Thursday, March 29, 2012

QUICK TAKES: "Mad Men", "Annie Hall", "Immortals"

"Mad Men: A Little Kiss"
Created by Matthew Weiner

It seems like an odd occasion to praise a television premiere, but I never saw the need to explain my love for the series that I choose to express adoration over, least of "Mad Men". Arguably the most anticipated return of the season, the new season quickly asserted that the devastated waters of Season 4 had not calmed, and in fact consequences could no longer be avoided for actions. The civil rights era is clearly upon us, and rather than take it seriously, they throw an ad in the paper as a joke on their opponents. And to all their surprise, people actually take it seriously, a prologue and epilogue that shows how unavoidable the events of the outside world have become.

But even in intimate terms, the consequences for the mistakes these characters have made are coming. The fact that Joan's husband is still in Vietnam is a haunting omen for what he has to share when he comes back. Joan suddenly cares about her status as a strong woman in the workplace, and Lane is similarly questioning his place. The simple fact that he had sexual desires for a black but wasn't willing to leave a wallet in the care of one shows how difficult and implacable a person he is, and I don't imagine anybody without the insightful grey areas as Jared Harris would be able to make him work. Oh, and Harry is wicked skinny now! I would have sex with him in a minute!

As for Don, he is in a very difficult place that will only get worst as the season progresses. He's happy, after having had quite a tumultuous life after being divorced by Betty and finally gotten back into a marriage with Megan, who we didn't really know at the time. Now, we're peeling back layers of who exactly she is, and she is brightly ambitious, if earning credit where it's not exactly due. But the problem with Don is perhaps that he cares too much about his own personal happiness of being with Megan. He even states that he doesn't care about work, and at this of all times in the company's history, they need him. But they don't have him. Before that might not have been a problem, but this is a world where the company could evaporate in a second. Don's still living life like there's no tomorrow, which is fine for now as long as we get regular burlesque dances by Megan to French pop tunes. We demand it!

"Annie Hall"
Directed by Woody Allen

I have several notable black spots in my Woody Allen intelligence, not all of which I feel need to be remedied, but this was most definitely one of them. Truth is that I had no idea what I was heading in for, or what Woody Allen was like back in the day. As it turns out, he was more than simply agreeable, and was creative firecracker of sorts to tell the honest truth. "Annie Hall" was a kind of eccentric and neurotic dream come true for "This is my story" type narratives. The plot of the film, stated simply, is pretty much the same as "(500) Days of Summer", be it far less overt and the characters more carefully distinguished.

At first I felt that this would be a visually mirthless feature, as you can only assume after the first shot taking directly off of Allen's face. But from there he reveals a great deal of remarkable sweetness regarding the origins of his and Annie Hall's relationship, as well as his own neurotic view of the world. "Everything our parents said was good is bad. Sun, milk, red meat, college." I kind of wish I had seen this film long before I had fallen into that death trap of applying for my current institute of learning. For one thing it would have cinematically informed me enough not to need it. The fourth wall is broken numerous times with joy and abandon, and you realize Woody Allen's freeness to build the human experience around boundless creativity and perception. I can only hope there's ample bits of what's here in all his future work.

Directed by Tarsem Singh

I never did get the chance to review Tarsem Singh's last film before "Mirror Mirror", a film that you'll be hearing my thoughts on all too quickly and surprisingly. As for his 2011 swords-and-sandals flick, this was a film that I seemed so aligned to hate. In fact, it was an amazing sight to behold, and a fantastic romp as well. Though not quite chocked full of intelligence, it makes up in sheer and impenetrable brawn, as well as an extreme sense of heart. Tarsem is going for something magnificent visually, and you can tell. That's what he most cares about, and it's spot on, but also is his work with the actors in embellishing the crevices of hollow characters into extreme and powerful archetypes.

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