Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Harold Ramis: My Five Favorite Works

HAROLD RAMIS 1944 - 2014

A few weeks ago the world lost a brilliant and serious talent in Philip Seymour Hoffman.  Now, the world has lost one of the most brilliant comedic writers, directors, and actors of a generation where we saw comedy evolve into much more daring and, ultimately, classic films.  Harold Ramis was a man sometimes in front of the camera, but made his mark on comedy even more behind the camera, and in front of the typewriter.  Producer, director, writer, Harold Ramis died Monday due to complications from a rare blood disorder at the age of 69.  And there is no doubt he left his mark on the world, and left us all with plenty of laughter to carry on.

Everyone has a Ramis favorite, and it seems like everyone has a dark horse film that he played a part in that they liked more than most.  His reach stretched so far and touched so many lives in the comedy world, picking five of my favorites was certainly a tough task.  But here goes nothing...

5) Animal House (Writer) - Ramis, along with Douglas Kenney and Chris Miller, would write the ultimate college comedy in Animal House, a staple for each and every college student, a right of passage for fraternity kids.  John Landis directed, and Ramis' words still influence college comedies today.

4) Multiplicity (Director, Producer) - Multiplicity is arguably the most underrated, under appreciated comedy of the 90s, a wonderful physical comedy, a witty tale, complete with sharp commentary on the busy lives of all of us.

3) Groundhog Day (Director, Writer) - Twenty years ago, the term "Groundhog Day" was not a common metaphor for the day that will never end.  Thanks to the writing and directing of Ramis, and the performance from his lifelong friend Bill Murray, Groundhog Day transcended the silver screen to become a term used on a daily basis.

2) Ghostbusters (Writer, Actor) - Ramis worked with Dan Aykroyd and Rick Moranis to create one of the most iconic pictures of the 80s, a pop culture staple.  Ramis would step in front of the camera to play Egon, the no nonsense straight man to an array of funny men.  Ghostbusters is a legendary film, and its unfortunate the fabled third entry may never happen now.

1) Caddyshack (Director, Writer) - Caddyshack is arguably the most legendary comedy of all time, a consistently amusing, sometimes hilarious, occasionally gut busting satire of the rich golfers and the poor golf course workers.  Such a biting commentary of a die area of social types deserved a brilliant screenplay and wonderful actors.

I don't feel much conviction with my choices in this list, because as I am typing these out other works of Harold Ramis spring to mind.  That's the strength of his comedy and the breadth of his influence.  There is Analyze This, which is sharp and memorable, Stripes where Ramis starred, and his later pictures like The Ice Harvest and Bedazzled are sorely underrated.  And let's not dismiss Ghostbusters 2 as a sequel that failed; it may not have hit the mark compared to the first one, but it is assuredly a solid sequel.

Anyone who's familiar with American comedy films in the least has spent some time with the work of Harold Ramis.  That is a broad scope and an impressive reach for one man, who has most definitely made his mark on Hollywood, and helped redefined comedy for a generation.