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Movie Time! Comics and Capitalism: Mallrats (1995) and Jasper Mall (2020)

Movie Time! Comics and Capitalism: Mallrats (1995) and Jasper Mall (2020)

The guys two critically important films in the once-proud, but now largely forgotten, genre of mall movies.

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It’s Popzara’s Movie Time! Podcast, where our own movie nerds Ethan Brehm and Nate Evans take you on an unscripted journey yakking and chatting about some of their favorite movie moments and cinematic scenes, from past and present, presented without snark and snobbery for your listening pleasure.

On today’s episode we look at two films centered around the enclosed center of capitalistic and social delights that once ruled the scene. That’s right: the shopping mall. So grab your Orange Julius, break out the srunchies, and tell your mom to pick you up by 7pm because we’re headed to the mall. Let’s begin!

The first is 1995’s Mallrats, the second feature film from writer/director Kevin Smith based inside his View Askew Cinematic Universe (VACU?) and starring a repertoire of faces that would become familiar in Smith’s world and beyond. The disposable plot plays second-fiddle to the premise, set in a bygone era when malls were your home away from home and the stoner duo Jay and Silent Bob had yet to outstay their welcome. A critical and commercial disappointment upon its release, Mallrats has since become a cult classic in the once mighty “mall genre” that practically defined a generation.

The other is 2020’s Jasper Mall, a documentary from directors Bradford Thomason and Brett Whitcomb that follows a year in the life of a dying mall in Jasper, Alabama, and the people who inhabit it. Led by the mall’s security/maintenance/manager Mike McClelland (and his fluctuating accent), the film beautifully captures the waning days of several of the mall’s final residents, both business and personal alike, as they face the inevitable. With its gorgeous cinematopgraphy and languid pacing, Japser Mall earned the distinction of being Ethan’s best film of 2020.

Our hosts deep dive into one of cinema’s most neglected genres, one that’s recently seen a resurgence with hits like Stranger Things and Wonder Woman 1984. With their cast of regular characters (and actors) crisscrossing between films, comic book nods, and Stan Lee cameos, did Kevin Smith’s View Askew inspire Marvel’s Cinematic Universe? How does it compare with the rest of Smith’s filmography? And what’s this talk of a possible sequel (Twilight of the Mallrats?). Snootchie bootchies, y’all.

Compared to Mallrats most films would seem tame, but Jasper Mall is less interested in provoking your gag reflex and more about tugging at your heartstrings. Both emotional and informative, Bradford Thomason and Brett Whitcomb’s focused look at a single mall in the city of Jasper trades narrative for patience, though our hosts couldn’t help but notice similarities between Jasper’s Mike and Netflix’s Tiger King, and how the best documentaries leave the agenda behind and let the story speak for itself. In the case of Jasper Mall (the actual mall, anyway) it seems like there’s a happy ending after all.

Stay tuned for a brief rundown of other notable mall movies, including Dawn of the Dead (both the 1978 original and 2004 remake), 1982’s Fast Times at Ridgemont High (the clear inspiration for Mallrats), 2003’s Bad Santa, 2020’s Wonder Woman 1984, as well as a trio of action-packed entries from 1985 (Commando, Invasion USA, Police Story) that proved you could do more than just shop and hang out at the mall – you can blow stuff up good. Real good.

Are malls dead? Is the mall genre dead? Should we have paired Jasper Mall with Nomadland instead? Is this the first time Popzara talked about “dead malls” on the Podcast? (spoiler: no!) These questions and more will be fully addressed – and mostly answered!

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