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Boardwalk Empire vs. The Rest: Gangsters in Other Media


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#1

TWoP Howard

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Posted Dec 1, 2010 @ 12:10 AM

Many comparisons have been made throughout the season between this show and the The Sopranos, since they both portray gangsters and are both on HBO. This is a place to expand those thoughts, as well as to compare Nucky’s machine to gangsters and crooked politicians seen on other shows and movies.

#2

Princess Louie

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Posted Dec 1, 2010 @ 5:57 PM

I think the show set this up nicely with Jimmy's comment to Nucky in the first episode: "You can't be half a gangster" ...or something to that effect.

Tony Soprano was a gangster first, and only went into his office at the waste management business at the advice of his lawyer. The tension in Tony's life was really between his family and his Family.

Nucky's tension is between being a respectable politician and public servant, which has its own rewards (respectability, conventionality) or being rich and powerful. He's trying to have both.

Also, Prohibition has challenged just how much criminality he can stomach - it's one thing to just take payoffs for allowing certain businesses (whorehouses, for example) to flourish, or taking kickbacks for the award of certain contracts....and participating in murder, which is where he is now.

Tony Soprano accepted that. Nucky is still coming to grips with it.

#3

PippiMarie

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Posted Dec 5, 2010 @ 8:56 PM

The Sopranos was the story about a patriarch of a family. It was beyond being a gangster show from the very first scene (which if I remember correctly is of Tony in Melfi's waiting room).

Boardwalk Empire is a story about an era and the rise of "gangsters" - it has a historical bases.

The Sopranos is a far more personal story.

IMHO

#4

benjaminS

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Posted Jan 4, 2011 @ 3:34 AM

In real life, much like in the series, Nucky wasn't a "gangster" but a corrupt politician. Politicians are some of the biggest gangsters this world has to offer, so in fact he was a gangster.

What separates Boardwalk from the other shows is the time-frame. This was the peak of the last “real” gangsters that we’ll ever see. This was when loyalty meant something. After these guys, everything went downhill.

A great documentary for anyone interested: The Genovese family. You can find it on YouTube.

#5

Atomic Clock

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Posted Aug 31, 2011 @ 8:00 PM

Ok, I'll bite.

Overall, The Sopranos is the better show. There's just something compelling about Tony and his crew that isn't here. SB is a great actor; there really are no bad actors in Boardwalk, actually. But the colorful humor and little moments of humanity don't seem to exist in this show. Perhaps the time period is to blame for this, though Deadwood had it's share of funny moments.

This is a paradox, because David Chase's existential views, which permiated every aspect of The Sopranos, aren't to be found in Boardwalk. Amidst all of the corruption and violence, there are beacons of hope and optimism. Margaret is the most obvious example. When the black screen of the unknown finally comes down on Tony and company, you realize there's not one redeeming character in the whole bunch. But there's something more likeable about Margaret, even though I'm sure she'll become far more jaded before the show ends. Same goes for Jimmy. He's a product of war trying to fit in at home.

One advantage this show might have is if tptb can keep the plots cohesive and focused. Sometimes the stories on The Sopranos meandered, particularly in the later seasons. If Boardwalk can keep this from happening and continue the forward momentum of history, they may rate higher in my book as The Shield did when the whole series is in the can.

#6

babyfoot

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Posted Oct 27, 2011 @ 2:47 PM

Because there are so many characters who were real people, i.e., Torrio, Capone, Luciano, etc., there is certain lack of surprise in BE as compared to The Sopranos. BE audiences are, for the most part, aware of what happened to the real gangsters. Sopranos viewers were never really sure who would be whacked or when - I spent each and every episode watching the Sopranos convinced that one would be Pauly Walnuts's last.

Nucky and Tony are very different "gangsters". Tony is a sociopath. Nucky, while greedy and corrupt, feels some compassion and sense of obligation towards others.

