Mad Men

don draper and up

The biggest news of any kind this week was the Supreme Court ruling the Defense Against Marriage Act unconstitutional. While that’s likely relevant news to a lot of people in Hollywood, it’s not really a movie-related story (though it inspired a discussion of related movies on our Broken Projector podcast). As for things specific to cinema and television, Pixar‘s promise to focus on original features is surely the most notable. But I also find it the most curious considering the disappointment with the studio’s last non-sequel, Brave, and some of its recent original shorts. Originality does not equal quality, and it doesn’t have to be exclusive to works that aren’t based on other properties either. Cars 2 and Monsters University aren’t weaker because they’re a sequel and a prequel, respectively. That’s a very lazy excuse for what’s really weaker writing and filmmaking in general. For all we know, the future fresh features will be as “original” as Cars. Enough ranting about anticipated originality, though. This week was also filled with excitement over an Independence Day sequel, an Iron Sky sequel, a Django Unchained reunion, the idea of Mad Men repeating itself and the anniversaries of movies from a time when Hollywood was not necessarily more original but at least much more interesting and imaginative. So let’s look back on the week in our movie and TV and catch up with whatever we missed. For instance, have you left a comment regarding your choice for Vin Diesel‘s Marvel role yet? Start […]

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Mad Men 6

While the sixth season of Mad Men wrapped up with a big, messy, chocolate-colored bow last Sunday, speculation about what we can expect from the final season of the best television series (on air now, and perhaps ever) has really only just begun. Though it’s become standard practice for Mad Men fans to theorize about creator Matthew Weiner fitting dramatic events on his show around actual historical events from the corresponding time periods (of note, the sixth season finale took place in November of 1968), that’s rarely panned out in a big way. Sure, this season included plenty of fallout from events like the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy, more than enough discussions about the election of President Nixon, and even a bevy of references to cultural hot buttons like Rosemary’s Baby and Planet of the Apes, but it never placed its characters exactly inside them. Sure, Peggy’s boyfriend Abe zipped off to do some news photography post-MLK assassination and everyone sure was sad about America’s inability to hold on to good leaders, but none of our characters were ever really there. And, despite some truly brilliant theorizing, Megan Draper (Jessica Pare) didn’t end up “being” Sharon Tate in any way, shape, or form. Basically, Mad Men watchers love to create large-scale scenarios that involve their favorite (and, more often, their least favorite) characters within the actual confines of history, while Weiner and company continue to dance around (and even firmly reject) such scenarios. Will the […]

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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 […]

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This week Mad Men ended a season that mainly focused on the increasingly degenerate Don Draper. He’s become a hopeless alcoholic. He barely phones it in at work, a place where he used to shine brightest of all. He is cheating on his wife with his neighbor, whom he sometimes makes his submissive. His daughter caught them mid-coitus. He purposely shamed his co-workers in a meeting. The list likely could go on for some time, so get comfortable. Though in this finale, “In Care Of,” written and directed by Matthew Weiner and co-written by Carly Wray, Don gets some much-needed comeuppance – and it’s pretty brutal. Don’s tale is hardly the only sad story in this episode, as Peggy, Ted, Pete, and Roger all meet somewhat sad fates by this season’s end. While there have certainly much better Mad Men finales – and much better Mad Men seasons, for that matter – this one was successful in tying up the ongoing plot lines, as well as putting forth some truly memorable scenes and some brilliant performances.

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Mad Men PR

With just one episode left in this year’s remarkable Mad Men season, AMC has cheerily released an “official” press release announcing the latest merger for the ad men, including a look at the new firm’s new logo and adorable comments from all of its partners. The memo was shared on Mad Men’s Facebook page after last night’s show (and subsequently shared by every person you know on social media), and while it’s certainly fun to gaze at, it’s even more fun to use as the jumping off point for some Mad Men activities (and, we’ll admit it now, to delve ever-deeper into the finely-tuned historical elements of the ever-accurate show). Let’s have some fun.

