Mad Men

Mad Men Season 7 Time Zones

Accutron: It’s not a time piece. It’s a conversation piece. The first Accutron hit the markets long before Freddy Rumsen was pitching it in such surprisingly elegant language. Actually, it had been selling for about ten years, debuting in October of 1960 (just around the time Mad Men‘s first season was drawing to a close). Watches of the time, and for several centuries previously, were built around a “balance wheel,” a little pendulum that shifts back and forth and keeps the watch’s hands moving. Watchmaking company Bulova did away with the balance wheel for their Accutron watch, inserting a fancy electric tuning fork and cementing Accutron as the first electronic watch in history. Those tiny metal forks also made the Accutron the most accurate wristwatch ever made, and a “horological revolution” (thanks, Wikipedia!). At least until 1969, when Astron debuted the quartz-powered Astron and Joel Murray, as Rumsen, sat down to do his best Don Draper impression in the offices of Sterling Cooper & Partners (technically, this episode was set in January of ’69 and the Astron didn’t come out until December, but who’s to say Bulova didn’t have a little insider knowledge about the competition?). But at the time of Rumsen’s pitch, the Accutron was the cutting edge, and hearing such a sharp pitch about such a sharp watch sounds so very peculiar from a character best known for peeing his pants and collapsing into a sad, drunken heap. Scott Hornbacher, the director of last night’s episode, knows this. […]

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Mad Men Season 7 Promo Peggy and Don

Some TV shows adhere to our thoughts, like glue, tape or that brand of putty known for extreme silliness. These are shows where half the cast might be killed off during a formal wedding feast or where the protagonist’s Great Big Secret is discovered by his brother-in-law while on the can. Mad Men is not one of those shows. It’s something slower, more prone to introspection and a slow simmering burn than graphic violence and CGI dragons. It’s no slight against Mad Men. It’s just a way of saying that a series that opened its sixth season with two hours of Dante’s Inferno allegory is not built for the same kind of cliffhanger anticipation that dragon shows are. Add in the ten(ish)-month gap between the last new episode of Mad Men and today, and you may be a little rusty on the comings and goings of Sterling Cooper & Partners (you may also have forgotten that the series’ ad firm is now called Sterling Cooper & Partners, which has been the case ever since Don Draper and Ted Chaough got drunk and decided to smoosh their two firms together). No worries, that’s why we’re all here: for a quick look back at the old Mad Men and one last look ahead at this year’s shiny new Mad Mens.

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Mad Men

It is a great and terrible irony that a show about ad executives has such awful tag lines. AMC just dropped a thirty-second tease of the upcoming last-ish season of Mad Men, a tease that’s mysterious, tantalizing, and also riddled with really, really un-Mad Men-like puns. In bright, saturated colors and hypnotic slow-mo, all the major Sterling Cooper & Partners players stand around an airport and do various things reminiscent of air travel. Pete buys his ticket. Betty stands by a small army’s worth of luggage and huffs impatiently. Roger ogles a passing woman (as is required at all times by John Slattery‘s contract). And as Don Draper gazes out at this new world around him, wherever that world may be, a brief piece of text appears on screen: “It’s All Up in the Air.” You know. Like an airplane. And as the audience reels from such furious punnage, the teaser winds up and delivers the knockout blow:

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Andy

Movies and TV shows are fun to think about and discuss. Clearly. But as much as this is the case, there’s still a point past which we’re not talking about the movie or show in any meaningful way. One thing that becomes clear after doing any kind of serious critical work for any significant period of time is that, just because something’s there doesn’t necessarily give it meaning. True Detective is a great example: the best part about all those great McConaughey four-bong-hit college philosophy student monologues about nihilism is that they don’t mean anything with regards to the big picture. (Even with two episodes remaining, consider that an ironclad guarantee.) And sometimes people apply the same four-bong-hit college philosophy student mindsets to the movies and TV shows themselves. They lead Andy’s Mom to have a deeper identity, or for entire stories to shuffle off their context, so it’s always nice to have a reminder of what these theories really are. Here are some of the most beside-the-point “mind-blowing” theories about films and TV.

