Who’s ‘The Boss’

TV/Movie: The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town — After rocker Bruce Springsteen released his landmark “Born to Run” album in August 1975 and the two months later landed on the covers of Time and Newsweek magazines two months later, the pressure was on him in a fashion that few musical artists have ever faced. To up the ante, he also at the same time broke with his manager Mike Appel and the two became involved in a legal battle that prevented him from recording a follow-up to that album until 1977. The Promise, recently shown on HBO, offers a moving and revelatory documentary look inside that process as Springsteen struggled with Darkness on the Edge of Town and a telling hindsight perspective on the album, its making and the final results. Footage shot while the disc was being created gives a rare look at how an album — and a highly significant one at that — is made. Springsteen’s musical and lyrical process and rigor in that era are well known to anyone who has followed his distinguished career, and his devotion to his integrity as an artist is both impressive as well as a bit disquieting — giving the viewer a visceral sense of what he went through as he tracked some 70 songs to come up with the final product. Sure, it may just be pop music, but his efforts to make something greater than that reminds how such a perspective has become uncommon today. For any Springsteen follower as well as rock music fans, this is essential viewing. And even for the uninitiated, this standout documentary among the slew of “inside” and “behind the scenes” rock films is a fascinating glimpse into a genuine creative artist at work within the context of his band, his life and his career.

TV: Mad Men — I write this with only one episode left in the fourth season in this critically lauded and Emmy Award sweeping series. If you haven’t yet seen the show, I must heartily recommend that you do on DVD or in reruns, as its latest 13 episodes are the best and most lively and provocative yet. I’ve written in these pages how television is in a Golden Age right now, and Mad Men has proven itself to be as notable as what I feel is the finest TV drama ever created, The Wire (which I recently watched for at least the fourth if maybe fifth time through via On Demand and am consistently impressed with its depth, complexity, vivid characters plus their development and imagination). Although for me, Mad Men took a while to achieve dramatic traction in its first season, here in the fourth, after establishing its very compelling and believable characters and a fascinating and very true to the times mise en scene, has reached a vivid boiling point rich with plot twists, surprises and imagination. The show is firing on all pistons and offering compelling drama spiced with splashes of wit and delight. Plus Mad Men is revealing its increasing significance as a key that helps unlock the origins of American modernity.

From The Progressive Populist, November 15, 2010


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