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From Under A Rock: Groundhog Day

February 2, 2016 | Posted by Michael Ornelas
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From Under A Rock: Groundhog Day  

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A lot of comedies are “good” but very few are classics. I (Michael) have watched countless movies of the genre that I laughed at, enjoyed, and never felt the need to watch again. There are others of a special, rare breed (which for me personally include Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Dumb & Dumber, Zoolander, Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison, Austin Powers, Office Space, Tropic Thunder, among others) that, much like this week’s pick, are both timeless and a perfect representation of the time in which it’s made. This week’s pick is one of those classics.

You only get one first time, and for some people, it comes later than it does for others. This particular column is about documenting the first viewing of a “classic” movie or TV show determined at the discretion of Aaron Hubbard and Michael Ornelas in alternation.

Last week Aaron tried to murder his spouse for twice the insurance payout while showing Michael Double Indemnity. This week Michael takes Aaron out from under the proverbial rock over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again with Groundhog Day.

Groundhog Day
Released: February 12th, 1993
Directed by: Harold Ramis
Written by: Danny Rubin & Harold Ramis
Starring:
Bill Murray as Phil Connors
Andie MacDowell as Rita Hanson
Chris Elliott as Larry the Camera Man

Michael Ornelas: My parents and I have very different tastes in what we find entertaining. For instance, horror and sci-fi are probably my favorite genres these days while my parents won’t really consider watching either. But my tastes in comedy were very much influenced by what my dad showed me when I was growing up, and Groundhog Day was one I’m thankful he introduced me to at very young age. It’s one of my favorites, and I would argue it’s one of the smartest comedies ever produced.

Aaron Hubbard: If there’s one genre of films I can almost never get into, it’s traditional comedies. I just read through Michael’s list of “classics” and I only enjoy two of the ones I’ve seen (I can’t comment on Office Space though, as I haven’t seen it). This is probably a movie I would have avoided if not for this column. So I’m very happy that I do this column with you, because this was a wonderful film all around, and not just funny.

Clock/
Don’t Forget Your Booties ‘cause It’s Cold Out There Today
Michael: One of many reasons that Groundhog Day works so well with its premise is the establishment of constants so that they can break expectations later on. The line (quoted above) that wakes him up every morning when his alarm goes off, various happenings in the diner, Ned Ryerson (and the subsequent doozy of a puddle he steps in), the Punxsutawney Groundhog Festival; all these things frame the story. They call attention to the alarm clock in such a deliberate manner that the moment it goes off on his first time repeating Groundhog Day, we know something is off. It’s such a brilliant way to build the movie.

Aaron: I now see why so many critics brought up Groundhog Day when talking about Edge of Tomorrow, one of my favorites movies of 2014. That’s all I could think about when watching this movie; it’s the same type of structure and it’s very clever and allows for consistent jokes (and some heartfelt moments later on). It got to a point where I was laughing every time I heard that Polka just because I looked forward to seeing how Phil would react to the increasingly annoying situation. Apparently this is also a thing that actually happens; this town is real and they celebrate this day almost exactly as it’s presented in the film. For some reason that makes me enjoy this film even more.

Michael: And much like Phil’s increased annoyance at the Polka, it’s this exploration of pattern that gives way to many fun plot and character points. From Phil’s learning how to play the system in his favor (to sleep with Nancy, to learn piano one day at a time, and even to make an honest attempt to get to know Rita) to feeling like he’s in an escapable personal Hell (one of my favorite sequences in the film is the montage of suicides), everything is cyclical and presented on-screen in such a way that viewers are never lost for even a second. Phil’s familiarity with February 2nd in Punxsutawney grows to a level of omniscience that then transfers to the viewer. That final morning when he wakes up and it actually is February 3rd grabs us because of the replay of “I Got You Babe”…and then we hear the radio announcers say something different and mention that they just love that song so they’re playing it again today. That moment’s impact is lost without the genius use of pattern establishment.

Humor/
A Wide Range of Humor
Aaron: While the movie definitely relies on constants, it rarely feels truly repetitive. This is largely because its humor doesn’t follow one style of joke; there are some wacky, goofy moments, some mean-spirited and dark moments, and some that are funny just because they tell the honest truth about Phil and the characters around him. It was a bit disarming for me, because I never was able to just settle and go “Okay, this is what this movie is going for.” It gave the movie a quality all it’s own for me.

Michael: Despite different approaches to humor, I feel that Bill Murray is the glue that holds it all together. He is one of the most visual actors in comedy, and it’s all so subtle. A slight manipulation of his facial muscles conveys so much, and that helps sell everything that the movie goes for. It goes big (driving drunk and leading cops on a chase scene down the train tracks where I’m pretty sure it’s implied that the cop car got destroyed and some lives were lost), it goes small (Phil’s passive annoyance with Ned Ryerson), and everything in between (I don’t know what a medium-sized example is…maybe shoving a whole piece of cake in his mouth at the diner in front of Rita?). This movie couldn’t have been done with anyone but Bill Murray in that lead role, and for that reason, I hope it’s never remade. It holds up wonderfully, and its humor pervades every scene.

