Garden State Movie Review: A Larger Life to Live

Image          “Garden State” is an impressive debut from actor and first-time writer/director Zach Braff, who succeeds in capturing both the joy and pain that life can bring. With outlandish characters, humorous situations, and an overall atmosphere of an unpredictable world, Braff creates a heartfelt film that extends the importance of not only being a bystander in your own life, but also living it to the fullest.

Garden State is the nickname given to the state of New Jersey. Last year, I read a poem by Andrew Marvell called “The Garden.” One line of the poem states, “Such was that happy garden-state. / While man there walked without a mate.” Zach Braff is a genius actor and director. I do not find it a coincidence that the author’s name is Andrew, and his character’s name is Andrew. Just from reading this line, we are also able to sense a somber, and lonely mood, which is clearly set and executed throughout Braff’s entire film. By starring in and directing “Garden State”, the movie offers its viewers the best of both worlds as Zach Braff not only displays his diversity as an actor, but also reveals that he is multi-talented, and can take on the role of a director as well.

Struggling actor, Andrew Largeman, returns to his birthplace of New Jersey after nine years to attend his mother’s funeral. A quarter-inch piece of plastic has determined much of his life, when he accidentally participated in a freak accident that paralyzed his mother from the waist down. As a result, their relationship has been “dead” for many years, and Andrew has been put on medication from the age of ten.

Andrew missed the pain and grief of his mother’s injury and death because of the medications that he has consumed for half of his life. Andrew was put on medication to, “curb his anger” after his participation in his mothers freak accident. He has been on medication since the age of nine, and he has replaced the feeling the angst and awkward times of teenage years, with depression and numbness. However, Largeman seems to be quickly sucked back into the life he left nine years earlier when he arrives home. Mark, one of Andrew’s old high school friends, is a gravedigger and helped bury his mother. The process of burying Andrew’s mother in a sense uncovers a part of Largeman’s buried life when he is introduced to a life filled with parties, high school girls, drugs, and emotions. Even though Andrew takes ecstasy, smokes weed, and drinks, he still “feels nothing.” All of these experiences are foreign to Largeman because he never quite developed social skills, and felt like an outsider for his entire life.

Andrew stays emotionally dead until he runs into a girl named Sam (Natalie Portman), an individual that would seem to have little in common with him, when he is waiting for his doctor’s appointment. She is listening to a song called, “New Slang” by the Shins, and a lyric from the song states, “I’m looking in on the good life I might be doomed never to find. Without a trust or flaming fields am I too dumb to refine?” At the doctor’s office, Sam reaches over and puts her headphones on Largeman, insisting that he should listen to the Shins because, “they will change his life.” The use of music in this scene foreshadows Sam and Andrew’s relationship.

“Garden State” uses astonishing music, beautiful cinematography, and a phenomenal cast to create the perfect movie experience. The Garden State soundtrack featuring songs such as “Green Eyes” by Coldplay, and “In the Waiting Line” by Zero7, enrich the movie’s form of depth and meaning. Each song fits the mood at the time of the scene, and compliments the film work. The use of “under the radar” artists is a real treat for our ears, as we are introduced to new indie songs. Braff’s film also uses camera techniques to enhance and evoke the audience’s emotions. For example, scenes such as Andrew, Sam, and Mark standing in the rain wearing trash bags as rain gear, screaming at the top of their lungs, evokes a buildup of emotion, and we are able to watch the characters release it. The song played at that moment, “The Only Living Boy In New York,” could quite possibly  reveal that Largeman is no longer the only living boy in New Jersey. This also connects to Marvell’s poem, expressing that Andrew is no longer a man in the Garden State walking without a mate. He is surrounded by friends, and is experiencing life to the fullest.

ImageAndrew learns that leaving his medication at home was a gift in disguise through his encounters with old and new friends. Without his medication, he is no longer sleepwalking in a permanent haze of suppressed emotions and medication prescribed by his own psychiatrist father, but rather reattaching himself to the world of experience and emotion. An example of Largeman consuming himself in a world of emotion, is when Sam teaches Andrew the importance of being unique and making a mark in your life. She tells, and displays for him a belief of hers that all awkward moments can be banished by doing something unique that no one has ever done before, like an unusual body movement or a funny noise. “It makes you special again, and worthwhile, even if only for a second.” Sam is a girl who is everything that he is not, and through her help, Largeman is now able to discover the one thing that has eluded him all this time — himself. Little incidents like these with Sam, allow Andrew to feel ok and at peace with himself.

