‘Mad Men’: Was It Really So Drunken and Debauched Back Then?

When the fifth season of “Mad Men” begins Sunday, millions of fans will be watching faithfully, drawn to the portrait of the ’60s advertising world. The TV series’ creator, Matt Weiner, is so obsessive about portraying the era accurately that last week he reportedly pulled Dusty Springfield’s 1967 song, “The Look of Love,” from the premiere because it was released six months after the episode takes place.
But how true to the period is “Mad Men,” really? Perhaps no one watches more closely and critically than advertising execs and creatives. And the consensus is that while the workplace was not as libidinous and drunken as depicted on the show, the “Mad Men” stories are grounded in truth. “There was a concern about being able to produce top-notch work in the afternoon” after a lunch filled with martinis, says Jane Maas, a former advertising creative director and author of “Mad Women: The Other Side of Life on Madison Avenue in the ’60s and Beyond.”

“The drinking on “Mad Men” is a little bit exaggerated. We did not drink in the morning. And I don’t remember any senior male executives having liquor out on credenzas and tables in such a visible way. Most of the senior guys kept a bottle or two or three in their closets, and if we were working late, it was usual to pour a scotch.”

What about the rampant bed-hopping (and sexism) on “Mad Men”? Maas finds the show isn’t off base. She remembers, for instance, that at one agency, there was an annual “sex contest” — a blind vote to name a person at the agency who the staff would most like to go to bed with. (The first prize was a weekend at the Plaza Hotel. Second prize was a night at the Plaza. And third place winner got a night on the couch in the boss’ office.)

But now that the fifth season moves the cast into the late 1960s, what should we expect to see? In speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Maas also suggested that if the show’s creators want to stay true to an era, women and minorities need to be elevated at Sterling.

“They need to hire a few more copywriters or promote Peggy to assistant creative director,” she said, referring to the character Peggy Olson in response to a question about the lack of women in powerful positions on the show. “Or I predict she’ll leave to go to another agency or start her own.”

Still, ad execs who remember the era well say that the way Weiner’s show depicts the management of clients and accounts, so far, has been dead on. During an appearance on The New York Times talk series, Weiner recalled being approached about the topic by Bob Levinson, the former head of television at ICM, and a sometime adviser to the show, who said:

” ‘In 1960, I was on the Lucky Strike account at BBDO. Our office wasn’t as nice then, but do you have a time machine?”

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Tom Cruise to star in Van Helsing reboot

Van Helsing was a big disappointment for Universal. Bringing together the likes of Dracula, the Wolfman and Frankenstein’s Monster, it should have been The Avengers of monster movies, but suffered an absolute mauling at the hands of the critics. Any ideas of a potential franchise were swiftly dead in the water.

However, Universal have now attached electrodes to Van Helsing‘s ruined corpse and are ready to flip the switch, with Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci currently developing the script for an upcoming reboot.

Now, whilst that might not necessarily sound like a recipe for success, consider this: Tom Cruise is reportedly on board to produce the film, and apparently, he’s agreed to star in it as well.

Whether or not you’re a fan of Cruise’s screen presence, this does at least suggest that Universal are planning to do things properly this time around. Cruise generally runs a tight ship when he’s on production duties, so hopefully there will be none of the half-assedness that plagued the original.

The team-up with Kurtzman and Roberto represents part of the first-look deal agreed between Universal and the screenwriters, with the pair also set to breathe new life into The Mummy. Prepare to hide behind your sofas… monsters are on the rise once more.

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New trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man

The Amazing Spider-Man has released a new full-length trailer, featuring a wisecracking Spidey, a scowling Peter Parker and a Lizard that looks as though he could give the Hulk a run for his money.

Director Marc Webb has stressed the importance of Peter’s lost parents to his particular story, and judging by this latest trailer, he wasn’t kidding. “The one thing that has haunted me my entire life,” says Parker, grimly, “is finding the truth about my parents.”

Teenage angst aside, the new trailer doesn’t skimp on action, with the Lizard (spotted once again in that signature medical coat we referred to yesterday) causing out and out carnage in New York City. Looks as though Spider-Man’s going to have his hands full with this guy.

Take a look at the new trailer below…

We’ve still yet to see a proper, stationary glimpse of the Lizard in all his glory, but we can understand why Sony want to hold something back for the final release. That said, he does look like a pleasingly physical enemy, and one who should help sell the new Spider-Man as a high-school kid just coming to terms with his powers.

On a similar note, Garfield’s wisecracking could just be the film’s trump card – a return to the mischievous sense of humour of the comic-book Spidey after Tobey Maguire’s distinctly straight-laced incarnation.

The Amazing Spider-Man opens in the UK on 4 July 2012.

We’ve still yet to see a proper, stationary glimpse of the Lizard in all his glory, but we can understand why Sony want to hold something back for the final release. That said, he does look like a pleasingly physical enemy, and one who should help sell the new Spider-Man as a high-school kid just coming to terms with his powers.

On a similar note, Garfield’s wisecracking could just be the film’s trump card – a return to the mischievous sense of humour of the comic-book Spidey after Tobey Maguire’s distinctly straight-laced incarnation.

