2012 - %3, September

Damn, It Feels Good To Be a Gangster—Season 3

| Fri Sep. 14, 2012 6:41 PM EDT

This review contains spoilers for the previous season of Boardwalk Empire.

At its core, Boardwalk Empire has always been a typical boy-meets-girl story. Boy (Nucky Thompson) meets girl (Margaret Schroeder) in season 1, episode 1. Boy saves girl, and girl's two children, from girl's abusive alcoholic husband. Boy goes through advanced moral degeneration involving murder, cheating, and Prohibition-era corruption, thus upsetting girl. Girl marries boy, anyway, by end of season 2. Boy ends up killing his ex-protégé in a fit of cool time-to-go-full-gangsta rage at end of season 2, lies about it to girl.

And with the first five episodes of season 3, Boardwalk Empire maintains its status as one of the most compulsively watchable shows on TV.

As with all great cable dramas, its flaws are few and far between, but glaring nonetheless. Thus far, the season's pacing can drag, and there are some truly rich subplots that go criminally neglected (particularly that of black gangster/Nucky ally Albert "Chalky" White, and his family). Still, there's more than enough here to make you amnestic to the weak spots.

The third season of Boardwalk Empire premieres Sunday, September 16 at 9 p.m. EDT on HBO. Here are my top-5 reasons for why you should tune in:

1) James Darmody is definitely dead and never coming back. It was a risky, admirable move for the second season finale—on par with the startling conclusion of Game of Thrones' first season. But creator Terence Winter's decision to kill off main character James "Jimmy" Darmody (played by Michael Pitt) is already starting to pay off. The death concluded a formative chapter in Nucky's career and personal life, and allowed a fitting exit for the emotionally rotting Jimmy. (Also, am I the only one who can barely stand Pitt's monotone acting, whether it's this, or Funny Games, or The Dreamers, or whatever?)

And the void left by Jimmy's absence is filled by...

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"Movie & An Argument" Podcast: 'Revolution' Politics, New Sitcoms & 'Boardwalk Empire'

| Fri Sep. 14, 2012 5:09 PM EDT

On this week's episode of A Movie & An Argument, With Alyssa and Swin, we discuss (scroll down for the audio player):

  • Revolution, a dystopian drama that premieres Monday, September 17 at 10 p.m. EDT on NBC. We chat about the series' (quite possibly inadvertent) tea party-style politics, i.e. a powerful black man oppressing the masses, taking away their guns, taxing them, and threatening to "reeducate" their children.
  • Some of these new network sitcoms premiering this fall.
  • Sons of Anarchy, the gritty biker drama, which entered its fifth season last Tuesday on FX.
  • Boardwalk Empire, the gangster series set in the Prohibition era, which opens its third season on Sunday, September 16 at 9 p.m. on HBO.
  • Oscar-bait movies we're looking forward to this fall and winter, like Cloud Atlas and Les Misérables.
  • And, naturally, Roger Ebert (and his autobiography from last year, which we named our very first "Movie and an Argument Book Of The Week.")

Each week, I'll be sitting down to chat with ThinkProgress critic Alyssa Rosenberg (who also does killer work at The Atlantic and Slate's "Double X"). We'll talk, argue, and laugh about the latest movies, television shows, and pop-cultural nonsense—with some politics thrown in just for the hell of it.

Alyssa describes herself as being "equally devoted to the Star Wars expanded universe and Barbara Stanwyck, to Better Off Ted and Deadwood." I (everyone calls me Swin) am a devoted lover of low-brow dark humor, Yuengling, and movies with high body counts. I hope you enjoyed this episode, and tune in during the weeks to come.

We'll be featuring guests on the program, and also taking listeners' questions, so feel free to Tweet them at me here, and we'll see if we can get to them during a show.

Thank you for listening!

Click here for more movie and TV features from Mother Jones. To read more of Asawin's reviews, click here.

To find more episodes of this podcast in the iTunes store, click here.

To check out Alyssa's Bloggingheads show, click here.

The Music Tapes Join the Circus

| Mon Sep. 10, 2012 6:00 AM EDT
The Music Tapes

The Music Tapes
Mary's Voice
Merge

To enter the world of Julian Koster is to take part in a surrealist circus. "We think this fall is a perfect way for the 'traveling imaginary' to make its way out into the world," the visionary behind experimental pop group The Music Tapes announced to his fans on Kickstarter last month. He was referring to the band's ambition following the release of its third album, Mary's Voice: To travel the world performing in a circus tent complete with whirring and fantastical attractions.

