Sunday, August 29th, 2004

Night Falls On Hoboken

Yesterday I saw two excellent yet very different films about New Jersey. My memories of Jersey are pretty much limited to watching my brother have brutal allergy attacks once we crossed the state line and seeing a car on fire in Newark, though I may just be making that last one up. Anyway, that’s neither here nor there.

Garden State was one of those films that everyone in my target demographic has been buzzing about since the trailer first hit the internet months ago, and with good reason – it’s almost perfectly target marketed to me and my peers. Everything about it seems very deliberately tailored to appeal to artsy-indie-hipster kids in their twenties, which would almost be offensive if it weren’t for the fact that it was written and directed by a fellow (presumably) artsy-indie-hipster kid in Zach Braff. So if we get past that nagging feeling (which I’ve had since I initially saw the trailer), you’ve got a pretty good film. On the plus side, you’ve got some gorgeous visuals, some truly funny sequences and an effevescently adorable Natalie Portman name-dropping The Shins and reminding everyone why she’s the ultimate geek-boy dream-girl (and there’s a gratuitous yet completely acceptable swimming pool scene…). On the not-so-plus side: Zach Braff looks like he’s sleepwalking through much of the role. I know that’s how his over-medicated character is supposed to be, but I felt it came off as a bit of a cop-out. And because of that, the story feels a little slim – you accept that he’s made some personal growth because he says he has. And overall, things felt a little too meticulous, a little too polished, if that makes any sense. The direction felt a little heavy-handed, but I’ll chalk that up to a first-timer behind the lens trying to get everything right and perhaps over-compensating instead of any deliberate affectation. Criticisms aside, I enjoyed it quite a bit and would like to see what sort of bonus features they slap on the DVD.

My other Jersey flick yesterday was Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, which although it’s set in New Jersey, isn’t really defined by its locale – it’s more of a universal story. In a nutshell, two stoners get the munchies, crave White Castle and hilarity ensues. The novel twist is that the two protagonists are Asian (Korean and Indian, to be precise) – yeah, we still live in a world where non-black or white lead actors are novel. Anyway, this was a ridiculously funny movie. Honest to God. Sure, it probably helps if you’re a second-generation Asian-North American. I, myself, found the scenes at Princeton wherein Harold (the Korean guy) has to deal with an on-campus Asian student’s association way too funny. Things do occasionally veer a little too far into ridiculousness, but on the whole it’s surprisingly good for what’s essentially a stoner road movie. I think the strongest point is that the two leads are refreshingly realistic and not stereotypes, not Asian stereotypes and not even dumbass stoner movie stereotypes. It may look dumb, but it’s dumb in a smart way and gets my unqualified two thumbs up.

I also liked it ’cause I bear more than a passing resemblance to John Cho and I liked to pretend it was me having wacky adventures and getting with the sexy neighbour. Not that I have a sexy neighbour. I am personally hoping that he becomes a big star so I can move to Hollywood and take all the crappy roles that he’s too good for. I will be Skeet Ulrich to his Johnny Depp. Just watch, it’ll happen.

I just realized that this week’s mp3 of the week ties in nicely with this New Jersey theme. Weird. That wasn’t deliberate. Maybe it’s a sign? I need to rent Jersey Girl!!! Ha ha, no.

Julie Doiron will tour her new record Goodnight Nobody (out September 7) across Canada this September including a stop on the 23rd at the 360. Interesting choice, booking the uber-quiet Doiron into an uber-rock club.

Steve Earle has redone his website. Well, HE probably didn’t do it. Someone else did. But I’m sure he had some input.

np – Yo La Tengo / I Can Hear The Heart Beating As One

By : Frank Yang at 10:27 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Torr says:


    DMG: Do you have any extras planned for the DVD?

    ZB: Lots of good stuff. My first assembly of this movie was two and a half hours long, so I had to cut 45 minutes out of it. Not all of that will be on the DVD, but I’m going to put as many extras, the deleted scenes and extended scenes, as I can. Natalie, Peter, and I are doing one track of commentary and then the other track is going to be me, the cinematographer, the production designer, and the editor, which is really cool. And it will have some outtakes and bloopers.

  2. tim says:

    I know someone involved w/ DVD production, which is already well underway. Don’t know when it’s gonna be done, but maybe by X-mas? It will have a making-of docu on it. As well as extensive outtakes and bloopers.

    BTW, I didn’t like the movie. Precious and amateurish…

  3. Satellite says:

    Hi Frank – I’ve been reading your site for awhile now, but had to comment when you mention my current homestate. Even if you may have made up the Newark car fire, I have to say that I’ve personally seen about five cars on fire around Newark just in the last 3 years. It’s a great place to live (it actually is besides for those car fires).

    Anyway, I completely agree on with your Garden State feelings.

    And speaking of the NJ connection, everyone go out & buy the new Ted Leo record next month. It’s amazing!

  4. thom says:

    i loved harold and kumar as well, it is one of the first maginally original stoner movies in recent memory.

    one thing i did find quite odd about the movie is the number of can-con actors in it. kumars brother is on "22 minutes" and the dealer from princeton is an alumni of various and sundry can-con shows.

  5. Frank says:

    thom – H&K was shot in Toronto, hence all the locals filling out the scenes. The most blatent one I noticed was the Cineplex Odeon cinema acting as the multiplex across the street from the old White Castle location. I’m sure there were scads of others. I assume U of T stood in for Princeton?