Mad News, December 27, 2008-January 2, 2009

 Posted by on January 2, 2009 at 10:05 am  Media-Web-News
Jan 022009

I warned you that Revolutionary Road comparisons would come fast & furious.

There are more, of course, but you get the idea.

Starpulse lists ten great basic cable shows, with Mad Men at #1. This after pointing out that they are only even discussing basic cable because Mad Men changed it all. Are you listening, Lionsgate?

The AP predicts a continued interest in Mad Men-inspired style.

Many news sources list the boom of basic cable, with Mad Men as the primary example, as one of the most important media stories of 2008.

The National Post calls Mad Men the “Phenomena of 2008.” (I think they mean “phenomenon.”)

The “best of 2008” news abounds:

  • Hit Fix has Mad Men at #3 on TV, which is better than it looks: The presidential election is #1.
  • David Kronke also has the election at #1, and Mad Men at #2.
  • lists Mad Men among the best ensemble casts of ’08.
  • Season 1 gets a nod for one of the best 2008 DVD releases.
  • Tim Goodman’s top 25 of 2008: Mad Men is #1.
  • The San Diego Union-Tribune’s Karla Peterson does a more modest top 10, with Mad Men at #4.
  • Freep calls Mad Men the year’s “most compelling flashback.”
  • The Boston Globe‘s year-end round-up calls Mad Men “exquisite.”
  • The Reading Eagle calls Mad Men the “year’s best program:”

    Genuine works of art work metaphorically, and even “Mad Men’s” title proves an astute description for the America of 2008. The ambitious men and women of Sterling Cooper (the best acting ensemble since “The Sopranos”), the Madison Avenue ad agency that serves as the setting for the series, have no idea what horrors lie ahead. Few, if any, of us do while we live in the present.

  • Zap2It’s Korbi TV lists the best small moments of 2008, including Betty Draper “banging a hot stranger in the back room of some New York City bar.”
  • EW lists Meditations in an Emergency as one of the year’s best individual television episodes.
  • …Whereas the Onion’s AV Club thinks one of the year’s best episodes was Maidenform (h/t to Basketcase simone).
  • iF Magazine‘s list has Mad Men at #9.
  • …Which is where She Knows places it, and also says the “entire season was flawless.”
  • The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has Mad Men at #1 of the year. As it should be.
  • The Times Herald-Record, which is the paper that Don Draper reads (probably incorrectly, but there you are), places Mad Men at #4.
  • Chuck Barney of the San Jose Mercury-News places it second.
  • Another #1 from the Washington Times.

  26 Responses to “Mad News, December 27, 2008-January 2, 2009”

  1. As near as I can tell from the trailers, the film version of REVOLUTIONARY ROAD is exactly what MAD MEN would be like if Matt Weiner gave up on subtext and subtlety and just had the main characters yell the point of every scene at each other.

  2. Here’s another one for you. In the Washington Post’s In/Out 2009, dressing like Mad Men is out and drinking like Mad Men is in.

    It’s going to be a good year for everyone’s livers, then.

  3. I don’t really understand why there are so many comparisons between Mad Men and RR. I haven’t seen the former yet but just b/c something is in the same period or looks similar does not mean that it is done in the same vein.

    • I haven’t seen Revolutionary Road either, but it’s not just the same period. As I understand it, it has similar themes; the dark underbelly of well-to-do traditional suburban life.

  4. *edit, havent seen the latter I meant. Clearly have seen the former LOL

  5. I have just came back from a showing of RR. Its nothing like Madmen. RR is completely different than Madmen!

    The comparisons are pissing me off. Some saying RR is better, others saying it worse. Honestly…I quite enjoyed RR. For those who have read the book, will know for a fact that it follows almost everything. A great adapation.

    What can be comparable to Madmen is of course the period, and the claustraphobia of suburban life, particulary for the women. But in RR, April Wheeler played to perfection by Kate Winslet (who deserves an oscar for this compelling work) actually voices her opinions and her let downs unlike the women in Madmen who keep to themselves. Now we are starting to see Betty become more independant and strong, but in RR, April is tough of as nails, opinionated and very independant. It is only when she feels trapped by Frank, is when we see the fireworks. RR is very good I recommend it.

    It however is not Madmen. Weiner may have gotten some themes and duh the time period for Madmen, but it is nowhere near like it. Visually ok, Ill give it that, but some themes in RR are not even in Madmen. Madmen is tamed compared to this.

  6. For a movie that has earned five Golden Globe nominations, I find it odd that the only review for the film you could find was a negative one.

  7. Rosie, if you're going to be snotty, it's beholden upon you to be accurate. I linked to FIVE reviews, including one that calls it the best picture of the year. Maybe the reason you find things odd is that you don't read them very closely.

