Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
My latest column for Wired on the world of Mad Men as viewed through its ad campaigns is up. This week: The ultimate Draper Pitch.
Newcomer Daario Naharis is a man the Hound would recognize – a killer for cash. Unlike the Hound, he seems to take pleasure in the badass trappings of a successful sellsword – the rep, the women, the tricked-out dagger hilts – while the Hound himself takes pleasure, and barely, in the act of killing itself. But because of this, Naharis has the flexibility to bend before he breaks. Confronted with a physically stunning, tactically advantaged opponent in the form of Daenerys Targaryen, he kills his comrades and switches sides rather than toss himself into the fray on behalf of a wealthy but likely defeatable city. (As an aside, a show that can find time for an extensive visit to the camp of the Second Sons ought to be able to give Catelyn Stark more to do this season than scold her dopey son Robb. Okay, moving on.) Duty to his captains and his client would appear to leave him little choice, but “Daario Naharis always has a choice,” he tells Daenerys. Judging from her outrageously pulp-fictional bathtub dismount, he chose wisely.
* Maybe every episode should begin in medias res with Ken Cosgrove being forced at gunpoint to drive a carful of drunken Chevy execs down a dark road at 80mph. I truly thought he might have died.
* Don standing around smoking outside Sylvia’s apartment. Not taking this well, I see.
* Chevy is turning out to be a poisoned chalice. Everyone’s exhausted, and Don’s tearing into Kenny like he’s Pete.
* Even before I knew what he meant, I heard Jim Cutler say “I’m gonna get everybody fixed up” and thought “Cutler, you magnificent bastard.” A lot of the best Mad Men lines are the best because they have a recognizable emotional or narrative tone even though you haven’t been able to locate the context yet. (Cf. last season’s “Far Away Places,” which produced this phenomenon by showing events out of order.)
* I haven’t been crazy about Linda Cardellini as Sylvia, to be honest. I suppose I see what she represents to Don — age, experience, a housewife rather than a budding celebrity; perhaps even her ability to experience guilt and therefore the taboo are appealing — but as a performance…I don’t know, kind of…not a lot of zest to it? That changed last night, during her teary, desperate phone call with Don. Don’s looking for a big romantic moment, but Sylvia’s willing and able to boil their bad romance down to a growled “KNOCK IT OFF!”
* And Don is totally powerless before it. Seeing him in his mighty, Olympian office, hanging on the telephone because he can’t bring himself to hang up, a master of all he surveys except this one thing…it’s rough.
* Coughing fits. “Your face looks like a bag of walnuts.” Yeah, it’s rough on the guy alright.
* Betty’s blonde again. Okay.
* Poor Dawn. Her skill at Don management (Donagement?) is both a blessing and a curse.
* Ted Chaough on Frank Gleason: “He’s a piece that cannot be replaced.” Don, of course, was just replaced.
* A conversation between Roger and Stan! Alright!
* Cutler’s a cold customer, as it turns out. Doesn’t really care about Frank. Didn’t see that coming, frankly. Not that I saw the opposite coming mind you — just that it’s revealing of his character.
* I loved all the build-up to the doctor. They’re talking about him like he’s Col. Kurtz. Turns out he’s Dr. Robert.
* Mad Men excels at build-up, though, so I shouldn’t be surprised. I liked how the nature and effects of the drug were doled out in installments as well: Cutler leaping merrily around, then Cutler and Stan racing, then Don zoning out/zoning in, and so on.
* Don sees Peggy taking care of Ted and then flashes back to a sequence in which his mother failed to take care of him. Hm.
* “Do we know each other?” Hoo boy. “I meant from somewhere other than from this moment.” Zooms. Bells. It’s a drug episode! Hold all my calls!
* “Some kinda love transaction between a parent and a child and the greatest gift of all: a Chevy.” Ginsberg: straightedge by nature, messianic in his approach to crafting ad copy.
* “I hate how dying makes saints out of people.” Solid, true line, but I prefer the way it reveals the complexity of the workplace. Frank’s been painted as the perfect friend/partner by Ted, so to learn he was a dick to his underlings reminds us that everyone’s story has different heroes and villains.
