Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tube Steak: The Hour

With The Hour set to make its Series Two premiere on American airwaves Wednesday night on BBC America, now seems as good a time as any to sing its praises. The first series--a swift six hours that will re-air in its entirety on BBC America starting Wednesday at noon ET/11:00 am CT leading up to the 9 ET/8 CT Series Two premiere--is a clinic in taut, suspenseful storytelling in the realm of period drama.

Perhaps the best and certainly the laziest way for me to explain what is so great about The Hour is to tell you that if you were to build a show from the strongest elements of The Newsroom (The Hour had its first series run well before The Newsroom ever started airing) and Mad Men, both of which are extremely flawed to me, and inject an element of intrigue absent from either program, you would end up with Abi Morgan's spectacular program about a fledgling news program in mid-1950s England, running up against the powers that be as they try to hold their lens to a more truthful version of the story that the government wants them to tell in regards to the Suez Crisis. As the news program--led by female producer Bel Rowley (Romola Garai), fronted by Hector Madden (Dominic West), and fueled by Freddie Lyon's (Ben Whishaw) drive and insatiable journalistic hunger--works to fight censorship from the very arm of government that airs it, Morgan uses The Hour as a platform by which to also explore gender inequality, espionage, adultery, murder, and government conspiracy against the backdrop of the rapidly changing culture of mid-century England.

In terms of the show's mise-en-scene, the production design and art direction are top notch, and it is beautifully shot. 1950s England is unwaveringly brought to the screen. The fact that the storytelling is compelling could just be gravy if it didn't stand out so well on its own merits.

Basically, get your shit together and set your DVR to record BBC America's rebroadcast of the first season of The Hour, and then record each new episode. You won't regret it.

Series One Teaser

Series Two Teaser

Monday, November 26, 2012

Wordy Old Men on Boardwalk Empire: Season Three, Episode Eleven "Two Imposters"

In the penultimate episode of Season Three, Gyp Rosetti's men storm the Ritz Carlton. Nucky shoots his way out of there, but not before Eddie Kessler takes a bullet. With nowhere else to go, Nucky turns to Chalky for help. Gyp turns Atlantic City upside-down trying to find Nucky, offering $25,000 to any man who brings Thompson to him. Gyp's men take up home at the Artemis Club. Richard Harrow begins to prep Tommy for a departure that Gillian stumbles in upon, leading her to banish him. Harrow begins to ready his arsenal. Capone comes to A.C. thanks to Eli's efforts in Chicago. Nucky and Chalky agree to terms. The powder-keg is primed to blow sky-high.

OMD: More so than any other episode this season, "Two Imposters" flew by. I was actually surprised when the episode ended. The suspense was really amped up here. Nucky was on the run, not knowing who he could trust. There were, what, five times Nucky could have gotten got this week? I was on the edge of my seat for virtually the whole episode.

WG: Much of Season Three has been a brutal tease: a great scene here, a clever line there, an interesting sexual fetish or an unexpected moment of tenderness, but ultimately things just didn't quite add up. This episode brought that promise to fruition. I had the same thought when the credits rolled regarding the time, was it a full 60 minute episode? According to my DVR, it certainly was. It was tight. Like it had been left overnight in the fridge marinating in episode tightner.

OMD: It looks (at least for now) that my supposition that perhaps Nucky tipped off Joe Masseria himself was overstepping his cunning. They could still reveal that Nucky provided some of the backing on Lansky and Luciano's heroin deal, but I'm leaning toward my initial read of the situation being wrong--unless, of course, I'm second-guessing just how subject Nucky is to the sway of jealousy.

WG: I don't know if I'd give up on your initial sussing just yet. The Feds (apparently?) popping Luciano on the rooftop with the sheets blowing in the wind at least leaves the door open to Nucky's involvement. Masseria could have arranged it himself. Means? A corrupt favor called in from the Harding administration? We shall see.

Preserver of innocence
OMD: So fuck Gillian, right? Looks like if anything happens, Harrow will go down swinging--er, shooting. Can Richard really start a family from such prodigious bloodshed as would be unfurled across the Artemis Club if he does, in fact, walk out of there on his own power? I suppose for Tommy's sake, there can be only one. He'll either be resigned to a life of a whore's son, or an existence with a family haphazardly pieced together from remnants of people damaged by the war. For a split second, I worried that the sidearm flashed by Gyp's goon would be discharged in this episode. Thankfully, Harrow will not be departing us in nearly as anticlimactic a way as that. Perhaps more importantly, Gillian's presence on the show wouldn't seem to serve much of a purpose going forward, would it? All I know is that it's about to get all Taxi Driver all up in the Artemis Club. I hope Tommy's innocence can be saved.

