I Got You Babe.

There’s no such thing as fresh starts because lives are always going on, or is there? Or are they? I don’t know, but I do know that you can always go home again, as long as your ex-wife hasn’t sold it, because it’s where the heart is (and perhaps where the head is not). That and maybe more as we talk about last night’s “Tomorrowland,” the season finale of Mad Men

August Bravo: No matter what we thought, well, maybe a little, or what we thought the writers might have thought, this episode, and season for that matter, was about Don Draper, or as some know him, Dick. Lives, businesses, relationships, friendships, and all those other ships we thought were sinking, didn’t. Like Marco told me earlier, this finale wasn’t as upbeat as last season’s. It showed slim promise and some possibilities, but didn’t leave you thinking, “What the fuck is going to happen next?”

Marco: Well, I’d definitely say it leaves you wondering what happens next, but more so than usual, I think you can guess what’s going to happen next and you’re worried that it may not be so great for the characters. Don, especially.

August: Don’s somewhat “redemption” was almost completely omitted from this episode making everyone believe that crises was averted or that it may play a role in his probably inevitable divorce with Megan. Is it Megan?

Marco: “Megan… out there?” as Roger puts it so perfectly. As Joan says, Don’s grinning like an idiot, as if he’s the first schmuck on Madison Avenue/in professional New York/the world to marry his secretary, but having Roger be surprised adds a very special symmetry, especially since Don’s pulling a Roger there, and it’s kind of weird.

Can you imagine the Don Draper version of Sterling’s Gold?

August: The somewhat reference that the rest of the cast ACTUALLY exists was finding out, which we thought we knew, but thought it might be too obvious, but I guess wasn’t, was that…

…Joan is in fact still pregnant.

Marco: I love that Mad Men is such a unique show that amongst it’s many other wonderful qualities, still has it’s own rhythms and ways of going about the rules of storytelling, counter to other popular ideas about narrative. There is a certain pattern you can expect from each season, we’ve finally learned, isn’t there?

It’s usually: The season starts with some intriguing signs of where the characters have landed since the previous season. Intriguing ideas and/or questions are brought up. Should they actually answer those questions, it’ll be in a relatively vague though still meaningful way. That question, which literally started off this season was: Who the fuck is Don Draper? We’ve gotten a multi-faceted answer to that, certainly.

From there, certain problems and dramatic conflicts will arise around mid-season. They’ll seem massive – Oh no, the government is about to discover that Don Draper is a liar and a deserter! – but will fizzle quickly, leaving you curious as to their placement at all. Certain things will pop up, which will make you suspect where the story is going – did Joan actually not get that abortion? – but you’ll think, “No, that’s far too obvious. They won’t go there.” They will, friends. Then, whatever the endgame of the season is, it won’t appear until the last two or three episodes and it will be an all consuming fire.

August: Except for Megan. That carrot was dangled in front of us and we’ve just been waiting for Don to take bite after bite after bite.

Marco: True. It’s funny how we believe certain things from this show. When Dr. Faye said to Don that he’s the kind of guy that would be married again within the year, I think we all believed that.

Though, of course, I don’t think I stand alone when I say that we hoped that it would be Dr. Faye that we hoped Don would end up with, or that she’d be the kind of partner he’d strive to find happiness with. The fact that she’s a feminist and someone who has pushed Don to accept himself, and possibly integrate his two personas as it were, didn’t hurt. She’s helped his business, helped his mind, and helped his soul, as it were, yet there’s certain things she couldn’t provide Don that seemed to really make him look elsewhere.

August: She couldn’t be a caregiver to his children while he was off doing whatever he wanted to. She’s the anti-Betty.

Marco: That and she couldn’t worship him the way Megan seemingly can. Plus, I think that as much as Don wants to be able to stop hiding and stop running from the spectre of Dick Whitman, a part of him enjoys the lies that come with the running and hiding. Don Draper is the greatest product he’s ever advertised, and with Megan, he can find a fresh start at that.

August: But Henry Francis says there are no fresh starts!

Marco: I can’t believe that Henry Francis has lingered this whole season.

