The Golden Globes is the first big awards ceremony to kick off the awards season when it comes to film. The problem here is that approximately 1% of the films that have been nominated have been released in Australia. Last year I used a randomiser to predict the film winners, but this year I’m going to leave my film predictions for the Oscars. There are still distribution issues with television in Australia, but it’s slowly getting better, and I think I’ve seen most of the nominated shows that I actually want to watch. It’s been a good year in television, and I like the complete unpredictability of the Hollywood Foreign Press, so every prediction I make will be worth a grain of salt.
It’s December, and the thing the internet loves the most at this time of year is the end-of-year Best Of list, so they can disagree with them. This is my first time writing such a list, and it’s difficult. I thought about writing a separate list for Australian shows, but I don’t want to ghettoise them, so they’re in here too. There are things that aren’t on here because I don’t watch them (The Walking Dead, Hannibal) or haven’t had time to catch up (Transparent, The Leftovers, Parks and Recreation), so just know I haven’t forgotten them. I didn’t forget anything, there’s a reason I left it off. Fargo isn’t on here because while I thought it was very good, I didn’t love it – although Kirsten Dunst did give one of the best performances of the year. My favourite show of the year has the top spot, everything else is in alphabetical order. Hopefully the shows I’ve collected here are a good range of the different things I’m enjoying right now. Writing a Top 10 list is hard, and while I’m only super passionate about half to two-thirds of the shows on this list, they’re all here for a reason. I’ve written about all of these shows previously, so there’s just going to be a paragraph about why each one is there, with some links to some things I’ve written. My only warning is that if you watch the “Best episodes” of the show, you will be spoiled for some plot developments.
Betty: “I know”
I haven’t read any reviews of the Mad Men series finale yet, because I wanted to sort out my own thoughts on the show. I don’t know if there’s much that I can add to the conversation surrounding the show, but I have my thoughts. When I wrote about the connection between Mad Men and The Graduate last weekend, I suspected that Mad Men would end with its characters at a certain point in their lives, and that their lives would go on, even if we didn’t see them. It’s well known that Matthew Weiner cut his television teeth writing for The Sopranos, and I knew that the end of Mad Men would be more nuanced than the end of Breaking Bad.
I started watching The Graduate last weekend, and because my internet connection was acting up, I didn’t even get up to the part where Benjamin was sleeping with Mrs Robinson. I watched the rest of the film on Tuesday, after Mad Men’s stunning penultimate episode, “The Milk and Honey Route”, because the joke where the college boys tell the doctor that Betty’s name is “Mrs Robinson” reminded me that I was half an hour into the film. I didn’t like The Graduate very much; it was beautifully directed, but I couldn’t see past the fact that Ben was clearly stalking Elaine. Then after I started doing some research into The Graduate, I realised that the Mrs Robinson joke in “The Milk and Honey Route” wasn’t just a reference to The Graduate, but a tribute.
After I finished The Graduate, I did a lot of reading online to try and understand why people loved this movie so much. I felt like the problems I had with the film meant that I was watching it wrong, but I’ve just come to terms that, as my mum said, it was a film very much of its time. 2017 will be the 50 year anniversary of The Graduate’s theatrical release, and a lot has changed in 50 years. What we know from history, and the popular culture that depicts that history is that the 1960s were an era of social change: women were allowed to go to college, and children had more freedom of their careers – they didn’t have to do what their parents expected of them. The changing times mean that it’s “okay” for Elaine to run away with Benjamin after she marries another man against her will; what she’s doing is making a choice for herself and defying her parents’ expectations. When I read online (and I didn’t make note of any of the websites I visited) that the Robinsons and the Braddocks were very much people of the 1950s, everything clicked into place. Elaine and Benjamin’s parents were Don and Betty Draper, who look even more out of place than they did in the late 60s, as Mad Men enters the year 1970.
For any Mad Men fan, Tom and Lorenzo’s “Mad Style” recaps are required reading. They analyse the costuming in each episode of the show and identify motifs that reflect character traits and themes of the show. In their recap for “Severance”, the eighth episode of its seventh season, they highlighted how Don Draper was a man out of time. Despite having some blue shirts as well as white ones, he’s dressing the way he did ten years ago, and compared to Roger, Pete and Stan, looks very old-fashioned. In the “Mad Style” for “The Milk and Honey Route”, there is understandably a focus on Betty as a woman who has finally come to terms with her own death, but Tom and Lorenzo show that there’s more to it. Betty is a woman who likes to look pretty, and she’s flattered by the Mrs Robinson comments she was getting from boys 20 years younger than her. She knows she’s much older than them, and she’s glad they can still see she’s attractive.
Betty has been a problematic character throughout Mad Men’s run, but the more I thought about it, the Mrs Robinson comparison makes sense. When Betty was suffering from depression and anxiety after her mother died, Don sent her to a psychiatrist who said that her problems merely amounted to boredom. The reason that Mrs Robinson started her affair with Benjamin Braddock is because she was bored. The reason that Benjamin decided to go along with it is because it he had no idea what to do with his life and it was a way to pass the time. He also knew his parents wouldn’t approve. In “Lost Horizon”, Betty Hofstadt-Draper-Francis is finally happy, which we all should have seen as a sign of her impending doom, but Mad Men is one of those shows that doesn’t follow conventional television tropes. Just think of when Cyrus and James made up in season 3 of Scandal, or when Will and Alicia had a truce of sorts in “Dramatics, Your Honor”. Neither of those things ended well.
