2/2/2006: In the Face of Postmodern Decay
Here’s another film notes page from the past:
Groundhog Day (1993), 101 minutes
Well, I could write these film notes about how countless articles have been written about Groundhog Day since its release in 1993. In 2003 the Museum of Modern Art in New York ran a film series titled, “The Hidden God: Film & Faith,” and screened Groundhog Day as the keystone film in front of works by Ingmar Bergman and Roberto Rosselini. Apparently, it was reported in the New York Times that the film notes for the movie were the most coveted to be published in the catalog, and “a squabble broke out over who would get to write them.” In 2005, The National Review wrote an article about this movie titled, “A Movie for All Time,” in which the writer detailed how influential the film has been.
I could also write about Harold Ramis, the man who either directed, wrote or co-wrote the films Stripes, Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, Animal House, There’s Something About Mary, and Analyze This (note: good luck trying to find a better comedic resume anywhere). In 2004 the New Yorker published an 8,000 word article on Harold Ramis called, “Comedy First: How Harold Ramis’s Films Have Stayed Funny for Twenty-Five Years,” where Groundhog Day was called “Ramis’s masterpiece.”
And then funnily enough, there are countless web pages of professors who use Groundhog Day as a central part of their courses in theology or philosophy, like this delicious morsel from Michael Foley of the University of Notre Dame; “Groundhog Day may be seen for what it is: a stunning allegory of moral, intellectual, and even religious excellence in the face of postmodern decay, a sort of Christian-Aristotelian Pilgrim’s Progress for those lost in the contemporary cosmos.” Showings of this movie have been sponsored by the Zen Center in San Francisco, the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, and many other theo-philo-art organizations. Jews, Catholics, Evangelicals, Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, and even followers of the oppressed Chinese Falun Gong movement (!) all have seemingly tried to claim that this movie is explicates the tenets of their faith.
Which all adds up to what? You may be saying this seems like a lot to toss onto a movie by the guy who co-wrote Animal House and starring Bill Murray. And I’m going to agree with you. In fact, I’m going to go even farther by saying it’s too much. Really, Groundhog Day is just a stupid film about an arrogant big-town jackass (Bill Murray) who gets stuck in a little town in Pennsylvania and who is forced to repeat that day over and over again until he can win the affection of a woman played by Andie MacDowell. Except it’s really, really, funny. Maybe it’s funny in an existential, metaphysical sort of way, but that’s getting all pretentious and intellectual-ified. And that just makes the movie less funny. Really, we spend all day thinking deep thoughts about walls and columns and attaching the prefix meta- to everything in sight. We don’t need any theorizing to suck the fun out of watching Bill Murray drive through town on a bender with an animatronic rodent. We need this movie because it’s funny.