Eighth Grade is so grounded in the reality of middle school it almost operates like a horrible collective flashback.
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A few images from last week's "Mad Men" (or, as I often think of it, "The Peggy Olson Show Featuring Don Draper") to illustrate why composition and framing (aspects of what you might call cinematic architecture) make a world of difference in how a scene works... or doesn't. This episode, "The Rejected," was directed by John Slattery (who, as Roger Sterling, perfectly accents the new office design) and photographed as usual by Christopher Manley (overseen, of course, by series creator Matthew Weiner). Captions appear beneath the frame grabs below:
Don Draper (Jon Hamm) is falling apart, and the first shot shows him tethered to a phone cord, chain smoking, backed into a corner, with the ceiling closing in on him (as ceilings often do on "Mad Men"). The sight of Don compulsively puffing, lighting one smoke with the butt of another (he's on the phone with the notorious Lee Garner [Darren Pettie] from Lucky Strike, Sterling Cooper Draper Price's most financially important, and asshole-ish, client) is just the opposite of the way you would expect the well-groomed star of a TV series would be introduced -- especially in 1965. It turns out the subject of the call has to do with both cigarettes and television: the new FCC regulations for advertising cigarettes on TV. There's a delayed punchline a few shots later, when Don explains to Lee that certain camera angles are also prohibited -- like low angles or wide lenses, "anything that makes the smoker appear super-human." Yeah, we've seen that at work.