The other more obvious parallel to The Graduate is Glen Bishop’s infatuation with Betty. As we see in “The Forecast”, Glen has had a thing for Betty for ten years (it’s been so long since I’ve watched Season One that I only have the vaguest memories of Betty babysitting Glen), and as he ships out to Vietnam, he wants to consummate that lust. But Betty stops him; she’s flattered that he wants her, but she’s married. This is different to whatever went on with Mrs Robinson, who was so bored with her life that she ruined her marriage to bed a college graduate. Betty is finally growing up, and has taken a lesson from Sally, and “marches to the beat of her own drum”. Like Benjamin and Elaine, Betty is defying what is expected of her in the final season of Mad Men. She’s come to peace that the lung cancer is going to kill her. People expect her to get treatment and fight her disease, but she’s not going to do that. Her husband expects her to stay at home, but Betty goes to class – it’s what she wants to do, and that’s what’s most important.
I still have my issues with The Graduate, but through my reading about both the film and Mad Men, I’ve come to understand why it’s considered a classic. It’s also an incredibly influential film that helped me understand Betty, which is something I never would have expected.
- I didn’t write much about the film because I didn’t have much to say that hasn’t already been said. The Benjamin stalker plot really bothered me though.
- One of the best things I found online about The Graduate was this podcast on classic films, which went through the themes and motifs used in the film.
- The last ten seconds of The Graduate are fantastic. It’s a realisation that two young people may have just made a huge mistake, and at the same time a recognition that the lives of these characters goes on after the end of the film.
It’s 10:30 pm on ANZAC Day and I haven’t bothered to start a review of anything (it’s been quite a busy day – because the shops don’t open until 1pm, I went to the supermarket with mum at 1:30 and I’ve never seen it so busy in my life), so I’m going to write a quick update of what I’ve been watching other than my regularly reviewed shows this week.
Mad Men: I have no idea where this season of Mad Men is going. I don’t really have much more to say than that. Mad Men always seems to start slowly, I remember not being too enamoured with it at the same time in season 7A. Then I watched “The Strategy” which I think is my favourite episode of the show to date. Between the dancing scene and Don, Peggy and Pete eating at Burger Chef, there was so much depth and history to all of those characters and their relationships with each other that I ignored whatever else was going on. I’d be fascinated to see whether or not Weiner can top that.
Game of Thrones: In the hypothetical piece I’m writing about finales, I might also write about premieres, because the internet has been complaining that this season has started slowly. I watch Game of Thrones for the scenes where there are two people talking in a room, like that scene in the first season with Robert and Cersei as they reminisced on their marriage, not for the big events like The Red Wedding, which was admittedly devastating. Joffrey died in the second episode of season four, and Daenerys burned Astapor to the ground in the fourth episode of season three, but I can’t remember anything like that happening in the first half of the first two seasons. And now they’re going off-book I have no idea what’s going to happen, but I’m excited anyway.
Marvel’s Daredevil: I started watching this a few days ago after I heard the latest instalment of The Station Agents, where Joanna Robinson and Dustin Rowles said that it had ruined all other comic book shows for them. I don’t watch any other comic book shows at all, but I was looking for something to watch so I didn’t burn through the fourth season of Lost too quickly, and it’s great. I love that there’s character work, and also the twin issues of crime and gentrification in Hell’s Kitchen, which is an interesting angle for the show to explore. I haven’t read any of the comic books, so I have no idea whether this is a storyline they’ve used. Either way, I think that comic books are better suited to television than film, because if you’re telling an origin story you can get it out of the way quickly, or deploy it sporadically in flashbacks as Daredevil does, rather than devoting an entire feature length film to it. The performances are wonderful; for me the highlight is Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page (there should also be more Rosario Dawson), and I’m so happy it’s been renewed for a second season.
Suits: I love watching Harvey and Mike do their thing. I’ve written about Suits before, and I’ve nearly finished the third season and it sort of got interesting when Louis caught onto Mike’s lie. I say ‘sort of’ because I don’t particularly care that Mike does not have a law degree, it was fine for the first two seasons, but can’t it just be a fun legal drama now? Donna is still the best character, and I’m torn about whether I want Harvey to be with him or Scotty. Is Harvey even good enough for Donna? The correct answer is no, because no one is good enough for Donna.
The PowerPuff Girls: There was one stage when I was embarrassed about liking this show (mainly because an ex shamed me for it), but that was a stupid thing to be embarrassed about, because this show is great. The fourth season is available for streaming on Stan, and watching it over ten years after I loved it has opened up a different side of the show for me. Once they started making longer episodes, they were able to explore their ideas more, and the fourth season episode “Members Only” explores issues of gender in a much more complex way than many “adult” shows that are airing right now.
If you are in Australia and have just gotten Netflix (not the US one through a proxy), congratulations! You have a lot of media at your fingertips, which makes it impossible to know what to watch first, second or even third. So with this in mind, I’m writing a guide to the things that are currently on Netflix Australia (as of April 11, 2015 for anyone counting). What I’m putting in this list are a number of US television shows that I’ve actually seen some or most of, and I’ll definitely write about some British and Australian shows as well. House of Cards is not on this list because I saw the first season and the first two episodes of the second season, and I didn’t like it that much. Things that are on my Queue that I haven’t had a chance to watch yet are Marvel’s Daredevil, Bloodline (I’m not sure whether I want to watch this one), Arrow and Vikings. I’m also planning on starting Spartacus fairly soon. On with the shows!