  8. I am still thinking about this movie. Its really emotional, and it stays with you. I am starting to realize that why some are comparing this to Madmen. To put it in simple words, Weiner said that he got inspired for MADMEN while reading RR, and to be honest….RR is like MADMEN all together where MADMEN is RR but in different episodes. Does that make any sense?

  9. I cringe every time I have to sit through the RR trailer. 'We've bought into this ridiculous delusion! We're in a trap! Who made these rules?' Mad Men minus subtlety. (and yes I'm being too judgmental :] )

    When I heard someone else in the theatre say 'Ugh, Mad Men the Movie…' my day got a little brighter.

  10. (it should be said that the person in the theatre meant nothing against MM by his remark as he apparently watches the show)

  11. We saw Revolutionary Road last night. It was interesting.

    Okay: let’s say there are two teams. One is a long-view team with a great manager: every move planned out, all resources deployed. Go. Go. Go. Every detail is right because it’s all been thought out in advance.

    The other team is the short-view team. Good manager, not great. He’s close to his players and trusts them completely. In many key moves, he says to them: you know what to do here, go do it.

    That’s what “Mad Men” and “Revolutionary Road” are: those two enterprises, by those two teams. I came to RR wanting very much to love it, but the experience of seeing MM first made that difficult. I’m a 21st century woman, sitting in a 21st century theater after 21st century trailers of what might be superior films (“The Wrestler”, “Last Chance Harvey”). I need this director to unroll and really tell this story for me. He did not.

    And you know, I was miles ahead of many people in that audience. I’d read the book, I knew the period — and I’ve recently read another, more contemporary story about it (watch your mail, Deb and Roberta!). I know this territory. But I need to see it. I will not be sympathetic to the hopelessness unless you show it to me; I will not understand the desperation until I get the context.

    The context wasn’t there. The house, the cars, the office, the clothes all look right; what’s missing is the necessary noise from outside. We don’t get the clamor and chatter from 1955. Yes, these people were isolated, and maybe that was the point — but even their world would have been alive with the static electricity of useless crap in 1955, and I need to see that.

    Don’t get me wrong; Kate Winslet is better in the role of April than she has been in anything she’s ever done. From her first scene, when she looks up at her husband, she IS April. And Leo is really good as helpless young Frank. He’s not a good guy, but you need to feel for him, and you do.

    The problem is that Sam Mendes isn’t Matt Weiner. He does not create a meticulously detailed world around these people. And acting alone does not do it. Honestly: when we watch “Mad Men”, we are seeing the work of a narrative genius. This is obvious to me now.

    But see the movie anyway. See what you think. Kate alone is worth the price of admission — and she’ll probably get that Oscar for this one.

  12. The SF Chronicle didn’t love RR, one of its movie reviewers did. Mick is the former music critic and I think he’s spent too many nights in front of the concert speakers. He’s a dangerous reviewer in that he almost gets things right much of the time. So he’s not a hack, but he can’t hold Roger Ebert’s jock. (Excerpt from his RR review: “Her dream is to live a life that’s truly unique.”) Truly unique, as opposed to falsely unique, I suppose.

    That said, Roger also gives RR 4 stars and a glowing review. I agree that it’s one of the better pieces to come out of Hollywood this year. But I also agree with Anne B. because I (1) know what’s good for me and (2) the film fails in all the places where MM succeeds — careful orchestration of plot, nuance, and character development. I never figured out the attraction between the protagonists. I don’t know why they think they’re special. I can’t see why their world is so bad. I understand the novel tells the reader these things, as does the trailer, but the movie does not.

    Kudos to Kate for disappearing in the role (as does Kathy Bates) but watching Leo I kept seeing Leo, with a little Michael J. Fox and Christian Slater thrown in. Pairing Leo and Kate is a risk because they are so identified with Titanic. And Kathy Bates’ role in Desperate Housewives is a little too close to the character she plays here as well. All this interfered with my willing suspension of disbelief.

    I think we’ll see Oscar nominations for RR, and the costume designer will have an inside track. In several scenes the clothes outperformed the characters. Kate will contend on merit, Leo on accumulated popularity.

    My lovely award-winning wife reminded me that in American Beauty, Sam Mendes used a narrator to set a lot of the story, and many of the supporting characters were two-dimensional. In RR, there’s no narrator and he does not find an alternate vehicle to close up all the loose ends. It will satisfy and apparently thrill movie critics and audiences, but all these flaws would never make their way onto the MM set, and that is the difference between the two.

  13. BTW, Basketfounders and -cases: may I introduce my husband Jim, author of the post above. He’s been known to rock the Don Draper look (the white t-shirt) from time to time, with predictable results.

