Monday, June 30, 2014

because i'm egocentric

A couple brief updates:

I’ve been working on putting together a party for Day 365, an outdoor screening that may mix together three different pools of people I know—grad school folk, speech team folk, and relatives. Should be interesting.

My Woodstock Willie cookie from Jaci’s Cookies—my prize for getting the opening question right in the trivia contest back at the Official Groundhog Day Breakfast in Woodstock, February 2nd—has been eaten, so it no longer sits on either of my Groundhog Day shelves. I suppose it wasn’t made to last forever, and get moved around occasionally. Parts of the icing started falling off. Two days ago, I opened the plastic to try to re-place them, and inadvertently made it much worse. So, then I bit the bullet (figuratively) and bit the cookie (literally), then broke off pieces for my kids, and in no time the cookie was gone. Flavor-wise, it held up well nearly five months after being made.

I recently acquired a LEGO tree stump, so my second LEGO project for the summer break may just be a Gobbler’s Knob model with crowd.

(My first LEGO project for the summer break, much of the work for which was actually completed before the spring quarter finished, involves David Lynch’s Rabbits, and that is all I will say about that one for now.)

My kids and I have been playing a lot of new tabletop games lately and today I had some ideas for a Groundhog Day game. Currently, it involves a board, a deck of cards, and possibly some dice. Still working out the details, then I shall probably have to share.

In other news, I would like to admit that I am probably as egocentric as Phil Connors. Actually, scratch that “probably.” If you need evidence, look no further than this blog. I established way back on Day 52 that this blog is an exploration of my self as much as it is an exploration of the movie Groundhog Day; I haven’t only been placing Groundhog Day in time and space, exploring all of its themes and details from as many angles as I can come up with, I have also been placing myself in time and space, exploring different sides of myself, different angles on my life. The prospectus I put together in the spring quarter for a possible thesis topic toward my Master’s degree next year was even all about how producing this blog has… let me doublecheck some phrasing. My specific research question is this:

How does the act of blogging through a life crisis contribute to personal sensemaking and the socioemotional re-creation of one’s place in the world?

In context, the life crisis (or possibly I may end up using Weick’s notion of the interruption when I rewrite this prospectus in the fall) is pending divorce; particularly, if you’ve been following this blog all along, you would know that when I began it I was living alone, seeing my kids occasionally, spending a lot of time by myself, and keeping myself busy helped keep me sane. Figuratively speaking, of course; I would not suggest that my sanity was necessarily on the verge of being lost, but depression was a possibility, I suppose. This blog was and has been a way for me to segment my day, order my life and collect my thoughts on many a subject over the past 11 months. And, I like it.

That last detail is the one I want to stress today. Because this blog gets linked through Twitter (twice), Facebook (also twice), Google + and Flipboard and the Blogger page views do not often seem to match when comparing individual page’s views and the changes in total counts, I cannot be sure just how many people necessarily read this blog from day to day. I know it’s not as many as I would like, so far. But, it is nice to just have any audience, really. I like the attention. As I said above, I am egocentric, just like Phil Connors. He is just a bit more smooth and charming than I am. But, while he may seem to have his life together pre-loop, one of the points to the story of Groundhog Day, obviously, is that he doesn’t have his life together at all. He has been clambering to create a life he doesn’t even really want; he just thinks he should want it. I’ve been there. I went to college right out of high school because I was expected to and thought I should. As it turned out, I was not prepared for college back then. I’ve excelled at it since returning to college far more recently, but that was after many years of dead end or temp jobs and a lot of aimlessness. Give me the precise, repetitive details of a time loop and I think I could do well, at least for a while, because there is no particular sense of a future. When I saw a psychiatrist regularly after my wife and I first separated, one of the things discussed in those sessions was how I grew up without a particular sense that I’d even have a future—grow up in a Christian church that stresses end-of-the-world prophecy at the tail-end of the Cold War, and you are bound to have some problem or another; mine was that I had to learn as an adult (and I’m still not entirely sure that I have managed it) to really plan ahead for the future. I moved across the country to be with a girl, I let another girl move across the country to be with me. And, I never really had a sense beyond the now. Like pre- and early-loop Phil…

I’ve made the distinction before between Phil’s sense of living in the moment pre-loop and Phil’s sense of living in the moment post-loop. The former is ill-prepared and unfulfilling, the latter is thoughtfully-conceived and productive. I’ve wondering more than once if my starting this very blog was not exactly the former—as Dennis Hopper says in Speed, “the whim of a madman.” I truly don’t know if 11 months ago I imagined that I would be where I am right now, that this blog would consistently be as wordy and serious as tends to be, and my life would feel like it was going pretty much as it should be going. I think I just needed something new to latch onto.

But, like Phil learned a different way to deal with now, I have learned a different way to deal with this blog, with my day-to-day existence, with my self.

I am egocentric because I have to be to be sure I have a handle on my life. There have been far too many days in my life in which everything seemed so very much out of my control, and that is a distressing way to live. Today, it all seems very much under control. I accept that there are forces outside of myself that can affect the way my life goes day-to-day, but I also accept that I am fully equipped to deal with them. A year ago, I am not sure I could say the same.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to stretch the muscles that produce those madman whims, to do all of the craziest things I can imagine doing, and then do them all again just for good measure.

you think i'm acting like this...

Before I get into Tru Calling, I must wonder aloud--or whatever the onscreen text version of aloud is--have I shared Noel Taylor's (1993, February 12) review of Groundhog Day? Back in '93, Taylor wrote a review for the Ottawa Citizen and, well, he didn't really like the movie. Probably because he's a Canadian fool, but I can't be sure; I don't know the guy. Anyway, the title of his review is "Even Bill Murray can't save repetitive comedy." And, he says, somewhat accurately, "Murray being nice is less fun than Murray being insufferable," and less rightly, "He does his best, but Groundhog Day is one of those comedy routines Murray should have been glad to escape from."

Counter that with Bill Provick (1993, September 3), also at the Ottawa Citizen: "If only Bill Murray could be this funny all the time. Perhaps he should always co-star with a groundhog. He was hilarious as in Caddyshack as the crazed groundskeeper stalking a relentless rodent [not a groundhog, I would point out] and he's quite amusing her as a smartass weatherman trapped in small-town Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, on Groundhog Day." Provick calls it a "tailor-made role." I kinda hope Provick and Taylor fought about it, except that fight would have been Canadian and far too polite.

Speaking of Canadian reviews of Groundhog Day, Peter Birnie (1993, February 12) at the Vancouver Sun has a nice, wholesome turn of phrase in his review; "Holy Gophers," he writes, "I can't believe I'm using these words to describe a Bill Murray movie: Heartwarming. Charming. Delightful. Complicated." Bill Brownstein (1993, February 13) at the (Montreal) Gazette says Groundhog Day "will remedy many of your winter woes. The tonic? A ton of chuckles."

"A ton of chuckles?" Who talks like that?

And, I'm stuck on old reviews today, because I'm going through my folder of unread Groundhog Day articles. I've watched the film already today. Tru Calling plays on the TV.

"Murray hasn't made a comedy this winningly dumb and smart and - yes - sweet in a long time," Steven Rea (1993, February 12) at the Philadelphia Inquirer said. "If, indeed, he ever has." Rea does point out a couple faults in the film, though. "There are times," he writes, "when you wish that [Harold Ramis] had pushed the material just a little further and worked just a little harder. And the ending has a sort of Hollywood tidiness to it that is disappointing in light of some of the inspired business that has come before." Amusingly," Rea follows that up with this parenthetical: "(OK, I don't know how I would have ended it; maybe the letdown is unavoidable.)"

Meanwhile, by the way, Jason Priestley's Jack is delightfully pushy as a character so far in Tru Calling. Not just this episode ("Rear Window") but the few he's been in so far. He's obviously making moves, quite deliberately, into Tru's turf, but it all plays just innocently enough that he'd seem like a potential love interest if the show were not also insisting on keeping Luc around.

And finally, at the end of this episode, Davis and Tru learn that Jack may be repeating days; he was hospitalized for believing as much.

New episode: "D.O.A." Lindsay's new (old) guy proposed between the last episode and this one, even though it is logically the very next day--or Tru and Davis are very slow in processing new information. She did know the guy previously (dated him while studying abroad), but they only got back together... I was going to say "yesterday" but Tru just said it has been a week that they've been dating this time.

An interesting note I didn't expect: in an interview with Psychology Today (1996, July/August), Harold Ramis actually said of Rubin's script for Groundhog Day, "what it lacked was comedy." "I rolled up my sleeves and made it funny," he says. A little full of himself, I think. Not entirely off the mark, but still.

Tru told Jack what she does. The Tru/Luc (Truc?) shippers must have cursed at the screen when this episode aired originally.

It occurs to me that I said I wasn't going to go episode by episode on Tru Calling, but what the hell?

(I've got a few time loop movies still to watch for this blog as well.)

Jack reveals he's acting in favor of people dying. He's the Evil Rewinder.

Jack: Tru, think a minute. Nadine Casola is supposed to die. Why should you change that?

Tru: Because someone asked me to. Because l can.

Jack: That's not good enough. You have no idea what you're doing. lf you save someone who shouldn't be here, there are consequences.

Tru: Do you think l'm messing up some grand plan? Maybe l am the plan! lf someone needs my help, l am not gonna stand by and watch.

Jack: And I'm not gonna stop you... this time.

He lets her act, but now she and Davis (who figured it out on his own) know Jack's working against them.

Episode also gets Tru and Luc back together just before it ends. I have a few vague bits of info about this show, and I know Luc's going to die. I now assume he's dying in the next episode. Get them back together then rip them apart. That's drama.

Season finale time: "Two Weddings and a Funeral."

Episode starts with Tru and Davis arriving at Jack's apartment, mostly empty. He's gone because they were "on to him." Except, well, keep reading.

