Something that really bugs me about most people's references to the movie is that they grossly miss the point. When most people reference it they refer to something about their dull repetitive life, or being stuck in a rut. But that's not what happens in the movie.
He literally experiences the same thing for hundreds of days to hundreds of years (depending on interpretation). But something happens, he realizes the numerous opportunities present in this same, repeated, "uneventful" day. Sure, the daily grind of wake, commute, work, commute, dinner, TV, sleep, repeat is dull and repetitive. But unlike Phil, we don't have an infinite number of times to do this before we learn our lesson and change our approach. We get 100 years on the outside, 60 productive years for most of us. Even if you're doing the same thing each day, how do you spend the rest of your time? If it's living for the weekend, that's 5 evenings a week you've wasted. Fill it with time with family, friends, learning, hobbies, something. Become the best person you can be, because one day the repetition will end.
What will you have to show for it? Will you have just worked yourself to death and memorized every line of Star Wars, or will you be making ice sculptures with a chainsaw?
That's a serious question; if I like working and enjoy memorising Star Wars, why shouldn't I do that? Why can't I focus my life around the things I enjoy doing, rather than concentrating on all the things which I could be doing (but can't do, because of any number of reasons) and end up miserable and feeling like I'm wasting my life?
If Star Wars and your job are the things you want to be doing, do them. That's fantastic. If dancing or drawing or rebuilding a jeep are what you want to do, but can't because of work, find some other job or some better way to do your current job.
And don't feel beholden to others to do things or enjoy things because that's what they expect of you. I fucking hate the Star * franchises (or, more accurately, what they've become and their fanbases). But I work with people who love them (in their current incarnations). But in this field (computer programming), everyone thinks I'm weird. Same with video games, I enjoy them to an extent, but I've played them enough to know that I want to do other things. OTOH, don't listen to me if that's what you enjoy and I tell you to stop. If it's what you want to do, do it. But if it's what you want to do, and something in your life is holding you back that you want to change (as opposed to certain obligations, like an SO, that you shouldn't or don't want to change), then find a way to get that time back.
EDIT: Hell. If your work and Star Wars memorization are what you really want. Make that commute work for you. Ride a train and get more work done. Or listen to the movies on your drive. I'm doing that with my current attempt at learning Italian. That's one of the ways people miss the point. The time is there for you to do many (though not all) of the things you want to do now, you just have to realize it and take it back.
EDIT Further: And I guess, with regard to having something to "show" for it. At the end of your life, do you think that you will be happy with how you led it? Did you achieve all, most or even some of your goals? It's not just a result to show to others, but also an internal understanding of where you are and what you have achieved (or not) and why. If I get married and have kids, I probably won't achieve most of the travel I want to in this lifetime. But I'll probably be happy to have made that trade. But if I can't achieve that goal because I decided to work until I was 70, then, for me, that will have been a failure. So I've set myself on a course to avoid that.
That's because the threat in our economy is "If you don't work, you don't eat and you will go homeless." And that's a strong motivator to put up with shit at the workplace. Most people aren't wealthy.
A long time ago on a semi-obscure Internet bulletin board, a regular participant used this tagline to end his postings:
No apologies, no regrets.
Will you have just worked yourself to death making ice sculptures with a chainsaw, or will you memorize every line of Star Wars?
Phil has several ambitions in Groundhog Day, some more closely related to each other than others:
1. get out of Punxsatawney (changes over the course of the film)
2. stop the repetition
3. sleep with Rita (when he finally gets this, the repetition stops!)
4. optimize the day
(3) and (4) are both given quite a lot of screen time and plot focus; (2) is the source of many jokes.
Some other thoughts on the list:
I was surprised to see "Struggle against God" categorized under DISASTROUS SITUATIONS PRECIPITATED WITH CRIMINAL INTENT. I would have put it under TRAGIC SITUATIONS OVER WHICH THE VICTIM HAS NO CONTROL.
"Possessed of an ambition", interpreted as a goal, includes a lot of the other elements (consider "love's obstacles").
The list makes a three-way distinction between "enmity between kinsmen", "vengeance", and "kindred avenged against kindred". A better-thought-out list couldn't do this.
Where's the criminal intent?
To the earlier discussion, it's probably worth noting that Polti's plot 30, "Ambition" involves a person, an object, and an adversary; the person seeks the object and is opposed by the adversary. Not applicable to Groundhog Day.
Self sacrifice for an ideal was dramatic in the case of catching the kid who fell from a tree, but also played for laughs.
Rocky was received pretty well.
a bold leader; an object; an adversary
- (3) A miracle of god
- (5) Love's obstacles
- (14) Pursuit
- (23) Struggle against god
"God" being the situation he find himself in (both the miracle of it, and the struggle), pursuit being his overall progress, and of course the "main" love plot.
Depends how literally you take "god" for if those fit or not.
- a Mortal; an Immortal
- The Mortal and the Immortal enter a conflict.
28. Obstacles to love
- two Lovers; an Obstacle
- Two Lovers face an Obstacle together.
- punishment; a fugitive
- the fugitive flees punishment for a misunderstood conflict. Example: Les Misérables
That looks like it. The world around him is "immortal", and he was a "mortal" trapped in the "immortal" world. In the movie that is metaphorically represented by the day repeating, seemingly forever. The more the "mortal" tries to fight things, the further he is away from freedom. It was only by cooperating with the world he was finally free.
This tells me the counterpoint to Groundhog Day is any Michael Bay movie, which are all (23) Struggle against God.
Subplot (f) - a union of lovers prevented by a lack of congeniality between them
Struggle against ones lesser self.
Struggle against nihilism.
This would be in contrast with the '7 basic plots' and would yield much more specific results.
I wonder if they can be combined at random.. almost seems like they can be for pairs.
Act 1: Introduce Nice Guy
Act 2: Get Nice Guy stuck in a tree, throw rocks at him
Act 3: Get him down from the tree
Or, in other words, just watch Die Hard enough to get the idea.
This struck me in particular with Gilliam's The Zero Theorem which I saw recently. I generally really like Gilliam films, but I struggled with Zero Theorem precisely because the main character was so unrelatable.
That failed. I can't stand the show because it has no sympathetic characters. Everyone is horrible to everyone else and in general.
I agree about Phil though.
A plausible character with believable internal conflict is more interesting than a plausible character with external conflict - although ideally you want plenty of both.
Audiences like a certain amount of ambiguity, especially if they sympathise with the challenges a character faces.
But the old formulaic plot books are largely nonsense. I have a version from the late 19th century which predates silent movies by a few decades, but still claims to reduce drama to the same tropes.
It doesn't work - except maybe as light entertainment. The book is full of references to plays that have been almost entirely forgotten now.
Really good writing - Shakespeare, ancient Greek comedy/tragedy, a few more modern examples - works on a much deeper level than a trivial plot taxonomy.
- A renowned researcher gives hope to solve a long-standing problem.
- A famous hacker releases some cool software (or hardware blueprints) as an open source project.
- Please take a minute to pay homage to somebody who accomplished great things.
- A pressing social problem became even more pressing.
- A noble individual gains a legal victory over a faceless institution.
- A corporation announces structural changes.
..and so on. And then perhaps somebody could write categorization software based on the list.
I understand the natural human desire to figure out how stories work, but this is not how it's done.
On that topic, the best explanation I have ever read is the book "Story" by Robert McKee. I recommend it to everyone who is interested in the subject. It may still be imperfect, but he is very good at explaining things that are actually practically useful for writers and make a lot of sense.
- stranger comes to town
- stranger leaves town
There are no classifications that are both neutral and useful. A useful classification corroborates a thesis, and, in this case, asserts an ordering or structuring of some set of objects.
We could pick any arbitrary, discrete attribute and classify plots by each gradation of this attribute, like the above. Putting items in this classification is fun, but it doesn't generate knowledge if the classification does not convey some additional meaning.
A phylogenetic tree or a periodic table impute some ordering on the natural world that allows us to make meaningful predictions about undiscovered animals and chemical elements. They also support scientific theses about evolutionary biology and modern chemistry. They are not neutral (purely descriptive) classifications.
What additional knowledge do any of these story plot classifications give us?
Well, at the very least, it's a nice store of writing prompts.
What I would say is that it's less of a classification and more of a map. Out of the vast space of possible stories, here are the sections of story space which tend to get told again and again. Why? Because these are the sorts of stories are of interest to our silly human brains.
Here's a story. One day a man bought a newspaper. Then he saw a giraffe, and he threw the newspaper into a river. The Queen of Denmark bought a trombone. Was that a good story? No, it was dull, incoherent and meaningless, just a sequence of actions. We can't identify with them at all.
Here is another story. One day a man met a woman. But the Queen of Denmark kidnapped the woman. So the man went and rescued her. Now that's a much better story! It needs a bit of fleshing out, but it's precisely the sort of sequence of actions that humans like being told about, over and over again.
It's somewhat bizarre that humans should enjoy hearing lies about stuff that never actually happened, but we do -- only very specific types of lies about very specific types of stuff. This list is a vague attempt to map out the specific types of stuff that people like hearing about, and from that we can get insight into our own psychology.
It's definitely fatiguing to generate these repetitive stories, and I would argue that there are literary traditions (still alive today on television, in film, in music!) where your surreal, absurd, existentially nihilistic story about giraffes, the Queen of Denmark, and the law-man beating up the wrong guy would fit in nicely!
More it is an interesting experiment into analysis between films.
Unfortunately, this kind of structuralist analysis can be useful but it's limited. In contemporary critical analysis, it has been supplanted by (or augmented with) more useful techniques. These techniques are more capable of drawing meaningful distinctions between structurally similar works.
For example, this simplistic thematic classification will miss a lot of the meaning in surrealist or absurdist works like those of Jodorowsky (or even a contemporary BBC3 comedy like _Snuff Box_!)
A story is a series of events centred on the actions of one character.
A story is about the character facing a difficulty, and demonstrating which action the character took to overcome that difficulty.
Sometimes some of the first attempts at action fail, causing further difficulties.
Stories are an innate part of how humans think. There is a lot of solid research suggesting that there is a part of our brain that automatically transforms times series of events into stories, automatically, and without our knowing it.
The story is the basic organizing principle of our memory, our justice system, pretty much all of society.
See also: http://bigthink.com/overthinking-everything-with-jason-gots/...
If I had to describe humans to aliens I'd say: "Creatures with a loss aversion that create stories."
 - http://nanowrimo.org/
Who wants what from whom? What happens if they don't get it? Why now?