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Darrel Manson
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I get that, but Bert Cooper never sang or danced on the show before that moment; it makes no sense for his character, even if it does for the actor.

 

Unless the show is free to represent its own concerns in the manner of its choosing. In the case of this season, Bert's bit fits quite seamlessly into the growing sense of absurdity that has become woven into the show's formal turn. We have had a number of unexpectedly abstract bits of cinema scattered throughout the last few episodes (the 2001 references, the Lynchian Burger Chef shot, the moon landing family portrait sequences, Peggy's great moment of pure cinema just prior to the Burger Chef presentation, etc...) - all of which have worked very well.

 

Given that consistency, I didn't see this as off or jarring in any way. It was as lovely as it is unhinged. Roger's sad confession that his last words to Bert were a bit of chorus from an old depression-era tune is still ringing in Don's ears. He is now, with Cooper gone, officially cast adrift from all those ties that initially bound him to the agency excepting Roger. He has just broken up with his wife. This little farewell is one of the series' more directly emotive moments.

 

And in my experience, the oddest sorts of things bubble up when those close to us die. Given Don's propensity for hallucinatory flashback, I am not sure why this would be perceived as an awkward moment.

 

I haven't yet seen anyone note the double entendre present in Bert's ditty: The best things in life are free (have no price)  / free (are liberated)

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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Joanna and I binged on the last three episodes late last night. With the final fade to black she started offering up all of these literal-minded interpretations of what we'd just seen--Is Don about to die too? Is he having a breakdown like Ginsberg?

 

Mad Men has always been like a Tennessee Williams dream play, where characters float in and out of symbolic states, so that final scene felt par for the course to me. It's a deeply complex moment for the character, but it's also (maybe primarily) an aesthetic experience for the viewer. It's music and movement and beauty and joy and melancholy. Given everything that has happened to these characters over the past season-and-a-half, and especially to Don, it's a hard-earned touch of grace.

 

Mostly, though, I'm haunted by those last scenes with Ginsberg, which turn from quirky humor to tragedy in a heartbeat. Weiner's under no obligation to address all of the major shifts in American culture, but if this was his way of alluding to the late-60s freakouts and violence (Manson, Altamont, etc.), I have to say it's pretty brilliant and, to me at least, totally unexpected.

Edited by Darren H
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  • 6 months later...

This is good television.

Yeah, man. Even its "off" episodes are better than most everything else on TV, IMO.

 

I still need to see the most recent half-season.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Just caught up. Some notes:

 

1. Jon Hamm is good. It happened so slowly that I didn't notice until it was done, but Don Draper has become so fragile, his eyes so haunted. It's a fantastic performance.

 

2. The other performances--except January Jones--are generally good, too. Kiernan Shipka is kind of a minor revelation as Sally.  Vincent Kartheiser manages to keep Pete from becoming a caricature. And, of course, Elisabeth Moss owns nearly every scene she's in that doesn't involve Hamm--and she makes a good bid for those, too.

 

3. I mentioned Winesburg, Ohio on Facebook, and lo it gets a shout-out in this interview.

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Yeah, that last shot of Don from behind in the teal jacket and tan wool pants is brutal. Everyone else has changed and transition, but Don can't because he has only ever been that apparition of a human he created - which is static by definition. </deepexistentialshudder>

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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Jeffrey Wells has been making a big deal of the fact that Don Draper apparently won't have the longer sideburns that were de rigeur in the 1970s -- even for people who didn't have them in the early 1960s.

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Yeah, that last shot of Don from behind in the teal jacket and tan wool pants is brutal. Everyone else has changed and transition, but Don can't because he has only ever been that apparition of a human he created - which is static by definition. </deepexistentialshudder>

Yes. Mad Men's version of the "self-made man" is preferable to that of The Great Gatsby in part because it has so persistently--and, at its best, devastatingly--stripped away any shred of romanticism tied to that idea.

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Jeffrey Wells has been making a big deal of the fact that Don Draper apparently won't have the longer sideburns that were de rigeur in the 1970s -- even for people who didn't have them in the early 1960s.

 

Ah, interesting. 

 

 

Yeah, that last shot of Don from behind in the teal jacket and tan wool pants is brutal. Everyone else has changed and transition, but Don can't because he has only ever been that apparition of a human he created - which is static by definition. </deepexistentialshudder>

Yes. Mad Men's version of the "self-made man" is preferable to that of The Great Gatsby in part because it has so persistently--and, at its best, devastatingly--stripped away any shred of romanticism tied to that idea.