Episode establishes that a) Lindsay is already getting married and b) it has been less than a month since she and Harrison broke up. My problem here is not with Lindsay being too quick in her relationships--that's her prerogative--but Tru and Davis spent a week worrying about Luc's possible rewinding and have now spent another 2-3 weeks doing... well, nothing about Jack being the bad guy. And they knew where he lived but were only "on to him" after those same weeks? Well, Tru apparently told Harrison about Jack between episodes, so I guess she did the least she could do. Actually, there's another problem--Jack's conversation with Harrison plays like there should have been a few episodes in the meantime, building up Jack as the bad guy...

Jack: Look, l know Tru wants you to think l'm the enemy. l'm not. Your sister and l just see things differently, that's all.

Harrison: Right. She saves people and you kill them.

Jack: l'm not a killer. Straight up. When a bullet gets shot into a man's chest l don't pull the trigger. When a drunk driver takes out a family of four, l'm not behind the wheel.

Harrison: But when those people ask for my sister's help you're not exactly lending a hand now, are you?

Jack: Death can be tragic. Death can be unfair. But as much as we may all hate to admit it death is inevitable. l'm merely helping fate get what it wants.

Harrison: And you're telling me this because?

Jack: Because she listens to you. And you love her. And l know that you will find a way to make her stop. Stop saving the lives of people who are supposed to die. Stop messing with fate. And stop screwing with the order of the universe.

Harrison's line after he dies--to jump ahead a bit--fits with there being a bunch of other episodes building up Jack as the bad guy; Harrison says, "You can't let him win."

Amusingly, Harrison is excited about being the one whose death triggered this resumption.

I imagine Jack's rewinds make no sense without Tru, yet he was doing it before she was. He relives a day to do what? To make sure it happens how it already did. Boring.

Jack insists that if Tru saves Harrison, someone else will die in his place. Jack's knowledge seems to come form nowhere. I don't like that. He's not Tru's opposite if he's got a preternatural source for his information.

Tru tells Luc what she does. He leaves. Tru has to go save her brother rather than chase after Luc.

Jack sets Luc up to get killed.

His insistence that someone else would die instead of Harrison--Jack argued that as if the universe would correct itself, but he specifically manipulated things. I can't decide if Jack is a liar or a crazy person. Maybe he's both.

Another narrative issue--aside from Jack's motivations being a little weird--is that Luc never actually got to believe Tru's story before he was killed, so they were actually barely back together when he died, so aside from some serious Truc(k)ers, dramatically speaking, Luc's death doesn't seem all that important. He averaged one scene per episode the last few episodes, then it was like he was about to become important again but never did.

The final twist kinda makes up for a lot of the weaknesses here, though. Jack is working with Tru's father who was the Evil Leaper to Tru's mom's Sam Beckett. Nice touch.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to find my Evil Leaper (or Evil Looper, I guess) and, you know, hang out.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

the ticket for you

Two things to talk about today: 1) Paul Hannam's (2008) The Magic of Groundhog Day and 2) a few more episodes of Tru Calling.

For the record, I have not finished reading Hannam's book. And, I might not do so. Mostly because, somewhat appropriately, the book is fairly repetitive. Hannam made his point early on, and then he's repeated that same point in slightly different ways a few chapters since. I may sample a bit here and there in the later chapters, see if he takes it anywhere interesting. But, I've got other books I need to be reading on this summer break. How about some highlights?

In the meantime, Tru Calling's "The Getaway" is messing with time again... in the annoying way, I mean. New guy--Jason Priestly's guy whose name I haven't noticed yet for some reason--is just starting work, which would be how long after his interview in the previous episode? This is television so no interview process takes more than a week, I'm sure. But, Tru and Luc run into one another and it's all, "How have you been?" like they haven't seen each other in a long time.

Hannam defines "The Groundhog Day Effect" as "the daily grind of endlessly repetitive tasks, mind-numbing encounters with the same people, and meaningless activities and conversations. This effect keeps us feeling stuck and powerless to change" (p. xix) He later describes how, "We can unintentionally become trapped by our own imaginary boundaries, which include our beliefs, thoughts, and behaviors. We build our own prisons to protect ourselves from dealing with our fears and anxieties" (p. 14).

Reporter lady from two episodes ago says Tru has been dodging her calls for like a month now. I guess it's officially been "like a month" since two episodes ago.

Hannam further explains:

The Groundhog Day Effect is largely caused by our unique set of behavioral and thoughts patterns, which create our personal reality. We do not directly experience the world around us; we experience a personal reality through our senses. Personal reality is a reflection of reality, not reality itself. So, in effect, there are two realities. The reality of what is, the real world, and the world as we see it, our personal reality. (p. xxii)

Recall Benesh's (2011) suggestion that, watching Groundhog Day (or any film, for that matter),

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. (p. 8)

Hannam suggests that people seeing the movie "[apply] the concepts from Groundhog Day to their own lives and disciplines, everyone seeing themselves in the movie and the movie in themselves" (p. xi). The movie becomes part of life and, if we take it to heart, it lifts us away from Hannam's Groundhog Day Effect, because without the right mindset to break our patterns and habits, "our personal reality can create the same day again and again in our inner lives" (p. xxii).

I called it--that the diner robbery was fake, but I figured the reporter was involved; even though it cost her her life, she might have taken things that far to prove she was right about Tru... except I'm not sure she really knows what's going on, just that something is going on. And, now Jack (new guy does have a name) has made sure the reporter will be at the diner again in time to get killed. I wonder how subtle the show will be about his role, or how soon Tru or someone else will figure out he's deliberately acting against Tru's interests. This instance, if I didn't remember that he's a bad guy, almost plays innocently.

Hannam's take on Phil Connors is nice. He says, "Phil represents the contradictions at the heart of human nature" (p. xxiv). Phil is "no saint or hero with great spiritual wisdom. He is an ordinary man searching to make the best of what at first seems like a very bad deal" (p. xxv). Hannam describes his own business career, always going after something new--"the buzz gave me a huge rush of adrenaline," he says. "By constantly moving, I could avoid dealing with the deeper patterns" (p. 9). Sounds a lot like Phil Connors, pre-loop...

Another Tru Calling - "Two Pair." Different set-up, body talks and Tru doesn't immediately loop back. I am intrigued.

...Phil in Pittsburgh is a guy we can assume doesn't really know what he wants but as long as he's always finding something new, he can pretend that all is well. New women, new personal jabs at his associates, he probably even lives to find new ways to torture his assistant Kenny each and every day. And, that network job--when he gets it, he's just going to want something more. Now is never good enough for him because he has "developed a perspective of the world that denies him happiness and fulfillment" (Hannam, 2008, p. 17).

Hannam steps on the toes of a couple of my Groundhog Day-related papers of the past year when he says, "We use our memories, attitudes, values, and other preferences to make sense of our experience" (p. 22). My confirmation bias paper was--while deliberately incomplete because it was a prospectus for a possible study--all about how our "memories, attitudes, values and other preferences" influence the way we interpret new experiences; in particular, I was suggesting a study of how religious audiences view Groundhog Day. As for making sense, my more recent prospectus deals with the process of sensemaking, not within Groundhog Day but without; my own sensemaking that comes from producing this blog over the past year, what it has done for me, personally.

A future quotation, perhaps, for me if I get to write that thesis on sensemaking: Hannam (2008) refers to being free from the Groundhog Day Effect--

You become more self-aware. You see that you are more than your personal reality, more than your thoughts, more than your beliefs, more than your emotions, more than your possessions and achievements. You are much more than the sun of these parts to which you become so attached.

--and I'd like to think that much of this passage fits with my altered sense of me and my place in the world since starting this blog. I am even more self-aware than before. My personal reality--between grad school and the speech team and this blog, there are links outward all over the place. In a short story of mine called "Hindsight" the main character discovers these invisible tendrils that link people together and flow forward and backward in time--picture the way Donnie sees the flow of time in Donnie Darko--and I imagine my network of tendrils has expanded a whole lot in the last few years, since returning to college, since moving on to grad school. And, with the blog, I've made connections with a few people I never would have even met under other circumstances.

Am I completely free of my own Groundhog Day Effect? No, not totally. But, I'm working on it.

Another Tru Calling episode--"Death Becomes Her"--plays on the TV as I end today's blog entry. Tru just said "Oh boy" a la Quantum Leap's Sam Beckett as the resumption got going. I watched Groundhog Day earlier today. I will watch it again tomorrow, and the next day and the next. Not much longer.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to memorize every instant, every subtle nuance of people and events... but not to manipulate them, just to know and appreciate them.

we could do it again sometime

Watching another episode of Tru Calling (episode 12 - "Valentine") and it's shaping up to be the most like Groundhog Day yet; a blocked road, an isolated location (even no cell service--which was not an issue for Phil in the movie but was an issue in Ramis' drafts; Phil drove up in his own car and had a car phone which cuts out at one point.). But, it's Tru Calling so there's a murder.

(For the record, I called which guest star was the murderer, but then he showed up dead... but with what looked like scratches on his neck like maybe he tried to kill again and got scratched. I'm not ruling out the possibility that I am wrong.)

Something occurred to me while watching Groundhog Day today. Ned is not interested in getting reacquainted with Phil. At least not in the film version. In Ramis' drafts, Ned is excited just to be recognized by Phil. But, in the final product, Ned is just trying to take advantage of their past relationship to make a sale. Consider the way the conversation goes:

Ned: No, I sell insurance.

Phil: What a shock.

Ned: Do you have life insurance? Cause, if you do, you could always use a little more. Am I right or am I right or am I right? Right? Right? Right?

Phil: Ned, I would love to stand here and talk with you, but I’m not going to. See you.

