The New Jersey Oscar Contender that Could Have Been…by N.J Holden

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Always on top of his game, our featured writer N.J Holden (@exiledinNJ) uncovers something you may not have known about Silver Linings Playbook.

When Matthew Quick’s debut novel Silver Linings Playbook was published in 2008, I’m sure few envisioned the multi-nominated film that would follow it in 2012. With a dynamite cast (Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro) and a proven director (David O. Russell), it should have been a celebration of the Garden State since the book takes place there. But the film, like so many adaptations, deviated from the source material, most notably moving the characters and plot from New Jersey to Philadelphia. While audiences and the folks at the Academy Awards have applauded and nominated the film for five Oscars (including Best Picture of the Year), I think we should look at the book, a celebration of family, football, mental illness, and New Jersey.

Pat Peoples is a former history teacher who returns from an extended stay at a Baltimore mental hospital to his childhood home in Collingswood, New Jersey. With his wife, job, and home all gone, Pat is a broken man who believes in “silver linings”, or a series of positive beliefs that he holds true to in hopes of winning back his old life. Following a strenuous exercise regiment and reading his wife’s school reading list, Pat tries to rebuild his life while under the care of his emotionally drained mother and emotionally distant, Philadelphia Eagles-obsessed father. In addition, Pat forms an odd relationship with Tiffany, a disturbed person in her own right who blackmails Pat into a dance competition with the hopes of reuniting him with his wife. Pat must also endure his precarious mental state which is always on the verge of snapping, especially by that wicked musician who haunts doctor and dental offices all over…Kenny G! The novel alternates between drama and comedy, with Pat’s humorous attempts at adjusting to life outside the hospital and his dark, growing obsession with finding out why he lost it all, something that he blocked from his mind. 
While the movie dealt with all of these issues in a more lighthearted, comedic way, Quick kept the focus on Pat and his quest for the happy ending that eluded him. In addition, the setting would make any native to NJ happy and proud, with its beautiful descriptions of towns and places that people south of Exit 130 on the GSP would recall. The book stays true to the spirit of the Garden State, embracing its quirkiness and tough attitude and love of food. Some have criticized the handling of mental illness; with Pat and Tiffany’s relationship being contrived since both of them are the only ones capable of understanding one another since they are disturbed. But the relationship is only a little bit of the novel, with a majority of it focused on Pat and his journey to a better life, however ludicrous or unrealistic it may seem. So before that day in February when we get to see who will take home a gold statue, be sure to give this book a read and remember that it could have been a celebrated New Jersey film…only if.

– N.J Holden

New Jersey’s Great Pop Culture Moments Vol.72: Gremlins 2

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Clamp Corner would make a great replacement for Xanadu at the Meadowlands
CLAMP: “…This is what I’ve been looking for.”
BILLY PELTZER: “You want to buy it?”
CLAMP: “No I want to build it…for my next project over in Jersey. This is terrific! This is what people want now, the traditional community thing…”

Since we’re in the new year, I bring you a moment from The New Batch. It just makes sense.

It seemed like a bit of a stretch for Warner Brothers and Amblin to pull another Gremlin out of their hat 6 years after the original was in theaters. According to the entry on Wikipedia, they held out until Joe Dante agreed to helm the sequel for them. To me, Dante rules – and not just because he’s a Jersey guy, but mainly because the majority of his work incorporates a few of my favorite things: horror, monsters, and comedy. 1990’s Gremlins 2: The New Batch isn’t quite as incredible as the original, but it’s still so good and isn’t praised nearly enough.

One of other reasons why I enjoy Dante’s films is because he usually makes it abundantly clear that you’re watching a Joe Dante picture. His style oozes out of every frame and his go-to actors always show up (i.e Dick Miller.) Some of his other notable films include Piranha, The Explorers, and one of my all-time favorites The Burbs. The bulk of his films include elements of fantasy and the supernatural as well as throwbacks to old b-grade monster movies.

