Author Archives: Nava Brahe

Mad Men: Week 8 in Review

NAVA BRAHE: Poor Peggy. If I had a nickel for every time I stabbed my boyfriend with a homemade bayonet because I didn’t feel safe in my own house… What a way to end a relationship; I have to say, though, Abe was a real mensch about their break-up despite having a knife sticking out of his stomach. As my mother would have said, he’s a real “catch.”

HOWARD MEGDAL: Regarding Bob Benson first, I’ve increasingly come to the conclusion that he is the result of comedy introduced by putting a legitimately selfless person into the world of Mad Men. Continue reading

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Mad Men: Week 7 in Review

NAVA BRAHE: Alrighty; “The Crash” has to be the single weirdest episode of “Mad Men” I can recall. The entire force behind the show decided to take every shocking element they could think of, and bombard the audience with them in one fell swoop. Sex, drugs, flashbacks, bad parenting, self-involvement, guilt, death; We saw it all, and then some.
SONIA BRAND-FISHER: At this time I want to say a big ol’ “What she said” following Nava’s comments. I completely agree with the absolute chaos of this episode being a total overload of allegory, symbolism, and over-saturated themes. It was just too much. Too weird. With four episodes to go, I see nothing less than a total explosion erupting from this compacted, angry volcano that is SCDP/CGC. Continue reading

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Mad Men: Week 6 in Review

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: Don Draper seems to be on the brink of losing it entirely. The scummy way he basically peer-pressured Ted into drinking at the level and speed of his immensely high-functioning alcoholism was sickening and slimy. The absolutely bizarre verbal manifestation of Don’s subconscious view of the purpose of “his” women would make Sacher-Masoch blush. His absolute self-absorption and disorientation during his sex games with Sylvia and after she tells him its over put Don in an immensely compromising position. His return home to Megan and her announcing that they should take another trip brings us back to the suicidal undertones of Don’s tagline for Sheraton in episode one of this season, after he returns from Hawaii. What does this all mean?

NAVA BRAHE: I am so glad Sonia chose to reference Venus in Furs when comparing Don’s halfhearted attempt at dominating Sylvia, instead of the vastly more pedestrian Fifty Shades of Grey. That being said, I, too, was completely horrified by how he treated Sylvia during their tryst gone awry at the Sherry Netherland hotel. That entire storyline illustrated just how twisted Don Draper is.

HOWARD MEGDAL: Generally, I like to cover different aspects of the show than the two of you. But this week, I’d like to expand on a pair of observations you made. Continue reading

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Mad Men: Week 5 in Review

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: In what certainly reads as the strongest episode of the season so far, “For Immediate Release” leaves us in this strange limbo of excitement, catharsis, and confusion. Did Don seriously just merge SCDP and CGC without telling anyone, except for a bewildered Peggy? What is this going to do for Peggy, who felt very triumphant and happy moving on from being under Don’s supervision? And can we talk about that kiss between Peggy and Ted (that we could totally see coming)? And Pete falling down the stairs, then seeing his father-in-law at the whore house? Where to begin?

NAVA BRAHE: I have to agree with Sonia about this being the strongest episode of the season. The rapid-fire upheaval that included Don jettisoning Jaguar and it’s slimy representative, and the spur-of-the-moment merger, made it the most compelling to date. Continue reading

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Mad Men: Week 2 in Review

NAVA BRAHE: Oh dear, Don Draper is having an affair with the heart surgeon’s wife. Does the fact that he spent his teenage years in a “house of ill repute” finally excuse his philandering? Are we supposed to feel sorry for him now that this nugget of his past has been revealed?

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: I am going to have to agree with Nava on this one and say that I see Megan taking the initiative to leave Don as their relationship spirals out of control. Though the miscarriage, I concur, was contrived, I think it might be an essential plot point that brings Megan dangerously close to Sylvia, and Sylvia and Don’s affair dangerously close to being revealed. The sadistic side of me very much wants there to be a very grand, very dramatic confrontation involving some sort of discovery on Megan’s part. Or Don’s part. Continue reading

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Downton Abbey: Week 6 in Review

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: This week’s double dose of “Downton Abbey” was one of the best episodes (well, technically two best) that I have seen this season. Minus the pointlessness of Cousin Rose (seriously, I don’t want to know what they’re going to do with her thoroughly obnoxious character) despite introducing us awkwardly to the fabulous underground party world of London in the 1920s, many very interesting story points were introduced. Characters often stuck in their ways proved to have more complexity than their starched exteriors often allow. Relationships developed and grew with a surprising level of intimacy, trust, and knowledge. And finally, we got to see Carson playing cricket. With so much to possibly focus on in this episode, I’m going to tackle a few points that I have been particularly interested in all season.

NAVA BRAHE: Since Sonia tackled the Thomas issue in such depth, all I will add is that Lord Grantham’s admission of having to rebuff what sounded like countless advances from his Eton classmates, sounded rather hollow. You would think that a man of his standing would be more homophobic than he was portrayed, especially given his resistance to change.

