Groundhog Day (Supplemental Viewing)

Billy Pilgrim was unique, because he became unstuck in time.  Does this imply that the rest of us are, in fact, stuck in time?  Taking this idea to an extreme, Groundhog Day tells the story of Phil Connors, a deeply sour and egotistical weatherman, as he repeatedly lives through the same day (groundhog day) over and over again.

The story begins with Phil and his news crew (Rita the producer, and Larry the camera man) head to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to cover the groundhog day festivities.  The groundhog (whose name, consequentially, is also Phil) ominously “predicts” a long winter.  Contrary to the prediction of Phil the weatherman, a massive blizzard hits, forcing the crew to stay the night in Punxsutawney.  This is when the cycle begins.  In this video, Phil Connors begins to realize what is happening to him.

 

Obviously distressing for the first few days, Phil ultimately learns to cope with the fact of his strange new existence.  In the process of analyzing and accepting his situation, Phil reveals more and more levels of his psyche.

His initial reaction upon recognizing what is happening is to find ways to take advantage of the cycle for his own benefit: seducing women, stealing money, and living, literally, without a care for tomorrow.  Phil has found power, and is using it to his own selfish ends.

 

This honeymoon phase doesn’t last forever.  It’s impossible to know how many groundhog days Phil experienced; some have estimated in the ten thousand day range, others far more.  As the day keeps grinding on, Phil grows tired of the usual debauchery.  Exhausted by the cycle, and worried that it might never end, Phil becomes increasingly existential.  He acts recklessly, interrogates his clueless peers about what he should do, and is driven to the point of insanity.

His woe reaches a climax, and he commits suicide.  Well, almost.  Upon death, he instantly wakes up at 6:00 a.m., with the same song playing, the same sun shining, and the same depression dominating his existence.  Still in total rejection of the cycle that won’t let him go, Phil attempts suicide again.  And again.  And again and again and so forth.  After countless deaths, the hopelessness of Phil’s situation is evident.

Repeatedly throughout the film, Phil is begged for change by an old homeless man.  Every single time, a countless number of times, Phil turns the man down.  But when Phil discovers that the day he has been reliving is in fact the day of the old man’s death, he is thrown into despair.  Over and over he tries to save the old man’s life, but to no avail.  Absolutely nothing can be done.  Much like Billy Pilgrim, Phil is forced to accept the impotence of his position, and simply face the fate that time has handed him.

 

This marks the turning point in Phil’s journey.  His focus turns away from mere self-pleasure, and instead turns outward to the people around him.  He begins taking steps to fundamentally improve his character, while simultaneously humbling himself.  With an infinite amount of time at hand, he ultimately accomplishes his goal.

On the last day of the cycle, Phil reaches perfection.  His good hearted producer, Rita, falls in love with him at last, despite hating him only a “day” before.  Phil wakes up beside Rita, and discovers that groundhog day has finally ended. Phil mentions that he would like to stay in Punxsutawney – the place that he so desperately wanted to leave earlier – indicating that he truly has eliminated his nagging desire to escape his fate.

I chose this film because I just like it so darn much.  Its intriguing premise and deep philosophical musings elevate it above the point of being a mere comedy.  Every time I watch this film, I find a new meaning within it that I had ever even considered before.  And that is what good entertainment, and good art, is all about.

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“Idiocracy” Supplemental Film Viewing

Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the future.

We have awesome money, a bad ass president, and the best fast food out of a vending machine that you could ever ask for. Check out our ballin’ TV. And before you ask, yes. It does come with a toilet.

Before I really go head first into this analysis, I would just like to say one thing:  this was a kick-ass movie, brought to you by Carl’s Jr.

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Supplemental Viewing: Memento

Natalie: What’s the last thing that you do remember?

Leonard Shelby: My wife…

Natalie: That’s sweet.

Leonard Shelby: …dying.

Memento is about a man named Leonard Shelby, who is on a strange search to find and kill the man who raped and killed his wife. Leonard awoke one night to find his wife out of the bed. He heard struggling coming from the hall bathroom, so he grabbed his gun. When he busted into the bathroom, he saw a man over his wife, who was being suffocated. He immediately shot the intruder, and when he went to assist his wife, he was attacked from behind by another man. His last normal memory is lying on the bathroom floor and watching his wife die.