As much as I want to sing Gremlins 2’s praises, there’s a few things that keep me from fawning over. I love that it’s probably the most prototypical Joe Dante film ever, but I felt that he went slightly too self indulgent with it. It was really more of a straight up comedy, or cartoon come to life, rather than a horror film. The original Gremlins offered a nice balance of horror and dark humor, it was creepy and maintained a tense atmosphere once the Gremlins started showing up. With the Mogwai being such a mysterious and likable little character, it lent a bit of fantasy to the film as well. Once the sequel rolled around it became “how ridiculous could we make these little creatures?” The sequel brought an array of different Gremlins, too many actually. The best one out of all of them is Brain Gremlin. I would love to be friends with him in real life. I wouldn’t have fallen asleep in class if he was giving a lecture when I was in college.

Dante was given full creative control on the project. For a big studio film that’s usually unheard of. The plot was interesting and I think if it built up more of an eerie atmosphere and dropped a few of the gags, the film would have become a classic. Nowadays (even today in fact) you can pick up a DVD copy of Gremlins 2 for $5 bucks on Amazon.

Other aspects of the sequel really stand out. The cast was fantastic, including the often overlooked, Marla, played by future Garden State Playmate Haviland Morris. The film’s score is trumped up and more fun than it’s predecessor, but just as cool and creepy. The opening credits include a sweeping shot of New York City with the Twin Towers in all of their glory. According to IMDB, this happens to be stock footage from the opening of Superman IV.

Even with my minor complaints, Gremlins 2 is an absolute riot and simply a fun film to watch in a very cartoony way. To hit that concept home, Gizmo dances to Fats Domino and the movie even begins with an animated intro with Bugs and Daffy. The original is more serious and offered less slapstick and in-jokes, and I still hold that as my favorite of the two. The big difference is that we get a New Jersey reference in Gremlins 2: The New Batch, courtesy of the billionaire owner of Clamp Enterprises, Daniel Clamp himself.

*Joe Dante was born in Morristown and grew up in Parsippany, NJ.

5 Things I’m Looking Forward to in 2013

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5. Scarlett Johansson on Broadway in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.  Cats? Hot tin roof? Not so much. Scarlett. Johansson. Yes. Please. http://www.catonahottinroofbroadway.com

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4. Miss Sexy Armpit and I missed American Idiot during it’s Broadway run so we’re going to check it out at The State Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ.

American Idiot
January 29th – 30th
The State Theatre
New Brunswick, NJ

3. MOVIES!!! – Hipsters will have shit to say about this, but I’m looking forward to Oz the Great and Powerful, Man of Steel, This is the End, and yes…The Lone Ranger. Hopefully I’ll be seeing a couple of these in IMAX!!!

2. Wrestlemania 29 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ. The entire week leading up to April 7th will be filled with festivities such as the WWE Hall of Fame, WWE Fan Axxess, AND Monday Night Raw…all taking place in NJ and NY!

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1. As far as I know there’s no official date other than “Late 2013,” but…CASTLE GRAYSKULL! If you pre-ordered the most ambitious release from Matty Collector EVER, then you’re in for a treat toward the end of the year! I personally cannot wait.

The Barrens: A Direct To DVD Dud?

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A film about a family camping in the Pine Barrens being stalked by The Jersey Devil? I’m in. I’m always in when it comes to that freak J.D!

The Barrens had a nice little buzz going for itself when it was first announced a while back. I’m not sure the path horror films take during their production, but the majority of them nowadays seem to go directly to dvd/blu-ray. I was under the impression that this one would actually get a theatrical release, especially with the nation’s bizarre love affair with everything New Jersey after the popularity of Jersey Shore.

As it turns out, there’s a very limited theatrical release going on, and as Bloody Disgusting reports, a site called TUGG is trying to get it played in more theaters. There’s a showing planned for the AMC/Loews in Cherry Hill, NJ, on 10/18. Read more about the limited release here. For the most part, this one is going straight to home video and V.O.D. It’s not a bad thing for me because then I can experience it for myself without hearing how terrible it might be and I won’t have it spoiled by articles or tweets. As it looks right now though, I won’t have to worry about negative feedback since reviews on IMDB are pretty positive at this point.

