As a period drama, Mad Men has sustained a notable gap between the dispositions of its audience and of its characters. We approach the show from the privilege of hindsight, knowing the major events that the characters will encounter before they encounter them. When Roger Sterling announces his daughter’s wedding date to be late November, 1963 during the third season, for instance, we know that the assassination of the US President will put a considerable damper on the that event, even though we might not know precisely how that will play out. But if we suspend our disbelief to the extent that we buy into the fantasy that these characters exist (at least, in Matt Weiner’s 1960s), the show’s characters also have an advantage over us: that of present experience, of living history not qua history, but as an inevitable component of the ongoing present. “History” becomes a series of moments deeply entangled with the circumstances of characters’ personal lives, and these moments can be experienced directly or peripherally – a history not understood, in short, through the distilling practices of a textbook, but through the disorientation of immediacy. Whether dealing with the death of John F. Kennedy, the University of Texas shooter, or less canonized events like the 1962 plane crash in Jamaica Bay, Mad Men has walked the difficult tightrope of re-framing annals of America’s past in terms of the characters’ perpetual present, and “history” as recounted by the show can be as forceful as an interpersonal crisis […]


Medium Cool

Haskell Wexler’s Medium Cool is a film whose immediacy and docu-realism was all too fitting for an America that could, for the first time, see its wars on television. Shot during the protests and riots that accompanied the Democratic National Convention in August 1968, Wexler’s film seamlessly mixed narrative storytelling and documentary – Medium Cool is a Hollywood-made document of America in ’68 if there ever was one, a stunning portrait of the chaotic state of politics and its relationship to media in one of the most tumultuous years in American (or, perhaps, world) history. But Criterion’s long-anticipated release of Medium Cool isn’t the only A/V flashback to ’68 occurring this summer. Olivier Assays’s Something in the Air reflects on the student protests surrounding the similarly turbulent demonstrations in France in May of that year, while Season 6 of Mad Men has just entered the sweltering summer that will climax in the events in Chicago that August. Maybe it’s Congress’s seemingly eternal bottleneck, or the government’s paranoia-inducing surveillance of the press, or a general aura of well-justified cynicism, but the simultaneously dark and potentially revolutionary years of ’68 seem to demand contemporary reflection, even if it only results in pop culture nostalgia. That said, here’s The Criterion Collection’s archive of films that captured the spirit of the revolutionary times of the ‘60s around the world, all fitting comrades of the brilliant Medium Cool.


Culture Warrior

Warning: this editorial contains spoilers for Rise of the Planet of the Apes (and, for that matter, the original Planet of the Apes). Consider yourself warned, you maniacs! The original Planet of the Apes lends itself quite readily to allegory. 1968, the year of the film’s release, was the peak of one of the most tumultuous eras in American social history. Martin Luther King, Jr. was gunned down in April of that year, and Robert F. Kennedy’s death followed a mere two months later. Student resistance and campus demonstrations grew increasingly violent in their opposition to the Vietnam War, the Chicago DNC broke into an all-out war, and racial discord mounted. Of course, none of this had happened yet when Planet of the Apes went into production, but the intersections of intent and circumstance that permit the film to be read so heavily, so variously, and so often in allegorical terms enrich the original film and its sequels with resonance that outlives whatever else may date it. Beyond entertainment value, the Planet of the Apes series has lingered in the popular imagination not because of any strong connection to a specific associative meaning, but because of the many possible allegorical readings it is capable of containing. One of several reasons that Rise of the Planet of the Apes succeeds where previous reincarnations of the series did not is its reclaimed capacity for allegory.


If you ask someone what their favorite Steve McQueen movie is, they probably won’t say The Thomas Crown Affair. That’s a bittersweet testament to his career, because the entire movie is him being awesome, wealthy, and sneaking his thieving fingers into Faye Dunaway’s private collection. He also steals some artwork from some people. Effortlessly cool, it’s a study in mod everything – from clothes to furnishing to attitudes, and it represents a version of the 1960s where mutants aren’t constantly trying to stop the US and USSR from blowing each other up near Cuba.


Every day, come rain or shine or internet tubes breaking, Film School Rejects showcases a trailer from the past. Ah, the greatest love story ever told, and the trailer for the version that’s most played in high school freshman English classes (despite some naked man ass and a nanosecond of teenage breast). Jokes aside, Franco Zefferelli’s 1968 take on two star cross’d lovers really is an absolute masterpiece, even if that song gets stuck farther into your head than the latest from Lady Gaga. It’s catchy, and the lute is a hell of an instrument. Check out the trailer for yourself:


Every day, come rain or shine or internet tubes breaking, Film School Rejects showcases a trailer from the past. This trailer is some other kind of cop. Steve McQueen! Damn, the man knows how to jam out lounge-style to a little jazz flute and then go chase down a suped up car through the narrow streets of the city. The way he’s swinging, you know he’s headed for a crash. As a tribute to Peter Yates, there’s no real mystery to what the trailer is today. Think you know what it is? Check out the trailer after the jump.


Every day, come rain or shine or internet tubes breaking, Film School Rejects showcases a trailer from the past. Today’s trailer s the all singing, all dancing flick that wants to be a villain all its life. It also happens to be the best musical instructional video on how to pick people’s pockets in 19th century Britain. Think you know what it is? Check out the trailer after the jump.

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published: 12.19.2014
published: 12.18.2014
published: 12.17.2014

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