    He’s lovely. 🙂

  14. Just got back from RR (and The Wrestler, which was better). I largely concur with Anne & Jim B as to the pros and cons of RR. And obvs there are similarities of plot/ theme between RR and the final eps of MMS2. I might quibble over April voicing her opinions; sometimes she does, at other times she clearly does not want to discuss things.

    I would add that having done American Beauty, Mendes doing RR kept feeling to me like “This guy must really hate the suburbs,” so it’s possible that he assumes the awfulness of suburban life is self-evident, not requiring exposition. Roger Ebert wouldn’t catch this, as he pretty much implies that’s how he feels in his review.

  15. There is so much pleasure in hating the suburbs. Yes, the novel on which “Revolutionary Road” is based reads like six miles of hell — but they could have had just a bit more fun with the film.

    Remember “Poltergeist”? Now there was a great evil-suburbs movie. That pretty much defined the genre, in a neat, don’t-go-near-the-unfinished-swimming-pool-when-it’s-raining kind of way.

    We who were young and living in the suburbs when that film came out have known, ever since, what buying into a planned community would mean:
    * screwed-up cable
    * contractors ogling your teenage daughters
    * carnivorous outdoor plants
    * not ever really being able to get the house “clean”
    * having neighbors who hang around … well, forever

    The principle of that film — you bastard! You moved the headstones, but you didn’t move the bodies!! — is pretty much the guiding principle of suburbia itself.

    So why do so many people still live there?

    Because it’s pretty. You’ll see this, if you see “Revolutionary Road”: the Wheelers live in a nice home in a lovely neighborhood. If you didn’t know about suburbs (headstones, bodies, etc.), you’d want to live there. You’d sure want to raise your kids there.

    But this is what’s true about the suburbs in “Revolutionary Road”: they ARE lovely. There’s no decay there, not yet. RR stumbles a bit in forgetting that it has to give us the suburbs like this: new, both promising and enervating. The film has to figure out what the suburbs meant in 1955, and also to show them to us without selling them: to make them look as stifling as the Wheelers think they are. Minus modern baggage like mine.

    “Poltergeist”‘s 1980’s planned community had the gift of decades of suburban hindsight — as did “American Beauty”. We’re in on the jokes in those films; we don’t have far to look to see what’s really in that rose in the American Beauty tagline, “look closer”. But RR has something to teach us — about those people, in that place and that time, and why April and Frank’s life together is so difficult.

    I wish the director had asked us to look closer. I really wanted to see.

    • I used to hate the suburbs. All my teen friends hated the suburbs. And truly, suburban life as now lived is not good for us as a culture. It is isolating and forces dependency on individual car ownership. It's community planning at its worst.

      Nonetheless, I have lived in the suburbs for thirteen years now, and I have not actually rotted.

  16. The problem I have with the attitude of Mendes and fellow travelers toward the suburbs is this: their cons are really no different from the cons of living anywhere else. Would the Wheelers really have been any happier in Paris? Would the Drapers have been happier living in Manhattan? Frank Wheeler wasn't during the day. That Mendes doesn't ever bother to make his case is lazy filmmaking, and suggests a certain unwarranted smugness on his part.

  17. We grew up in the suburbs, in the 70s. I think it was cool to hate the suburbs. Sort of leftover hippie It is all so bourgeois mentality. The suburbs can in fact offer what they promised; more space and less noise than the city, with many conveniences. I'm two minutes from a Kohl's and a Dunkin Donuts. Life is just fine.

    The country is more beautiful and natural, but it's not so convenient. And ^its community plan is certainly no better (unless you've managed to be self-sustaining). The city is way more happening and cultural, but it's not for everyone.

    I agree with Karl. The problems with these people's lives are personal and cultural, but not geographical.

  18. Thank you Roberta and Deborah and Karl. And right on Noah, the dialogue in the RR trailers seems so hamfisted to me. Does that come from the book? I have thought since I saw American Beauty that Sam Mendes seemed to have it out for the suburbs for some unknown reason. And although I have not seen RR, it appears to be so here as well. I find this annoying. Sure the suburbs can be isolating I have felt it myself, but so can the city. ( and I lived in the city much longer) PLACES don't make people depressed or want to lie or cheat or steal or kill themselves any more than Judas Priest records do. Mendes' attitude seems so haughty and "I'm so cool and hip I don't have to live in a suburb like all these poor boring people". My understanding of the Yates book (which I need to read) is that is did not condescend. Of course cities have become prohibitively expensive for most people who aren't Hollywood producers. There is life in the suburbs and death in the city. One of the things I love about Mad Men is that I have never felt that Weiner judges the places that people live;( I don't think he judges the people either really – he's always showing their nuances) as you said Roberta, their problems are personal and cultural. Sure, Betts is miserable in the suburbs but Trudy and Joan are miserable in the city. Great insights guys!