ImageLater on, Largeman learns about Sam’s unique family. When he first goes to her house, he is barraged by a dog, and Sam yelling to “kick it in the balls.” He then hears her mom asking to “put the clothes in the dryer and bury Jelly.” Sam lives in a chaotic environment filled with jumping dogs, a plethora of hamsters, and an adopted brother, Titembay that lives with her family. Sam knows that her family is a handful and states, “”You’re freaking out, aren’t you?  You’re totally freaking out.  You’re like running for the door.”  Andrew asks her to stop saying that, since he wouldn’t be there if he didn’t want to be. Andrew has what is seen as a good family, but he relates more closely to Sam’s chaotic family because Sam’s family is accepting and loving of each other despite their differences.

Andrew’s old idea of home is described as a place, “ You feel like you can never get it back. It’s like you feel homesick for a place that doesn’t even exist. Maybe it’s like this rite of passage, you know. You won’t ever have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, you know, for your kids, for the family you start, it’s like a cycle or something. I don’t know, but I miss the idea of it, you know. Maybe that’s all family really is. A group of people that miss the same imaginary place.” His view of home changes after seeing Sam’s home, and meeting her family. Andrew is now able to see that the idea of home is not necessarily consumed with your shelter, or physical living space. He accepts that home isn’t necessarily where you live, but where you belong. When Sam and Largeman leave Sam’s house, Sam’s mother insists on hugging Andrew as well. Largeman finds a “home” and comfort in Sam and her family. He is happy to receive a hug from her mom, and even stays intertwined in her arms for a while.

At the end of the film, not only does Andrew have emotions, but he is also expressing them. He is now able to tell his father how he feels, and can move forward and start to mend their broken relationship. He also yells at Mark, then later thanks him when Mark gives him his mother’s locket that she was wearing when she was buried.  Yet the greatest challenge of them all, was saying goodbye to Sam. He shares, “ This hurts so much. If nothing else, that’s life, you know. It’s real. Sometimes it fuckin’ hurts. To be honest, it’s sort of all we have.” By stating this, Largeman has shifted from emotionless to emotional. After living in emotion for four days, Largeman must decide between continuing to put an ellipsis on what is important in life, or settling on some sort of full stop. This ending is far from cliché and presents us with issues that people face everyday.

Watching Andrew succeed through struggles and break past social barriers reveal that he has a “larger” life to lead. “Garden State” is a movie that reaches out to a world of people that share the similar crossroad in life that Andrew is faced with, while simultaneously sharing an important message that, “We may not be as happy as we always dreamed we would be, but, for the first time let’s just allow ourselves to be whatever it is that we are.” Garden State will win over audiences with its deep meaning, and refreshing honesty.  It may even make you question your own life, asking yourself, what is my life worth living for?

Image

The Final Wrap Up

ImageI can’t even begin to describe the valuable lessons that I learned this quarter. I remember on the first day of class we shared what we hoped to learn and take away from our Digital Marketing class. I shared that I wanted to push myself to learn more about technology, apply digital marketing applications to my life, and learn more about topics that I was unfamiliar with.

Learning More About Technology and Topics That I am Unfamiliar With:

Taking this class certainly pushed me out of my comfort zone, and made me think about the world on a more digital and global level. Because I had to read numerous articles this quarter surrounding digital marketing topics, I was constantly up to date with the latest trends and digital marketing news. This was rather exciting, and I enjoyed learning about new topics that I was unfamiliar with. Additionally, by maintaining a blog throughout the course of the quarter, I was able to share the knowledge that I learned with a global l audience. By the end of the quarter, I had a total of 15    different countries viewing my blog.

ImageImageApplying Digital Marketing Applications to my life:

By becoming certified in HootSuite and Google Analytics, I am now a more desirable Marketing candidate. Since I am certified, I now consider myself an expert, which shows my authority and authenticity when entering the work force. Instead of simply saying, “ I have worked with Google Analytics and HootSuite”, I can now say, “ I am certified.”

I certainly plan on maintaining my blog even after this class so that I can continue to learn and share more about digital marketing, increase my SEO, and further my love of marketing and writing.

Want to stay connected? Add me on LinkedIn!

Total Word Count: 13,670

What it Means to be “Social” in a Digital Age

ImageGrowing up as a member of Generation Y has been both exciting and shocking. There are many social norms of our generation that have been discovered and created through the use of social media. Like I stated in earlier blogs, we use social media as an outlet where we are able to express our every thoughts, feelings, and opinions.