WG: If Harrow is starting a militia, I'm in. I want a cot inside the compound. He's got to end up backing Nucky in some form or fashion doesn't he? Gillian might be the one to rub out Gyp. Preview scenes are notorious for setting false expectations, but it appears that eventually she'll end up on the leash holder end of Gyp's Fem Dom erotic asphyxiation fantasies. On the other hand, she's been on a death spiral since Jump Street, with each episode revealing a new repellent low. And her quality in benefactor front men has declined as well, from the Commodore, to Jimmy, to Luciano, to Leander, to Gyp. She's got a career arc like Barry Zito. Don't let that flash of playoff luster fool you, it only gets uglier from here on out.

OMD: I liked the way Nucky handled himself in the penthouse suite in this episode's open. He's a crafty bastard. His skills in self-preservation clearly extend past that of back rooms and the political sphere. I'm thinking I may have sold him short up until now. I'm guessing his foes did as well.

WG: Agreed. Buscemi was excellent. He walked a nice line between running scared and maintaining. Sometimes I have trouble buying him as the heavy. Jesus, he's mixing it up with the legends of the mob world, and seeing him grump his way through dealing with idiotic bit players or mundane love affairs makes him seem dainty by comparison. But not in this episode. What a great scene in the opening when he was grappling through a door with a would-be assassin. Great camera work. Despite being alarmingly on the run in his own town, you never really got the sense that he wasn't in control. He had his dark moment of despair in the canvas-covered truck. And really, what says despair more than canvas-covered trucks? But other than that, he was nails.

OMD: Lucky's dealing with the Mute from Buffalo just go to prove what my grandmother always told me: "Don't trust any Buffalo motherfuckers." It's too bad Lucky's grandmother didn't pound the same advice into his numb skull. It really does seem like there's more the the heroin score than the audience is aware of though, doesn't it?

WG: Is your Grams Anjelica Huston from Buffalo '66? Yeah, the writers have left some room to maneuver with the heroin plot. Leaving it vague makes me think they've created some space to tie up loose ends.

OMD: Anjelica Huston from The Grifters.

Chalky's got beachfront property in addition to his nice family home. He's the 1%. I, for one, hope that the show becomes The Nucky, Purnsley, and Chalky Hour, hijinks will surely ensue. Something is going to have to happen now that Owen is gone. Of course, if Harrow takes out Gillian and even perhaps Gyp, you'd have to think he'd have a place at Nucky's side.

WG: Nucky, Purnsley, and Chalky - the original Rat Pack. What the hell took so long for Nucky to give in on the Babette's redevelopment project? Maybe Sid Bechet will be all up in that piece during Season Four for reals.

OMD: All right, seriously, what is the point of lugging Nucky's desk all the way to the Artemis Club? Nevermind. There is ultimately no point in trying to figure out what crazy-ass shit drives Gyp Rosetti. He probably wants to have sex with a whore on it while getting his balls smashed in each of the top drawers.

WG: Human sexuality is a strange thing. Gyp has already hung dong. Time to bring the scrote and ball-play into the foreground. That desk though. None of those odd details happen just for fun. I'm guessing something crucial is within. Or it could be a ham-handed symbol of Gyp's ham-handed takeover.

OMD: How great was the tension that was ratcheted up while Samuel was operating on Eddie Kessler? The cutting back and forth between that wacko in the yard offering up $25,000 to anyone who will turn over Nucky Thompson and Kessler getting the bullet removed then getting stitched up was first-rate. The quipping between Chalky and Gyp was fucking great, too. It was nice to see Michael K. Williams get his time in the sun, especially since he's already "done cooking."

WG: Very glad to see Chalky get meaningful minutes. Another stellar scene to see Gyp and Chalky square up. How can you not have those two guys together on the screen more often?

OMD: So Winter & Co. dug pretty deep for the title of this episode. Kessler's poetry recitation is of Rudyard Kipling's poem, "If--" in which the two imposters are said to be "triumph and disaster" each of which the reader is supposed to treat the same. The promise at the end of the poem after a series of conditions that must be met is that "yours is the Earth and everything that's in it, / And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son!" Kessler is a regular old sage, even while knocking on death's door.