Ned: Hey, that’s all right. I’ll walk with you. You know, whenever I see an opportunity now, I charge it like a bull. Ned the Bull, that’s me now. You know, I’ve got friends of mine who live and die by the actuarial tables. And, I say, hey, it’s all one big crapshoot anyhoo. Tell me, have you ever heard of single premium life? Because, I think that really could be the ticket for you. God! It is so good to see you! What are you doing for dinner?

Well, maybe there's a little bit of trying to reconnect personally there at the end. Or maybe dinner is just how Ned finalizes all his sales. Make a personal connection to the customer and they will be more likely to buy.

(And, I was right about the murderer.)

So, Luc doesn't like that Tru keeps stuff from him. And, he just has some awesomely on-the-nose dialogue:

Because we’re going in circles here Tru, we’re running into the same problem over and over again, I just… I just don’t think one more chance is gonna change that.

Tru should just tell him what's going on already.

Another episode - "Drop Dead Gorgeous."

A third of the way in and this one doesn't have much worth commenting on. Tru's up against a hell-god, which doesn't bode well.

I watched Groundhog Day a few hours ago today, by the way. That's when I was thinking about Ned's approach to selling insurance. On the one hand, I totally think he's just looking for the sale. On the other hand, unlike a lot of people watching Groundhog Day, I don't find Ned objectionable just because he's an insurance salesman. Hell, I almost took a job in insurance sales a couple years back.

Minor note: reporter just said to Davis: "You must be a very strong person." You know, the same thing Phil says to Rita on date night.

Another episode - "Daddy's Girl." Opening credits give away the introduction of what I know is a major character, even though I never really watched this show when I was on--Jason Priestly is listed an I know he plays the "Evil Leaper" to Tru's Samuel Beckett.

A lot of dealing with Tru's mother's death in this one.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to be my own evil leaper, and then me and I can hang out and play some games....wait, time loop not alternate realities. Sorry for the mixup.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 i have to sit here?

I rethink things. Too much sometimes. For example, I had intended to revisit the TV Time Loop episodes I'd watched before (here, here and here) for this blog when summer break came. Watched two off the top of the randomized list yesterday and then looked back at the previous entry that included those two and I'm not sure I really added anything especially notable in the more recent discussion. Rethinking my actions, or worse yet, overthinking actions before I've even committed to them--this has been a problem of mine for a while.

Today we--the speech team--had our first of four planned summer practices. One of the team-building exercises we did involved "fear rocks." Basic idea, at the beginning of practice everyone got a rock--mine was particularly big and kinda wedge shaped, the kind of thing that would cause blunt force trauma a bit too well if it came to that. On that rock, we each wrote a fear we had regarding the upcoming year in forensics. Then, we had to keep that rock with us the rest of the practice--about four hours. Weren't even supposed to set it down, though you could put it in a pocket (mine would not fit in a pocket). At the end of the day, we gathered to discuss not our own fears but someone else's rock selected out of a pile. And, we left the rocks behind when we left for the day. It's a simplistic symbolic exercise, but it works almost because it's so metaphorically on-the-nose.

For me, there was a weird extra element...

First--and this is going to relate to Groundhog Day, just for the record--you should know that what I wrote on my rock was standing back like last year. This past year was my first official year as a coach and I had a tendency to do just that, to stand back when I should have been stepping forward. I was in charge of oral interpretation but even on the oral interpretation days in class, when Sean--another coach--might start talking about something related to speeches people were working on, or would start explaining something or other about oral interpretation, I would let him take over. It's a common thing for me. I've always got something to say, and as a teacher and a coach this past year, I've always had advice for my students, but if someone else stepped up, I got out of the way.

Stepping back to let life go on around me has been my modus operandi for my entire adult life and before. And--here comes the Groundhog Day link--unlike Phil Connors, I didn't substitute shallow womanizing and... hm, I almost said that I didn't shield myself with sarcasm and casual insults and a sardonic wit, but that's been my thing for as long as I can recall having a thing. Phil's a special case... or I'm a special case. Right now, I'm not actually sure. I'm also not actually sure I'm the same case I used to be. Phil, special case that he might be, pre-loop, sought out meaningless connections with the women around his office, and probably women he met at bars or wherever (I don't get the impression that picking up someone like Nancy Taylor is a new thing, only the specific methodology utilized) because he cannot manage real, meaningful connections with people, women especially. He could probably use a therapist regularly, not just that one time during the time loop.

I saw one regularly after my wife and I first separated, and since I have the tendency to overthink things, figuring out my problems was not the hard part--I'd mostly figured out the origins of my issues on my own (confirmed by the psychiatrist)--rather figuring out ways to deal with them and get on with my life was the hard part. I don't let things go easily, probably because I spend so much time with everything in my head. For me, sometimes it seems like every little thing is a fixture that will be hard to lose. It's not a time loop that would scare me or disrupt my life; it's the end of that time loop, the return to the possibility of new things.

I wrote a while back about a fellow grad student I was interested in. I overthought the possibilities and the approach and by the time I finally let her know of my interest it was too late; she was seeing someone else. Opportunity lost. Story of my life for the most part.

Anyway, the weird extra element, as I put it above, was this: when someone else had my rock and Geof, the head coach, suggested we just leave the rocks behind and go home, my impulse was to retrieve my rock and take it with me. A silly little metaphor and I'd grown attached.

Picture me shaking my head, disappointed in my self of a little more than six hours ago. The thing is, I'm not particularly disappointed in myself of late. Even that weird moment today when I wanted to take my rock with me--hell, even now writing about it, which means I'm overthinking it all once again--this doesn't disappoint me, per se.

It doesn't disappoint me, present tense, because I think I've got a better handle on my life today than I've had in a long time. Like when I saw that psychiatrist a couple years back, I know what my problems are. I also have figured out ways to deal with most of them. On an ongoing basis, I mean. Some of my problems, I think, are embedded so well in the foundation of my being that there is no way to get rid of them. I acknowledge and I work around. And, life goes on. Day in, day out. The time loop of reality.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to have nothing to fear... except then I wouldn't be human anymore, and where's the fun in that?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

how much longer...

Seven Days - “Come Again” ...again. I’ve been wanting to revisit some of the time loops of old.

“See you yesterday, Mr. Parker.” That would make a good title.

“Research show that people from small towns are much more likely to lead happy, productive lives.” Olga tells Parker this because he isn’t impressed by the old diner they go to. I note it because, hey, obvious, it’s the kind of thing Phil Connors might point out after his time in Punxsutawney. But, I also noticed—since I’m focusing on this episode right now—they weren’t in a small town, per se, but at a roadside diner.

First backstep, Parker is already manipulating time to go after the girl (Olga). By the second go round (the time loop in effect), he’s given up on that already.

In case you don’t know this series, Seven Days involves regular time travel. Parker pilots a machine that backsteps up to seven days to save some life or lives, or keep some horrible thing from happening. In this episode, a Dr. Axelrad has important news—Mentnor (one of Parker’s bosses) thinks the news has to do with Cold Fusion so after Axelrad dies en route, a backstep is authorized to save him.

Axelrad dies again, and second time through (for Parker), we learn Axelrad’s news is that he’s getting married. Guy who’s been following Axelrad and now pulls a shotgun on him is Axelrad’s fiancĂ© Elise’s ex Jack (who happens to be a boxer, so when Parker fights him it isn’t so easy).

Third time through, Parker’s mood is bad. He pulls a gun on Axelrad to keep him from eating his shrimp salad sandwich (from which he got food poisoning the first day). Interesting coincidence, on “The Longest Day” episode of Tru Calling, Davis’ sandwich that gave him food poisoning was also shrimp salad.

Though Axelrad’s “news” is no longer worth the authorization of a backstep, Parker’s stuck in the loop so he goes ahead and helps Axelrad get to his fiancĂ© again.

This time, Parker shoots Jack but Jack shoots Olga (who finally was won over by Parker’s behavior). Parker calls Ballard (scientist guy at the backstep facility) to get him not to fix the time loop, so these event don’t happen.

Next go round is mostly a montage—Parker’s already Phil Connoring his way through the loop. And he ends up mostly avoiding talking to Olga after the loop is over, because anything he says, according to him would be him taking advantage of his special knowledge. He’s damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.

Fringe - “And Those We’ve Left Behind” ...again.

(And, I realize these two episodes were both covered on the same TV Time Loop Day before, but my order for the second run through was randomized online, so let’s blame the internet.)

This show had so many ongoing story threads, I gotta play catch up as the episode gets going. Seven Days is much more episodic, each to just jump in for one episode. Peter has recently come back, and they think some recent time distortions relate to his arrival. SPOILER ALERT—they don’t.

Great “strange events of deja vu”—and Peter asks if the witnesses experience of a “time loop” was “like Groundhog Day“—as a building apparently goes back in time, suddenly being a burnt out version of itself, a child temporarily becoming a much younger version of herself (according to dialogue, from being 5 to being an infant) as well.

Second “time displacement” makes for a nice (but a little cheesy) visual, also, a train flashes into and out of existence right in front of a car. Turns out to be a 4-year jump like the building.

I almost forgot about the little time jumps Peter experiences himself in this episode.

Sixteen minutes in and we meet the couple at the heart of this story—Raymond (Stephen Root) and Kate (Romy Rosemont). The time displacements are like bubble echoing out from these two. SPOILERS AHEAD. Four years ago, Kate was a professor of theoretical physics, Raymond an electrical engineer. Today, she doesn’t even recognize Raymond. And, I know this is going to end sadly. The end of this episode is one of the saddest things I’ve seen on TV, actually.

His window the second time we see it seems to be about 47 minutes. He’s jumping the house back in time to spend less than an hour with his wife when she was still mentally there.

Raymond used Kate’s work to create a “time chamber.” He shows it to her because he needs a completed equation to keep the chamber open longer than 47 minutes.

