Mad Men Finale – Gone but Never to be Forgotten

Kudos to Mad Men‘s Master of the House, Matthew Weiner, for his superb series closing episode which aired on AMC last night. Mad Men, which has run for 7 seasons over 8 years, will now recede back into a secured niche as one of TV’s Best Shows, as well as our own personal entertainment history. Notice I said recede rather than disappear.

I think there has been and will continue to be discussion about how the series ended. People will debate for years about whether or not the fictional Don Draper is the person who created the famous Coke Commercial with a multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and multi-cultural collection of people who gathered on a hillside to sing a song about Coca- Cola – I’d Like to Teach the World To Sing.

Some will say that it was Don, and that he got the idea while he was with a group of people who sat on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Don had ended up at a retreat/self-help/commune on the California coast by way of the Bonneville Salt Flats.

And in the midst of the group chanting Om, a blissful smile crosses Don’s face. We aren’t told why this man is smiling…

screen-shot-2015-05-17-at-11-17-47-pm

…but what we see next is the Coke Commercial. Now that actual Coke Commercial, which was entitled Hilltop, was made by McCann Erickson. Don is sitting on a hilltop. Connecting the dots – the conclusion follows easily. However, there’s no way to confirm that Don left California forever and came back to New York. It is up to the viewer to make the interpretation. But it would be foolish to dismiss this out of hand.

But this too was foreshadowed, if only briefly, when another shattered man, an office guy, much like Don in age, told his tale; a tale of shattered dreams, broken hopes, and most of all – a story of a man who felt that he had not mattered at all. Apparently this is what cut Don down to his core – when he saw it in another man, Don crumbled within, but not so much that he didn’t rise out of his chair, and give than fellow an embrace.

An epiphany for Don? A lifting of the deadly weight he carried within himself for all those years?

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Rangers Cut Off the Power on the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game One

Going in, it figured to a difficult task for the Rangers. They were facing the high-powered offense from the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bolts had the most goals scored in the NHL 2015 Regular season.

Beyond that fact, the Rangers had never beaten the Bolts Benjamin Bishop – a massive 6’7” goalie. In fact Bishop had held the Ranger to a Goals Against average of less than 1 and half goals per game . The actual figure was 1.47.

That’s going in.

But soon enough, actually nearing the end of the second period in what had been an energetic yet scoreless game, the Derek Stepan caravan rolled on. At 19:47 of the second period, Stepan put in a rebound, and the 0-0 game became 1-0 as the period closed.

This shot was a mirror image of Stepan’s 2nd Round, game and series winner in overtime three days ago. Eerily the same shot.

The only difference was that Stepan, with his arms raised above his head after he had scored, skated toward the opposite side of the Tampa Bay Lightning nets.

When his overtime goal went in to defeat the Capitals he headed to his left. This time it was to the right.

Woo-hoo.

However taking the lead is only the first step toward victory. As expected, The Lightning with its high-powered offense did manage to tie the score. It was a power play goal by Lightning’s Ondrej Palat at 6:45.

Now that the game was tied in the 3rd period, everything is magnified in importance. Every bounce of the puck, or every swing of a stick become crucial. The Rangers incurred two minor penalties after Palat’s tying goal.

Ryan McDonough was sent off for a high stick, and with under five minutes remaining in regulation time, Ranger Chris Kreider got himself a two-minute minor for holding an opponents stick. The penalty was at 15:05.

The Rangers were able to withstand the Lightning’s attempts to score on both power plays. Half a minute after Kreider’s penalty time had ended, the Rangers put on a strong push led by Derick Brassard and Kevin Hayes.

At 17:35, Dominick Moore found himself in the paint in front of Lightning goalie Benjamin Bishop,

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Witnesses

I just finished watching a gem of a miniseries. In English it is called Witnesses, in French – Les Temoins. It aired in France in October of 2014 and is a detective story/police procedural/psychological thriller. And it was excellent.

Consisting of six one hour episodes, you can watch it with English Subtitles via streaming from Netflix. There are two detectives at the center of this story – one is a 50-ish retired chief of detectives, and the other is an early thirties female detective. They are working out of the Lille, France homicide bureau, and the crimes are committed in and around Les Treports, France, – a seacoast town on the English Channel, up the coast from Dieppe, and north by northwest of Paris.

