Tuesday, August 31, 2010

MM@M: Charlie Chaplin and The Sad Clown.

Previously on Mad Men @ the Movies: 4.1 Live From Times Square 4.2 Sixties Sweethearts 4.3 Catherine Deneuve & Gamera, 4.4 Jean Seberg, 4.5 Hayley Mills & David McCallum

Before we begin, a hearty congrats to Mad Men team for their third Emmy. Confetti thrown.

Episode 4.6 "Waldorf Stories"
In this episode, Don and Roger continue their downward spirals (it seems to be the long arc plot of Season 4) drinking way too much and imbibing too much awards show adulation (Don wins a Clio) or nostalgia (Roger continually reminisces). Meanwhile Peggy and Peter are on the rise, choosing pragmatism and hard work over their individual personal discomfort. The older characters tripping themselves up and the younger characters changing and rising is definitely the long arc of Season 4.

The only character chatting up the movies this week was Roger Sterling (John Slattery).
Roger: Charlie Chaplin was very lonely. That Tramp -- too much of a sad sack. Laurel and Hardy - they're much better. Except Hardy was so mean to Laurel. I hated that.

Why am I talking about silent movies?

Caroline (his secretary, taking dictation): I suppose as part of the chapter on your childhood?

Roger: That part of my book is getting bigger and bigger. Why is that?
Oh Roger. Who exactly is the sad clown? Clue: It's not Chaplin though he was that, yes.

That Roger is talking about 1920s movies and wonders why aloud, is one clue that he's having difficulty focusing on work or even the present tense aka 1965. The flashback heavy nature of the episode, in which we suddenly realize that Joan & Roger go way way back (intriguing -- was she even working in the office yet?), is the other.

Best Moment
Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) strips off her clothes in a hotel room as challenge to her sexist faux-nudist co-worker. "I can work like this. Let's get liberated."

Finally, you have to love the choreography of the finale, which threads Don & Peggy's storylines together and also has a movie joke. Don lost his advertising award during his very own Lost Weekend. Here's his resigned banter with his secretary Miss Blankenship (Randee Heller, yes, that's The Karate Kid's mom).
Draper: Call the Pen and Pencil and see if someone found my award.
Blankenship: What's the category?
Draper: Best Actress.
Ha! Don hates her so much.

But the staging is as funny as the joke.

Draper actually enters the office (blink and you'll miss him) during Peggy's story punchline in which she mocks her co-worker after their nude encounter (she's talking about a "little" change in the ad) but her hand gesture and the eyeline from art director Rizzo to her implicates Don Draper. He keeps getting emasculating this season.

Best Actress. Heh.

Other References in this Episode
(TV) Peyton Place, The Flintstones (Celebrities) The Pope, Red Skelton (Literature) A Tale of Two Cities, Noah's Ark, Playboy (Politics) The Daisy Ad, The Klu Klux Klan, The Temperance Movement

Of Note
Show creator Matthew Weiner on why his actors come up empty at the Emmys. This was recorded before Sunday night's awards in which all of the actors lost again.

Further reading

For diehard Mad Men fans who can't read enough.
  • Shitty First Drafts "Why Betty Draper Matters" This is a smart read about housewives in the 1960s. I'm within the small minority who is fascinated (even when appalled) by the former Mrs. Don Draper so I heartily approve.
  • Tom & Lorenzo The cast on the cover of Rolling Stone.
  • Rolling Stone a beauteous on set photo gallery from Rolling Stone.
  • Antenna The waning value of masculine detachment.
  • Fast Company actors as spokespersons for brands blurs MM's boundaries
  • Antenna "You're Not Going to Kill This Account" on actual and revisionist history alike.
  • Scanners "...From Twin Peaks" a must read for David Lynch fans.
  • TV Guide Sal will be coming back to the show in some way (!) Cameo or otherwise?
  • Norsk Film Institute Mad Men at the Movies gets its own screening series in Norway. Unfortunately I am not thanked, involved, or flown over for it. Jeg gråter.


Anonymous said...

