Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Empire Boardwalk

It's the Christmas holidays and I thought I should catch up with some feedback on some of the things I have been watching over the past few months.

Although it was not a surprise to find another excellent HBO series, I really want to draw everyones' attention to this very well done historical piece that chronicles the rise of Atlantic City. This may sound like a boring documentary, but keep in mind that the great Martin Scorsese was fully behind this project and directed the first episode.

Now the first episode was a bit slow as it was busy setting up characters and putting into place the foundation of the storyline, but don't let that dissuade you from talking this series in. Like everything good, the joy is in the journey. And to be a witness to the birth and maturation of an american institution of greed and corruption is a dramatic and revealing (and dare I say educational) ride.
Although in their early days some of the players in Atlantic City's growth include Arnold 'the brain' Rothstein (Jewish Mafia kingpin), Al Capone, Lucky Luciano (New York mafia lord), Johnny Torrio (Chicago crime outfit) and Meyer Lansky (the mob's accountant). Need I say more? A story about these thugs may be story enough, however they act as mere backdrop to the lesser historically known Enoch Lewis "Nucky" Johnson, fictionalized as Enoch 'Nucky' Thompson. Nucky's role is just as signigicant (if not more) than the previously mentioned fellas, however he did his work in the politcal arena. For 30 years he was the undisputed boss of the polical machine known as the republican party. We all know that this party has enjoyed their stranglehold on America and still do even when not in power. So as is necessary, those who propell a machine that controls every facet of our lives needs to remain out of the spotlight to be effective. And that is the reason why few of us has ever heard of Enoch Lewis "Nucky" Johnson. Nucky is brought to life by the epically cool role actor Steve Buscemi. I am so stoked that this guy is finally getting the opportunity to headline his own show. Like Enoch he has remained under the radar by being truly fantastic in everything that he graces. But until now he has been relegated to playing smaller supporting roles with a large punch or bigger roles in smaller independent films. With Empire Boardwalk he gets the luxury of enough screen time to fully develop a character. And Nucky allows for much room to experiment within. As Nucky he is the architect behind Atlantic City's prominence as an guilty pleasure tourist stop for gambling, prostitution and prohibition era spirits. The series slowly reveals to us the source of Nucky's strength, driving force and the damaging childhood that likely contributed to the personality. Truly high end character development. Another character with equally dim stardom in the history of Atlantic City is Jimmy Darmody (based on real life Jimmy Boyd). Although Jimmy Boyd's involvement is not well documented and his contributions are in question, the series version as Jimmy Darmody is rich in complexity and coolness. Again, this role is casted with another actor that has impressed me many times but has until now failed to find true stardom. Michael Pitt (no relations to Brad) is an excellent dramatic craftsman who has given stunning performances in Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers and creepy psycho work in Funny Games U.S.

So enough said, watch this in first season re-runs or rent or buy the DVD's when it is finally released.

In closing, upon his death real life Nucky Johnson was eulogized by the Atlantic City Press as "born to rule: He had flair, flamboyance, was politically amoral and ruthless, and had an eidetic memory for faces and names, and a natural gift of command ... [Johnson] had the reputation of being a gargantuan trencherman, a hard drinker, a Herculean lover, an epicure, a sybaritic fancier of luxuries and all good things in life." Come on, you gotta catch some of that business.


  1. Have you got into Mad Men yet? Brilliant! It is the same idea. Slow to start but it gets to feel real - like you're there with these people. The metaphors for the rise and collapse of America, the subtle literary allusions, the theme of hunky-dory on the outside but corrupt and lost under the surface, the great humour. What an awesome show. I think you'd like it. Boardwalk Empire is the next series I'm getting into. Merry Christmas.

  2. Merry Christmas Dave. Mad Men has been on my list for a while. I definitely will be watching it soon. I also have the following on my list; Dexter, Fringe, and Breaking Bad.