Amoeblog

Mad Men - Crazy Like a Fox

Posted by Miss Ess, October 10, 2008 03:02pm | Post a Comment
I think I'm in looooooooove.mad men cast

I've just started watching Mad Men Season 1, and I am already obsessed with it-- the aesthetics, the smart writing, the subtlety and the way the show plumbs the depths of its own artifice. It's a bit spine-tingling.

I know I am a little slow to get to this. I had been avoiding all the press about this show up till now (cause I knew I would get to the DVDs eventually and didn't want to ruin it) so it is all new to me still, and if for some reason you have not caught on either, it's about time. The show, as everyone knows by now, is about an ad agency in the early 60s, but it's more about the internal lives of each of the employees, centering around shadowy alpha male Don Draper (Jon Hamm). Tmad men office casthe sets, styling and camera shots are extraordinary, very filmic.

It's a visual feast as well as an intellectual one. The show's storylines are juicy and complex -- all those nice, satisfying layers that the best writing adds to characters. It's amazing and intriguing to watch each one's veneer shatter, to see the underbelly and reality of the early 60s in America. I can't recommend this show more highly!

And for once can say I like a show that's not trash! I can respect myself in the morning! What a relief.

I know I am not alone in this. Check out what Brad had to say about it here, and BillyJam here. I just couldn't resist adding my own excitement to the bunch. Oh yeah, and they just won a slew of Emmys too...I guess I really am the last person to catch on!

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AMOEBA MOVIE/DVD ROUND UP

Posted by Billyjam, August 12, 2008 10:08pm | Post a Comment

The recommended DVD sections in each Amoeba Music location are the kind of places where time can stand still as you lose track of everything else around you and get lost in the sea of video/DVD delights in front of you. You can spend hours just digging in row upon row of a wide variety of movies and TV shows and music videos and concerts of every genre imaginable. 

For proof, check out the current Top Sellers Movie charts for each of the three Amoeba stores (Berkeley, San Francisco, Hollywood), where you will also notice a real diversity of content on each of the Top 25 charts. The five DVDs listed from each store below are drawn mostly from these current Top 25's but also include some additional current hot sellers at Amoeba.

Amoeba Hollywood: 5 DVD Picks

  Girl On The Bridge
  Control (
Joy Division)
  Mad Men: Season 1
  Spaced: The Complete Series
  Cocaine Cowboys


"The French movie Girl On The Bridge is doing really well right now," said Rigo at the Hollywood Amoeba of the movie La Fille Sur Le Pont (Girl On The Bridge). Check out a scene from the film below. This three minute clip is from the film's knife throwing scene and is set to the moving score of Marianne Faithfull's "Who Will Take My Dreams Away." Another music themed movie doing well with a clip below is last year's big screen biopic on Joy Division's late lead singer, Ian Curtis.

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Go Forth and Replicate: A Few Thoughts on Advertising, Christian Rock, Mad Men and Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music (2004)

Posted by Charles Reece, July 27, 2008 10:17pm | Post a Comment
I've been letting my Movies We (I) Like blog languish for far too long, so before I get to my Batman critique, I'm adding not one, but two entries to it with in the next couple of days. I'm going to try to add one a week from here on out (we'll see how well that goes). Anyway, until they appear, I won't keep you in suspense: the first pick is the pretty darn good Mad Men (which is a TV show, not a movie, but it's better shot than most movies) and the other is the surprisingly thoughtful and balanced Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music (a documentary about the current Christian rock scene).


Beginning its second season today, Mad Men is about a third-tier agency on Madison Avenue in the early sixties, a time of radical (well, pseudo-radical) change in the world of selling stuff. The first season is set in 1960, following the recent appearance of the famous Volkswagen ads by the Doyle Dane Bernbach agency. William Bernbach was a critic of advertising as a science, instead using it to convey emotions and deep-seated connotations to sell a product. His ads sold you an image of yourself, rather than a laundry list of the product's qualities that were supposed to appeal to you. The approach proved highly successful, and it's why we have the Super-Bowl commercials we do today.


There's a scene in the final episode of the first season where head adman Don Draper sells a campaign for a new slide projector to clients by using snapshots of his own family. So moving is his pitch that one of the other admen, who's currently undergoing some marital woes, has to leave the room lest he be seen crying. Ironically underscoring this heartwarming moment is the whole season where Don has been shown in the company of two mistresses. Advertising is an art that says less about itself or its creators than it does about the intended audience. It's art that's meant to be entirely consumable by being designed with the audience, not artist, in mind. If it's not understood by the target demographic, then it fails as art. That's why it's questionable to even call it art. It's not intended to offer resistance, only acceptance. Any resistance that it offers is purely manufactured, meant to play into a collective mind that wants to see itself as an uncollected group of free-thinking individuals. That Bernbach and others following him could and can walk that line -- selling individualism as a collective commodity -- is the evil brilliance of late-20th century advertising. 


