We watched Garden State last night. I was a little nervous that the topic of parental death might be too hard for me to watch, but since it was billed as a comedy, I decided to take the risk. I’m so glad I did. What a delightful, refreshing, and engaging film that was!

I’ve seen several reviews comparing Zach Braff to Woody Allen. I don’t see the similarity, other than the fact that he’s Jewish — is that all it takes? To me, Braff appears more as a disciple of the Mike Nichols school of filmmaking, and that school can never have too many disciples. Every scene was beautifully lit, every shot was thoughtfully composed, every nuance in the story accented and supported by the surrounding detail. Very Mike Nichols indeed, but also very Sam Mendes following in Nichols’ footsteps, and Braff is young enough to have been influenced by even someone as young as Mendes.

Incidentally, I just happened upon Braff’s blog, with his latest entry about a week ago. There appears to be an LJ feed set up for it, too.

Before I wrap this up, while surfing for links, I found a great Mike Nichols quote on expressive filmmaking (emphasis mine):

I’ll tell you a very quick principle that I have come to believe is almost the most important principle of all of this: I worked with Dan Dailey long ago, directing him in a version of The Odd Couple, the play, and he told me that when he was at MGM, when he was a big musical star at MGM, they got lessons in everything. They had movement and they had voice and they had speech and they had telephone. And I said, “What did they teach you in telephone?” And he said, “In telephone you learned that if you were about to do a scene in which you get bad news, answer happy; and if you are going to do a scene in which you get good news, answer sad.” And I think of that as the MGM telephone principle. It’s amazing how often it comes up. It comes up in almost every scene-namely that you don’t know what’s going to happen until it happens. And the harder you are running in the opposite direction when it happens, the more expressive and interesting and colorful it is when it happens.

Garden State meta-review and filmmaking in general

7 thoughts on “Garden State meta-review and filmmaking in general

  • January 29, 2005 at 8:59 am
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    I loved that film too! My friend Ada didn’t seem to like Garden State as much, however she’s all over the Napolean Dynamite movie, which I didn’t care for all that much. Thanks for the link! awesome.

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  • January 29, 2005 at 9:20 am
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    I don’t know if you saw it, but I wrote about Napoleon Dynamite a little while ago, and I wasn’t all that impressed either. The idea of viewing it as a cartoon come to life occurred to me too late, but it does make it much funnier and more brilliant. I’d have to go back and watch it again to see if it really works, but I don’t think I’ll be doing that for a while.

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  • January 29, 2005 at 9:52 am
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    I did see your review awhile back and it was the first less than thrilled review from my friends. I breathed a sigh of relief. Forgot to comment, though. ha!

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  • January 29, 2005 at 9:56 am
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    Zach Braff has been compared to Woody Allen? I guess I can see that, in that he was in his own movie, and it was about the zeitgiest of his segment of his population. But I have to say, even though I have some respect for Woody Allen’s work, it Garden State was much more uplifting and had much more likeable characters than any Allen film I’ve seen.

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  • January 29, 2005 at 10:33 am
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    I think it has to do with the anxiety he displays, too.

    The next Woody Allen? makes the connection right in the title but then doesn’t follow up with clarification in the article.

    Zach Braff from “Scrubs” goes behind the camera says “Braff may have absorbed his semi-neurotic behavior from studying the moves of his idol, Woody Allen.”

    One to watch mentions Braff’s involvement in Allen’s Manhattan Murder Mystery. “[…] [A]t 17 [Braff] got everything any aspiring actor-director specialising in self-doubting young men could dream about: a role in a Woody Allen film, Manhattan Murder Mystery. Better yet, he was playing Woody Allen and Diane Keaton’s son.”

    The same article goes on to say that “[…] Woody is clearly one component of J. D. [on “Scrubs”] — angst-ridden, bullied, nerdy and yet sexually successful […].”

    Zach Braff Visits Life’s Infinite Abyss in “Garden State”, mentions Braff’s admiration for Woody Allen but doesn’t make a comparison. This article also mentions the visible influence in Garden State of Harold and Maude, which Karsten and I commented on, as well.

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  • January 29, 2005 at 10:53 am
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    All of that makes sense. I guess the medication angle was part of it too. That was one of the things that made the most impact on me in Garden State…although the former disability claims examiner in me doesn’t think it was realistic for him to stop so many drugs cold turkey without very serious withdrawal. Ironically, it seems that he didn’t have that much anxiety once he was off the drugs. The real fear, I think, was facing life without that filter, that sheild.

    Hadn’t thought about Harold & Maude. Alex introduced me to that one, and I liked it.

    Heehee…Zach Braff is on my friends list now. Thanks, Kate!

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  • January 29, 2005 at 1:41 pm
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    What an excellent quotation. I’m adding that to my bag of directing quotes.

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