The good stuff

My weekend recuperation from a root canal afforded me plenty of time to catch up on movies via both Netflix and TV. It was a nice respite from reality shows. When it comes to film, I’m much more of a snob, so my viewing pleasures were totally guilt-free.

Winters_LolitaI’d never seen Kubrick’s Lolita in its entirety so that was a nice surprise. I knew it had an element of humor but it was way funnier than I expected. Such a solid cast: Shelley Winters was predictably amazing (I kind of love her) and Sue Lyon was much more than just a random nymphet. Peter Sellers as the ridiculous, scheming Quilty was almost a cartoon, but totally enjoyable; and James Mason’s Humbert was fantastically hammy. It all seemed very modern for 1962, but that’s Kubrick for you.

I wound up crying during some of the dancing portions of Bringing Balanchine Back a documentary about New York City Ballet’s return to Russia in 2003 (last visit: 1972). City Ballet is my favorite ballet company in the world and Balanchine my favorite choreographer hands-down. The company didn’t know how they would be received in St. Petersburg — though I doubt they thought it would be worse than their Cold War visit  — so the Russian audiences’ wildly enthusiastic response was gratifying. That didn’t make me cry as much as the choreography itself. Those dances (“Serenade,” “Symphony in C,” “Agon”) are what made me fall in love with ballet in the first place.

Another movie that made me cry: Offside, Iranian director Jafar Panahi’s feature about a bunch of girls who dress as boys in order to get into a soccer stadium for a World Cup-qualifying match. Funny, sad, maddening and deeply human. The girls especially were fantastic: scrappy, determined and irreverent. All in all, a tremendously satisfying movie. And talk about naturalistic: Panahi  apparently shot the film inside Tehran’s Azadi Stadium on the day of the actual match between Iran and Bahrain to determine which country would qualify for the 2006 World Cup! Had the match gone the other way, the movie would have had an entirely different ending. Unreal.

OK, back to TV, but good TV: What a splendid episode of Mad Men this week: joan-accordionPeggy gets high on marijuana and it puts her “in a really good place”! (Pot was invented for people like Peggy!); Joan sings a kittenish “C’est Magnifique,” accompanying herself on accordion (the instrument never looked sexier), at a dinner party for her husband’s boss! There were also interesting plot threads involving Don and Betty’s kid stealing $5 from her addled-but-still-commanding grandad, and a country club party thrown by Roger and his new (ex-Sterling Cooper secretary) wife, who gets drunk. One of the series’ best episodes, I think.

[Later, still thinking about the episode]…And!  I almost forgot Roger Sterling’s hugely offensive blackface performance at the party! And Pete Campbell and his wife executing a mean Charleston, totally showing off. Lots of strange performances  this week.


2 Responses to “The good stuff”

  1. 1 Sympathetic
    September 1, 2009 at 7:24 pm


    You should have root canal more often (just kidding). Blog readers benefit.

    This week’s episode of Mad Men moved in unexpected directions (what we viewers love about MM). Don is coming across as such a commanding (and admirable?) figure, compared, say, to the likes of Roger and Pete. Seeing Don go to Betty and hug and kiss her as the final shot of the episode was curious, tender, and moving. Does he realize that what they have could be special, so much the opposite of Roger’s sham happiness? And there was an uncomfortable element for me of Joan’s musical performance. The accordion is so plebeian. I couldn’t but help to think of the organ grinder (is she her husband’s monkey?). The flaws of her choice of husband are growing with each glimpse into their relationship. Relationships—even casual ones like Betty’s with the stranger who wanted to feel her pregnant stomach—are fraught with danger.

    –Nervous for them all

  2. 2 breenbag
    September 1, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    Oh yeah, I was kind of dismayed to see Joan lug out the accordion and she clearly did not want to do it, but it’s also true that it was a really popular instrument in the early ’60s, so it seemed right period-wise. There’s a definite sadness in Joan, so wonderfully at odds with her va-va-voom persona; and that marriage just makes me cringe.

    The Don/Roger dynamic is really interesting. As you say, Don’s coming across as the real thing (flaws and all), while Roger’s all surface. You’re right: overall, a pretty unsettling episode.

    Thanks for your feedback, discerning viewer!

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