* “I wanna write stuff down so it looks like I’m working.” Ginsberg nails it.
* “I’ll have 15 campaigns for you by then but you have to get me in a room so I can look them in the eye. The timbre of my voice is as important as the content. I don’t know whether I’ll be forceful or submissive, but I must be there in the flesh.” “You understand that I have no power whatsoever….I’m their favorite toy.” My first thought upon hearing this Don-Ken exchange: This drug transforms your subtext into text!
* “I know you’re all feeling the darkness here today, but there’s no reason to give in. No matter what you’ve heard, this process will not take years. In my heart, I know we cannot be defeated, because there is an answer that will open the door. There is a way around this system. This is a test of our patience and commitment. One great idea can win someone over.” I feel like that first sentence should be written on an anonymous notecard and pinned above Don’s hospital bed someday, Tony Soprano-style.
* Soup! Don’s looking for chicken soup for the soul.
* Whoa, it’s the next day, suddenly. That came as a shock.
* “Her name is Wendy.” I thought we were going to push the age limit for Don’s thing for brunettes, but he’s not feeling it, and in retrospect it’s easy to see why: He’s crafting the ultimate Draper Pitch, his product is Don Draper himself, and he’s got a target audience of one in mind.
* “I’ve got six hundred and sixty-six ideas!” HAIL STAN
* Complaints about Mad Men trying too hard or being too obvious or god help us being on the nose miss the point because that is the point. Symbolist TV. It’s all right there, dredged to the surface. If it’s obvious, well, aren’t we all, when that happens? Case in point: Wendy the would-be psychic, wearing a stethoscope while telling Don he wants to know if someone loves him. “I wanna hear your heart. Oh — I think it’s broken.” “You can hear that?!” “I can’t hear anything. I think it’s broken.” I mean, the show’s making a joke of it. This is not Matthew Weiner trying to be subtle but screwing it up.
* “You’re on TV every day. Don’t they know that?” Bobby Draper gives Megan the validation Don Draper can’t deliver.
* The old William Tell trick!
* “You’re pretentious, you know that? I love that.” Again, this is not Matthew Weiner making a mistake.
* “But you hate him!” “…I hate apples more.” Ginsberg’s great in this episode.
* Jesus, Don, not at Sylvia’s again!. Then an endless, immobile closeup of his head against her door. “Out of my head over you.”
* Doors: Don knows the perfect idea can open the door. His ultimate Draper Pitch involves telling Sylvia not to shut the door. He tells Ginsberg he’s got it when Ginsberg says he has to get his foot in the door. He tells Sally it’s all his fault since he left the door open.
* “You’re lucky I don’t like beards.” “Women say that, but they don’t act like it.” YESSSSSSSSS, PEGGY AND STAN / YESSSSSSSSS, BEARDS
* “You’ve got a great ass.” “Thank you.” is this generation’s “I love you.” “I know.”
* Sally’s reading Rosemary’s Baby. Girl, you’ll be a woman soon.
* Whoa, who is this lady? Grandma Ida? It was clear she was robbing the joint, but when she asked “Your daddy Mr. Donald Draper, or not?” I thought she was trying to rip off a very different Don Draper. That was a creepy moment.
* “Because you know what he needs.” And thus begins a game of connect the dots with beauty marks, from Amy the prostitute to the oatmeal mom to Sylvia.
* “Do you wanna know what all the fuss is about?” “No.” Famous last words, Don.
* Don’s first is a blonde. He marries a blonde, but spends his free time chasing brunettes like the mother who badly beat him for having sex while screaming at him that he’s filth. So there you go.
* “Are we negroes?”
* Don’s ultimate Draper Pitch uses history to attract its audience, even while Don’s lack of history is being used to bamboozle Sally and Bobby into giving up the goods to the world’s kindliest catburglar.
* “Have you been working on Chevy at all?” And that was the moment I finally realized what he was preparing to sell.
* Don finally opens the door, and walks into a nightmare tableau of broken domesticity — his ex, the wife he’s cheating on, his replacement, his abandoned kids, a cop. Lights out.
* That elevator ride. I was happy for both of them when it ended.
