Garden State– Quarantine Rewatch Hatewatch

For context, this movie came out in 2004 when I was 20 years old. I was right in the target demographic– some indie/punk shithead know-it-all clove-smoking kid with a chip on my shoulder, glasses, and a dumb haircut. This movie should have defined my brand of bullshit. I should have loved it, but man, what the fuck!

I got into an actual, horrible fight with an ex because I thought it was pedantic and anti-feminist; he told me I was a sociopath with no feelings. LOL WHAT. The term ‘manic pixie dream girl’ had just entered the zeitgeist and fuck, was I mad about it. I’d been pedestaled before and seeing that depicted as this Wholesome Thing, the dude being Some Hero in this story, made me so fucking angry!

Much to my dismay, in the weeks following its release, dozens of my friends amended their MySpace profile music section to reflect only these four cursed words; THE GARDEN STATE SOUNDTRACK. Fuck off!!

This was my first time watching it since in the theatre in 2004. And it was.. not great. Granted it is slightly better than I remembered, but you’d better believe I was yelling at every single musical cue from that godforsaken soundtrack.

I was in the middle of typing a text to a friend when ~that~ Iron and Wine ‘Such Great Heights’ cover languidly plays and I had a sudden vivid, horrendous flashback to an ex who attempted to serenade me with that fucking song a few years after the movie came out, acoustic guitar and warbling singing outside my window and all. I wanted to POOCHIE OFF THIS FUCKING ROCK SO BAD. The good news is that my neighbours immediately screamed at him.. god bless New Jersey.

Oh hey, was anyone else personally victimised in the early/mid 00s by a dude with a foppish haircut masquerading as sensitive but was really a gigantic inconsiderate twat looking for someone to extrapolate all of his emotions onto because you’re just The Most Unique Girl he’s ever placed upon his fucking golden pedestal in the shitting stratosphere?? About how you’ve ~changed his life~ and ~things will never be the same~ because you ~have flaws~ and now he REALLY SEES THE BEAUTY IN LIFE?!?

As I reluctantly pressed play, a “Brief nudity” warning flashed across the screen. Had I misremembered something rad? Do people FUCK in Garden State?? Is there a tit in this movie– a tit with ~emotions~ besides Zach Braff? Perhaps a coy butt?

Nope, but METHOD MAN hosts some kind of bizarre underground porno theatre which is arguably the raddest thing in this flick besides the NJ dive bar that I have vivid memories of being an underage drunk idiot in, but woefully cannot recall where it is or the name of it. Tale as old as time, I suppose.

(I paused the movie for roughly 35 minutes frantically Googling to figure out this bar, to no avail. Lost in time, but diving into the wormhole of northern NJ dive bars was worth it.)

image courtesy of RedBubble

As much as I like to yell, there are a few things Garden State gets right. Zach Braff is a talented director, and I think this is a great first foray into writing, directing, and starring in his own thing. It’s a lot to take on! And I feel like it’s a pretty accurate portrayal of coming back to your hometown after a long time away, as well.

This was of course not a life experience I had had yet at 20, but at 36, a lot of that whole subplot made sense to me. The one-dimensional Daddy Issues aside, the raucous houseparty sequence in a wood-panelled golf-themed basement is a party I’ve attended a million times, and being thrust back into it after being away and everything is just as you left it, never missing a beat, is completely jarring. Comforting, in a way, but very jarring. Like a time capsule of who you used to be.

Turns out you can go home again, but it’s not always what you want or what you need. That feeling is captured succinctly.

I love that it’s filmed all around familiar New Jersey, to me– Braff is a South Orange native, but for the ‘titular character’, Garden State could have been shot anywhere. Eh.

Like most dudes I was being wooed by in the 00s, this movie tries too hard to be Deep(tm). The iconic scene in the rain of the three main characters cathartically screaming into the abyss that’s actually a CGI chasm is the perfect summation. Natalie Portman is barely a character. She just serves as this quirky, damaged girl to steer Braff along into a more meaningful existence. His NJ friends are similarly directionless.

And GOD ON A WHEEL, that ending is still as infuriating as ever. Maybe Braff’s life in LA wasn’t all he’d hoped for, but he gives it all up on a whim for some girl he met like 72 hours prior?? I am not a romantic person, so this all just seems fucking INSANE to me. What the fuck, dude? Ugh. Your checked baggage is GONE FOREVER!

