first you made me love you
Flash forward a decade and a half. It's 1993. It's February. I'm watching Groundhog Day on the big screen--75% sure it was at the Mann 3 in Hastings Ranch, Pasadena, California. It's opening weekend and I'm seeing a film that, well, I have no idea how important it will be for me a couple decades later. But, that's how it is for any movie, isn't it. You might have an idea of what you'll think of it before you head into the theater, or rent that video tape (or DVD... or whatever file format movies are on things like Amazon Prime nowadays), but when the lights go down and you're in that movie for that hour and a half (or longer), something changes in you. Or many things change in you. Groundhog Day that first time was not one of those films where I could divide my life easily into all the days before and all the days after, like I emerged from the darkness of the theater a completely different person. I was 17, I would graduate from high school in a few months, I had recently had my first and (sort of) only date with a girl from my high school I had a thing for. We went to see Scent of a Woman at the General Cinema in the Santa Anita Fashion Park. I was already awkward enough that I had no particular way to get a second date. Weirdly, a couple weekends later, she would invite me to her house and along with her brother, and a couple cousins (once of which was in my grade in school, because our world was just that small and our school was even smaller) watched What About Bob? which starred Bill Murray, and Prelude to a Kiss. It was awkward--me being there, I mean. It never really felt like a second date or anything like that. But the movies were entertaining... What About Bob? was the more memorable of the two. Aside from my then-future, now-ex, wife, I wouldn't go to any movies again for anything that would be construed a date. There was a very entertaining evening with a group of us getting into Stephen King's Sleepwalkers at the AMC One Colorado in Old Town, Pasadena, when none of us were old enough to buy tickets--the two girls in the group flirted with the ticket taker and lied (unconvincingly) about leaving their ID at home. After the movie, we went to Rosie's Diner, which no longer exists, ate a lot of fries, launched some toothpick umbrellas into the ceiling--that was a thing you did there--and had some odd conversation about sex in the car ride home.
These are stories I could tell about movies. Each one a link to some sliver of my life. Maybe not the obvious one--like Groundhog Day being a recurring viewing over the years, but not really becoming important in my life until 20 1/2 years after its release. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country will always be linked to ice skating for me. Cocktail will be linked to new cars. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers will forever be linked with Kentucky Fried Chicken, particularly the one that used to be on Fair Oaks in South Pasadena. Lethal Weapon 2 is linked to the ferry ride between Ireland and England. Ghost reminds me of Eastbourne, England. Cliffhanger, Kaanapali, Hawaii. Indecent Proposal is forever linked to Born Yesterday. Return of the Jedi reminds me of the movie theater that used to be in the Eagle Rock Plaza, and that amazing brickwork floor they used to have. Scream for Help is where I learned you could have sex in a position other than missionary...
And the list could go on and on. I don't imagine anymore a Fever Pitch-style book of my life linked to movies, though; this blog has taken much of the wind out of those sails.
And, the thing about Groundhog Day now is that it can take me anywhere. Numerous flights, the food court at Eastern Michigan University, the very theater seen in the film in Woodstock, Illinois, the bowling alley from the movie (though I only had time for half the movie there while I bowled because I had to get to the theater...
And, I just got distracted, because that is something I do. I was googling images to use for today's blog that I aren't ones I've used before, or close to ones I've used before. I googled behind-the-scenes photos, actually, and I came upon some guy's blog entry--in a blog called emergent math--about the god scene and how many days Phil would need to accomplish it. And, like many an unimaginative fool's theory on Phil becoming fluent in French, it pissed me off. Or at least annoyed me enough to forego whatever train of thought I had going before. Because this guy takes some screenshots of the inside of the Tip Tip on god day, and he counts up the people present. Already, he's doing too much because he--I infer--cannot imagine that Phil is cleverer than he is. He counts 34 then adds 5-10 short order cooks in the back, which seems like far too many. Hell, I ate in the restaurant that was in that space in 2014, not a diner but a Mexican restaurant, and the place is smaller than it looks in the film, and from what I could see, there wasn't room for more than about 5 people in its kitchen. But, I digress, because the big problem with counting how many people are there is that Phil does not tell Rita about all of them. And he doesn't have to. In fact, it is literally never going to be the case that he would have to tell her about all of them. Rita is not so stupid that she wouldn't realize something was going on with Phil after he'd only told her about a few--as we see in the film. And, Phil doesn't have to know all of them, he just has to know which ones she is going to ask about. And, that just takes trial and error. Also, he doesn't have to get to know them (though I like to assume that he does spend time getting to know the people of Punxsutawney); this blogger guy estimates that it would take 3 conversations each for Phil to get to know these people. With 45 people (including those 10 imaginary short order cooks), that makes 135 conversations which this blogger guy says would take 135 days.
