as to seem trite, the character of Superman is still symbolic of hope, and not just because Man of Steel tells us that is what the “S” on his chest literally stands for.

    In examining the cinematic Christ-Figure, I would add another Christ-Figure to the already extensive list—Phil Connors (Bill Murray) in Harold Ramis’ Groundhog Day (1993) specifically because he is not a heroic character in any way until nearly the end of the film’s third act. Also, I would examine Phil Connors because he is far from our modern superhero, and thus bypasses (or perhaps spotlights) the complaints of Larsen (2013). Also, despite its simplistic structure, a mere romantic comedy with a science fiction twist, the film “has become a curious favorite of religious leaders of many faiths, who all see in “Groundhog Day” a reflection of their own spiritual messages” (Kuczynski, 2003). Obviously, there is a “theological dimension to Phil’s transformation” in Groundhog Day (Foley, 2004). However, I would argue that because Groundhog Day has been accepted by many as a film with a religious message that Phil Connors is worth exploring as a Christ-Figure to maybe add new criteria to the likes of Kozlovic’s (2002, 2004 and 2009) various lists. The Christ-Figure hero need not save the entire world, he needn’t demonstrate the difference between sacrifice and atonement (which Larsen (2013) might say is missing from Kozlovic’s lists), but he should inspire the audience to be better than they already are.

    Kozlovic (2005) suggests that “secular films can engage in religious storytelling without appearing ‘religious.’” Groundhog Day, which on its surface is not at all religious, fits this notion to a T. Walsh (2013) makes “a modest proposal” the exploration of Christ-Figures in film, specifically, that they “should recognize the syncretic, cinematic, and modern character of cinema heroes, respect the genre of the films under review, and seek to learn what ‘christ’ means in the films’ own intertextual play” (p. 97). “A modest Christ-figure analysis,” Walsh further suggests, “would assay a meaningful, interesting interpretation of the film in question” (p. 83). It is necessary that we keep looking for Christ-Figures, not simply because they exist but because, as a society we do not primarily get our informing images from the walls of churches as historical Christians did; we get them from the media culture in which we live” (Miles, 2001, p. 70). As I said above, the Christ-Figure can be simplistic shorthand but it can also link characters and audiences to long-standing religious—and cinematic—tradition. Miles (2001) continues: “Contemporary movies can be seen as part of a long tradition in which images have been used to produce emotion, to strengthen attachment, and to encourage imitation. To neglect to analyze these images is to grant them an unexamined role in our attitudes, values, and relationships” (ibid). Larsen (2013) suggests a danger in the “one-way street” of “Christ-figuring” but I would counter that the danger does not lie in reducing the biblical Christ by replacing him with a cinematic Christ-Figure but in taking nothing meaningful from either.

    [I will not be including the bibliography here as the formatting would be complicated. If you want to see all the sources, let me know. For now, I am off to the rental van, to Vegas, to Salt Lake City, and beyond… I guess.]

    Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to figure out how to get something closer to South Park’s “Shitter” app so I can blog straight from my brain while driving (or doing, well, anything at all).

    look out for your shadow there, pal

    Benesh (2011) makes the point (citing Dawson (2008) and Beebe (2008)) a few times that

    while the protagonist provides a focal point for audience identification... neither a critic nor social science researcher is advised to confuse such a figure with a real person, nor apply to such a figure methods of analysis better suited to such a person. Instead the case or psyche should be seen as the whole of the work, and often the protagonist is viewed as the work's ego-consciousness, which is not to be confused with the whole. (p. 115)

    Benesh gives this as the reason that she doesn't analyze the transformation of Phil Connors specifically (as I have done many a time now) but "the depiction of transformation." As to cautioning one not to confuse the protagonist with being a real person, I say, where's the fun in that? ...on the one hand. But, on the other hand, yes, sure, you should look at the whole text and not just one character... and, I think, you should also look at the character as an individual within that context and as a real person. I think it is necessary to explore a character in realistic terms. You cannot simply separate the character from reality just because they don't actually exist within it.