Kate has actually solved the equation, but hasn’t written it down, she tells Raymond. Meanwhile, this iteration of the time chamber is echoing in a underwater tunnel that didn’t exist four years ago. Kate understood this was a possible repercussion of her work—time displacement.

Raymond: I can’t go on without you. I don’t want this for us. Kate, when you got sick, it happened so fast. And all the things that you were for me and all the things that you did for me... I didn’t have a chance to be that for you. I thought we’d have more time.

Kate: This isn’t living, Raymond. Living is what’s beyond this room, beyond this house, out there in the world where you’re supposed to be.

Raymond: Then if not this, how? How do I repay you? I mean, what... what better thing can I do for you than this? You say that you shouldn’t change fate, but you don’t know. You don’t know what’s waiting for you, how terrible it is. Sweetheart, I’ll never give up, Kate. Never. I’ll build it again. I can do it again. We have your completed equation... you did it. Look, all you have to do is write it in that book. I’m not going to give up. I’m not going to give up, Kate.

Kate: We would have to move to... to another place.

Raymond: Yes. Far away, yes. And I’m sure you’ll find a way so that people won’t get hurt. Let ‘em have their investigation. Let ‘em take away all the equipment, ask their questions. I’ll build it again. I’ll build it again.

In the present, they take away his equipment after the machine is turned off. Raymond looks in the book and sees what Kate wrote:

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to never obsess about the past, to just live life in the present, going into the future.

Monday, June 23, 2014

you gotta check your mirrors

Watching Tru Calling again, and Luc and Tru have known each other for more than a month now according to dialogue but Tru's brother and Tru's best friend only got together like once according to dialogue, even though those things happened a day apart if anyone would bother with actual continuity. Groundhog Day doesn't have this problem, but imagine a Groundhog Day TV series... like Day Break minus the cops and criminals or Tru Calling minus the talking dead people. It would end up having a whole lot of continuity problems. Unless they had an entire crew of writers and producers responsible for nothing but continuity.

Continuity is good. Groundhog Day doesn't have much in the way of continuity errors. The Phil Sign Girl's disappearing friend is the big one.

That the DJ banter and the street scene outside don't have quite the same timing from Day 1 to Day 2 would be a little one.

(I've gone over errors before, so let's not linger.)

Continuity got me to thinking about Carl Rogers' phenomenonal field--I just wrote about it on one of my final exams, so it's still in my head. Basically, one element of it is the idea of congruence, consistency between who you are and what you do, an internal/external thing. Continuity.

Incongruence causes stress. Consider the following: Phil Connors is not a bad guy. But he acts like one because he doesn't know any better. That's incongruence, and because of it, he isn't happy. Congruence, for Rogers, leads to growth. And, that is Groundhog Day in a nutshell, then, if we assume Phil was at heart a good guy from the start.

Ugh, and Harrison, Tru's brother, just said something happened "the other day." I hate both him and the writer of this episode now. And dialogue later specifically establishes that Harrison was referring to yesterday. Which means Tru's had two loop days in a row, even though the show insists they come maybe once a week. For a whole long bit about "the other day" read Day 47 - we can see each other tomorrow.

And, I want to talk about personal continuity--congruence--but I also don't. I'm doing my best to be on the outside more of who I think I am on the inside, which is better than I used to be, on the outside. Lately, I think I'm even doing a pretty good job of it. So, I'm finding myself with less to say than expected.

And, that's a good thing.

So, a fourth episode of Tru Calling for today...

It's a High School Reunion episode--do people have 5-year reunions? Reunion makes me think of the time loop Charmed episode "Deja Vu All Over Again." Tru may be heading to the dry cleaners to get some pants, which makes me think of the Oscar-nominated short, Time Freak. And, it occurs to me that a) one show like this can take me back to entires I've written, other shows or movies I've seen, things that have happened in, you know, the real world, and b) I rather like that this blog lately involves a lot of links backward into itself. It's like the blog itself is becoming a giant loop, or loops within loops.

A third of the way into the episode, the death and resumption has just happened. And, my daughter Saer and I have solved the "case" for this one. We should totally be TV detectives.

And another Tru Calling. "The Longest Day." Judging by the shot just--already on the resumption--of a guy missing when he tries to throw away a cigarette pack--a fairly obvious loop marker--this day is going to repeat again. That would fit the title.

Only 12 minutes in and a different guy is dying this time. And, another resumption.

Suddenly, everyone--Tru, Harrison, Davis--call it a "rewind day." It's an ok name, but if you want to add new lingo to the show, have one character do it first, let it catch on. You could even manage it in just one episode, but do it more organically than this.

A different death, a third resumption. Welcome to the Phil Connors Club, Tru.

A conversation about fate:

Tru: l mean, what if this day never stops repeating? lf every day l wake up and make the same lame excuse to Luc and call my brother in a vain attempt to keep him out of trouble and then my neighbor with his lousy song? l can't keep doing this.

Davis: Maybe your job isn't as obvious as we thought.

Tru: What do you mean?

Davis: Perhaps someone is supposed to die today and stay that way.

Tru: l can't deal with this. l am not in the business of deciding who is or isn't supposed to die.

Davis: How do you know?

Tru: Don't say that. You know what everyone else my age is deciding right now? Grad school, or get a job? Order in, or go out? Do l really need a phone that takes little pictures?

Davis: People say things happen for a reason. That reason is fate. Fate, by definition, is immutable. Maybe you're here to make sure that--

Tru: Fate gets its way? How do l know what it wants?

Davis: lt'll tell you, eventually.

Tru: And until then?

Davis: You've got to trust your instincts.

The big difference between Phil and Tru--aside from the nature of the time loop--is that Tru didn't start out as a "bad person"--unless med students are bad people.

Another death, another day.

The good thing about more repetition is, aside from, say The Butterfly Effect, repeating more than once it's just hard for the details to be all bleak. This episode has better funny bits than all the previous ones, I think.

It's too bad the writer of this episode wasn't a bigger fan of Groundhog Day; the guy's bank balance could've been negative $339.88 instead of negative $432.18.

And we end with an interaction Phil might have had, had he known Davis:

Tru: l should've been able to save them both.

Davis: You can change events, but you can't change fate, Tru.

Tru: l can do things that probably no one else can. Sometimes even that doesn't feel like enough.

Davis: Sometimes it isn't.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to solve more murder mysteries...

...and I suppose my daughter could be my partner.

okay, that's enough

I used to try to stay up all night sometimes. I thought if I could stay conscious I could figure out what was going on, or at least hang onto something from the day before. But I gave up on that a long time ago. (Ramis, 1992, January 30, p. 98)

Oh, and let's subtitles this, there's no way these notes on Ramis' third revision of the screenplay for Groundhog Day... is ever going to end, as long as I nitpick the details.

(But, what the hell? Details be damned.)

Phil has managed to get good at not only pool and bowling, but also juggling and hacky sack, and he can ride a unicycle (p. 99).

There's an extra detail to the moment at the end of "god day" in which Rita inspires Phil. Phil concedes that he isn't a jerk and adds, "It really doesn't make a lot of difference. I've killed myself so many times, I don't even exist anymore. I'm just completely empty."

"Or completely clean," Rita replies.

"If you're going to be this positive all the time I may have to rough you up a little." Phil's got a nice way of being both playful and slightly threatening at the same time. I think it's endearing and I suppose Rita does as well.

I already mentioned how Rita's "thousand lifetimes" line seems less like something someone would actually say in this draft:

Sometimes I wish I had a thousand lifetimes. One to be a great journalist. One to, I don’t know, go back to school, study art, or auto mechanics. One just to take care of all the busywork, you know, pay the bills get my car tuned up. One to be the wild woman of Borneo. One to be Mother Theresa. Maybe it’s not a curse, Phil. It all just depends on how you look at it. (p. 101)

Phil's speech to Rita while she's sleeping has a little more detail to it, and it makes it a little more... schmaltzy? cheesy? something.

Here. Compare:

As it is in this draft:

What I was going to say was, I think you're the kindest, sweetest, prettiest, most wonderful girl I ever met in my life....

I could never tell you this, but from the first minute I looked at you I wanted to just hold you close and be with you forever. Everytime [sic] I saw you around the station, I thought my heart was going to explode. I used to dream about us being together. In my dream you loved me as much as I loved you and we didn't have to say anything because I knew you understood everything....

I know a guy like me could never deserve to have someone like you, but if I did, I swear I would love you for the rest of my life. (pp. 103-104)

As it is in the movie:

What I wanted to say was… I think you’re the kindest, sweetest, prettiest person I’ve ever met in my life. I’ve never seen anyone that’s nicer to people than you are. The first time I saw you, something happened… to me. I never told you, but I knew that I wanted to hold you as hard as I could.

I don’t deserve someone like you. But if I ever could, I swear I would love you for the rest of my life.

Scene 143, Page 106, Phil goes to the library and inquires about the philosophy section, his education more overt than that shot of him sitting at the counter at the Tip Top reading with a stack of books nearby.

Another report from Gobbler's Knob (including a lesson in groundhog physiology similar to my Day 238 - waiting to worship a rat):

In fact, the groundhog's legendary ability to predict the weather may be more than just the German folklore of the region. Higher temperatures trigger hormonal changes in the testosterone levels of male groundhogs, which may in fact wake them from hibernation and send them out to battle with other males for mating rights.

So, the truth is they're not looking for their shadows, they're looking for groundhog chicks. (pp. 107-108)

Oddly enough Rita is "delighted with" this report.

Page 108, Ramis employs the image of calendar pages flipping by as Phil learns the piano at Mary's house. Gilbey (2004) calls the accelerated shot of clouds at the beginning of the film "only slightly less cliched than the peeling leaves of a calendar, or the swiftly rotating hands of a clock, in its evocation of the passing of time" (p. 24). This particular instance--involving pages that are all February 2nd--was Bill Murray's idea, according to Gilbey's endnote. He says it "was shot but eventually cut when no suitable place could be found for it" (p. 90).

