Thursday, September 30, 2010

Worlds Collide

Tony Curtis passes away on the same day that the Flintstones turn 50. The "Stoney Curtis" episode is one I still remember from childhood.

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Use The Glasses Luke

I'm calling it. George Lucas is "officially" trying to milk us.

From MTV (bold added):

'Star Wars' Series To Be Re-Released In 3-D

George Lucas plans to roll out converted films one at a time, beginning with 'Phantom Menace' in 2012.

...Lucas' famed Industrial Light & Magic special-effects shop will oversee the 3-D conversion. Considering the flack some filmmakers have received for converting to 3-D after the fact to ill effect, Lucas promised in a press release that the greatest care will be taken not to tarnish the "Star Wars" legend.

Too late.
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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Windows to the Soul?

The unfortunate "demon" picture taken of Hillary Clinton is the inspiration for the "Screenshot of the Week."

Caption this photo. Some intials suggestions include:
  1. Merrin. Send us Merrin!
  2. I must think of a brick wall... a brick wall... brick wall...
  3. You're next, YOU'RE NEXT!
  4. 'Cause this is thriller, thriller night.

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Facades (Mad Men 410)

A recurring device used in "Hands and Knees" has characters putting on performances for the benefit of others upon exiting private personal conversations. While this device is overtly employed throughout the episode, the last occurrence of it is perhaps the most subtle and interesting.

...Full Post at Basket of Kisses.
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Monday, September 27, 2010

Let's Do The Time Warp Again!

Edward Copeland takes us on a "strange journey" as he celebrates the 35th anniversary of The Rocky Horror Picture Show with an eclectic collection of anecdotes (including one from yours truly).

I propose a toast!
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Friday, September 24, 2010

Out of Sight, Out of Mind? (Mad Men 409)

When Joan and Roger are robbed at gunpoint by an African American in "The Beautiful Girls," they deliberately avoid making eye contact. Roger hopes that by not looking at the criminal, the two represent less of a threat (i.e. they won't be prosecution witnesses later on) and avoid an escalation of violence.

Interestingly, that posture also mirrors Mad Men's use of minorities in Season 4. Nine episodes in and the audience has seen very few black characters. In fact, they've had less an impact on the storylines than previously. Matt Zoller Seitz, a critic and Mad Men fan, touches on this in his recap of "The Beautiful Girl" for The New Republic. He ponders if rather than civil rights in general, women's rights are "the show's true interest" this season.
The only black characters on this show have been domestics and elevator operators—and now a mugger. Even if you take the show’s upper-middle-class white milieu into account, the arms-length respect paid to African American sacrifice feels like an evasion posing as an acknowledgment. The topic is so rich, and still so emotionally powerful, that treating it as a looming presence and nothing more is dramatically risky. Whatever “Mad Men” is doing here, it had better pay off.
He (nor I, for that matter) question the motives of Matt Weiner and company in taking this approach. Nonetheless, it's a choice worth noting.
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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Narrative Panache: Game Change

Respected historian Stephen Ambrose liked to tell an anecdote about having been contacted by President Eisenhower to write his biography. However, as reported by Richard Rayner in a New Yorker article, such a request probably never took place. John Eisenhower, son of the late president, said that Ambrose had a "tendency to sacrifice fact to narrative panache."

One of my favorite contemporary "nonfiction" authors, Bob Woodward, writes in a style that often reads like a novel. More than a few people have questioned the veracity of Woodward's reporting. Still, at the end of the day, I can walk away from a work by Ambrose or Woodward feeling that I was given a fair and accurate telling of history.

Not so much the case with this year's Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin. Heilemann and Halperin's previous effort, The Way to Win: Taking the White House in 2008, was more political analysis than reportage. So, one could forgive the subjective musings which were freely mixed in with factual content. However, Game Change is a purported to be a chronicle of events leading up to Barack Obama's victory over John McCain in the 2008 presidential election. Thus, I held the duo to a different standard in terms of accuracy.

...Full Post at Edward Copeland on Film
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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Moscow? Are You Sure?

Here's the first entry in my new "Screenshot of the Week" feature (hopefully I'll keep it going).

It's an unintentionally funny shot from my SECOND favorite accidental nuclear accident movie, 1964's "Fail-Safe." It's good (very good) for 1964. But, it certainly hasn't aged anywhere near as well as "Dr. Strangelove" (also 1964) which feels like it could have been made yesterday. And as last lines go, "Mein Führer! I can walk" after the doomsday device goes off is a million times better than the pilot in "Fail-Safe" ranting "I'm the matador!" as he bombs New York.

