Looks like we won’t be seeing Don, Peggy, Joan, Roger, and Pete until 2012. While we wait to see our favorite ad man, I’ll be watching these films for my fill of 60’s fashion, social and abusive drinking, marital unrest, and the corporate rat race.
THE APARTMENT (1960)
Without Billy Wilder, there would be no MAD MEN. PERIOD. The opening shots of Sterling Cooper offices in the pilot are direct lifts from Wilder’s 1960 masterpiece. The film even gets named checked by Joan and Roger in Episode 10 “The Long Weekend.” Wilder’s snappy dialogue and vivid characters probably provided MAD MEN writers with inspiration as well. Wilder’s hero, C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) has ambitions for management and lets execs use his apartment for their dalliances. Once he realizes the murky machine he’s mixed up in through his relationship with elevator operator Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine), he longs to be more than a corporate stooge and regains his dignity. How Wilder orchestrates tender moments with comedy and devastating drama is rarely out done on MAD MEN or anything else. Two episodes that come close for me are Episode 7 “Red in the Face” from season 1 and “The Suitcase’ from season 4.
REVOLUTIONARY ROAD (2008)
Don and Betty’s fights on MAD MEN never came close to the fervent hatred trading between Frank and April Wheeler in REVOLUTIONARY ROAD. Played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, the Wheelers hope a whimsical move to Paris will save their doomed marriage. Like the Draper marriage, the union crumbles under the weight of a lie.
It has been a great year at the movies for me so far and it’s only September. Over the next few months, Hollywood will unleash its prestige films- titles they’ve been saving for Oscar season- and I will be in a constant state of elation seeing, talking, and blubbering about these films. I’ve picked out some 36 titles I’m planning to check out between now and late January. Here are the films I am most excited about and want to put on your radar.
1) The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
I decided to not read the books or see the Swedish films once I heard David Fincher would be taking a pass on the best selling series. Fincher should have been crowned Best Director at last year’s Oscars, so I’m hoping for some vindication this Christmas.
2) A Dangerous Method
Fassbender, Fassbender, Fassbender Fassbender, and Fassbender
This film about the beginnings of psychoanalysis features Michael Fassbender as Carl Jung to Viggo Mortienson’s Sigmund Freud. Did I mention Micheal Fassbender was in this?
3) Tinker Tailor Solider Spy
My favorite prestige title to say 5 times fast stars Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, and Benedict Cumberbatch in a spy thriller based on the Alec Guinness mini-series and John LeCarre novel.
Roman Polanski’s newest film stars Kate Winslet, John C. Reilly, Jodie Foster, and Christoph Waltz as two New York couples trapped in an argument after their kids get into a fight. I’m expecting verbal fireworks.
5) J Edgar
Now is the time. Leonardo DiCaprio needs to get the Oscar this year. J Edgar may be the vehicle with Clint Eastwood directing this biopic. Say what you want about Eastwood’s directing, but he has a good track record of directing Oscar winning performances. Year of DiCaprio- you heard it here first.
Sometimes I wonder when I’ll be able to show my unborn children their first Scorsese film. How long will it be until little Marty and I can sit and watch Taxi Driver together? Thankfully, Scorsese has directed a children’s film, in 3D to boot, so I won’t have to wait until my kids are of age to introduce them to
my the master.
7) Ides of March
George Clooney stars and directs this political thriller featuring Ryan Gosling, Paul Giamatti, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Marissa Tomei.
I wish I had a t-shirt that said, “I survived Lars Von Trier’s ANTICHRIST.” Early chatter about Melancholia hasn’t reported any fainting or vomiting and Kirsten Dunst won best actress at Cannes for her starring role, so I’m unreservedly excited to see this film.
9) My Week With Marilyn
Every time I see promotional material with Michelle Williams as Monroe for this film, I get chills. I think Williams has the chance to bring something about this iconic star to light that devotees and cultural novices never imagined.
