Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Great Movie?

I tend to judge all movies harshly. The only time that I'll ever cut a movie any goddamned slack at all is when its producers don't try to present it as something that it's not. If a movie is a mindless stinking action flick with no redeeming social value whatsoever and if it presents itself as such, I'll hold my tongue.

So I'm a very hard man to please when it comes to either literature or art. Despite that, I'm always out there looking for the perfect illustration, the most flawless novel, the best movie.

One thing I look for in a movie is a line of logic that is presented, accepted, and followed throughout. To that end I am ready, willing, and able to suspend disbelief and take at face value something that is, on the outside, completely illogical if the creator of the film follows that wobbly line of logic and adheres to it.

So that we all understand one another, I have only seen one perfect movie in my entire life, and that movie is the original 1933 version of KING KONG. We are led to a vast island whose natural resources have not been raped to the bare rock and where not only primitive humans live, but also dinosaurs, and also a giant ape named King Kong. I'm game if you are, and historically the American public (and the world's public) is very cool with this story.

KING KONG faces its dinosaurs and giant gorilla and the movie follows that line to its logical conclusion, all the while delivering decent characterizations and a fine story without screwing up. If you can find me a more perfect film than KING KONG, let me know about it, because by Jove I would like to see it. I've been looking...haven't found it yet.

However, there is a modern movie that I do look upon as nearly perfect and equally as entertaining as KING KONG. And that movie is GROUNDHOG DAY.

I love everything about this film. The characters are all lovely--every damned one of them, including the initially lousy person and talented TV weatherman, Phil Connors (portrayed
flawlessly by Bill Murray). And the romantic object in the movie is the painfully lovely Rita (played by Andie McDowell). Around them we are ringed by all manner of sweet, annoying, and funny supporting characters. Maybe Phil is King Kong and Rita is Ann Darrow. Hell...I, don't know!

The movie introduces the main players and the setting (an idyllic
Punxatawny, Pennsylvania) and then hits us with the illogical logic: Phil is stuck in a time loop, reliving the same day over and over and over. During the course of the movie this time loop becomes normal to us. We see Phil Connors horrified by this development; then depressed by it; then enraged by it; then humbled by it, before finally accepting it. We see the endless Groundhog Day slowly transform the asscrack TV weatherman until he becomes a decent human being worthy of winning the woman (and the day).

I always enjoy this movie. It's like a handful of other movies that hold me and force me to watch them whenever I pass a screen airing them: PATTON, SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, THE GODFATHER...movies of that caliber. Even though I own the damned thing on DVD and can watch it anytime I please, and have seen it probably a dozen times, I will stop if I see it on TV and just watch it until the end.

It may very well be the best movie I've ever seen. It's funny. It's pleasant. It makes me feel good. It's full of attractive characters (in spirit if not in body). I love GROUNDHOG DAY. (For what it's worth, I actually consider it to be a Christmas movie. It has that kind of vibe.)

One thing that does give me just a little chill at the very end. The last line, uttered by Bill Murray.

"At first we'll rent."

As if the writer is giving us the slightest hint that the old, asshole Phil is already peeking out of the
shell of goodness he'd learned while stuck in his time loop. Dictating to the woman whose love he'd so painfully won.

I like that. I like the doubt.

Another perfect movie? Maybe.

Whatever happened to Nancy Taylor, anyway? (Now we know.)


Lawrence Roy Aiken said...

Apropos of nothing, Andie McDowell is from Gaffney, SC. She was discovered by a modeling agent (or someone like that) while working behind the counter at a McDonald's.

James Robert Smith said...

I've heard that story. She currently lives in Asheville, from what I understand. I've long had a huge weakness for her.