Author Archives: Sonia Brand-Fisher

About Sonia Brand-Fisher

My name is Sonia Brand-Fisher and I am a film studies major at Smith College. Interests include vintage film and fashion, fake-swing dancing to early Standards, cooking lavish meals that stem far outside of my culinary comfort zone, and musing over the implications behind all things aesthetically intriguing.

Silver Linings Playbook

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: How to put this gently… “Silver Linings Playbook” is a film that, for me, had enormous potential. With an A-list cast, a colloquial script, and a hand-held camera used to capture the intimate neuroses of a middle-class family in Philadelphia, there were moments of genuine enthusiasm and struggle. The film followed the family’s process of accepting one of their sons, Pat (Bradley Cooper), home from a psychiatric institution. The beauty of this film lies in the dynamics and layered dialogue of the central family, who prepare for each Eagles games with a series of good-luck rituals to keep up the juju while noshing on “crab snacks and homemades.” You seriously felt like you were in this family’s house, sharing their joy and anguish over everything from Hemingway to heartbreak. Yet, what seriously tarnished what otherwise was a current and down-to-earth film was the distorted and gut-wrenching representation of its women. Continue reading

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Downton Abbey: Week 1 In Review

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: We’ve got a wedding, a new footman, “jolly” new hair styles, a “blushing” Mary, unlikely camaraderies, financial difficulties, a cancer scare, Irish rants, and Shirley Maclaine. Season Three of “Downton Abbey” has made it across the pond into our eager minds and hearts. Sunday night’s two-hour premiere can be summed up best by Lord Grantham at the beginning of the episode: “Nothing’s the matter. What should be the matter?” Nothing should be the matter. Matthew and Mary are about to be wed, Sybil and Branson are happy(ish) on their own in Dublin, Anna and Bates are making the best of a bad situation, the money troubles can easily be fixed by the immensely wealthy Martha Levinson (should she choose to contribute), and things are managing so-so downstairs given that they are currently understaffed. Nothing “should” be the matter. But, in true Downton fashion, many things are likely to be.

HOWARD MEGDAL: The return of Downton Abbey Sunday night provided precisely the well-acted, somewhat conveniently-plotted, aesthetically-pleasing television viewing we’d come to expect from Julian Fellowes and company over the first two seasons. Continue reading

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Mad Men Finale

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: The impeccably shot, brilliantly acted, beautifully written Season Five finale of “Mad Men” gave me a sense of extreme melancholy, not only because there will now be a period of mourning and nail-biting until the penultimate season debuts… but this episode felt…well… kind of anti-climactic. The previous two episodes have exploded “Mad Men” fans from Tumblr to Twitter into a frenzy of emotions, commentary, and speculation. This episode did not give me this visceral jolt (no pun intended) of exclamation about the characters, their circumstances, and their trials. It was lovely to look at, interesting to behold, but after a season that has been a gold mine of luminous material and story lines, this finale seemed more like a filler episode than something to whet our appetite. Continue reading

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Mad Men: Commissions and Fees

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: It seems futile, to me, to attempt to eulogize Lane Pryce. For a man so utterly complex and so consistently facing feelings of inadequacy, lack of fulfillment, and conflicting performances of identity, it would not be far fetched to wonder whether he would take his own life. This episode, it can be argued, was incredibly predictable. But that is not a detriment to the episode as a whole, for the acting on the part of Jared Harris, in particular, but also of Jon Hamm, John Slattery, Vincent Kartheiser, and Christina Hendricks stuns the audience into yet another Mad Men-induced trance. Continue reading

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Mad Men: The Other Woman

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: When my mother read Gwenyth Swain’s “The Road to Seneca Falls” (a children’s chapter book about the women’s suffrage movement) to me as a little girl, the book began with with a detailed account of the unjust, yet normalized opinions of women and their roles in society. A visceral reaction came from my 7-year-old self in response to the tame description of the marginalization of women. I began to scream and cry, my mind whirled, and my mother put the book on the shelf never to be touched again. A similar reaction came over me when watching this episode of “Mad Men.” Though there was no temper tantrum, and I sat through the entire episode, by the end I was shaking. The structure, the men, the women, the pimps, the whores, the actors, the agencies, and The Other Woman all make up the best hour of television that I have ever seen. Continue reading