I love both shows but I enjoy re-watching BE far more than I do TS. Initial viewing of many Sopranos episodes left me breathless but the BE costumes, music, and sets, as well as the writing and acting, have a way of transporting me out of reality.

#7

TWoP Howard

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Posted Oct 28, 2011 @ 7:30 PM

There are also many more worlds intersecting in this show. We have the AC world, with Nucky and his circle, the yacht club guys, Chalky and the black community, Jimmy and his family and Harrow, and the law, plus Chicago and New York. Even though The Sopranos had side characters and scenes with other families and law enforcement, I didn’t feel I got as much detail about their lives as BE gives me about its characters. Perhaps the BE creators are better at painting a life or a way of life with just a few brushstrokes.

#8

Jay Bee

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Posted Oct 30, 2011 @ 12:35 PM

Boardwalk empire is unique because it is a period piece from a period which does not get as much attention as it should. It also highlights prohibition which we now all admit was a mistake. The irony of the era is that we now have the war on drugs which we are now repeating some of the same mistakes that we did not learn from in prohibition (In my opinion). The "Gangsters" in boardwalk empire are mostly working class people who start doing things on the side and gradually become full time criminals. The people in the sopranos are people who may have jobs for a cover but they are never serious about outside careers. They are born and raised criminals.

There is also the whole period piece aspect of BE. They have spared nothing in putting together a realistic portrayal of the time period. Every episode is like a journey back in time.

I like both shows but I hope that Boardwalk empire does not go as "mainstream" as the sopranos. I feel that the quality of the Sopranos tailed off a bit as the show became more of a cultural phenomenon. I think it tried to be many things to too many people.

[snip] To me the violence in the last episode will insure the edginess and quality of the show. Once the producers start holding back on scenes like that then the show will loose its edge and not be realistic. That lifestyle was not pretty and if you only show the great costumes and elaborate homes without the ugliness that goes along with the lifestyle then it no longer is authentic.

Edited by Jay Bee, Oct 30, 2011 @ 2:51 PM.
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#9

Contralto

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Posted Oct 31, 2011 @ 8:39 AM

Manny's butcher shop reminds me of Satriale's -- you don't want to know what's in the sausage.

#10

TWoP Howard

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Posted Dec 17, 2011 @ 7:18 PM

I’ve renamed this thread and I am bumping it up because a request was made for a thread to discuss books, movies, and other shows which might relate to this one.

#11

Ishan

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Posted Dec 17, 2011 @ 9:54 PM

Thanks TWOP Howard!

Watching BE reminded me a lot of Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America. It follows a group of boys from a lower eastside tenement, who grow up to be gangsters; the film spans the early teens to prohibition to the 60s. It is truly an epic, and the mise-en-scène is astounding. It does not shy away from the vulnerabiltiy of women and violence that is often present in slum/tenement life and it is sometimes difficult to watch. Apparently the movie is based on a novel called The Hoods, I think? Has anyone read it? Also, does anyone have any other recommendations as far as books or films? There is just something about this era... so much was going on at every level of society!

Edited by Ishan, Dec 17, 2011 @ 9:55 PM.


#12

Boisvert 8

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Posted Dec 18, 2011 @ 5:35 AM

Highly recommended as a jumping off place in the non-fiction category- Last Call: The Rise & Fall of Prohibition by Daniel Okrent.

Fiction category? I'd have to go first with anything (novel/novella/short story) written during the early 1920s by F. Scott Fitzgerald or Ernest Hemingway (showing my own prejudices here since they're two of my favorite authors ;->)

Of course a must-read along the way are the chapters dealing with the real life Enoch "Nucky" Johnson in Nelson Johnson's non-fiction work that started it all rolling, Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, & Corruption of Atlantic City.

Films? For a truly authentic taste of the period fashions, architecture, attitudes, you-name-it, I go right to the primary source, namely the movies shot during this period- TCM's Silent Sunday night series of well restored/newly scored silent films is a great place to start.

