Boardwalk Empire: The Age of Reason

And I confess...I can't get enough of this damn show!

Boardwalk Empire: Complete Episode Guide 

Boardwalk Empire – The Age of Reason

Season Two: Episode Six

Directed by:  Jeremy Podeswa

Written by:  Bathsheba Doran

The Spin:  In the ironically titled “The Age of Reason”, Bathsheba (of the Bible?) Doran strings together an hour of faith tested.  It’s been interesting to watch the divergences of Van Alden (Michael Shannon) and Margaret (Kelly Macdonald), two characters who last season seemed destined for an intertwined fate, or at least that’s what Van Alden desired.  Here they are both tested by their faith as Van Alden fears the agent badly burned in a liquor bust might reveal on his death-bed Van Alden’s sins, while Margaret must contest with a demanding priest seeking her to unburden her sins before young Teddy is to make his first confession.  What a shock it is for Van Alden to discover that his whore (ah…Paz de la Huerta once again acts her socks off as Lucy) is more resilient than even the audience thought, and his wife is more knowing that he cares to know.  Meanwhile, Margaret is as shrewd as ever, testing her boundaries with Nucky while proving to herself she can be true to the Lord and keep a secret at the same time.  Oh yeah, and then there’s the trifecta of underlings (Jimmy, the Philly Butcher, and Luciano) coming to near blows before realizing maybe together they can usurp the Holy Trinity (Nucky, the infamous Waxey Gordon, and Rothstein). Continue reading

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Boardwalk Empire: Gimcrack and Bunkum

You can't keep a good half-face (or a member of the Huston acting dynasty) down.

Boardwalk Empire: Complete Episode Guide 

Boardwalk Empire – Gimcrack and Bunkum

Season Two: Episode Five

Directed by:  Tim Van Patten

Written by:  Howard Korder

The Spin:  Although the Philly plotline was passed over entirely in this episode, Korder never the less made this an hour about brotherly love.  With the AC bigwigs demanding a return on their investment and getting antsy about The Commodore’s new lack of engagement, Jimmy (Pitt) and Eli (Shea Whigham) find themselves up shit’s creek…but would one of them find a paddle?  Look at the idiot Eli go running back to brother Nucky only to get rightfully slapped in the face and spat upon (though if it weren’t for Margaret’s shotgun antics, ol’ Nuck might’ve found himself choked to death).  And whoops, funny how a wrench can then slip out of a drunken Eli’s hand and bash fat George’s face in.  Meanwhile, sad-sack Harrow (Jack Huston) traipses deep into the woods to blow his depressed brains out only to have a bit of felicity (in the form of a dog and two amiable hunters) thwart his plans.  Back to Jimmy’s house he goes, where he gets a pledge from his “brother” that he would fight for him to the last bullet.  Ahhh…nothing like scalping a fat old bastard to bring two war buddies closer together.  Seems Jimmy found his paddle…and its name is Richard Harrow…and together they’re going to take care of that debt by “taking care of” everyone they owe. Continue reading

Boardwalk Empire: What Does the Bee Do?

Gretchen Mol could give any man a stroke.

Boardwalk Empire: Complete Episode Guide

Boardwalk Empire – What Does the Bee Do?

Season Two: Episode Four

Directed by:  Ed Bianchi

Written by:  Steve Kornacki

The Spin:  Kornacki crafts a compelling hour built upon the themes of disillusionment and being put back in one’s place.  The show opens with the Commodore (Dabney Coleman) suffering a stroke at the height of lechery, leaving Gillian (Gretchen Mol), Jimmy (Michael Pitt) and Nucky’s idiot brother wondering what the heck to do now.  Meanwhile, Margaret gets disillusioned by Nucky’s cheerfully amoral politicking (“It’s about happiness” he tells her after deliberately publicizing a scandal with whores and votes so that he might get charged by the feds and then let off the hook by his old pal, the Attorney General) as well as by the attitudes of her servants.  Heck, ain’t nuthin’ a little cash stashin’ can’t fix, eh, old gal?  Meanwhile, it was a real treat to see Luciano put in his place by Rothstein (Michael Stuhlbarg), the professional businessman to Nucky’s professional showman.  And then we had ol’ Chalky White (Michael K. Williams) getting pressure from the widows of those who were killed by the KKK only to have Nucky tell him to be a “good boy” and wait for justice to be dispensed (again, we see Nucky promise to solve everything – with money).  Oh, that don’t sit well with Chalky, and he takes it out on his civilized family at the dinner table.  Lastly, Harrow (Jack Huston) provides Angela (Aleksa Palladino) with some much-needed artistic inspiration, leaving poor Jimmy to wonder if he’ll ever really understand any of the people he loves.  Things come full circle in the final scene where Gillian, disillusioned by having to play nursemaid to the Commodore, reveals in a fit of angry tears and powerful slaps, that she’s been giving a grand performance all along. Continue reading