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2013review_tvshows

According to the kind of people who are prone to make such pronouncements, the Golden Age of Television ended this year with the series finale of Breaking Bad. But with more quality television on the air today than is humanly possible to watch, I don’t see how that could possibly be true.  The one big observation about the TV landscape this year that I’d like to make is that there finally seems to be a preponderance of shows about women, a much-needed correction to the masculinity-obsessed, anti-hero shows like The Sopranos, The Wire, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad. I love and admire all of those shows, but I’m glad to see that the new opportunities for original programming that the proliferation of cable and now Netflix and Amazon offers has resulted in more stories about women. Without further ado, my picks for the 13 best shows of 2013:

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discs white house down

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! If you see something you like, click on the title to buy it from Amazon. And for those of you still reading, how’d you like a chance to win a new Scream Factory Blu-ray of John Carpenter‘s Body Bags? Just leave us a comment below with the name of your favorite horror anthology and why you love it, and we’ll pick a winner on Friday 11/8. (U.S. addresses only!) White House Down John Cale (Channing Tatum) is a Capitol cop with aspirations towards the Secret Service, but while his application is rejected he gets a second shot when terrorists attack the White House with a nefarious goal in mind. Cale finds himself protecting the president (Jamie Foxx) while simultaneously trying to save his own daughter. All that and he still doesn’t get the job. Probably. You’ll have to watch. Director Roland Emmerich‘s film had the misfortune of following the near-identical Olympus Has Fallen into theaters, but while most folks will tell you you can only like one or the other I’m here to say I love them both. Olympus is the better action film, but while this one does just fine in that department its real strength is its energy and sheer entertainment value. The effects are shady, and I’m fairly certain there’s not a single scene in the film that was actually filmed outdoors, but Tatum and Foxx have fantastic chemistry that when combined with an absolutely ridiculous script will have you smiling […]

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Mad Men Split Season

This past week, AMC announced that it will split Mad Men’s seventh and final season into two 7-episode increments to air in 2014 and 2015, similarly to the way that Breaking Bad has been careening to its much anticipated yet seemingly breathless finale. On the one hand, this represents a business move that exists anywhere between shrewd and shameless, but one that is unlikely to anger fans who would be happy to follow Don and Roger well into the disco era, even if they’re ultimately only getting one extra episode as a result of the wait. But the decision has convincingly been perceived as an act of desperation on behalf of a network whose two brand-making critical darlings of original programming will soon see their end, with no surefire successor to take their place (perhaps Low Winter Sun should create a crossover story with The Killing). But what I find most striking about this decision is the fact that, perhaps more so than any recent quality cable show, Mad Men has done of great deal of work to identify itself through – and, in the process, help to define – what a television season means in the age of binge-viewing. By separating each season by discrete gaps in the historical procession of time, Mad Men has overtly defined each of its seasons as characterized through changes in its characters’ associations, lives, relationships, locations, business affiliations, etc. So, will each “part” of Mad Men’s final season take place in a separate […]

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Robert Towne

According to Variety, Robert Towne will be adding his Oscar pedigree to Mad Men for its final-two-seasons-that-they-are-calling-one-split-season. It’s an excellent merger of sensibilities, especially since it sees a guy who worked in television in the 60s writing for television set in the 60s. Towne’s accomplishment with Chinatown and his subsequent Oscar win have overshadowed an interesting career with three other Oscar nominations along the way, although his mainstream work tapered off after Mission: Impossible and its sequel in 2000. He’ll act as consulting producer for the show. Admittedly, it’s tough to tell if this is a great idea in practice, a great idea in theory, or if it’s just cool. On the other hand, since the show is practically fueled by cool, even that option seems largely viable. At any rate, we’re getting more writing from Towne, and that’s something to celebrate. And I wrote this all without quoting Chinatown. You’re welcome.

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Emmys

While award show prognostication it still a very inexact science, there is one thing that we can all bank on when it comes to the awards season nomination game – not everyone will be happy when the nods come down, and the word most often used in nomination coverage will always be “snub.” It’s easy to find fault with any award show, and someone’s favorites will always be left off. This morning’s Emmy nominations were undoubtedly rife with some major snubs – including Monica Potter for Parenthood, Mad Men creator Matt Weiner for writing, Parks and Recreation for comedy series, and breakout star Tatiana Maslany for her incredible turn(s) on Orphan Black – and we’re fairly certain we’ve  even snubbed some big snub-ees by not mentioning them here, for which we can only apologize. It certainly seems like it’s a losing game. Or is it? Sure, there will always be big-time disappointments whenever any big round of award show nominations are announced, but even in the midst of a stunning series of snubs, there’s still plenty of heartening news in this latest round of nods. We’ve got some hope for this year’s Emmys, and here’s ten big reasons why.

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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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AR-130619834

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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mad men header

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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mad men header

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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mad men header

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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mad men header

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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mad men header

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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mad men header

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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published: 04.17.2014
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published: 04.17.2014
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published: 04.16.2014
B+
published: 04.16.2014
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