I was thinking of Bernbach's movement and that scene from Mad Men while watching Why Should The Devil Have All The Good Music, named after the song from Larry Norman. Norman serves as the inspirational spirit for the film, promoting God while still managing to make music that could exist on its own terms. I don't know about the rest of his stuff, but that song's pretty catchy. I love country songs about Jesus, hillbilly sacred harp, classic Gospel, old Southern and Negro spirituals, et al., but the closest I ever came to being inspired by so-called contemporary Christian was dropping acid at a Stryper show (someone had to do it, and therein lay my inspiration). When a womanizing boozer like Kris Kristofferson asks "why me, Lord," one gets the sense of some struggle going on between his beliefs and his actions.  That sort of struggle gives the song an air of authenticity. But when Michael Sweet and his band sing they're "soldiers under God's command," one gets the message that this is metal being sanitized for the easily contaminated. Little has changed since when they were on top.


Most of the bands featured in Heather Whinna and Vickie Hunter's documentary sound like particular secular bands, just with special lyrics. The ones escaping this marketing pigeonholing tend to do so by sounding so generic that they can't be ascribed a particularized label. That strategy was employed by Stryper during the metal heyday, obtaining secular acceptance by sounding blandly like the genre, rather than the Christian-Iron Maiden or -Van Halen. 


The fundamental problem with Christian rock is that, rather than build on an authentically religious tradition of struggle, it's made to serve two masters: mass culture and fundamentalism. It fails both because it has no soul, no aesthetic inner life, being entirely outwardly directed. Like a modern ad, it tells you no more than what you already bring to the table. On the one hand, it's designed to appeal to the "secular audience" (i.e., the largely Christian audience in the U.S. -- if the census is any indication -- that aren't Christian enough for the extremists). Here the connotation is that Evangelicals are just like you (evidently just as bland as you), and after conversion you can keep on liking the same stuff that you liked in your heathen days. This message is doomed to fail, I suspect, because it's saying there is no essential change in who you are when coming over to their side, so why bother? On the other hand, the music is designed to appeal to the "Christian audience" (i.e., those teens raised with a severe pop cultural immune-deficiency order) who really like music, but live in fear of its not serving God, only itself -- in a word, idolatry. By giving the fundamentalist youth what they want, the ability to rock, while only reinforcing their cultural seclusion, the music is depleted of its potential aesthetic-objective vitality, instead serving as agitprop. In making rock music easily consumable, the dialectic between beliefs and the world is cut short. The religiously conservative audience doesn't have to struggle with popular art any more, because it's now being made with only one message in mind: buy Christian. With the Christian rock scene, the religion has become just as much of a commodity as the music that it copies, easily consumable in one's leisure time.


out today...7/1...mad men...swingtown...

Posted by Brad Schelden, July 4, 2008 03:41pm | Post a Comment
There have been so many new albums out in the last couple months, and we have some really exciting things to look forward to as well -- new albums from Ratatat and Beck next week, and a new box set from Yaz next week as well, which I will most likely be talking about. Yaz is also playing in Los Angeles next week and you know that I will of course be there. I have never seen them before and I am sure that this will be my only chance. There is also this new album next week from Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine and Patti Smith! I am very curious. Not exactly two people that I would expect to work together, but I love them both! Should be interesting. July 22nd is the date that the Dead Can Dance reissues finally come out. It breaks my heart a little bit that those albums have not been in print for a little while. I imagine some young kid coming into the store, trying to explore the world of Dead Can Dance and only finding the greatest hits sort of collection. Luckily, we have the used CDs in the meantime. I can't imagine my life without these Dead Can Dance albums and am happy to know they will soon be joining us again in record store land. There is a new Faint album on August 5th as well as the solo debut from Conor Oberst from Bright Eyes, but this week there is really nothing out in the land of music. At least nothing for me. There are new albums from G-Unit, J*Davey, Alkaline Trio, Deltron 3030, and Earlimart, but they are not exactly the albums that get me excited. It has been a while since there has been a week like this, but I guess it is bound to happen every once in a while, so I am forced to move my attention to DVDs-- and there is one excellent TV show out on DVD this week that I absolutely love. If you have not seen Mad Men yet, now is the time!

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1960 WAS A MILLION YEARS AGO - ESPECIALLY WITH SMOKING

Posted by Billyjam, July 31, 2007 09:14am | Post a Comment

Last Thursday night I watched the second episode of Mad Men -- the engaging and very stylish new TV drama on (of all places) AMC about the business and home/family lives of young, upwardly mobile American ad men in the very beginning of the sixties. The show, which was created by former Sopranos * writer//producer Matthew Weiner, perfectly nails the whole style and feel of that era in American history when things were radically different from today, both socially and culturally. It was a time when everyone seemed to smoke cigarettes, often chain-smoke, and also happily knocked back cocktails during as well as after work every day. And did it sans any guilt or conscience whatsoever. Different times indeed!

As the show reminds us, it was time when people weren't all caught up in safety issues. A different time for sure when one didn't fuss with such silly distractions as putting on seat belts while driving. As last week's episode showed, neither mom nor her kids in the back of the car had seat belts on when she had a little crash. And speaking of mom, this was before the idea of women's rights was a common concept across America. Men were cads, or at least could act that way towards women. (Although you can tell in this well written script that their dominant ways will not go unchallenged by all women for too long.) As well as getting away with being cads, men also got all the good jobs. Women, it seems, were either wives who stayed home or else single women who became secretaries in offices like the Madison Avenue one in Mad Men where they're likely to be subjected to harassement -- except this was eons before the concept of sexual harassment really existed. 

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