  19. Yes, Betts is miserable, but her misery actually stems from the fact that she's stuck alone in the suburbs, living with a lying, philandering man whom she hardly knows. She's unfulfilled because she lives in the boonies — on the outskirts of everything, including her husband's life.

    I don't know that I would really call Joan "miserable," though. Yes, she has an asshole rapist fiance, but I think she may be more disenchanted or stoic than miserable. And it certainly isn't because she lives in the city. In fact, she actually likes that aspect. In season 1, at least, she enjoyed her life, and loved New York. Remember she told Roger that she had parties, she had men over — she was having fun. And what did she say to Carol? "This city is everything."

    Trudy is married to Pete. That would make anyone miserable. But I think she likes where she lives. That big apartment on the Upper East Side? Who wouldn't like that?

    For me, one of the issues I have about the suburbs — especially during the time of Mad Men and Revolutionary Road — is that they were havens for White Flight. Negroes, Jews, and others needed not apply. These so-called "planned" communities served as a shield to Whites from the encroaching "otherdom" that they encountered in the cities. It was a way for them to live in an unreal world, enabling them to avoid the inevitable, and served as an excuse for some bad behavior. Unfortunately in certain communities, some of that residue still exists today. YMMV.

  20. Our decisions about where to live are driven by all kinds of stuff, including the times in which we live. All of my siblings now live in suburbs, and are raising happy kids there. I'm the only one who lives in a city, and I do so because I am impossible.

    I'd be impossible anywhere, though. Demanding is a hard trait to file down, and I have tons of it.

    The point of Revolutionary Road is that the suburb doesn't matter, the name of the road doesn't matter; not even Paris matters. Those two people, April and Frank, would be miserable anywhere, because they do not fit.

    Even if the stuff that happens in the film didn't happen, no plan April and Frank ever made would work. No home would be right for them. They could dream their lives away, be the hit of every party until the dawn of the Sixties; no matter. They'd still be doomed. And if they did by some miracle escape their suburb and move to Paris, they'd hate it.

    It's not about the suburb. It's about them. It often is.

    My issues with the suburb I grew up in have something to do with your impressions of racial separation, hullaballoo. Since I left Southern California, I haven't really checked to see whether that limiting world I remember has changed. I'm sure it has. Everything else does.

    FWIW, carocat, a lot of the dialogue in Revolutionary Road does come from the book. And we are not subjected to a few scenes from that novel — scenes that, if included, might have destroyed the film (Frank's mistress cooks dinner for him; Frank, a child, has lunch with his father and his boss). It wasn't, as I've said, an easy read.

    Good direction involves knowing what to include and what to leave out. I think RR was well enough directed. But a great director can very simply communicate some of what gets past us in this film: the humid sense of place, for one. The restrictions of the time, for another.

    There's a scene where Frank finds something April has bought and planned to use, from the pharmacy; it enrages him. We don't know what it is or why it upsets him. Until Frank uses a certain word, holding that object in his hand, we don't get it at all. Could we have seen April buying that object? Just to understand?

    Maybe their fight over that object was an effective use of screen time. I don't know, not being a director myself, how to do it better. But what if there's a way? What if you're already spending millions of dollars? What the hell? Try it.

    It's only art. It's only transportingly beautiful, if done right …

  21. Suburbs: Some suburbs were — and are — a haven for white flight. OTOH, so were — and are — various neighborhoods in cities.

    RR: I didn't have the same problem Anne B had with the scene just mentioned (though I know she knew from the book what the object was). As someone who has not read the book, I pretty much figured out what it was before it was shown, based on the context of scenes leading up to it. I do agree w/Anne B that the problem is not the suburbs; it's the Wheelers.

    Joan & the City: She does love the city (or did), though how much of her line in "Babylon" is just to press Roger's buttons is anyone's guess. She starts making a turn in "The Long Weekend" that starts pointing her away from Roger (which is accelerated by his heart attack). Her (justifiable) upset over Paul copying and posting her Driver's License might suggest that her marriage clock was ticking for some time. The doc might have seemed like a good catch, but even early on Joan is watching Jackie's White House tour while he's trying to make out with her. And as much as she loves (or loved) the city, she did tell Peggy in the pilot that the goal was to be out of the city.

  22. I saw RR last night, and was also unpleasantly surprised by the lack of subtlety. I swear Leo was channeling Nicholson (not a good thing) in the first fight in the car.

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