I also like Betty, I think people are really unfair to her. All the characters have their flaws. I mean Don isn't exactly father of the year. Sometimes I don't think people even understand why she is the way she is. I sympathize with her rather than despise her.

I wouldn't even say she is a shitty mom, I've seen real life shitty moms and Betty is far from it.


hmmm. i think she is a terrible mom though i'm sure there are worse moms. But... that said. I don't think she would have to stay a terrible mom. I don't think she's a terrible person. Just a terribly angry person who doesn't understand herself.


still i'm sure the haters are glad that she has most definitely become a supporting actress on the show with season 4. That'll be the last "lead actress" Emmy nomination (S3)

Anonymous said...

I don't know some of the things she does I could see my grandmother doing. The whole Sally escapade last week. If I did that at age ten, my grandmother would've slapped me silly and said I embarrassed her. Though my mom probably wouldn't. Just different generations. Same with the "let boys kiss you not the other way around". Sure it sounds bad to us, but you have to think about the time period.

Also cutting your hair at age 10, sorry, but that's a huge no-no. My mom, aunt and grandmother would've been on my case. Especially in the African-American Community.

Sure Betty could improve her parenting skills, but I wouldn't say she is terrible. My friend's mother forced her to have sex with men for money as a teenager. Now that's a terrible mother.

I think the problem with Betty (besides the fact that she was groomed to be the perfect little housewife) is that we see no other side to her. There's only housewife Betty. Don and all the other characters are easily forgiven for their shortcomings because we see them in different modes.

Anonymous said...

Is it just me, or was the kiss Don gave Joan at the announcement of the award more than just a cheery pass? I could swear there was half a beat of surprise on her part, only to turn to Roger and not submit the same.
Granted, she's married now, but there have been tense moments for her in the past.
I'm not sure which downward spiral I am finding more intriguing, Don's or Roger's. On the fence, leaning towards Don.
Some of Don's cinematic scene transitions were great.
The final scene was definitely worth it. Reinforces Don's sometimes brilliance, as it implies he took advantage of Roger's blackout by later stating he offered him a job. Well done.


oh good point. I hadn't thought of that as a lie. i assumed truth but who knows.

jbaker475 said...

Agree on the ex-Mrs. Draper. She's a bad (well...maybe "distant" is the better word) mom and a frosty bitch, but she's fascinating. People can talk/write about Jones' limitations as an actress all they want, but she's still perfect on MM as Betty.

On a separate note, I loved the very last scene of Sunday's episode, when Don makes that little look and you realize that he's tricked Roger into hiring him. The show is on fire this year, and I hope that its Emmy winning streak doesn't come to an end next year just for the sake of letting something else win. We're halfway through season 4, and I already think it's better than 3.

Kyle said...

This particular hater is very happy...best season of Mad Men yet, and a great bounceback so far from the less than stellar Season 3. :-)

Nick M. said...

Did anyone else recall Ghost World when Roger mentioned how he didn't like "the fat one being mean to the skinny one"?

And I'm glad we got more stern Peggy in this episode. Stern Peggy is my second favorite Peggy after cluelessly confident pseudo-Bohemian Peggy.

Anonymous said...

- Hoping Moss gets bumped up into Leading Actress in the Emmys/Glolden Globes.

- Wait, why is Rizzo so interested in the Klan. Wouldn't they NOT like him?

IslandLiberal said...

The source of most peoples' problems with Betty is, I suspect, that she's not an active figure that we'd expect in scenarios like this. Peggy and Joan (especially the former) are more traditional depictions of women in confining situations who diligently try to work through it; people root for them because they strive.

Betty you might think from the outset would be best-equipped to be that sort of character of any of them (she has a college degree, she has a fairly wealthy background), but she's the opposite, the least activist of any of them. She wallows within the limitations and never really makes any progress in overcoming them (even divorcing Don, which might have been a real triumphant moment, is severely undercut by jumping directly from one marriage into another dubious one). It's very realistic and rather unpleasant to watch.


jbaker -- "We're halfway through season 4, and I already think it's better than 3."

argh. it's going by way too fast.

okinawa -- i assume she will now that Betty has been demoted.

island -- you've hit the nail on the head. Fantasy is much more comfortable viewing and in reality most people are more like Betty (working within their limited worldviews, never triumphing over them to find larger worlds beyond)

Anonymous said...