Hopefully this film will finally be a proper treatment of the Jersey Devil legend. It’s written and directed by Darren Bousman of the Saw films and Repo! The Genetic Opera so that’s encouraging I suppose. Judging by the early reviews it’s more of a psychological thriller than a true horror film, which appeals to me immensely. I prefer movies like The Shining and Psycho over those full of cheap effects and explicit, in your face gore.

As I mentioned previously here, The Barrens was filmed in Canada rather than in Jersey, most likely to keep production costs down. Such was the case with 2009’s Carny starring Lou Diamond Phillips. If you’re wondering if you should check that movie out, I give you my opinion at this linkThe Barrens stars’ Stephen Moyer of True Blood and Mia Kirshner and hits stores and On Demand on October 9th.

Anne Hathaway is July’s Garden State Playmate!

Anne Hathaway
Call me sentimental, but I consider it a big honor to star in a Batman film. It’s an even bigger honor to step into the skin tight leather Catwoman costume. Anne Hathaway is bestowed this honor in The Dark Knight Rises and we’ll soon see how she matches up to her predecessors. In many ways, playing Selina Kyle/Catwoman is as tough as playing Batman since there were several actors who previously defined the role. It doesn’t matter if you enjoy the 60’s Batman TV series or not, Julie Newmar was the first and best on-screen Catwoman. Lee Meriwether did a pretty bang-up job also, but Michelle Pfeiffer brought a whole new perverse sexuality to the character. Will Anne Hathaway bring a new aspect to Batman’s feline foe?

Anne Hathaway

It’s not fair to compare Hathaway to Newmar or Pfeiffer without seeing The Dark Knight Rises yet, but one thing Hathaway’s got going for her is that she grew up in New Jersey. Her bio on IMDB mentions that she was born in Brooklyn and her family moved to Millburn, NJ when she was 6 years old. The actress graduated Millburn High School and also starred in several productions at The Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn and Seton Hall Prep in West Orange, NJ.

Hathaway is known for being in tons of chick flicks. Until I was coerced by Miss Sexy Armpit to watch 2010’s Valentine’s Day I never watched any of her films. Although some of my friends freely admit to having an affinity for The Devil Wears Prada, I definitely draw the line there. Soon after The Princess Diaries, it’s sequel, and Ella Enchanted, Hathaway switched gears and went on to shed her clothes and her squeaky clean image in 2005’s Havoc.

Anne Hathaway

Looking closer at her resume I can’t really say I’ve seen more than 1 1/2 of her films.  I fell asleep within the first 10 minutes of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland so I missed her as the White Queen and, as I mentioned, I watched Valentine’s Day in it’s ludicrous entirety and fast forwarded through most of Love and Other Drugs. If they wanted me to watch the whole thing they should’ve hired a hot female actress in place of Jake Gyllenhaal and made it a lesbian love story. 80% of the film is made up of mostly forced and awkward sex scenes between the two actors. *Here’s just a few of Hathaway’s other films that I have absolutely zero interest in ever watching: Brokeback Mountain, Rachel Getting Married, and Bride Wars.

If you’re a guy and a Hathaway fan, you’re in luck because there’s no shortage of ways to see her naked. Even though Hathaway is now known to her male fans for her frequent nude scenes, she doesn’t evoke the same naturally commanding sex appeal that Julie Newmar and Michelle Pfeiffer did in the Catwoman role. Chances are, Christopher Nolan will tap into a whole new Hathaway in The Dark Knight Rises. We already know that The Dark Knight will rise, but does Anne Hathaway make YOU rise?

Mary McCormack is May’s Garden State Playmate!

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She may have been one of the reasons why Howard Stern and his first wife were separated. I feel so damn old saying this, but, back in the late ’90s, during the making of Private Parts, Howard constantly proclaimed on his show that if he wasn’t married he would love to be with actress Mary McCormack. He called her his “movie wife,” as she portrayed Alison Stern in the 1997 film based on his best selling book.