Another dose of Gosling this summer in an intense drama about a stunt man who moonlights as a getaway car driver for criminals. Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, and Albert Brooks make up the rest of the cast.
Stifling her exasperation, Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) tries to explain to the group assembled how to calculate a particular disease’s rate of infection. Dr. Mears is an expert in contagious diseases, how they spread, and how to best avoid catching them. She knows, before anyone else in the room, that this situation is going to get a lot worse before anything gets better. This meeting seems, in many ways a waste of her precious time. As Mears explains basic precautions people should take, one rather persistent local official snaps at Mears saying, “We can’t even tell people what to be afraid of.” The not knowing frightens her more than fact that thousands of people across the world have already perished in gruesome, unexplained deaths. In that moment, Dr. Mears realizes the cooler heads of the CDC are no match against the virulent strain of mass panic to come.
Steven Soderbergh’s newest film Contagion is a smart, multi-character and location thriller following investigators, bureaucrats, medical workers, and regular folks trying to stay alive while a deadly infectious disease ravages across the planet. A fleet of Oscar winners and nominees chew down words like “fomites,” explain complex scientific procedures, and roll off perfect witticisms with wonderful ease. No one actor holds the story, therefore each player brings a strong persona to their brief scenes, letting us know who to trust and who to observe with suspicion.
I thoroughly enjoyed this film. Soderbergh’s camera moves with voyeuristic precision, tracking the movement of germs bouncing from people to bus railings, pieces of paper, phones, credit cards, and a wide variety of ordinary objects turned into carriers of the deadly virus. Every door knob and object becomes electrified with doom through the camera work. This is key to Contagion- the disease (the unseen character) is the main driver of the action and tension of the film. Yet there are many powerful emotional moments in the film provided by the films excellent cast including Winslet, Marion Cotillard, Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Laurence Fishburne, Jennifer Ehle, and Jude Law.
Contagion explores, better than most films, the twins qualities of destruction and salvation in our human nature. Each scene rides on a tilt between saving a life and ensuring more will die. Selfishness, corruption, paranoia, and greed can produce catastrophic effects or brilliant life saving breakthroughs. What we do can only be judged in hindsight and with a deadly disease on the loose, the distance between this minute and the next becomes charged with a desperate intensity to get it right or simply survive.
The visual style and compelling themes gave Contagion a staying power in my mind. On the surface level, it took me a good 30 minutes to convince myself it was only a movie and I would not die if I got on the L train. Secondly, I kept turning in my head this idea of our humanity having these dual powers of creation and destruction. Many scenes caused me to recoil in fright at a character doing the exact wrong thing, sometimes knowing it and sometimes innocently, to aide the spread of the disease. Yet, between these horrible moments were signs that humanity could also be the cure. Characters take risks to save distant strangers and even put their lives in danger to reverse the tide. Those scenes were pleasing surprises and elevated Contagion beyond being an exciting thriller- it’s a must see of the year.
I’ll be enjoying this year’s Globes with a room full of Jesuits. Fun will be had by all. Here’s what’s nominated and what I want to win.
Best Motion Picture — Drama
This is a decent slate of films, except for “The Help.” I want “Hugo” to win because it has great momentum and could use a push into Oscar voting season.
Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture — Drama
I have not seen Queen Meryl in “the Iron Lady” so I might change my mind tomorrow, but I’m betting on Ms. Davis for her dignified and powerful performance in “The Help.” Tilda Swinton could be a dark horse for either Streep or Davis.
Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture — Drama
This is also a stellar category, but Fassbender is the clear winner in my eyes.
Best Motion Picture — Comedy or Musical
I’m sticking with Woody Allen this award season. “Midnight In Paris” is THE BEST FILM OF THE YEAR! If “The Artist” wins, i will be enraged. If “Bridesmaids” wins, that will be a strong sign that the comedy will be nominated for an Oscar.