Nucky and me

Apropos my remarks on Boardwalk Empire, somebody sent me a link to a piece that’s a couple of months old, but still speaks for a lot of naysayers:

As long as nobody’s talking, there is a restless, melancholic beauty that can make you feel like you’re watching something of substance.

But therein lies the rub: the writing so far is kind of crap, and casting Steve Buscemi as the main character Nucky Johnson will either go down as one of the most interesting risks in television history or one of the most bizarre decisions since Charleton Heston played that Mexican guy in Touch of Evil. To the first point, I love movies that minimize cussing in period pieces and take advantage of all the weird things people said at any given time. I’m sure people dropped f-bombs in the 20s, but I also bet they didn’t drop as many; why would you when you could say, “I caught that hotsy-totsy dumb dora utterly splifficated in her flivver after they gimme the bum’s rush for breakin’ out the giggle water in the juke joint. Dollars to doughnuts, she ain’t no Mrs. Grundy!” Writers need to research their periods as meticulously as any of the other artists on the set, and the amount of profanity in BE is just plain lazy, particularly given the richness of the period lexicon. It would all be more forgivable if there were some fresheness to the story, but, man, this shit looks familiar. (Couldn’t they have at least tried to make the nighttime chase in the woods a little different from the better one in Michael Mann’s Public Enemies? It’s only been a year!) It’s hard to give a rat’s ass about anything that takes place onscreen, except when MacDonald and Graham show up, which is when you wish extra hard that they had better material.

Better material? Better material? Atlantic City was the southern pole of the New York area rum line, with schooners and freighters anchored just outside U.S. territorial waters selling crates of booze as fast as the contact boats could load them. Nucky was half gangster, half booster, strutting along the Boardwalk with a fresh-cut carnation in his lapel, dispensing favors and cash, cutting deals with Warren Harding one day and negotiating gangster disputes the next. Guy hosted a mobster convention in 1929 that drew Al Capone, Lucky Luciano, and Thompson-toting thugs from as far off as Detroit and New Orleans. If you can’t make a great film out of material like that, you need to find another line of work.

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2 thoughts on “Nucky and me

  1. Nan Bauer says:

    Hey Steve, Thx for the pingback. By “material,” I’m referring to the script, and by “they,” I’m referring to the actors. I absolutely agree that the source material on which the series is based is fantastically rich, I just don’t love what the writers have done with it.

    The show looks like a million bucks. I’ll give it that.

  2. Steven Hart says:

    I’m on your side in this, Nan. I just hope the show’s success takes the taint off New Jersey subjects in the eyes of publishers. If the BE crew doesn’t want to do the job right, I can come up with a list of writers — headed by Yours Truly — who’d love to step up to the plate.

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