The M&M Report: “Us”

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Devin and Mark, along with horror correspondent Kevin Werner, debate and discuss Us, Jordan Peele’s follow-up to Get Out. Listen here.

Listen to Sean Fennessey’s interview with Peele. Read Reggie Ugwu’s profile of Lupita Nyong’o. Ponder Jordan Crucchiola’s interpetation of the ending.

Subscribe to Devin and Kevin’s politics podcast Friendly Fire.

And subscribe to The M&M Report!

Things I Loved This Year: “BoJack” Goes Deeper, and Much Darker

Each day this month (assuming I don’t get busy or bored!), I’ll reflect on a tiny sliver of pop culture that I enjoyed or appreciated this year — scenes, shots, gestures, verses, sights, sounds, moments. Today: the BoJack Horseman episode that stuck with me.

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Most year-end lists that feature the remarkable Netflix series BoJack Horseman have focused on the third season’s dazzling fourth episode “Fish Out of Water,” which has virtually no dialogue as the title character takes an emotional roller coaster under the sea. A few mentions have also been afforded to “That’s Too Much, Man!” which depicts a bender gone horribly wrong between two self-destructive friends.

Both those episodes deserve the accolades they’ve been given. But equally astounding was “Best Thing That Ever Happened,” which comes five episodes after the former and two before the latter. (Incoming: sentence I never thought I’d write.) This episode is to BoJack Horseman what “The Suitcase” was to Mad Men, and the two hit with a familiar, devastating force.

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2015 in Review: My Ten (Okay, Eleven) Favorite TV Shows

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Diversity of many varieties was on the brain for many spheres of television this year. Network executives, showrunners, critics and audiences alike engaged in thoughtful discourse about what it means to make diverse television in 2015. There are more places than ever to watch TV, and more places than ever to distribute it. It makes logical sense that TV offerings this year would touch on a wider range of issues, feature a wider range of character types and demographics and explore a wider range of stories and universes than ever before.

But with great power comes great responsibility. My favorite shows in 2015 were the ones that used the expanding boundaries of what’s possible on television to their fullest advantage, crafting rich and surprising worlds, telling stories that dovetail with the themes, ideas and controversies guiding our daily lives. In relatively arbitrary order of preference (who’s to say whether a dark comedy about an animated horse is superior to one of the most beloved drama series of all time?), here are my ten favorite shows of 2015.

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The M&M (Written) Report: Discussing “Person to Person” person to person

Courtesy of AMC

Courtesy of AMC

Here’s my conversation with Devin Mitchell about “Person to Person,” the series finale of Mad Men.

Mark: Before we start our deep dive into “Person to Person,” the series finale of Mad Men, let’s get a few caveats out of the way. Here are mine:

  1. Regardless of my positive or negative reactions to this episode of television, I love and respect Mad Men, and I’m very sad it’s over.
  2. There are no right answers. Even if Matthew Weiner were to give twelve interviews today explaining all of his decisions, what’s onscreen is up to each viewer’s interpretation.
  3. I don’t like Coke. Or drink soda, ever.

Devin, feel free to add any of your own caveats to my list. Before you do, I’ll offer some insight into my first reactions at the end of last night’s episode. I was moved to tears several times. I laughed out loud four or five times, sometimes at a funny line of dialogue, sometimes at the prospect of the show ending in twenty — no, fifteen! — minutes. I definitely laughed at the Coke ad, though I wasn’t sure why and I’m still not.

The key takeaway is that nearly all of my reactions to this ambiguous, unusual episode of television were emotional. The intellectual responses came later, especially when I logged onto Twitter. But for a few moments, I was happy to care only about how the episode made me feel, not what it was trying to say.

Your turn, Devin. What were your visceral reactions to the finale? And where do you want to begin discussing specifics?

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“Mad Men”: Rewatching and Reliving “The Suitcase”

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The series finale of Mad Men starts in just over four hours on the East coast. This show is one of my favorites, to say the least. I started watching the first season while the fourth season was airing, which means I saw some reactions to “The Suitcase” months before I finally got to see it for myself.

“The Suitcase” is the seventh episode of the fourth season, and the show’s 46th episode overall. Written by series creator Matthew Weiner and directed by Jennifer Getzinger, it comes at the precise midway point of the series, though when it aired, Weiner hadn’t set the end date or even renewed his agreement with AMC. It’s widely considered the best episode of the show’s run.

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“Mad Men”: All-“Time” Great

Michael Yarish/AMC

 

Relatively few Americans are watching the final season of Mad Men as it airs live. Unlike with Breaking Bad, AMC’s other prestige drama that ended on a bifurcated episode order, the availability of Mad Men on streaming hasn’t brought the show any closer to the phenomenon status of Game of Thrones or the megablockbuster spoils of The Walking Dead. It seems the slow pace, narrative digressions, literary allusions and absence of obvious narrative momentum aren’t driving people to furiously binge-watch and catch up as they did, urgently, for the end of Breaking Bad.

The show has few, if any, loose plot threads to tie up, and its characters hardly appear close to the happy endings some viewers might be expecting. But with the instant-classic episode “Time & Life” (which aired on April 27; yes, I’m behind), creator Matthew Weiner proved once again that he is singular among television writers for creating drama out of circumstances that seem to have passed their expiration date.

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2014 in Review: Unsung Movie Performances

All too often, film criticism falls victim to what I call the “Oscar Eyes” phenomenon, prioritizing showy performances and actors who make noticeable physical commitments to their characters over work that’s subtle but no less critical to a movie’s effectiveness. Below, here’s my attempt to look beyond the performances likely to be up for awards. These performances are on the margins of Oscar consideration for several reasons: either they’re in movies that rarely attract awards attention, or they’ve been overshadowed by performances with more obvious “award-bait” moments. They’re worthy of recognition nonetheless.

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