Thursday, 27 June 2013

Mad Men: "In Care Of" What? Oh Really? The season finale of Mad Men, “In Care Of,” contains an inordinate number of what I call “Oh Really?” reverse shots. They typically don’t involve dialogue — and the episode will end with one that doesn’t — but at the beginning of the episode it does. It’s also odd because it substitutes a flashback for an “Oh Really?” escalation, but I’m getting ahead of myself. When representatives from the Sheraton Royal Hawaiian arrive at whatever the name of the firm is at this point — because not knowing the firm is part of the point at this point — Don Draper isn’t in the office. You may remember the Royal Hawaiian from the season premier, and if you do, you can probably anticipate Don’s whereabouts. Here he is at the Royal Hawaiian: That’s the opening shot of Draper at the Royal Hawaiian’s bar. Note the quality of the light: there are two on screen sources — the lamp to Don’s left and the Tiki fixture to his right — and a noticeable off-screen, but still diegetic light illuminating the painting from above. The lighting is high-key, that is, the back and fill lights complement the key light in a way that creates low contrast between brighter and darker areas. (I write “complement” because there are many ways the effect of high-key lighting can be produced: all manners of angles and intensities come into play.) Of the previous episode, “The Quality of Mercy,” I noted that Don’s shadows were eating at his face because the back and fill lights weren’t providing it illumination. Even though his back is turned in the shot above, were Don to turn around his face would be plenty covered by the back light. All of which is only to say that the light is natural and gentle in this scene at the Royal Hawaiian bar. Which is significant given that when the Royal Hawaiian representatives arrive in New York, Don’s not available to greet them because he’s here: At this point, I hope you don’t need me to point out the structural similarities between these two shots. There are many ways to shoot a man at a bar — I know, I know — but to shoot the same man regarding relations with the same corporation in such a similar manner invites comparison. Whereas the scene at the Royal Hawaiian is lit in a high-key, this is clearly lit in the low-key that’s characterized Don’s relation to alcohol the past three episodes. (Just look at the poor man pouring vodka.) The low-key lighting allows the diegetic lights sources — the illuminated bar and the television set — to provide the majority of the illumination. Meaning there isn’t much of any because Don’s in a darker place. Remember the “dark wood” that Don read about Dante awakening in while at the Royal Hawaiian? Clearly Don hadn’t actually reached it yet. At the brightly lit bar he interacted with an American icon — the serviceman on shore leave...
“Write right from the left to the right as you see it spelled here.” Given that I’m moving back to Louisiana, it only seems fair that I pass its literacy test before being granted the right to vote. Unfortunately, it seems I’m illiterate: 1. Draw a line around the number or letter of this sentence. How does one draw a line around something? I thought lines were those infinitely extendable things with no curvature. How I am supposed to draw a line around the number of this sentence? I have an idea! Wait — that’s three lines. Fuck. Maybe I should try to draw it around the letter of this sentence? Not that I know what that’d be. Do they mean “the” letter of the question or “the” letter of “this sentence.” Given that both the question and “this sentence” have more than one letter, I’m not exactly sure what they’re asking me to do. Maybe this? Granted that’s nine lines now, but they’re now “around” both “the” “letter” and “the” number and “the” word “number” in the question as well as the words “this sentence.” I may not be right but I can hardly be wrong. Moving on: 22. Place a cross over the tenth letter in this line, a line under the first space in this sentence, and circle around the last the in the second line of this sentence. I got a little confused over whether they meant the first space in this sentence or “this sentence,” but I made up for it: They didn’t ask me to draw Bad Ass Jesus struggling to get off the cross, but they didn’t not ask me to either. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it. What’s next? 29. Write every other word in this first line and print every third word in same line, (original type smaller and first line ended at comma) but capitalize the fifth word that you write. That’s it — I’m fucking illiterate. I don’t even know what the difference between “writing” and “printing” is. You win Louisiana! I won’t be casting any votes that matter anyway. Just once I’d love to live in a state where they do.

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