It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad, Mad Men world.

Finally! Mad Men comes back tonight and I’m all caught up. You know what? It feels good. And now I’m all ready for another round of exploring what makes a man, sexism, sexual politics, marital life, the world of advertising, the working generation of the 60s, race relations, and how a whole new age of America was created.

I really liked season 1 of the show, but felt it fizzled a bit towards the end. After the big Don Draper vs. Pete Campbell showdown (Nixon vs. Kennedy), I felt it just kind of drifted towards a conclusion. But season 2 was better in every single way, starting ridiculously strong, and only getting more intense and deeper not just into the character’s heads but into the world they inhabited as it came to it’s conclusion.

A quick recap of where last season left us: the Madison Avenue advertising agency Sterling Cooper has merged with the British advertising firm, Putnam, Powell, & Lowe, opening it up for more international business, but also for reshaping. Don Draper’s sometimes naive wife Betty found out about his infidelities and threw him out of the house, causing Dick/Don to examine how much he really cares about this perfect/fake world he’s created, and go on a journey of self discovery to California. He returns just in time time to thwart a coup by accounts head Duck Phillips. Salvatore’s crush on Ken Cosgrove continues to go unrequited and Sal remains in the closet, and Roger Sterling has left his wife with plans to marry Don’s young secretary, Jane. And Peggy, fresh from another success and rise up the ladder of power, finally tells Pete about their child that she gave up.

But let’s go just a little deeper…

“Find the job you want. Then become the person who does it.” I think in a lot of ways, that’s exactly what Dick Whitman has done with the Don Draper persona, both as an ad man, a husband, and a father. But, really, just as a man in general. The California storyline was one of my favorite things on TV in a long time and it was a fascinating journey of a man trying to reclaim his soul only after trying to rid himself of civilized concerns. But that way lies nomadic hotties and hedonism. It was like watching La Dolce Vita coming to the aerospace-minded sunny California of the 60s.

from here.

Betty Draper. Like I said yesterday, sometimes when you watch Betty, you just want to feel bad for her, to protect her. And sometimes you’re infuriated with how clueless she is, and with her sense of entitlement. The surprise pregnancy was an interesting pop up at the end of last season, and I guess I’m glad that Betty got a little of her own in the end, which is a weird thing to say. When it comes to infidelity, it’s really not about getting even, but sometimes you’re lost and you need certain things. I tell you what though: I hope to never see that weird kid Glen again.

Although, it kind of feels like Betty’s interacting a kind of young Dick Whitman in those scenes.

from here.

Betty really is the Draper household and while things appeared willing to mend at the end of last season, nothing was exactly better. I’m dying to know how that’ll progress, especially now that their new bundle of joy has presumably arrived.

“It will shock you how much it didn’t happen.” Truer words have never been spoken and the relationship between Don and Peggy has been interesting to say the least. I like it. Peggy walked into the offices of Sterling Cooper as herself and you get the sense that when she leaves, she’ll be Don Draper.

Sins and Confession. The storyline with the priest, played by Colin Hanks, was irksome but interesting though. I felt like, as it was first introduced, that we were in the store for some kind of aborted attempt at romance between her, but then he really hit home to her an important point: you need to confess your “sins,” in this case, the child she had by Pete Campbell, but gave up. And so we’re clear, that child is not being raised by her sister, but was put up for adoption, right? Regardless, I liked that Peggy did the right thing, not confessing that thing hanging over her to not to Colin Hanks’ magic savior, but to the baby’s daddy Campbell.

Shame. And not only did she tell him she had his kid, but that she knows full well that she could’ve shamed him into being with her because of the kid. But she didn’t want that. And she didn’t want him. I wanted to hug her at that point. Peggy may always fall for the wrong boys, but at least she has herself.

Jackie and Marilyn. I found it fascinating that that’s how the men saw the women in their world, either trying to be Jackie O. or Marilyn Monroe. And yet, in their office, that’s really where the two most prominent women fall category-wise, right? Those two women being Peggy Olson, of course, and…

Joan Holloway. Ah, the magnificent Joan, played by the even more amazing Christina Hendricks, previously known as Saffron/our Mrs. Reynolds from Firefly. Joan is voluptuous both in body and spirit on this show. Jon Hamm’s Don Draper may be the spine of Mad Men, but Hendrick’s Joan is really the lifeforce of the workplace that the show is centered around. I kind of hope that Joan sticks around as Don’s secretary for a while, but I have to say that watching Joan’s fiance raping her on the floor of his office was one of the hardest things I’d had to watch on television all last year.

And the saddest part? She’s probably still going to marry that guy.

“Why would you deny yourself something that you want.” I think that line is crucial to a large aspect of this show, being that the male idea of playing around, letting the id run wild regardless of the consequences is the driving factor of large chunks of this show. And again, the California stuff was my favorite stuff from last season.

