he’s in the place, but I get no joy

Mad Men S3 Premiere (SPOILER-FREE): A gentle easing back in to America’s favorite ad agency. Aside from certain exciting developments in the lives of Messrs. Cosgrove and Campbell, no real plot developments here. But I’m okay with that (which is perhaps an inconvenient bit of hypocrisy, considering how much distaste I directed at stories that favor talking over doing, but if inconvenient hypocrisy turns you off, then sister, you’re at the wrong store already). Mad Men has such a superlative cast and visual feel that a glance, a pause or a well-timed exit can advance a relationship by volumes. Consider Don’s glance at Sal during the London Fog onsite, or Cosgrove’s exit from his last conversation with Campbell. Pristine, artistic television; I will never tire of unpacking it.

My one regret: the cast has grown so large and deep that we didn’t get to spend too much time with any of our other favorite characters. Peggy was on screen perhaps twice; likewise Betty, likewise Roger Sterling. But we saw substantially more of Salvatore than we normally get to, and we got introduced to some of the new British overlords. I question their increasing presence on the show, though. Every major plot change in Mad Men seems to stand for some broader social trend: Peggy getting her own office, the two “hep” young guys brought on in S2 to market to the youth. Is the presence of the English guys a clumsy stand-in for the “British invasion”? Because the Beatles and the Kinks had a loosening, youthening effect on America, and Hooker and Price seem to tighten everyone up. Nobody’s comfortable around them.

I watched this at a Mad Men premiere party at Noir in Harvard Square, with Marie C. and Jarret I. Roughly 90% of the men and 100% of the women dressed in their approximation of period garb: dark suits with vests, swooping dresses with crinoline. I showed up in T-shirt and jeans (fcuk fashion; it was hot out). I leaned against a wall and watched the show for the first time with a crowd. It was enlightening: I laughed at things I wouldn’t normally laugh at, because of the audience, and cheered more openly at things I would otherwise nod at without a word. Don’t know that I’d do it every week, but I had a good time. I’ll get there earlier next time, though.

Burn Notice S3 Mid-Season Finale (SPOILER-FREE): Dark and intense, certainly, but not quite as dark or intense as the episode prior (which took a gut-wrenching turn when Michael had to slap Fiona). And I’d worry a little about the two-steps-forward, one-step-back resolution of the overarching metaplot – Michael’s continuing quest to resolve his agency status – were the show not so fun. But it’s still fun. The plot in this episode surprised me with plenty of twists. Things got heavy (as they always do when Michael has to put a bullet in someone). And we got some backstory on Fiona, which I never noticed how much we missed until today. But she has a history! And family! Who knew?

The Hurt Locker (SPOILER-FREE): One of those amazing, fraught little movies that I don’t feel the need to ever see again. Well cast, well acted, well shot – excellent in every aspect of the film language. Even the few moments that I anticipated well in advance (“that guy’s going to die, isn’t he?”) were carried with such aplomb that I didn’t mind. And the no-name cast, augmented by the occasional big star cameo, never let me down. That being said, I nixed my plans to see District 9 the same afternoon as this movie, as I stumbled out of the theater with a knot in my stomach. At first I feared food poisoning from the burrito I’d had for lunch, but it was a caesar salad burrito. Perhaps the dressing?, and then I stepped into the 88 degree sunshine and still felt cold. Ah, I diagnosed, adrenaline shakes.

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