#23 – Mr. Awesome’s Top10 Movies Pt.2

Look it, lists like these are obviously objective.  My list is not definitive, even for me.  I combed best movie lists, Academy Award winners, comedies, dramas, sci-fi, etc. to make sure I wasn’t leaving out any movies I like.  I’m sure I have, but this is what I came up with.  I’m interested in what you think of the list, and/or maybe my reasoning.  Hell, I’m just interested in movies you like.  Maybe you know of one I haven’t seen, or didn’t know existed that I may want to give a chance.  For the complete list of my Top10 movies, see Part1 .

— 10 —

GROUNDHOG DAY

groundhog day

Every day is Groundhog Day

“Groundhog Day?  Why Groundhog Day?” my Dad asked.  I get the question.  How could GD be on a Top10 movie list?  On the surface, it’s a fairly inconsequential and standard situational movie comedy, typical of a mid-career Bill Murray movie.  Even then, Bill Murray was a pretty awesome actor, it’s just that he did most of his acting in comedies.  That’s not to denigrate comedies as a movie category.  It’s just that critics, or movie fans and people who vote for or follow things like the award shows rarely find meaning or greatness in comedies, except as a comedic movie.  A comedic movie can be great, but as a comedy and not purely as a movie.  Or that’s my perception of how it goes.

And there is nothing wrong with a straight forward comedy, or a straight forward anything.  Movies or whatever else can and should be taken on face value sometimes, and are purely meant as entertainment, and there is value in that as well.  I just don’t think that Groundhog Day fits into the category of straightforward comedy.

The situation:  Murray plays a dick-ish meteorologist who inflates his own self-importance at the expense of others.  He’s an ass to everyone, including his camera man played by Chris Elliot, and his producer, played by Andie McDowell.  The crew is assigned to cover Groundhog Day and the traditional festivities in Puxsutawney, PA, where the groundhog is pulled out and tells everyone if it will be an early spring or not (if he sees his shadow, 6 more weeks of winter, correct?  Or the other way around?  I can never quite remember).  Murray is none too thrilled to have to cover such a fluffy piece of news and really just wants to get it over with.  They shoot the piece, Murray being shitty to everyone along the way.  He’s in a rush to get back to the city, and they take off in the news van.  It begins to snow – heavily – as they make their way back until it develops into a snowstorm.  Murray’s weatherman is pissed off as the roads are blocked and the highway shuts down and the state police make everyone turn around and head back.  To make it worse, he did not predict any snow whatsoever in his forecast.

So they stay in a bed and breakfast type place until the storm blows over.  Murray’s character wakes up expecting it to be the next day, Feb 3rd, and to be able to leave.  Only it’s not the next day when he wakes, it’s the same day.  It’s still Groundhog Day.

It’s never explained how this happens, that Murray get caught in this loop where every day when he wakes up it is the same day, nor is it ever stated how long he is in that day, over and over (although the internet has theories on this, and you can look there if you were so inclined).  He is the only one who knows that it is the same day – no one else realizes it – it’s a new day for them, just like any other day.  As the days pile up, Murray realizes that he loves Andie McDowell’s character, and he tries to learn enough about her, every day, to make her realize that he’s not such an asshole after all.  He becomes frustrated, though, that every day and any progress he makes resets when he wakes up, her not remembering anything, only thinking that he is the same jackass he’s always been.  There are other situations he encounters with the townsfolk related to his knowledge of them as he day drags on and on forever, and hilarity ensues.  In the end (SPOILER ALERT) he and McDowell end up getting together, the day ends and a new one begins, and everyone is happy.  Pretty standard stuff.

Except it’s not.  Standard stuff.  I think it could possibly almost be categorized as a sci-fi comedy, if we have to categorize.  The reason Groundhog Day exist on this list is because of what I find to be its existential nature.  It relates to things I think about.  What is a day?  What makes up a day?  How can we change, or how can we change the things we may or may not like about ourselves?  How long, or when, or if we become self-aware at all – not the self-awareness of being human (I think, therefore I am) but the kind of self-awareness that maybe you are not happy with who you are, or how people perceive you, and maybe that you want to change who you are at all.  Murray slowly realizes how much of an ass he is, and that he is not happy with how people perceive him.  He does it for McDowell, tries to change and become a better person.