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Peggy Sue Got Married: Supplemental Viewing

Summary: A divorced woman with two grown children, Peggy Sue, goes to a high school reunion where her adulterous ex-husband, and high school sweetheart, Charlie, shows up. She then faints and wakes up in high school right before graduation and when they married. After knowing what she knows about the future and how much pain they went through, she decides to try altering their path by breaking up with him before her accidental pregnancy. After so many trials, she finally breaks it off with him (it was pretty difficult), and tries to get back to her own world by talking to a nerdy guy in her school about it. She then thinks about her children and decides that all the pain is worth the struggle, gets back together with him, and wakes up in the hospital with him sitting next to her. He apologizes for everything he’s done to her. Was it just a dream? Nope: The nerdy guy dedicated a book to her, which hadn’t happened in the other reality.

There are a few points in this story line that I would like to point out:

  • Method of time Travel
    In Peggy Sue Got Married, they don’t need a fancy machine to transport her back into her past, but her traveling is passive and uncontrollable, like what Dana in Kindred and Billy in Slaughterhouse-five experience. She actually tries to go back into the future once and she goes to her grandfather for help. His Mason lodge buddies and him perform a ritual that fails. (Her boyfriend steals her during it so nothing happened. What the old guys performing the ritual see, however, is her disappearing, so they think it worked.) Compared to Dana, who knows why she travels back to the future, Peggy can’t figure it out, and only travels back into the future once she has set everything right that she had changed for the worse (breaking up with Charlie, thus not having the kids). Compared to Billy, she does not travel multiple times throughout her life, but just once. But again, compared to Billy, her traveling is random and uncontrollable.
  • Did that really happen?
    As in with Kindred, Slaughterhouse-Five, and pretty much every other time travel fiction, many people (and even sometimes the person experiencing the traveling) doubt that they actually traveled through time. Even the reader is not even 100% sure that what the main character is doing is anything other than dreaming or they have a vivid imagination. Billy Pilgrim: potentially crazy. Dana: coping mechanism for abuse. Time Traveler (in Time Machine): mad scientist? Guys from Primer: Hallucinogenic drugs? We will never know: after all, all of it is just fiction. Or is it?
  • Fate
    As with Billy’s view, the end result cannot be avoided. When Peggy Sue accepts that might be the moment she travels back to her own time. The Wikapedia summary here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peggy_Sue_Got_Married stated that Peggy Sue “realiz[ed] that she cannot cheat fate” when she gave in to Charlie and that is what sent her to the future. I don’t altogether believe that, but it doesn’t matter what I believe. It actually doesn’t matter what anyone believes. What happened in the story happened and our opinions cannot change that.
  • Choices affecting our future (trying to change the past)
    It is the theme of many time travel stories to try to change a mistake that was made in the past or to right a wrong, etc. In this case, the mistake would not be righted and even though Peggy made the choice to change what she regretted, she still was not able to alter the event. She could not even stop the accidental pregnancy from happening that led to their early marriage.
  • Abusive relationships
    A common theme in Kindred was the abusive relationships among all of the people involved (Dana and Kevin, Dana and Rufus, Rufus and his mother, etc). The relationship between Peggy and Charlie is abusive in the fact that he cheated on her and treated her unkindly. Time travel was a device used in order for her to see that she would not have avoided that abuse because her children were worth the abuse and pain.

I believe that the writers of this story used time travel to show that mothers would not change what had happened between them and the father of their children in order to avoid that pain that occurred because the children are worth it. I know my mother wouldn’t. The writers uses the passive time travel as a way to teach Peggy that she would not have it any other way because of how much she loves her children and that she should not regret what she did because it’s not doing anyone any good. She can’t really change her choices anyways, even if she does go back into time.