Ugh. That’s that.

I still do like this line, uttered by the seemingly asleep Peter Saragaard;

“Don’t tease me about my hobbies; I don’t tease you about being an asshole.”

The Matador– Quarantine Rewatch

“.. and since then I’ve soiled my way through life being a magnificently cold moron. I run away from anything that remotely resembles an emotion THUS you tell me about your dead son, I tell you a joke about a 15″ schlong.”

Oh yes, the harrowing nightmare of being known. The Matador came out in 2005, and I had to schlep to a rando mall movie theatre in central Connecticut (where I was attending college at the time) to see it. I’m still sort of shocked that it’s not talked about very much– I’ve always thought it was brilliant, sexy fun. Great soundtrack too, solid Cramps needle drop.

(file footage of me on any vacation morning)

In general, Pierce Brosnan is always a fucking delight– I’ve loved the man since the days of Remington Steele, a show my mom was absolutely obsessed with. And he’s a great Bond– but those movies are such a fucking weirdly Americanised mess I wouldn’t know where to begin. He plays Julian Noble with a charm and vulnerability that’s grounded all at once. He’s that effortlessly magnetic guy you meet in a dark bar but you know in the back of your mind that he’s a ticking time bomb waiting to make a mess of things, and yet, you lean in anyway.

The Matador puts a burnt out twist on the Bond archetype. Here’s an ageing hitman who’s exhausted and overworked, confronted with a bunch of bullshit, and is given a chance at rebirth. Much like The Sopranos, this movie isn’t about who’s getting whacked or fight scenes, but a character study.

He is adrift– a man with no home, lost in an ocean of booze and hookers, getting rusty at what makes him useful. Spending his birthday alone, all it takes to help turn that around a touch is just one person to lend a sympathetic ear.

image courtesy of Reddit

Enter Kinnear’s bookish Danny; married to his lovely high school sweetheart and with a bit of a tragic backstory and a sinking business, the man needs a jolt in his life. Meeting at a Mexico City hotel bar, he eventually discovers what Julian does for a living. Strangely, he’s bemused but non-judgemental. He’s a Wife Guy(tm) in the most endearing sense of the term, and Bean (Hope Davis) knows everything and accepts Julian as he is on their doorstep, close to Christmastime. It’s funny how accepting people for who they are seems like common sense on paper, but in real life, goddamn. It’s a killer time to exhale.

They formed a lifelong bond the night that Julian helped steer Danny in the right direction with an obviously failing business deal. Because even at your lowest, you can still have a positive impact on people. You still matter, and I think that’s a fucking fantastic thing to remember. This movie rules and you should give it a whirl.

Forrest Gump– Quarantine Rewatch

As the boner for The Good Old Days rapidly approached critical mass in 1994, Forrest Gump debuted in theatres– I was 10 years old. It was a phenomenon, an instant hit. My social studies teacher even took us on a goddamned field trip to the movies, so I got to see Forrest show his big white ass to LBJ on the silver screen.

One morning last week I was watching The Price Is Right (because what the fuck else am I doing right now), I saw an ad that CBS was resurrecting their ~Sunday Night Movie~ as a way to Bring Everyone Together In The Face Of The Virus.. and the debut flick was of course, Forrest Gump.

image courtesy of Explore Georgia

I honestly don’t think that Gump could’ve come out at any other time; it was prime Boomer nostalgia hour, absolutely ripe pre-9/11 feelgood trash. I remember everyone going positively apeshit over the CGI (which still looks pretty damn good), the incessant shrieking for a real Bubba Gump Shrimp restaurant. Have you been to one of those fucking places? There’s multiple rounds of trivia based on the movie, the soundtrack blares out of the speakers, you get nuked shrimp and watered down booze. It’s a very specific corporate restaurant hell on earth, though now I long for their menu of garbage shots and punny appetisers.

And hey, I get why people find this movie charming. It’s hard not to love Tom Hanks. My frantic yelling is not meant to diminish the performances– it’s got a powerhouse cast. Sally Field takes one for the team and audibly fucks the principal set to hold Forrest back academically, Hanks and Robin Wright are wonderful, Gary Sinise is a cynical ICON adding some much needed levity to the story, but the movie itself is DUMB AS HELL when you take even a slightly cursory look at it.

