A Touch of Fey

Over the past few years I have become intrigued by –okay obsessed, maybe infatuated — with women of accomplishment. Is this a new phase? Girl crushes? Certainly, I have had my fair share of boy/man crushes, so change is good, right? There are a number of women whom I greatly admire, and I think I will start with Tina Fey. Recently I watched Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt on Netflix, and I am re-watching 30 Rock. I loved Kimmy Schmidt and was happy to see that it received five Emmy nominations for this season, and numerous other nominations in past seasons.

Reading Tina Fey’s bio on Wikipedia and other sites is beyond remarkable. Over the past two decades her rise has been amazing, and it seems to gather more and more momentum as the years pass. She has broken some glass ceilings for women in a business that is often less than kind to them, and even at the zenith levels, pays women less. Her CV reads as a list of firsts – notably the first female head writer for SNL at the age of 29. Her helmsmanship of SNL produced wonderful talent and cast, and great characters like Debbie Downer (Rachel Dratch), and Will Ferrell and Christopher Walken in “More Cowbell” – I’ll stop there because there are too many actors and characters to mention.

If that wasn’t enough there’s her movies like Mean Girls and Baby Mama, and her book Bossypants…the list seems endless and it is entirely intimidating. Jealous? No, not at all  — what Fey has given us is a tremendous gift. Although, I do find that by comparison (I know! Don’t compare! And to Tina Fey! Am I out of my mind? Certinaly my league!) her ability to do SO much and SO many things is where I have a feeling of utter inadequacy.

How does she do it? If I get three things accomplished in a day that’s a small miracle. Admittedly, I can kill time with the best of them, and I would guess this is not a quality that Tina Fey has, or would condone. I bet she gets more things done in a day – with complete success – than I do….never? I would say that from birth to the age of ten, I made some great strides. You know, going from not being able to sit up or lift my head to walking, talking, going to school, doing sports, and having friends. That was my most meteorite trajectory. Not to say that there haven’t been other good things, but that lightening speed thing; it’s not the same.

What I also admire, and in awe of, is her ability to get super handsome men, and great actors, to act like idiots and look less like matinee idols. Her most recent “volunteer” is Jon Hamm as the sinister and stupid cult leader Reverend Richard Wayne Gary Wayne (that name!). Of course, there’s her long time colleague Alec Baldwin. Last week while channel surfing, I happened to see Alec Baldwin hosting The Essentials on TCM, and there beside him was Tina Fey as the special guest host. Seriously?

Tina Fey’s output and its quality makes me feel that I need to do some serious reevaluating. And, she has young children and a husband, and probably three scripts in the works, writing another book maybe, writing the next season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and who knows what else – but I bet it will be great, entertaining, and award-winning. The Indefatigable Tina Fey.

Jealous? No, not at all. I hope her house is messy. 

Clare Irwin

Next up…at some point – Stella McCartney

 

 

Mad Men – Part I – The Touch of a Hand

I love this show. I really do. I’ve seen the whole series a couple of times and it never fades. I enjoy long form television, especially on cable channels and “premium” channels like HBO and Showtime. It’s delicious to binge watch, a guilty pleasure and a popular pastime. It can be all-consuming, but in a good way. There are many that have left a deep impression: Breaking Bad, The Sopranos, The Wire, Deadwood, Six Feet Under, Carnivale, True Blood, True Detective (the first season), The Night Of, Homeland, Dexter, Lost, I’m getting into Westworld….on and on.

Mad Men has a special place in my list of favorites. The style, the cinematography, the set design, the clothes make-up and hair, the scripts, the direction, the acting, the music — all impeccable. And, what plum roles for actors to have — juicy multi-layered parts to play long term. I know that some people think that television is the faded older step sister of film, but I don’t agree — at least not in the general. Each individual episode of these shows are one hour films.

Since I have been watching Mad Men most recently it’s fresh in my mind. It’s hard to say which character I like the best, because in a show as well executed as this one, I love them all. But I think I am most captivated by the relationship between Don (Jon Hamm) and Peggy (Elizabeth Moss). They are wonderful together. Their relationship is complicated; it pendulum swings between love and hate, but at the core there is a deep understanding, respect and genuine fondness between them. Whenever they appear on screen together I know I’m in for a treat.

I realize I’m writing this out of order, but there is an episode where Peggy leaves the firm after taking about as much abuse from Don that she can stand. It’s a tense moment, with underlying anger, when she breaks the news. It’s wonderfully scripted and acted, and at the end of the scene, unexpectedly, Don takes Peggy’s hand and kisses it. Not in a pretentious affected way, and not exactly like a lover, but conveying in the slightest and subtlest of gestures how precious she is to him and how he values her — in his own messed up way. And, Peggy’s reaction…well he just disarms her completely. She’s utterly thrown by the reaction, and tears start to well up. What a gem of a moment!

In another season, “The Suitcase” is a pivotal episode in their relationship, and in Don’s life. The episode spans a raucous night and early morning where there is a lot of chaos. Don knows he is waiting for the news of Anna’s death, the famous Sonny Liston vs. Muhammed Ali fight is happening, it’s Peggy’s birthday, and she bails on her boyfriend and he then bails on her. The following morning, it’s another day and Don is spic and span and in his usual “this never happened” philosophy of life — ready for another workday. Peggy comes in rumpled and tired, and they discuss an ad — everything but the elephant in the room. But at the end of the scene, both their hands are resting on the desk, Don takes her hand, covers his with hers and they look at each other — it’s all communicated in that gesture and look. Beautiful.

As I think about it there is another wonderful “hand” moment. Earlier in the series, Betty (January Jones) runs into Glen Bishop (Marten Holden Weiner) the little boy who has a crush on her. Glen is sitting in the car waiting on his mother, and Betty comes up to the passenger window to talk to him. She starts to cry — he’s the only one she can really communicate with — and Glen, so sweetly, offers his mitten-ed hand for her to hold. It’s lovely.

A simple touch can convey a great deal — holding hands, touching someone’s arm, a pat. I think we forget how this small act of connection is, in fact, so very large. Have we lost sight of that? Nowadays, we tend toward the extreme or grand gesture, hugs, air kisses, which often seem to have less meaning. Or else we move straight to the erotic. But hand touches, think of all we can do with our hands, they speak so many languages: comfort, love, support, empathy, understanding, solidarity….Let’s not forget that.

Thank you to all the super talented cast, writers, creators, everyone beyond the camera, and crew of Mad Men for giving us such an outstanding, glorious, and full of thought, gift.

Clare Irwin