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What's the easiest way to show characters in hazy states of reality? Dress them normally...then surround them with people wearing pajamas. That's the brilliant tactic costume designer Janie Bryant uses in this speed-fueled episode, where most events could be hallucinations, and even by the end, some did-they-or-didn't-they moments still hover. (Hey Ken, can you really tap dance?!)
The nightgown-and-day-clothes juxtaposition starts early: Don stands outside Sylvia's door, fully dressed. He even wears a hat and overcoat. Meanwhile, Sylvia's on the other side of the door wearing a pink quilted robe and a sleepy blue turban. Next, Young Dick Whitman and his Evil Stepmother are covered up and conservative, while surrounded by prostitutes in silk nighties and open kimonos. This motif gets even more dizzy when the scene is inverted so far that Young Dick is dressed -- and wearing suspenders -- in Aimee's bed, while she walks around in a slip. Later, Sally's wearing a pink nightie when her reality is totally tipped over by Fake Grandma Ida, who's fully dressed, also with an overcoat and hat. (Is the similarity to Don and Sylvia earlier just coincidence?) And after Don collapses, we see him in his undershirt -- undressed, but not exactly pajama-ed -- next to Megan's bright green negligee. Sitting up in bed, Don looks like he's in limbo. Is he dreaming? Is he dying? Is it daytime? Is it night? The T-shirt could be worn at any time...and just like Ginsberg's Cheshire Cat reference, Don's consciousness doesn't know if it's coming or going.
If you've missed an earlier episode of the current season of Mad Men, and you wonder what your friends are talking about when they refer to Ken's tap-dance or Pete falling down the stairs, here's a chance to right yourself: Tune in this Sun., May 26 at 1:30PM/12:30c when the first eight episodes of Mad Men Season 6 encore on AMC. The mini-marathon will lead directly into the premiere of an all new episode, "The Better Half" at 10PM/9c.
In this interview, January Jones, (Betty Francis on AMC's Mad Men) discusses parenting and her character's capacity for change.
Q: How did the public's reaction to Betty change after her challenges in Season 5?
A: She became much more sympathetic when she got bigger. I think people liked her again, which I find very interesting... When she's, you know, trying to be independent or to better her own life, people have a negative response to it. So, it seems like a very un-modern approach... I find it very confusing at times.
Q: Matthew Weiner says one of the themes of Season 6 is whether or not people can really change. Where do you stand on that?
A: I think it's very difficult to change, and I think that's what makes all these characters so interesting is that everyone can relate to the flaws in each character and the desire to change.
Q: Yet Betty's life is really different now than it was in Season 1. What does that say about her ability to change?
A: Each season I think she's a little bit different, and she really does make an effort to do that. If she can't change herself, she's trying to change her circumstances... I just think she's one of those people where she's never going to be truly satisfied and will kind of have that character flaw where she's always wanting what she doesn't have.
Q: Who do you think has a better chance of lasting happiness, Don or Betty?
The Last Picture Show, a 1966 semi-autobiographical coming-of-age novel by Larry McMurtry, follows the lives and sexual mishaps of three early-1950s teenagers as they complete high school and prepare for adulthood. The story unfolds in the fictional West Texas town of Thalia, a stand-in for the real-life Archer City, which the author once described as "a mess" he'd hate violently if he didn't love it so much. By turns touching and ribald (in Greek mythology, Thalia is the muse of comedy), the book is a meditation on endings: of love, adolescence, innocence, the cowboy ethos, and the golden age of movies and movie houses.
As the novel begins, two of the three teens, Sonny and Duane, are roommates, co-captains of the perennially bad high school football team, and co-owners of an old Chevy pickup they share for dating purposes. Duane's major preoccupation is sex, in particular with the third protagonist, his rich and narcissistic girlfriend, Jacy, a tease of epic proportions. Sonny, meanwhile, begins an affair with Ruth, the wife of the emotionally stifled high-school football coach, who's neglected her for so long she compares herself to a refrigerator that's never been defrosted.
Ted asks Peggy, "First day of school. You nervous?" and, in a sea foam suit, she is clearly ready to conquer. But Ted is also dressed to impress, at least for astute Fashion File fans. We know characters often excel at SCDP when costume designer Janie Bryant dresses them in costumes that match the office. (Peggy was literally consumed by her work last season when her dress and the couch were almost identical.) Now check out Ted's ensemble in the conference room: He sports a sharp black suit and a shirt so crisp and white, it must be brand-new. Then there's his tie, which blends beautifully with the room's wood panels, a fact that's highlighted even more by his seat on the cabinet against the wall. Pete may have gotten Ted's chair, but Ted went and created his own throne. (Ted also gets the "Best Dressed" award from me for his flawless aviator jacket and sunglasses, both of which are still quite chic today.)