Here is a look at the crimes: In a brand new model home (here called a show house) three bodies are discovered – all quite dead, and arranged in the homes like a family – a woman, a man, and a teenage daughter. Here’s the thing – these people are not related.

Simultaneously, fresh graves have been opened, and the bodies taken – and put into these model homes. Not once, not twice, but three times – and this is just in the first episode. The retired detective , Paul Maisonneuve is called in because a framed picture of him was found in the model house.

The lead detective is Sandra Winckler, who eight years back studied under Maisonneuve at the police academy.

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Rangers Skate On!

What a difference a week makes. Last Wednesday, the New York Rangers had lost to the Washington Capitals by a 2-1 score. The score itself is less important that the fact that at this point, the Rangers trailed the Caps 1-3 in games won. In short, the Rangers were on the brink of elimination as this was a best of seven series.

But maybe the Rangers needed a blade positioned over their necks to really get their survival instincts running. Or they needed to be standing on the edge of the abyss with a pair of hands on their backs to get the urgency before them.

The next game, a win or go home for the summer, was scheduled for Friday May 8th, at MSG. Here is the New York Post back cover the next day.

Okay, the series was now 3 games to 2 with Washington ahead, and Game Six would be in the Caps’ building on Sunday.

Here is the New York Post back cover on Monday morning.

The Series is now even!

Game Seven was scheduled for Wednesday May 13th in New York. Last night. The losers would begin their summer vacations right after the game ended. The Caps best player, Alexander Ovechkin had guaranteed that the Caps would not lose. At 12:50 into the 1st period, Ovechkin was able to put one past Ranger goalie Lundqvist from the slot, and the Caps surged into a 1-0 lead.

Kevin Hayes of the Rangers would tie the game at 1-1 in the second period.

For the next 42 minutes – which meant 8+ minutes into the overtime, both times played extremely hard. There were plenty of chances but both goalies were resolute and yes, it must be said – heroic..

Until Ranger Derek Stepan slapped a rebound past Caps goalie Holtby. In that instant, Ovechnik’s guarantee crumbled into history, and all he could do was skate into his summer vacation.

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Gangster Payday

Though I’ve not been in Hong Kong since November of 2013, I try to keep abreast of the best films coming out of Hong Kong. Released back just last November 8th, Gangster Payday stars the long time popular Hong Kong actor Anthony Wong as a mobster/hoodlum and co-stars Charlene Choi as the proprietress of a Hong Kong tea shop.

Wong, who is called Brother Ghost in the film, plays an old school triad gang leader, he’s got his own crew, and he’s got some massage parlors and karaoke bars in his portfolio. He’s also the owner (landlord) of the building that houses the tea shop owned by Mei (Charlene Choi).

Now Brother Ghost wants to step away from the dirty crimes and rackets of loan sharking and prostitution and wants nothing to do with the drug trade. He wants to be legit – or said in other words – he wants to go straight.

But getting out is even harder than getting in. A rival gang leader has stepped into the real estate development business, which seems honest on the surface. But the reality is that they put the muscle on the neighborhood Mom and Pop stores and shops, eventually forcing them to sell or go out of business. Then they step in and buy out the businesses for a fraction of their worth and sell the same properties off to the big developers at huge profits.

Now Brother Ghost has taken a shine to the young Mei. She’s basically inherited the tea shop business and is still learning the ropes, but she is willing to work hard. While Ghost is making it clear to Mei that he is willing to help her fend off the developer who is putting the pressure on her, he also wants to have a relationship with her.

But Mei has taken a shine to Leung who is one of Ghost’s young lieutenants.

So there’s both halves of your story – two men who want the same woman, and all trying to fend off the shark-like real estate developer.

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5 Flights Up

5 Flights Up is the kind of film that looks better on paper than it really is on the screen. Morgan Freeman as Alex Carver and Diane Keaton as Ruth Carver, play a couple who have been married for 40 years. Through all those years, they’ve lived in the same two bedroom, fifth floor, walk up apartment.