Sadly, we’ve really dropped the ball this season, August and I, because there’s so much we could say about this episode, so much that needs to be said, but it all ties into this past season and that’s a dialogue that I’m incredibly sad that we haven’t had here at Counterforce. On behalf of us and directed at the three people who actually reads these Mad Men posts from us, I apologize. I had some shit going on and August didn’t have cable. And refused to buy the episodes on itunes. And couldn’t figure out megavideo.

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August: You just knew where it was all going once Stephanie handed Don that engagement ring from the real Don Draper.

Marco: Oh, seriously. Chekhov might as well have come out to California with Don and the kids and fired that ring out of a gun right at Megan.

It’s funny that I posted this picture from Videogum the other day…

…and sadly it came so true, in a lot of ways, since we’re speaking of Megan and Dr. Faye and Sally and… Well, have we mentioned Sally yet? Cause if we haven’t, we should be talking about Sally this season, right?

August: We haven’t mentioned her yet.

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Marco: Sally! I believe I kept mentioning in our conversations about the show last year how much I liked Sally’s character, how interesting I thought her storylines were, and I feel like that’s only been compounded on more wonderfully this season. Bobby’s still kind of useless, but I’m glad that Sally has really stepped forward and is becoming a real person, even at such a young age, though, again, it’ll be interesting to watch her grow into herself and who she’s going to be while still being the child of Don and Betty Draper.

Anyway, so that once picture: Sally telling Dr. Faye that she’s fired. Ha ha, funny. But kind of eerily prescient in a way, considering that episode, “The Beautiful Girls,” when I know that a lot of people read that one scene there, Benjamin Light included, as Sally kind of picking Megan out of the rest of the “beautiful girls” that surround her father. And maybe Don picked up on that.

I mean, we knew Don wanted to fuck Megan. That notion was exploding louder than bombs for a handful of episodes before it happened, but this picture from Videogum

…is kind of funny for how very accurate it had become.

August: I can’t write too much about this episode because in my head I’m still processing how to feel about it all. The bit I particularly enjoyed the most was Don telling Peggy that Megan(??) looked up to her, and had the same sort of spark, and Peggy being completely jealous. Maybe Peggy will be wife number 3 (or is it number 4??) Her childlike jealousy really made this episode. To see Don slowly turning into Roger (maaaaybe), or to see the evolution of Betty, and I guess Peggy’s, unhappiness/jealousy, or maybe Megan’s (yes, it is Megan) slow transition into the life of being Mrs. Draper/Whitman will be the most interesting thing to watch next season.

Marco: I don’t trust Megan. Well, no, that’s not true. But she’s very manipulative. And Jessica Paré is, I think, very good at playing that so subtly. Megan’s incredibly smart, but dumb and silly in all those ways that a 25 year old would seem or should see to a 40 year old man who should know better – though Don has two addictions in his life: women and the sauce – but it’s not hard to see the way she’s worked the situation with Don to her advantage.

That’s not particularly insidious because all stabs at romance are some form of manipulation, if you think about it, no matter how well intentioned and wholesome they seem. But she’s told Don exactly what he needs or wants to hear, especially that she doesn’t care about his past, just who he is now. For a man who’s finally started to accept that he has all his life ahead of him, what he really wants to do is live in the now. Especially with a girl like Megan, who seems to adore him, but I think will be much better at getting what she wants or deserves than Betty was.

Maybe this really will be “happily ever after” for Don, but I doubt it. But really, it’s not the happily ever after I would’ve picked for this character. I suspect that he’s traded in one “lost weekend” phase for perhaps another? But let’s face it, Don’s not a guy who will get a classical happily ever after, is he? He’s too prone to a life of solemn remorse.

That said, I would disagree with your take on Peggy. Jealousy? Maybe. But I think that was a very, very small part of that look she gave Don. I think if we could’ve heard her thoughts or seen them in a comic book word bubble floating over her head, they would’ve read as: ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? HER?! HUH? WHAT?

But Peggy’s defined her life by Don to a lot of degrees. She has, in her own small way, just saved the agency by finally signing some new business, no matter how small, and here’s Don, her mentor, running around like an idiot. And his comment to Peggy about how Megan reminds him a lot of her is the ultimate slap in the face for a great many reasons. For a season that contained the show’s best episode, “The Suitcase,” in which Don and Peggy finally bond in kind of a real way, it was kind of hard to watch their interaction this year end like this.