The Queen of the Sur
WG: The poem was vaguely familiar. Nice get. I took a couple of semesters of German in college, but that didn't prepare me to decipher what Kessler was moaning over and over on the harried ride from hotel, to hospital, to Chalky's beach house. In real life, Louis "Kessel" was Nucky's main man. Personal protector, valued confidante, shaman, and partner. I hope he makes it.

OMD: I took enough Spanish to be able to understand roughly 35% of what's going on in a telenovela and to be able to order food at a Mexican restaurant while having a decent idea what I'll be getting.

More so than any other episode this season, I was laughing aloud pretty frequently. With the tension as high as it was, there was a lot more cutting of the tension with chuckle-worthy lines. The biggest laugh of the episode came at the end thankfully. A laugh before the war. Shit is about to get extremely fucking real, but there's nothing like Capone descending from a truck after eighteen hours on the road and dropping the line, "And then you and me sit down, and we talk about who dies. Huh?" Fucking priceless.

WG: Awesome closing scene. The way the sea of soldiers parted and that little bulldog came forward with the great line. It should have been cheezy as hell, but it worked. A fist pumper.

OMD: Holy shit, am I excited for this next episode. It certainly looks to be the most explosive episode of Boardwalk Empire yet.

WG: Let's hope it lives up to the promise created in this episode.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Wordy Old Men on Boardwalk Empire: Season Three, Episode Ten "A Man, A Plan..."

In "A Man, A Plan..." Nucky sends Owen to try to off Joe Masseria. Margaret and Owen make plans to run off together. Harrow and Julia Sagorsky get cozier with one another. Nelson Van Alden gets caught selling Sigfrid's homemade aquavit in Capone's territory. Owen is shipped back to Atlantic City in a crate with his throat slit. Margaret is revealed to be with Owen's child. 

OMD: First off, I'll apologize for our absence last week. I was out of pocket, as was Wordy. I, for one, had no HBO until Wednesday night and was sure as shit not going to dump this on a weekend in which absolutely no one was on the interwebs.

So I guess I'll start with the obvious, my prediction that Owen was a dead man walking was proven to be on point. Owen was getting too cocksure. Margaret was getting happy and making plans for a future. Clearly all of this was going to get snatched away. These two can't have a happy ending; the only one that might be in the cards would be for Richard Harrow and Julia Sagorsky. Call me Karnak.

WG: Karnak, what's St. Louis like? Nice call. And like a cockroach twinkie, I could see Mickey Doyle surviving against all odds as well.

OMD: If there's one thing that has been established in our time on God's green Earth, it's that St. Louis is as close to Hell as we shall ever find.

The pregnancy angle was obvious. As soon as Margaret told Dr. French Stewart that it was all "nothing [she hadn't] been through before," the bastard son of Owen Slater being firmly set in her womb and his future of growing up without his father was set in stone. I thought for sure that Nucky was actually the one who served up Owen's head on a platter, but the look of surprise on his face when Margaret ran off crying makes me doubt my assumption. I have a feeling that without the audience being privy to any of this, Nucky has gone through Lansky and Luciano parlaying his control of the Old Overholt Distillery into a partnership that Joe Masseria doesn't know he's a part of yet. It is possible that I'm probably giving Nucky too much credit, though, and this presumption requires the belief that Lansky and Luciano are stepping out much further from under Rothstein's umbrella than they may be ready for. Still, Lansky and Luciano had to have known exactly where the attack was coming from and only Eli, Mickey, Nucky, Owen, and Agent Stan Sawicki could have known. Sure, it could have been Mickey, Sawicki, or maybe Eli, but the most calculated move would have been for Nucky himself to feed the information to Lansky and Luciano.

WG: Your fundamentals are solid. As you've deduced, the spanner in the works is Nucky's realization that Margaret was wounded much deeper than expected over the boxed corpse. You are tracking something though. The details of Owen's death were probably too open ended, which leaves the Lansky/Luciano plotting angle wide open. I don't think Sawicki was in the box, which may have something to do with shipping costs.

OMD: Back to the opening of the episode, the makeshift post-war nuclear unit of Harrow, Julia, and Tommy Darmody was quite the picture. Beach. Ice Cream. Neptune on stage before heading back into the sea. I really think Tommy's not long for the whore house, though it would be quite the bold move for Harrow to actually take Tommy without Gillian perishing in some extreme way. I hope Harrow surprises me and slinks off into the night with Tommy and Julia in tow. Perhaps to live amongst the Indians. At the very least, one hopes that Julia is done with her abusive father's bullshit. Walking out with Richard seemed to portend change in course.