But how long does such a change take, once you may be aware that a change is necessary at all?  Does it take a day?  Probably not.  Does it take all of the days?  And who does it matter to?  Is the change real if no one notices?  Do you get frustrated when people don’t notice the change, or it takes them too long to notice?

The movie takes some dark turns as Murray’s character explores some of these questions.  There’s a good long stretch, kind of a montage of events where he has had enough of being stuck in the same day and he tries to commit suicide.  It’s played for laughs (Ha!  Suicide!  Hilarious!).  And every day he “kills” himself, by different methods, because he’s had enough of being stuck in the same day, he wakes up again, in the same bed, with the same song playing on the clock radio.  He cannot even get relief from suicide – it’s Groundhog Day yet again.

I go to work every day.  I do the same things every morning to get ready for the day.  I drive the same way to work everyday.  I see the same people, do mostly the same things, come home and do the same or similar things with my evening, go to bed and start it all over again.  Maybe I’m not stuck in the same day, but it feels like it sometimes, no?  I used to reference this movie a lot.  If someone asked me what day it was by chance, I’d often respond that it was Groundhog Day, because every day felt the same.  This (and many, many other things) kind of influenced how I was, or how life was, or how I looked at life.

I realized at some point that I didn’t want to be how I was, or at least be the person I thought I was on the inside, the me that people didn’t see.  They just saw the crabby and often mean-spirited person who projected my crap onto others.  It wasn’t them (ok sometimes it’s them and still is) that’s the problem.  To change how I was perceived and to truly become the person I wanted to be I had to slowly but consciously act in a different manner.

One of my favorite authors is Kurt Vonnegut.  One of may favorite quotes of his, which I believe is from his book Mother Night  – “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful what we pretend to be.”  We may feel a way on the inside, but what we show people becomes the reality of who we are, whether we like it or not.  Murray’s character is an asshole because that’s what he shows everyone.  Maybe he’s not really.  He changes, but it takes forever.  It’s taken me forever, but I’m there in a lot of was.  I don’t think you are every exactly where you want to be, who you want to be,but through conscious effort you can get somewhere close to that.  You may feel low, you may feel like it’s not going to happen, but it can and it will if you try.

You don’t have to change if you don’t want.  But if you want to it’s possible.  It’s hard AF tho.  You will despair.  You will think it will not happen.  Murray’s character is on the brink, but suddenly one day it does happen.

The ending for me was a little too tidy.  Part of me wanted him to be stuck in the same day forever, but that wouldn’t seem fair to the character after everything he had been through and all of his efforts.  I don’t think that would have been a very uplifting ending for a commercial studio-type movie starring Bill Murray, so I guess it’s ok.  And I guess it’s good that it shows change it possible.

But how long does it take?  A day?  A week?  Years?  Forever?  I don’t think you can ever get there 100%.  I’m human, after Call, with all the weakness and foibles inherent with that humanness.  But it’s possible to get somewhere good, and sometimes the effort itself can be worthwhile.  Just be careful what you pretend to be.

 

— 9 —

CADDYSHACK

Dancing_Gopher_Caddyshack1

It’s in the hole!

Yes, another Bill Murray comedy.  No, nothing existential about this one.  In Caddyshack, Murray is in his prime of silly comedies, although he is not really close to being the main character in Caddyshack.  The movie boasts an all-star casts of comedic actors, including Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, and the criminally underrated Ted Knight.

There’s not a whole lot of plot to Caddyshack.  It takes place on a golf course, and revolves around the caddys, the owner of the club, the golfers and the developer (Dangerfield) who wants to buy Bushwood and develop it with the help of his Japanese investors.  Lots of silliness ensues, and whatever plot there is is secondary to the comedy.  It’s almost like set pieces, or little skits tied together by the overall plot of Danny Noonan, a young caddy, trying to figure out a way to make enough money to attend college.

The plot is fine, but really Caddyshack is about the one-liners.  Most of my daily conversation is peppered with references to TV shows, movies and the like, one of the main ones being Caddyshack.  A lot of times at work, something will jog someones memory to use a quote from this movie, and for the next 5 minutes we’ll just go around and around, quoting lines and giggling about them.  I can list them here, or you can go here http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080487/quotes to see some, but unless you’ve seen the movie I don’t know that just reading quotes is going to do it justice.

