Wednesday, 08 September 2010

Stop him before he says something truly despicable. Lawrence Meyers disagrees with Roger Ebert. All well and good. However, the reason Meyers disagrees with Ebert? Yet I have to wonder if the physical and mental trauma Roger has endured has taken a toll on his mind … Is it because the anger he must have concerning his condition is being projected onto the Right? After all, [Ebert's blog at the Sun Times] started after all the physical damage had been done to his appearance … Okay, so thus far it can be chalked up to the usual debate style of the Left. But here’s what concerns me about his state of mind … I don’t care what his political beliefs are, ultimately. I care about his mental faculties, and how he is undermining his own legacy as one of cinema’s great champions. I really wish he would return to the balcony. This is, I believe, a new conservative tactic: “I disagree with the partisan pollster you agree with, but instead of acknowledging that the obverse is also true, I will assume that during your struggle with thyroid cancer and the seven painful, but ultimately unsuccessful, surgeries to restore the ability to eat, drink and speak that followed—I’ll assume that somewhere in there you lost your mind and I’ll just mourn your death now, so can you please shut the fuck up already?” Seriously, that last line about “return[ing] the balcony” sounds like nothing so much as a former slave-owner longing for the days before all his former charges had the right to say whatever they damned well pleased. Meyers is annoyed because Ebert’s expressing the opinions he’s always held, but is blaming Ebert for his own inability to separate the body of work from the man who produced it. I wonder how he feels about Faulkner, whose politics he would (I hope) disavow as adamantly as he does Ebert’s? UPDATE: Crap! Meyers is absolutely correct, or so I must assume because, like Ebert, I'm in no position to judge. I apologize in advance for the misunderstanding.
Mad Men: Structural Oppresion in "The Suitcase" "The Suitcase" may well be the best episode of Mad Men to date. Not that admiration necessarily precludes critique, but as I may gush a little bit about Jennifer Getzinger's direction or Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss's acting, I wanted to make it clear that 1) what follows is not an appreciation and 2) I may bear down a little harder on the episode's only flawed moment so everyone knows this isn't an appreciation. "The Suitcase" opens with the distribution of tickets to an "Exclusive Theater Telecast" of the Ali-Liston rematch. That these advertising folk are attending a viewing instead of the fight itself is no doubt significant, but not significant enough to dwell on in light of everything else going on in this episode, the first hint of which happens here: Getzinger places Danny Strong's "Danny Siegel" in what is clearly a subordinate position, which is ironic because 1) Draper is confidently predicting a Liston victory in the fight, and 2) Draper had coopted Siegel's idea earlier and is therefore his superior in name alone. Peggy will later remind Draper of this fact and precipitate the first of Draper's many breakdowns, but for the moment it is enough to note that the framing of this shot militates against its manifest content and move on to Don receiving the news that the wife of the man whose name he stole is about to die: Note how severely the camera frames this moment: a) despite being quite a distance from each other, the lamps on the desks in the foreground and background simultaneously occupy the center of the frame; b) the lights on the ceiling and the angles of the wall suggest a classic one-point perspective terminating in an unseen vanishing point; c) Draper and his secretary are not simply balanced, they are equidistant from both each other and their side of the frame; d) as are the secretaries in the background); e) coupled with the suggestion of an unseen vanishing point, the symmetry of Draper and his secretary occupy the same position relative to the architecture of the building and the lines of perspective. Let me show you what I mean as best I can given my limited Photoshop skills: Now that I've cleared that up, compare the above with the shot that immediately follows: The severely ordered world of the previous shot is unbalanced by the switch from a medium long to a conversational medium shot, with the overall effect being that a symmetrical abyss seems to have opened up behind Draper. By shifting the camera slightly off-center, however, Getzinger creates the impression that this orderly abyss has opened up to swallow Draper and Draper alone. At the bottom of it? His office: This is Draper shortly after receiving the news that the wife of the man whose name he stole is about to die. The room is brightly lit and his face is sternly composed, but the hunched posture and slight tilt of the camera undermine that composure....

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