In a 3.12 riff about the poster for Mad Men‘s upcoming sixth season, I wrote that “sooner or later Don Draper is going to have to start growing his hair a little longer, or at least the beginnings of modest sideburns. By ’68 even straight-laced ad execs had started to loosen up and unbutton from the early ’60s button-down style, which was half-inherited from the JFK attitude and half from Sloan Wilson‘s The Man in the Gray-Flannel Suit.”
Well, I watched the two-hour Mad Men opener last night, and I don’t mind revealing that my comment was spot-on. It’s now late 1968 (as last season ended in mid ’67) and Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce is suddenly in the throes of a sideburn explosion. And I mean every last male in the agency…Roger Sterling, Pete Campbell, Harry Crane…everyone has a new set of executive chops. Everyone, that is, except for repressed, fucked-up, constipated, cigarette-smoking, vaguely pissed-off Don, who’s still wearing his hair like it’s 1958.
And the younger guys in the agency have really gone over the waterfall with their hair. Moustaches, frizzy-ness, granny glasses…everything but love beads. I was thinking “Jesus, these guys look like the Strawberry Alarm Clock.” I was also thinking of Jack Bruce‘s hair on the cover of Disreali Gears.
It’s exciting to think that as all this is happening, Phillip Roth is struggling in his Manhattan apartment with one of his last drafts of Portnoy’s Complaint, and the general culture, of course, has no idea that the idea of anal will soon be launched among millions of middle-class men and women who have never gone there before.
Otherwise the most intriguing (one could say haunting) thing to be used in the two-hour debut is a prop. A small device made of metal and used for a specific purpose. A device that sorta travels from Korea to Vietnam (in a sense) and then to Honolulu and finally to New York…and then, we’re led to presume, back to Vietnam. It means something, this little device. I swear to God it does.
Update: Even if season #6 is happening in ’69 I still felt compelled to buy the digitally remastered Disraeli Gears today.
Arthouse Cowboy‘s Moises Chiullan reported today that Warner Archive Instant is up and running and open for business to the U.S.-residing public. Hundreds of Warner Bros., MGM, RKO and Allied Artists features and TV shows for $9.99 a month, but for now you need a Roku Player to get HD-quality. (Web browser playback is standard definition only.) No way am I buying a Roku Player, but presumably WAI will be available down the road via Apple TV and other devices.
This could be part of the solution to the Shane aspect-ratio problem. Presumably Warner execs will eventually come out from behind their castle walls and agree to make the 1.37 version of George Stevens’ classic available via Warner Archives, but if they get their act together it could be made available concurrent with the release of the much-reviled 1.66 version on June 4th. But I’m not watching anything on an effing Roku Player — eff that.
Fox Searchlight will open Steve McQueen‘s Twelve Years A Slave on 12.27 — a default Oscar-bait slot. McQueen, screenwriter John Ridley and costars Chiwetel (a.k.a. “Chewy”) Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender, Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Dano, Sarah Paulson, Alfre Woodard and Paul Giamatti will surely deliver the goods. But this will probably land a Best Picture nom on the strength of its moral fibre alone.
It wasn’t enough that Django Unchained reminded us last year that slavery was a very bad thing. We need to go there again, methinks, and perhaps several more times.
From a distance this feels like another Cold Mountain with a little dash of Amistad…another movie about a guy walking through the woods (metaphorical and literal) but this time in chains, enduring terrible ordeals on the long road back to freedom as he longs for the love of his wife and children.
Based on Solomon Northup’s 1853 tale (published a year or two after Harriett Beecher Stowe‘s Uncle Tom’s Cabin), McQueen’s film is set in pre-Civil War United States (1840 to ’53), and is about Northup (Ejiofor), a free African-American from upstate New York, being abducted and sold into slavery. Fassbender gets to play a Simon Legree-like ogre and twirl his moustache as Solomon “struggles not only to stay alive, but to retain his dignity.” This, of course, is what Chewy has always done to perfection.
The synopsis implies that deliverance finally comes when Northup meets up with a Canadian abolitionist (Brad Pitt). Twelve years a slave but freed at last by the Moneyball guy!
Vikram Jayanti‘s The Agony and Ecstasy of Phil Spector, an excellent doc which I’ve been writing about off and on for almost three years now, airs tonight on BBC America at 9 pm Eastern. (Also tomorrow at midnight.) If you’ve seen Al Pacino‘s rendering in David Mamet‘s Phil Spector, you need to meet the real guy.
In a 3.19 Newsweek/Daily Beast article, Jayanti revealed/reminded that Spector’s case is being reviewed by a judge under the terms of federal habeas corpus. Spector’s two attorneys have argued that the judge in Spector’s second trial was biased in favor of the prosecution and that Spector’s rights as a defendant were trampled upon. A decision is expected within hours/days/weeks.