Monday, November 30, 2015

Blerds guide through Kevin Smiths Jersey Trilogy

The Producer here... I took a week off from blogging and what not to make a family trip to Philadelphia and to New Jersey and New York.  Most of this trip was family business/issues but some of it was for pleasure.  I will write about my first trip to New York City in a later post.  But a part of that trip was getting to visit Kevin Smith's comic book store ( Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash).  As a life long blerd and a former Kevin Smith fan( more on that later), I wanted to visit some of the places that are talked about in his movies and seen in his early film work.  I have heard Kevin Smith speak frequently about why there is no real diversity in the Jersey Trilogy.... he basically states there are no Black people in the Jersey suburbs hence no black people in the movies( with the exception of Hooper X in Chasing Amy).  But watching the movies, you can hear the influence of Black culture through many of the musical choices and pop cultural references.  And for general nerdiness, the movies all call back to comics, Star Wars, and other nerdly features that will make you laugh because the jokes are kinda inside jokes on nerd culture.

I came to the Kevin Smith movie party pretty late.  Clerks came out in 1994 and I probably did not see it until 1998.  Brother Beavis put me on to it and if you have never seen it, its still one of the funniest and crudest movies you will ever see. The movie is shot totally in black and white and its lack of production value as a film is almost a selling point.  Had it come out a few year later, people possibly would've mistaken it for a "found footage" movie like the Blair Witch Project.  The camera work is almost non existent and the dialogue is so quick you often need to use the close captions to understand it.  This is Kevin Smith's first film where he was fresh out of film school.  The legends of him funding the movie on credit cards are true and the casting is essentially people he grew up with.  For the uninitiated, the movie revolves around two 20 something slackers and their day working menial jobs( one at the Quick Stop, the other at RST video store). Dante and Randall,  as most 20 somethings do,  hate their jobs and meander through their day talking about things guys talk about( women, sex, and of course Star Wars).  The movie introduces us to Jay and Silent Bob( Jay played by Jason Mewes and Silent Bob by the director himself, Kevin Smith) as two dudes who hang out in front of the Quick Stop and sell weed and basically just loiter.  But Jay is a vulgarian with many funny one liners and Silent Bob only speaks once( a pattern)  After you watch it, you will never hear the number 37 again and not laugh to yourself.  This movie is the launch of the Jersey Trilogy and the following movies link back to Clerks.  Clerks is a critical and commercial success.  It makes the rounds at all the Independent movie festivals and is looked at by many as Kevin Smith's best film( I disagree).

Clerks on Netflix

On my trip to New Jersey, I wanted to visit the Quick Stop because its really the backdrop of the entire movie.  The store is located in Leonardo, New Jersey and I took my 10 year old with me.  I went inside, said wassup to the current Clerk working there, took a picture looking at the dates on the milk( gotta see the movie for that), and a picture outside where RST Video used to be.

Clerks success leads Kevin Smith to make his second feature, Mallrats.  The movie, as it name implies, is about dudes that hang out at the mall.  Its really a farce of a movie and I don't mean that in a bad way.  Kevin Smith, at the time, was making "bro/ slacker movies" that would later be copied and done( debated if better) by Judd Apatow and Seth Rogen.  Once again it stars slacker 20 somethings who don't have much going for themselves and both have been recently dumped by their girlfriends. The movie stars Jason Lee as Brodie and Jeremy London as TS. The movie makes references back to Clerks and Jay and Silent Bob also make a much more active appearance. and contribute their brand of shenanigans to the movie.  The movie actually has good actors who would go on to do solid work in Hollywood.  Jason Lee has starred in many movies and tv shows, Joey Lauren Adams and Claire Forlani are both in this movie and have been solid character actors for years in Hollywood.  Shannen Dohtery was at the height of her 90210 bitch level when this movie came out. Michael Rooker plays crazy dad as only Michael Rooker can.  Stan Lee makes a cameo to discuss super hero genitalia with Brodie. And of course, Ben Afflek stars as a sleazy, clothing store manager and we don't need to discuss the star he would become- other than to add that with all this star power,  Mallrats bombed at the box office.  All the postive press and hype Kevin Smith got from Clerks quickly evaporated in this box office dud.  If you can, find a copy of the DVD Mallrats and listen to the directors commentary.  Kevin Smith details how the movie came about and what he feels went wrong.  Plus the commentary track, in parts,  is funnier than the actual movie. As a part of the commentary track, Kevin Smith discusses how he used Mallrats as a casting call for his next, more personal and more successful movie- Chasing Amy.

