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Tribeca Film Festival Aardvark and The Clapper

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Tribeca Film Festival: Aardvark and The Clapper

Tribeca Film Festival

Tribeca Film Festival: Aardvark and The Clapper

Brian Shoaf’s Aardvark opens in the most on-the-nose way imaginable: with a shot of—what else?—an aardvark that young Josh Norman (Jack Lanyo) is watching with particular interest as it burrows its way into its hole at a zoo. Such obviousness marks the film as a whole, right down to the grotesque chili-bowl haircut that the now-grown-up Josh (Zachary Quinto) sports to immediately signal to us that we’re watching a mentally disturbed individual.

Mad Men Recap Season 7, Episode 14, "Person to Person"

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 14, “Person to Person”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 14, “Person to Person”

Considering that “Person to Person” is the series finale of Mad Men, it’s best to start with its final images: the famous “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” commercial from 1971 that married we-are-the-world humanism with an absurd and insidious kind of capitalism. Writer-director Matthew Weiner cuts to the ad just as Don (Jon Hamm) begins to smile, settling into his first meditation session at a new-age pavilion in Northern California. Is he imagining the ad? There’s not much to suggest Don is going to revert back to his life as a calculating ad man, especially after the way he reacts to Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) saying McCann would take him back. More conceivable is the idea that even this seemingly positive-minded form of self-exploration will eventually be co-opted and dumbed down to sell carbonated sugar water to the masses. And as much as a way of processing existence, such as meditation, can be packaged and sold, so can people begin selling themselves as a product or a way of life, something that someone must choose over something else to prove their worth.

Mad Men Recap Season 7, Episode 13, "The Milk and Honey Route"

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 13, “The Milk and Honey Route”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 13, “The Milk and Honey Route”

The title of last night’s episode of Mad Men, “The Milk and Honey Route,” comes from a handbook for hobos written by Nels Anderson, who himself lived the hobo life in the 1920s before writing his sociological study of the behavior and function of homeless people. In essence, he argued that living homeless is as honorable and worthwhile a way of life as any other, and that’s the kind of life we might very well find Don (Jon Hamm) in by the end of next week’s series finale. Indeed, all the characters in “The Milk and Honey Route” seem to be closely examining how their lives should be lived, whether their death is imminent or the farthest thing from their mind.

Mad Men Recap Season 7, Episode 12, "Lost Horizon"

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 12, “Lost Horizon”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 12, “Lost Horizon”

“Lost Horizon,” last night’s episode of Mad Men, is all about life as a series of entrances and exits, and it aptly opens with Don (Jon Hamm) waltzing into his new office at McCann. Before he even sits down for his morning coffee, he’s summoned to meet with Jim Hobart (H. Richard Greene) and Ferg Donnelly (Paul Johansson), and he’s greeted as if he were a king looking over a newly conquered kingdom. When Hobart sheepishly asks Don to introduce himself as a McCann employee, a request to which the ad man suavely obliges, the McCann head reacts as if Don were Marilyn Monroe singing him “Happy Birthday.” And yet when Hamm’s “white whale”—a Moby Dick reference with some rather dark implications—arrives at a meeting wherein Miller considers introducing a “diet beer” into the marketplace, he finds that he’s just one of a slew of creative directors who have been brought in to listen to the pitch. No matter what song and dance the head honchos sold him on, he’s just a cog in the machine, and this realization sets him off on a road trip. The alternatively liberating and devastating fall-outs of these sort of realizations by a handful of characters are part and parcel of what makes “Lost Horizon” feel so distinctly galvanic among Mad Men’s final episodes.

Mad Men Recap Season 7, Episode 11, "Time & Life"

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 11, “Time & Life”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 11, “Time & Life”

“Time & Life” opens with Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) getting gleefully teased by Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton), now the head of marketing for Dow Chemical, who denies Pete the easy approval of their mutual business for the sheer pleasure of watching him squirm. Once Don (Jon Hamm) enters, however, Ken quickly buttons up and agrees to SC&P’s plans for Dow. In essence, Ken’s unyielding dislike for Pete is simply outmatched by his idolization of Don, and last night’s episode catches Ken, along with several other characters, trying to move beyond intimate grudges in the dubious hopes of brighter skies ahead. Indeed, the dark truth at the center of “Time & Life” is that business is always personal, inseparable from the emotional baggage and mercurial philosophies each party brings to the table, to say nothing of the dreams, both failed and realized, that people naturally build into their careers.

Mad Men Recap Season 7, Episode 10, "The Forecast"

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 10, “The Forecast”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 10, “The Forecast”

If there was something somewhat heartening about Don (Jon Hamm) not ending up with Diana, whose obsession and regret over her own past seems poised to haunt her to her final days, “The Forecast” makes it perfectly clear that the next thing isn’t always easy to pinpoint. In fact, the episode hinges on a series of actions and events that, depending on perspective, could be seen as backsliding or moving on. This, of course, begins with Joan’s (Christina Hendricks) meeting with Richard (Bruce Greenwood), an incredibly handsome, well-off older gentlemen who initially wants her to abandon everything and run off to Europe with him. His offer suggests a total abandonment of the past, including her child, but Joan, unlike so many of her co-workers, has a strong idea of what she wants out of life outside of her professional goals. Her son is a necessity, and part of the invigorating dramatic pull of “The Forecast” is watching Joan curtly reminding Richard that he is not.

Mad Men Recap Season 7, Episode 9, "New Business"

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 9, “New Business”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 9, “New Business”

Before one can start new business, one must settle old business, and this is of primary import in last night’s episode of Mad Men. As Megan (Jessica Paré) returns to collect her belongings from Don (Jon Hamm), a number of ghosts get stirred up for more than one member of SC&P, and the episode hinges on what is the appropriate price for forgiveness and making amends with the past, or if there even is a price. In one of the more ghastly scenes, Harry Crane (Rich Sommer), in essence, attempts to rectify Megan’s marriage to Don and bungled career by offering her a good agent, but only if she’ll sleep with him. Just as Megan is trying to start anew, Harry is trying to reclaim an old crush, in the most crude way possible, and the episode makes a point of showing an array of ways the past infiltrates people and seduces them away from the present or, often enough, reason.

Mad Men Recap Season 7, Episode 8, "Severance"

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 8, “Severance”

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Mad Men Recap: Season 7, Episode 8, “Severance”

The key exchange in “Severance,” the midseason premiere of the final season of Mad Men, occurs between Don Draper (Jon Hamm) and Ken Cosgrove (Aaron Staton), not long after Sterling (John Slattery) fires Ken for being too close to Dow Chemical. Earlier in the episode, Ken gifts his father-in-law, Ed Baxter (Ray Wise), a new set of golf clubs, which he will likely never really enjoy due to the anxiousness of feeling useless and old, of not bringing home the bacon. When Ken speaks to Don about writing a novel and “the life not lived,” however, it’s the sound of a man who seemingly doesn’t care about such feelings, a man who’s comfortable with the comfortable life he was handed. In contrast, Don’s deeply unsatisfied with the life he’s taken, to say nothing of how he’s maintained that life, and “Severance” brings the full ache of that regret to bear.