Scene 152, Page 109, Phil learns stonecarving from Old Tucker, "the town stonecarver." Also, Phil mentions to Rita that he has "piano and then drums" (not just piano).

Ned's "homophobic shock" scene is in here. That phrase bugs me.

Scene 158, Page 112, this deleted scene:

Scene 161, Page 114, this deleted scene:

So, in the film, Phil saves Buster from choking. In the second revision, it wasn't yet Buster but an unnamed businessman. Which is why the last bit of dialogue in that scene is the guy who Phil just saved asking, "Who was that guy?" In this draft, it is Buster and it is Buster's son who asks "Who was that guy?" By the time we get to the final product, it is Buster who Phil saves but it is also Buster who asks, "Who was that?" This is at lunch--

(And, I don't think I have ever specifically noted that Phil saves Buster at lunchtime, not dinnertime.)

--and just a few hours earlier, Buster was listening intently to Phil's Chekhov report from Gobbler's Knob. You'd think he'd know the guy.

Anyway, Rita's following Phil around, sees him save Buster and wants to know what's going on. It's remarkable how much this draft (and Ramis' second revision) work structurally closer to E' Gia' Ieri (the Italian remake) than to the Groundhog Day film; the last day isn't "god day" but Rita definitely is clued in to what's going on more than she is in Groundhog Day. Phi tells Rita that he's "really pressed right now. Meet me outside the hospital about 4:00 and we'll talk about it."

Scenes 163 to 164, Page 116, Phil's at the hospital to save a teenage girl named Janey. Nurse thinks it's insulin shock but Phil knows it's an overdose. Once again darker than the final film.

Still at the hospital, Scene 165, Phil makes balloon animals. And, Rita arrives. Phil takes her along as he saves Zacchaeus from breaking his leg falling out of the tree.

Scene 167, Pages 118-119, this deleted scene:

The banquet is the KLEISER-SCOTT WEDDING. So, a) it's a wedding to end the story, a reification of gender norms, which I've discussed a few times, and b) Kleiser seems here to only be the last name of Debbie (here Doris).

Secondary note here, Doris'/Debbie's line, "We're like going to be in Pittsburgh anyway" is scripted (and apparently was in the second revision as well), but it is Fred who says it.

Just like in the previous draft, Phil actually tells Rita what is going on again, when she asks finally. "No," she says, "there's something going on with you."

"Okay," Phil replies. "I wake up in Punxsutawney on February second--every day. It's supernatural. I don't even try to explain it anymore. So, I live each day as if it's the only day I've got."

"That's pretty amazing," Rita says.

"You want to know what's really amazing," Phil asks. "I've been waiting for you every day for ten thousand years. I dream of you every night of my life. You've been my constant weapon against total despair and just knowing you exist has kept me alive. How's that?"

Regarding whether or not Phil dreams, of course, check out this entry.

Phil hasn't fixed Felix's back but that of an "old coot" called Uncle Leo who dances with Rita at the wedding.

A while back, I noticed the piano at the Cherry Street Inn and briefly lamented the fact that we never see Phil play on it. In this draft, as if to test if his newfound skills and knowledge are his to keep, on the morning after the time loop ends, Phil briefly leaves Rita alone in his room so that he can run downstairs to "expertly" play a few bars of "a difficult classical piece."

Finally, Scene 177, page 128, Phil has his one bit of leftover voiceover:

And so began my final lifetime, and ended the longest winter on record [though technically, it is not on record, I would point out]. I would find myself no longer able to affect the chain of events in this town, but I did learn something about time. You can waste time, you can kill time, you can do time, but if you use it wisely, there's never enough of it. So you'd better make the most of the time you've got....

Larry never got through the blizzard, so none of my groundhog reports ever made it on the air. But, Rita and I--we lived happily ever after.

A weird mix of practical detail there and a last line that is deliberately evocative of a fairy tale.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to live the fairy tale, to fight monsters and save princesses... metaphorically, of course.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

five, four, three...

Subtitle: notes on a draft, because these things don’t write themselves, part three.

Scene 100, Page 75 - this deleted scene (which has very little content; I would rather see something like the room-destruction scene really, since it was apparently actually filmed):

Kind of makes Phil seem like a stalker.

I like the idea of Scene 102, in which Phil sees Nancy again and speaks to her. It’s like the brief bit in the costumed scene outside the movie theater in which he acknowledges her in the movie, but with a little more dialogue to it. “Hi,” Nancy,” Phil says. “Hi,” Nancy replies. “Do I know you?” The description here is interesting: “Phil can’t manage enough enthusiasm to pursue her yet again.” “No,” Phil says then, “I guess not. I thought you were someone else.” And, he keeps on moving to where Rita and Larry are waiting. In the banquet sequence at the end of the movie, we get to see Nancy again, and she even bids on Phil, but there’s no acknowledgement by Phil of there having been anything there...

To be fair, it may have been 10,000 years or so since Phil pursued Nancy at all, but he’s probably seen her most of those 3.65 million days, at least in passing.

Scene 103, Pages 76 to 78 - this deleted scene:

It’s a nice idea but anything it can tell us is covered in a much simpler fashion by other scenes.

Scene 104, another report from Gobbler’s Knob:

This is one of the most pitiful spectacles known to civilization. With one nod from a filthy rodent best known to pest control agencies, a moribund old coal mining hamlet turns magically into the Lourdes of Pennsylvania, Mecca to thousands of people who, if they hate winter so damned much, why don’t they move to Florida, anyway? (Ramis, 1992, January 30, p. 78)

Another time when the (slightly) simpler version we get in the film works better:

This is pitiful. A thousand people freezing their butts off waiting to worship a rat. What a hype. Groundhog Day used to mean something in this town. They used to pull the hog out and they used to eat it! You’re hypocrites, all of ya!

The sidewalk cracks counting bit is still (?) around. There’s a parenthetical question mark because I thought that was only in Rubin’s original... and I just got out my copy of the second revision and it turns out I remembered incorrectly; the sidewalk crack counting scene is in the second revision. Page 75 in Ramis’ second revision, page 80 in Ramis’ third. Basically, Phil is counting the cracks in the sidewalks in town. He’s at nearly 2700 and some kids start yelling random numbers to mess him up.

This scene leads into Phil’s interaction with a cop that ends with the oft-used “like the groundhog” line regarding his name. (Oft used in the screenplay but only once in the movie.) And, this gets to Phil’s realization (correct or not) that he shares a connection with the groundhog. And, so Phil gives his report about how he has to stop the groundhog and he proceeds not just to steal the groundhog and drive off with him but rather he heads for Punxsutawney Phil’s habitat in the public library, shotgun in hand. Rubin (2012) explains regarding this scene:

Some version of this sequence stayed in the script until they cast Bill Murray. Bill had famously appeared in the film Caddyshack as a golf course groundsman, obsessed with killing a gopher. Even though Bill’s character would be different this time around and, of course, a gopher is not a groundhog, the similarities were too great. Even good casting can create casualties in the screenplay. I was more than happy to make the necessary adjustments. (pp. 95-96)

Which is a little weird, considering this is, by Rubin’s own accounting within the same book, the second draft completed after Murray was cast. Maybe there was some disputing it. Murray against it, Ramis for it... maybe. Maybe this was one of the things they fought about regarding Groundhog Day, another piece of the construction of their more than 20-year feud.

In the film version of the chase sequence, you don’t know that Phil and Phil are going to be dead by the end of the ride. Even when Phil says it’s “showtime” there’s still a chance he will just smash into the police car or something; we haven’t actually been shown the cliff, though we might realize what a quarry entails. But, in this draft, (and, in the second revision, apparently), Phil actually says: “Coming to the end of the trail, Phil. Then we’re going out in a blaze of glory.” Makes the coming suicide more obvious.

Interesting sidenote, because I don’t think I noticed this detail in the second revision either. Rita is driving the van during the chase. Larry actually readies his camera as they go.

When Phil jumps off a building to his death, he still falls past Ned Ryerson’s office window in this draft. It actually hadn’t occurred to me until now that Ned is working on Groundhog Day. I know the people working at the restaurants in town would go to work, but you’d think a local holiday like this might allow everyone else a day off.

One of Phil’s suicides is by (presumably) robbing the bank again. He runs out, “screaming, dressed in camouflage fatigues and armed to the teeth with an assault rifle in one hand, an Uzi in the other and a couple of handguns stuck in his belt.” Of course, the cops gun him down. We get a bit here that wouldn’t have done well in a family film... even coming out of the 80s.

He doesn’t get three feet before he is shot down in an incredible hail of gunfire.

Rita stands beside the camera gaping in horror while Larry records the grisly massacre. (p. 89)

My favorite line that is not in the movie is still here in this draft. Like so:

—but I always wake up the next day without a scratch, without even a headache. I’m telling you, I’m immortal.

(Personally, I prefer the movie phrasing: I am an immortal.)

The special today is blueberry waffles.

Why are you telling me this?

Because some people like blueberry waffles. (pp. 90-91)

Love that one. Wish it made it into the movie. That waiter, by the way, is not Doris (because Doris is still the name of the young bride) but Bill/Billy—who in this draft still denies that he is gay. Rubin explains:

Harold changed this from “I am not!” to “I am.” I thought the denial was funnier, but in this scene Phil is trying to prove to Rita that he knows everything and everyone, and having the waiter deny the assertion could have been confusing. But I think the real reason the line changed was for political correctness. A gay man being outed against his will might be funny or it might be considered cruel. A gay man casually and proudly attesting to his gayness is perhaps modeling a healthy kind of reaction for the audience.