WG: Is it just me, or does Julia look a lot like Gillian? Doppelganger a go-go. I'm wondering if Julia would be able to leave her father? He's an abusive half-mad shitheel, but he's got his reasons. Another plot thread that I'm looking forward to getting unspooled.

OMD: George Nelson Van Alden Mueller got too big for his britches and faced Capone in an interesting exchange. Getting too big for one's britches seemed to be a recurring motif in this episode. Really, this was the episode in which seemingly all of the chickens came home to roost--well, excepting Gyp and Nucky (at least not directly). Nelson, Owen, Margaret, the drunk Mr. Sagorsky, and to a lesser extent Nucky's operation, Gaston Bullock Means (though no one was there to see it), Women's Sexual Education: all got knocked down a peg or two.

WG: Great scene with Capone and Van Alden Mueller. That he fell back into his Calvinistic ways and starting reciting bible chapter and verse was a nice twist. It was odd to see him scared. He rarely shows emotion, other than anger, heartburn, or stunned acquiescence. Capone was fortunate that Sigfrid wasn't around. No one forks husband.

Emperor Palpa--er, David Glass
OMD: Stephen Root's performance was once again delicious. Holy shit, does he take the reins in every scene he's in. Means's machinations were a sight to behold, even if he was caught red-handed by Jess Smith. Of course, that was all immaterial because Jess was a basket-case. The best part of it all was Means got $80,000, half from each Nucky and Harry Daugherty to watch Smith pull the trigger himself.

WG: Means is fantastic. His eccentric flair reminds me a little bit of Langrishe from Deadwood. The look on his face when big faltering Jess took his own life was the definition of the cat that swallowed the canary. Shaking down both Nucky and Daugherty for $40K was smooth.  Reminds me of the larceny Royals owner David Glass pulls with MLB luxury tax proceeds and Jackson County taxpayers.

OMD: Chalky needs to be running a Cotton Club Atlantic City just to give him something to do. He has been so relegated to the background this season that it would only be recompense to the audience. Thompson will surely be turning to Chalky and his brethren for help to rise up against Gyp's men, but Chalky's central presence in just one episode and another three scenes thus far needs to be rectified.

Sidney Bechet
WG: Chalky should get the new Babette's gig just to showcase up and coming Jazz legends in Season Four. Duke Ellington. Louis Armstrong. Jelly Roll Morton. Kid Ory. Sidney Bechet. Fuck Ken Burns. I want to see Chalky lay it out.

OMD: In profile, young Sidney Bechet actually bears a striking resemblance to Erik LaRay Harvey, the actor who plays Dunn Purnsley. It wouldn't be much of a stretch to have them be kin for the sake of getting him to play there. It'll have to happen by September of 1925, though, as he heads to Europe with Josephine Baker & Co. in the Revue Nègre, and I think he stays abroad until 1929. I'm no jazz historian, though, so I could be mistaken. Regardless, I'm guessing Bechet brings the house down on many occasions.

So Gyp's bludgeoning of Franco with a shovel on the beach pretty much seals his fate, right? I'd be shocked if he didn't go down this season, and it would seem that he's likely to be given up by his right hand now, wouldn't it? Tonino has to see that it's only a matter of time before Gyp turns on him in a similar fashion, and he crushed the skull of his first cousin. Gyp's fate will be directly tied to that action.

WG: When he's on the screen, I get all tingly in my thighs, but Gyp is too crazy to be kept around. I'll call my shot and guess he gets got in the final episode.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Wordy Old Men on Boardwalk Empire: Season Three, Episode Nine "The Milkmaid's Lot"

Nucky is in a post-concussive haze following the attempt on his (and Rothstein's and Luciano's and Lansky's) life. Owen, Margaret, and Eli attempt to minimize his interactions with others so as to hide his weakness. Gyp has set up shop in Tabor Heights, taking in shipments on its beaches. Nucky attempts to enlist the help of Rothstein, Lansky, Luciano, Waxey Gordon, Peg-Leg Lonergan, and Frankie Yale in the war he's about to wage against Gyp, but they all turn their backs on him.

Pain in the junk. The worst kind.
Old Man Duggan: This episode seemed very much akin to when Al Swearengen was knocking at death's door, doubled over with stones following the balls-out brawl with Seth Bullock in Season Two of Deadwood. Nucky's not right, his position is arguably weakened. Those around him look on with worry (at least in part informed by their concern for self-preservation) while trying to cover for him in his infirmed state.

