Wednesday, September 2, 2015

someday somebody's gonna see me interviewing a groundhog...

First a quick recap of the first month of this less structured phase three of the Groundhog Day Project:

The previous recap/Groundhog Day viewing was Day 730 – i stayed here two years ago… two years of daily blogging down, however many more to go.

Then, I watched Groundhog Day one more time on Day 731 – i kinda wanna get started to set the new pattern—the 2nd of every month is now Groundhog Day Day. (To be fair, this entry also included some Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, but really it was about scene filmed but left out of Groundhog Day that led me back to…

Well, we’ll get to that below. First, here’s what the last month involved: a lot of teachers and students, teenagers trying to figure themselves out, and the parasocial relationships we make with such characters and with real-world celebrities and filmmakers. Plus a few random movies, new and old. The movies involved:

  • 732Dead Poets Society
  • 733Dead Poets Society and The Young and Prodigious T.S. Spivet
  • 734School of Rock
  • 735Mr. Holland’s Opus
  • 736Real Genius
  • 737Vile and Renaissance Man
  • 738The Gift and Southpaw
  • 739Stand and Deliver
  • 740The Fisher King
  • 741The Fisher King
  • 742The Fisher King
  • 743Dangerous Minds
  • 744Lean on Me
  • 745Lean on Me
  • 746The Principal
  • 747Summer School
  • 748Straight Outta Compton
  • 749Pump Up the Volume
  • 750Pump Up the Volume
  • 751Pump Up the Volume
  • 752The Legend of Billie Jean
  • 753The Legend of Billie Jean
  • 754Heathers
  • 755Heathers
  • 756Mean Girls
  • 757Jawbreaker
  • 758Clueless
  • 759Struck by Lightning
  • 760A Nightmare on Elm Street and Wes Craven’s New Nightmare
  • 761Struck by Lightning

Anyway, a month ago, I was looking into a scene that was filmed for Groundhog Day but cut from the final product, a scene that is, as it turned out, not just in earlier drafts of the screenplay but also in the final revision. Today, I want to start into that final revision finally as Groundhog Day plays on my TV.

First, here are the various entries dealing with the screenplay:

Even without the movie itself, without the visit to Woodstock and meeting Danny Rubin, I would have parasocial relationships with Ramis and Rubin just based on all the time I have spent with those screenplays. Not to mention numerous articles about Ramis, a few about Rubin. I wrote, Day 207 – more than anything else: “I think the measure of a man should be something bigger than and separate from what he produces in his work (though artistic work is certainly part and parcel of the artist responsible moreso than modern work is, obviously).” Thing is, I figure that my writing—the short stories, novels, screenplays, poems on the one hand, scholarly papers and blog entries on another hand, and, really, in this day and age, all of my tweets and facebook posts on an inexplicable third hand—is a great measure of who I am. Maybe it’s not always clear to each person who reads me, but having read the first year’s worth of this blog again recently

(Well, honestly, I’ve still got a few posts to finish out the coding. And, while I will reference phase two and even phase three of the blog in my thesis, I do not intend to do detailed coding of them because the codes from the first year seem likely to demonstrate a few things worth writing about.)

I am impressed by just how much of me is in there. My best attempts to be objective, looked at in context of the larger project, come across as deliberate manipulations almost, intended to anchor the more personal flights of fancy. But, I digress. I was supposed to be talking about Harold Ramis’ writing today, not my own.

The final revision, by the way, is dated March 5, 1992, though it has further colored-page-revisions (which unfortunately I cannot see because this copy is all black on white) through to April 24. This means, in theory, this copy includes revisions made during production.

Now, let us just do this systematically. I will try not to mention every little tab or highlight.

This version opens with the newsvan leaving Pittsburgh. No studio scene, no Hairdo or Larry.

The dining room at Cherry Street Inn still has a wall lined in books (p. 9)—a remnant of the book calendar from Rubin’s original.

Jedson O’Reilly, i.e. the old homeless man, is named as Old Jensen here (p. 10). To be fair, I got his first name, Jedson, from the deleted scene and how the actor playing one of the paramedics said it. O’Reilly, longtime readers should know, came from an earlier draft of the screenplay. I will probably just keep calling him O’Reilly.