Nuts. Though I did like the Jimmy and Bobbie Barrett as well. Well, mostly Bobbie,  but Jimmy was an effective villain, and my hatred for the actor playing him carries over nicely from Lost

Trudy. You know what? I think that Pete Campbell’s adorable wife is going to be my new favorite character on this show.

The thing I love about her is that there is no pretense. She holds nothing back, and is completely honest about her feelings. And that makes it that much harder to watch how horribly her husband treats her. And yet the show is careful to point out via a very thin line that Pete isn’t necessarily a bad guy. He’s really just a small, childish asshole.

Frank O’Hara:

As Karina Longworth put it better, the way the show weaves literature into it’s core and plays out like great literature, is an excellent rebuttal to pretty much all claims of it being nothing more than empty style.

Shore leave. You know what? I hated him in the first season, but I’ve really warmed up to that old silver fox, Roger Sterling. I mean, he’s an immature, petty man, but I like that he has fun in life.

“If the world is still here on Monday, we can talk…” We all know how the Cuba missile crisis turned out, but the show really captured that sense of dread and fear I think. And I like how business went on, not quite as usual, but Don effectively let it be know: If this was the end of the world, he had other things to deal with. Like putting his house back in order.

And then there’s tonight’s premiere, dealing with the shake ups post-merger and with Don and Salvatore away on business, both supposedly succumbling to temptations…

Aren’t you excited?!

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In love with the past, present, and future.

Saw The Time Traveler’s Wife today. It’s… not a great movie. If you never read the truly fantastic book by Audrey Niffenegger, you’re not going to know what the fuck is going on there. Nor will you care. In fact, you’ll desire time travel to take you out of the theater. And you’ll probably never want to pick up the book.

And that, I think, is the film’s greatest flaw.

Adapting a novel is tough work. So few works of prose are really created to be cinematic, and this novel, with dual perspectives, is equally tough. The screenwriter here gave me the same sense when watching some of the latter Harry Potter movies (of which I’ve never read the books): Here’s a list of all the big scenes that have to be in the film because they’re huge in the book. Why are they huge in the book? Sorry, we don’t have time for things like character development or story arcs.

Here’s the gist of how the novel starts: Henry, 28 years old, works in a library in Chicago. One day a 20 year old woman comes in looking for a book. She’s young, gorgeous, and her name’s Clare. She recognizes Henry instantly. She’s ecstatic to see him. He, however, has no clue who she is, and has never seen her before. That throws her for a loop for a moment because she’s known him her entire life, and has been in love with him since she was 6 years old.

Henry’s a time traveler. It’s a genetic disorder, something called chronal displacement. One moment he’s here, and then: he’s not. Poof. Vanished into thin air. Leaving just a pile of clothes wherever he stood. He travels to the past, the present, and the future, constantly anchored in by the big events: Clare, the woman he’ll fall in love with and marry. And his mother, who dies tragically when he’s a young boy. He constantly travels back to the site of her car accident, probably hundreds of times. But you can’t change the past, no matter how hard you try.

And realistically, you can’t change the future either.

The thing that makes the book work so good is that beyond that simple set up of time travel, this is a mature story of romance between two people. And like any real romance, for every happy moment the couple is allowed, they’re forced to live through two moments of pain and suffering. In fact, the ending is absolutely heartbreaking, and what makes it worse is the fact that we’re told what will happen well in advance of the moment it happens. But there’s nothing we can do because just like Henry, we’re slingshot throughout the narrative, going along for the thrilling ride.

None of that applies to the movie, I’m sad to say. Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams, who play Henry and Clare, are great actors. I can’t even begin to think of how much worse this movie would be without them to just make it all… nice. And “worse” is too harsh. Confusing? No, that’s not it.

Even Ebert, who seems to enjoyed the film enough, questions many of the logical flaws of the film’s story in his review, all of which are actually addressed or not present in the book.

Let me put it this way: It’s like someone tried to adapt a synopsis of the book, and not the actual book itself.

In that, they succeeded, which is a shame because this really wouldn’t have – or, shouldn’t have – been that hard to bring to the screen properly. In fact, had it been done so right, this would’ve been that new, crazy tragic love story that people go to see over and over again. I believe that’s why the book became such a mega best seller.

One last night, about the music: In the novel, Henry and Clare are going through what you might call their present day courtship in the 90s, but are both obsessed with the great American punk bands of the 70s. In fact, some of Henry’s preaching about the primal animal rebellious spirit of mankind being turned into music and called punk rock is a bit ridiculous, but you get the point. The man knows his shit. It’s such a shame that instead of that, in the film, you get a single by Lifehouse of all bands.

Odder still: In the film, not only is the song used, but members of Broken Social Scene actually perform a cover of “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” In fact, it’s the first dance of the newly married Henry and Clare as family and friends watch. It’s… kind of creepy. A touch romantic, yes, but really creepy. Perhaps as it should be.