Thursday, March 27, 2014

100 Movies That Make Me Love Film - 2. Garden State

2. Garden State

I feel like there is going to be two reactions to this. Half of the people reading this are close friends who are thinking “Of Course Garden State is #2... I totally know what #1 will be now” and there’s others going “you put _______ and ______ below Garden State? What a fucking Hipster”

The fact of the matter is that while I understand people’s reasons for hating this movie it had a massive effect on my life. I’m going to avoid discussing the soundtrack as I did that a few weeks ago but I do want to say that the songs are so perfectly selected and well placed that it’s become impossible for me to hear the songs and not immediately see the sequences from the movie play out in my brain. 

Andrew Largeman is from New Jersey but living in California (and has been for years). When his mother dies he must return home to pay his respects. While there he battles with demons of his past, falls in love and reconnects with old friends.

The movie was written and directed by Zach Braff. I remember seeing the trailer and thinking “I must see this movie”. It didn’t tell you anything about the movie just used a great song and creative imagery but regardless I was drawn in. I remember the day I saw it, I was about to graduate high school and I was completely unsure of my future. I was going to a community college, didn’t know what I was going to go to school for and for some reason the silent suffering of Braff completely touched my heart and said ‘You’re Not Alone”. 

My love of Garden State only grew when I was in college and I bought the DVD the day it was released. I watched the movie every day for a month so much that now as it’s almost ten years old I’m struck with pings of nostalgia. Garden State is what lead me to watching Scrubs that eventually became my favorite TV show. One could argue that Zach Braff was the backbone to my entire writing career.

Garden State became the movie that made me want to create. I’ve always wanted to make movies and while Clerks was the first film that made me say “it’s possible to make a movie with your best friends”, Garden State always inspires me to sit down and write about my life. Even as I write this I’ve got a new movie idea brewing in my brain to write. 

I accept that people will almost always make fun of me or call me Hipster because of how much I love this movie, but that doesn’t bother me anymore.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

100 Albums That Make Me Love Music - 2. Norah Jones: Come Away With Me

2. Norah Jones: Come Away With Me

Let’s talk about me in high school for a second. I was a bit of a loser. I was in all the typical outcast groups (Newspaper, TV Studio, Stage Crew). TV Studio was where I was king. I would come in early and prep, classmates knew me as the TV studio kid. I’d wake up around 6am most mornings and start my day with some MTV and cereal. It was on one of these mornings that I caught the music video for Don’t Know Why by Norah Jones and I fell in love with my first female musician (more on this later).

As soon as I got to school I hopped onto LimeWire (Napster had just been shut down but Limewire was still under the radar) to download a copy of the song to play on the morning credits. On the way home I stopped at Walmart and picked up a copy of Come Away With Me (I have never missed a single Norah Jones release since even though none of them are as good as the debut). 

I’ll be the first person to admit that I fall for celebrities pretty easy but they are almost never musicians, usually it’s quirky female actresses (Christina Ricci and Kate Miccucci have been my biggest celebrity crushes ever to give you an example). However Norah Jones was different, she was classy and quirky but also had a beautiful voice. 

Come Away With Me was the first album to genuinely make me depressed. The same year this album came out my grandfather died. I couldn’t not listen to this album without wishing my grandfather could hear it. It’s a beautiful album that’s a total and utter throwback to 1920’s jazz (A sound she’s never really done again since).

I could pour praises upon praise on this album but instead I’m going to simply tell you to listen to The Painter Song which is my favorite song on the album. It’s a beautiful and perfect little love song. For years this was my favorite album and would never leave my CD player until 2006 ... but more on that next week.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

100 Movies That Make Me Love Film: 3. Clerks

3. Clerks

I might be the only person who discovered Clerks through it’s short-lived cartoon series. Well, I guess that’s not true, when I was little I distinctly remember the trailer on VHS tapes. The ‘salsa shark’ was an unforgettable moment for me but I was confused as a kid. ‘This movie seems new, why is it in black & white?’

That was basically the extent of my knowledge of this film. In late May 2000 however I saw the first two episodes of the Clerks animated series. It was hilarious and weird so when I was going to sleep over at my friend Jesse’s house I convinced him to rent Clerks.

