Sunday, November 7, 2010

Current Obsession: Boardwalk Empire

I'm obsessed with this show.  I love the characters, the topic, the history lessons, the references to classic films, and, of course, the music.  Yes, the show is slower than I expected.  I really thought it would be a regular mob show with tons of badass shootings and blood everywhere.  There are some badass bloody shootings but it's not Goodfellas.  Still, the show is GREAT... the material, the writing, the actors.  I see it as one of those sleeper hits.

One of my favorite things about the show is how it gives the audience some insight into the minute details of life during the Roaring 20s.  For example, we get to see how innovative and frightening (for a kid) a device like a vacuum was; how premature babies in incubators were displayed like a freak show exhibit on the boardwalk; the treatment of STDs; the women's suffrage movement; and how veterans of WWI suffered from PTSD.  That last detail is quite remarkable.  We often consider PTSD as affecting our modern soldiers but the reality is that the carnage of war has never changed.  Our soldiers in WWI fought in a new age of modern warfare.  They returned with shell shock, the symptoms of which were nearly identical to what we understand as PTSD today.  The show recently introduced an amazing character, Richard Harrow.  He's was a WWI sniper whose face was so badly damaged during the war that he has to wear a mask, painted to resemble the rest of his face.  It makes quite an impact and highlights the gruesome reality of war, even back in the day.

The show offers a great look into the fashion of the age too.  The scenes in which Angela and Margaret are in the clothing store offer an intimate look into the undergarments of the era.  For instance, while the corset had been discarded by the women of the 1920s, the bra hadn't yet caught on with everyone (Margaret).  [I know I'm not the only one who's curious about the small, often undocumented details of life 100 years ago... which reminds me, I've gotta check out Heritage Square Museum.]   Nucky's colorful suits are sharp... I love it when men pay attention to their wardrobe.  [This brings to mind LACMA's Fashioning Fashion... it displays the transformation of fashion over the course of 300 years.  The clothes on display are in exceptional condition and include many items of mens' apparel (which is actually quite rare because men's clothes simply weren't preserved as often as women's).  Years and years ago, men were not averse to donning bright colors and accessories.  I'd love to see more of that.]  Boardwalk Empire provides a tremendous amount of fashion eye candy... it fits so well here in LA, with all of our Art Deco architecture and renaissance of speakeasies like The Edison and the Cicada Club.  I can see this show inspiring fashion runways like Mad Men did this fall.

The show also offers an amazing trove of musical treasures.  I'm totally an odd young 20-something who has had a secret, years long love affair with old-time crooners... but even to the novice listener, the show's soundtrack will prove to be entertaining and educational.  I'm no expert on early pop music so this article from the L.A. Times Music Blog provides a better explanation of the musical gems in the show. 

The actors and the story are what really make this show so solid.  I'm totally crushing on Michael Pitt, who plays the WWI vet Jimmy Darmody.  He reminds of me a young Leonardo DiCaprio - only badass.  He's featured in the LA Times Magazine...

 If you haven't yet tuned in, hurry up and check it out. 

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