And, my eyes go wide, because, well, the world is a shocking place lately and I want this minor issue with some other person trying to analyze Groundhog Day to matter right now, just like I want to spend time thinking about movies I've seen, movies I've known all my life, rather than spend too much time risking a drift into politics or current events.
(If you're reading this far off in the future and don't feel like checking up on the date, there was a mass shooting in Las Vegas last night. The current count is 59 dead, 527 injured, which is horrible to think about. A recent string of hurricanes has left people in Texas and Louisiana and Puerto Rico (just to mention the US locations) flooded, destroyed, without power or food...)
I'd rather be with old movies, with Groundhog Day right now. I'd rather worry about this other blogger's miscalculations, because for a little while, it's easier.
But anyway, I don't know about you but I can have more than one conversation in a day. This blogger guy writes:
And even if that [135 days] seems like an overestimation, it's probably unlikely that Phil ran into each of the characters on every replayed day, right? It's probably more likely that he had an intimate conversation with a character one out of every three days on average, but it's hard to know for sure.
It is not that hard, actually. But, let's backtrack. It doesn't take 3 conversations to get the requisite information to impress Rita. Just go back to Day 4. He gets enough information from Nancy with three questions to get her into his bed (or at least onto his couch) the next night. He doesn't have to be casual and careful. He can ask leading, blunt questions to whomever he wants. Come the next resumption of the time loop, they will have no idea. And, if Rita happens to ask about a person on god day that he isn't ready to answer, well, just look at the date night sequence to see how that goes. "I always drink to world peace." CUT. "I'd like to say a prayer and drink to world peace." Phil is clever, Phil is quick, and Phil remembers everything. Day 2, he knows the radio line, "chapped lips" when he wasn't even paying much attention the radio on Day 1.
(Plus, we've actually already seen him getting to know Ralph and Gus on Day 3 and Nancy on Day 4.)
But then there's this, and my annoyance lessens. I click on a related link on that guy's blog and find he's got a classroom exercise of sorts set up out of that same scene, out of figuring out how many questions Phil would have had to ask--a "getting to know you" activity turned toward the film, and as a teacher in the field of communication, I kind of like that. I already use clips from Phil's various news reports when I talk about delivery in my public speaking courses. I could certainly use more Groundhog Day in the classroom. He's got another entry suggesting a mathematical approach to the cards scene in Phil's room at the Cherry Street Inn.
And, as (I think) I finished talking about that guy's blog, the god scene begins here. Synchronicity.
And, I want to talk about movies, and talk about love. I don't really know if movies were my first love, or if they just were so omnipresent in my life that inevitably I had to be obsessed with them... Or them with me? I know that when my mother would have rentals she didn't think we're appropriate for me--
(The aforementioned Scream for Help for instance, came out in July 1984, when I was 8. It was probably on video later that year. That's when I would've watched it. Summer Lovers came out in 1982. Depending on when it came out on video, I was 6 or 7 when I saw, well, a good chunk of that movie (up until it was obvious there were going to be a lot of naked people) before my mother turned it off.)
--I would beg to watch it. Same with those 10 o'clock dramas on TV. I was drawn to visual storytelling, to be sure. And, I never thought I was too young for any of it. And, the more I saw, the less I was. Too young, I mean. I was inured to it all, the violence (because America), the sex and nudity (because, preadolescent male being told it was inappropriate to be interested in watching it). And, I wanted more. Not just sex and violence, but more drama, more comedy, more science fiction, more horror, more everything. More movies.
For example (and because I'm a braggart), let's look at the past two weeks. September 19 through today. The last viewing of The Apple Dumpling Gang, my second viewing of mother!, three viewings of Across the Great Divide, Brad's Status, The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, three viewings of Murder by Death, American Assassin, Friend Request, five viewings of Star Wars, Flatliners, Loving Vincent, Gerald's Game, Battle of the Sexes, and now Groundhog Day. 14 days. 23 films. Plus family, plus teaching, plus D&D, plus teaching, plus a lot of political tweets and retweets, plus an escape room last weekend, and I think I could've fit in more.
So color me an obsessed fool. Or whatever. I'm having a good time. This "month" of movies from my childhood will take many months if I keep the pace going that I've had so far--of the seventy something films on my initial long list, I have gotten to just eight. When I was exploring genre, like my month of slasher films (October 2014) or my month of westerns (June 2015), I could spend just one entry per film, or even one entry to cover two films, but this is my life I'm talking about now. This is the deconstruction of my childhood and my experience with film in my formative years. It demands more attention. And, it will get it.