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such a nasty woman | by maryann johanson

what is there to say about Harold Ramis? he was very fascinating

In case you hadn’t already heard, Harold Ramis died yesterday at age 69.

If Ramis had stopped writing after Animal House, Meatballs, Caddyshack, and Stripes — on all which he was a coscreenwriter — he would already have been a legend. But Ramis actually changed the shape of modern pop culture with Ghostbusters, cowritten with Dan Aykroyd, which I once suggested was “sardonic base upon which the entirety of Xer culture is built.” Ramis’s Groundhog Day, which he wrote and directed, might be the finest film comedy ever made, one that presents complex philosophical ideas about life and death in a package that is outrageously funny and deeply moving at the same time. He reversed the usual dictum that comedy is tragedy plus time: here, tragedy is comedy plus time. A lot of time. (Ramis himself had said that Phil Connors spends around 10 years stuck in his time loop.)

For everyone who never saw Ramis as part of the ensemble in the criminally underappreciated SCTV — a sort of Canadian mishmash of Saturday Night Live and Monty Python’s Flying Circus — here’s a taste:

Everybody stop dying for a while, willya?

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  • Martin

    I think that his biggest legacy has to be Groundhog Day. I’m sure there’s people that use the phrase Groundhog Day as a synonym for Deja Vu without knowing the film that made that phrase popular. To make something such a part of not just pop culture but capital C Culture is truly noteworthy.

    Someone truly irreplaceable.

  • Steve Taylor

    Well said (as usual), Maryann. Ever notice how many cameos he did in which he played a doctor?

  • Jurgan

    I never really “got” the whole Ghostbusters thing, but Groundhog Day is amazing.

  • I never really “got” the whole Ghostbusters thing

    You are missing out, my friend. So sad.

  • Jurgan

    I’ve seen it, and I enjoyed it well enough, but I didn’t find it as amazingly funny as people say they do. Same thing with Buckaroo Banzai. Maybe you had to be part of the 80’s zeitgeist to really appreciate them.

  • Jonathan Roth

    I think this is the same as with Star Wars. A lot of what made the movie special and unique for the time (The cutting edge effects, the music, the rarity of good genre films) are now commonplace or obsolete.

    There were also the iconic “toys” of the film: proton packs, ghost traps, and Ecto-1 had the same iconic place in the imaginations of kids as lightsabers, blasters and Tie-Fighters. I think those helped cement the film in the imaginations of kids as much as the characters, concept or writing.

  • Kathy_A

    As a Gen-Xer (born in 1966), so much of Ramis’s output helped to form my pop-culture core, from Animal House and SCTV (which my siblings and I were addicted to, even though we had to stay up so darn late to watch it!) to Ghostbusters (snuck into it the first time because I wasn’t old enough to see it on my own–it wasn’t my first R-rated movie [that was The Blues Brothers], but it was the first I went to unaccompanied by adults) to Groundhog Day, which I also saw in the theater when it first came out.

    I read a tribute to Ramis yesterday (I think by David Edelstein) that pointed out that there are very few people who can say that they have redefined a holiday like Ramis did.

  • Groundhog Day and Ghostbusters are two of my favorite movies. “Who Ya Gonna Call?” Also enjoyed Analyze This and Analyze That.

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