Whatever. I just find it interesting how every little detail in a screenplay could become a big test of values and taste. (p. 99)

Note, though, this is the second draft done by Ramis, so he let the “I am not” stick around for a while.

The grease fire from Toni’s in Rubin’s original, happens at the Diner just like it did in the second revision. There’s no waiter dropping a tray. I would bet the tray ended up just being easier to do, simpler, cheaper.

Scene 135, Page 95, Phil tells Rita about his day in the Virgin Islands. And, he doesn’t say he and the girl made love like sea otters. They just “made love on the beach.” I think this story works far better earlier with Ralph and Gus, because a) it’s more appropriate to share this kind of story with the guys than with a girl Phil was romantically pursuing not that long (from our perspective) ago, and b) this is “god day” and Phil should not be telling a story that puts distance between him and Rita; this is the day they finally, genuinely connect.

Phil calls Ned “an asshole.” And immediately thereafter, Ned is excited because “He remembers me!” There are several things wrong with this, not the least of which being that Ned either a) simply doesn’t notice when he’s called an asshole or b) doesn’t care because Phil knew his name, which makes Ned just pathetic. And, pathetic, for me at least, means we should not be cheering when he gets punched, earlier by Phil and later by Larry.

Also—and this is still this draft’s version of “god day”—Rita and Phil go to the Fudge Shop. “This is great,” Rita says, eating a piece of fudge. “No, it isn’t,” Phil replies. “You hate fudge.” He doesn’t—unfortunately—point out that Rita is a liar.

And, that is as good a note to end on today as any. Maybe I will finish these notes tomorrow. Maybe they will go on forever.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: just for fun, to try that standing outside the window thing. A different window every day. See how that goes.

Friday, June 20, 2014

down and down and down i go

Subtitle: Notes on Harold Ramis' third revision for Groundhog Day, part two: Groundhoggier.

While this draft does give some more examples of Phil being an ass, he also seems a little more reasonable in some instances. Case in point: Rita asks, "What do you want me to do?" In the film version, Phil says "I don’t know! You’re a producer, come up with something." In this draft: "The truth? I'd like you to spend the next 24 hours with me and don't leave my side for a second." It reads at first like he is genuinely trying to get Rita's help, asking for it rather than demanding it. But, here is where, in this draft, Rita says, "You know, Phil, you can charm all the little P.A.'s at the station, all the secretaries, and even some of the weekend anchors, but not me--not in a thousand years" (p. 41).

Of course, then that thousand year bit at the end reads like deliberate setup for the unspoken joke to come--Phil will spend a thousand years chasing after her and eventually she will be charmed. It's one of the faults in Ramis' writing, maybe coming from his background in improv; he treats dialogue like constant setup for potential punchlines.

The "Scientist"/Science Teacher is still in this draft, as is the teacher whose class is going over the Frog Prince. Ralph (later to be switched with Gus in regards to their personalities) still wants to "spend all my time drivin' fast, gettin' loaded and gettin' laid. That's it" (p. 46).

Though Phil has already met Nancy at the hotel bar in this draft, his meeting in which he gets her information--"Nancy, Lincoln, Walsh"--happens at Gobbler's Knob rather than in the Tip Top. This is ok at first, this bit coming before Phil's scene with Rita at the "Diner." And, speaking of that scene, there's only minor differences. Rita still quotes Sir Walter Scott, for example. But, when she suggests Phil has a death wish (not a line that survive into the film), Phil replies, "Just the opposite, Rita. I have a life wish. I'm just trying to enjoy it. Taking pleasure in the little things" (p. 54).

Phil tells Rita that he "got completely loaded and smashed into a police car" the night before.

"Oh, really? You look pretty good this morning," she replies.

"That's my point," Phil says. "I know you won't believe me, but we could do anything we want today and it wouldn't matter one bit. Absolutely no consequences. Complete and total freedom. We don't even have to floss."

"And how do we manage that," Rita asks.

"You leave that to me," Phil replies. "Why don't you send Larry back and hang out with me for the rest of the day? You never make it through that blizzard anyway."

"I'll take my chances with the weather," Rita says. "But you have a good time."

"Don't worry. I plan to."

But, then he doesn't have a good time. He doesn't do anything. Structurally, it makes sense for his info-grabbing bit with Nancy to follow this dialogue; then we don't need to actually see Phil having a good time today because we know something is in the works for tomorrow. Instead, this Scene 69 cuts to Scene 70--the next day at Gobbler's Knob as Phil finds Nancy. In this case, the setup is misplaced.

"Orita" survives into this draft. It's just silly enough that it could have been funny in the movie, had it made it that far... In case you do not recall, after Phil's Freudian Slip of saying Rita's name while "making passionate love to" Nancy, he claims, "It's just something I say when I make love. You know--Orita, Orighta--it's like 'Oh, baby' or something." Nancy doesn't quite buy it, and yet he still doesn't propose marriage in this version.

Page 58, Phil tells Mrs. Lancaster he's been there for 221 days. He's looking at her books at this point even though the book calendar thing has been abandoned already.

Scene 73: Phil robs a bank, wielding a shotgun rather than the much more clever and less scary robbery in the film.

Scene 77: Phil gets "elaborately tattooed." Rita sees it through the window. He waves. That's about it. Thing is, why bother with tattoos given the time loop? Next resumption comes, tattoos are gone. Time loop ends, Phil's stuck with tattoos. It's pain for no reason.

Scene 79: "A slut named ANGIE and another overweight, not very pretty MADONNA WANNA-BE, both in too-tight jeans and bullet bras" survive into this draft. Angie even pops some pills into Phil's mouth (p. 61). Scene 80: this becomes Phil's lowest point, so to speak (not counting, obviously, his deaths). Sitting with his arm around Angie, "a fifth of Wild Turkey in his hand," says:

Yeah, but eventually you'd just get tired of screwing around and then you'd want a real relationship, wouldn't you? (p. 62).

Okay, it's not necessarily his lowest point... exclusively. It's also his epiphany. After this, he starts into the "date night" sequence; he pursues Rita.

Scene 82, Page 64, Rita says a line that seems more befitting Phil; she says, "Doing stories on the Punxsutawney groundhog is not my ultimate goal. No offense." Sure, at the beginning of this draft, Rita wanted to work on a nurse's strike when Hawley assigned her to Phil's venture to Punxsutawney, but Rita--and I admit this is dangerous phrasing--is supposed to be better than that.

Page 65, Rita says: "Phil, you know, you have so much talent and ability. If you'd just drop the attitude and act like a decent human being, then maybe I'd--" Setup for the punchline of the end of the film.

Rita's favorite drink in Scene 86 is not Sweet Vermouth on the rocks with a twist, it's the less interesting Tequila with lime. Tess (the woman Phil was pursuing at this point in Rubin's original script) ordered a drink like that. It makes sense that Rita would order a froufrou drink like Sweet Vermouth on the rocks with a twist. That or something really colorful and fruity with an umbrella in it. It's who she is. In this draft, she's still got a little bit of Tess left in her, I suppose.

Weird detail to the big climax of date night (p. 72). Phil gets Rita into the Cherry Street Inn but before they make it up to his room, they pass through the vestibule and Phil steals "an old console hi-fi" because, he says, "We're going to need some music up there." That they need music works, sure. But, is theft suddenly endearing to Rita? I doubt it. Plus, Phil should be far enough ahead here--especially since he only half a page earlier told Rita, "I've been planning this day for weeks"--that planning for music should not be a last-minute thought.

I will leave you with this for part two: "The whole secretarial pool is a Phil Connors recovery group" (p. 74).

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to be more consistent in my characterization than Rita is in hers.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

this is your third

Subtitle: notes on yet another draft of the screenplay for Groundhog Day, part one.

Phil in front of the greenscreen doesn't include any dialogue. The WPBH scene would be scripted and filmed later of course.

An additional scene (the opening scene at the news station in Pittsburgh) was shot after the movie wrapped, written by Harold. (Rubin, 2012, p. 121)

Gil Hawley--Phil's boss--is still in this draft, and he gets some of the lines that later to go Rita and Larry. He gets Larry's bit about San Juan Capistrano and Rita's "cute story" bit, for example. Phil, even though this draft and the previous one were done after Bill Murray got involved, is still described as being in his mid-thirties. And, he's got a little more of an attitude about doing the groundhog coverage again. In response to Hawley telling him he "covered the swallows returning to Capistrano for ten years in a row," Phil tells him, "You should've killed the guy who made you do that." "I wanted to do it," Hawley replies. "Then you should've killed yourself," Phil says, followed with a fate-tempting line that is a little on-the-nose: "I'm not going to get stuck with the groundhog for the rest of my life" (Ramis, 1992, January 30, p. 3).

Though younger than Bill Murray, here, Phil was an experienced reporter once Murray was involved, so Rita, just like in the second revision, is practically a rookie, and she's in her late twenties.

(By the way, when I just jumped over to my browser to get the link to that entry about the second revision, I noticed that I called that on-the-nose line "nice." I guess my opinion thereof has changed slightly since Day 36.)

Given that parenthetical, another nice line would be Phil's answer when Rita asks him if always jokes. "No," he says. "About 70 to 80% of the time. Inside I'm a very shy and sensitive person, so I kid" (p. 5). A little too honest for Phil.

Oddly, Stephanie still shows up in this draft, but only in her scene at the station, a bit of leftover evidence for Phil being a womanizer, I suppose. She mentions their horoscope still, but we don't get her second scene with her causing the time loop.

A contradiction (maybe), and one that bugs me--because there is only one remaining bit of voiceover at the end of the screenplay and it says something that makes no sense to me--the newsvan is described as having a microwave transmitter on the roof on page 8, but 120 pages later, Phil is telling us, "Larry never got through the blizzard, so none of my groundhog reports ever made it on the air." To be fair, the Wikipedia page on microwave transmission does say that the signal can be attenuated by bad (especially wet) weather. The end voiceover bit bothers me generally, though, regardless of the specifics, but I will get to that more when I get to the end of these screenplay notes.