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Mad Men: Christmas Waltz

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: Like every waltz, like every Joan and Don flirtation, like every brilliant episode of “Mad Men,” everything must eventually come to an end. This is an episode that I wanted to keep going and going until the tension from an anxious, embezzling Lane Pryce, a pissed off Megan, a visually jolting Hare Krishna Paul Kinsey, and a magical date with Joan and Don wrapped itself together and consumed me whole. This episode, “Christmas Waltz,” played with ideas of absurdity and comfort while testing the limits of every character at its forefront.

HOWARD MEGDAL: For all of Roger Sterling’s fantastic lines this season- and there have been what, 900 of them?-nothing will resonate with me this season quite as much as Joan’s perfectly executed “Surprise! There’s an airplane here to see you!” thrown at the receptionist who, let’s face it, was eventually getting something thrown at her by someone. Continue reading

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Mad Men: Dark Shadows

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: I have come to terms with the fact that I might be the only person in the world who has any sympathy for Betty Hoeffstadt Draper Francis. However, this episode really made an attempt (a successful one, at that) to show the insecurities of a woman “who has everything [she] wants.” Her pettiness from seasons past perpetuates and progresses into this episode driven by her her reluctance to accept things that are out of her control. Yet seeing Betty know which cards to play against the new Drapers, and how Don and Megan react to Betty’s strategy, is very interesting to watch. Continue reading

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Mad Men: Lady Lazarus

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: A tense and turbulent episode of “Mad Men” this week where we get insights into the ambitions of women in marriage, and the positions of the husbands who must accept and love them. Megan’s ambitions take her out of the halls of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce into capris and acting classes so that she can pursue her dream while Don accepts it and lets her fly away as he breezes in from work. Beth Dawes (played surprisingly well by Alexis Bledel) is leading a similar life to her husband, Howard, in her ambitions to have “side dishes,” or really more like side amuse bouches since they seem to come and go pretty quickly. And then Pete, with the absent but still very present Trudy, wants someone to make him feel complex and validated and not that he is doing everything that he should, which seems to be Trudy’s strategy. I do wish we could see more of Trudy and Pete’s home life like we have in previous seasons, because right now I wonder if we are supposed to assume that her life is taken up by the baby and hence nothing really changes for her, or maybe Matthew Weiner is waiting for a big reveal later in the season.

HOWARD MEGDAL: You should be thinking of Trudy? What about Pete? Hell, Trudy would take up most of my thoughts, if I didn’t have a wife who tops even the fabulous Alison Brie! Continue reading

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Mad Men: At the Codfish Ball

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: “Someday she will spread her little legs and fly away.” Wow, “Mad Men.” As if the show couldn’t get more carnivalesque, the amount that we are allowed to see of male and female sexuality in this episode, in this time period, is brought to the forefront in kaleidoscopic chaos. The women are costumed as wives, mothers, whores, and go-go girls. The men put on their respective uniforms of social acceptability. Yet the tags are switched around, identities are put into question and concern. We can’t believe our ears. We can’t believe our eyes. We can’t believe that’s Peggy in an apron holding a ham. Or can we?

HOWARD MEGDAL: So much to love in this episode once again, as brilliant in emotional interplay and subtle moments as with the visual imagery Sonia broke down.
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Mad Men: Far Away Places

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: This Sunday’s episode of “Mad Men” lived up to its title and certainly took us to some far away places, like the deep subconscious of Roger Sterling, the most unstable anxieties of Don Draper, the biggest resentments held by Megan Draper, and the ever-changing thought processes of Peggy Olson. We tripped out and got cerebral, dropped some jaws, and actually started to like Megan a little bit more. We watched out heros feebly try to negotiate the territory between time, space, and good intentions. With another destructive relationship crossed out, “Mad Men” travels deeper into the knots and snarls that this season, and seasons past, have left to be slowly untangled.

HOWARD MEGDAL: Exactly! Roger and Joan getting out of their entanglements, back-to-back! Guessing it isn’t that simple, but that’s certainly what I thought of as well. Continue reading

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