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Office Christmas Party

Another reminder that allowing your cast to madly improvise instead of actually providing a coherent script with a scintilla of inherent logic often leads to…

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Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

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Mad Men: Memories, doppelgängers & phantoms

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"It's the greatest curse that's ever been inflicted on the human race, memory." -- Jed Leland (Joseph Cotten), "Citizen Kane" (1941)

Nearly every scene in "The Phantom," the Season 5 finale of "Mad Men," conjures a ghost from the show's past. "Mad Men," like many great series from "Hill Street Blues" to "SCTV" to "The Sopranos," has always been exceptionally good at this (see "The Long Walk"), setting images, gestures and emotions reverberating off one another across episodes and seasons. The series has a memory, and the curse of memory is a primary theme of "The Phantom," which is why the episode is composed as it is. As Nancy Sinatra sings in that final song:

You only live twice, or so it seems, One life for yourself and one for your dreams.

(Spoilers from here on out.)

That's a James Bond theme song, from "You Only Live Twice" (1967) -- and it's the second Bond theme we hear in the episode, after Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass bite into Burt Bacharach's theme from the James Bond parody "Casino Royale" (1967) at the weekday matinée where Don (the suave, masculine Bond of New York advertising) runs into Peggy. (The Beatles, who have figured prominently in Seasons 4 and 5, released "Help!" in 1965 and it was in part a 007 parody, too -- especially the John Barry-like orchestral music written by George Martin.) Echoes and repetitions are everywhere.

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A 'Silence' sweep?

Conventional wisdom has it that the Motion Picture Academy likes to honor Feel Good films with its Oscars. Gritty and violent movies may be nominated for the best picture award, but the winner will be a movie that embraces traditional values and leaves us with a warm glow. That theory has certainly held true over the past 10 years, during which the only really Feel Bad movie that won as best picture was "Platoon." I do not count such Feel Good About Feeling Bad movies as "Terms of Endearment."

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