For the rest of this blog post, I am going to talk about Miley Cyrus, and how her popularity grew because of social media. Below, I will show how Miley has impacted social media by using real life examples from Snapchat, YouTube, Twitter, and Buzz feed.

1) Snapchat

On August 25th, 2013, I opened up a Snapchat of Miley Cyrus grinding on Robin Thicke. I couldn’t believe my eyes, and if anything, I wished that there were some “Blurred Lines” present. After opening up my friend’s 6-second snap, I went online to watch Miley’s performance. In a matter of minutes, her performance went viral. In less than a week, Miley had 103 Google searches. Today, people use Snapchat to send quick thoughts, pictures, and messages to their friends. In an article called “Snapchat and the Erasable Future of Social Media”, one girl describes opening up a Snapchat like a present. “You never know what you’re going to get. Since the messages quickly disappear, there’s no pressure to look cool. People send pictures of themselves making ridiculous faces, smiling like maniacs, sticking out their tongues, giving the stink-eye, sprouting feathers (you can doodle on Snapchat pictures), whatever.”  Lastly, Spiegel, one of Snapchats founders shares that, “Snapchat isn’t about capturing the traditional Kodak moment. It’s about communicating with the full range of human emotion—not just what appears to be pretty or perfect. Like when I think I’m good at imitating the face of a star-nosed mole, or if I want to show my friend the girl I have a crush on.”

2) YouTube

In the article “Pop’s YouTube Economy” the author questions what YouTube tells us about why and how people like the songs they listen to. My personal opinion is that the majority of people will listen to whatever is popular. That in no way means that they will continue to listen to a song or artist, but they will at least explore a YouTube video that everyone is talking about. Why? Because they are curious! If you are on your Facebook newsfeed and see multiple people posting a YouTube video, it is likely that you will want to see what everyone is talking about.

Once people watch a YouTube video, they are able to add their own perspective on what they just saw and or listened to. I believe that that is part of the beauty of YouTube: You are presented with an opportunity to either like or unlike the video, and leave a comment. Below is a picture I took from one of Miley’s YouTube videos. The comments express strong opinions on opposite spectrums. Yet despite what people are saying, people are still talking. And, that’s what social media is all about. Creating a buzz from positive and negative comments. In this sense, Miley is staying more and more relevant. Oddly enough, we are the ones feeding her fame, because we are the gatekeepers to her success.

Image3) Twitter

On November 24th, when Miley performed at the AMAs (American Music Awards) my Twitter feed exploded. Everyone watching her performance simultaneously tweeted about what they saw. Because Generation Y is a multitasking generation, it is second nature for us to have our phones near us so that we can comment on something exciting or shocking that we saw. Below is a screenshot from Twitter. I searched #Mileycyrus and this is what popped up. Image4) Buzz feed

Buzz feed has made Miley Cyrus famous. I had no idea that the AMAs were even on two nights ago until I logged onto Facebook and saw a Buzz feed showcasing Miley’s kitten performance. After reading the article and looking at the silly pictures, I decided that I too, wanted to see what all of the Hype was about. Although I was unimpressed with what I saw, that is not the point. What’s important is that I used Buzz feed as a platform to educate myself on something that was completely irrelevant to my life. And, I then resorted to YouTube to see what I had missed out on. The reason why I’m sharing this is to explain one thing: Everything communicates.

Although social media allows for freedom of expression, it’s important to remember that social media is a self-perpetuating cycle.  The next time we go and tweet or post a status on Facebook we need to remember that more often than not, we we live in a society where our freedom of expression is not sold through our talents, but through our physical attractiveness. We label ourselves as “bitches” because that is how we are labeled in the music industry. Instead of expressing ourselves by our talents, we resort to using our bodies and outward appearance to gain attention. Instead of dancing on a stage in little to nothing like Miley Cyrus, we should embrace our talents and showcase them in a positive light. Was Miley Cyrus remembered by her ability to sing during the VMAs? No. She was remembered because of her crazy performance where she grinded on Robin Thicke with her tongue out.

ImageAlthough many of us participated in “Miley Media” its important to reflect on how social media is impacting our lives. Where does social media play into your life? Have you caught yourself following MIley Cyrus on Instagram and Twitter? And if so, why?  Just remember, you are what you tweet!

Growth Hacking: Turning Visitors Into Customers in as Easy as One Two Click

ImageGrowth hacking= acquiring and engaging users+ traditional marketing+ analytical skills+ product development skills.