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Don Draper just keeps pulling out the dick moves. And with next week being the season six finale, who knows what he had in store for us? A lot of stuff happened on this week’s Mad Men installment, “The Quality of Mercy,” written by Andre and Maria Jacquemetton and directed by Phil Abraham. So much so that Ken Cosgrove gets shot in the face in the first few minutes and it’s barely a blip on the overall drama scale. Another great episode, this one really sets the stage for the impending finale. It also featured Roger Sterling’s proclamation that he “once held Lee Garner Jr.’s balls!” if that’s any indication. Well, not really. But that line sure tickles. As noted, Don behaved pretty poorly this week, which makes for great television, but not necessarily for making his character any more likable. Don is still pretty worked up over the Sally-caused coitus interruptus… to the point where he is acting like Kirsten Cohen from The O.C. and stealthily spiking his orange juice with vodka. And taking the day off work. He is also very peeved by the growing camaraderie between Peggy and Ted, to the point where he goes out of his way in a meeting to embarrass the hell out of Ted and rob Peggy of her idea for the St. Joseph aspirin campaign.

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Bob Benson

Bob Benson didn’t need to have a bombshell of a secret. In fact, history dictated that Bob Benson wasn’t going to have a bombshell of a secret. And yet, the Mad Men newcomer, played by James Wolk, raised suspicion from the moment he waltzed onto (the wrong floor, inevitably) of SCD&P (now just the offensive-to-everyone SC&P) in the series’ sixth season. Benson, a new accounts man, could have easily been regulated to a background bit – after all, even perennial accounts man Ken Cosgrove hasn’t gotten much play this season, save for his spectacular tap dancing sequence during the season’s drug-fueled “The Crash” – but the handsome Wolk has popped up in no less than eight episodes of the show’s latest season, and he’s been inscrutable at every turn. Wolk is also not some fresh face that comes without baggage – if you’re familiar with his work on such ambitious shows as the ill-fated Lone Star or the underappreciated Political Animals, you are also familiar with his panache for playing characters with major secrets comes part and parcel with seeing him on television. Wolk isn’t the guy you cast for some small part, he’s the guy you look to for some steadily building, multi-faceted character work. The Bob Benson conspiracy theories have run the gamut (he’s a government spy! he’s a mole from another ad agency! he’s an undercover journalist! he’s just a total lunatic!), and while the real truth (or whatever “real truth” that Mad Men is willing to […]

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This week’s Mad Men is called “Favors.” Which thematically, makes a lot of sense, as Bob does a favor for Pete via Manolo the male nurse, Peggy asks a late night favor of Stan, Don does a huge solid for Sylvia and the list goes on. But so much more happens. Being Mad Men, these favors are not exactly selfless ones. Though this episode in particular, written by Semi Chellas and Matthew Weiner and directed by Jennifer Getzinger, did a lot to propel the show toward its season finale in two weeks. While there were a few drawbacks, it was a very dynamic Mad Men installment, boasting two brilliant standout scenes, amazing performances, and some show-changing events that up the stakes for the finale.

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Our boys at SCDP and CGC are allegedly operating as one entity, they even came up with an “equally offensive” new name of Sterling Cooper & Partners, though it’s hard to believe that either of the halves will ever function as a whole, as proved by this week’s episode, aptly titled “A Tale of Two Cities,” written by Janet Leahy and Matthew Weiner and directed by John Slattery. Separate forces divide and try to concur as they make meetings to reel in new accounts. But every man is for himself, naturally, and their motivations aren’t necessarily for the good of the firm as a whole. Maintaining the momentum of last week’s brilliant episode, this one perhaps equals it in overall quality and explores office politics versus more personal relationships. And parallelled with the office unrest are the riots at the Democratic National Convention. Don and Roger head to Los Angeles with Harry with the hopes to seal the deal with Carnation. While Don is uncharacteristically prepping on the plane, Roger tells him to stop, saying, “Our biggest challenge? Not getting syphilis.” So we know Roger’s main motivation for the trip. Don, however, is making an effort to be good where Megan is concerned, though that doesn’t stop him from making out with some actress at a hash party later.

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In the wise words of the J. Geils Band, “love stinks.” Love is different to different people. Some hold onto another person out of a matter of convenience. Some for lust. Some for nostalgia. Some probably don’t even know what “love” is really supposed to be – well, that’s probably most of us. And those at SCDP/CGC are no better off. This week’s exceptional Mad Men, ‘The Better Half,” written by Erin Levy and Matthew Weiner and directed by Phil Abraham, examines the relationships of some of the characters, past and present. Between Don, Betty, Peggy, Ted, Roger, and Joan, feelings for old flames are stirred up and idealized or new options come into the mix, but are any of these feelings well-founded? Probably not. “The Better Half” provides a great balance of characters’ stories, some excellent writing (as usual), and such a striking examination of the interpersonal relationships on the show. This hour-long episode covers an impressive amount of ground and was one of the best of the season so far.