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Any guy who has seen Private Parts remembers the screen shot I grabbed on the right

Since starring as Howard’s movie wife, McCormack appeared in a steady stream of films and TV shows. Some of her credits include Deep Impact, the underrated comedy Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star (Nuckin’ Futs!)K-Pax…yes K-PAX, and TV shows ER and The West Wing. McCormack also had a main role in 2007’s 1408, a pretty decent little thriller based off a Stephen King story.

Most recently the Plainfield, NJ-born actress starred in USA Network’s In Plain Sight. The series premiere in 2008 grabbed over 5 millions viewers. Despite its initial success, In Plain Sight’s five season run will be coming to an end with tonight’s episode.

IMDB provides some trivia on McCormack: She is friends with fellow New Jerseyan Chelsea Handler, she graduated Wardlaw-Hartridge School in Edison, NJ, and she obviously has milf qualities but settle down dudes…she’s married with children!

New Jersey’s Great Pop Culture Moments Vol.64: Captain America

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“Oh, you’re from Paramus now? You know it’s illegal to lie on your enlistment form. And seriously, Jersey?” – Sgt. James “Bucky” Barnes 
Prior to becoming The First Avenger, the meek Steve Rogers lied on his enlistment forms in his many attempts to get into the army. His various physical issues disqualified him from serving military duty in World War II. I love that Captain America himself lied and said he was from New Jersey to get into the army. Captain Paramus just doesn’t have the same ring.

Prior to its release, the concept art and trailers for Captain America were enough to sell me on the Marvel Studios film. Still, that didn’t mean I would be motivated enough to actually venture out to the movie theater to see it! Unless it’s a huge event for me, I wait for Redbox or Netflix. Sure, Captain America looked awesome, but it didn’t get me as psyched as you would’ve thought. Last Friday I finally sat down to view the film on bluray, better late than never, right? It turns out that I didn’t fully agree with the majority considering it has a fresh rating of 79% on Rotten Tomatoes.

In my world, one of the cards stacked against Marvel is that I’ve always been a DC guy. That doesn’t mean that I don’t enjoy Marvel characters, comics, or movies, but I’m just more into DC comics. Iron Man and the Incredible Hulk were both brought to the screen in a very cool way. Shit, I even liked Fantastic Four! Although, during the time Thor was in theaters, all I kept hearing was how bad it was from friends of mine. After I finally saw it, I thought it kicked ass! It was so much better than I had heard. It wasn’t the greatest super hero film ever, but it was definitely a fun movie. After seeing Thor, I got pumped for the upcoming Avengers film and wanted to make sure I saw Captain America next.

As exciting as it originally seemed, Captain America fell a bit short of my expectations. I was convinced that this would be Marvel’s best superhero film thus far, but Iron Man still holds that title. That’s not to say Captain America was bad at all, in fact, the more I think about it, the more it seems that it was everything it could have been. The fact that it’s an origin story held back the action. Just the thought of a sequel sounds more exciting than the first. The casting of the film was fairly dead-on. Chris Evans played Cap perfectly, Hugo Weaving was killer as Red Skull, and Stanley Tucci was awesome as Dr. Erskine. The only exception for me was Hayley Atwell who was pretty bland as leading lady Peggy Carter. All the elements were there, but it still wasn’t a complete home run for me.

Overall, the film lacked the high level of adventure that Iron Man and Thor had. Again, that was most likely due to the hindrance of having to tell Cap’s origin story. If you are comic geek like me then you can do without origins because we’ve heard them all before. Reintroduction of these iconic characters is a necessary evil though. Many folks in the country don’t even remember TV’s Captain America from the late ’70s and Albert Pyun’s take on the character from 1990. Finally, we have a definitive Captain America film that looks superb on bluray, so, mission accomplished Cap! Now onto The Avengers!

