Micah J Gordon

Micah J Gordon

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A good season finale opens the chest of things you didn’t know you’d been thinking all season.

Tonight’s Season 6 finale of Mad Men did just that. While this season seemed as glacial as Matthew Weiner’s storytelling can get, and the finale wasn’t particularly revelatory (though it wasn’t uneventful), it really clued us in to what this season - and in fact, the whole show - is driving at.

It’s about past vs. future.

Don Draper Pic

The future is volatile. It’s as uncertain as anything can get. Don is so scared of it that fact, he sabotages everything just to maintain some control over it. 

And the past, that pesky horrible flicker in the distant background, well it’s equally as disastrous, but in the end it’s just about the only thing we know for certain. Ignoring it only leads to more pain.

In Care Of finds Don finally reaching the realization that if he doesn’t learn to restrain his self-destruction, his life will spiral.

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World War Z stands out from standard Summer blockbuster fare in that it doesn’t simply jump from set piece to set piece in the hopes that the audience will forget what a story is.

That’s not to say World War Z has a tremendously compelling story, but it does have the right elements to make it a successful Summer flick: high stakes, clearly outlined objectives, and an awareness of its own flashy destruction.

Brad Pitt World War Z

Despite what it may have seemed from the trailer, scores of people don’t die in World War Z simply because it looks cool.

They die because the story requires that they die. Compare that with your Star Trek Into Darknesses and your Man of Steels, and this film is already ahead.

The (somewhat controversial, if you’ve been following the production’s history) ending furthers that point, in a way that I actually find quite refreshing given the mass, unaddressed destruction that seems to be a requisite part of every action movie of late.

But, let’s start with the opening.

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Signs have been pointing all season to Bob trumping Pete for relevance at Sterling Cooper & Partners, and it seems Pete has finally found his counter-attack.

But more importantly, we finally know what the hell is up with Bob Benson.

Don and Roger Mad Men

After learning that Bob speaks fluent Spanish, and is entirely capable of dropping that placating smile in favor of a more stern, self-assured demeanor, Pete discovers that Bob is not who he says he is.

Of course, Pete has some experience with this, having discovered the same thing about Don in Mad Men Season 1.

Bob lied about his upbringing, his education, and his experience, and instead of firing him on the spot, or bringing this to the attention of the Partners, Pete decides to use it to his advantage.

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The recipe for a great superhero movie is quite elusive.

How much of it should be canon? How much should be fresh?

Is it personal or universal? Gritty or fantastical?

For kids or adults? For fans or newcomers?

A superhero movie is typically lauded or panned on these points, sometimes with the same decision paying off in one film while failing in another.

Zack Snyder decided to do all of it. He did canon. He did fresh. He did personal and universal, gritty and fantastical, all of it.

Man of Steel Russell Crowe Poster

Man of Steel is essentially three entirely separate films, none of which feel fully realized. They can be described by the three identities of our main character:

There’s the Kal-El film, the Clark Kent film, and the Superman film.

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Plenty of favors, both formal and sexual - but mostly sexual - were exchanged in this week’s Mad Men, lending the episode its title: “Favors.”

Don Draper Pic

Don does all he can to help the Rosens’ son Mitchell from entering prison for draft evasion. All in the hopes, of course, of Syliva returning the favor.

Ted ends up doing the bulk of the favor, asking a friend to give Mitchell a relatively harmless pilot position.

Mrs. Campbell’s male caretaker may or may not be offering her some sexual favors of his own.

And of course…Sylvia returns the favor.

But “Favors” is less about the favors themselves, and more about the motives behind the favors.

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In an age where Franchise is king, and studios are scared to do much else but rest on their laurels, it is refreshing to see a film with enough Heart to fill a 70’s girl rock section at your local used record shop.

That film is The Kings of Summer.

Like most low-budget indie films, it’s not perfect. It doesn’t approach perfect. But then, a film’s job isn’t to be perfect. At least not a film like this.

The Kings of Summer Boys

The Kings of Summer is charming, touching, and genuinely funny, and that’s more than can be said about most movies that probably cost 50 times what Kings cost to make.

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Tonight’s Mad Men was another episode mostly about the differences between Pete and Don.

This season has really been hitting those differences hard on the noggin, so something is bound to happen to resolve that tension.

"A Tale of Two Cities" is played out over a backdrop of the Chicago riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention. Mad Men has been employing this tactic - using real-life political unrest to highlight the uncertainty and turbulence in the characters’ lives - very heavily all season.

Joan Mad Men

So what exactly is the personal uncertainty and turbulence? Well, it’s plentiful.

While Don packs up to head to California with Roger and Harry, the unwavering instability of the new company continues.

Joan scores an accidental meeting with a man at Avon, Ginsberg lashes out against Jim Cutler, and Bob continues his creepy quest for relevance.

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What happens when you put Mad Men on speed?

It becomes way more awesome (who knew that was possible?)! Just like everything on speed! ...Say no to drugs, kids.

This week’s episode is called “The Crash,” and like most of the show’s episode titles, it has a ton of meanings.

Mad Men Don Draper

First, there’s the literal crash Ken gets into with the guys from Chevy. But of course, that’s just a metaphor for the slow crash that SCDPCGC is going to be enduring with the nightmare of an account that Chevy will be.

Then, there’s Don’s total, head-first, fiery, pathetic crash into lovesickness over Sylvia.

And of course, let’s not forget the most awesome crash of all: the comedown from the crazy speed that Jim Cutler had injected into the entire creative staff’s asses.

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Tonight’s Mad Men was an exploration of the Supreme Television Court case of Don-v.-Pete.

Why do we love Don so much and hate Pete so much, when they are so similar in so many ways?

Tonight’s episode answered that question more clearly that perhaps any episode in the show’s history.

Because Pete gives a f**k, and Don doesn’t.

Mad Men Don Draper

Because Pete tries to be successful. He tries to be powerful. He tries to live like a playboy. He tries so so hard.

Don, on the other hand, tries to screw everything up, and he doesn’t even try very hard.

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Any episode of Mad Men without Betty and Henry is an automatic win.

No, I would not like to watch Betty watch people eat. No, Henry mumbling about the department of transportation is not a compelling second act break.

Because of the absence of the Franceses, “For Immediate Release” is already one of the better episodes of the season.

Don Draper Mad Men

“For Immediate Release” is also the episode where stuff starts happening. Business stuff. The interesting stuff. It always takes five or six episodes for the season to kick into second gear, and now it has.

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