Aaron: I can agree with that. Like Tallahassee in Zombieland, Bill Murray has a direct line with my sense of humor, and he was the only reason I was excited about giving this movie a shot. I feel like most comedic actors are so over the top and outrageous that their antics ruin potentially funny situations. Looking at you, Ben Stiller and Will Ferrell. But Bill Murray is special, and he helps make this movie special. Not that he’s the only reason; this script is smarter and more complex than I would have ever guessed going into it.

Suicide/
Phil Sees His Shadow
Michael: Isn’t that the metaphor the entire movie is trying to make? Our main character is forced into a situation where he, due to his own character flaws, sees nothing but darkness, despair, and misery. His journey is to finally escape this personal winter by no longer seeing life through such a dark lens. Only then will he be granted access to his metaphorical springtime, where true growth and warmth are experienced. From figuring out ways to use an entire town’s worth of women for sex, reckless endangerment of fellow citizens and cops alike, kidnapping (of a groundhog), theft, and countless suicides, to truly pursuing a life worth living as a decent man with nothing but the best of intentions not just for himself, but for all of those around him. And it pays off, for by the end, he is Punxsutawney’s most celebrated citizen.

Aaron: Besides Edge of Tomorrow (a direct descendant of this film if there ever was one), this film reminds me of another story; A Christmas Carol. Not just because of its holiday theme either. The character of Phil Connors is a Scrooge if there ever was one. Not so much the greediness, but in his uncaring and mean-spirited attitude. The movie allows him to see the futility of that and eventually grow as a person, becoming someone who improves his life by connecting with his community. As we’ve discussed, the Charles Dickens’ work is one of my all-time favorite stories. Having something so similar that doesn’t make me think of Christmas is a genuine pleasure.

Ratings:
Michael: This film is well-acted, a good story, visually interesting (which is unusual amongst comedies), perfectly cast, and thematically excellent. I can’t even find little things to nitpick about Groundhog Day as it has even aged well. On top of all that, it’s hilarious. Ten out of nine.

A+

Aaron: As I mentioned before, I don’t generally enjoy comedies. But this was honestly about as flawless as a comedy can get. It’s got a really strong character arc and gifted actors (the things that always appeal to me), but it’s also got a lot of depth and is funny the entire time. I feel like I’ve got a new “go to” movie for when I just want to throw something on over and over and over and over and over to entertain me.

A+

Michael: Between this and Lethal Weapon, I’m glad my recent picks have been so beloved by you. Feels good man. Feels good. I’m just building up goodwill for when I pick The Room in June.

Aaron: I loved Room! It’s one of the best movies of 2015!

Michael: Add in a “The” and it’s an infinitely more tragic tale.

Is this film Bill Murray’s best performance? If not, what’s your favorite?

Next week:

Aaron: Ever since we started this, I’ve been depressed by your limited selection of Martin Scorsese movies, as I consider him to be one of the all-time great directors. It’s time we fixed that with one of my favorite movies of the last decade and a half.

departed/

Michael: This was always that one film that I “have been meaning to see” and never got around to it. It’s had that distinction for me for almost ten years now, so it’s definitely time I did something about that. I’m glad you’ve picked it.

Aaron: Groundhog Day, then this. Talk about mood whiplash…

Michael: Not my tempo.

What are your favorite Martin Scorsese films? Let us know in the comments!

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And follow Michael on Twitter! @TouchButtPro

Check out our past reviews!
Mission: Impossible, They Live, Marvel’s Daredevil, The Silence of the Lambs, 12 Angry Men, The Usual Suspects, The Boondock Saints, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Iron Giant, Fargo, American Psycho, 28 Days Later, Frankenstein, Crank, The Godfather: Part II, American Beauty, Rocky, Alien, Spaceballs, Star Wars: Clone Wars, The Muppets Christmas Carol, Reservoir Dogs, Superman: The Movie, Lethal Weapon, Double Indemnity, Groundhog Day

Charity!
charity/
The water crisis in Flint, Michigan has become national news, and while many are donating, the citizens still need all of the clean water they can get. The United Way of Genesee County has set up a fund dedicated to supplying the people of Flint with bottled water, filters and emergency support systems. If you want to lend a helping hand to this city, you can make a difference by donating to this fund.

Ultimate Character Battle: Finals Result!!
And lastly, our month-long From Under A Rock Ultimate Character Battle has finally concluded. It’s been an interesting journey, but apparently we picked our seeds well as the finals came down to the #1 Protagonist seed vs. the #1 Antagonist seed. It was Ripley vs. the titular alien, the Xenomorph that she is destined to do battle with forever, and much like the other instances, our winner is:
QueenRipley/
All hail the first Ultimate Battle Queen!

Below is the full tournament bracket:
”bracket”/

10
The final score: review Virtually Perfect
The 411
Groundhog Day is a truly special comedy, with a smart script, a perfect lead actor, and a unique premise that was executed to perfection. It’s timeless, as it still holds up just as well in 2016 as it did in 1993, and it was chosen to be preserved in the National Film Registry in 2007. There’s a reason for that: it’s a wonderful way to spend 102 minutes of your life. If you haven’t seen this classic before, pick it up and watch Bill Murray do what he does best: make you laugh.
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