Madonna, Atlantic City, and Armpits…

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Frequently I come out with some preposterous claims. One of these includes the theory that I may have invented the “screen shot” or “screen grab” as it’s commonly known. As soon as Desperately Seeking Susan was available on VHS, Momma Armpit brought me home a copy because she knew I wanted it. I watched it over and over marveling at the fact that I could keep rewinding my favorite scene and watch it over and over. Believe it or not, my favorite scene wasn’t seeing Rosanna Arquette’s boobs, nope, as nice as they are, I was more interested in a scene most of you probably quickly forgot about. 
My favorite scene comes when Madonna is in the Port Authority bathroom looking super sexy in her hot pink mesh Atlantic City shirt. She walks over to the hand dryer and raises her arms to dry her armpit. Now, contrary to popular belief, I do not have an armpit fetish so get this out of your head right away. The name of the site might mislead you, but I just think it’s a funny scene. I wouldn’t doubt that Madonna actually came up with that herself because she’s really perverse.
Anyway, I took my 35MM Vivitar camera (that I still own!) and took a few snapshots of the TV screen while this scene was playing. My mom went to get the film developed and as she was going through the pics of the family gatherings and events there were also 2 or 3 shots of Madonna air drying her armpits. Classic.

New Jersey’s Great Pop Culture Moments Vol.63: Night Shift

Night Shift

Sure, the line “Take LIVE tuna fish and feed ’em mayonnaise!” may not be as iconic as “Nice f*ckin’ model,” and definitely not as imitated as “I’m Batman,” but it’s also from a film in the career of an actor who has personified a multitude of quirky and hilarious characters. Many roles Micheal Keaton has chosen are zany and often outlandish, but those are the ones that continue to make me laugh ’til this day.

One of the early films I wore out on VHS was 1983’s Mr. Mom. Jack Butler is still one of my favorite characters ever even though he’s a lot more laid back than Bill Blazejowski in his first major movie role in Night Shift the previous year. Night Shift is right up there with Keaton’s best work. It’s hard to beat the team-up of The Fonz and Michael Keaton as morgue attendants who become pimps and start a brothel.

Keaton’s Billy Blaze was always amped up, humming The Rolling Stones “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” and chock full of so many ideas that he had to dictate them into his handheld tape recorder so he wouldn’t forget them. Sounds a lot like what I do with the notes app on my iPhone. I related to Blaze since I worked the night shift for a few years and it’s certainly a whole other culture.

To pass the time, Blaze was always yapping a mile a minute to his partner Chuck (Winkler). A couple of the stories he told involved his trips down to Atlantic City to gamble. I always love watching movies that were filmed in New York City in the ’80s and the proximity to A.C is what gives this film that extra coolness. As Blaze told his stories I could just imagine him driving across the river and hopping on the GSP all the way down to Atlantic City, humming Stones songs all the way. In the early ’80s A.C was the Northeast’s answer to Las Vegas, but according to Blaze “Vegas knows how to treat you right… cause they got broads…and Wayne Newton…”

BILL BLAZEJOWSKI GOES TO ATLANTIC CITY:

“Chuck, I’m really getting good at remembering these cards. (21 jeez!) Boy I’ll tell ya Chuck…this weekend is it. This weekend I go to Atlantic City and I do nothing but play blackjack straight through. I’m not even gonna get a room I’m just gonna get those wash’n dries…ya know? Did I tell you I thought of them first?”

“You know I’ve been working on my blackjack system, right? All right, so, I get down to Atlantic City this weekend and I’m sitting in the casino with my wash’n dries; Did I tell you I had the idea for them first? Anyway I’m sitting there and I’m playing blackjack right…they bar me, they bar me, I’m out, I’m barred, I can’t get in now, right. You know why? Being too good a player…”

It Will Be A DARK KNIGHT In The Old Town Of Newark

PhotobucketGotham is now truly in New Jersey. Next Thursday and Friday, The Dark Knight will be filming on Broad Street in Newark. Both City Hall and the Military Park Station will be utilized. New Jersey’s largest city will receive over $40,000 for the use of City Hall. Newark residents and shop owners are being told to expect extensive delays around the city and downtown. The Dark Knight Rises has also filmed scenes in Pittsburgh and New York. The next Batman installment will hit theaters in July 2012.

Many mainstream news articles about The Dark Knight Rises filming in Newark mention that Gotham was based off New York City, and while that is probably true, there is also documented proof that Gotham was once (and sometimes still is) considered to be in New Jersey. Read the previous Sexy Armpit post about Gotham City being in New Jersey: