The Shapiro Files

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Of Groundhog Day and Time-Looping Films

Today is Groundhog Day. Punxsutawney Phil has seen his shadow and it looks like we're in for six more weeks of bad weather. In honor of today's annual celebration of our beloved season-indicating rodent, I thought I'd take a moment to set the record straight about the Bill Murray film Groundhog Day. When the film was released in 1993, I avoided seeing it because I was a little annoyed by all the reviews praising its "unique" premise. Why? Because in 1990, three years prior to its release, I saw (and tremendously enjoyed) a short film called 12:01--a film with an identical time-looping premise. The only difference between the two is that in 12:01, the protagonist endlessly relives a single hour, whereas the Bill Murray character endlessly relives a whole day in Groundhog Day. And we're not talking about an entirely obscure short film either; it was nominated for an Oscar for best live action short film and aired regularly on cable TV. Yet there has never been any mention of this excellent short film in any of the marketing or reviews for Groundhog Day.

(Incidentally, because of the popularity of Groundhog Day three years later, 12:01 was turned into a full-length television film. I bet people at the time mistakenly thought it was 12:01 that was copying the premise of Groundhog Day, when it was really the other way around.)

In all events, I finally did get around to seeing Groundhog Day last year (ya gotta love Netflix). And I'm happy to say that I enjoyed the movie very much. Although none of the filmmakers want to acknowledge 12:01 as a possible influence (and I watched all the DVD supplements and listened to the director's commentary just to be sure), I have to admit it's a a really sweet and funny little movie. The hilarious scene of Bill Murray kidnapping Punxsutawney Phil alone makes the film worth seeing.

As a final note, it seems that several television programs have also employed the "time looping" plot device in the years following the release of 12:01. Here's an fun site I found by way of Google that lists a bunch of these.

Coming soon in a future blog entry: A discussion of time-stopping movies/television programs. (Ever hear of a television film called The Girl, the Gold Watch & Everything?)


  • Nope, never heard of it!

    Thanks for this information! Never heard of 12:01 before; but loved Groundhog Hog! I had no idea it was based on a plagiarized information!

    By Blogger Irina Tsukerman, at 2/02/2006 10:26 PM  

  • Have you seen the movie...The Tesseract...kind of obscure...check it out...falls into your time bending theme...

    The Egel Nest

    By Blogger Bradley Egel, at 2/03/2006 12:28 AM  

  • The Tesseract sounds vaguely familiar. I must have read about it someplace when it was released. It sounds like it belongs to another favorite time-related genre--that of multiple events occurring over the same period of time with overlaps. My favorite of all films to employ this structure is Jim Jarmusch's brilliant Mystery Train from 1989. Another more recent film that employs this same type of simultaneous-time structure to good effect (although the movie as a whole let me down a tad) is 11:14 (yep, another film that makes a specific time its title).

    By Blogger Steve Shapiro, at 2/03/2006 8:49 AM  

  • I just discovered why I thought I heard of The Tesseract. It's a mathematical term describing a 4-dimensional analog of the cube and happens to be a device used in the classic children's fantasy novel, A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L'Engle (one of my very favorite books as a kid). As for the movie, it sounds good. I'll add it to my Netflix queue!

    By Blogger Steve Shapiro, at 2/03/2006 8:55 AM  

  • Have you seen "elephant"...another time overlapping movie...It is...I think a Gus Van Zandt you can imagine it's strangeness...I really liked it is strange in its theme...filming style...and other areas...but it was quite disturbingly enjoyable...

    It is a school violence, columbine-like, theme by the way...

    The Egel Nest

    By Blogger Bradley Egel, at 2/03/2006 10:42 PM  

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