Wordy Ginters: Gleets! Holy shit I loved me some Deadwood. Coincidentally or not, the director for this episode, Ed Bianchi, worked on Deadwood, the similarities may be more than accidental. I liked how he ginned up a jagged, fuzzed out and skittish vibe from scene one to the very end. Mirrored Nucky's concussed mental state nicely.

OMD: Chalky White sighting! It's been too long. If anyone has been underutilized this season, it has been Michael K. Williams. He had the one big episode and got to strong-arm an effete actor. Otherwise, not enough Chalky.

WG: I concur. I'm currently plowing through the book Boardwalk Empire is based on, and real life Nucky's recognition of how important keeping minority demographics properly coddled was a key to his long reign as AC power broker. But yeah, Michael K. is the man. Think about the cast up in this piece. Excellent acting. Phenomenal cinematography. Although it is very good, it still adds up less than the sum of its parts.    

OMD: Yes, unfortunately, it seems like the potential of the show seems destined to be not quite fully realized.

I'm a little surprised that Gyp allowed Sheriff Ramsey to live. Restraint isn't a character trait that he seems to be imbued with. Quite the little town hall meeting. The $200 a month that Gyp's giving the townsfolk of Tabor Heights equates to just over $2,700.00 in 2012 money. I'd have to say I'd gladly put up with a crazy mafioso in my backyard if it meant I was netting $32K per annum. You?

WG: The address requirement was a little disquieting. What are you gonna do? You take the money and keep your mouth shut. I was shocked to see Sheriff Ramsey still sheriffing at the best public meeting ever. I assumed he was ground into powder. Should have realized that for Gyp, without fire, there is no death. I also dug his little reassurances: "Barbers cut hair, cooks cook, librarians keep checking out books... Bible school is canceled."

OMD: I think the weirdest part of this episode was Manic Nucky. Seeing Nucky out of sorts is obviously all kinds of weird, but we've been treated to that throughout the season as he's been trying to manage his adolescent romance with Billie Kent. Manic Nucky was truly bizarre. His wishing of a happy day of birth to his step-daughter was something else.

WG: How much coke did Buscemi inhale as "prep" for that scene? Worst birthday party ever. Seeing Nucky off-kilter flatters Winter's choice of Buscemi as the lead. Would you buy Gandolfini hamming it up like that? On the same hand, when Nucky has to get physical, it doesn't work nearly as well. Regardless, I've always been a Buscemi fan, or at least a fan of the work he's been in. Trees Lounge.  

OMD: Trees Lounge was actually the reason I got into Hayden in the first place. But yes, he does lack the natural physicality to pull off scenes like the beating of Billie's actor friend in the last episode.

How much did you want to see Harrow take the smirking Legionnaires out behind the woodshed? Fuck those smug, grinning toolbags. Once he's worked those shitheads over, I hope Harrow takes Tommy and Julia Sagorsky off and starts a makeshift family with them.

WG: Seems like things are headed towards a twisted little family with Tommy and Sagorsky. That would be a happy resolution. Many monsters on this show, but Gillian may be the most ghastly. I wonder how many will end up surviving in the end? Did it surprise you that Harrow could handle himself on the dance floor? Me neither.  

OMD: I'm sure Harrow learned to dance with his sister back in Ohio or wherever the hell he's from.

Wick dipping
This was certainly the episode in which children were scared shitless. Nucky traumatizing Emily with his unorthodox cake-cutting. Teddy exposed to the Gypsy man of his nightmares on the phone. Tommy exposed to swinging middle-aged scrotum while poor man's Matthew Modine was dipping his wick in Josephine wax vat. These kids are sure to be well-adjusted positive contributors to society, right?

WG: Absolutely. Kids are resilient. They won't remember this stuff in a few years when they begin snorting bath salts and having sex with priests.

OMD: So Margaret promising to run away with Owen when the time is right pretty much seals his fate, eh? It probably does not mean that Nucky offs Owen himself, but Margaret can't have nice things, and Mr. Slater is an immigrant girl's dream come true, fresh from the glen. He'll surely fall for daring to fly so close to the sun, and the pyromaniac in the Continental Army-issued hat walking the beach in Tabor Heights is likely to be the one to melt those wings. After all, what is Margaret Schroeder-Thompson if not destined to waste away in a loveless marriage?