* Woof, Wendy was Frank’s daughter. Cutler is Roger if Roger were a sociopath rather than merely a nihilist.
* “Every time we get a car, this place turns into a whorehouse.” The door into Don Draper is shut.
Partners Gabe Fowler, Bill Kartalopoulos, and Dan Nadel have announced that they are discontinuing the annual Brooklyn Comics and Graphics Festival. There won’t be another one.
BCGF was (god, it sucks to put it that way) the very best comics show I’ve ever been to. Hands down. Every year I went there was something interesting at every table. That’s unheard of — a freakishly high level of talent among the exhibitors. That speaks directly to the partners and curators’ pedigree and clarity of vision, which will be very difficult to replicate. It’s a huge loss for alternative comics.
All this on the very landmass I live on, a 40-minute drive away. I am so sad. Thanks Bill, Gabe, Dan. You did it.
William Cardini and I made a short horror comic called “The True Black” for Future Shock #4, edited by Josh Burggraf and featuring work by Jordan Speer, Michael Rae Grant & Gabriel Winslow-Yost, Victor Kerlow, Vincent Giard, Anuj Shrestha, Alex Degen, Kevin Czapiewski, Sean T. Collins & William Cardini, Max Bode, Zach Hazard Vaupen, Lale Westvind, Saman Bemel Benrud, and Josh Burg Graf. We hope you like it. Order it here.
Episode 20 of my A Song of Ice and Fire podcast the Boiled Leather Audio hour is up! This week, my co-host Stefan Sasse and I are discussing the combined reading order for A Feast for Crows and A Dance with Dragons that I came up with in order to reunite what is effectively one giant book split by character rather than chronology. It’s worth doing!
My latest column for Wired on the world of Mad Men as viewed through its ad campaigns is up. This week: dominance, submission, and margarine.
* My favorite parts about the blow-up Don overhears between Sylvia and Arnold: the complete absence of Arnold’s voice, it’s just his stuff sitting there in the hallway, like the discarded clothing of the man who wasn’t there in Don’s Royal Hawaiian ad; Don’s frantic button pushing to close the door before he gets caught listening in.
* Margie! Nice to meet you, female copywriter! We hardly knew ye.
* When Peggy introduces Ted to her old colleagues she calls Stan by his first name and Ginsberg “Ginsberg.”
* Blink and you’ll miss it, but Bob briefly tails Peggy and Ted as they walk to their offices.
* No chair for Pete at the meeting. Never let it be said that Mad Men doesn’t place enough banana peels in front of that guy!
* “Now that we’ve dispensed with the gallantry.” Roger, you magnificent bastard.
* Cutler = Roger 2
* “Ted’s a pilot!” I swear you could hear Don’s balls shrivel.
* Pete’s mom was so lucid in her senility that she briefly had me confused. I kept mixing up her allegations regarding Pete’s late father — who died in a plane crash, which is worth noting in this plane-heavy episode — with the truth about Pete’s very much alive father-in law.
* Re: Roger’s firing of Burt Peterson: holy shit, Roger. Like the Comedian from Watchmen, to whom I will never stop comparing him (which fact renews my confidence somewhat in the idea that Watchmen has things to communicate outside its art form and era), this cackling nihilist has a mean streak a mile wide. Every line was a punch in the throat.
* “I need you, and nothing else will do.” Sylvia’s got a future in copywriting ahead of her.
* “A little rap session about margarine in general.”
* My notes for the beginning of Don and Sylvia’s hotel-room tryst: “No dom/sub games for Sylvia, Don, sorry.” [line break] “Whoops, I stand corrected.” Sorry, but that was all some hot shit. Don’s confidence comes from being unpleasant and adored for it.
* Don’s thoroughly out-alpha’ing Ted.
* Pete to his brother: “I don’t have a chair!” Wah wah wah.
* Ted Chaough asserting that every advertising archetype has its Gilligan’s Island analogue anticipates several decades of meta-pop.
* The best thing about Draper Pitches, as we see in his margarine spiel, is that he can take the most absurd and banal subjects imaginable and make it seem like he’s taking you through the stargate in 2001.
* Bob! “Just walk with me, and I’ll bother you all the way out. No one will know.”