There are two more movies left in the list, and each film I’m going to use the phrase ‘It changed my life’, but Clerks was the first ever life changing movie for me. In 24 hours I watched Clerks four times. Within a week I had memorized the entire movie and listened to the soundtrack non-stop (which I discussed previously). It made me want to make movies more than anything else before. Over the years I’ve learned I was not alone.

What is it about this movie that caused so many people to become film makers? I think it’s because beyond being a really funny comedy, it’s sincere and honest to how people talked and acted in the 90’s (and still today to an extent). Kevin Smith’s pulse on society may have slipped a bit but that shouldn’t take away from his earlier accomplishments.

Clerks is a simple concept. Employees of a video store and grocery store slack off and work and crazy things happen. The film is just a back-drop for Smith to write conversations around things he cares about (sex, comics, movies, etc). For good or bad it inspired tons of young filmmakers, myself included.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

100 Albums That Make Me Love Music: 3. The Streets - Original Pirate Material

3. The Streets: Original Pirate Material

I didn’t realize it at the time but for the first year that MTV2 launched in my town it introduced me to the music that would shape me. You see when they first flipped the switch I was in a rage (along with everyone I knew). MTV2 replaced our beloved channel “THE BOX”. However while the box did introduce me to the punk bands I grew up loving (like Suicide Machines and “Weird Al” Yankovic), MTV2 introduced me to the bands that showed me what existed outside of the underground punk scene.

In the first night that I laid down to watch it I was introduced to Gorillaz, Tenacious D, Sum 41 and The Streets. Little did I know that over a decade later I’d still be obsessed with all those groups (most of all The Streets).

I did not have the slightish clue what to make out of Let’s Push Things Forward. This song was completely unlike anything I’d ever heard. The thick cockney accent, the techno-y influenced beat blended with reggae dubs, I immediately started downloading anything I could get by the english rap group. 

What I loved the most about the album was the various themes Mike Skinner discusses throughout. Dating, Clubbing, Suicide and Legalizing Pot all appear on the album but are presented in a genuine and sincere perspective. While I love the ‘Party Tracks’ like Sharp Darts and Don’t Mug Yourself but Stay Positive and Weak Become Heroes became the songs I revisited over and over again.

This album (along with #2 on the list) will be the albums that represented my high school memories. This album never EVER left my CD player.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

100 Movies That Make Me Love Film: 4. The Muppet Movie

4. The Muppet Movie

There are few movies that I hold as close and dear to my heart as the Muppet Movie. It’s one of those movies that I love so much that words fail me when I try to accurately describe it. 

I always loved the Muppets. Ever since I was a child. My grandfather introduced me to Muppet Babies and the Muppet Show, my mom and I would watch Fraggle Rock every night and I’ve already spoken of my love for Labyrinth. My grandfather played banjo and my uncle Tommy had an old Kermit the frog puppet. At family parent’s they’d perform a duet of Rainbow Connection. It felt like everyone in my blood line just loved that family of felt misfits. However as I got into Jr. High and High School my love didn’t go away so much as I just sorta fell out of it and focused on other things.

Then in September of 2001 the worst moment of my life occurred. My grandfather died. While I was in the middle of my mourning process, dealing with the worst event I’d experienced I turned on the TV and there was Kermit the frog, sitting on a log, singing rainbow connection. The tears exploded out my eyes almost immediately.

I went out and bought the movie on VHS that day and watched it all week long, just trying to hold back crying. While that events is over a decade ago I still get teary eyed during parts of this film now. 

This movie is so full of great speeches and songs it’s impossible to really list them all.

I think there’s 4 key ones to discuss so I’ll focus on those.

The first one would be the song Rainbow Connection which both opens and closes the movie. The song is much deeper than one would expect from a kid’s movie, covering topics specifically destiny and taking control of one’s life. Lyrics like “Have you been half asleep and have you heard voices/I’ve heard them calling my name” and “Life’s like a movie/Write your own ending” all speak to writers and artistic types alike. The song remains my all time favorite song for these reasons specifically.

