Posts Tagged ‘Bill Murray’

Groundhog’s Day: Rerun

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

As much as I think it is a bit of a cop-out to post a link to a post I’d already written (which itself was a re-publication of a piece I’d written even longer ago), today is Groundhog’s Day and there is something about today that would seemingly make that ok. A long time ago, I wrote something about the movie Groundhog Day, by Harold Ramis and starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. As a short recap, it is a movie about one day in the life of Bill Murray’s character, were he forced to repeat it infinitely. Its main premise derives from everything that could occur from a simple disturbance in how we experience time. I never turn down an opportunity to watch it. And in turn, I have never been disappointed after watching it. It is time-defyingly good.

In a small digression, I’ve been doing a lot of research on watches lately. Wrist watches, specifically. For some reason, I got in my head a while back that the next thing that I wanted was a handcrafted Swiss timepiece. So in between my time spent at work, cramming for ARE exams, managing my stock portfolio (heavy on gold-short on China), wagering on professional football, and managing to be not completely asocial, I’ve been reading about works by A. Lange & Sohne, Patek Philippe, Audemars Piguet, and Rolex. It’s hard not to want to own/experience one of those things once you know about them, and the horological world is a place where the knowledge is not easily exhausted. So I’ve been looking into buying one. Not anything digital, or electric, but the kind that are called “automatic” or “mechanical.” Maybe at some point one with “complications.” Run by gears, tourbillons, gyromaxes, oyster cases, and any matter of who-ha and what-not. You know, the kind that are a bit obscenely priced, and not altogether all that practical, but contain within each of them generations of knowledge derived from experiments, engineering, and a healthy dose of artisanship and inspiration. A while ago, in another post, I wrote about how a distinguishing idea about time is the primary contribution many famous architects have made to the concept of urbanity. Embodied in each watch is an idea about time, a theory of the meaning of that idea, and a mechanical execution of that idea. They’re wonderful things, and they remind me of how personal, relative, and individual our sense of time is.

4/10/2006: TKO’ed in Tokyo

Friday, December 26th, 2008

I spent two weeks in Tokyo before starting grad school, and it was one of the most memorable places I visited in my round-the-world trip. There’s something to Tokyo that everybody should experience at least once in their lives. Here’s some notes I wrote about Sofia Coppola’s movie Lost in Translation, which was filmed in Tokyo.


Lost in Translation (2003), 102 minutes

Ah, Sofia Coppola, who was raised from the dead like Lazarus after her character (and seemingly her Hollywood career) was killed in the last scene of her father’s disastrous Godfather III with her subdued and restrained directorial turn in her adaptation of Jeffrey Eugenides’ The Virgin Suicides. That movie seemed to explore, more than anything else, how many aspects of cinematic directing she could imbue with the qualities of “quiet and suggestive.” It also could be used as a great study of mid-century suburban America, in particular her handling of the landscape of contrasting claustrophobia/agoraphobia in the alternating landscapes of the typical suburban home placed in the vast spaces of intra-coastal agri-expanses.

With Lost in Translation, she seemed to gain the confidence to explore her hipster filmmaking with a looser and more unrestrained hand. Bill Murray, who has shown an almost completely singular steady professional ascension turns in a searingly memorable performance here as a washed up movie star pitching mid-level Japanese whiskey (in a scene so impressive I was compelled to reenact it when I was in Tokyo this summer). Sofia Coppola apparently wrote the role with Bill Murray explicitly in mind. If that is the case she certainly shows a talented touch with actors; she pulled a decent performance out of the otherwise painfully indistinct Joshua Hartnett in The Virgin Suicides and was at least partially responsible for launching Scarlett Johansson’s career by casting her in Lost in Translation.

Also, her touch in selecting music deserves mention: for The Virgin Suicides she commissioned one of the French band Air’s best albums as a soundtrack, effectively introducing the now popular band to American audiences for the first time. Here in Lost in Translation she coerced Kevin Shields (of the cultishly popular band My Bloody Valentine) out of retirement to record his first material in over 15 years, a move akin to somebody convincing Bobby Fisher to play chess again. She also continues to showcase little known French bands, this time selecting a song from the little known but devilishly catchy French-pop band Phoenix. The matching of sounds and scenes seems to be a particular talent for Sofia Coppola; she loves to juxtapose and match sounds to cinema-scapes. For instance, the contemporary French ambience-techno of Air played over the mid-century American suburban landscapes for The Virgin Suicides; the ethereal post-punk instrumentals of Kevin Shields layered over scenes of both the sterile corporate interior of the Park Hyatt Hotel and the neon chaos of metropolis Tokyo. It’s as if Ms. Coppola is trying to find the sound of a space.

It may be interesting to note that the field of cinematic sound editing offers certain insights into how we experience space; for instance, the processing of ambient sound directly correlates to shifts in scenes/spaces. The ambient sound of an empty hallway with doors closed is distinctly different from the sound of an empty hallway with doors open, and it is easy to imagine, though not necessarily immediately apparent, that the ambience sound (and what is termed as “presence” in film sound theory) and acoustic properties are much different between interiors and exteriors, and even between similarly sized interiors lined with different materials. We all know that various stereo receivers, through digital equalizers, are able to mimic the acoustic properties of spaces as varied as stadiums or small cafes. This is all studied and documented distinctly in film and may be an interesting point of study: how our sense of hearing alone affects our understanding of space and materials.

2/2/2006: In the Face of Postmodern Decay

Friday, December 26th, 2008

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.