But, that scene with Joan and Peggy immediately after was perfect. A Joan/Peggy show? I’d watch that. I hope that next season shows those two really claiming some of the power around SCDP (or will it just be SDP?) that they more than rightfully deserve.

August: I think this season had a lot of ups and downs, but mostly ups. Overwhelmingly ups. Like I said, the storyline I’m most interested in for the next year is the stuff with Don and Megan, should Don and Megan really work out. They didn’t leave us with a lot of answers this season, but we maybe that’s because we were all asking too many questions.

Marco: I think you’re right about that. The status quo’s been changed, some things and people are gone, and some are still with us, just amplified. We think we’re ready for what tomorrow will bring, but we have no idea. Just like Don there, we’re laying awake in the dark with a near stranger sleeping beside us as stare out at the night.

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Who is Natalie Portman fucking these days?

Came across this gem on the internetz the other day:

Oh, that gave me quite the chuckle.

And, from that, I have some points to share with you, all of them only barely related to each other…

1. The other day, while speaking to Benjie, I was just bullshitting and joking around, as I am wont to do, and I retorted to something or other that I should start a single serving website called Who Is Natalie Portman Fucking These Days?

I think I actually called it Who Is Natalie Portman Dating Now? in that conversation, but let’s get right to the bottom of it: No one cares who you’re dating. Or, if they do, that’s only half as interesting who you’re actually fucking.

2. Case in point: Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore. They’re still married. They have stayed married for five years past what the expiration date on that joke should’ve been. Congrats! You’re boring celebrities! But now we find out that he’s fucking around or perhaps they’re in an open relationship, whatever. Whoever you’re walking down a red carpet with will always pale in comparison to who you’re rubbing your genitals on. Of course we wish it wasn’t that way, but it is. Right?

1, continued: Meanwhile, Natalie Portman has certainly had an eclectic dating history. I don’t know all of it, which is probably a good thing, but Moby, for one. When I heard about that way back in the day I thought, “Well, great, that’s when I reach for my revolver. Ha ha. Bad joke, sorry.

But she also dated Devendra Banhart, which is… Well, regardless of whatever it is, that’s a thing that happened.

Perhaps she dated Hayden Christensen, an actor of dubious charm, too. I remember that was rumored around when they were filming the Star Wars prequels.

Though, again, were they dating or were they just killing time together while stuck in Australia spending hours and hours surrounded by green screen on movie sets? You can hardly fault an actor for the sexual shenanigans they get up to while filming a movie down under, methinks.

Also, Jude Law. Maybe. Face it, straight dudes, whoever that young ingenue that you have a masturbatory fantasy about, well, Jude Law’s probably gotten there first.

And, possibly Sean Penn. That’s weird, and kind of sad, but I’m not one to judge. At least it’s not Mickey Rourke, you know.

Some fashion designer/former male model or a British millionaire. Or Ryan Gosling or Gael García Bernal. Who cares? Those are less than tremendous choices for an inamorata.

John Mayer. Let’s just be thankful that, as far as I know, she hasn’t gone down this street yet. Thank God. That’s the kind of dead end that far too many cars have ran out of gas on or broken down on. I sincerely apologize for comparing women to cars in that metaphor.

But, speaking of John Mayer, there are a lot of things Natalie Portman is: a competent and incredibly inspiring actor that’s fun to watch, an Academy Award nominee, a good role model, a Harvard graduate, Jewish, someone with an Erdős-Bacon number, a director, a producer, a democrat, a vegan, a fashion designer (she has her own line of vegan shoes), a nonbeliever in the afterlife (good for you, Nat), someone whose birth name is Hershlag, an outstanding spokesperson and fundraiser for many fine organizations and causes around the world, a friend of Lukas Haas, a fan of NBC”s new hit comedy, Outsourced, and fluent in Japanese, German, French, and Arabic.

And thankfully there are a lot of things that Natalie Portman is not and one of those Jennifer Aniston.

And, of course, I made up the part about her liking Outsourced. Nobody likes that show.

I just typed “Natalie Portman” and “boyfriend” into google the other day and was informed that she is presumably currently dating a professional ballet dancer.