Another key point is yet another song Gonzo’s song I’m Going to Go Back There Someday. It used to be my least favorite song from the film but now it’s a strong contender against Rainbow Connection. There is one line in this song that I would argue is one of my best lyrics in music history. The line is “There’s not a word yet, for old friends who just met”, this line has always spoken to me because I think we’ve all had a moment where we meet someone for the first time and felt like you’ve known them for years.

In a the very next scene Kermit has a heart to heart with himself. This sequence is one of my all-time favorite scenes in any film. Second only to a scene that will be discussed in 3 weeks for the #1 movie pick. In it Kermit says he shouldn’t feel bad that they didn’t succeed because he didn’t make any promises with anyone. That’s when the 2nd Kermit (aka his conscience) says “really?” and Kermit responses “I guess that’s not true, I promised myself”. It’s such a beautifully touching moment.

The final sequence is near the end of the movie when Kermit confronts the villain Doc Hopper. Kermit is trying to convince him to spare his life and he gives this speech:
Yeah, well, I've got a dream too. But it's about singing and dancing and making people happy. That's the kind of dream that gets better the more people you share it with. And, well, I've found a whole bunch of friends who have the same dream. And, well, it kind of makes us like a family. You have anyone like that, Hopper? I mean, once you get all those restaurants, who are you gonna share it with? Who are your friends, Doc? Those guys? ...I don't think you're a bad man, Doc. And I think if you look in your heart, you'll find you really want to let me and my friends go to follow our dream. But if that's not the kind of man you are and if what I'm saying doesn't make any sense to you, well, then, go ahead and kill me.

This is the speech that runs through my head every time I write a script, create with friends and focus on chasing my own dreams. Everyone needs to check out this movie out at some point in your life.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

100 Albums That Make Me Love Music - 4. Neutral Milk Hotel: In An Aeroplane Over the Sea

4. Neutral Milk Hotel: In The Aeroplane Over The Sea

For this just read my write up on Geekscape published February 10th 2013

Thursday, March 6, 2014

100 Movies That Made Me Love Film - 5. Can't Hardly Wait

5. Can’t Hardly Wait

Read my article on Geekscape from this past summer

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

100 Albums That Make Me Love Music - 5. Garden State Soundtrack

5. Garden State Soundtrack

“This will Change Your Life” is the phrase that Natalie Portman’s character Sam says to Andrew Largeman (Zach Braff) in Braff’s directorial debut Garden State. She then gives him a pair of headphones playing New Slang by The Shins. The soundtrack has become the source of insult amongst most people. They call it a hipster album or a Pitchfork Mix Tape. Despite the fact the soundtrack is now a punchline to most people or a go to reference when mocking pretentious people everyone owned this soundtrack at some point.

Say what you will about this soundtrack the fact is that Zach Braff crafted a perfect collection of songs all which define the tone and themes of the movie perfectly. What’s most impressive to me is that the songs works so well that you almost can’t imagine the songs existing independently from each other any longer. Much like the Clerks Soundtrack earlier on this list, the songs compliment it’s corresponding moment in the film so well that you can visualize the scenes as you listen.

It seems funny to break down the individual songs so this will be pretty sure write up. I will talk about when this soundtrack became crucial for me. Garden State instantly became one of my favorite movies the second I saw it, but I didn’t get into the soundtrack until the DVD came out.

I started college in the Fall of 2004. That summer I saw Garden state and Napoleon Dynamite back to back in the theaters. I fell in love with both films and immediately pre-ordered the DVDs. The DVD for Garden State came out the week before my winter break. I had never had a college break before, I had become so accustomed to winter break being one week long that a whole month was insane to me.

I won’t get into it the details but immediately before my winter break occurred I had my first major heartbreak. Based on the fact this girl was friends with all of my college friends and my high school friends only had a week of winter break, I spent most of that month alone at home. For some reason I ended up watching Garden State over and over again. It was at this time the songs started to become part of my every day life. I listened to the soundtrack day in and day out, I learned every song on guitar and played it for anyone who’d listen.
The soundtrack was constructed by Zach Braff who hand picked the songs while writing the script. Based on how awesome and varied this soundtrack more films should be scored like this.