Category Archives: TV

Recap of recaps, Mad Men edition

You like Internet black holes, right? Who doesn’t? And I take it for granted that you, educated, affluent, and intelligent reader, also like Mad Men, the best television show ever that is on basic cable right now.

Bearing all of that in mind, here is a round-up of every Mad Men recap I read, or have read, or is worth reading. You can thank me in the comments.

You’re welcome! Let me know if I missed a good one.

27 again

Two grand things came out of turning twenty-seven, aside from getting to celebrate for a full weekend. I now own the full set of DVDs of the Wire, and part of my identity moved cross-country to West LA.

Owning the Wire means I can not only open my eyes wide and earnestly preach its virtues to folks, but I can also push boxes of proof into their hands. This brings me great joy. Left up to themselves maybe people would follow my advice to shining towers of pop cultural brilliance, or maybe they would wander unguided into thickets of bad taste, from which they eventually emerge whining about how there’s nothing good on television.

And I can re-watch it, either with the folks to whom I’m preaching or by myself just because. Though an exciting prospect, this marathon will have to wait. I’ve been dosing myself with intense art lately: reading literature about war and its aftermath (City of God, City of Thieves, Away, A Canticle for Leibowitz), watching shows about violence and what happens when you cleave to a morality system of your own making (Sopranos, Weeds). Too often, my dreams have been disturbing, even horrifying. Last night it was all rape and pillage, rape and pillage, with random murder on the side.

It seemed wise to put myself on a diet of family friendly fare, like the Gilmore Girls, until my subconscious adjusts.

Meanwhile, to help with the distraction, I have an iPhone with a super new West LA phone number! If you didn’t enjoy Pt 1, below, you definitely won’t enjoy the second installment, so I’ll skip it. In short, after much haggling and some help from my brother, I have the most exciting new toy I’ve ever had. I hope 27 makes me worthy of it.

… and it’s over

I have been a media glutton lately. Observe:

WEDNESDAY – Knocked Up. And if you think my reaction was conflicted, compare it to the spitting ire of the Flick Filosopher.

THURSDAY – An advance free screening of Becoming Jane, essentially Shakespeare in Love-lite with James McAvey as a hotter version of Joseph Fiennes. Where did all these smoking hot British men come from all of a sudden? Back in the day, our selection was limited to the admittedly more-than-acceptable Ewan MacGregor. Now he’s jostling for space with Colin Firth, Clive Owen, Daniel Craig, and Glen Hansard from Once, not to mention the whole cast of Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. Where were they before I got engaged?

FRIDAY – LA Story for Mr. Ben’s sake. I fell asleep halfway through since, before we settled in, we’d spent an indefensible amount of time trying to pick out the Perfect Bedset. What this means in practice was that we spent several hours with our ears to the computer screen, waiting to hear the sweet song of the Comforter-Pillow-Sheet-Duvet Combo that would really complete us as a couple.

SATURDAY – Chapter 2 of Angels in America with my viewing posse. I own the DVD so that, when I mention it Kushner’s version in conversation and someone hasn’t made the 6-hour chunk of time available to subject themselves to it, I can offer it up. (This is also why I own the A&E Pride & Prejudice, Pulp Fiction, and any number of other pieces of Essential Viewing.)

SUNDAY – and the reason I began writing this entry: the final episode, at long last, of the Sopranos, widely recognized as the best television series I’ve ever watched through my fingers. The fact that I — with my famously low tolerance for violence — have found it worthwhile to experience almost a decade of this show should testify to how impressive the acting, pacing, and scripting are, if anyone needs convincing. But you don’t, right? You’ve seen the show, starting from Season 1? Cuz if you haven’t, I have the DVDs …

In a way I’m glad we’ve gotten the final episode out of the way. I’m the sort of the person that likes to have suspense done with so that I can reread or rewatch and focus on details, not plot. But I did like the finale. Very few people can do suspense as well as David Chase; I nearly fibrillated during that last scene at the diner. When the screen cut to black and a string of curses rose up from the entire East Coast, I felt the same immediate frustration and disappointment I imagine everyone did. But I also think there was something genius about that Brechtian move on DC’s part — calling attention to the medium (how many people thought their cable had gone out?), reminding us that this is just art, that we shouldn’t let our emotions overwhelm us.

Also, whether or not you think Tony died in that moment when the screen went black, you have to believe that the best of his life is behind him. He’s caught in the same self-destructive, self-obsessed patterns, only now he doesn’t have Melfi to help him pan for small shiny bits of insight. He has his wife’s and his son’s loyalty but only because he bought them; and two of the closest members of his work family are gone forever. Instead of saving babies the way Tony hoped she would as a pediatrician, his daughter will spend her life trying to save mobsters as a lawyer and it’s because of Tony. He’ll always have to live looking over his shoulder and even if he isn’t killed, the specter of Junior lies ahead of him: wasting away toothless in a New Jersey state hospital with no memory of the pride or glory that made “this thing of ours” worth dying for in the first place.

mints. peppermints.