Overall, I think this story is a great reminder to not regret the past when beautiful things come about from our mistakes or bad choices. That boyfriend that you regret dating will show you what kind of guy you want in the future. That tattoo you regret getting will teach you to think about what you put on your body. And that man you regret marrying might have given you beautiful children to help you through your troubles.

Supplementary Viewing

A movie that I recently watched that relates to time travel is ‘Click’. Starring Adam Sandler and Kate Beckinsale, Click is directed by Frank Coraci and came out in 2006. The film is about a man named Michael who receives a universal remote which gives him the power to pause, fast forward or rewind his life. The problem with Michael though, was that he always put work ahead of his family. He just wants to give his family the life he never had. But what he does not realize is that all his family wants is him to be there. They don’t need the materialistic objects that he thinks they need, like a brand new bike. An example of a time Michael chose work over family is when his son had a swimming carnival that he promised he would attend. He broke that promise, and chose instead to work. Even when he did finally show up he was on his cell phone the whole time, not really spending time with his family. His family would show their frustration but Michael did not seem to notice.

 

This is a different sort of time travelling to what we have been covering during the year. It is unlike Kindred or the time machine or any of the other books, because he is time travelling through his life. It is not like he is actually travelling through time, because he does not go to a time like the 1950s or 3000s where it is not possible for him to be living. In Kindred, Dana is travelling to the 19th century.  So as Michael fast forwards his life, he in turn ages and grows old. He can only travel through his lifetime. And due to the way he neglected his family and the way he lived his life, major things change as he travels.

The movie starts getting fascinating when the universal remote starts deciding for its self when to time travel. The fast forward button triggers itself by what Michael fast forwarded before. So for example, that one time when he fast forwarded having a cold shower (because it is unpleasant), the remote control thought it learnt that Michael does not like showers. So from that point on, the fast forward button is triggered every time Michael thinks about having a shower. This was not a good thing for Michael because he did not know that if you skip an event or action once (like taking a shower) it would skip it every single time for the rest of his life. And what makes it worse for him is prior to knowing about this, he had been fast forwarding all the family activities just so he could work, because Michael put work ahead of family. An example is when he fast forwarded the family dinner so he could work; the remote automatically assumed that he took work ahead of family.

As the movie goes on Michael starts skipping longer periods of time. One thing leads to another and as soon as you know it, he is skipping years of his life and slowly but surely his family starts drifting away from him. The remote learned from his previous actions. The remote would skip sickness for him, and whenever a promotion is mentioned, the remote would fast forward to the day he actually got promoted, because that’s what he wanted.

As soon as you know it Michael is in the year 2031 and he is divorced and his father has died. His wife has moved on and has remarried. What makes it even worse is that his own kids call his wife’s new husband dad. Due to the fact that Michael was never there for his family and work ran his life, he lost the people he loves the most. And his family has even found a replacement for him. It is weird for Michael because all his dreams came true (he is a CEO of a major company and is getting paid well) yet he is not happy like he thought he would be, because he has lost his family. It is ironic because he was working so hard to try and make them happy, yet it went the complete opposite way.

 

Michael started off having the power to time travel; kind of like in the book ‘The Time Machine’ (The time traveler decided when to travel). But as the film continues, his power is taken away from him, and the remote started deciding when he would travel. The remote would trigger the fast forward button whenever a certain event occurred. So his travelling habits change throughout the film. Toward the end Michaels time travelling changes like kindred. It is uncontrolled, unpredictable and is triggered only by certain events. In Kindred, Dana only travels back in time whenever Rufus is in trouble or in danger of losing his life. And whenever Dana is in a life threatening situation, she travels in time to the present. Neither of the protagonists in both film and novel have control over when they time travel.

The movie was an eye opener for anyone who watched it. It really does show us what people take for granted and what we should be appreciating. Family is something that we can easily turn our backs on and we think that they will always be there. But it is not the case at all, and I feel like we forget to appreciate the things that are right in front of our eyes. All it took was a time travelling device that gave Michael the power to travel through his life to realize what he needs to prioritize.