Ramis has a tendency—not necessarily a bad thing as it’s a stylistic choice—to describe things a little too exactly. Page 2, for example, he describes Rita: “She is competent, personable, humorous, self-assured and very pretty—in short, a genuine princess, though Phil is too self-absorbed at this point to realize it.” Page 10, he introduces Ned Ryerson: “There is something about this guy that makes us dislike him on sight.” Personally, I like that Ramis refers to “us”—I do that when I write screenplays as well—but it’s a practice that’s usually frowned upon.

Phil’s “giant leach” line is in the script (p. 13). It still probably came from an ad lib by Murray, but someone put it into one of the colored revisions, I’m guessing.

Page 16, the groundhog gets loose and runs around. 1) this is why in the movie Phil suggests they try setting up in a different location (even though this groundhog running around bit doesn’t happen in the movie) and 2) I assume this is where this shot (in the DVD paper) comes from:

There’s an interesting character beat for Phil, page 17; he’s sitting around regaling the locals at the Tip Top (well, an unnamed diner, anyway) with weatherman stories... “At the time,” he tells them, “the National Weather Service predicted Hurricane Guenivere would come ashore in Georgia.” Then comes the impressive part; he’s clearly enjoying himself. “I said—‘Uh-uh. You’re not watching the Gulf Stream, boys. She’s gonna hit—New York City.’” I imagine a good pause there before he reveals “New York City.” The patrons respond with a nice “Ohhhh.” and “Phil sits back, satisfied.”

Gus is introduced as OLD GEEZER before he’s called GUS (p. 18).

Rita’s got a little more of an attitude here. In the van, headed out of Punxsutawney, she challenges Phil outright...

I have to say, that was pretty lousy this morning.

It was worse last year. The rat bit somebody—

I’m not talking about the groundhog. He was fine. I’m talking about you. You call yourself a professional?

I’m a pro. That was right on the money.

Okay, forget professional. How about human? It’s just a funny little folk pageant. You acted like it’s a personal insult. Who do you think you are?

Oh my God, you take this stuff seriously.

Yes, I do. There are no little stories, Phil. Only little reporters with big egos who think they’re too good for the job.

Oh, is that so?

Yes, that is so.

(wipes window)
Oh, boy, take a look at this.
(pp. 19-20)

If Rita was that confrontational, it might have played a little more like a romantic comedy much earlier. How could Phil not be enamored with that. Like Jack (Ted Danson) says in Three Men and a Little Lady, “I’m still in love with the first woman who hit me.” Phil has probably been been slapped plenty of times before, but probably hasn’t had someone call him on his bullshit so directly.

Page 22, dialogue from Phil: “This town is a time capsule somebody buried a hundred years ago and no one’s dug it up yet.” That line could have been good coming from Murray, though on paper it seems almost too eager to be a joke. He and Rita are looking at “an elaborately carved ice angel” this time, by the way, and she tells him, “Cheer up, Phil. The day’s what you make of it, right? A couple hours ago this was just a block of ice.” That last bit is a little too on-the-nose for the ice metaphor. The ice sculptures and ice sculpting in the film let you work a bit for the metaphor; not a lot of work, but a bit.

Page 23, Phil’s telling the Hurricane Guenivere story again, this time to “an attractive GIRL (NANCY)” at the bar (where, remember, God is the bartender). “Over here, I’ve got the satellite photos,” he says, “over here I’ve got the temperature grades...” His story’s getting more elaborate. He’s already trying too hard. “...and I think ‘Aha! You know where she’s gonna hit?’“ The bartender answers: “New York City.” Then, “Phil pauses, bites the intrusion.” Phil says, “It’s a famous story, yes.”

(to others)
Mayor of New York wouldn’t take his call. City got creamed.

Everyone chuckles at Phil’s expense.

Phil tells Nancy, “The science of meteorology is way over their heads.” Nervously, she says she better get going and Phil says the line Larry will echo later—in the film, Phil never says it—“Don’t you want to see the inside of the van?”

Since Larry just said that in my viewing today, and this entry has gotten rather long, I will offer one more detail before saving more for tomorrow.

To end the first February 2nd in this version (page 25, so a lot more setup than the film offers), Phil is at the Cherry Street Inn...

Phil enters his room. His open suitcase is on his bed. He throws it onto the floor, then tosses his shaving kit onto the end table. The shaving kit knocks over a vase with flowers, which falls and breaks.

Phil reacts. Perfect end to a perfect day. He flops down on the bed.


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