To elaborate: It was building. Roger had no intention of hiring Don. In the previous flashback, Don offered to get Roger a cab after the pre-lunch binge. Roger's then genuine response "I did?" was well satisfied. As Jbaker pointed out, Don casts a satisfying look.
It plays nicely into the episode's side story with the new-hire. In a way, Roger is getting back at Don. As we assume, each flashback is Roger's... whether or not he recalls being fooled or not, or was it just privy to the audience, is not for me to decide.


oh yeah i understood what you were implying and i agree. it's just that when i first watched it this slipped by me as a parallel in that particular way.

MM is great on repeat views too.

P.S. What was with that Joan/Don kiss? Held for a beat too long. and they've always had such an interestingly NONSEXUAL rapport. i would be disappointed if there were some sort of past or future there.

jbaker475 said...

They seem to be (veeeeeery slowly) building some new sort of tension between Don and Joan. In "Guy Walks Into an Advertising Agency..." (my favorite episode from season 3 by a wide margin) I think I remember the pair sharing a brief little kiss (can't remember if it was on the lips or cheek) in the hospital. I think there's potential for something to develop there, though whether that's a good thing is debatable.

And yes, this season is going by waaaaay too fast.

Ben said...

I really don't understand all the Betty Draper hatred, but a friend of mine pointed out what a taboo it is to depict women who don't want children on TV unless it's clearly earmarked as post-natal depression (i.e. something "wrong" that can be "fixed"). She's no worse a mother than Don is a father, but as Betty's character is that much more inscrutable, it's often hard to sympathise with her.

But I think January Jones does exceptional work. None of the actors are slackers, but the brief glimpses we get into Betty's mind have been fascinating. I still remember that scene where she was writing letters to Henry and she says "I do have thoughts," which just summed up so much for me. And last week's scene with the (child) psychologist that ended with her smiling at the dollhouse. She's not as fun or funny as Joan or Peggy, but January Jones' and the writers' refusal to court the audience's sympathy - particular given that oppressed suburban housewives have become such a staple of both TV and film - is really rather brave.

IslandLiberal said...

"particular given that oppressed suburban housewives have become such a staple of both TV and film"

My now-late grandparents both groused at the trend in depictions of the 1950s, saying that it wasn't paradise or anything, but after Depression-era childhoods where their younger siblings wore potato-sack dresses, it actually was a period of unprecedented peace and prosperity for the and tens of millions of others.

Re: the child thing, I don't think it's so much that she didn't want kids (audiences could handle that fine, I think) as she's so indifferent and inept with the ones she has. Don's not a great parent by any stretch, particularly in the big picture, but his sins in that department would fall into the passive category that don't really register as much with viewers. Betty is actively unpleasant to the kids, particularly poor Sally.

Betty and Don's backstories are also really different in terms of audience sympathy. Give a character a traumatic backstory and there's little audiences won't forgive. We've seen little Don/Dick was raised in dire poverty, his mother died giving birth (and being haunted by being a "whore-child"), his father and stepmother were douchebags, his father died in front of him, he was in Korea, etc. That's a very visceral and emotional connection to why he's so messed up. Betty, by contrast, was raised by rich, somewhat neglectful people (further not helped by when her father got involved in Sally's life in season three, he was a way better influence than either her or Don) and...that's about it, really.


island -- does anyone else think she was sexually abused as a child? Because I kinda do. (betty draper i mean)

IslandLiberal said...

I know some people were speculating about child abuse during the period when Sally was hanging out with Grandpa Gene, but Weiner denied that.

I'd honestly prefer if there weren't some big secret like that at the heart of Betty's dysfunction.


island -- maybe you're right. too often fiction uses CHILDHOOD EVENT to mean everything. I'm pretty certain i'm the person i am today for 1000s of reasons, not just one. and i think the same is true of everyone. which is why those BECAUSE THIS HAPPENED narrative tricks are so f'in annoying.