02.25.14 | Barbara Morgan
Since we recently celebrated our 20th anniversary at AFF I have spent a lot of the last year cataloging my trove of memories. There have been many of note, but 2005 was a particularly memorable year. My daughter Hannah was born 6 weeks before the Festival which added a mix of frenzy and trepidation to the invariably overcharged atmosphere; it was also the year that Harold Ramis accepted our invitation to honor his career.
There is little about the 80’s that I relish; how does one fondly memorialize a decade that introduced outsized shoulder pads and glorified Madonna? The 80’s, however, gave our culture a series of films which helped us laugh off the ridiculousness of the decade and, with the emergence of Harold Ramis, brilliantly birthed a comic everyman. He was the whole package. He was a triple threat: he wrote funny, he directed funny, he produced funny.
Caddyshack was a force of its own. In college, I watched it time and again on my VCR in successful avoidance of my studies. I knew every word. How could anyone top it? But sure enough, then came Stripes and Ghostbusters, each embodiments of fresh comedic genius. It was Groundhog Day that convinced me that Harold Ramis was the comedic talent out there, merging entertainment, engagement and humor with every move he made. The film was not just a comedy, but a parable about the hidden value in the simplicities of our lives, in the elegance of repetition, the perseverance in trying to get “it” right, and, of course, in faith. Aided by Danny Rubin’s written word, it was a tome on how to approach living life, and never without laughter. I cannot begin to count how many times I have ingested these films in whole and in part and how often disappointment or heartbreak was righted for just a bit by one of Ramis’ glib comedies.
So what great fortune that in an incredibly momentous year I should be doubly blessed to have Mr. Ramis’ participation. He came to be honored with our Extraordinary Contribution to Film Award and to present Ghostbusters along with Ernie Hudson. This I was looking forward to with an eagerness I hadn’t felt since college. When those lights went down at the Paramount Theatre and the movie began playing I realized that moments like that were what the Festival was all about. There was a point in the screening when the crowd was so engaged and the laughter so raucous that I felt the floor shake. We have put on many amazing events at the Paramount over the years, but that night for me was truly magic. The Q&A with Ernie Hudson and Ramis afterwards was no less astounding.
Mr. Ramis maximized his time at Austin Film Festival. He spoke on panels, he conversed with registrants, he joined the masses in celebrating the power of comedy. He joined Buck Henry and Judd Apatow to share stories about writing and directing. I have listened to that panel many times and it is now fortunately memorialized in our archive.
So what a heartbreak to hear that Mr. Ramis has passed on. The world will be mourning this great loss for a long time to come. But beyond the grief, Ramis has bestowed upon us a parting gift: a respite to our troubles; a place where the craft of comedy is rich and, in fact, eternal. Harold Ramis will live on in our fondest cinematic memories, our deepest belly laughs, and the hidden value of the simplicities of our lives. How fortunate are we to have a collection of his work to not only appreciate for the craft but to also take away the weight of the world?
Thank you, Mr. Ramis! And may you revel in the laughter of the angels you are surely entertaining right now.