There’s not much more really to say about Caddyshack, except to say that it will never not be funny to me.  There are probably a ton of movies that are “better” by certain standards of what a “good” or “best” movie is.  But not for me.

Plus there is a dancing gopher.is

Plus plus that Kenny Loggins soundtrack!!!!

Caddyshack is pure unadulterated awesomeness, and you don’t have to think too hard to like it.  It’s just funny.

8—

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

empire

Princess Leia:  I love you.

Han Solo:  I know

Finally, a real science fiction movie!  Or sci-fi fantasy or something like that.  Sci-fi, for me, is where it’s at.  I love sci-fi, although I’m getting closer to something called speculative fiction, something like what Margaret Atwood writes.  Star Wars and the related titles are not speculative.  It’s pure sci-fi/fantasy.

As much as I like science fiction movies, there is only one other one on this list.  But wait, how can a Star Wars movie not be rated as the highest sci-fi movie, or just higher in general?

Let me tell you that I love Star Wars, like most everyone else (I do know a few people who have never seen a Star Wars movie, and it never ceases to amaze me.  Even if you don’t like that kind of movie, or do not like those movies in particular, it seems almost impossible to not have seen some of them by accident, or to have absorbed some of it just through other people and through popular culture in general.  It’s ok, just that I’m kind of shocked by it.)

For me, TESB the best of the 7 SW movies to date.  I do feel like the less George Lucas is involved, the better the movies are.  I don’t know if I can really argue the results, as the SW and SW universe is insanely popular, and even more so, if that’s possible, now that SW is a Disney property.

The original SWor A New Hope, as it was retroactively called, was a good movie and started it all.  But like a lot of George Lucas stuff, I think if you go back and look at it it’s not as good as you thought it was.  Lucas has had the most involvement in 4 out of the 7 movies – A New Hope and the prequels.

My feeling is that Lucas kind of lucked out on the original SW which lead to everything the franchise is now.  That’s not to say that the overall storyline that he developed is not really good or interesting.  It’s just that I don’t think he’s a particularly good director, or writer, especially where it pertains to the prequels (honestly, they were bad.  If someone were just to tell me the outline or synopsis of them I’d say that it was a really good idea and that they movies were going to be awesome.  But as far as the execution, objectively tell me that they were good movies.  Make an argument.  Because they were not).

So starting with TESB, through Return of the Jedi (I liked the Ewoks and I don’t really care if you did not) and culminating with The Force Awakens, the less Lucas is involved the better the movies became (although you could argue and possible swap A New Hope for Return of the Jedi.)  And you could probably argue that the proof is in the insane amount of $$$ GL has earned based on the SW franchise, where as I with my little opinions makes pennies in comparison.  So even the prequel I s, in all of their crapulence, must have merit.  And I think they do, in terms of the entire arc and as an idea of a movie.  But again, just because it infuriates me that they were so bad, I’ll keep saying it.  They were.  So.  Bad.

The reason TESB is the best one and is usually the consensus pick amongst SW fans as the best is because it’s kind of the bridge to the larger themes of the franchise as a whole.  While the original SW was a revelation and exciting and ended with the good guys winning, TESB was so much darker, so much more complex.  I remember after I saw TESB and the ensuing time period between then and TROTJ wondering, worrying, hoping that Darth Vader was not Luke’s father.  How could that horrible bad guy be the good guys father?  And the cliff hanger of whether Han Solo would live or not?  Just the overall tone of the movie was cooler, the cliffhanger ending was cooler.

I guess I love Star Wars because it was something different at the time, even as it borrowed from other movies.  And while at times, especially looking back, some of the dialogue may be wooden and clunky, as is some of the acting, if you put them all together it’s pretty awesome.  A movie, or movies, do not have to be perfect to be good, or be a classic, or to be included in Mr. Awesome’s Top10 list.  I think Star Wars in general, and probably specifically The Empire Strikes Back started my love of science fiction, and at least started to prove to people that maybe science fiction as a genre could be taken seriously, or at least not dismissed as an objectively good movie despite it’s science fiction pedigree.  SW paved the way for much, most or all of the sci-fi we know and love today, or at least I think so.  And there is no better example of that from Star Wars then The Empire Strikes Back. 

So there you have Pt.2.  Pt.3 to follow.  Enjoy your day.

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