 

 

Ooh, this is good.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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  • 1 month later...

The Hollywood Reporter rounds up critical reactions to the half-season opener.

 

Most of the interest--naturally, I guess--is centered around the question "will it end well?" I have never understood the obsession with endings vis-a-vis television shows. Or movies, I guess. Or books. The only ending I can think of that retrospectively made the rest of the experience worse was Iron Man 2. And it seems that--with the possible exception of Breaking Bad--none of the recent crop of "Golden Age" shows have managed to satisfy the audience anyway--for reasons that strike me as variously reasonable (Lost) or not (The Sopranos) [NB: I've seen precisely none of the shows I just name-dropped. I'm going based on commentary I've read]. To see television, of all things, pushed into such a relentlessly teleological frame is interesting, to say the least.

 

[Which isn't to say I don't care about endings, myself--I like to see where the show ends up and I'm interested in them as a way for the showrunners to make a final gesture toward what they're about. But what gets me is how weirdly convoluted the audience's relationship with endings can be, particularly in regard to tv shows. The time-investment or emotional-investment or something makes it so that almost any ending is unsatisfying, and when it is the audiences often take it personally. Witness the outrage over the ending of How I Met Your Mother or Battlestar Galactica or whatever. More finales I've not actually watched.]

Edited by NBooth
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So, my brother rewatched every episode of MAD MEN over the last two weeks and has come up with this ranking of every episode. It was a labour of obsessive love and and nice refresher for those of us without the time for a rewatch. http://3brothersfilm.com/2015/04/ranking-every-episode-of-mad-men/

"A director must live with the fact that his work will be called to judgment by someone who has never seen a film of Murnau's." - François Truffaut

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Reviews and essays at Three Brothers Film.

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So, my brother rewatched every episode of MAD MEN over the last two weeks and has come up with this ranking of every episode. It was a labour of obsessive love and and nice refresher for those of us without the time for a rewatch. http://3brothersfilm.com/2015/04/ranking-every-episode-of-mad-men/

 

This project takes a special kind of madness. I applaud your brother.

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Avidly: Marx Men

The show does not approach capitalism as an economic system, but rather as a system of cultural ideology. Mad Men tracks the ways that advertising becomes the central psychological engine of postwar America and its consumer society. Don Draper revolutionizes advertising by seizing on the imagination of his clients, and their customers, pointing them all toward something ineffable. Draper does not sell a physical product with a price tag (or a commodity with exchange value). He pitches a way of feeling, even a way of life. Looking at American life through the growing power of advertising, the show points to market capitalism’s inexorable ascendancy.

 

[snip]

 

Mad Men has been criticized for its oblique approach to some of the most turbulent political events of the 1960’s, and for what some take to be its endorsement of racism and sexism. Indeed, the show refuses to impose signposts that would align with our own period’s political consensus. Yet in dealing with a decade so formative to that consensus, the show opts for a more personal, psychological, and ultimately more revealing excavation of the past than most works of mainstream cinema and television, where heroes, martyrs, and villains are pre-selected by the ideals that today’s viewers already share (with all due respect to “The Imitation Game” and “Selma”).
 
Historical fiction about the postwar era also tends to emphasize Cold War tensions with clear oppositions, where obvious Reds and McCarthyites represent Left and Right. But for the changing society we encounter out of the windows of Madison Avenue, it is the undeniable, seemingly apolitical progress of capitalism that proves to be most unsettling. With half a century of hindsight, we know that capitalism was and remains the only economic system available to Americans. This monopoly encloses even our most free and creative choices, including the self-fashioning that advertising seeks to align with what we buy.
 
The whole thing's good. I wish I could excerpt it all. Here's another bit:
 
As a critique of capitalism, Mad Men’s power derives from its dramatic sense of these personal contradictions, rather than from endorsing identifiable political positions, including those of the 1960s Left. From the start, in fact, the show mercilessly mocks the hypocrisies of the counter-culture, where hippiedom (Danny Siegel) or Hare Krishna (Paul Kinsey) thinly veil desperate narcissism and self-seeking. Characters representing the Left are often painted as gross stereotypes: from Megan Calvert’s lecherous father, a useless Marxist academic (no offense taken), to Peggy’s radical and ineffectual boyfriend Abe, who she emasculates – well, stabs with a makeshift spear – when she mistakes him for an intruder. Mad Men endlessly, and humorously, insists that one’s moral character is not always consonant with one’s social or political views. Manipulative, smarmy Pete is the show’s most progressive when it comes to issues of race, while the lovable Roger Sterling wears black face at a party in the Hamptons.
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Here's another good one from The A.V. Club: How a Resurrection Really Feels.