Other office observations: Peggy's aqua suit is a pastel version of Stan Rizzo's bluish-green work shirt; hopefully their color-coordination means they're friends again. Ginsberg's also got a deep green skinny tie, an accent in his costume that (literally) ties him to SCDP. Meanwhile, the two CGC creatives wear slashed ties and button-ups that coordinate with each other, but nobody else. Clearly, these two agencies aren't a unified team just yet. And check out Joan in her first scene: She's a beacon in a royal blue dress with matching pumps, in contrast to the people swirling around her wearing green. It's a cool visual effect, and also, it shows that blue and green motif again this season. The coat Joan later wears over her cobalt dress is also bright green. Most Mad Men couples break up, but at least blue and green have everlasting love.
Another color getting a workout in this episode is red. It's Sylvia's sexiest shade, and the hue tying her most directly to the prostitutes from Don's childhood. We first see Sylvia in a red-orange quilted robe and a red scarf turban. Her next red infusion, the Saks Fifth Avenue dress, is where things get really interesting. "You are for me. You exist in this room for my pleasure," says Don, and boom! Red becomes the official color of female objectification.
In this interview, John Slattery, (Roger Sterling on AMC's Mad Men) compares directing to football, and describes the strangest thing he's eaten at a dinner party.
Q: Roger seems to have reached a turning point. What do you think he's learned about himself?
A: One thing I think he's learned is that it's too soon to give up on life...socially and romantically, and as far as work goes too. He lost his account. It was a big blow to him and...he had to figure out how to get his feet back under him, and then that led to the experience of him taking LSD. And I think that altered his consciousness a little bit.
Q: What was it like to shoot the LSD scenes?
A: We shot the bathtub scene two different times. I think it started out with something Matthew Weiner didn't like about the wallpaper or some part of the set, and he said as long as we're going to reshoot this, we should think about it differently. We decided that it's a different kind of change of consciousness. It isn't like you had too many drinks or you smoked a lot of pot or something. You're actually seemingly lucid. It's just that you're having this experience that's going all over the place.
Q: Fans are still talking about seeing your rear end in last season's finale. Are you surprised by the reaction?
A: I think it was funny storytelling and surprising... My family, nothing really gets them at this point. They're used to me embarrassing them in all kinds of ways.
Q: What's the strangest thing you've ever been offered at a dinner party?
Peggy and Ted's kiss. The Jaguar and Vicks disasters. The Merger. This episode was so crammed with plot points, you could almost get dizzy -- if it wasn't for costume designer Janie Bryant finding a way to keep us focused through visual cues. How? She doubled up, dressing characters with key connections in similar outfits to help emphasize important themes.
My favorite example is halfway through, when Joan confronts Don with, "Just once, I'd like to hear you use the word 'we!'" She's wearing a jade green dress with short sleeves, buttons down the front, and a slim belt at the waist. A few scenes later, Ted Chaough kisses Peggy, who's wearing a powder blue dress with short sleeves, buttons down the front, and a slim belt at the waist. It's a subtle way to tie them together. While Joan once used her sexuality to get ahead, Peggy did the opposite and relied solely on her intellect. Now, they're in opposite positions: Joan is running the office and even barking out orders to the other male partners, while Peggy's getting kissed by her boss and liking it. It doesn't help that Peggy's actual boyfriend, Abe, is wearing the ultimate blue-collar uniform -- denim overalls sans shirt -- while she's in buttoned-up dresses and super-girly nightgowns. The clash in their relationship continues, and it's reflected in their clothing.
The Graduate, a landmark satirical movie that premiered in 1967, concerns Ben Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), a recent college graduate who loses his virginity to his father's business partner's wife (Anne Bancroft) then falls in love with the couple's daughter (Katharine Ross). Directed by Mike Nichols and with pitch-perfect dialogue by Buck Henry, the film struck a chord with youthful audiences, who related both to Ben's disillusionment with his parents' materialism and his inability to conceive of an alternative. Many reviews praised The Graduate for its sophisticated blend of irreverence and poignancy, and more than a few critics declared it a turning point in American cinema.
Bancroft played the role of Mrs. Robinson with such obvious glee that the character's predatory behavior received more attention than the interior melancholy that prompted it. Reactions varied depending on the reviewer and the publication -- Playboy magazine, for instance, applauded Mrs. Robinson for doing Ben the favor of seducing him, and the movie itself for providing the "funniest moments of anguish ever filmed to commemorate the decline and fall of a boy's burdensome virginity."