 

Supplemental Viewing. The Hangover

So I thought and thought about what wouldn’t be the most typical movie to relate the works we’ve been reading to and I remembered The Hangover. Though it doesn’t typically deal with time travel it does deal with having to look into the past to answer questions in the present so that they can get out of their predicament. I found this to be a similar theme in many of our stories but the one I can relate to The Hangover the most would of course be Rip Van Winkle.

The Hangover was recently on television and is a very popular comedy with even a sequel. But it’s the first one I’m focusing on. Four friends Phil, Stu, Alan, and Doug all head to Vegas to celebrate Doug getting married. The main characters Phil, Stu, and Alan have their quirks. Phil is a cool teacher who cannot wait to leave his home life behind momentarily and have some fun. Stu is a dentist in an abusive relationship. His girlfriend beats on him, yells, and basically runs his life. He ends up lying to her to be able to get away with his friends for the weekend. Alan, Doug’s brother in-law, lives at home and is just weird. 

When they get to Vegas, city of sin, they all take shots unknowingly that they contain roofies. Next thing they know they’re waking up in a trashed hotel room with a crying baby, Stu is  missing a tooth, and with a tiger in the bathroom. Not too long after they realize the groom Doug is missing. They then have to do a number of things including returning to a wedding chapel, a stripper’s apartment,the hospital, Mike Tyson’s house, and deal with getting shot at just to piece the night together.

The movie reminded me of Rip Van Winkle in many ways. First and most obvious it had to do with being intoxicated. Both the tale and the movie consisted of characters not being sober. It also allowed for both stories to not be typical time travel stories. Having been drunk made all characters fast forward to the future resulting in having to piece together what happened while they were inebriated. 

Rip is a very indifferent character (not unlike Billy Pilgrim in Slaughterhouse- Five). He had an unhappy home life with a nagging wife. He always tended to stray from responsibilities. One day while trying to get away from his wife he goes on a walk with his dog and crosses paths with a dutch dressed little man. He found himself follow him up the mountain into the company of other men just as strangely dressed drinking and playing nine pins. This also helped connect The Hangover with the story. I connected the group of friends downfall of drinking and meeting new people as they partied and gambled with Rip’s downfall and how he ended up waking up from a drunken sleep several years after that night.

When Rip awakens he doesn’t realize at first what has happened. He walks back into town and slowly pieces together that he had been asleep for many years and that many things have changed. The government was different, the town was different, the people were different. He couldn’t believe it at first. After learning that his wife had died he wasn’t very phased by the news. He then accepted the changes and lived his life out. 

The Hangover had a similar plot. They woke up from their drunken state to have to piece together a crazy night. They go in circles re-meeting people from the previous night to try to find their friend Doug.

I felt the two characters that were the most similar were Rip and Stu. Like Rip, Stu had trouble keeping his partner happy. She was just as mean and nagging as Rip’s wife was made out to be. Stu wanted to have some fun with his friends but knew his girlfriend wouldn’t be up for it so he ended up lying to get away. In both stories, the audience tends to feel sorry for the two characters. At the end of the stories Rip ended up ridding himself of his horrible relationship with his wife after she died. Stu also overcame and got rid of his issue with his girlfriend after finally coming up with enough courage to end his relationship with her.

Click–Supplemental Viewing

I recently watched the movie Click with Adam Sandler, and it got me thinking about the time travel element used in the movie.  In this movie, the main character is an overworked architect named Michael Newman, played by Sandler, that goes to Bed Bath and Beyond to purchase a universal remote for his home electronic system.  While in the store, he enters the “Beyond” section and meets an employee/inventor there in the back room who bestows him with a very different kind of universal remote.  After fiddling with this remote, he realizes that he can control almost all aspects of his life with it.  He can fast forward when his boss is talking to him, press mute when the family dog is barking, and completely skip through an argument with his wife.  He is also able to use the remote to travel back and forth from different times in the day as well as events in his life.  The concept seems very appealing at first. I mean, who wouldn’t want to fast forward a meeting with their annoying and boss?  And who would pass up the opportunity to hit “pause” and slap the arrogant jerk in the face? Though the idea seems completely brilliant, the main character quickly learns that this device isn’t the amazing invention he was hoping for.

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