The Amazing Spider-Man opens in the UK on 4 July 2012.

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The Night of the Hunter

The Night of the Hunter

Motionless for 90 minutes, I could not even remove my coat. I sweated and shivered. I felt in shock. Was the film recreating scenes from my sleep? I had never seen, as far as I can recall, The Night of the Hunter. That is until a cold, wintry night in the 1990s when, working in Glasgow, I went to the city’s GFT cinema to catch a new 35mm print of Charles Laughton’s 1955 masterpiece. It was his only film as a director. Critics panned it on its release, consequently killing off the actor’s career behind the camera, and perhaps robbing history of further works of greatness.

It was a film I’d heard of, but knew nothing about; I wanted to see it, but had no idea why. Then came that dizzying sense of already having dreamt it. So strong was this impression, I felt a bit like the character of architect Walter Craig in 1945′s brilliant Dead of Night, wondering if he is trapped in a repeating chain of interlinked ghost stories. Unlike Craig, though, I didn’t have repressed urges to strangle anyone. Tricks of the mind? Scarier than ghosts.

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Tyrannosaur takes hat trick at British Independent Film Awards

Tyrannosaur takes hat trick at British Independent Film Awards

Paddy Considine collects best film and best debut director awards while Olivia Colman is best actress

Tyrannosaur, Paddy Considine’s gripping and gruelling study of rage, has become the biggest winner at the 14th British Independent Film Awards.

Starring Peter Mullan as a drinking, gambling, washed-up widower, it was surprise winner of the best film award from a particularly strong shortlist that included Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Shame, Senna and We Need to Talk About Kevin.

It is not a first date movie, or rather would be one for unusual people. The tone is set in the first minutes when Mullan’s character kicks his dog to death after he is kicked out of the bookies. While it is not easy to watch, critics have showered the film with praise.

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Ken Russell dies aged 84

Ken Russell dies aged 84

Ken Russell, the veteran director of Women in Love, The Devils and Tommy, has died at the age of 84

Ken Russell, the director behind the Oscar-winning Women in Love has died aged 84. Russell died on Sunday in his sleep, according to his friend, the arts writer Norman Lebrecht.

Known for a flamboyant style developed during his early career in television, Russell’s films mixed high and low culture with rare deftness and often courted high controversy. The Devils … a religious drama that featured an infamous scene between Oliver Reed and Venessa Redgrave sexualising the crucifixion – was initially rejected by Warner Brothers. It will be released in its entirety in March next year, 42 years after it was made, when it will form part of the British Board of Film Classification’s centenary celebrations.

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Take Shelter: ‘Spins us around and shouts in our face’

Xan Brooks is impressed and alarmed by Take Shelter, Jeff Nichols’s brooding take on societal unease, in which family man Curtis (Michael Shannon) can see that a storm is gathering, even though it may be only in his head. Should he protect his family from the weather? Or from himself?

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Why silent movies are golden once more

Why silent movies are golden once more

A silent film hasn’t won the Oscar for best picture since Wings took the top prize at the very first ceremony in 1929. A year later, the talkies had taken hold, and it’s fair to say they have dominated the awards ever since. But now, for the first time in more than 80 years, a silent movie is being talked up as a real Oscars contender.

The Artist is a French film, but set in Hollywood at the end of the silent era, and shot like one of the very best films from that time. That means it’s black-and-white, it uses the squarer “Academy Ratio” frame rather than widescreen and, yes, it’s silent. It’s a beguiling, A Star is Born/Singin’ in the Rain story of two lovers whose paths and careers cross – a leading man from the silent days falls down on his luck, while a young flapper named Peppy makes it big in talking pictures.

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The Iron Lady: first screening

The Iron Lady: first screening

Was it a dream or is it a nightmare? In the early years of the 21st century a frail old woman totters around her London home, assailed by memories that rise up unbidden. They tell her that her husband still lives, and that she remains the prime minister, the cherished daughter of a nation of shopkeepers, called upon to save Britain from ruin. For the old woman, these ghosts provide reassurance, a sunny remembrance of days gone by. Others, by contrast, may be hard pressed to keep the horrors at bay.

While one doubts whether Baroness Thatcher would wholeheartedly approve of any large screen biopic, it seems likely that she’d have a certain, sneaking affection for The Iron Lady, which prints the legend and keeps the dissent on spartan rations. Yes, the film provides glimpses of a blustering Michael Foot, and archive footage from the poll tax riots. At one stage angry protesters slap on the window of the heroine’s limo to tell her she’s “a monster”. Yet there’s little sense of the outside world, the human cost, or the ripple effect of divisive government policies. It is a movie that gives us Thatcher without Thatcherism.

The Iron Lady, directed by Phyllida Lloyd from an Abi Morgan script, opts for a breezy, whistle-stop tour through the unstable nitroglycerin of Thatcher’s life and times. The tone is jaunty and affectionate, a blend of Yes Minister and The King’s Speech, fuelled by flashbacks that bob us back through authorised history.

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