Vincent Kartheiser

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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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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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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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Culture Warrior

Television’s manufacturing of nostalgia often reduces the past to its most obvious series of events. Whether in revisiting popular culture on VH1’s I Love the ‘70s or in TV movies ranging from The ‘60s to The Kennedys, “the past” rarely adds up to anything more than what we already know about it. The past, then, becomes reduced to a series of iconic historical events that are imbued with the hindsight-benefit of the present rather than portrayed in a way that provides any sense of convincing every-dayness. AMC’s Mad Men has largely avoided this trap. Where NBC’s The ‘60s framed the entire decide as a monolithic event whose every singular moment one nuclear family was improbably involved in, Mad Men integrates personal storylines into major events in a way that gives them a believable microscopic intimacy which make them feel like artifacts of the present: the Kennedy/Nixon election occurs in the background during a raucous and promiscuous office party in Season 1, Don Draper’s (John Hamm) marriage dissolves as the Cuban missile crisis escalates in Season 2, and Roger Sterling’s (John Slattery) daughter’s wedding is forebodingly scheduled on November 22, 1963 in Season 3. But these are the events we have come to expect and anticipate Mad Men to touch upon as its timeline moves forward. What the show is particularly adept at doing – and what separates its from traditional and redundant encapsulations of our culture’s most-revisited decade – is its use of smaller moments. Examine the news landscape each […]

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Mad Men season 4

Don Draper (Jon Hamm) comes off as a bit of a prick when he does an interview and upsets his partners at the recently founded Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Pryce ad firm, while also trying to convince a family-owned bikini shop that it’s ok to sell something sexy. At the homefront, Betty (January Jones) and Henry Francis (Christopher Stanley) are living in Don’s house temporarily. I’ve sort of stayed away from hearing about season 4 of Mad Men this year. Last year I did a bunch more to prepare for writing for the season on FSR, and in some ways it ruined what just watching and experiencing Mad Men does for me. That being said, the reviews for this new season will be just as in-depth and I’ll try to touch on more aspects of the show than I have in years past, like the costuming and music, for example, in the week’s coming.

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Join us as we look ahead to what season three might have in store for all of your favorite Mad Men (and dames)…

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Mad Men: Meditations in an Emergency

As the Cuban Missile Crisis looms overhead, Sterling/Cooper is in the midst of a merger with Putnam, Powell, and Lowe. Don returns to New York just in time to see Duck Philips made president of the new company.

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Mad Men: The Mountain King

Pete’s father-in-law may be affecting a business deal reflected by how Pete treats his wife. Don visits the “real” Don Draper’s wife. Betty begins to treat Sally like a grown-up girl.

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On a business trip to Los Angeles, Don becomes acquainted with some exciting new friends. Peggy looks for romance at work. Duck starts thinking about the future of Sterling Cooper.

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Mad Men: The Inheritance

Betty visits her ailing father. Paul’s girlfriend Sheila tries to convince him to prioritize his civic duties. Pete’s mother disapproves of an idea that Pete and Trudy are considering.

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