Screen Junkies » garden state http://www.screenjunkies.com Movie Reviews & TV Show Reviews Wed, 26 Nov 2014 19:27:26 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.3.1 Soundtrack Studies: ‘Garden State’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-lists/soundtrack-studies-garden-state/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-lists/soundtrack-studies-garden-state/#comments Tue, 08 Apr 2014 16:00:58 +0000 Penn Collins http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=260922 In which Zach Braff uses indie rock in an attempt to make morose whining cool.

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Through the lens of hindsight, time, cynicism, and a general aversion to Zach Braff, Garden State seems to have lost much of the luster that made it a critical darling in 2004. With a budget of a paltry $2.5 million, it found its way to Sundance and garnered over $35 million at the box office. It’s also not a huge leap to say that it ushered in an era of indie rock to the types of people who rely on independent films to usher in new genres of music.

The only film that may have forcefully pushed its soundtrack on to the masses in recent years is High Fidelity, but that film had the convenient excuse of being a film about snobby, narcissistic record store employees, so failing to have them shove music down your throat would have been remiss on the part of its director, Stephen Frears.

Garden State takes a decidedly different tact with its music, still shoving it down our throats, but often in a less diegetic form (“The Shins will change your life” scene being the exception. But we’ll talk about that later, even though I want to start yelling about it right now.)

Only ten years after the fact, Garden State feels as though it could be a parody film along the lines of Epic Movie, Date Movie, or one of those other terrible send-ups. A collection of scenes that can be played in any order and not really affect the outcome of the film. Sort of like Police Academy for whiners. Sure, it’s got more gravitas and more to say, but the film is so rife with tropes and quirk that it’s hard to get past having wallowed through the ennui of millennial along with hipster culture, and the archetypal characters that were actually largely established after the release of this film. But before we get much further, let’s acknowledge the plot of this film.

Zach Braff’s character, whose name is really not important, leaves his trite existence as an LA actor/waiter to return to New Jersey for his mother’s funeral, which he feels somewhat responsible for. Braff is a muted human with what seems to be myriad personal issues ranging from the psychological, to the social, to his relationship with his cold father.

Upon returning home, he meets a carefree sprite in the form of Natalie Portman. Portman’s character in this film has been repeatedly discussed as the template for the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. In short, the MPDG is a younger, carefree spirit who accompanies the protagonist on a journey of self-discovery to shed cynicism and just generally enjoy life by playing in the rain and other similar activities.

And that’s pretty much it for the plot. Braff meets some interesting people, but that’s it. It’s not really a romance, but more of a personal journey, and there’s not much resolution. So, to make up for something less than a complete story arc, Braff loads the film with stylization that often creeps into affectation. Some examples:

• Braff dusts off a motorcycle with a sidecar to tool around town
• His friend is a pot smoking grave digger
• Method Man plays an enlightening bellman named Diego
• He does ecstasy in a time-lapse montage sequence
• An adopted African sibling seemingly coming from nowhere
• He yells in the rain
• He is told by Natalie Portman that The Shins “will change his life”

And so forth. Along with these many, many shiny surfaces applied to a morose story is a soundtrack that is crammed to the forefront to such an extent that the appearance of every song feels more like a music video than it does a scene in a movie. Early on in the film, you get the feeling that Zach Braff really loves these artists and songs to the point that he struggles to maintain objectivity as he puts the his own film on hold for longer than he should to spotlight the songs.

This treatment makes a little more sense when it comes to light that the film is semi-autobiographical, and by Braff’s own admission was a somewhat cathartic exercise to work out his problems, similar to the problems of the character he plays. If you’re going to tell a somewhat aimless story about yourself, you might as well pepper it with colorful characters and some good music, no?

Yes.

So the soundtrack:

Many of these bands were new to the world around this time, so the Garden State soundtrack was absorbed by the Starbucks set and younger as a pleasant, rainy day offering. And to Braff’s credit, most of the music on the soundtrack had the virtue of being both new and enjoyable when the film came out. What diminished the effort was the way in which he presented it. As a person who loves music, I understand the compulsive need to share my musical taste and discoveries with any person that crosses my path. However, I like to think that quality would also make me a subpar filmmaker. That and the fact that I don’t own a camera.

You can like the film, like (love) the soundtrack, and still not enjoy the way in which the music is presented in the film. I’ve harped on this a few times now, so let’s address some examples.

Good music, and, in a vacuum, a bold presentation. However, sprinkle in a couple more of these efforts, liberally baste in oversized headphones, sidecars, and images like this:

His shirt matches the wallpaper.

And you get a film that, perhaps largely through its success, laid the groundwork for tropes and conventions against which it would be measured against itself to some degree. It’s weird, but it might also end up being more interesting than the film.