    That being said, I think that when Benesh deals with various characters as elements of the pysche, it is a useful way of looking at the film. Specifically, she suggests that "relative to Phil Connors, the male protagonist, the male characters represent archetypes of shadow, or disowned aspects of self; the female characters the anima, or contra sexual aspects of self" (p. 116). She lists Larry, Ned, Buster (again, mistakenly calling him Mayor), Ralph and Gus, "and notably the groundhog" as representing this archetype. I don't know enough Jungian psychology to get into this in too much detail. But, Benesh doesn't really get into it in any detail either. She instead moves on to exploring Rita in relation to "characteristics of an anima figure." I'm curious first about that shadow idea, though. Benesh mentions the obvious--that Groundhog Day (and Groundhog Day) has ties to a literal shadow.

    Anyway, Jung wrote (possibly in something called Aion though I found this bit in a scanned excerpt from Understanding Dreams, which might just be a collection of pieces and not a whole work by Jung):

    The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.

    That's a nice description of a great deal of what Phil experiences in Groundhog Day. However, I don't think any of the male characters Benesh lists (except maybe Gus) have any particular relation to Phil's Jungian shadow. I think, in this instance, it's actually more productive to look at Phil's shadow as something internal to Phil. His dark aspects don't come from any of these other males, but from himself. If anything, each of these males (again, except maybe Gus) provide opportunity for Phil to act kindly, positively, and not in line with his shadow. Benesh suggests,

    Male shadow characters... have a significant impact on Phil Connors. Even Ralph and Gus are the first to hypothesize that Phil Connors' bad attitude might be the source of his unhappiness (the glass half empty). Ned Ryerson sagely announces the importance of the first (incremental) step ("It's a doozy!"). The old man inspires Phil Connors' compassion, and, most subtly but arguably most significantly, Phil Connors' namesake Punxsutawney Phil provides a model of unrelenting humility and service (J. Beebe, personal communication, 2010). (Benesh, 2011, p. 118).

    Let's take those one at a time.

    Ralph has nothing whatsoever to do with expressing the hypothesis that Phil's a glass half empty kind of guy. That is Gus' observation, and I don't see how pointing out Phil's unhappiness makes Gus representative of his shadow; rather, Gus is, at best, pointing at Phil's shadow, not inhabiting it.

    Ned Ryerson's line about the first step is not sage advice.

    (Nor, I should say (because I've never fit it in an entry before), is Ned's line indicative of his having memorized every hole in town; there is no evidence that Ned knew Phil would step into that hole prior to it happening, regardless of user Maolsheachlann at Irish Papist liking "the idea of being so familiar with your home town that you know where the puddles are." The film does not support this notion.)

    Ned is taking a cheap shot at Phil for having stepped in the puddle, like the old (lame) classic, "have a nice trip?" asked after someone stumbles. Plus, like Gus, even if Benesh is right about Ned's line being a pointer toward Phil's "baby steps" toward change, that doesn't fit Ned as representative of the shadow either.

    Similarly, the old man, AKA O'Reilly, has nothing whatsoever to do with Phil's shadow. I'm actually a little offended, on O'Reilly's behalf, because he seems like a nice old guy. Phil's the jerk. O'Reilly is the guy (one of them, anyway) that Phil learns to care about once he's moved beyond the reach of his shadow.

    And, I don't even get that "unrelenting humility and service" line. I mean, a) those things don't come from the shadow, b) those things seem positive c) those things don't relate in my mind to Punxsutawney Phil d) at all.

    The one great point Benesh makes in relation to the male characters as shadow representations is to point out that by the end of the film, "Larry has assumed the position of pretransformation Phil Connors" (p. 118). That is to say that Larry, sitting at the bar hitting on Nancy, is much like Phil sitting at the same bar hitting on Rita or Phil Connoring Nancy out by the Gobbler's Knob gazebo. He's not as bad as Phil, but there's definitely some shared aspects there, and possibly deliberately, to contrast who Phil has become by then.

    Tomorrow (maybe): the female characters as anima.

    Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to figure out Jung, I suppose, then to classify everyone I know in Jungian terms as if I am merely the Ego (I know, mixing a bit of Freud in with Jung) in some film about my life.

    Tuesday, January 14, 2014

    well, you went to college, right?

    When I broke down the filmic (nee screenplay) structure of Groundhog Day over the course of three days (1 2 3), I outlined a couple versions of where the act breaks might be for the film. But, generally, speaking, Act One is about 35 minutes long, Act Two is 30 minutes, Act Three the other 33 minutes or so (then the credits). But, Benesh...

