The hometown nostalgia survived longer than the turkey hangover on the Hollywood Prospectus podcast. To kick off the holiday movie season, Chris Ryan and I invited fellow Philadelphian (and Grantland's resident Cinemetrician) Zach Baron to talk about one of the best films of the year, Silver Linings Playbook (2:50). We three former Friends School League rivals dug deep into why SLP is a sports movie for non-sports fans, why its optimism matters (particularly for Eagles supporters), and why we loved it for reasons beyond its inclusion of the Llanerch Diner (try the snapper soup!) and Jennifer Lawrence in spandex. Lest the gushing cause the Schuykill River to flood, we also talked a bit about the rest of the big releases coming in December, including Killing Them Softly, The Hobbit, Zero Dark Thirty, and the inevitable juggernaut that is Les Misérables.
Today HBO announced that it has renewed Boardwalk Empire, its period Prohibition drama, for a fourth season of bloody, occasionally boring bootlegging. This is good news for the show’s fans (HBO reports that up to 7.2 million flappers and nogoodniks watched the third season premiere in one time-shifted form or another), not to mention New York City–based character actors and the contractor responsible for Steve Buscemi’s summer home.
Take a seat, pour yourself a tall glass of paint thinner and don’t you dare blink: it’s time to talk The Master on the Hollywood Prospectus podcast (1:30). Chris Ryan and I processed the heck out of Paul Thomas Anderson’s strange and powerful new movie, discussing our favorite theories, moments and performances. While we ended the talk still out to sea like Freddie Quell, one thing is certain: PTA deserves a hand, and not necessarily in the Amy Adams-to-Philip Seymour Hoffman sense, either.
Fully alive with the imagined memory of our past selves, we then moved on to the return of Boardwalk Empire (37:00): is the show merely an empty suit? And is it ever OK for a series to just be OK?
The first moments of the third season of Boardwalk Empire — returning to HBO this Sunday at 9 p.m. EST — introduce a new antagonist, Gyp Rosetti. As played by the criminally underrated Bobby Cannavale, Rosetti is a high-living lowlife, a Sicilian thug wrapped up in bespoke finery. The biggest mistake you can make with Rosetti is dealing with him in the first place. But the second-biggest is making him feel dumb. (This is a slippery business, because Rosetti, while street-smart, is decidedly book-stupid.) He desperately wants to be a gentleman, but he’s never more than a gangster. As an unfortunate Samaritan learns the hard way — like, tire-iron hard — Rosetti has a tendency to explode into shocking violence in order to be taken seriously. In other words, he’s the perfect avatar for Boardwalk Empire, a puffed-up show that drowns its myriad shortcomings in an ocean of booze and blood. It’s the televised equivalent of an empty suit.
For television's biggest stars, Emmy nominations day begins as either the best or worst of mornings, as the assiduously watched iPhone on the nightstand either lights up with the caller-ID photo of an elated publicist thrilled to rouse a nominee, or remains eerily, mockingly silent, a glassy black slab reflecting back the look of soul-annihilating disappointment on the exhausted face of the snubbed. For those lucky enough to get The Call, the rest of the day involves shuffling through a congratulatory conga line of media outlets eager to get their reactions, inevitably a litany of effusive, grateful sound bites, offered over and over again without any chance for reflection. Or honesty. Below, we attempt to decode what secret messages the nominees are actually trying to communicate through their bland "I'm so happy!"s and hostage-video-quality "It's an honor just to be nominated!"s, as collected by THR.com:
Grantland friend Erik Weiner -- he of the cameo-rap classic One Line on the Sopranos -- straight does it again, this time riffing on his small part (and quick death) in Boardwalk Empire. After last night's fairly amazing season finale, this is as good as it's going to get for BW fans for a while.
A jalopy pulls up at a Klan meeting with two masked men. Richard and Jimmy, recognizable by Jimmy's distinctive teen-dream bang-tendrils and Richard's hat, hop out and start firing. They take prisoners for crimes committed against Chalky White's gang. In Philadelphia, Manny The Butcher is hiding in a synagogue, laying forth on crime and punishment. "Everyone's a crook." I bet you say that to all the crooks. Manny also has a bang tendrils situation (this hairstyle is called "The Nazi Youth"). Perhaps he, too, was once a heartthrob. Manny says he wakes up sometimes feeling like he's still a 12-year-old kid with all the important life decisions still yet to be made. Don't we all? Manny's biggest problem is named Waxy Gordon. All this Waxy buildup is trifling (sorry), but Nucky is willing to consider it for a fee, burning off hostility about his trial. The guards watching Chalky's headquarters open the gates for Jimmy and Richard, each driving one jalopy. Jimmy gives Chalky the package, money from the Klan for the victims, plus the three racist gunmen. Dunn Purnsley smiles thinking about torturing them. Jimmy asks Chalky to broker a meet with Nucky.
Richard and Jimmy share a milkshake through two straws. No they don't, but they look like they want to. Emily Schroeder practices walking on her crutches while the maids supervise. Owen Sleater once again politely (i.e., crushingly) ignores Katy. Esther Randolph demands a shaved cherry ice in the heat. Career womyn, always wanting cold slushies. Margaret Schroeder is there to see Esther, along with her creepy priest buddy. She dismisses the creepy priest for some one-on-one lady time with Esther. Margaret tells her how Hans Schroeder was a drunkard and cheat who beat her and their children. Esther asks whether Margaret would rather be portrayed as "helpless" or a "gold digger" during the trial. Esther presses Margaret to corroborate the case against Nucky in order to leaven the guilt of her blood debt. Margaret doesn't like Esther's bloodthirst for her common-law boyfriend.