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We all get burned out from time to time, but it seems that when ad men get burned out, things really go awry. Especially when there may or may not be steroids or some weird “stimulant” involved. This week’s Mad Men, “The Crash,” is a surreal, fever dream of an episode. Nightmarish events occur, but you won’t find any dream sequences here. Written by Jason Grote and Matthew Weiner and directed by Michael Uppendahl, this episode throws its viewers down the same drugged up rabbit hole as the characters. And while it features some of those questionable Dick Whitman whorehouse flashbacks, it’s a very strong one in terms of the overall immersive effect of Uppendahl’s direction and the dark aura that it leaves behind. Chevy has put a lot of deadlines upon the yet-to-be-named super agency, and they need to work all weekend to come up with a slew of new ideas for the campaign. Don isn’t feeling well, Ken got into a car accident test driving with the powers-that-be at Chevy, and many are saddened by Frank Gleeson’s passing, so Jim Cutler reasons that it’s a good idea to get a doctor to come to the office to inject any ailing parties with a stimulant which is supposed to keep them creative for over twenty-four hours.

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roger sterling

Seeing as he’s one of the senior partners at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce ad agency, John Slattery’s Mad Men character, Roger Sterling, is very used to being in charge of a crew of people. And now that Slattery himself has directed four episodes of the acclaimed show on which he acts, he too is starting to get a feel for being in charge. It makes sense, then, that he would eventually want to put his leadership skills to the test and make the step up to directing a feature film, and Deadline is reporting that he’s all set to do just that. The film is called God’s Pocket, and it’s an adaptation of a Pete Dexter novel about a blue collar neighborhood that Slattery co-adapted alongside Alex Metcalf. More than even its director or the content of its story though, God’s Pocket is notable because of the outstanding cast that it’s already assembled.

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Don Draper’s devolution into being completely unlikable is nearing completion. He’s been the perpetrator of selfish office politics, continued his adulterous streak, and now he veered into some really cringe-worthy sadomasochistic stuff with Sylvia. This week’s Mad Men, “Man With A Plan,” written by Matthew Weiner and Semi Chellas and directed by Roger Sterling himself, John Slattery, did indeed serve as a heavy critique on Don’s morals, putting him up against his CGC equivalent, Ted Chaough, and how they compare as creative leaders. We also got a healthy dose of Joan, which is always encouraged, as Joan had to discern whether or not a certain kindness was the product of someone trying to get ahead. And some comic moments with Pete and his ailing mother, though this storyline is a tarnished retread of one from the past. Oh yes, and the RFK assassination officially happened.

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Megan Fox as April O

Tonight on Movie News After Dark, a picture of Megan Fox. No really, that’s happening. Also some things that will be worth reading and seeing.

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This week, SDCP and CGC assemble to nab that Chevy account that both are vying for. Separate, their agencies are too small and Don fears that Chevy will rip off their creative output and go with a larger agency instead. So, Don and Ted decide last minute (over drinks, of course) to present to Chevy together and worry about all the merger stuff later – our creative leaders swap out Old Fashioneds for shwarma, no doubt. This is all pretty exciting, but perhaps feels a bit contrived. Nevertheless, this week’s Mad Men, entitled “For Immediate Release” (written by Matthew Weiner and directed by Jennifer Getzinger) successfully deals with the blurring together of personal feelings with business politics and how that gray area comes with mostly negative results. The merger, as we learn by the end of the episode, pretty much destroys a lucrative opportunity headed up by Bert, Pete, and Joan – they brought in a banker to evaluate the company for an IPO, and he deemed the company to be worth $11 per share, meaning that the partners stand to be filthy rich (Joan’s portion alone would be worth over $1 million). Don, however, was never alerted about the IPO possibility, so he’s indignant about not being in the loop, while Pete is indignant that Don is so blasé about firing the worst guy ever (Herb from Jaguar, clearly) in an explosive dinner. Don’s move obviously lowers the price of their potential stock and poses the question: what exactly did Joan sacrifice so […]