I know it’s this uplifting tale of a dude overcoming adversity and all that shit, but the expository bus bench plot device is rose coloured over the top ridiculous. The Wisdom(tm) is heavy handed and feels schlocky. The cautionary tale of DON’T BANG AROUND AND DO DRUGS, YOU WILL GET AIDS AND DIE!!!! is familiar rhetoric to all of us who went through the DARE program in the 90s.

As an added bonus, Forrest serving as this Continual Man Hero to Jenny is completely exhausting through a 2020 lens. And then she has his son, reveals this all at once and dumps it on the guy outta NOWHERE after he ran across the whole entire goddamned UNITED STATES roughly a zillion times after she fucked him and ran? GIRL! THE FUCK! Have a conversation!

And let’s be real, that poor lady next to him on the bus bench was probably like WHAT THE SHIT, YOUR FRIEND WAS BEING MOLESTED?? God on a wheel.

I’ve long said that Forrest Gump is a Baby Boomer’s wet dream. It’s a truly demented fantasy where an Average Joe stumbles his way into history and thus becomes extraordinary by association. He’s just being a wholesome dope, after all!

Forrest and his wacky leg braces INVENTED ELVIS, and then he literally runs OUT of those leg braces, breaking free, triumphant! Fuck adversity! Football star Gump meets JFK and has to piss like a racehorse! JFK, mind you, who has AN AUTOGRAPHED PHOTO OF MARILYN MONROE in the White House bathroom for no fucking reason outside of some hideous wink wink nudge nudge. Oh hey, The Vietnam War wasn’t THAT bad! He respectfully stands up to the Black Panthers! PING PONG! Forrest inspires John Lennon to write “Imagine”! FORREST BUSTS FUCKING WATERGATE WIDE OPEN, FOR FUCK’S SAKE! He inspires the ‘SHIT HAPPENS’ bumper sticker!

This is alllllll the same dude who jizzed on Jenny’s roomate’s bathrobe.

Brass tacks, do I find a sense of comfort in rewatching this movie? Sure. It’s very familiar, easy viewing that wraps up in a neat little package, but don’t look too closely for any sort of deeper meaning. Really, that’s fine. It’s Hollywood and silly and ultimately optimistic; you can’t help but love Hanks’ performance, the scene he shares with Sinise are really great. I screamed at my TV at every last Dumb Historically Significant Beat, and it felt nice to be annoyed at something that wasn’t the news for a little bit.

As much fun as it would’ve been to see Forrest hanging in the back of OJ’s white Bronco or sinking the motherfucking Exxon Valdez, at least 9/11 derailed the slated Forrest Gump sequel. So uh, thanks Bin Laden?

Bringing Out The Dead– Quarantine Rewatch

“This city, it’ll kill you if you aren’t strong enough.”

“The city doesn’t discriminate– it gets everybody.”

Long time no see. Hello, hello!

You know, I’ve been meaning to pop this open for weeks– I’m currently furloughed, so natch I was thinking, hey I’ve got all this free time! Foolishly optimistic. I’ve been idly staring at a blank screen like a true dipshit, despondently closing my MacBook lid.

Being ‘locked down’ in LA since March 15th, I’ve been seeking comfort in the form of media I’ve seen before– much like most of you, I’m sure. I’m going to try my damnedest to write a little about the movies I know and love as a sort of Quarantine Rewatch series, so stay tuned. Maybe there’s a theme tying my choices together, maybe not. Who the hell knows.

image courtesy of Imgur

I’m having an uncharacteristic level of trouble sleeping, and this movie reminds me of nights punctuated by too much booze, diners, cigarettes, and the eventual stinging sunrise. Pills and cabs and trains to nowhere, bodega coffee and bloodies in a bag. Cage’s character blearily longs for human connection until daybreak like so many of us, haunted by death at every corner. And to me, nobody nails the nuances of New York City like Martin Scorsese.

Reading about Covid-19 impacting the tristate area so severely had me longing for the city. I grew up in northern NJ, constantly sneaking off to NYC as often as I could. The protracted moonlight and exasperated madness of Bringing Out The Dead transport me to inordinately drunk nights in Manhattan, the bizarre manic energy that only those streets possess.

