A Reversal/Groundhog Day

February 02, 2004
A thought by James Berardinelli

Those of you who have stopped by this page before may notice a few changes as of the beginning of February. In addition to the pull-down menu bar (the first step in archiving "ReelThoughts" topics), I have "reversed" the text/background color combination. While I personally think white text on a dark backdrop looks cool, I have received several e-mails from people who complain that it causes eye strain. Since that was not my intention, I have reverted to a more traditional combination (with a suitably muted and modified graphic).

This pull-down menu is the first of several that will be popping up in different parts of the site during the next few months. Eventually, most of the plain-vanilla html menus will be replaced by these. This change will permit me to reduce the number of frames from three to two. (Text-based browsing will still be supported for those who prefer that option.) The basic underlying philosophy of the site's navigation will not change. In fact, if anything, navigation will become simpler. Enhancements will likely come slowly, but they will come.

I may also elect to add pictures to select older reviews. As with all "graphically enhanced" reviews, the global "hide/show graphics" option will apply. All you have to do is click it on/off once and it will stay on/off until you change your preference. (Note: those who have cookies disabled will always see the graphics. Those who have javascript disabled will never see them.)

Groundhog Day

It's hard to believe that Groundhog Day is 11 years old this month. Every year since I first obtained a laserdisc copy in 1994, I have taken a couple hours on February 2 to watch this film, and it gets better with each watching. My original review (three and one-half stars) was highly favorable, but, during the intervening years, I have come to appreciate the movie more - so much so, in fact, that it just missed my Top 100.

For those who have never seen Groundhog Day, this is an opportune time to watch it - not only because of the arrival of Candlemas Day, but because the star, the sublimely funny Bill Murray, has just been nominated for a Best Actor nomination. (The jury is still out whether Murray or Hollywood "outsider" Sean Penn has the inside track.) Often, we wonder what we might do differently if we could live a moment over again. During the course of Groundhog Day, Murray learns to his chagrin what a nightmare this scenario can become.

As for the rodent's weather prognostication ability... It actually derives from an old English rhyme: "If Candlemas Day be fair and bright, winter will have another flight. If Candlemas Day be gray and grim, winter is gone and won't come again." Unfortunately, today was about as sunny and pleasant as it gets in February, so, if you believe in this sort of thing, there will be six more weeks of snow shoveling.

Stupor Bowl

It's a good thing the game was exciting, because nothing else was. For the countless millions who watch the Super Bowl more for the commercials than for the on-field gladiatorial struggles of the conference champions, the 2004 edition was a complete bust. Sure, there were a couple of mildly amusing spots, but most of them were duds. And it seemed like every other ad featured Mike Ditka hawking Levitra. Not many laughs there. Mid-way through the game, I started using the commerical breaks for what they were intended to be used for: trips to the bathroom and channel surfing.

Then there's the Janet Jackson "controversy," which has to be the most overinflated "scandal" in the history of U.S. television. Okay, so she showed a breast. In prime-time. For about one second. And you had to have HDTV and a recorder to see anything. What's the big deal? Was it in good taste? No. But it really doesn't deserve more than a footnote.

As for those who claim the incident was "R-rated," it's clear they have little concept of what earns a film that rating. (Admittedly, the MPAA is so inconsistent that such a mistake is understandable.) The pasty on the breast rendered it PG-13, which is hardly shocking. Almost as absurd as the FCC's reaction is that of CBS, MTV, and the performers who claimed everything from "surprise" and "ignorance" to "defective wardrobe." Not only was the incident promoted (something shocking at the end of the performance), but it was obviously rehearsed. And why else would Ms. Jackson be wearing a pasty if she didn't intend to expose herself? (Then again, this is the Jackson family, where weird doesn't begin to describe things.)

The intention of the stunt was to generate publicity. And, considering the mini-firestorm it ignited, that aim was achieved. Congratulations, Janet, on becoming the most exposed strip-tease artist in the history of the world. And congratulations to the American public for once again displaying an irrational fear of the naked female form.