He’s a painter (portraits are his specialty) and she’s a retired NYC school teacher. They’ve grown old together, and are ready to turn over a new page in their lives. They’ve no children at least not the human kind. In lieu of children, they’ve an older dog named Dorothy, and their struggling tomato plants in their rooftop garden.

While neither is in bad health, the long hike up to their apartment is a lot more tiring now than it had been. Plus their Williamsburg, Brooklyn neighborhood is changing. As Alex narrates in an early voice over –

When Ruth and I first moved to Brooklyn, it was like an outpost. To our friends in Manhattan, we might as well had moved to Nebraska. It was out-of-fashion, but it was a good place for a struggling artist like me, and we liked it. Which was good and it was all we afford. The neighborhood has changed a lot. It’s cool now – filled with hipsters, and gentrifiers – but as much as it’s changing, I’m going to miss this place.

Alex spoke of the neighborhood changing as if he were talking about an invasion by aliens. You know the aliens – investment bankers, hedge-fund managers, doctors, lawyers, – people who could afford baby strollers that cost as much as a Chevy.

So the Carvers are going sell their apartment, for big bucks, and relocate to somewhere else in New York. Florida isn’t for them. As Ruth says,

All we need is a place for you to paint, and an elevator.

So that’s the foundation of the film. The whole film takes place over a frantic couple of days when their apartment goes on the market, with the place being shown by their agent in what is called an open-house, and they go out to look at other apartments.

Should they sell? What is a fair price for their place? Will they be able to stand by and watch as various New York types (some of whom are really obnoxious and rude – traipse in and out of the space they’ve lived in for so long? Can they find a new place to their liking and price range? And finally, do they really want to move?

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See You in September Alicia – The Good Wife Season Six Finale

The Good Wife closed out its sixth season last night. While poet Dylan Thomas once wrote – Do not go gentle into that good night, in this episode, this series sort of did the opposite. While not all of the story lines ended positively, or pointed toward hopefulness, most of them did leave into that good night, really what we know as a seasonal finale, which is a kind of death, yet made us feel good.

Said another way, and again quoting from Dylan Thomas, hardly any character, with only a few exceptions, left feeling that they should – Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

*****Plenty of Spoilers Ahead*****

As the seasonal finale began – Alicia was told by her husband Peter that the Illinois Democratic Committee has asked him to run for President. Basically it was a ploy to get him into position for the Vice Presidential role, but that’s not the point. Peter (with Eli in the wings) came to Alicia to ask for the consent of the family. In a sit down with Peter, Alicia and their kids, Peter described it out for the kids.

Every thing came to a head when Grace asked – Will you still have to pretend you’re married? Peter said, We are still married. Grace basically replied Yeah, right. We live in this apartment and you have your own apartment.

Alicia scuttled the whole plan by telling Peter that if he runs, they would become a media target. They [the media] would like nothing better than to take us down.

Of course there is a case involving a police ‘black site’, and we will meet yet another alumnus of The Wire – one of almost two dozen to appear on TGW. This time it is Seth Gilliam, who needs Alicia’s lawyer’s skills. But she needs Finn’s lawyer’s skills to help the client. And in the midst of all that, Alicia asks Finn to partner up with her in a new firm – just the two of them. Finn accepts.

But Finn later recants, as the idea of working together, and the inherent proximity, is too much of a ticking bomb for him. He tells her, the temptation would always be present, and he just can’t live like that. So it is adios time for Finn.

Meanwhile back at Lockhart, Agos, & Lee, there’s trouble brewing. It seems that there’s a new employee, a Simone, a paralegal. David Lee recognizes her, and expresses his concerns to Diane. Did you know that Louis Canning’s wife works here? Uh oh. Louis Canning. We can’t have her here. That’s Canning’s wife!!!

That’s Canning which starts with a C, and that rhymes with T, and that stands for trouble. So Diane has to fire Simone. Which a few days later brings a raging Louis Canning into the office. He’s nearly a fire-breathing dragon, and he does in fact threaten to burn the place down in retribution for what they did to his wife. He’s one of those who went off in a rage.