3. I really want to see Black Swan. It looks interesting and kind of b-movie cheesy brilliant. That perfect sweet spot where artsy films meet b-movie plots and Roman Polanski-esque level creepiness (I’m referring of course to the director’s movies, which I’m a fan of, and now his IRL creepiness).

4. Benjie Light and I were discussing that the other night and ruminating on what a poor year it’s been for movies. Also, we were kind of upset that we find ourselves having to say that thing every single year, it seems.

But 2010 has especially been strange since it seems like The Social Network, which is a fine, solid movie, will probably have serious Oscar potential (certainly Best Adapted Screenplay, but I’m talking Best Picture here too, party people)  just because we’re not going to have a lot of just stupendously great movies to nominate. Black Swan will probably be there somewhere in the Best Picture nominees too, I bet.

That said, I’d still prefer to see Aronofsky doing Superman rather than Zack Snyder, but that’s also kind of like saying I’d like to keep typing rather than sticking my hand in a blender, I know.

from here.

5. Because of The Social Network (and it’s strong success), I think a lot of blogs are having to step back and get a little meta maybe and also start thinking about the story of themselves. The amateurs map themselves onto the percieved personas of your Mark Zuckerberg/Jesse Eisenbergs and your Eduardo Saverin/Andrew Garfield/Peter Parkers, but that’s something you do after running around in the yard and peeing on plants and right before it’s naptime.

The big leagues is analyzing yourself, really getting into the dark and nasty places of your own blog/website, the twisted nitty gritty of your own origins, and pondering who’ll play you when your story of internet conquest hits the big screen.

Seriously, blogs o’ the interwebz, I am posing that question to you.

Benjie Light and I were contemplating that the other day ourselves. In a fucked up scorched earth production of the Counterforce story, we’d probably cast Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau as ourselves. But that’d be just so we could be dicks to each other about it.

Or, the recession era variation of that casting would probably be Vince Vaughn and Kevin James, I guess. And directed by Ron Howard. Ugh.

6. And Jeff Goldblum as Occam Razor.

7. And Kristen Stewart as Peanut St. Cosmo.

8. No, I’m just kidding about that. I wouldn’t even presume to guess at who could capture the bold essence of either Peanut or Maria, nor do I want to risk my testicles in the gambit of making a choice they’re not pleased with. They know who should play them far better than I could ever hope to guess, I imagine. That is, of course, if they’re too busy to not play the parts themselves.

9. But if they don’t comment on my fucking post then I swear to God I’ll combine them into one amalgamation character as played by Christine Hendricks!

10. You could probably cast any old twink as August Bravo. As long as they smell like straight up mayonnaise (that’s an inside joke that you don’t really want to nor need to get too inside on, believe me). Or maybe his favorite character on Mad Men (see above)? Or maybe one of Will Smith’s kids?

11. And, August Bravo, before you even say it…

…trust me, it could be worse. It could be Vince Vaughn playing you.

12. That said, I’ll say this in defense of Vince Vaughn: He’s probably the hardest working actor in that particularly bleak game of comedy films these days. Unlike the Owen Wilsons of the world, Vaughn is the long distance runner in this game. Just look at a sleazy guy like Bradley Cooper and tell me that you honestly think he’s got Vaughn’s stamina at this shit. No fucking way. That said, I’d say that Vince Vaughn is a lot like Magic Johnson in that he’s not necessarily great on his own, but he’s a great team player. If you pass him the ball in a really interesting way, then he’ll do something extra interesting when he shoots for the basket. And a little sleazy, as that’s the default of where his comedy riffage always seems set at (but still feeling classier than your average Bradley Cooper… anything). If he’s got no one to work with then it’s just a sad study in a man running up and down the court while dribbling.

13. Extreme side note there: I feel like every time I see a picture of Winona Ryder now, I’d describe the look on her face as if you had literally just caught her in the act of shoplifting.

14. In conclusion: Going back to point #1, Vince Vaughn, thank you for not being John Mayer. I mean, don’t get me wrong, you’ve gotten pretty fucking close to that territory more than few times, but you’ve still yet to fully cross that line and we appreciate it. I don’t think I could quite believe you as the romantic companion of Natalie Portman, but then again, I’ll believe just about anything these days.

Powers and responsibilities/Up, up, and away we go.

Two announcements made in the last 48 hours after quite a bit of speculation online:

1. Zach Snyder will unfortunately be directing the next iteration of Superman, this one produced by Christopher Nolan and written by David Goyer and Nolan’s brother, Jonathan.

2. Natural blonde Emma Stone has been cast as love interest Gwen Stacy in the next Spiderman movie, to be directed by Marc Webb and starring Andrew Garfield, recently of Never Let Me Go and The Social Network.

Some thoughts on these two prospects:

1. Zack Snyder? That’s fucking ridiculous.

2. Wait, didn’t we all think that Emma Stone was going to be playing Mary Jane Watson (who, if you know your true Spiderman lore, plays Peter Parker/Spiderman’s love interest and eventual wife after the death of Gwen Stacy), right?

1. The original short list of directors that Christopher Nolan was considering for this project included Darren Aronofsky (the presumed front runner who everyone seemed to assume would bring Natalie Portman along as Lois Lane), Duncan Jones, who directed Moon, Matt Reeves, of Cloverfield and Let Me In, Tony Scott, and Jonathan Liebesman, who’s doing a movie called Battle: Los Angeles that’s getting a lot of buzz but no one has seen yet . That’s not to forget that names like Robert Zemeckis (who is directing a new live action time travel movie, thankfully) were being thrown in as well.

Look at that list and tell me that if you had to rank those directors that you wouldn’t put Snyder dead last. Hell, I don’t think the guy would even win in a game of FMK.

2. Alternately, the list of young female actors that Emma Stone was possibly competing against for the primary and secondary female leads in the new Spiderman movie included: Dianna Agron from Glee, Mary Elizabeth Winstead from Scott Pilgrim and the upcoming unnecessary prequel to John Carpenter’s The Thing, Imogen Poots from 28 Weeks Later, Emma Roberts, Teresa Palmer (who had been cast in George Miller’s Justice League movie that didn’t happen), Lilly Collins, Ophelia Lovibond, Dominique McElligot, and Mia Wasikowska, who was last seen in Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland.

Presumably Mary Jane is still in this movie, but just in the background, not taking center stage until a second or third movie?

1. Supposedly the choice of helmer for this project was Christopher Nolan’s, which, of course, would then have to be approved by the studio. But, based on the very realistic take that Nolan has always adopted in his previous films, can you really believe that Zack Snyder was his top choice? I call studio bullshit.

And if that’s the case, then it’s a shame. Warner Bros,  you’re not MGM, you know. You can afford to make some good decisions. I mean, shit, did you guys even see Watchmen? And can you actually look at the teaser trailer for Sucker Punch and say that you actually want to go see that? I’d hate to unfairly malign frat boys and date rapists in the same lumping, but let me put it this way: I wouldn’t want to be rubbing elbows with those kind of people at the theater on the opening night of a movie like Sucker Punch.

2. A lot of this ranting might really just equate to a thinly veiled reason to post pictures of Emma Stone. Sorry.

1. The minor story details that are leaking out of this Superman project are that it’ll include General Zod in some form, which is… whatever, and that it’ll ask and supposedly the answer of “Why Superman?” with young Clark Kent traveling around trying to decide if he should put on a pair of red and blue tights with a cape and go about doing super heroics to restore the status quo. Great. On a related note, who the fuck is still watching Smallville?

2. I’m not really sorry.

1. Now I’m reading that Snyder was not the studio’s first choice for the big chair – OF COURSE – but that Goyer’s script was a bit of a rushed mess, which isn’t all that surprising, and they wanted a director that would turn the project around quickly (most likely because of the stringent deadline imposed on them by that lawsuit recently), not spend time making the project a beast of quality and beauty like Aronofsky might.

A brief history lesson: Along with Terry Gilliam and about a thousand other people, Aronofsky was briefly (in Hollywood development hell terms) in charge of a Watchmen adaptation. I think this is a golden lesson for what happens when you let a guy like Aronofksy fall off a movie like Watchmen: you get a piece of shit director like Snyder instead.

2. I should say something else here rather than just posting copious pictures of Emma Stone, right?

I’ve got to say that while it was fun but not great, I was glad to see Sam Raimi go back to his roots with Drag Me To Hell after he finished with that first Spiderman trilogy. If, for nothing else, he needed a creative win, but it also pointed out, I think, that back in the 90s, directors like him and Peter Jackson really level jumped far too much past their station of talent with the Spiderman movies and the Lord Of The Rings trilogy.