    And, that's going to be a thing for a while, isn't it? I'll start by nitpicking Benesh then maybe get off on a tangent of my own. There are things in Benesh that I like, of course. It's not all wrong. But, I figure the easiest way to be critical, when it will not be all at once, is to nitpick first, explore our agreements later. Or maybe I could try to alternate. Like the rest of the time with this blog, I am mostly making it up as I go. I've got plans for certain topics, or certain days, but often from day to day, I'm deciding on my topic as I sit down to watch the movie. When I read the rest of Benesh's dissertation a few days ago, I not only highlighted some lines here and there with a yellow highlighter and scribbled some notes in the margins here and there, I also put three different color post-it tabs along the right edge of the pages. Yellow tabs are just general markers to find certain topics within the 131 pages, pink tabs are stuff I intend to specifically address in the blog as soon as possible, and the purple ones... the purple ones link to a possible thesis topic that was running through my head that particular day. Honestly, the hard part will not be figuring out a particular topic related to Groundhog Day to write about for my thesis--I may be writing at least one more Groundhog Day-related paper this winter quarter in progress now, in fact--but how to justify using a 20-year-old film for the exploration. Interestingly, that is a detail Benesh lacks; she never quite explains why this film now. Maybe I'm overthinking it; maybe I don't have to justify it as long as it serves the purpose I put upon it for the thesis. However it goes, while this blog will end in August, I will still be exploring Groundhog Day many months beyond that as I get to work on my thesis. But, in the meantime, I'm picking apart Benesh's dissertation.

    Benesh sets up what she calls a pilot to her study of Groundhog Day, basically watching the opening sequence (Day 0 only) for images and symbols that resonated. Essentially, she then looked for those same images and symbols throughout the rest of the film. On the one hand, this is a nice approach. On the other hand, cutting herself off at 7 minutes (and 33 seconds to the alarm clock on Day 1, but I guess she's rounding it off). As I pointed out in the first part of my structural breakdown, according to Phil Dyer in his Doctor My Script blog, the first 10% of a screenplay should be setup, establishing "who the protagonist is, as well as who the other major characters are and what kind of environment the protagonist lives in." This is not, however, the first act of the film. This is just one sequence of the two that make up Act One according to The Script Lab. Separating off the "status quo" or "set up" piece of the film as the pilot is fine. That's not the problem. The problem is that Benesh (2011) refers to this section as "[t]he film's short first act, only 7 minutes in length" (p. 69). This sequence is not an entire act.

    What I wrote in the margin when I read this was the following:

    Plot point one is not the start of the time loop. The time loop is part and parcel of whole, just as the end of the loop is not plot point two.

    Plot point one is Phil's recognition and acceptance of his situation, act two his attempts to manipulate the situation to his own ends, culminating in his downfall (literally).

    Act three involves Phil projecting his urge to change both outward and more positively inward.

    I remember learning about plot points back in college the first time. We were discussing the film Some Like It Hot and people kept saying that plot point one (i.e. the transition point from the first act to the second) was when Joe and Jerry witness the massacre. But, the film is not about them hiding from the mob, per se. It is about them hiding from the mob by dressing up as women. So, I--brilliant as always--pointed out that plot point one was when they dress as women. The film is a comedy about gender... and I haven't seen the film since then so I couldn't actually tell you how much the film gets into its topic anymore, but I remember that structural thing. And, my teacher agreed with me. So, evidence presented--I know my plot points.

    Groundhog Day is not about Phil being stuck in a time loop, per se. It is about what he does in response to that. The time loop is, as I wrote in Benesh' margin, "part and parcel of the whole." The time loop is basically part of the status quo. The climax of the film may be (or may end, since the climax does not have to be embodied in a single instant) when we know the time loop has ended (a mere 4 minutes before the credits roll) but that doesn't mean the third act is 4 minutes long. The third act encompasses Phil's upward journey to a better version of himself...

    I'll lay it out plainly: Act One involves Phil getting into the situation and accepting it, Act Two involves Phil manipulating the time loop for what turns out to be bad, Act Three involves Phil managing to manipulate the time loop for good. None of these acts is defined or delineated by the beginning or end of the time loop itself. The time loop is part of the premise, the status quo in which the story happens.

    Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to take a piece like Benesh's and nitpick every single sentence. I mean there's got to be a better way to say, "Iterative viewings and reflections culminated in my selecting symbolic images for description, analysis, and interpretation of transformation" (p. 69), for example.