* Bob! Furniture polish improv! Okay, maybe this guy’s a good accounts man after all.
* Unexpected and fascinating to get such a direct window into Ted’s thoughts about Don, during that conversation with Gleason. Ted’s amazed that Don seems more interested in him than in their work, because he doesn’t feel interesting. “He doesn’t talk for long stretches and then he’s incredibly eloquent.” Gleason’s got Don’s number, though: “Give him the early rounds. He’ll tire himself out.”
* “Peggy, he’s a grown man.” “So are you! Move forward.” Peggy, audience stand-in.
* I guess it should go without saying that Don’s playing control games because it makes him feel the most like himself and the least like his life is out of control in any other area.
* Don and Ted in a plane! Hahahahaha! Like something out of a single-camera comedy.
* “Sometimes when you’re flying you think you’re rightside up but you’re really upside down. Gotta watch your instruments.” Ted Chaough, accidental philospher.
* “No matter what I say, you’re the guy who flew us up here in his own plane.” Don’s been out-alpha’d.
* “Not every good deed is part of a plan.” Joan’s mom, voice of optimism.
* “My mother can go to hell. Ted Chaough can fly her there.” Pete Campbell, winner, line of the night.
* It’s a dopey tv-critic thing to worry about, I know, but what a sad state of affairs that Jon Hamm may never win an Emmy. What a marvel that guy is in this role! Don gets dumped, and it plays out on his face like someone dynamiting the sculpted surface of George Washington right off Mount Rushmore.
* Joan saves Bob, just like that. A good deed goes unpunished!
* Oof, that fadeout on Megan’s voice, brutal.
* “They’re shooting everybody.” With that, Pete’s mom disappears, walks behind the glass, becomes a silhouette, a ghost. Very creepy.
* That shot of Don arms akimbo, in the foreground of the shot, out of focus, Meagan and the news report behind him. Well done, Slattery.
* People are finally getting together.
* Using the assassination of Robert Kennedy to comment on the state of Mad Men, rather than the other way around, is the most Mad Men thing Mad Men has ever done, an act of creative hubris that would do Don himself proud.
It’s a remarkable turnaround for a character we first really got to know when he took a break from fucking his sister to toss a little boy out a window. By that time in his life Jaime had spent 17 years wearing his last great crime, the murder of the king he was sworn to protect, like a crown. He’d made a decision in the heat of the moment and adamantly refused to submit himself to anyone’s judgment, even if it meant hiding the fact that he’d saved, by his estimation in this episode, half a million lives. Squint at it long enough and it’s easy to see his defenestration of Bran Stark in a similar light: Kill this boy to cover up the crime, or watch as an enraged King Robert kills the sister he loves, the children they secretly had together and Jaime himself – and probably his father and brother for good measure. Prolonged exposure to Brienne, his first close contact with someone outside the closed systems of his family and the Kingsguard in years, forced him to think outside his snap-judgment comfort zone. With any luck, she’ll be the first of many people to benefit from his growth.
I’ve been busy over at my dayjob blog.
How do you avoid mustache-twirling supervillain stereotypes while performing [Littlefinger's malevolent monologues]?
Keep the mustache short. That helps.
My latest column for Wired on the world of Mad Men as viewed through its ad campaigns is up. This week: a tale of two Chevys.
But the disunity can be delightful, and nowhere was it stronger than in the episode’s closing minutes. At first, Lord Baelish’s voiceover, and the accompanying score by Ramin Djawadi, came across overheated and unsubtle. Sansa’s tears helped sell it, though, through another powerfully wordless Sophie Turner performance. So did the sad death of Ros, the rags-to-riches prostitute-turned-advisor-turned-double-agent who at long last crossed the wrong sociopaths; the staging of her corpse, riddled with bolts fromKing Joffrey’s crossbow, radiated the fervid sex-and-death fetishism of medieval martyr portraiture. (BTW: Two and a half seasons spent building up a character the show effectively invented, and they can’t even give her an on-screen death?)