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Tim Heidecker Isn’t A Fan Of The Zach Braff Kickstarter Film, And He’s Got A Page Of Fake Script To Prove It http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-news/tim-heidecker-isnt-a-fan-of-the-zach-braff-kickstarter-film-and-hes-got-a-page-of-fake-script-to-prove-it/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-news/tim-heidecker-isnt-a-fan-of-the-zach-braff-kickstarter-film-and-hes-got-a-page-of-fake-script-to-prove-it/#comments Fri, 26 Apr 2013 16:43:04 +0000 Penn Collins http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=254573 He's not a fan.

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As you may have read here a couple days ago, Zach Braff, the millionaire actor, has turned to Kickstarter to crowdsource initial funding of his Garden State follow up, Wish I Was Here (ugh). How is Zach Braff, a wealthy person asking for money from less wealthy people different than Rob Thomas doing it with Veronica Mars?

That’s easy. People HATE Zach Braff.

Take Tim and Eric‘s Tim Heidecker for instance. He wrote this not-very-funny vitriolic page of script to parody or satirize or something the effort. Take a look.

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Grammy Time: 7 Great Soundtracks To 7 Horrible Films http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-lists/grammy-time-7-great-soundtracks-to-7-horrible-films/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-lists/grammy-time-7-great-soundtracks-to-7-horrible-films/#comments Thu, 01 Dec 2011 23:37:11 +0000 Penn Collins http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=238413 One of these films contains a collaboration between Mudhoney and Sir-Mix-A-Lot, who I just found out is not an actual knight.

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With the Grammy nominees announced on Wednesday night, we at Screen Junkies got pretty jealous that the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences gets to get all judgey with music. Then we remembered that even though we’re a movie and television site, movies have soundtracks. Soundtracks made of MUSIC! (With us yet? No? Ok.) We can rank movie soundtracks. And you can read about them.

However, simply ranking soundtracks is an exercise in futility, because we would either alienate the readers with esoteric selections, or just laud a bunch of mainstream crap that’s so bland it’s offensive. Huh. I have a little more respect for the Grammy voters now.

Anyway, there are some truly horrible films out there that were a part of our lives only because they were fortunate enough to have inspired killer soundtracks that managed to outlive the legacy of their films. Seriously. When was the last time you thought of the movie Judgment Night?

Judgment Night

In the birth of his career, Denis Leary was a horrible actor. Just terrible. But because of his appeal to the MTV crowd, films managed to shoehorn him in to do his little rants and leave. No harm, no foul. He was the star heavy of Judgment Night acting opposite Jeremy Piven, Emilio Estevez, and Cuba Gooding Jr. Not good.

If only the film was as inspired as the soundtrack which exclusively featured collaborations between rock and rap acts doing original songs. While it’s a decidedly 90’s snapshot at both, where the hell else would you hear Del Tha Funkee Homosapian perform with Dinosaur Jr or Helmet mix it up with House of Pain? The results aren’t always successful, but it’s nice to hear so many angsty bands get out of their element with rappers.

Tron: Legacy

It’s all Daft Punk, all the time on this soundtrack, which serves as the one memorable aspect of the this sequel no one really asked for. Daft Punk forgoes their normal brand of electronic pop to create a much more symphonic vibe. The end result provides a gravity and intensity that the film can’t match, but if you’re working out or perhaps going to ride lit motorcycles against your nemesis in some sort of high-stakes drag race, perhaps you can do a better job than Joseph Kasinski did.

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Zach Braff Takes To Reddit To Remind Everyone He Exists And Starred In ‘Scrubs’ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-news/zach-braff-takes-to-reddit-to-remind-everyone-he-exists-and-starred-in-scrubs/ http://www.screenjunkies.com/movies/movie-news/zach-braff-takes-to-reddit-to-remind-everyone-he-exists-and-starred-in-scrubs/#comments Wed, 28 Sep 2011 22:06:04 +0000 Penn Collins http://www.screenjunkies.com/?p=230429 Also, he's a fan of indie rock and good friends with Donald Faison!

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Have you felt funny recently? If so, it might be because Zach Braff hasn’t been in our lives the way he once was. With no more Scrubs, and years passed since Garden State allowed all your yuppie friends to feel emo, we haven’t seen much of the actor/writer/director.

All that ended yesterday with an all-day “AMA” session on Reddit.com. For those of you with jobs, let me explain that Reddit is essentially a user-generated portal where web denizens post links to funny stories, memes, and pictures of kittens doing stuff. And “AMA” stands for “Ask Me Anything,” a Q&A session made famous by Ashton Kutcher (which should give you an idea of the type of news we’re dealing with right here).

He revealed that he would “most like to guest star” on Zooey Deschanel‘s new Fox show The New Girl, presumably because they both cater to a similar type of Whole Foods-y quirk and angst that everyone at your advertising agency can agree on. He also shared that he’s written a play, All New People, that he’s hoping will premiere in London’s West End next year. I’m sure we will give that one a lot of coverage on our sister site, PlayJunkies.com

The marathon chat session quite literally lasted all day, and I’ve got an article on hot movie lesbians to write, so feel free to check out the back-and-forth in its entirety right here, but please put on your smug boots and smug slicker before wading into this thing.

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