Tuesday, February 24, 2015

TV and Movie Watch: Celebrating "Mad Men" and Matthew Weiner at MoMI -- and even if you can't get there


Escape from Grand Central: In North by Northwest (made only a couple of years before the dawn of the Age of Mad Men), as Matthew W reminds us, Cary Grant plays an ad man named Roger (seen here trying to slip out of NYC by train; the ticket agent with his bald head to us is that long-enduring character actor Ned Glass). We might add that Hitchcock's ad man named Roger has gotten through life trafficking heavily on his charm.

by Ken

After writing my Sunday Mad Men-themed post, as some readers may have noted from my initial updatings of the "On Demand" CC situation, I proceeded to zoom through Episodes 1-5 of Season 7, and last night I had to restrain myself from watching Episode 7 as well as 6, mostly in the interest of salvaging a bit more sleep than I'd managed Sunday night.

The reason I'm returning to the subject so soon is that time could be a factor for readers within striking range of NYC's Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria (Queens). As you'll see in a moment, there is one more day (Wednesday) left of members-only registration, before sales are thrown open to the general public, for an even that looks to be the biggest deal since that historic night when MoMI had David Chase on hand for a screening of the first and last episodes of The Sopranos, namely:


Our Matthew on-set with Elisabeth Moss (Peggy Olson)
Screening and Live Event: INSIDE MAD MEN:

A conversation with Matthew Weiner and a guest moderator (to be announced)

Part of Required Viewing: Mad Men's Movie Influences
Friday, March 20, 7pm

Matthew Weiner, the creator and showrunner of Mad Men, will discuss the influences and inspirations behind the series, talk about his creative and collaborative process, and give a look behind the scenes of the remarkable film series Required Viewing: Mad Men’s Movie Influences. Special guest moderator to be announced.

Tickets: $25 public ($15 members at the Film Lover, Dual, and Family levels / free for Silver Screen members and above).  Members at these levels may reserve tickets in advance.  Tickets will be made available to the public on Thursday, February 26 at 12:00 p.m.
The David Chase extravaganza not only sold out, but sold out a simulcast presentation, with large numbers of Sopranos fans still turned away. And despite the truly tumultuous storm that night, I think everyone left feeling that it had been a glorious, not-to-be-forgotten evening. NYC metro-area Mad Men fans who aren't already members may want to think about joining by tomorrow to assure themselves of members' access to tickets. (Yes, I'm pretty sure you can join and buy your ticket in the same operation.) What's more, members at the "Film Lover" level and above have free access to nearly all of the films (now with online registration access) being screened in the MoMI film series Required Viewing: Mad Men's Movie Influences, as chosen by Matthew Weiner himself -- about which more in a moment.


That guy standing all by himself way off to the left of the set is literally out of the picture.

As part of its celebration of the culmination of Mad Men, MoMI has an exhibition opening in a couple of weeks which looks to be at least as exciting as the museum's 2013 Breaking Bad exhibition, which I found pretty darned exciting.

March 14-June 14

This new major exhibition explores the creative process behind Mad Men, one of the most acclaimed television series of all time, now launching its final seven episodes on AMC. Featuring large-scale sets including Don Draper’s office and the kitchen from the Draper’s Ossining home, more than 25 iconic costumes, props, video clips, advertising art, and personal notes and research material from series creator Matthew Weiner, the exhibition offers unique insight into the series’ origins, and how its exceptional storytelling and remarkable attention to period detail resulted in a vivid portrait of an era and the characters who lived through it. The Museum’s exhibition marks the first time objects relating to the production of Mad Men will be shown in public on this scale. The Museum will also present An Evening with Matthew Weiner and a film series featuring movies that inspired the show, selected by Weiner.

The exhibition Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men will be joined by other initiatives around New York City celebrating the series. Mad Men’s final seven episodes will air on AMC on Sundays at 10:00pm ET/PT, from April 5 through May 17. Visit amctv.com for more information. 

Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men is presented with generous support from AMC and Lionsgate.


Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon in The Apartment, which "completely engaged my imagination as a representation of office and sexual politics at the time" and "blends humor and pathos effortlessly.

Central to MoMI's Mad Men celebration is a mini-festival of films chosen by Matthew Weiner himself as cinematic influences on the show.
With its richness of detail and depth of characterization, Mad Men has an artistic ambition that reveals many influences. Series creator Matthew Weiner drew from literature, cinema, fashion, photography, architecture, music, and more, to help create the world of the show. His goal was not just to give us a realistic depiction of the period, but to delve deeper, to take us into the inner worlds of the show’s characters, into the obsessions, desires, and dreams that lie beneath the surface. For this film series, Weiner has selected ten movies that had an important influence on the creation of Mad Men, movies that made a deep impression on him and were required viewing for people working on the show. The films in this series all played an important role in making Mad Men such a great accomplishment as a narrative of America in the 1960s.
The comments below are all Matthew W's own brief descriptions of how each film influenced him and Mad Men. Note that he'll be presenting The Apartment himself, at a separate event immediately following the "conversation and screening" event on March 20, and for that, everyone has to buy tickets, though MoMI members get a discount. All the other screenings are free for members at the "Film Lover" level and above. Advance reservations can be made online.