Then we emerge from the squalid, tear-streaked, blood-soaked hellscape of Littlefinger’s monologue montage into the cold open air atop the Wall. We watch Jon and Ygritte collapse onto their backs, exhausted, looking up at the sky. We watch them stand up and take in first the view of the frozen forest to the north of this massive, magical structure; then of the comparative paradise to the south, a boundless world full of possibilities and danger for them both. As the camera cuts across the 180-degree line to flip their positions in the frame, they kiss. Alright, they straight-up make out, silhouetted against a glorious sky and magnificent view. Eventually, even as the camera keeps pulling back, they run out of steam and just stop and hold each other and gaze. It’s a feverishly romantic image – and without Littlefinger’s nasty speech, it wouldn’t have hit like such a blast of fresh air.
That’s the way to watch Game of Thrones, I think – to watch all the little pieces moving in all those directions and see how each new move affects your view of all the others.
I reviewed last night’s Game of Thrones for Rolling Stone, and sort of advanced a grand unified theory of watching this show in the process.
* Pete and Joan, flirting? Relatively convincingly? Don’t that beat all.
* It’s Mother’s Day, everyone.
* Going public surprised me, for sure. But for all the nattering about how Don doesn’t change, Sterling Cooper (Draper Pryce) sure has, over the years. Independent, then bought out and wholly owned subsidiaried, then rogue and independent, then established and independent but small, then maybe publicly held, then merged and big.
* Roger goes Littlefinger, sexing a stewardess spy. It’s unorthodox, to be sure, but bedding down an airline employee so she can keep track of arrivals and departures from Detroit is some next-level thinking for an accounts man. But it’s not really a surprise that Roger’s good at his job, albeit in the most Roger way imaginable (“Good idea.” “I’m full of ‘em!” He’s right!), any more than it’s a surprise that Joan keeps impeccable books. One of the great pleasures of Mad Men is that you get to watch people who, with rare exceptions, are quite good at their jobs.
* “But my mother just died.” You can practically see the insincere frowny-face emoticon after that line.
* Pete is exceptionally oily when he attempts to, I don’t know what you’d call it, “seduce” Trudy on Mother’s Day morning. Amazing how quickly she goes back to her usual cheery, gently nose-tweaking approach to interacting with him (“I’ve taken note of your efforts,” with a big smile), but routine is powerful.
* Maman is a piece of work.
* Great summary of Pete Campbell #1: Asking Don to dinner, getting rejected, Don walks into his office and Roger’s already in there. Pete is the man outside.
* I loved our little glimpse of Cutler Gleeson Chaough. I liked Frank when I thought he was just a high-strung depressive artist type, I liked him even more when we found out he’s dying, and I like that Ted is mean to his enemies but truly kind to his friends.
* “Everybody loves astronauts! I gotta go lie down.”
* Maman remains a piece of work, but she knows Don well enough to give Megan what turns out to be solid advice for their relationship. I mean, sort of — he’s at least as turned on by defenestrating Herb the Jaguar Asshole as he is by Megan’s high hemline.
* Best gasface of the night: Megan and Marie staring at Herb’s dopey wife, or Don staring at Herb after he quotes “The Girl from Ipanema”?
* I was kind of surprised Pete’s joke about serving Bert laudanum went over. But Pete’s not bad at everything all the time. It just doesn’t come as easily to him as it does to the true alpha males. He can work at it, and he can get there, but he just happens to fail.
* Do you think Herb was aware that he was insulting Don by telling him to learn from the kid who does their flyers at the lot? I’m not sure where I come down on that. Oh well, it was his mistake to tangle with a guy who loves nothing more than to use contempt as a blade to slice portions of his life away when they no longer serve him.
* Is it me or has it been a good long while since we had a good old-fashioned Mad Men last-minute save? When Roger called Don from the airport in Detroit, I almost got giddy.
* Oh shit. Trudy’s dad. Poor Pete — not even a rock-solid doctrine like Mutually Assured Destruction works out for him. He’s Dr. Strangelove on that shit.
* Also, uh, maybe not quite as enlightened about race as I gave him credit for last week, at least not when he’s pissed, which is when it counts.
* Pete Campbell summarized, #2: Falling down the stairs. Sometimes I think Matthew Weiner wants to give good .gif as much as Dan Harmon did on Community, at least where Pete’s concerned.