HOWARD MEGDAL: I think of Cousin Rose as the lone blemish on an otherwise delightful Downton Abbey. Julian Fellowes has birthed many characters we adore; indeed, it is their company I believe so many of us who watch Downton Abbey are seeking out, not some new plot twist. Continue reading

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Downton Abbey: Week 5 in Review

NAVA BRAHE: Oh, the poor Crawley family. The fact that they had to make a show of it by keeping the stereotypical stiff upper lip in the face of Sybil’s death really got under my skin. I don’t think there is anything wrong with a little keening or wailing under the circumstances: a 24 year-old girl is struck down in the prime of her life, leaving behind a grieving husband, family, and a newborn child (not to mention a houseful of well-meaning servants) who will never her know her, is deserving of some screaming, crying, and the flinging of breakable objects. Then again, I am not British, and I am sometimes known to wear my heart on my sleeve. Of course, in the best of British families, behavior like I just described would lead to banishment in the attic. Or, to one of the attics if you reside at Downton.

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: In echoing Nava’s observation of the emotional constipation of this episode, I found the stiffness in the days following Sybil’s death to be just fascinating to watch. Frustrating, of course, also from an American perspective, but at the same time I can completely imagine the benefits of holding one’s self together for the moment, then on one’s own, in a safe place, letting it all out. But the moments of letting down their emotional guards seemed to speak volumes. Elizabeth McGovern as Cora (probably because she, along with Branson, is not keeping it together for the sake of appearances as well as Lord Grantham or Ladies Mary and Edith) is becoming the most interesting character to watch for me. The intensity of her gaze at Dr. Clarkson in the Dowager Countess’s parlor was numbing and beautiful, punctuated by her mutual breakdown with Lord Grantham at realizing Sybil’s death could not have been prevented. It was a solid moment of emotional breakthrough for the two of them which, in recalling previous seasons having gone through it all from affairs to miscarriages to potentially fatal illness, puts them once more back together as a couple who truly loves each other.

HOWARD MEGDAL: We tend to agree on these episodes broadly, so I’m surprised that I took so much more pleasure from this episode than any other this season, or apparently, than the two of you. Continue reading

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Downton Abbey: Week 3 in Review

NAVA BRAHE: Lady Mary is becoming as annoying to me as someone flushing the toilet while I am taking a shower. Now that Matthew has “invested” in Downton, she seems to have become more uptight, rather than relieved by the fact that her ancestral home and lavish lifestyle are no longer in limbo. The scene in the newly commandeered sitting room was telling, when her dismissive attitude reared its ugly head at the thought of becoming pregnant. Now that Matthew has cemented his position as both heir and savior of Downton, of course he wants offspring of his own. Is Mary afraid there won’t be enough funds to hire the army of nannies she would require to rear her children?

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: One of the major criticisms that this show has received is its supposed glorification of the upper classes with a seemingly complacent attitude from the servants. Though I can see where these critics are coming from, I have always defended “Downton Abbey” saying that the commentary on the British class system is subtle and not overbearing, but ever present. Episode Three, however, seemed to address these issues of class head on. As Nava stated, the Branson/Sybil plotline meshing with the Ethel tragedy provided the loudest roar I have ever heard from “downstairs.” I sincerely hope episodes with intricacies like these continue this season, because I am growing very tired of Mary’s icy demeanor and incessant snobbishness.

HOWARD MEGDAL: Agree with both Nava and Sonia that this is a dramatic improvement on last week; Julian Fellowes, at last, takes some time from racing through plot and allows the complicated characters in Downton time to breathe. Remembering Season 1, when luxuriating in their presence was the overriding pleasure of the show, would do Fellowes good as he plans future episodes. Continue reading

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Downton Abbey: Week 2 in Review

NAVA BRAHE: I have to admit that Edith has become a much more sympathetic character in Season 3, not just because she was left at the altar by Strallan; she seems to have gained so much poise and confidence after helping nurse the King’s soldiers during the war, as opposed to trying to sabotage Lady Mary in Season 1. Her previous role was that of a typical middle sister, especially when one’s older sibling happens to be another girl.

SONIA BRAND-FISHER: Spinsters do get out of bed for breakfast, and Edith has exhibited so much strength these past few seasons, even if she doesn’t see it herself. The opening shot of the episode with the house a-bustle for wedding preparations and Edith, for the first time, with a Lady of the House glow of pride on her face gave me such joy. I don’t think I have seen her smile so much in one episode, yet what killed me the most was that her face became so much more open, her eyes so much more willing to take in the beauty around her. There wasn’t a single fear of heartbreak present at the beginning of the episode for Edith, which I find surprising in retrospect. I am predicting that this hardship will boost her as a character, as each of her hardships have done in the past. She sure as hell, as Nava points out, appears more sympathetic than Lady Mary at this point in the season.

HOWARD MEGDAL: Put my money on O’Brien too, Sonia. But at the risk of sounding negative about a show I enjoy, there were two particular points within this episode that I thought stretched the writing beyond its breaking point.
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Review: Changó’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes, By William Kennedy

NAVA BRAHE: I haven’t read that much about Cuba in my life, fiction or otherwise, and my knowledge of the country’s history is poor. But, after reading William Kennedy’s novel, Changó’s Beads and Two-Tone Shoes, I now know a Cuba that fascinates me on an entirely different level – one that entangles a fictional Ernest Hemingway, homegrown revolutionaries and a sprinkling of organized crime worthy of Hyman Roth, Johnny Ola and the rest of the cast of The Godfather Part II.

HOWARD MEGDAL: I come to Chango as nothing less than a devotee of William Kennedy’s Albany novels. I devoured Roscoe when it published, nearly a decade ago, and I have hungered for another visit with the 20th Century’s most interesting city (Kennedy’s Albany, if not Albany itself) ever since. This newest edition did not disappoint. Continue reading

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