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J.b. Priestley (#110 of 2)

Imagining Sisyphus Happy: A Groundhog Day Retrospective

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Imagining Sisyphus Happy: A Groundhog Day Retrospective
Imagining Sisyphus Happy: A Groundhog Day Retrospective

For 16 years, Groundhog Day has been hailed as a meditation on self-redemption. But to pigeonhole it into one overarching theme would be an insult to the layered precision, and perfection, of Harold Ramis’s 1993 masterpiece, which ventures into the heart of darkness and despair to ultimately emerge unharmed, but not unmarked. This story of a man doomed to relive the same day over and over again is not concerned about tomorrow. A true absurdist triumph, it cares not what the destination might be, for it knows that the pursuit of meaning is itself meaningful whether or not that pursuit is eventually rewarded. Life might very well lack purpose, and it might very well be a struggle. But that doesn’t mean you have to be an asshole about it.

A shot of a blue sky (cotton-white clouds floating, lazily, across the screen) opens the film. Every few seconds the shot changes—yet it remains the same. The sky is blue, the clouds as pearly as before and still in their hazy dance, even though they are not the same as the ones from the previous shot. It is a visual metaphor that permeates the rest of the film. That it is intertwined with an otherworldly small town marching band track only adds to the positively Lynchian feel.

Appreciation: The Old Dark House

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Appreciation: <em>The Old Dark House</em>
Appreciation: <em>The Old Dark House</em>

After the success of Frankenstein (1931), and before the future successes of The Invisible Man (1933) and Bride of Frankenstein (1935), James Whale directed The Old Dark House (1932). This once lost movie provides as much early DNA for the horror genre as those other Whalean masterworks. It’s hard to think of a title that sounds older and creakier than The Old Dark House, but the film remains stylish, funny, and surprisingly modern. For a brisk 72-minutes, the film entertains handsomely and never varies its perfect tone of witty suspense or its atmosphere of wry, comic horror.