Ep. 12: Garden State

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Ten years after the release of Garden State, writer/director/star/punching bag Zach Braff has come out with a new movie, Wish I Was Here.  The reception was ambivalent to negative, a stark contrast to the general reception of Garden State.  Nate and Ryan hadn’t seen Garden State in years, but couldn’t help but notice that the general perception of the film and of Braff has been quite venomous.  They decide to rewatch the film to try to determine if the backlash is warranted.

Garden State tells the story of a depressed struggling actor played by Braff, who goes home for the first time in nearly ten years following the death of his mother.  He is given a new outlook on life when he meets an unsettling a quirky young woman (Natalie Portman) who helps him enjoy life.

After listening, tell us your thoughts.  Have you rewatched it recently?  Is there anything we missed?  Jump into the discussion and add your thoughts.

Episode 11: Hook

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The recent death of Robin Williams came as a shock to everyone.  It was especially shocking to us, as just days before Williams’ death, we recorded this episode on Hook. Though we couldn’t have known what would happen, we are glad that we had so recently been able to discuss and celebrate Williams through his work in this film.  There is no shortage of material on Williams this week, some of it sincere and meaningful, some of it capitalizing on the inevitable fascination with the details.

Please be assured that this film was chosen weeks ago and we recorded it before (albeit a mere two days) his tragic death.  It is not a crass attempt at clickbaiting, it is a genuinely thoughtful discussion of a film that has meant a lot to us since we first saw it as children.

In fact, this may be a tremendously fitting film to watch as one remembers Williams.  If you were a child who grew up with Hook, it is a great reminder of the impact Williams had on you and will immediately recall just what it is about him that is so touching.  If you haven’t seen it, or weren’t a child in 1991, this movie is a great example of Williams ability to pull ethos and humor from a character that could have been flat and uninspired.

It might be difficult, in hindsight, to see Williams so ably play a character who has lost sight of his happy thoughts, but it is also especially poignant to watch how beautifully Williams performs the scenes where he discovers what makes him happy.  It’s a reminder to all of us that it is never too often, too late, or too trite to think about what makes us happy and to appreciate those people in our lives who make life “the only adventure worth living.”

It struck both of us, that as people paid tribute to Williams, many people our age mentioned Hook as one of the movies that impacted them.  This movie may not have critical acclaim, but there is something about this movie in particular that comforts and enthralls, and we were delighted to revisit it.

As Nate mentions in the beginning of the episode, there may be aspects of our conversation that strike listeners as insensitive, in light of what has occurred this week. In particular, there is a part where we discuss a scene in which Hook threatens suicide and it is played for humor.  In our discussion we are talking only about how the scene works in the film and are in no way making light of suicide or the agony that can lead a person to that point.

Episode 10: Scott Pilgrim vs The World

Film Title: Scott Pilgrim vs. the WorldWe’re in full summer movie swing with a discussion about Edgar Wright’s 2010 action-comedy Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.  This energetic adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel series stars Michael Cera as the titular hero.  In this episode, Ryan and Nate square off in an epic battle which sees Ryan trying to convince Nate that he’s missing out by not joining Team Pilgrim.

Bryan Lee O’Malley also happens to have released a new graphic novel, Seconds, which you would do well to check out if you are a fan of Scott Pilgrim.

This movie has its fair share of ardent fans and bitter detractors.  No matter which side you land on, tell us what you think.  If this is a niche movie, does it scratch your niche?  Do you buy Ryan’s assertion that this movie, while a tremendously fun ride, also has more to offer?  Do you agree with Nate that the movie doesn’t do enough with its characters to make you care?

We spend a lot of time discussing a list of The Top 50 Summer Blockbusters which was compiled by the staff of The Dissolve.  You’ll find their criteria for a summer blockbuster, as well as their list broken up into part 1, part 2, and part 3.

Just for good measure, here’s Tony Zhou’s amazing analysis of Edgar Wright’s flare for visual comedy.

Episode 9: A Hard Day’s Night

The Beatles perform in A Hard Day's Night

Nate and Ryan welcome Evan Mather back to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the release of A Hard Day’s Night, starring The Beatles and directed by Richard Lester. Along with their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, A Hard Day’s Night was America’s first introduction to The Beatles.  What was originally conceived as a money-making venture to capitalize on the popularity of The Beatles, turned out to be a smart, funny, subversive take on fame and the entertainment industry, all while successfully making a ton of money.

Nate, Ryan, and Evan discuss the movie’s enduring commentary on fame and popularity, authority and freedom, and the quality of popular art.  They also discuss whether being a Beatles fan has a bearing on your enjoyment of A Hard Day’s Night. So even if you aren’t a fan of the Fab Four, find a copy of the newly released Criterion Collection version of the film.  BONUS: Giggle along with the boys as they discuss which Beatle is their favorite.

Find out more information about the Criterion version and watch some of the special features here.

Ryan mentions that the folks over at The Dissolve made A Hard Day’s Night their Movie of the Week earlier this year.  Read Keith Phipps’ keynote on the film, as well as their forum discussion.

Also, check out Colin Fleming’s great article about the deep art of A Hard Day’s Night.

As always, let us know your thoughts in our comment section!  Are you more of a Paul or a John?  You’re not a Ringo are you?

Episode 8: Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino

In honor of the 20th anniversary of the release of Pulp Fiction, Nate and Ryan invite their good friend Tim Yoder in to point guns at one another while screaming about the polarizing figure that is writer/director Quentin Tarantino.  Pulp Fiction is a brilliant film that marked a change in American film, especially American independent film.  Spawning several imitators and even more debates, Pulp Fiction solidified Quentin Tarantino as an important filmmaker. It also left many questioning whether he was a genius or just a provocateur.

Nate, Ryan, and Tim discuss Tarantino’s full catalogue as a way of better understanding who he is and how we might receive his work.  If you haven’t seen all his movies, or haven’t seen them in a while, we suggest watching and re-watching them.  It’s an interesting exercise and you’ll probably find that the films aren’t quite what you remember, for good and bad.  However, we’d suggest spacing your viewings out a bit.  Too much Quentin Tarantino can be quite Tarantiring.

In the episode, Tim mentions a video by Tony Zhou that analyzes the visual comedy of Edgar Wright, but also mentions Tarantino and is a fantastic, interesting video nonetheless.  Zhou does an amazing job explaining quickly and simply why Edgar Wright is on another level when it comes to comedy film-making.  A must see for fans of Edgar Wright.  And if you aren’t a fan of Edgar Wright, what is wrong with you?