In thinking about the passing of one of the great modern filmmakers, I have come to this realization: Harold Ramis was my "Star Wars".

What do I mean by that? Well, first a confession that should come as no surprise to those who listen to the show: I don't care about "Star Wars". Not a bit. Nothing about the films or the story or the characters hold any interest to me.  My understanding of the "Star Wars" world is just barely enough to appreciate the parody taking place in Mel Brooks' "Spaceballs".

As other kids growing up were collecting light-sabers and "using the force," what was I doing? Watching Harold Ramis films over and over and over again.


"Stripes". "Vacation". "Aminal House". "Ghostbusters". "Groundhog Day". "Back to School". "Caddyshack". And yes, even "Armed and Dangerous".

On that list probably are five of the ten most-viewed movies in my lifetime. I studied the comic timing and dialogue the way others obsessed about Star Wars minutia and trivia. Clark Griswold. John Winger. Phil Connors. Danny Noonan. Those guys were my Luke Skywalker, Hans Solo, C-3PO, and Princess Leia. Except with fewer collectible action figures involved.

Now, to be certain, many of those films are rated "R". So many thanks to my dad for allowing me to be exposed to those movies at such a young age. But it came with a nice reward; I think I would not quite be the person I am today if not for the undue influence of Harold Ramis' writing, directing, and acting. And I think I ended up pretty OK.

Two recommendations, if I might: #1: If you are a Ramis/Groundhog Day fan, you must read Jonah Goldberg's essay on the film from 2005. It's a full-on analysis of the movie and what makes it an enduring classic:

...there is also a secular, even conservative, point to be made here. Connors’s metamorphosis contradicts almost everything postmodernity teaches. He doesn’t find paradise or liberation by becoming more “authentic,” by acting on his whims and urges and listening to his inner voices. That behavior is soul-killing. He does exactly the opposite: He learns to appreciate the crowd, the community, even the bourgeois hicks and their values. He determines to make himself better by reading poetry and the classics and by learning to sculpt ice and make music, and most of all by shedding his ironic detachment from the world.

And #2: if you have a few hours, give the Ramis co-written film "Armed and Dangerous" a shot. It doesn't hold up anywhere near as well as the classics, but it's a hidden success. And, oh that cast: John Candy, Eugene Levy, Robert Loggia, Meg Ryan (in her first heavy-lifting role), Jonathan Banks. Here's the trailer:

RIP, Harold Ramis. Until this week I never fully appreciated the impact your films had on me.

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