* Joan is devastated by Don’s caprice, how it took away her agency and rendered her choices meaningless. Don shakes it off and within minutes is doing what he does best, Roger smiling by his side. “How ’bout that.” “How ’bout it?”
* Ted has felt, all season long, like someone with a Draper-sized backstory behind him. That image of him sitting on the floor, failing to get his TV to work — that could have been the climax of an entire parallell Mad Men episode in which he’s been the main character all along.
* “Do not say I’m nice. I hate it when people say I’m nice.” “I was going to say strong.” Yeah, I can see the appeal those two people have for each other.
* “I don’t believe in fate. You make your own opportunities.” Says the guy who destroyed a client relationship in a fit of pique, only for dumb luck to pull his bacon out of the fire.
* “I love you like this.” “Desperate and scared?” “Fearless. And I want to do whatever I can to make sure you don’t fail. Then you can jump from the balcony and fly to work like Superman.” Superman, suicide, sex — is it just me, or did that scene with Megan perfectly summarize what we think about when we think about Don Draper?
* Don deliberately fucks with a client and is rewarded. Pete stumbles bass-ackwards into a relationship-destroying accident. Pete Campbell Summarized, #3.
* “Roger will handle it,” says Bert. Sure enough, Roger takes the call, hears the news, sits down, jokes around with his temperamental artiste friend, swallows it, keeps it to himself. Good at his job.
* Trudy’s dad tells Pete he’ll do the right thing. He doesn’t. It doesn’t make any difference.
* Wow, that was some goopy fantasy sequence with Peggy and Ted! Ha, sure, why not, let’s go full soap in Peggy’s head. I’m sure she could use some of that from time to time.
* Ted’s ad: optimistic, all-american, adventurous. Don’s ad: driven by awe, another ad that wasn’t there.
* “‘We.’ That’s interesting.” Called it!!! I am very excited about this merger because nothing in fiction excites me like talented rivals overcoming their differences to respect and cooperate with one another.
* “Hey, Lieutenant — wanna get into some trouble?”
* Peggy enters Ted’s office, and Don’s voice is there to greet her. Don materializes. The past comes back to haunt her. What an amazing scene.
* “Make it sound like the agency you wanna work for.” Good luck with that, Peggy.
She obviously has family on her mind in this episode. But when she tells Gendry “I can be your family,” it sounds like she might mean something very different – even if she herself barely realizes it yet.
When I first read that scene, it really got to me. I always knew that Arya and Gendry were going to take separate paths, but when you actually see it… I was really getting on well with Joe [Dempsie], and it was just like “Oh, this is going to end now.” Then you go in do it. At first I read it as “You can come to Winterfell, I’ll show you how everything goes, and you can come and sit at the table with us.” I thought it would be a bit like Theon. But when I was doing the scene, [director] Alex Graves said “When you say that last line, ‘I can be your family,’ say it like ‘I love you.’” And that’s the take that they used. On the day, we didn’t cut in between. We kept going, and going, and going again, which I really liked; otherwise, you get out of it and you have to try and build yourself back up to that point again. Sometimes I was really crying, and then we’d pull it back. I don’t know how many we did, but the last one we did…We settled on the one when I said it like “I love you,” and it really works.
My latest column on the world of Mad Men as viewed through its ads is up. This week: the comfort of violent imagery.
It was an emotionally merciless episode throughout. Delirious from pain and heat and 17 years of bitterness, Jaime reveals to Brienne that he slew the Mad King to stop him from burning King’s Landing to the ground, but refused to tell anyone because he was so outraged by Ned Stark’s pre-judgment that he couldn’t even bear to defend himself with the truth. “By what right does the wolf judge the lion?” he demands, weeping through the dirt and shit caked on his face. As if his system can’t withstand honesty he then passes out, his nude body cradled against Brienne’s own in a shot that rivals last episode’s Jaime-and-his-hand tableau. “My name is Jaime,” he insists, at long last deciding to be less, and therefore more, than his reputation would make him out to be.
I reviewed last night’s episode of Game of Thrones, which I absolutely loved, for Rolling Stone. All-time Top 5 episode.