May I echo your thanks to TWoP Howard for bumping this thread- really looking forward to everybody's contributions...gotta read up/see some films to prep for S3!!

#13

Ishan

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Posted Dec 18, 2011 @ 12:08 PM

Thank you Boisvert, links and all!

This reminds me of the film Manhatta by the modernist photographer Paul Strand and painter/photographer Charles Sheeler. It's a non narrative film that consists of a bunch of random images of Manhattan and its people. It was shot in 1921 and is a great piece of modernist art. Strand repeated the composition of a couple his still photographs in there. The score is cool, too. It really gives you a sense of the energy of the city, they captured the skyscraper boom and the new abstract forms that emerged from them, etc.

There was some discussion in Angela's thread about how the show missed an opportunity to show Greenwich Village, etc. I agree, it was such an interesting time for art. This was the moment of Dada, which was a direct reaction to the traumas of WW1 (how appropriate), Edward Hopper, Strand and Stieglitz. It was about breaking from the past, and I can see that tension reflected in the relationship between the older characters and the younger ones on the show (Luciano, Capone, Jimmy to a certain extent). Although 1921 is sort of a moment of flux, a lot of NYC artists did leave for Paris... there were still a lot of important people around and it would have been really cool to see some cameos (kinda like Midnight in Paris).

Edited by Ishan, Dec 18, 2011 @ 12:21 PM.


#14

Boisvert 8

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Posted Dec 20, 2011 @ 11:59 AM

You're very welcome, Ishan. Nice to discover yet another silent film aficionado here on the BE Forum.

Manhatta is a wonderful art film short. I'm also a big fan of the full length Man With a Movie Camera after going to a screening of it at the TCM Film Festival with the Alloy Orchestra doing their live accompaniment thing. Great evening.

In the Last Call NYPL internal links there are many more wonderful books/sources for 1920s non-fiction, among them these titles:

The Prohibition Era by Marty Gitlin
Rum Row: The Liquor Fleet That Fueled the Roaring Twenties by Robin Carse
America in the 1920s by Edmund Lindop
Peaches and Daddy by Michael M. Greenberg
Eat My Dust: Early Women Motorists by Georgine Clarsen
Bobbed Hair and Bathtub Gin: Writers Running Wild in the Twenties by Marion Meade
New World Coming: The 1920s and the Making of Modern America by Nathan Miller
Rothstein: The Life, Times, and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series by David Pietrusza

#15

luvtotha9s

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Posted Dec 25, 2011 @ 12:09 PM

Just got Boardwalk Empire: The Birth, High Times, & Corruption of Atlantic City, and Rothstein: The Life, Times, and Murder of the Criminal Genius Who Fixed the 1919 World Series, in my Stocking...Happy Holidays everyone

#16

clancy25

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Posted Dec 27, 2011 @ 7:28 PM

I finished the Rothstein book a couple weeks ago and it definitely showed why every scene in BE with this historical "character" is gold. I obviously want the show to run its full course through the 20's but i'm particularly interested in seeing how the writers handle Rothstein's eventual fate towards the end of the decade.

I read the Boardwalk Empire book shortly before season 2 began. It wasn't a "bad" book but I was kind of ambivalent about it. The parts that most directly relate to the show and the era it depicts probably amount to a quarter of the book at most. And possible spoilers to show storylines isn't much of an issue- the biggest similarity to Nucky and his real-life counterpart are that they are both corrupt political bosses named Nucky who enjoy fresh carnations in their lapel. However, the book did do a good job at explaining the mechanics of political machines and the ward boss system, which helped me when watching the scenes related to AC politics.

#17

Eegah

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Posted Aug 3, 2012 @ 11:18 AM

I just got my father "Chance of a Lifetime: Nucky Johnson, Skinny D'Amato and how Atlantic City became the Naughty Queen of Resorts." It was written by Grace Anselmo D'Amato, Skinny's sister-in-law who had a front row view to a lot of the events.