Two notable New York experiences to add to the books. First, on Saturday evening, two friends and I were on our tiptoes in the Eugene O’Neill theater watching Spring Awakening over the heads of 400 theater-goers (they were seated, the lucky bastards). All of a sudden, during the gay love ballad in Act II, a man stumbled into the darkness directly behind us and, making the most unpleasant noise I’ve ever heard outside the Union Square Subway Station, vomited all over the floor.

Bad theater district calamari? An adverse reaction to musicals made from 19th century German plays? Or maybe the man was Ted Haggard and onstage sight of the older boy seducing the younger one hit a little too close to home.

In any event, it was a testament to the highly entertaining nature of the show that my friends and I threw our hands over our noses and stayed where we were, though the Standing Room area instantly smelled as bad as anything I’ve smelled in the city outside the Fulton Street Subway Stop.

Have I mentioned my commute spans both the Union Square and Fulton Street stops? My mornings are fun.

The show was entertaining, although it didn’t bother to be terribly coherent or original, at least plotwise. (WARNING: SPOILERS!!) As I said to my friend during the intermission, “Those two sweet kids had *sex.* Naturally that can only lead to pregnancy and despair.” And sure enough. In fairness, I should add that in the case of Spring Awakening, it did also lead to more singing.

Seriously, playwrights, moviemakers, TV auteurs — we’ve seen it before. We understand that teenagers must be punished for their libidos (just as professional women must be punished for putting off having children by not being able to have children). Sigh. I’m sure there are punishment paradigms I’ve missed too — help me out, kidlets?

My second memorable New York experience had me sheepishly knocking on a neighbor’s door yesterday morning. We don’t know each other well, though we do share wireless internet through the wall. “Hi,” I said. “Sorry to bother you. Can I borrow a cup of HBO tonite?” This was the 3rd-to-last-EVER episode of the Sopranos and damned if I was going to miss it just because I didn’t have premium cable and my two friends who do were both out of town.

Luckily my neighbor said “Sure!” Score! My assertiveness was rewarded. The show itself was chilling: it visually quoted incredibly disturbing scenes from both Shortbus and American History X. Not bad, Mr. Chase. I whimpered a lot and twisted around in my seat, trying to avoid the violence (the effects of which have lingered with me — I can’t stop thinking about my teeth and touching them with my tongue to make sure they’re still intact). My neighbor laughed at me and invited me to return for the next/last two episodes. Must be because I brought chocolate.

spy vs. spy

Jaslene is America’s Next Top Model! Say it with me now: “WHAT?” And then, “Ugh.” She is dim and bony and looks like a man, which went over well in the competition, unsurprisingly. Also, Tyra <3 <3 <3'ed Jaslene-from-the-block's story arc (to recap: last season Jaslene wasn't good enough to make the cut, but she tried again and redeemed herself). It’s not like I was rooting for anyone, really. Who was there to root for? Spunky mail order bride Natasha Galkina, who was also dim but smart enough at least to borrow Angelina Jolie’s mouth for the competition? Or Renee, the annoying, standard blonde from Hawaii?

Renee and Natasha were two of the three teenage mothers in competition, and though we at home could admire the way they managed to magically emerge from childbearing with no scars, fat, or breasts, it got boring hearing over and over again how they had to succeed for the sake of their children. Sure. Because the APA recommends that young mothers enter professions that keep their women starving, travelling, and riddled with alcohol, drugs, and syphilis. If they also train their women to throw cell phones at the help, so much the better.

I guess it was all right that I didn’t get emotionally invested in this finale. The Gilmore Girls left me exhausted — I had to inject Gatorade into my veins to rehydrate me after that much crying.

slow times at ridgemont high

Infrequency of posting can be blamed on Time Warner. The internet at my apartment is still out — it’s been about two weeks now — and will be out until maybe Thursday. I think the bastards are trying to win. They won’t.

Meanwhile, I have an elusive sense of how slow things are in general. A friend I hadn’t talked to in a little while called me, breathless, from a subway platform for a quick update. She gave me her exciting news and then asked for mine. I had nuthin. Nothing that could be reported in a chirpy tone of voice, anyway, before the train arrived.

That’s the trouble, isn’t it? Not telling your friends about the bad stuff feels dishonest, but telling the bad stuff requires their time, their attention, their energy and their sympathy, even when conversations happen away from the forced constraints of commuting — and by the way, if you haven’t read that New Yorker piece on commuting, you must. Basically, it’s more presumptuous to share bad news, and I am somewhat shy of it.

By the end of today, I should be able to feel better about one serious thing. Until then I need distraction, and so I loved this and recommend it, even for people who aren’t crazy about R. Traister &/or Salon. It rings very true for me: Harry Potter and the Sopranos are my modern epics, serialized entertainment I could get passionate about. There is something about the time span over which both have unfurled that adds to the sentiment. I started watching The Sopranos in my old house on Unicorn Lane with my father several episodes into the First Season. I remember acutely those early Bada Bing scenes, wondering whether to avert my eyes.