The shot above is from the scene in "Fail-Safe" where the pilot opens his bombing instructions after accidentally getting the "go" order. In typical Hollywood fashion, instead of charts, maps or other particulars, we simply see an envelope with "MOSCOW" printed on it.

I submit that Copperplate Gothic Black would have been a much more frightening font.
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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

By The Numbers

Tonight the premiere episode of "Detroit 1-8-7" airs on ABC. So, I finally decided to figure out what the hell "187" meant. It didn't correspond to anything local I could put my finger on. To my surprise it actually refers to the section of California legal code dealing with homicide.

California legal code?

Jeez. Why have a West Coast term as the basis for the title of a show touted in promtional ads as "Made in Detroit?" After doing a little more digging, I discovered that "187" supposedly has become urban slang for "murder" (as "5-0" is for "police").

Okay, I guess I get it. But, I'm still not sold. To me, it still sorta rings false, -- like "Ford Camaro."

Chad Halcom had a great take on it in Crain's Detroit Business:
Maybe 'Detroit 7-5-0' didn't test well

...the Michigan statute, which presumably our stalwart detective protagonists will be enforcing this fall season, is actually MCL 750.316 et seq.

There is no Chapter 187 of the Michigan Compiled Laws, although three of the most commonly cited “Act 187” statutes here address pest control (P.A. 187 of 1965, MCL 286.501), the proper qualifications of school bus drivers (P.A. 187 of 1990, MCL 257.1801) or the proper wording and form that mortgages, warranty deeds and quit claim deeds must take (Act 187 of 1881, MCL 565.151).

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Do NOT Come Out of There (Mad Men 409)

Miss Blankenship's improved vision after eye surgery was a metaphor for Don's increased awareness of the world around him in "The Summer Man." Her "health" is again used as a motif in the aptly titled "The Beautiful Girls." Similar to how the death of Gene (fascinated by the fall of the Roman Empire) signaled that change would be coming last season, Blankenship's death seems to denote the start of a shifting of mores for women.

I don't think it's an accident that right after Peggy sees Blankenship's head hit the desk, she runs into Don's office to find Sally sitting in his chair. "Do NOT come out of there," Peggy tells Sally. This is ostensibly to spare the young girl from seeing the macabre scene outside. However, on a symbolic level, I'd argue that it also represents Peggy's glimpse at a world where women hold positions of power formerly reserved for men.

...Full Post at Basket of Kisses
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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Trick Question

According to The Daily Beast, which of these college campuses is the safest?
a) Harvard
b) Stanford
c) University of Michigan
d) Wayne State

Answer: My alma mater Wayne State University in DETROIT! Go Warriors!!

3. Harvard University - Cambridge, Massachusetts
Total enrollment: 27,651
Murders: 1
Negligent Homicides: 0
Forcible Rapes: 128
Non-forcible Rapes: 0
Robberies: 151
Aggravated Assaults: 170
Burglaries: 909
Car Thefts: 157
Arsons: 1

20. Stanford University - Palo Alto, California
Total enrollment: 18,498
Murders: 0
Negligent Homicides: 0
Forcible Rapes: 34
Non-forcible Rapes: 2
Robberies: 14
Aggravated Assaults: 36
Burglaries: 466
Car Thefts: 136
Arsons: 14

23. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor - Ann Arbor, Michigan
Total enrollment: 41,674
Murders: 20
Negligent Homicides: 0
Forcible Rapes: N/A
Non-forcible Rapes: N/A
Robberies: 249
Aggravated Assaults: 675
Burglaries: 115
Car Thefts: 142
Arsons: 100

32. Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan
Total enrollment: 31,786
Murders: 0
Negligent Homicides: 0
Forcible Rapes: 20
Non-forcible Rapes: 0
Robberies: 113
Aggravated Assaults: 23
Burglaries: 167
Car Thefts: 384
Arsons: 3

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Amazing Grace (Mad Men 408)

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
"Amazing Grace," John Newton
A very pointed use of metaphor in "The Summer Man," has Miss Blankenship wearing dark glasses after eye surgery. Quoting from "Amazing Grace," John Newton's famous hymn partly inspired by the biblical story of a blind beggar (New Testament hobo) who regains his vision, Blankenship tells Don that she once was blind, but now can see.

The central storyline of "The Summer Man" involves Don's efforts to get his life back on track after seeing what he has become.

...Full Post at Basket of Kisses.
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The Dolly Zoom Effect (Mad Men 408)

I previously posted a comparison between Don's state of mind in Season 4 to "Scotty" Ferguson's (Jimmy Stewart) in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo.