Scorsese obvi has a pristine roster, but this movie is hardly mentioned. Is it because of low rewatch value? Is it too dark? I’m not sure, but it’s always been one of my favourites; brass tacks, it’s a story about trauma and healing. Compassion for the suffering, empathy. About how our lives pass us by so quickly and we barely notice until we get some downtime to reflect. How death leaves us in an awkward spot, never quite with the symmetry we’d hope, like Arquette’s fractured relationship with her father.

image courtesy of MoMA

For me, it’s especially about the feeling it evokes, the infinity of the black night and finding meaning. I relate to it pretty hard right now. Cage, unable to save everyone he encounters as an EMT, sleeplessly unravels and finds comfort in the arms of Arquette. There’s no hard solve for trauma, but you can certainly take the edge off.

I suppose it boils down to the fact that everyone’s looking for something soothing, anything to alleviate their anxiety. I highly recommend seeking this movie out– it’s dark, it’s funny, it’s satisfying, and it’s nuanced. It’s a mood, and the low level hum of Manhattan noise saturates every moment.

Thanks for reading,

Mad Men s6e7: Man With A Plan

“My mother can go to hell, and Ted Chaough can fly her there!”

Don sure needs to be in control, huh? Jesus Christ. He’s an insidious prick to Ted, does a whole dominant thing with Sylvia, all to feel some modicum of control in the chaos of the merger. Didn’t quite think that one through, apparently. At least Roger got to fire Burt Peterson again.

One of Don’s central traits is his endless yearning for freedom while also craving control over his life. I mean, the guy reinvents himself at every available turn, what else were you expecting? He’s consistently isolated as a result. People flit in and out of his life all the time, he’s seemingly never Not surrounded by people, but because he doesn’t truly connect with anyone he’ll always be alone.

image courtesy of Tumblr

Natch, we spend our lives thinking we’re the lead in our own movie. Truth of the matter is that nobody thinks about us as much as we fucking do, but we all intrinsically understand that we’re a part of something larger. Don doesn’t really get this. And yeah yeah yeah– it’s a show, he’s the protagonist, our beloved antihero, but he elevates himself to this bizarre mountaintop where he cannot fail, he can only Be Failed. Good way to avoid responsibility, if that’s your bag.

The way Ted settles in for a margarine rap sesh with his colleagues as opposed to Don sitting alone brooding in his corner office says a lot; these guys are night and day, camaraderie and spitballing versus fear and lofty expectations. Don expects everyone in his life to be a skosh like Sylvia in that lovely hotel room; waiting with bated breath for him to appear and liven shit up. Instead of collaborating with his coworkers, Don wants to be the guy who drops that Perf  Lightbulb Idea(TM) in a moment of pure clarity and meaning, blowing everyone’s fuckin socks off with his brilliance.

image courtesy of Tumblr

As a faux olive branch, Don brings some booze to Ted’s office under the guise of yapping about margarine. What he’s really doing is drinking Ted under the table to assert some sort of dominance, and Peggy is of course grossed out by Don’s behaviour. It’s funny though; as much of a brilliant, mysterious and imposing figure Don may be at the office, Ted will forever have one on Don because he was the one who flew them to that Mohawk meeting. And that’s just suave as hell.

image courtesy of Giphy

Sylvia dreamed that Ted’s plane went down, and that she returned home, back to her life after being adrift. Don of course immediately twists it to mean that she missed him– what’s that about everyone being unbelievably fucking self-involved? As she definitively ends their ongoing affair, Don’s façade crumbles. Dude is grasping at sand.

Of course, Don is entangled in his Alpha Man(TM) horseshit and cannot grok the real meaning of what Sylvia is telling him. At this moment it’s incredibly striking how plain it is that Don is a guy without a real home; he brings his ‘change the conversation‘ work ethos home, and his personal relationships suffer as a result. So while Sylvia feels a great deal of comfort in returning home, Don feels nothing. As Megan talks about her day, his mind reverts to TV static.

As Don zones out, Peggy is busy building a life with Abe in a truly terrible apartment building. We’ve got Pete attempting to care for his mother while trying to get back into Trudy’s good graces. Bob Benson is trying to connect with Joan, who wants her son to thrive in a post-Greg world while navigating a complicated relationship with her mother; Don doesn’t seem to see the value in these sorts of human connections because the moment shit goes remotely sour dude is out the fucking door.

After all, in the very same episode where he split with Betty, he formed a new ad agency. Damn, dude.

“God, you’re a real prick, you know that??”

“Damn it Burt, you stole my goodbye!”