Melancholia, Marriage and the End of the World

Lars Von Trier’s epic ode to depression and the end of the world – perhaps one and the same – opens with Richard Wagner’s Prelude to Tristan and Isolde playing over a series of breathtaking, beautiful and perfectly composed shots that at first appear to be stills until you realize they are moving in ultra slow motion.  With the hauntingly operatic music full of swooning lilts and gasping rises into the stratosphere, Von Trier symbolically (and in some shots literally) transmits what we are about to experience.  The slow motion represents the trudging through emotions while the music elicits thoughts of a great tragedy about to befall us all.  And then boom! – he lays all of his cards right on the table as we watch in simultaneous horror and joy as two worlds collide.  It’s an eerily quiet yet emotionally bombastic counter action to Terence Malick’s creation of the universe sequence in The Tree of Life.  Both films, operating at opposite poles and giving us glimpses into the vast outward expanse of human imagination through the precipitous downward spiral into the mind and madness of one, are miraculous masterpieces.

Continue reading

Boardwalk Empire: A Dangerous Maid

Boardwalk Empire: Complete Episode Guide 

Boardwalk Empire – A Dangerous Maid

Season Two: Episode Three

Directed by:  Susanna White

Written by:  Itamar Moses

The Spin:  Aha!  The title was a rouse, ya see?  Here I thought we would be seeing Margaret’s maid  getting entangled in…something or someone…but instead it’s just the name of a play poor little Lucy Danzinger (Paz de la Huerta – getting her first chance to really act on the show) longs to star in while Van Alden keeps her locked up like a prisoner until she plops out that bastard of a chap.  Under the watchful eye of director Susanna White, the ladies are front and center in this slower moving family focused episode.  Margaret comes to a revelation about her estranged family (recently emigrated to Brooklyn) while Jimmy continues to wrestle with his mother’s devotion to the conniving Commodore and his own conflicted feelings over who’s the better (or worse) father-figure to him.  Meanwhile, down in the dumps Nucky marks his territory in a great tell-off scene at Babbette’s Supper Club.  Oh yeah, and watch out for that Owen Slater (Charlie Cox) – he’s a man on the move, ladies and gents! Continue reading

I’ll Never Get Out of This Book Alive

I pride myself on always finishing a book, no matter how arduous it is.  There have been plenty of bad juju page-turners I’ve eagerly slogged through over the years…cough cough  – The Da Vinci Code – cough cough  – The Ruins.  Hell, I even got through the vile piece of trash that was Clive Barker’s Mister B Gone.  I don’t know if it’s the writer or the masochist in me – but I always finish a book. 

Well…almost always.  Some books I just can’t seem to pick up after putting them down – those anti page-turners.  Some of these may actually be good books but just not my cup of tea, and I struggle to return to them when a Raymond Carver collection is sitting on my shelf or the latest issue of The New Yorker has just arrived. 

Right now I’m suffering through a double whammy with two novels that couldn’t be farther apart in theme and style -Steve Earle’s new psychedelic Baby Boomer ode to the 1960’s, I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive; and the uber-classic big thick novel that is Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace.  Despite my most valiant efforts, I can’t seem to finish either one of them, and I fear they may join my short list of dun dun dun…. Continue reading

Boardwalk Empire: Ourselves Alone

Boardwalk Empire: Complete Episode Guide 

Boardwalk Empire – Ourselves Alone

Season Two: Episode Two

Directed by:  David Petrarca

Written by:  Howard Korder

The Spin:  Things aren’t so comfortable anymore for Nucky as the newly renovated Commodore rallies the troops to bring him down.  It seems he can’t trust anyone…though he still has some shrewd players in his corner, most importantly Margaret, whose stealth operation to capture his ledger and petty cash before the investigators get to it anchors the episode.  Meanwhile, in the Subplot Land – Jimmy travels to NYC to try to make a deal with Rothstein, who gives him the cold shoulder.  What’s an angst riddled young gangster to do in the city but get down and dirty with Luciano’s rivals?  Back in AC, Chalky White is stuck in the slammer with a loquacious chap from Baltimore.  We learn that while Chalky might be illiterate, he continues to write the book on bad-assery.  Lastly, an Irish lad named Slater makes an impression on the ladies at the Thompson house and might prove to be a key player going forward.  Korder keeps things moving tightly along with his workmanlike writing and David Copperfield allusions, while Petrarca lingers on images of offices torn asunder, blood pooling quietly in city parks and the warm glow of the past burning in fireplaces. Continue reading