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Remembering Harold Ramis: 5 favorites from the filmmaker who gave us 'Groundhog Day'

Harold Ramis
Harold Ramis
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In a tribute to filmmaker Harold Ramis, who died Feb. 24, we reflect on five of our favorite films involving Ramis through the years.

1.) "GROUNDHOG DAY"

It took Danny Rubin a year to find someone interested in his story about a man repeating the same day.
Finally, Harold Ramis got his hands on the script.
What resulted was a film celebrated annually, not only for the notoriety it brought to the Woodstock Square, but also for Ramis’ classic sense of humor mixed with just the right amount of poignancy.
“Groundhog Day” will always be a tribute to both Woodstock and the film industry.
As Rubin, who shares a screenwriting credit with Ramis, put it: “Even though in many ways it was a conventional love story and transformation story, it feels honestly come by. It’s not cynical. The transformation that took place could really take place in any of us.”
– Jami Kunzer

2.) "ANIMAL HOUSE"

I’ve run across people from as far away as Australia and Russia visiting Woodstock Square because of “Groundhog Day.”
That in itself is a testament to the magic that Harold Ramis had. And that magic makes it hard to identify a single film as my favorite.
It was “Animal House” – albeit the sanitized WGN version as a child – that made me hell-bent on making sure I went to college.
In the Army, the push-ups were worth it to sing “Do Wah Diddy” while marching somewhere without a cadence. And when I got those coveted sergeant’s stripes, I loved belting out that song and having the soldiers I was marching singing along.
Ramis’ films worked so well because you could easily identify with the characters. Everybody who went to college knew a Bluto, a Stratton or an Otter. Anyone who has survived a family vacation in a station wagon can instantly identify with the hapless Griswolds.
The fact I never ran across an ectoplasmic slime ghost or a psychotic groundskeeper with a burning hatred of gophers – which I am thankful for to this day – didn’t make “Ghostbusters” and “Caddyshack” any less enjoyable.
The inability to pick out a single favorite Ramis work is a testament to the indelible mark his films made.
In this modern movie culture, every other film is a remake, and every “hot new comedy” is a contest of how much garbage the writer can get away with without getting an NC-17 rating. That’s what makes the loss of Ramis even more painful, and America is not the better for it.
– Kevin Craver

3.) "CADDYSHACK"

“Caddyshack” – directed by Harold Ramis, who also co-wrote the film – is easily one of the two best sports comedies of all time, and should be considered one of the top comedies of all time.
Not many movies can boast a cast of Bill Murray (Carl Spackler), Chevy Chase (Ty Webb), Rodney Dangerfield (Al Czervik) and Ted Knight (Judge Smails).
What makes “Caddyshack” great is that these four actors bring a very different style of humor to the table. As writer and director, Ramis brought them together to make one funny film. You could compare it to what Phil Jackson did with the Bulls.
You’d be hard-pressed to be on a McHenry County golf course this summer and not hear lines from “Caddyshack” repeated throughout the round.
The movie’s one-liners have stood for nearly 34 years.
Plus, there’s a local connection. Cindy Morgan, who played Lacey Underall, earned degrees in communications and English from Northern Illinois University.
– Jason Schaumburg

4.) "STRIPES"

It might not be Harold Ramis’ greatest film, but like “Caddyshack,” “Animal House,” “Vacation,” and others, “Stripes” had some of the funniest lines over decades of American comedy. That’s the fact, Jack.
The best thing about “Stripes” is that, with apologies to Dr. Egon Spengler, it was Ramis’ best comedic acting performance. Russell Ziskey wasn’t exactly a straight man to Bill Murray’s John Winger, but their pairing was hysterical. We saw Ramis the way people described him, a low-key friendly guy with great humanity and wit.
This was also one of John Candy’s funniest roles as Dewey Oxberger, a schlub who joined the Amy to lose weight. And who can forget the comic interplay between Murray as a wisecracking, lazy recruit and the humorless Sgt. Hulka?
One of my favorite Ramis lines from “Stripes” was when Russell Ziskey chimed in on the discussion about why platoon members joined the Army: “I’ve always been kind of a pacifist.”
When I was a kid, my father told me, “Never hit anyone in anger, unless you’re absolutely sure you can get away with it.”
That sums up Ramis – a guy who pushed the limits as far as he could in his time, but always in hilarity and never in anger.
And because Ramis was absolutely sure what he could get away with, we have a treasure trove of American comedy.
– Kevin Lyons

5.) "GHOSTBUSTERS"

I think every boy dreamed of being a fireman, but if you grow up to be a scientist, I guess you still can have the fun of sliding down a pole at an abandoned fire station by opening up a Ghostubsters agency.
The film, written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis,  gives us several memorable lines that many of us still quote today.
Hopefully, the weather doesn’t get too crazy, because we don’t need “human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together ... mass hysteria.”
I think we’ve all been to a party that’s been ruined by an over-active (possessed) animal, or wanted to see a major city covered in melted marshmallow.
– Joe Bustos

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