If you give a bunch of low budget silly horror guys far too much money and responsibility and power, they’re obviously prone to a disgusting amount of melodrama, wacky musical numbers/”dance” sequences, and excessive slow motion shots.

1. I’m also seeing that now they’re offering Wolverine 2 to Arnofosky. This is not much of a consolation prize. I’m sorry, Darren Aronofsky, but the winner in this is not you. Nor us.

I’m terrified of who they’ll try to cast as Superman now. I didn’t necessarily love Brandon Routh, who will definitely not be coming back for the new film, but he was hardly the worst thing about Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns. The worst thing was clearly the plot. And I’m think I’m paranoid about this because in the past the studio has seriously tried to cast Nic Cage, Ashton Kutcher, Brendan Fraser, and some dude from Mutant X as the last son of Krypton.

This especially all troubles me because A) given the chance, this will be fucked up, and B) we all know who desperately should be cast as Clark Kent/Superman:

Ladies and gentlemen: Jon Hamm.

2. I could really go either way on Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker but it just occurred to me: how great would Jon Hamm be in a Spiderman movie? Right?

3. For all the trouble that these super hero movies and their assorted bullshit can be, can Joss Whedon’s The Avengers come out already?

4. Side bar: Finally got around to seeing Kick-Ass the other day. That movie is fresh, raw bullshit. And was so incredibly boring. I could really see Chloe Moretz become a kind of adolescent Milla Jovovich-type action heroine (but better, of course), but I’m just sad that the road to that hard to start through a movie like this. Not that I was excited about X-Men: First Class before, but I’m somehow less excited now. If possible.

Though those pictures of January Jones as Emma Frost/The White Queen are giggle-inducing.

1. Keep thinking about that Jon Hamm brilliance. Why? Because it’s perfect. Jon Hamm could play Clark Kent and Don Draper could play Superman. Benjamin Light even pointed out it in because, well, do you remember that episode of Mad Men a few weeks ago where Don’s secret identity is about to be found out by the government and he’s having a massive panic attack? He comes into his place with Dr. Faye and tears open his shirt, buttons flying everywhere, and a lot of were thinking, “SUPERMAN!” But now we’ve got Zack Snyder and I can’t help but think that I just got INCEPTED.

But with the dream casting of Jon Hamm one would hope to not cast some 20 year old actress as Lois Lane, I would think.

2. I was re-watching scenes from (500) Days Of Summer and again have to mention how technically impressive that movie is. Marc Webb’s work in that film kind of reminds me of Fincher, to a small degree, who’s probably one of our most impressive working directors as far as the technical aspect goes. Makes me kind of wonder what he’ll do with The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo other than just cash in on a hit a la Ron Howard and The Da Vinci Code. That said, I imagine that Fincher could produce a better film version of the Stieg Larsson book than the original Swedish version in his sleep.

You know how it’s upsetting to us when there’s a fine foreign movie that gets an American remake to dumb it down for the audiences on our shores? Well, I’ll go ahead and say what you should all be really thinking: The original Swedish version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is not that great. As a film, it’s actually kind of ridiculously poor. Noomi Rapace is fine in the movie, but the rest of the movie is very poorly constructed (not to mention that the book itself is hardly what I’d call “cinematic”). This isn’t a case similar to Let The Right One In and Let Me In.

1. I’m glad that they’re at least making an animated feature of Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All Star Superman, which is the quintessentially greatest Superman story ever. Oddly enough, Lois Lane in that is voiced by Mad Men‘s own Joan Hollway, Christine Hendricks.

2. Emma Stone.

5. Stringer Bell! Apparently Idris Elba has a deal with Marvel’s film people, which could mean either a Luke Cage movie or a rebooted Blade film or both. “Sweet Christmas!” That’s wild. And it looks like he’ll be joining Nic Cage for a Ghost Rider sequel. That’s… less wild.

from here.

1. Zack Snyder, I think I hate you. Is your version of Superman going to look like a cartoon?

2. If I only had two words to use here in conclusion, I’d say simply: Emma Stone. Like you didn’t see that coming. If I had three words…