Mad Men – Dir. (Jon Hamm, Vincent Kartheiser, John Slattery)

mad-men.jpgI don’t watch a lot of television beyond the odd HBO drama, but “Mad Men” is the real thing, more an epic mini-series than a cable drama. The sense of time a place – 60’s Madison Avenue – is about as authentic as anything since the real thing, except that the real thing was never captured in such in such vivid colorful honesty. This is a time where cigarette smoke hangs almost romantically amongst the starless but impeccable cast. A place where the midday drinks and bottles are not hidden in desk drawers and consumed behind locked doors, but are accepted and even expected as part of the program, a perk of the trade.

Long gone are the days when advertsing was glamorous, when pretty pictures and perfect words accountable to no one except television coverage and heads of companies who look at the work as art, or at least the product of confident salesmenship. Each character represents a product of a distant dream. This is a time where agenecy men wore slick suits, and even slicker hair, where hipsterism and $200 jeans were not part of the program. Back then women were secretaries and minorities ran the elevators, not the accounts. This is a microscope help up industry that no longer resembles itself. Sure there is creativity but it is of another sort. 

 Today in an era of “accountable marketing” and “measurable ROI,” where pitches are orchestrated with elaborate powerpoint slides, and decisions are made with analytic projections of efficiently delivered impressions, advertsing is a science and not an art. “Mad Men” is reminder of how far we have come, but as much as we can see this as progress, it sure makes you long for the old days.
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The Counterfeiters – Dir. Stefan Ruzowitzky (Karl Markovics, August Diehl, and Devid Striesow )

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Holocaust films are always hard to watch but the best, “The Piano” and “Life Is Beautiful,” tend to distract you with stories about distraction leading to survival. “The Counterfeiters” is the incredible true story of a Jewish master craftsman thrown into the concentration camps for, of all things, counterfeiting. Ironically this crime is the gift that gives him the chance to survive for years by helping the Nazi’s mint currency to prolong the war. 

 The counterfeiter Salomon Sorowitsch is played with incredible intensity by Karl Markovics whose emotions and expressions beat with a fearlessness that somehow allows the movie to keep the realities of death enough at bay to lose yourself in the dark flow of the film. Markovics, like Duvall’s Lt. Colonel Kilgore in “Apocalypse Now” eminates a kind of glow that you know will let him emerge from the war without a scratch, but is forced to take risks that could cause the deaths of the men around him. Working for the Nazi’s is like playing poker with the devil, but drawing the perfect card against the evil empire is redemption like no other.

War is bleak, and the Holocaust will always feel like the most devasting of them all, but  “The Counterfeiters” is one of the most compelling war films of the past decade. This film can not be missed.

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