To be less mathematical, growth hacking is all about finding what makes the consumer tick, encouraging users to participate, and then building product features that help attract and retain users. The best part of growth hacking is that you do not necessarily have to spend money in order to expand and grow as a company or business.

So how do you determine the growth hacking process?

  • Track: determine what needs to be tracked
  • Analyze: look at data and usage patterns
  • Prioritize: find the highest potential for growth based on your data
  • Design: Design features and products
  • Build: code and deploy
  • Measure: Measure your results to see what you can improve. Also, measure your competition!
  • Repeat: (growth hacking is a continuous process)

ImageNow that you understand the growth hacking process, below are three ways to become a successful growth hacker.

1)   Fit to the market

Once you think that you have that market, test, test, test, Use survey, A/B testing, focus groups, you name it to find out what works best for your desired target market. The main purpose of this is to make sure that the product and market are in sync. According to founder and investor Marc Andreesen, product market fit is described as, “A product perfectly designed to fit a specific and critical need for a well-defined audience. You can always feel when product market fit isn’t happening.”

2) Growth and Attention:

  • Be creative! Adapt to social users and find out what makes your consumer tick.
  • One great way to grow your product awareness is through blogging since it is free, trackable, and works fast.
  • Be Social- Partner with apps, startups or anyone that has a preexisting audience. Why? So that you can jumpstart your growth!

3)   Viral

Viral marketing is at the heart of growth hacking. Create easy pathways for your fans and customers to communicate. Below are some ways to acquire new customers and keep current customers locked in:

Content Marketing: Blog, blog, blog. Info graphics are another great tool to use. Simply Measured reported that “ visual content (photos and videos) have seen a 65% increase in engagement.” By increasing your brand awareness and site traffic, you are turning visitors into customers in as easy as one two click.

E-mail Marketing: E-mail marketing is one of the most effective ways to not only increase brand awareness, but also to engage customers, provide them with special offers, and send them important information. This also helps bring users back and guide their re-engagement. Although social media is one way that users connect with brands, e-mail marketing is not dead. In a report by Impact Branding and Design, 91% of consumers check their e-mail daily, if not more. Furthermore, e-mails that include social sharing buttons have a 158% higher click-through rate.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Since growth hacking is all about creating a self-perpetuating marketing machine in order to reach consumers and engage with them, it only makes sense to choose key words that will increase your chances of being found. Using Google Ad Words is a great tool to use.

ImageTwitter is a great example of a company that utilized growth hacking to expand their company. Twitter had a tremendous amount of signups via referrals, but there were a lot of “zombie accounts” (accounts that were created but never used). So, how did Twitter solve this problem?

  • Instead of using traditional marketing or investing in display ads and e-mail marketing, the Twitter team decided to invest to make the product more viral.
  • In the Article, “ What Twitter Can Teach You About Growth Hacking”, Josh Elman explains that, “We dug in and tried to learn what the ‘aha’ moment was for a new user and then rebuilt our entire new user experience to engineer that more quickly.”
  • His findings uncovered that if you manually select and followed at least 5-10 Twitter accounts in your first day on the social media platform, you were more likely to become a long time user. This is because the user was choosing the follow other users and companies that they found interesting or relevant to their life.
  • Instead of spamming users with unnecessary information, focus on what your active users is passionate about.
  •  “Discover the deep core patterns that encouraged those users to become active”. Then, build product features that help attract and retain these users.

Josh Elman, a growth hacker in Twitter’s early days explains that, “Growth hacking recognizes that when you focus on understanding your users and how they discover and adopt your products, you can build features that help you acquire and retain more users, rather than just spending marketing dollars.” Today, Twitter is doing an excellent job of connecting people via B2C and C2C.

So what does the future have in store for growth hacking? Will it fizzle out? Or become a widely used technique?

I personally believe that growth hacking will become increasingly more popular. Knowing how to build and market excellent products has always been a core attribute of successful companies, and that will never change. In fact, growth hacking reminds businesses to grow their product or brand while attracting users. Because growth hacking is also about analyzing and learning from your data, it is a foolproof way to increase brand awareness since you have concrete information about your consumers. So what are you waiting for? Start engineering your company’s viral growth!

Living on the Edge

ImageImage

I believe that the quote above from “The Beginners Guide to EdgeRank” best describes what EdgeRank is all about. Creating an algorithm for Facebook’s newsfeed is important, because according to an article in Adweek, in 2012, 40% of all time spent on Facebook was in the newsfeed. This percentage has increased by 13% since 2011. These percentages have certainly gone up since newsfeed was introduced in 2006, and it is expected to become increasingly more popular.