Then there’s the circumstances of Alicia’s autobiography and the ghost writer. He’s always poking around in her wake (trying to get feel for the best way into the story – he says). Alicia is talking with him and she is able to see the handwritten notes in the margins. She asks to see the manuscript and the ghost writer kind of demurs, but Alicia shuts him down. It is my story, right? Let me see it.

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Alex of Venice

Alex of Venice is the story of a family. Plain and simple. Warts and all. Directed by first timer helmsman Chris Messina best known for his work as an actor in Vicky Barcelona and Argo in the movies, and The Mindy Project and The Newsroom on TV, the film satisfies and is deserving of your interest.

Here’s the family :

Alex – She’s an early thirties workaholic. She’s an attorney for an environmental firm call Earth Now. She’s married to George, and had a son with George called Dakota. In short, she’s going to lose a lot of what she has, and then struggle to figure out what it is that she really wants. Mary Elizabeth Winstead has the role and she’s terrific,

George is the husband. Chris Messina has the role. We see him briefly in the beginning as he tells Alex that he can’t continue to be her housewife. George is the stay-at-home Dad who has reached his limits. So he splits.

Don Johnson appears as Alex’s Dad called Roger and he lives with her and George and Dakota. Johnson, who we all remember as the cool and flashy detective, Sonny Crockett, in the 80’s police drama Miami Vice, and then, the still cool, but less flashy detective in the 90’s TV drama Nash Bridges, here plays an aging actor who likes to smoke his pot in the house claiming he needs it for medicinal reasons. He pals around with a friend played by Reg E. Cathey who starred in The Wire and more recently House of Cards.

Katie Nehra appears about halfway into the film. She plays Alex’s sister Lily. Where Alex is all business, buttoned down, and conservative, Lily is the opposite. She as wild as they come, tossing F-bombs around in the house. She had been asked to come to the house for a while by Roger, who figured Alex needed some support after George departed.

There’s a fifth wheel, a real estate developer who wants to put up a hotel/spa in the wetlands near Venice, CA. He’s played by Derek Luke. Of course it is Alex’s firm that is fighting the land use. Alex is the litigator asking the city courts to void the contracts because of environmental concerns.

So your set up is this. George leaves, Alex has to deal with work, with her son, with her now-empty bed, and take care of her Dad Roger, who is beginning to show some disturbing behavioral signs that require a trip to the doctor. Sis Lilly arrives and things take a different turn for both Alex, and Dakota.

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Mad Men’s Lost Horizon – Sorry Don, You’re Not in Advertising Heaven

This is Major Tom to Ground Control
I’m stepping through the door
And I’m floating in a most peculiar way
and the stars look very different today

With this David Bowie (circa 1969) tune playing behind the closing credits, Mad Men has the end in sight. We are now X-2 to EOS (Two Episodes to End of Series). Things began to dissolve at the end of last week. Don Draper may not have been floating off in a tin can in space last week, but when he gave the merger speech, and people just got up and walked off, he may have felt as if he were.

It seems that our merry band of intrepid Mad Men and Women have been called home to the Mother Ship otherwise known as McCann-Erickson.The signs are not good. Roger apparently doesn’t give a fuck.

Joan has not only lost the first skirmish about her role, but the second and the third as well. She will be lucky if she gets 25 cents on the dollar after court costs.

Peggy, a copy supervisor has somehow been deemed as a part of the secretarial group. Her office wasn’t ready.

By the time she did get around to showing up, she too had the look of some one who couldn’t care less about her new office, much less her job and her new overlords. We will have to wait until next week to find out what happens to Pete Campbell.

But as I indicated Don got his first wake up call last week when the staff turned their backs on his rah-rah speech about the relocation to McCann Erickson.The new bosses told him he was now at Advertising Heaven, but he didn’t really buy into it.

So much so, that at the first product briefing that he was asked to attend – where some space cadet was discussing the campaign for dietetic no calorie beer, (which would eventually become Miller Lite – but Don couldn’t have known that right at that moment), he picked up his boxed lunch, and without a word walked off.

He made his way up to the Francis residence to pick up his daughter Sally to drive her to school, but she had already left without him. A celebration of her independence said Bette, Don’s ex. Another door shut on Don. Where should he go?

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