Thursday, May 23, 2013

Best Magazine Reads: 8 Reasons Why I Love Jon Hamm/Don Draper

I was reading a recent edition of Rolling Stone, and the cover story was on Jon Hamm, who, as Don Draper on Mad Men, is probably my favorite actor in a TV drama ever.

It was a pretty good article that probably could have been more revealing of its famously mysterious subject, but the article did at least capture much of what I consider the "8 reasons why I love Jon Hamm/Don Draper:"

1. Like me, he's a huge St. Louis Cardinals fan. Like me, he wears their team hat quite a bit. And unlike me, he was a power-hitting catcher growing up in St. Louis. I was a hitting-for-average first baseman growing up in St. Louis.

2. He plays fantasy football. Major props there. Not to mention that he's a former all-state linebacker.

3. He loves Budweiser (meh, I can only tolerate it BECAUSE I'm from St. Louis, but I'd much prefer a craft) and Wilco (now we're talking ... one of my favorite bands).

4. All the actors want to please Hamm on the Mad Men set because he's "like the dad" and "they really don't want to let him down."

5. He worked for 10 years in L.A. before getting his big break, at one point even earning a living as a set dresser on soft-core porn movies.

6. People see Don Draper and they see glamour and authority, apparently a lot of people see their fathers. But I agree with Elizabeth Moss, who plays Peggy Olsen, in that Draper is almost impossible to not stare at and be in awe of.

7. He likes Jeff Bridges as an actor. You have to like that. I mean, Bridges is the Big Lebowski.

8. Rolling Stone writer Rob Sheffield calls Mad Men the "greatest TV drama of all time, and it's not even close. Mad Men is to TV what The Godfather was to the movies."

I would have to second Sheffield's opinion.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty Most Overrated Film in a Long Time

Zero Dark Thirty is, of course, an important story to tell. I kind of enjoyed the movie, but its importance may actually be the reason I couldn't help but feel a little let down.

Because it's so important, director Kathryn Bigelow seems to have felt the need to allow the film to unfold very slowly over nearly three semi-painful hours. There is suspense, but at the expense of often feeling like a slog and American duty to make it all the way to the end.

And the end is what everyone no doubt wants to stay for. Although the scene in which Osama bin Laden is killed in his Pakistan compound is lengthy, I felt like I didn't learn much that I hadn't already read about and the bin Laden sighting ends up being a brief flash. Having this as an episode of America's Most Wanted (that show's not on anymore, is it?) or Bill Kurtis Presents might have been more illuminating than this movie.

And another thing. Jessica Chastain as Maya, the CIA agent who obsesses about her lead in the case to find bin Laden, is really not much of an actress. I expected a little more from someone who won the best-actress-in-a-drama award at the Golden Globes. She leads a cast that turns in a mostly made-for-TV-level performance.

Zero Dark Thirty is probably the most overrated film I've seen in a long time.

*** out of ***** stars

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Remington the Christmas Mouse Offers Promising Holiday Tale from D.C. Author

Nothing surprises me anymore with D.C.'s renaissance man Dan Sullivan. That may be because I spent 5 years writing Wiener Sausage: The Musical! with him.

But that doesn't mean you shouldn't be pleasantly surprised. His latest work takes a detour from his stop-and-start blog, his non-profit leadership, his masterful on-stage storytelling, and this past weekend's zany turn at Chief Ike's Mambo Room in Adams Morgan as the world's leading "vajazzler" (don't ask).

It's a children's holiday book called Remington the Christmas Mouse. This story, much like Wiener Sausage (some might say), is a little raw but has a lot of promise.

The premise is creative: The star has fallen off the top of the Green Family's Christmas tree and without it being set properly in place to rise up the chimney and into the sky to light the way to the Green's house for Santa, the family will have to make due without a Christmas.

Enter Remington, an ornament who lives near the bottom of the tree. He realizes the star needs to make it back to the top of the tree but he also knows that the tree's hierarchical cliques of ornaments (the best and prettiest ones get to have all the fun at the top) will make this a treacherous and near impossible journey. He recruits a couple of other bottom-of-the-tree outcasts, a bear and a clock, who help him navigate upwards.

The story is great and captivating. My recommendation, however, is that Remington would work better as a shorter children's book with lots more illustration from Kate Sullivan Nelson. Also, in the Amazon Kindle version I read, there were a dozen or so errors (where words were misspelled or misplaced), so that should be cleaned up. Finally, I'm not sure all the talk of Remington and his pals clearly being inferior because they are not as good-looking as the top-of-the-tree dwellers works for a children's book, where inclusivity and diversity are qualities worth reinforcing for young children. I would say there could be a better (and perhaps even funnier) way to highlight the social differences of the various ornaments.

A lot of promise from Mr. Sullivan is displayed in this book, and "children's storyteller" is clearly yet another side of of this artist that is well worth exploring further.

**** out of ***** stars