Phil rides in his Lexus--which has a bumper sticker that says, "Weathermen Like It Sunny and Moist"--instead of in the van with Rita and Larry, and he makes a prank call to Rita on his car phone, pretending to be a fan of Phil Connors. I don't remember that call being in the second revision... and I don't feel like checking right now.

Though this draft is after Murray was involved, it seems to be before the scouting trip to Punxsutawney... which, duh, would be in time for Groundhog Day, 3 days after the date on this draft. Anyway, they don't pull Punxsutawney Phil out of that fake tree stump; instead, the groundhog comes out and runs around and with their Day One setup, Larry cannot get a good shot of anything but the groundhog's back. Later--Day Two a bit, but moreso later--Phil will alter the setup to get a better shot. Weirdly, the dialogue about checking with Buster Greene and knowing where to get a better shot survives into the film even though, with the fake stump thing, Larry's angle seems just fine.

(Also, no ice sculpting, and no big dance at the end--it's still the wedding party.)

Just to hit home the womanizing, Phil calls a Sabrina on his car phone on the drive out of Punxsutawney. That call gets cut off by the weather.

Phil meets Nancy earlier--in fact, sitting at the bar the night of Day One, he is "unsuccessfully hustling an attractive local girl (NANCY)" (p. 24). This is interrupted by a BRIDE (who will turn out to be named Doris, because Doris the waitress doesn't exist yet) rushing into the bar, "crying and shouting." Debbie's cold feet visualized.

Potential R-rating alert: Phil says to Ned, "Did I say 'fuck off,' Ned? I can't talk to you right now" (p. 31).

Phil's news report on Day 2 is actually pretty good considering he should be freaking out--his slow freak out and departure on Day 2 in the movie is still (I'm pretty sure) my daughter's favorite part of the movie; Phil starts his report like the previous day, then starts walking to where he knows the groundhog is going to run. There's a bit that might have been cute but probably an impossible scene to film, practically speaking--remember, in his one scene interacting with the actual groundhog, Bill Murray was bitten twice:

The groundhog sticks his head out, looks left, looks right, steps out of the hole, and runs away from the press pool, directly over to Phil, who casually bends down and picks the groundhog up in his arms.

(to the groundhog)
Hi, Phil. I'm Phil. So what's the story? Six more weeks of winter or what?

Rita and Larry watch in amazement as Phil pretends to have a conversation with the groundhog. The spectators laugh appreciatively.

Buster Greene, the Groundhog club official, walks over to Phil and takes the groundhog from him. (p. 35)

I've had a little confusion over the scene in which Phil trashes his room. I thought it had been scripted but not filmed because the pencil breaking concept was a) simpler and b) cheaper. But, apparently it was filmed. But then, there was this bit from Stephen Tobolowsky in the Seattle Times, 2 February 2013:

[Phil] shaves his head into a mohawk, takes spray paint and paints graffiti all over the inside of his room, then he takes a chain saw and starts sawing the room in half." It was an expensive scene, and Ramis, after consideration, quickly cut it. He replaced it with a much quieter, simpler moment: [Connors], going to bed terrified, breaks a pencil in half and puts it on his radio. When he said, the audience gasped at that moment, "We expect a crazy Bill Murray movie... and [Ramis] replaced it with visual poetry.

Tobolowsky elaborates in Slate, 25 February 2014:

If you know anything about filmmaking, you know how difficult and expensive that scene was to shoot. It took three days. Everything that was destroyed had to be rebuilt. Paint had to be cleaned off the walls. The set had to be restored for different camera shots. Bill's mohawk toupee cost thousands to make. Not to mention it was near the beginning of shooting, when everything a director does is scrutinized by the studios. Harold shot the scene, looked at it, and threw it away.

He replaced it with simplicity itself. Bill is about to go to sleep. He breaks a pencil and puts the two pieces on his nightstand. Cut to: Sonny and Cher on the radio. Bill wakes up. The pencil is whole.

When I saw this in a theater filled with real people, the audience gasped. Harold understood the power of poetry and had the courage to tell the story his way.

Turns out, all of that isn't quite the reality of the situation either. This draft includes both the pencil-breaking scene and the room-trashing scene. One did not replace the other as such. One just worked better.

I will end today's entry with something from one of Phil's Groundhog Day reports--these evolve nicely through this draft:

...So according to Mr. Groundhog I guess we can expect six more weeks of winter. It's not very scientific, but it sure is fun. (p. 38)

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to just figure out how to travel back in time to 1992 to be there for these drafts and the filming so I can know for sure how it all went down.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

i thought you were supposed to disappear

Note: I've only read half of the recently discovered "third revision" of the screenplay, so I won't get into picking that apart just yet. Today, I've watched 3 more episodes of Tru Calling and, while I don't intend to go episode by episode like I did with Day Break, I figured I'd share some thoughts.

Also, I've had some thought about the future of The Groundhog Day Project after Day 365.

First, Tru Calling:

Episode 6 - "Star-Crossed" - Turns out Davis (Tru's boss) knows what she can do, so there's a brief conversation about it, and she's got a great response to Davis calling her repeat-a-day gig "a gift." She says, "Candles are gifts, boots, bath salts maybe, but this is... I don't know what this is..."

My first problem (for this entry, not my first problem with the show; that would be the lame, 90s-indie-band-that-never-made-it-big theme song) here is the more Tru does this, especially now with her brother's help and Davis' help, the faster things will go with each investigation--and, really, there won't be investigations much all the time, since she generally has the victim's names plus time- and cause-of-death--so she's got a ton of extra time in each resumption to make the best of her own day, a la Phil Connors.

Case-in-point: Episode 5 - "Haunted" - Tru aces her MCAT but then on the resumption it comes down to a choice between doing that again or saving a life. It's a big symbolic thing, Tru embracing her role with the whole Groundhog Day life-saving scenario. But, she gets to the exam late, can still pull it off and go save a life... actually, in retrospect at the end of the episode, it would seem she may have already saved that life--

(paranthetical SPOILERS for a TV episode from 11 years ago: victim originally died presumably from a drug injection, maybe, but turns out she and her med-school friends are running a Flatliners deal to bring out repressed memories--don't ask. Tru is there to help revive her (which could mean she doesn't get that injection that presumably killed her), but then sitting in the MCAT room, Tru realizes that victim is going to go face the guy who victimized her as a kid--no reason to assume that guy will inject her with anything by the way (my thought was repressed memories were actually going to lead the girl to kill herself for a nice downer ending); in fact, faced with the girl knowing what he did to her, he proceeds to strangle her, only to be interrupted by Tru. So, no injection, and and not (necessarily) a death anymore either, and Tru gave up on the MCAT for another year for this? It's a bad turn for a story with a strong heroine at the center that she has to give up something important to her to get on with the role forced upon her. Kinda anti-feminist.)

--but she still gave up her goals for another year. It's like if Phil's lesson of serving others wasn't something that came to him organically over (a long long) time but was forced on him by him happening upon dead O'Reilly in the alley and O'Reilly turned suddenly to him, said "save me" and, scene after scene flashes by, and Phil wakes up at the Cherry Street Inn.

Tru's finally thinking ahead, deliberately memorizing things--in this case, a license plate--for the resumption.

My next problem--like my talk of "the other day" thing way back when--is for a show focused on the flow of time, this show has no real sense of the passage thereof. Case in point, between the previous episode (5) and the one playing as I write this (6), it has been, like, two days. Seriously, MCAT day repeated, then the Davis conversation was that night, this episode began in that same conversation and went on to--according to the basics of editing--the very next day, which is now repeating. So, Tru met Luc yesterday, but Gardez says they've "been doing the mating dance for weeks now." Even if we ignored the editing and went with the usual timeframe for TV shows--one week per episode--it has still not been weeks. And, we have seen every interaction between Tru and Luc--totaling in the current reality--what?--four very brief conversations, and a) Luc is asking her out already? Well, sure, it's TV and Eliza Dushku and Matt Bomer are beautiful people and in TV Land that means they must get together. b) Gardez has been there for none of their conversations until this one in which Luc is asking her out.

My next problem--another time related thing--is does Tru never listen when they guess on time-of-death? Bodies have come in at night each episode, yet in the "Haunted" episode, Tru thinks she saved the girl's life midday, and now in "Star-Crossed" Tru keeps the victims from rather publicly crashing to their deaths, again midday, when she was there at the fresh crash site at night. And, you don't need to stalk someone all day or interrogate every one she knows to figure out who wants her dead if you just pay attention to, say, time- and location-of-death and get there first.

As this episode ends, my thought is that this show needs more of Tru trying to get her life (and her brother's and her sister's lives) together in addition to the victim-of-the-week thing. More of the Groundhog Day meaningfulness to make it seem less like a cheap high concept grafted onto a murder mystery show.

Also, I want to see Tru deal realistically with a dead body that doesn't ask for her help. I mean, not everyone can be saved--see Phil trying to save the Old Man in Groundhog Day--but given her ability lately to save all these people, how messed up emotionally might that leave her?

Maybe I am asking for too much realism from the time-loop, talking dead body show.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to forego realism and figure out how to fly.

...or to remember that I mentioned the future of this blog up above--seriously, I was about to copy and paste this into blogger when I realized I hadn't gotten back to that. I'll keep it simple, for now, because this is still more of an idea than a plan. Groundhog Day will go for 365 days. Then, I will bring in other movies, each one lasting 7 days, give me time to review them, pick them apart for philosophical notions, filmmaking stuff, whatever comes up, but not to linger. And, after say 4 movies maybe I'll throw in a little Groundhog Day screening again. Groundhog Day will be like the baseline by which to measure all other films, then.