WG: Spot on. Margaret isn't the one who gets hurt in this scenario. The whole thing was a bit muddled. I foolishly thought Margaret's pre "going to war with Masseria speech" pep talk to Nucky signaled loyalty. Evidently not. Gyp in the hat. Perhaps may favorite scene this whole season was the disembodied hand smashing the glass, and reaching in to snatch that sweet colonial lid off the Pamuk-visaged replica of Mad Anthony Wayne. Meaningless aside: when I was courting Mrs. Ginters, she had a part time job at an upscale tchochtke joint called The Colonial Shop. Truth be told, it was my imagined witty repartee with an unrelenting and heavy dose of questions about their tri-cornered hat selection that won me a first date. They sold no hats. I have yet to hear a valid or logical explanation of the goods and wares actually sold by The Colonial Shop, other than artisanal candles and primitive furniture. They are out of business. Marriage creeping up on 15 years. Victory for Ginters and the symbolic tri-cornered hat.

OMD: Hard to imagine a colonial gewgaw shop not thriving in Athens of the Plains. I'm glad something came from such a brave business venture. I can only assume your house is littered with Yankee Candles.

It would seem that Nucky is backed into a corner, what with Gyp being insane and Rothstein, Yale, Lonergan, et al wishing him luck in his future endeavors. If one were to handicap his odds of taking on Gyp and coming out victorious without a little help from his friends, they would not be in his favor at this point. At this point, can we assume that the absence of Remus (Torrio's hooch connect for any who may have forgotten), the running of Old Overholt, and the old connection with Johnny Torrio--along with the continued presence of the Chicago storyline in the first place--would indicate that Nucky will get help from Torrio's crew and that Nucky will later be called upon to come to Torrio and Capone's aid when things on the O'Banion front heat up? Does this mean a Florentine holiday for Torrio and Nucky in which they walk arm in arm through the museums, taking in the finest the Renaissance had to offer?

WG: Another in a long-line of plausible spin-off series that I would definitely watch. Much better than Burt Wolf twaddling around Europe with a fanny pack. I was expecting a rah-rah, everybody joins Nucky's quest, pep rally type situation. I'm glad they turned shoulders. Makes for a much more interesting end of the season. Historically, Nucky did preside over the first "gangsta's convention" of sorts. There were many discussions about cutting out the rough stuff, making nice, and sharing the wealth. The end of prohibition made much of those Occupy Wall Street tenants moot, but I appreciate the sentiment. You've likely got it sussed just about right. Torrio to the rescue, or more likely, Capone. Winter has often talked of his fondness for the unexpected. As we hit the home stretch, I'm looking forward to seeing what he has up his sleeve.

OMD: I sure hope he surprises me. While being right about the way the season ends up would be all fine and dandy, I'd rather be shocked.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Wordy Old Men on Boardwalk Empire: Season Three, Episode Eight "The Pony"

Nucky, Gaston Bullock Means, and Esther Randolph plot to enlist Andrew Mellon in their mission to take down Remus and Daugherty. Van Alden begins working off his debt to O'Banion, but not before going out at Farraday Electric Iron Company with a bang. Gillian uses Proxy Jimmy's body to gain Tommy's inheritance and sets about avenging her son's death by siccing Gyp on Nucky. Babette's on the boardwalk would appear to be no more and Billie Kent would appear to have gone right along with it. 

Old Man Duggan: Primitive ages these folks lived in. Proxy Jimmy passed for Jimmy rather easily. "Jimmy deserved better than this." Well said, Harrow. Apparently all you need for the County Coroner to pronounce you Dead James Darmody are a dopey haircut and his dog tags. Well, that and an unscrupulous mother/lover.

Wordy Ginters: Cremation too. It occurred to me that a scene from an early episode this season reveals that Harrow knows Nucky killed Jimmy. After rubbing out Manny, Harrow marched into Nucky's office to tell him that Mickey running around claiming the kill as his own was bullshit. Nucky, understandably, was worried that he might be next on Harrow's revenge tour. I don't recall the reason why, but essentially Harrow gave Nucky a pass. He knows Proxy Jimmy is in the kindling box. That Jack Huston was able to milk an ambiguous response like that with half a face is evidence of his royal acting bloodlines.

OMD: Harrow had known where Jimmy was headed when he left, and Jimmy had told Harrow to stay where he was needed. Harrow didn't blame Nucky for doing what needed to be done because Jimmy was a soldier. Harrow basically believes that Jimmy was in the game and that he understood why Nucky took him out. Nucky and his family always did right by him, so he doesn't begrudge Nucky anything.