Alfred Hitchcock's North by Northwest (1959). Saturday and Sunday, March 14 and 15, 5:30pm)
This film became an important influence on the pilot because it was shot in New York City, right around the time the first episode takes place. While more overtly stylized than we wanted to imitate, we felt the low angles and contemporary feel were a useful reflection of our artistic mindset. I had studied the film in depth at USC film school and absorbed much of its “ordinary man in extraordinary circumstances” narrative drive. It is worth noting that Cary Grant is playing an Adman named Roger, who is forced to assume another man’s identity.
Billy Wilder's The Apartment (1960), with Matthew Weiner in person. Friday, March 20, 9:15pm
I had seen this for the first time in film school and was bowled over by the dynamic writing and the passive nature of its hero, Jack Lemmon’s C.C. Baxter. It is definitely a story of its times, firmly rooted in a Manhattan where seemingly regular men behave unscrupulously, and it completely engaged my imagination as a representation of office and sexual politics at the time. It blends humor and pathos effortlessly.
Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958). Saturday, March 21, 1:30pm, and Sunday, March 22, 4pm
Released to negative reviews, it now ranks for many as the greatest film ever made. I had not seen it before the show began, but finally caught it on a break after the first season. I was overwhelmed with its beauty, mystery, and obsessive detail. I remember watching the camera dolly-in on Kim Novak’s hair and thinking, “this is exactly what we are trying to do.” Vertigo feels like you are watching someone else’s dream.
David Lynch's Blue Velvet (1987). Saturday, March 21, 4pm, and Sunday, March 22, 7pm
Remarkably original for its time, this film had an impact on my generation that can’t be underestimated. I saw it as I was finishing college and applied to film school soon after. Indefinable in genre, Blue Velvet moves from murder mystery to film noir to black comedy to coming-of-age story, almost from scene to scene. With stylistic richness and psychological complexity, it celebrates the horror of the mundane and is filled with reference to a kitschy and ironic “’50s” milieu. This incredible observation informed much of the 1980s and became an inspiration for the series and its attempt to equally revise our mythical perception of the period.
Claude Chabrol's Les bonne femmes (1960). Friday, March 27, 7pm
I first saw this in film school and shared it to help the production design of the pilot because it was shot in the streets of Paris, with little embellishment, at exactly the time we were trying to recreate. The thematic aspects were valuable as well, as the film tells the everyday story of four bored working women led astray by their romantic fantasies. My favorite sequence, a kind of postscript to the whole film, is particularly relevant to the series as it features an unknown woman looking right down the lens at the audience.
Fielder Cook's Patterns (screenplay by Rod Serling, from his 1955 TV version; 1956). Saturday and Sunday, April 4-5, 4pm
I saw this film version as a child on sick day from middle school; it was originally written and produced for live television in 1955. Rod Serling ingeniously creates a boardroom passion play with a chilling first-person climax that I never forgot. We used it often over the life of the series to get a sense of the real offices and to see how virtue and ambition can clash when the older generation is pushed aside and ruthless business confronts humanity.
Delbert Mann's Dear Heart (1964). Saturday and Sunday, April 4 and 5, 7pm
Stumbling upon this film gave me the impetus to finally write the pilot. I was taken by this mainstream Hollywood film that reflected a very casual attitude towards sex, something that seemed uncharacteristic to my preconceptions of the era. With its glib bachelor hero and dowdy, conservative ingénue, it tells a tale of moral corruption and heartbreaking duplicity in the form of a light comedy. As Glenn Ford tries to change his ways and take responsibility for his meaningless romances in glamorous Manhattan, I found a jumping-off point for the series.
Delbert Mann's The Bachelor Party (screenplay by Paddy Chayefsky, from their 1953 TV version; 1957). Saturday, April 11, 4pm
Originally written and produced for live television in 1953, this film reteams writer Paddy Chayefsky and director Delbert Mann, and reflects the painful realism of their previous collaboration, the Oscar-winning film Marty. The “swinging bachelor” was a trope of fiction at this time, but this film poetically undoes the clichés of male camaraderie and presents both the issues of fidelity and loneliness with an unflinching eye.
Jean Negulesco's The Best of Everything (1959). Saturday, April 18, 2pm, and Sunday, April 19, 3:30pm
A highly stylized and star-studded adaptation of Rona Jaffe’s 1958 best-seller, this film became part of the group mind-set for the pilot. Although I felt that it was a visually glamorized, and extremely melodramatic, I could see that its story was a well-observed representation of working women in New York at the time. The workings of the office, the romantic complications, and the living situations all smacked of the truth. Like many popular films of the time, it helped to inform our characters—they certainly would have seen it, and it would have had an impact on their real expectations.
Arthur Hiller's The Americanization of Emily (screenplay by Paddy Chayefsky, 1964). Saturday, April 25, 2pm, and Sunday, April 26, 1pm
I saw this first in film school and was taken immediately with Paddy Chayefsky’s ironic and rhythmic dialogue and by its deep anti-war sentiment, which was shocking because it was rarely discussed in the context of the allies in World War II. James Garner’s portrayal of Charlie, a callow and glib womanizer who has given up on humanity and is then forced into heroism, influenced our attempt to recreate the mid-century male mindset and its relationship to existential absurdity.

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