Harry Potter introduced himself to me soon after, while I was in Israel with my high school class. The boy I liked, at that point, handed me his paperback copy and though I had wrinkled my nose at the phenomenon up to that point, there was something about this boy’s puppydog eyes and his scruffy hair. For him, okay, I guessed I would read this sure-to-be-overrated kids book.

Now when the new volumes come out, Mr. Ben and I are first in line at little NYC bookstores to get a shared copy and stay up all night devouring it. This last volume will be my 25th birthday present and I’ll probably get it to myself, since Mr. Ben will be only days from taking the bar. And then ten days later, we’ll get married. Considering the presumed fragility of that future emotional state, for my sake, NOTHING better happen to Harry.

Still kicking


A nasty virus toppled me and I lay toppled about a week. One of my days off from work coincided with the first seder so at Mr. Ben’s urging, I dragged myself up and made it to Washington Heights, where we did the traditional Passover thing with his family. Mr. Ben and I were called upon to lead; I did my part, hoarsely.

It was the first time I’ve celebrated the Endless, Breadless Holiday (TM) stateside but not with the Blooms. My family goes all out — china, crystal, 25 people each night, a grand multi-hour event, complete with dinner. This year, they went all out without me. Luckily both my brothers were there to help ease my parents through this painful process that we call Ester Beginning to Spend Some Holidays & Important Times With the Future In-Laws.

And who is there to ease me through that process?

Nevertheless, I made it through seder, and Mr. Ben’s father sent us home in a car with not too much harm done. Passover always makes me think about odd things. For example, isn’t it funny that Easter — which, of course, coincides with Passover — is about Jesus ascending to Heaven, whereas Passover is the holiday of nothing leavened? Which is to say, for the goyim, “He is risen!” so they get to eat chocolate eggs; for the Jews, everything is by mandate flat and dry.

In addition to (clearly) lots of deep thinking, a fantastic production of Company on Broadway and the Sopranos helped me get through the week. And some generous NY hospitality afforded me access to the season premiere yesterday. Bless this city.

Wrong, wrong, wrong

For years I’ve been telling people about what I called “the Ms. test for movies,” ever since I first read about it in a Ms. magazine when I was a summer intern at WIFP, a 1st amendment nonprofit. Is my memory muddled, or was Ms. quoting it from the place it originated, a Dykes to Watch Out For strip? The world may never know. At least I can attempt to set the record straight here: all credit belongs to A. Bechdel, friends, for this brilliant 3-part movie test:

1) Is there more than one female character? If so,
2) do the female characters talk, and if so,
3) about anything other than men?

You would be amazed at how many movies don’t pass this test. Good movies. Great movies, even — go ahead, count.

I don’t think you need to self-flagellate over this, for what it’s worth. A movie can flunk the Ms. Test — I mean, the Liz Wallace via DTWOF and Ms. Test — and still be quality. But for what it’s worth, one of the reasons I’ve never been crazy about Scorsese is that virtually none of his movies pass the LWVDTWOFAMT Test. It’s all-macho-all-the-time with Marty, with the glorious exception of Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, which you could say is the only Scorsese movie he’s only made once and which almost no one talks about.

Is it so hard to have women be real people in good movies? I mean, even master-of-macho, Russell-Crowe-worshipping Ridley Scott has Thelma and Louise AND Alien on his resume.

Children of Men, I am happy to report (finally!), does not have this problem. There are three major female characters, one of whom is named “Kee.” The name is something of a pun: the character herself is “key,” and she also does represent, in a very real way, the energy and lifeforce — you know, the qi — of not only the film but the dystopian near-future in which the film is set. In 2027, the human race has stopped reproducing and is either grimly awaiting, or actively courting, death. It’s all very Emily Dickinson.

The world is in chaos and, British propoganda claims, “only Britain soldiers on.” Or so the government would like to pretend: the only advertising anywhere is for home suicide kits, and you know a civilization has really given up when it can’t even be bothered to hawk beauty creams and liquor. Cuaron’s direction uses the same narrative efficiency he displayed in Y Tu Mama Tambien, where he made every glance out a window educational: every British flag hangs limp, every street and car and building is crumbling at the edges, every billboard you see warns of immigrants or reminds you that “avoiding fertility tests is illegal.”

That’s the first third of the film: mood, setting, understanding. The second third is Clive Owen’s journey from disaffected post-activist to a person who’s alive and cares again, a progression the film accomplishes by, perversely, taking from him everyone he loves or depends on. The last third — a fierce fight for survival — is cribbed from the Battle of Algiers, as my fellow-filmgoer Bobby describes well enough that I don’t feel the need to go into it (thanks, Bobby!) It’s a punch to the gut, as visceral and important as anything I’ve seen in years.

As long as I’m gushing, I’d like to say how happy I am for America Ferrara, who rocked the Golden Globes by (a) winning, (b) looking fantastic, and (c) giving a short, eloquent speech that made everyone cry. Hat trick! And for a worthy cause, too: I really like her show, maybe even more than Gray’s Anatomy at this point, b/c Ugly Betty serves its melodrama up with a spoonful of campy, campy sugar.