It sure looks like Van Alden will get to go after Capone after all. Not exactly in the way I had envisioned, but still. My favorite Van Alden moment in this episode was the iron to the face. So great. That buffoon got his without a doubt. The entire staff at Farraday were toolbags. I don't know about you, but I am glad they're all traumatized. I hope he walks by the front door every day and just leers at his former co-workers Fuck that face-burned mook. I just hope we get to see Mr. and Mrs. "Mueller" pushing their kitchen aquavit at every Norwegian celebration.

WG: That scene was tense. The build up was tantric. The steam iron in Van Alden Mueller's hand was hissing like a snake. And the way he destroyed the office reminded me of Frankenstein on a rampage. The best part may have been the way Van Alden Mueller mustered up a "smile" into the headwinds of future skin-graft patient's withering smart ass repartee. The friendly grimace that emerged on Van Alden Mueller's mug reminded me of a teenager trying his first shot of whiskey, not wanting to make a face to play tough in front of friends. As we've mentioned before, a lot of the characters in Boardwalk Empire run cool, with icy hostility pushed down below the surface. No one shows the intense effort required to keep a lid on it more than Van Alden Mueller.

OMD: Now we're getting to the meat and potatoes of the women's issues. The build-up was as slow as one could expect from an HBO Drama, but we're finally getting to what feminists worked for: reproductive rights; birth control. It seems to be an especially timely episode given the women's issues playing a central part in this Presidential Election. We get to see up close and somewhat personal what a woman would have to have gone through just to get birth control to keep their pawing husband's sperm from impregnating them. How demoralizing would it be to have to go to French Stewart's doppelganger every time you needed a diaphragm?

WG: Being a man and everything, it is sadly too easy to overlook how brutal life was for women in that regard, up until the very recent past. Other regards, too. Let's see. Right to vote? Check. Equal pay for equal work? What year does that get accomplished? I believe the pill came on the scene in the 60s? Jesus. Dutch Caps? It was a refreshing bit of lightness to see Owen and Margaret waxing nostalgic about tinkers and bandy-legs in the Pony Rain. Pony Rain. Sequel to Purple Rain. Replace Prince with U2. Setting moves from Minneapolis to Belfast. Switch out Morris Day & the Time with The Alarm. The Edge doesn't have a word of dialogue but carries around a mirror so that Bono can ensure that his sunglasses remain at a rakish angle at all time. Slainte.

A Man not to be trifled with
OMD: Johnny Torrio's trip to the homeland and the ensuing waxing nostalgic/poetic about Italia (I loved the Pompeii allegory) brought back a flood of images related to the seminal 1986 Burt Reynolds star vehicle Heat, in which Nick "Mex" Escalante spent his free time gazing longingly at a poster of Venice. If you've not seen it, you've not seen the best action sequences in the history of the medium that is film. Capone sure seems to be on edge now. Has Torrio taken a turn to the existential? I can tell you that I'd pay to watch Greg Antonacci turning history into allegory as Johnny Torrio.

WG: Agreed. Sweet, silly, Torrio. Traveling does have a tendency to open your eyes to different possibilities, an antidote to the myopia one can fall into. Timmy Van Patten contrasted Torrio's new found laissez-faire outlook nicely with the half sides of beef hanging in the background (ribs!) at the stockyards. I can only assume Upton Sinclair was creeping around just off camera. I share your hard-on for Heat.  Best Burt Reynolds movie ever, right? I'd entertain arguments for HooperDeliverance was more of an ensemble thing than a proper Reynolds vehicle. Stroker Ace maybe? Thoughts?

OMD: In the Burt oeuvre, I'd be hard-pressed to omit Sharky's Machine, and the White Lightning / Gator combo is pretty sweet. I also hold Malone and Stick in special places in my heart.

"Whatever you're trying to pull, there's something you best keep in mind: You exist in this town because I allow you to." Well, Gillian, I'd say your days are numbered because I think Lucky will know he told you where he was heading for dinner. Only so many people knew. Your number is coming up soon. It's only whether Nucky or Lucky does her in.

WG: No doubt, a definite contender for the next cremation. It's one thing to seek counsel from Leander, quite another to mix it up with Luciano, Nucky, and Gyp.

OMD: As for Gyp, again with the fire? This time it's at least a flaming ball of it. He really gives zero fucks about collateral damage. Bystanders be damned.