Today's (other) reason to repeat a day forever: to remember everything I say.

Today's (third) reason to repeat a day forever: to watch every movie ever made to prepare some great options for this blog.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

you must really enjoy it

I cannot decide if it’s weird that the first thing I wanted to check in the third revision of the Groundhog Day screenplay was O’Reilly’s name—the paramedic Bud refers to him as ol’ Reilly (recall, there was a weird typo in the second revision that made the name semi-unreadable). And, in the deleted scene, the paramedic calls him ol’ Jedson. See:

I haven’t read the third revision yet. I may do so tomorrow. And, I figure that it will take me at least three entries to pick it apart.

As it was with Rubin’s original:

Day 49 – it’s groundhog time
Day 50 – see, i knew you were gonna say that
Day 51 – i really feel weird

And, Ramis’ second revision:

Day 36 – i’ve already done it… twice
Day 37 – watch out for that first step
Day 38 – sounds like a lot of fun

Or the three days I spent breaking down the structure of the “screenplay” of the final film:

Day 114 – catch you tomorrow
Day 115 – what if there is no tomorrow?
Day 116 – there wasn’t one today

For now, having only glanced through the thing, I did find a couple notable things.

The end of god day, for example, is a little weird. Instead of telling his Virgin Islands story to Ralph and Gus at the bar, Phil tells it to Rita. And, Rita’s “thousand lifetimes" line comes across a lot less... real.

Sometimes I wish I had a thousand lifetimes. One to be a great journalist. One to, I don’t know, go back to school, study art, or auto mechanics. One just to take care of all the busywork, you know, pay the bills get my car tuned up. One to be the wild woman of Borneo. One to be Mother Theresa. Maybe it’s not a curse, Phil. It all just depends on how you look at it. (Ramis, 1992, January 30, p. 101)

First, as I suggested, this seems less like something someone might actually say. Second, Rita fantasizes about paying the bills and getting her car fixed? I think she has confused real life concerns with outlandish fantasy. The Borneo bit almost makes up for it, I guess.

This “third revision” is probably actually like the fifth real draft of the screenplay, by the way. In How to Write Groundhog Day, Rubin lists the “major drafts” as follows:

1. My Spec script (April 15, 1990)

2. My first rewrite for the studio (February 2, 1991)

3. Harold’s first rewrite for the studio (July 9, 1991)

4. The Harold and Bill draft (January 7, 1992)

5. Lots of partial drafts by me and Bill, by me and Harold, by me and by Harold

6. The shooting script. This final pull-together was done a couple of days before shooting by Harold. An additional scene (the opening scene at the news station in Pittsburgh) was shot after the movie wrapped, written by Harold

That list would put my “second revision” as specifically Ramis’ second revision, #4 on that list, which had input from Bill Murray. And, this “third revision” would be among those “partial drafts” listed in #5. I still have not found anywhere online to obtain either Rubin’s revision or the shooting script. But, even the shooting script would not include the WPBH stuff from the beginning of the movie. I think I may take the time to format my transcript—

(Here is the latest version, with all entry titles noted up to today’s.)

—so it works as a retroactive shooting script.

And, I must read this version tomorrow for sure. I just glanced through it again and got stuck reading a bit right in the middle—the “slut named ANGIE and another overweight, not very pretty MADONNA WANNA-BE, both in too-tight jeans and bullet bras” are still in there. And, I noticed near the end that Phil calls Ned an asshole. It’s surprising how R-Rated (or at least PG-13) Ramis’ version still is at this point. I remember someone in Woodstock... I think, mentioning that they didn’t want their kids to see the movie yet. There was some implication about the “sex” scene with Nancy being the issue. But, relative to other Ramis films, Groundhog Day is actually a fairly wholesome comedy that I think is suitable for the whole family. Looking at Ramis’ “third revision” of the script, it looks like that wasn’t the case until, well, maybe right up until shooting. Production in Woodstock was in March and April—

(I don’t know how the filming actually ended up going, but in this letter on display in the Woodstock library, you can see that filming was scheduled to start on March 18 and continue for about five weeks on the square.)

—and this draft is dated the end of January.


But, I was talking about O’Reilly, wasn’t I? I’m not sure why I want characters to have names. In one screenplay I wrote, I deliberately avoided the names of the two main characters but made sure that every bit part—a waiter and a gas station attendant, for example—had names. It was a thing, maybe a little pretentious. Names matter… even if I make them up.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to learn the names for everyone.

Monday, June 16, 2014

hello, father

Yesterday was Father’s Day, but I had people over and had to write about that. I had intended to write a companion piece to the Mother’s Day one. Today will have to do.

Two things:

First, Phil refers to the Old Man, Jedson O’Reilly as “father” and “dad” and “pop”—something that I have always found to be a bit, well, weird. Gilbey (2004) suggests that Phil’s use of “father” specifically, “with its religious connotations, is interesting here, though it doesn’t feature in Rubin’s first revision” (p. 74).

(Note: I have never read Rubin’s first revision, just Rubin’s original and Ramis’ second revision. A quick Google search just now and I still cannot find that one online. However, I just found Ramis’ third revision, it is already printing, and I will read it soon. So, I got that going for me.)

Me—I hear Phil call O’Reilly “dad” and it sounds to me like that moment in Back to the Future when Marty accidentally calls George in 1955 “dad” then awkwardly tries to cover it by calling him “daddio.” It just doesn’t seem natural. I think I’ve suggested—in my ongoing quest to explain every single detail within the film—that Phil’s father died or left his mother when he was young so Phil’s got “daddy issues.” The easy way to read into it is probably Gilbey’s since the “daddy issues” thing only matters, storywise, if we take God as the “daddy” in question. I’m sure Foley (2004) would appreciate that reading.

And, for the record, I’m not saying either reading is wrong. I don’t, necessarily, think any particular reading of the film is wrong.

Anyway, even weirder than Murray’s delivery on the patronymic nicknames is that, unlike the first time Phil calls O’Reilly “Pops” (the morning of Day 4), which sounds like Phil just calling the old guy something… cute, once Phil takes an actual interest in O’Reilly he calls him “father” and it seems at once both more personal and more ridiculous. One could almost suspect that O’Reilly is Phil’s father; in fact, at the screening of Groundhog Day, February 1st, in Woodstock, one little kid actually asked, when Phil is trying to revive O’Reilly, calling him “Pop” and “Dad,” “That’s his father?”

Another read on the attempted revival scene, along the lines of Foley, is that Phil is not actually referring to O’Reilly when he says “Pop” or “Dad;” rather, Phil is talking to God. This then leads right into Phil “plaintively look[ing] heavenward” (Foley, 2004).

And then, in a deleted scene, Phil covers O’Reilly and leaves a note for the paramedics who will find him…

Phil’s expressing his desire to have lots of kids on date night—

Gosh, I can’t wait to do this with my own children. Golly, I want kids, lots of kids! I want to adopt. I want to have my own kids. I want to have foster kids.

—that, oddly enough, fits right in with Foley. Foley , citing Freud’s phrasing, suggests Phil believes himself to be “a prosthetic god.” Foley argues that this part of Phil’s “conversion involves recognizing there is a God and he is not it.”

I’m reminded of William Makepeace Thackeray’s line, memorably quoted in the film The Crow: “Mother is the name for God on the lips and hearts of little children.”

So also is “Father.” Parents have the power to ruin or raise up a child, too much power sometimes.

Keep in mind throughout all of this pseudo-religious discussion that Phil claims—talking to Mary the Piano Teacher—that his father was a piano mover. God the Father, of course is, via Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, the prime mover.

The second thing:

In Rubin’s original script, Phil visits another kind of “Father.” Here’s the scene:


Phil looks around at the cavernous, empty chapel with the bright colored glass windows.

For the sake of argument – I decided to consult a professional. What could I lose?


Nobody is anything like me.

I am.

No, no, no you’re missing the point.

Am I?

You are not like me. I am different.

Me, too.

Okay, okay. What did you do yesterday?

Same thing I do everyday.

Uh huh. Yeah, but what day was yesterday?

Not sure. They all sort of run together after a while.

Yeah, okay, but I’m never ever going to die.

That’s my plan, too.

You still don’t get it.

No .. uh ..



Like the groundhog.

I know.

Phil. You think nobody understands you. You’re all alone. Nobody has ever felt what you’re feeling. Could be you’re wrong.

I doubt it.

People come in here all the time, saying just what you’re saying, going through what you’re going through.



Like who?

You say you’re lonely?


You say you live forever?


You say you have nothing but time on your hands?


Then go find them yourself.

The window between them slams shut.

On the one hand, the priest inadvertently responds more appropriately to Phil’s situation than the psychiatrist does in the film. On the other hand, the scene that follows this implies that even if the priest did not mean all of that literally, Phil takes it literally; he goes in search of other people around Punxsutawney who are experiencing the same day over and over. Really, this scene reads better, in my opinion, as being a bit like Hannam’s (2008) “Groundhog Day Effect” or even Ralph’s assessment of his daily life sitting at that bowling alley bar with Phil and Gus…

What would you do if you were stuck in one place, and every day was exactly the same, and nothing that you did mattered?

That about sums it up for me.

If we’re lucky, our parents—even our pseudo- and stand-in parents—make our lives more interesting and varied than that. May 21, 2014, the Dalai Lama quoted (on Facebook) a saying I hadn’t heard before: “Wherever you’re happy, you can call home, and whoever is kind to you is like your parents.” Rita fixing Phil’s lapel before his report, that’s a producer thing but it’s also motherly. Anyone can fill that role in the individual moments.

Those who serve that sort of role on an ongoing basis—we should love them and celebrate them whenever we can. Or at least on those annual holidays reserved for them.

Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to be a better parent than I am and to appreciate my own parents more than I do.