For my Blerd trip, there was not much to see.  The movie was filmed in Eden Prairie, Minnesota so not alot of on set sights to see.  But I did get a chance to snap this picture of Brodie statue in Jay and Silent Bobs Secret Stash.

Mallrats on Youtube

The last movie in the Jersey Trilogy is Chasing Amy.  In my opinion, Kevin Smith's best and most complete film.  It has comedy and heart and because of the disaster that was Mallrats, its cast brilliantly with Jason Lee and Ben Afflek as the 20 something dudes.  This time, they have actually jobs as comic book artists and writers( you will never hear the word tracer again and not laugh).  Things get all turned around when Holden, played by Afflek, falls in love with Alyssa, played by Joey Lauren Adams.  Sounds like a classic, Nancy Meyers rom-com but its not.  You see, Alyssa is ( spoiler alert) Gay.  But that does not stop Holden from pursuing her and the movie is a deep, and personal love story.  It also speaks to friendship and how personal relationships often times ruin friendships that have existed for longer than that personal relationship.  The movie has heart and depth and people often are confused that the person who made Mallrats, also made this movie.  From a Blerd perspective, we do get our first, and only, Black character, Hooper X.  Hooper is a militant comic book creator who goes to comic cons to scare and intimidate people with the hopes o drumming up book sales.  Hooper is played delightfully by Dwight Ewell and he steals scenes in the movie.  His introduction into the movie is classic!

On my trip, I was able to purchase my Hooper X doll which is going on my desk at the day job tomorrow.  Also, parts of the movie was filmed at Jacks Music Shoppe in Redbank and I was able to walk the aisles in the store.

This trip was fun and conflicting all at the same time for me.  I was a huge Kevin Smith fan in the late 90's and early 2000's. I  saw all the movies, I bought and read( when they finally shipped) his run on Daredevil, Green Arrow, and Spider-Man. After this trilogy of movies, he made Dogma, which I think is underrated as a film and he also made another Jay and Silent Bob movie( Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) to put some closure to the whole Jersey thing and focus on making more adult movies.  In my 20's I could relate to Dante and Randall and Brodie even tho they wasn't brothas.  I could relate to feeling lost and unsure of what the hell life had to offer outside of living with my parents, reading comics, and gaming and talking about music and movies all night long.  As I got older, I could relate to Holden being in a complicated relationship and loving a person so much but unable to make the relationship work.  And as my 20's turned to 30's, I felt Kevin Smith making those changes and he made Jersey Girl with Ben Afflek and Jennifer Lopez.  This was right after the Gigli debacle and his movie craters and I think it scared him.  I think taking that chance and it not working, forced him to go back to the well and he cranked out another Clerks movie( Clerks 2) and then the horribly unfunny, Zack and Miri Make a Porno.  Now in my mid to late 30's, I'm watching his new movies thinking, "dude, you are better than this.  How did I grow up and you didn't?"  So after Zack and Miri, I kinda lost Kevin Smith's number.  I still follow him on Twitter but I have not seen any of his newer movies. So when I made this trip to Red Bank, it was with a bit of sadness in my heart knowing that 34 year old me would've enjoyed this much more than 44 year old me.

 I finished off my trip to New Jersey by visiting Jay and Silent Bob's Secret Stash.  I know most people know it now for the place where they film Comic Book Men.  I personally have never watched the show for no other reason that I just don;t do "reality" tv.  I was able to meet and take a photo with Walt Flannagan, who is one of the stars of the show and who is a capable comic book artist and writer himself.  He is also named checked often in the Jersey Trilogy of movies.  Of course I had to buy some swag for me and Brother Beavis and I took some pictures with props from the other movies.

There you have it! If you have never done so, watch all three movies.  Keep the kids far away because the language is a straight up vulgarthon!  But if you are a Kevin Smith fan or former fan like me, I would highly recommend going to the store and to the Quick Stop.  It's like walking onto a movie set without having to pay!

The Producer

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