So first of all, AGHHHHHH. More on that tip (AGHHH) later. Jimmy wakes up in an unfamiliar room, curled up in a nice clean bed with Angela. Her hair is longer and they appear sex-drunk and hungover without looking worse for wear, so this must be college. She sketches him the worst-ever drawing of his beautiful face, which makes him look like Al Pacino's character in Dick Tracy. Sometimes Boardwalk Empire slides into Dick Tracy territory for me, usually via broad accents and overly beautiful sets. But when it's great, it can be perfect. This was up there with last year's baptism gone wrong ("Paris Green") for series highs. Breathless shocks and crazy payoffs and red herrings and a thrilling continuation of the whole world being set off-kilter by last week's double death.
At the Port Of Hoboken, cases of "Feeney's Irish Oats" are being unloaded. Where's Beadie when you need her? Owen Sleater carries a case on his shoulder through the boardwalk as he passes through the striking dishwashers. He is given permission to enter the Ritz Carlton and pour a cup of whiskey for the manager there. Van Alden makes baby talk with his new nanny, and opens his Time Warner Cable bill to find divorce paperwork from his wife. Nucky and Margaret and little Theodore "A.J" Schroeder go to visit the ailing little girl with polio. Margaret and Nucky say condescendingly comforting things to her while she lies in bed with her legs no longer working.
Belfast, Ireland, home of the Belfast boardwalk. Nucky has brought his father's coffin along with Owen Sleater, crusher of skulls and gee. Margaret is stuck at home. Every time I see Katie the maid now I think she is going to blow someone and turn into Ruth Fisher, but that is American Horror Story's Moira. Much like in American Horror Story, Emily Schroeder won't get out of bed. She can't move her legs, and is unable to wiggle her toes. Polio?
The elevator boy whistles and small-talks with Nucky about the latest Jack Dempsey fight. Nucky squints and says that fight hasn't happened yet. Time slows down as the elevator doors open and he walks into a room where everyone stands looking at him. He sees a baseball mitt on a chair. If you didn't figure it out yet, this is a dream sequence, and if it wasn't in-your-face enough with the symbolism of this season of Boardwalk Empire, here's a young kid with stigmata on one palm replacing Nucky at his desk as a bleeding wild animal brays. The kid locks and loads at Nuck and we flash-cut to Nucky's hand being bandaged and telling his doc he's been having trouble sleeping. I don't know about you all, but my dreams all take place at an alternate Disneyland.
Snorewalk. This episode made the How To Make It In America that followed it seem positively action-packed in comparison. Not that plenty didn't happen, it just happened mostly in discussion. Show don't tell. First rule of Canadian Club! Jack Dempsey brings a little person dressed as a Frenchman into the ring as a gag. Somewhere in King's Landing, Tyrion Lannister shakes his head in disgust. Dempsey does the walk 'n' talk outside the tent with Nucky. Nucky is broadcasting the fight over old tymey HBO. A nosy reporter asks Nucky about his election-rigging case and Nucky sics Jack Dempsey on him. Van Alden returns home to his love nest, where Lucy reminds him of his insane plan to pay her for giving him a child. Van Alden shrugs in admission that he doesn't have the $3,000 he promised her. Van Alden storms out on Lucy and his still nameless child like a deadbeat.
I saw so many half-faced Richards over Halloween weekend. Hey, one iconic breakout character is better than none. The best sitcom on TV right now is I Tolerate Lucy, starring Nelson Van Alden and Lucy Danziger. The hugely pregnant Lucy is bigger and blowsier than ever, begging for lemons and spreading her knees in a sad wooden chair. Margaret's son is getting a tongue-lashing from a scary priest. It's interesting how Nucky's son has the same bad behavioral issues as Tony Soprano's son, A.J. It's almost like they learned how to lie, cheat, and steal from their successful no-good fathers. Margaret, like Carmela Soprano, is deeply religious while also aware of her husband's transgressions and how they pay the bills (in fact perhaps attracted to that very quality of ruthlessness), and invocations of the spirit trouble her overly developed mind. The case against Nucky now includes his hiring of whores to secure votes. Sex scandals are politics. Nucky talks to George Remus.
Steve Buscemi always sounds great as a tremendous phony. He knows how to press the oil out of each line without overdoing it. Shooter McGavin tips his hat. Nucky calls Jimmy ("James") Darmody up to the podium to speak about military service. Jimmy, his hand shaking and upper lip jutting out as poutily as ever, rejects the assignation of the title of "hero" to his military service. Richard returns to his steampunk tumblr, where he pages through idealized domestic fantasies. Richard's fondest dreams are Mad Men's Peggy Olson's nightmares. He stops on his own head shot, lamenting the effects of the war on his once-flawless face and then packs a knapsack with an apple snack and puts on his mask and cap to go out. Nucky talks to Harry "Shooter McGavin" Daugherty in the locker room. Daugherty says they ought to play golf, not the quick fix to his problems Nucky was looking for.
In the Canadian Club warehouse, some overdubbed dialogue is spoken by Jimmy as he surveys the cases and then hops into his jalopy with Richard. The Commodore ignores Gillian's striptease as Diana, goddess of the moon. Gretchen Mol has always been superb at acting with her nipples and she still is. She prepares to hunt him with a bow and arrow and he seizes in his chaise. Margaret listens to the children recite meaning-laden doggerel, and then folds her arms at Sleater and Kitty's flirtations because she wants that Irish pheasant all for herself.