In Vertigo, Hitchcock visually depicted the unsteadiness caused by Ferguson's condition through the use of what's now known as the "dolly zoom" effect. A camera is rolled in one direction while the zoom level is adjusted in the opposite direction. Steven Spielberg also famously used the technique to show Sheriff Brody's reaction after a brutal shark attack in Jaws.

Geek that I am, I bring up this esoterica because one particular shot in "The Summer Man" employs the effect as well. During the Mountain Dew creative meeting, a dolly zoom occurs as Don experiences a momentary anxiety attack.

Vertigo's Dolly Zoom effect (at 2:05 and 2:15 of clip):

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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Viral Gonads

This Axe YouTube "infomercial" had me in stitches.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

Just Do It (Mad Men 407)

Don's rejection of Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali in "The Suitcase" reflects more than the simple bigotry exhibited by Miss Blankenship. There's no denying that the dislike for Ali felt by many whites had a racial component to it. However, I think in the context of the episode, the boxing champion who, like Don, reinvented himself by changing his name hits too close to home (Don bets against Ali right after Stan remarks that "Clay would make one hell of an ad man").

It's noteworthy that the other sports legend rejected by Don is Joe Namath.

...Full Post at Basket of Kisses.
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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Yeah, and "Waterworld" Didn't Suck Either

Fred Fox, Jr.'s LA Times article defending the script he wrote for the infamous Happy Days episode is the first item listed in a brand new website called: ""

First Person: In defense of 'Happy Days' ' 'Jump the Shark' episode

Contrary to pop culture belief, when Fonzie jumped the shark, it hardly marked the demise of the show.

...Thus was born an expression that would quickly make its way into the pop culture mainstream, defined by Hein as "a moment. A defining moment when you know from now on … it's all downhill … it will never be the same." If I had been in the room, however, I would have broken that silence of self-assuredness, for I wrote that now infamous episode of "Happy Days."

And more than three decades later, I still don't believe that the series "jumped the shark" when Fonzie jumped the shark.

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Pack Up Your Troubles (Mad Men 407)

As much as I hate forced comparisons between Mad Men and Matthew Weiner's previous television hit The Sopranos, one element of "The Suitcase" is worthy of such consideration. Specifically, the suitcase motif parallels a similar use of the device in "Mayhem" from the last season of The Sopranos.

In "Mayhem," Tony, on the brink of death, has a coma induced dream (which could be interpreted as an actual supernatural experience) where he takes on the identity of Kevin Finnerty ("infinity"). During the last part of the "dream" sequence, when he is just about to surrender to death, another character in the vision tries to take Finnerty's briefcase. Tony/Kevin protests and, clinging to the case, explains that his entire life is held within it.

This theme is something that has certainly been explored in Mad Men as well.

...Full Post at Basket of Kisses
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Friday, September 03, 2010

Can You Still Key a Car with a Smart Key?

Car key technology has come a long way from the days when keys were "little more than a ground sheet metal blank."

According to Dave Proefke, who led one of GM's development teams, their new smart key “does a lot of thinking for you. It tries to determine your intended action and perform that action for you.”

Hmmmm... that's progress I suppose. But why does this make me feel so paranoid?

From The Detroit Bureau:

A Car Key That Thinks For You

...A new “smart” key that will be introduced with the 2011 Buick LaCrosse is designed, among other things, to prevent accidental lock-outs, an unfortunately common occurrence and one of the most common reasons why owners of GM vehicles call OnStar, which can remotely unlock car doors for subscribers.

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Insult to Injury (Mad Men 406)

In their heyday, the "Rat Pack" had a running gag where Dean Martin would pick up the diminutive Sammy Davis, Jr. and drolly "thank the NAACP" for presenting him with an award. I detected a variation of that joke going on at the end of "Waldorf Stories." All throughout the episode, Peggy is clearly miffed at being shut-out of the accolades for the SCDP's successful Glo-Coat spot. She feels that her efforts were part of the reason it won a Clio award. Because the process of creating the ad happened off-screen, it's difficult to say for certain whether Peggy's indignation is righteous or not. In any event, the small trophy Stan Rizzo had for her offered little consolation.

So, imagine the double indignity Peggy must have felt when Don palms Danny Siegel off on her. "Take him to Joan," an irritated Don tells Peggy. Because of his alcohol induced screw up during the Life campaign presentation, the small-sized Siegel is Don's memento of a not-so-great accomplishment. However, this time Don has no trouble sharing his "award" with Peggy.

Be careful of what you wish for, you may just get it.
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Thursday, September 02, 2010

Pop Quiz

Which of the following could be described as "predominantly white?"
a) MSNBC's primetime lineup
b) The casts of this year's Emmy winning television shows
c) The crowd at Glenn Beck's rally
d) The population of the United States
e) All of the above.

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