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This week’s Mad Men, entitled “The Flood,” brings us to that pivotal point in history when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated, viewing how the tragic event brought out the best and the worst in people. Some used the event to their gain or resented it for putting a stop to the normal routine. For others, it made them appreciate the important things in life, like family and friends. Written by showrunner Matthew Weiner and Tom Smuts and directed by Chris Manley, this week’s installment was hardly perfect – it had a few unusually cheesy moments – but it was thought-provoking and featured a powerhouse performance from Jon Hamm. The title of the episode comes from Ginsberg’s father saying, “In the flood, the animals went two-by-two,” as he sets his son up on a surprise dinner date with a comely teacher, eventually passing off MLK Jr.’s assassination as a good time to play matchmaker. The date goes pretty well – though Ginsberg is apparently a virgin – and the girl admits that she is also just going along for the matchmaking ride. While Ginsberg’s father helps to enunciate the episode’s theme – the quest to find companionship in a scary, uncertain wolrd – the Ginsberg home life is somewhat corny and melodramatic. Ginsberg sews for his father on a sewing machine! They bicker about dinner! And matchmaking! This tale of a Jewish émigré and his son holed up in a small apartment reads like something out of The Jazz Singer, […]

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mnad_nasa

Tonight on Movie News After Dark, we go back to the 1960s for a NASA series (squee!), get a behind the scenes look at how Transformers are made, talk TV controversy, make fun of Zach Braff, look at a few great summer movie previews and go rapid-fire with a ton of character posters.

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This week’s Mad Men is all about not practicing what you preach. Don gets angry with Megan for feigning sex on her soap, when he does a lot more than feign with others in real life. Joan fires Harry’s secretary, Scarlett, when Joan is clearly no angel. And a lot of people are mad about some secret meetings with Heinz Ketchup. This episode, entitled “To Have and to Hold,” probably won’t have much weight in terms of furthering the plot as a whole other than to further complicate the Don/Megan relationship. Though, like last week’s entry, this episode from writer Erin Levy and director Michael Uppendahl has a tight theme, is well-constructed, and is definitely engaging. Joan’s act of hypocrisy here stems from her desperately trying to establish a sense of authority in the male-driven workplace. And you really feel for her, especially since that whole terrible Jaguar situation is still getting thrown in her face. When she discovers that Scarlett made Dawn falsely punch her timecard to duck out with Harry (and also to do some shopping) she is livid and immediately fires Scarlett… only to get undermined by Harry and the rest of the partners when the firing doesn’t stick. Harry is especially awful here, begging for a partnership (which he doesn’t get), saying, “I’m sorry my accomplishments happened in broad daylight and I can’t be given the same rewards.”

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I am female. And because of that, I am quite happy that I didn’t have to experience the 1960s firsthand. Really glad, in fact. This week’s episode of Mad Men, “The Collaborators,” written by Matthew Weiner and Jonathan Igla and directed by none other than Don Draper himself, Jon Hamm, offers quite a powerful meditation on the rather hideous manner in which women were treated. Not since last season’s “The Other Woman,” in which Joan is offered as collateral for Jaguar rep Herb has a Mad Men episode created such a palpable unease as you watch female characters get pigeonholed as whores, belittled in the workplace, or deal with their tricky nature of their own bodies. “The Other Woman,” however, was a far superior episode. This one suffered from the heavy-handedness in which nascent director Hamm employed the use of flashback. Several times, he cut from scenes between Don and Sylvia to a tween Dick Whitman arriving with his pregnant mother to her sister’s brothel. These flashback scenes were problematic for many reasons – chiefly because they drove home the thread of “women as unfair sex object” way too hard. While it’s usually a good thing to get the rare glimpse into the man-that-became-Don-Draper, these scenes are largely unneeded. We get the point. Also, in terms of Hamm’s direction in these scenes… it’s obvious. The young bumpkin Dick Whitman looks not unlike Alfred E. Newman. The prostitutes act like stock characters from an old time-y movie, and all other characters look like they stepped out from an […]

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Mad Men Season 6

Now in its sixth season, Mad Men is probably one of the only shows on television that never jumped the shark – it remains as thoughtful and sophisticated a show since its first season. Sure, there have been some mistakes made along the way. But if I’m to judge from this two-hour premiere episode alone (sorry, this will likely therefore be on the long side), entitled “The Doorway,” I don’t think that there’s much to worry about in terms of the show not living up to expectations. In the premiere, a lot of recurring themes from seasons past are revisited – impending death, times that are a-changin’, infidelity, identity – though are these themes should be ever-present, as the show wouldn’t exist without them. Especially now since Vietnam looms even more heavily over the show’s landscape and harbingers of death become even more  pertinent. And, yes, the premiere was pretty damn good. Written by showrunner Matthew Weiner and directed by veteran Mad Men director Scott Hornbacher, it featured elegant, filmic non-linear structure, as well as the intelligent writing that we have all grown accustomed to in the many years of drinking in this show.

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