Celebration is in the air at the winter CPC Film Series

Phil didn’t see his shadow, but the warmth of a gathering

to enjoy a beloved movie felt like an early spring on campus

Closeup of smiling young man with glasses

By Nikolai Hogan

CPC Film Series Correspondent


The CPC Film Series returned to the Capital BlueCross Theatre on Feb. 2, fittingly with a showing of the 1993 Bill Murray classic “Groundhog Day.”

Professor Paul Miller, who has hosted three prior CPC Film Series events, returned to discuss this iconic 90s comedy. This one, however, was special, as this term’s event happened to fall on Miller’s birthday — Groundhog Day. The perfect timing of the CPC Film Series and Miller’s birthday made the showing of the film almost an obligation.

The film and why it’s a classic

“Groundhog Day” follows television weatherman Phil Connors (Bill Murray) on a trip to western Pennsylvania to do an in-person report on Groundhog Day and Punxsutawney Phil, and with his rude demeanor and constant attitude manages to make almost everyone with whom he interacts dislike him. The story takes a turn when Connors ends up in a perpetual time loop on the titular day of the year and must find a way to break the loop by becoming a better person.

I sat down with Miller the day before the screening to ask him about the film, his special day and how they went hand-in-hand. I wondered why “Groundhog Day” is such a timeless and enjoyable film for Miller, and here is what he had to say.

Miller said much of the allure of the film comes from its star.

“Certainly, Bill Murray,” Miller said. “I think he is just so loved by people. He is iconic, and certainly, his early-’80s to mid-’90s repertoire, like ‘Caddyshack,’ ‘Ghostbusters’ and ‘Groundhog Day,’ was hit after hit.”

And the more Miller thinks about it, the more relatable it is to him.

“On the surface of the film, it speaks to the repetition of daily life every day. For me, I wake up at 6 a.m. I eat my Cheerios, take a shower, get in the car and go to work. It’s like living in a time loop every day of your life,” Miller said.

I felt profoundness in this statement because I had seen the film several times before, and while it is an enjoyable comedy on its own, it has bleak and realistic undertones of the monotony and repetition of daily life.

Reflecting on the film itself

I inquired with Miller about the key insights he hoped attendees, including students and friends, would derive from the film’s screening. He emphasized the film’s growing relatability with age. In a way, even with the darker moments of the second act, is a feel-good movie at heart. If you stay with it and get the message, it shows that you choose what you want it to be in a day. You could rob the back of an armored truck or make many lifelong friends. What do you decide to do with your day? And if you can get that out of this movie, it should lift you and make you think, “If Phil Connors, an obvious jerk who makes an effort to ruin others’ day, can become a great person after years of monotony, why can’t I?”

He said another message is that understanding that happiness in life comes from being there for others.

“This film paints a picture that illustrates that living life is never about us,” Miller said. “We exist to live for others.”

Miller believes that this is the film’s core message, and I could not agree more.

Miller said he would emphasize during his presentation the film’s core theme, the concept of redemption, showing Phil Connors’ character arc and displaying how he evolves into a better person. While the film is by no means religious, one could analyze the film’s themes as an allegory for the concept of purgatory, the place where Roman Catholic and other Christian doctrines hold that people suffer after death temporarily to atone for their sins, with the repeating days being Phil’s version of this. Through both of these ideas, Connors redeems himself and becomes a better person and a more understanding individual who learns what love is and why loving others makes for a more enjoyable life.

Miller said his presentation at the event would include several aspects of the film. First, he would discuss some background about the film, especially in regard to Harold Ramis and his direction. Then, Miller shared some interesting Groundhog Day history and trivia while sharing his experiences at Gobbler’s Knob, Punxsutawney. Then, he would share more about the connection of the film to the stages of grief that people often go through, along with a discussion about more of the themes the film exhibits. A recording of this presentation is available at the end of this story.

Final thoughts on the event and the film

Miller presents on “Groundhog Day” at the winter CPC Film Series. Photo by Jared Rife

As stated, Miller has hosted three previous CPC Film Series, one being an all-digital screening during the COVID-19 pandemic. Previous events he hosted were “The Big Lebowski” (in 2017), Miller’s own “The Final Out” documentary (2020) about the COVID pandemic’s effect on Central Penn’s baseball team’s season that year and “A League of Their Own” (2021). When I asked whether he plans to host future film series events, he stated that he wants to see other people host the event because he loves the diversity of different people and their stories. But he chose this because he felt the timing was perfect, mainly because it was his birthday, and Groundhog Day coincided with when the film series events typically occur.

Of course, I asked Miller if watching “Groundhog Day” had become his birthday tradition, and he enthusiastically confirmed it.

“Of course!” he said. “Not necessarily on my birthday, but now that I think about it, I’ve seen it so many times that I would never need to see it again to love it. I can’t remember a year I didn’t watch it within the week of my birthday, and now I keep it on my DVR. It is not only a birthday tradition, but now I watch it at least twice or three times annually.”

Before finishing my prescreening interview, I had one more question for Miller, and it was a simple one: “You chose to celebrate your birthday at your workplace alongside several students of yours. How do you feel about that?”

He said he couldn’t imagine spending his birthday any other way. This is not a monumental birthday, but he has always tried to see it in theaters when it is screened this time of year, and because the CPC Film Series was hosted during this time, he couldn’t resist.

He was excited to see it with his wife, students, friends and colleagues. He said doing so means a lot because it is an opportunity for him to share his love of this film, which means a lot to him, regardless of who spends his birthday with him. His joy in sharing the movie with loved ones underscores the enduring value of sharing passions with others. And, after seven years of the CPC Film Series, and this being one of the most successful to date, I’m sure there will be future opportunities for those in the Central Penn College community to share their love of film, too.

The CPC Film Series will return in the spring term. Stay tuned for an announcement of the film, the presenter and the date, later this month.