Tuesday, February 25, 2014

So Long, Harold

Harold Ramis (1944-2014)
Too often when a veteran performer or filmmaker dies, they've so outlived their cultural relevance it's only natural to find yourself callously wondering, "Wasn't he dead already?"

Not so with the recent loss of Harold Ramis (and Philip Seymour Hoffman before him). In Ramis' case, even though he hadn't directed a feature film since 2009's underrated Year One, he never seemed irrelevant. Granted, in boxoffice terms he didn't have a commercial hit since 2002's cash-grab Analyze That, but he continued working as a TV director (The Office) and actor through 2009—presumably when his illness began to get the better of him.

But over the decades Ramis had accrued so much good will from both audiences and the movie industry—as not only actor and director, but co-writer of some of the most well-loved comedies of the 1980s and '90s—it was impossible to think of him as anything but a very current, and very alive, contributor to pop culture.

Netflix Instant isn't streaming many of Ramis' films—no Caddyshack, no Stripes, no Groundhog Day or even Analyze This. But the three it does offer are topnotch entertainments, including Ghostbusters (1984), probably the biggest boxoffice hit of his career (as co-writer and actor); one of his least commercially successful but most artistically rewarding films, 2005's bitingly funny The Ice Harvest; and as co-star in the Diane Keaton 1987 romantic comedy, Baby Boom (which admittedly hasn't aged well). These three serve as fitting testimony to Harold Ramis' versatility and his warm, affable presence both behind and in front of the camera. Thanks, Harold, for sharing your humor and talent with all of us.

(A full review of The Ice Harvest can be found here.)

UPDATE: Since the publication of this post, Ghostbusters has expired while Analyze This and Analyze That are now streaming. This may or may not still be the case by the time you read this.

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