Groundhog Day (Harold Ramis, 1993), Battleground (Brian Henson, 2006)

Finally convinced the kids that Groundhog Day might actually be worth watching (everytime I mentioned the title in the past their faces made this look, as if they had to eat fried toenails). They sat down quiet long enough to reach the point when Murray repeats the day for the first time, then they were hooked--'Why's that happening? When will he stop repeating himself? How can he get out of it?' Ultimately, they liked it, but it was a damned hard sell, and part of the pleasure is in finally saying 'Told you it was good.'

Which made me ask myself: what's the appeal of this picture? Partly I think it's seeing a metaphysical question--an idle one at that--made real (what if you had to repeat a day over and over again?); partly it's seeing a man wield the powers of god--or a god, anyway; partly it's the pleasure of watching Murray riff for the length of a picture on a single comic premise and all its surprisingly complex consequences, winning Andie McDowell (who is unusually lively and charming here) as first prize.

The younger pointed out the obvious right off: "He'll keep repeating till he gets his act together." But the film goes through so many permutations, and does so in so inventive a manner, that you forget the ending's inevitability, or choose to forget that ending, and allow yourself to be charmed by it when it finally happens. That's the film's achievement, I think.

Finally saw Brian Henson's "Battleground," the premiere episode of Stephen King's Nightmares and Dreamscapes, with a Richard Christian Matheson (son of THE Richard Matheson) script from a story by Stephen King. Better than I expected, with the nice conceit that not a single word of dialogue was spoken (mostly grunts and all), and that for a reasonable amount of time, the assailants are more suggested than shown, and that they retain their essential toyness.

I do wish they had shown the camp described by King's story, complete witha medic treating the wounded. And that the ending wasn't so attenuated. And that the 'special with this box' addition had a recognizable shape--not some obscure backpack--and that the classic mushroom cloud had been achieved.

I can see a problem with this series compared to, say the Masters of Horror series--that has some of the best names in the business (Carpenter, Gordon, Cohen, Dante, McNaughton, Hooper) working with a variety of writers, this one has some lesser filmmakers (Rob Bowman, Brian Henson) working on the stories of just one writer. You get less visual and verbal variety all around. At least "Battleground" was satisfying--but it had a good premise, of course, and a nice twist ending.

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