WG: Now that we've established that the pack of homely jackals at Easter dinner in the last episode included Gyp's wife and daughters, how hard are they trying to make Gyp unlikeable? Jesus. One of them looked like a buxom Ernest Borgnine. That family was seriously ugly for television standards. The big blow up at Babette's seemed a little too impersonal for Gyp. The failed attempt to get any of  his target sets up some interesting themes going forward. The bosses in New York and Chicago are moving to the fore.

OMD: I was shocked that he'd do something as hands-off as just blowing up their dinner destination. I'm sure they were watching from nearby, but still, you would think Gyp would want to light the match and see the looks on their faces.

Horniest ginger in the Western Hemisphere
Who's hornier: the sex ed nun or Ethel from Downton?
WG: Ethel. She's had a taste and is ruined because of it.

OMD: Did this episode make you more or less likely to pick up a bottle of Old Overholt next time you hit up the liquor store? It seems as though the backroom dealing is going to succeed in taking Daugherty down. I like that Mellon is in the mix now. Interesting character. I like that he worked to get the top marginal tax rate cut from 73% in 1922 to 24% in 1929 only to have all of his work undone by FDR. All that work for naught.

WG: Mellon serves well as a stereotypical barron. Maybe if Mitt wins, we can return to those halcyon days, when something as juvenile as democracy wasn't a hurdle for leaders of men. Galt lives! 

OMD: How about Nucky beating down that nunce Gilbert Longacre? Bully for you, Nucky. Lesson to all: Don't call Nucky "sir."

WG: I guess Nucky's rough upbringing gave him the skills to handle himself. I thought maybe Bin Fartin would get over on him. Barely plausible. 

OMD: It would seem that with the presumed death of Billie Kent the Winter & Co. will make sure to punish any character as soon as they abandon their beliefs for the glitz of the gangster lifestyle. There's a cost to every action. Once she was kept, that was all she wrote.

WG: The real tragedy: she died a blonde.  

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Man on Film: Wreck-It Ralph

In Wreck-It Ralph, Disney has produced its first full-length animated feature that has piqued my interest in at least twenty years when I was pumped for The Rescuers Down Under. Whether or not I actually saw that film or not is a fact I do not recall, but I remember my eleven-year-old self thinking that it looked pretty cool. Successfully mining the thirtysomething nerd demographic's limitless need to feed the pangs of nostalgia with any media they can get their hands on, Wreck-It Ralph is casting a much larger net into the adult realm than Disney has been in the habit of doing with recent releases like Tangled or The Princess and the Frog. It would be positively shocking if it didn't register much more meaningfully with adult males than Disney's recent fare.

Now if this was simply an ineffectual and shameless attempt at pandering to and exploiting our collective youth, I wouldn't be saying this. Wreck-It Ralph hits all the right notes en route to a spectacularly smart and fun ride down a lane that's not quite Memory but certainly has enough callbacks to our misspent youth to make us all feel right at home in the arcade.

As one can surmise from the trailer, the titular character is Wreck-It Ralph the villain from an old eight-bit video game, Fix-It Felix Jr. that is celebrating its 30th Anniversary. As it rings in that momentous occasion, Ralph stands at the edge of an existential precipice, finding little fulfillment in his life as the force of destruction in the predestined world that has been constructed for them. Tired of being hated and feared, Ralph decides he is going to go on a hero's journey, venturing across the arcade to other games to bring back a medal to put Felix's many medals to shame.

Ralph's journey is a blast. Voiced by the incredibly likable John C. Reilly, the innocently brutish protagonist rumbles his way through other video game worlds with hilarity and hijinks ensuing. Unfortunately, his desire to strike out and play the hero has widespread ramifications, as his place in the world, while unappreciated, is vital to its survival as without him their world that has been constructed falls apart.

This being director Rich Moore's first foray into feature film direction, one might initially be concerned, but Moore cut his teeth directing a bunch of episodes of The Simpson's and Futurama. At the very least, one could reasonably assume that being true to the fanboy demographic should be in his wheelhouse. That assumption is proven to be a safe one, as Wreck-It Ralph delivers just as much pleasure as any of the Pixar standouts of late like Up, Wall-E, or Toy Story 3. It actually deftly explores adult themes of existential longing and bringing meaning to one's life. The Bad-Anon support group meetings are particularly hilarious, even if it may rush completely over the heads of the children in the audience. Buoyed by additional superb voice work from Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer, Mindy Kaling, Alan Tudyk, and Jane Lynch and an exceedingly clever script from Jennifer Lee and Phil Johnston, Wreck-It Ralph is a rousing success.

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