So what makes up EdgeRank’s algorithm?

Image

1) Affinity:

In an article called “The Beginner’s Guide to EdgeRank: How Facebook’s New Feed Algorithm Actually Works”, Affinity is described as, “your relationship with users.” In other words, affinity accounts for the amount a user has interacted with your page in the past. For example, have they liked your picture? Commented on a status? If so, they are most likely able to see your content on their newsfeeds. (They have a high priority of seeing your posts). Therefore, how they interact with you on Facebook directly affects how likely they are to see your posts.

 2) Weight:

Defined as: “How much priority EdgeRank gives to your post, based on your post type.”  On Facebook, EdgeRank uses a hierarchy to determine the weight of each post. For example, photos and videos take top priority, while links are second, and text status updates are at the bottom end. Furthermore, engagement is key when determining weight. For example, posting a text status with 30 likes and 5 comments are more likely to show up in the newsfeed than a photo with no engagement at all.

3) Time Decay:

“How old is your post?” The longer your post has been on Facebook, the less likely it will appear on newsfeed. This means that timing is everything with Facebook. For example, let’s say you just took a trip to California and posted pictures. The pictures will pop up on your friends/families newsfeed instantaneous. However, the pictures that you posted from last years Halloween will not appear on your friends newsfeed unless you recently comment on the photo or tag a friend in it.

Recently, Facebook updated a new algorithm called “Story Bumping.” This update is all about relevancy. Therefore, in order to break down EdgeRank’s algorithm, it’s important to break down EdgeRank’s four specific action points that are used every time you post:

1)   User’s past interactions with the author 

  • The more you engage with a friend or page, the more likely you are to see their posts on your newsfeed

2)   User’s past interactions with that post type

  • Let’s say you mainly comment on photos, and are less likely to comment on statuses. The content in your newsfeed will mainly be photos. (Hence, seeing posts of that type)

3)   Reactions from other users for that particular post

  • The more Facebook users engage with a post, the more likely you are to see that post. This is a wonderful thing because the more a user sees a post, the more likely they are to engage with it.

4)   Amount of complaints or negative feedback on that post

  • If users post negative feedback on a post, the less likely you are to see that post. For example, negative feedback could be a lack of engagement.

Based on all of the information that you learned from the content above, if you want to create relevancy, and create content that reaches more people and their newsfeed, it’s vital that you post regularly and generate curiosity and engagement. Below are two tips on how to do so.

1) Post regularly:

This is the easiest step. It is impossible to appear in a newsfeed if you are not creating any content. Additionally, posting photos will boost user interaction. According to “The Beginner’s Guide To EdgeRank”.“ photo-based posts get 39% more engagement than any other post type.

 2)   Generate Curiosity and engagement:

One simple way to do this is by posting questions, contests, links to additional web pages, events, and much more. By providing a post that allows users to engage with you, you are not only creating relevancy, but also enhancing the number of people that are seeing your posts. This also helps spread awareness of whatever you are promoting, while also enhancing your Facebook visibility. According to an article form Mashable.com, 96% of users/fans are not coming back to your page, so posting frequently is one way to ensure that your message will be received. The article also added a tip that people aged 18-24 engage the most from 9pm to 10 pm. So, if the demographic that you’re trying to target is in that age range, make sure to post the majority of your content at that time, or around those hours.

Lastly, Mark Cuban gives an example of how Facebook is used as a time waster. “People go to Google Search with every intention of leaving it. They want to “engage, click and leave”.  On the exact opposite side of the spectrum, people go to FB with the expectation that it is very likely they will stay on FB for an extended period of time. In fact we spend more than 26 minutes per day on FB.” What Mark Cuban is complaining about is that FB is complicating a simple issue. He believes that a user can govern his/her own newsfeed far better than an algorithm like Edgerank. He also adds his frustration with having to purchase promoted posts when advertising on Facebook in order to reach a specific target audience.

Additionally, in an article by Wired.com, their data shows that Cuban would have to spend $3,000 on promoted posts if he wants a chance at putting a particular message in front of half of the people who follow the Maverick’s page. Although this may seem like a lot of money, $3,000 is a small price to pay for Cuban whose net worth is over 2.5 Billion dollars.

ImageAlthough I understand Cuban’s frustration with Facebook’s original mission of “connecting the world”, and shifting to connecting money and ads with specific target audiences, I think that in order to generate revenue, and build brand awareness, paying for advertisements is a simple price to pay.