 

For a show so taken with themes of death and rebirth, it’s no surprise that Mad Men makes its final (half) season premiere on Easter Sunday. From the moment viewers thought to ask, “Who is Dick Whitman?”, Mad Men cemented itself in the foreground of any television-based conversation about what it is to be born again—even if not in a strictly theological sense. Time and again throughout its six-and-a-half seasons, Mad Men has dug into what it means to find new life out of life’s ruins.

 

[snip]

 

Perhaps Mad Men is the tale of Don Draper’s resurrection, just not as we’ve expected it. Perhaps the whole of the series has been Don’s Holy Saturday. Perhaps he is wandering, caught between life and loss, his fate in the hands of something larger than himself. Such a fate would render moot the criticism that Don’s self-destructive decisions are “repetitive.” Being mired in some nebulous other, some region between life and death, is reason enough to never be able to enact real change.

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So I was trying to pinpoint where in time this episode picks up.  Knew it was definitely a few months after the New York release of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (Sept. of 1969) with Ted and Roger sporting Robert Redford's mustache and sideburns, but I was able to find the Nixon address to the nation on Vietnam that is playing in the background at one point.  That speech was given on April 30th, 1970. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDSsDBieVGE

 

I'd love to see the show make it into 1971, and the premiere of Coke's "Hilltop" ad, which I'd say was the new milestone for advertising at the time.  It'd be great to see Don's reaction to that spot, and whether it triggers a renewed passion for advertising, or perhaps the realization that his best days in the field are behind him.

 

Edited by John Drew

Formerly Baal_T'shuvah

"Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You just can't let the world judge you too much." - Maude 
Harold and Maude
 

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Phew. Going to have to let that settle in a bit. I find it striking how different, even vulnerable, Don becomes in the presence of religious ritual (such as the kaddish during the shiva for Rachel in this last episode). He is the master of connecting desire with language and image - but frequently finds himself in the presence of a much different, more powerful form of language that kind of leaves him numb and speechless. If only he could speak that language.

Edited by M. Leary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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Phew. Going to have to let that settle in a bit. I find it striking how different, even vulnerable, Don becomes in the presence of religious ritual (such as the kadesh during the shiva for Rachel in this last episode). He is the master of connecting desire with language and image - but frequently finds himself in the presence of a much different, more powerful form of language that kind of leaves him numb and speechless. If only he could speak that language.

 

Oh, nice. I'm going to need to rewatch the episode; I enjoyed it, but I can't shake the feeling that it didn't "stick" with me like it should have.

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I find it striking how different, even vulnerable, Don becomes in the presence of religious ritual (such as the kaddish during the shiva for Rachel in this last episode). He is the master of connecting desire with language and image - but frequently finds himself in the presence of a much different, more powerful form of language that kind of leaves him numb and speechless. If only he could speak that language.

That was the moment that hit me hardest.

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I've got the first half of the final season at home on DVD for the week, and am two episodes into it.

 

I was having serious deja vu during Episode 1, wondering if I'd already watched the first half of the season and forgotten it. But Episode 2 was completely new to me.

 

And then it hit me: AMC streamed Episode 1 in the days after it aired last year, and I'd watched that lone episode at the time.

 

I haven't heard that the network is doing that again with the first episode from the second half of the final season, but I should check.

 

Then again, do I really want to watch that episode (assuming it's even available) before I watch the rest of the first half of the final season?

 

No, I do not.

 

Thanks for working through this problem with me.

"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Oh, nice. I'm going to need to rewatch the episode; I enjoyed it, but I can't shake the feeling that it didn't "stick" with me like it should have.

 

 

I agree there were a few wheels spinning here. I am not entirely sold on Peggy's new direction. Curious as to where that is all headed. Roger's mustache was regrettable. There was a fair bit of narrative maneuvering here - though the Cosgrove enlightenment came out of left field before returning to business as usual.

 

So yeah, this was all fairly boilerplate for the series.

 

I know there is a lot of hubbub about how this all ends, and that we might just be staring through Ken's novel into a St. Elsewhere-like snow globe. Or something crazy will happen. But I would have been entirely happy if last night was the final episode in a Soprano's fade-to-black sort of way.

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

Filmwell | Twitter

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