It's the sort of thing to be expected from Koster and his ever-evolving psychedelic cabaret. The Music Tapes, one of the projects that blossomed out of the cult-worshiped music collective Elephant 6 in the late '90s, cart around a seven-foot-tall metronome for their shows, spin folky yarns about sideshow performers who can swallow cities, and serenade audiences with lullabies over the musical saw. Mary's Voice might be the Tapes' most accessible album yet, but it hardly conveys the magic of seeing them live.

David Byrne and St. Vincent's Stellar Collaboration

| Mon Sep. 10, 2012 6:00 AM EDT

David Byrne and St. Vincent
Love This Giant
4AD/Todo Mundo

Nearly three years ago, Talking Heads frontman David Byrne and St. Vincent's Annie Clark agreed to play a benefit show together in New York; by the time they were done, they were plotting a collaborative album. Clark told Pitchfork "I think I've reached the pinnacle of who I want to work with," and indeed, it's hard to think of a more exciting combination of artists. Byrne's music tends to be more overtly bizarre, while Clark's demure appearance and lovely voice give temporary cover to the creepiness in much of her music, but both traffic in finding the strange in the mundane via sophisticated, often surprising lyrics and intricate arrangements of sound. So a collaboration made perfect sense. The album cover, released months ago, featuring the artists stiffly posing in formal black-and-white attire with distorted facial features and unnaturally protruding bones, hinted at the grotesque beauty contained within

Quick Reads: "The End of Men" by Hanna Rosin

| Mon Sep. 10, 2012 6:00 AM EDT

The End of Men: And the Rise of Women

By Hanna Rosin

RIVERHEAD BOOKS

In her 2010 cover story for The Atlantic, journalist Hanna Rosin dropped a bomb: Women, she declared, are taking over. Rather than focus on disparities in child care, pay, and power positions, her follow-up tours Rust Belt towns, where women are becoming the main breadwinners; Wall Street, home to a rising breed of "killer" female traders; and pharmacy schools, where women are poised to dominate a traditionally male career. Backed by workforce stats, her stories forge a convincing case that modern female aptitudes give women the advantage.

This review originally appeared in our September/October issue of Mother Jones. 

A 25-Word Review of "The Words," Starring Bradley Cooper

| Fri Sep. 7, 2012 2:45 PM EDT

Bradley Cooper's ever-so-slight improvement over the toweringly awful "Hit & Run," released in August.

The Words
CBS Films
97 minutes

In this movie, struggling author Bradley Cooper plagiarizes a brilliant novel and then feels bad about the consequences. I feel bad about the consequences, too.

The latest entry in the Bradley Cooper Horror Show series gets a wide release on Friday, September 7. The film is rated PG-13, for emotional and dramatic unbearability. Click here for local showtimes and tickets, if you're looking to ruin your weekend.

 

Click here for more movie and TV features from Mother Jones.

To read more of Asawin's reviews, click here.

To listen to the weekly movie and pop-culture podcast that Asawin co-hosts with ThinkProgress critic Alyssa Rosenberg, click here.

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Short Takes: "Detropia"

| Tue Sep. 4, 2012 6:00 AM EDT

Detropia

LOKI FILMS

85 minutes

This brilliant film by the creators of the Oscar-nominated 2006 documentary Jesus Camp opens in the Detroit Opera House with a performance of Nabucco—a Verdi work that follows the plight of the Jews exiled from Babylon. Juxtaposed with visual evidence of the city's exodus—Detroit has lost half its population, and the opera house is itself near bankruptcy—it's an apt opening to a eulogy for the nation's most dystopian city. However, in once-vibrant neighborhoods that have turned into overgrown wastelands, Detropia finds grim beauty and a wealth of hopeful lessons for America's middle class. Among them: Destruction can unleash creativity, if we're brave enough to let it.

Quick Reads: "How Children Succeed" By Paul Tough

| Mon Sep. 3, 2012 6:00 AM EDT

How Children Succeed: Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character

By Paul Tough

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Why do some children grow into successful, stable adults while others flounder? Helicopter parents, beware: You won't find the answer in Kumon books or Baby Einstein videos. The road to success, as journalist Paul Tough argues, is spattered with letdown and hardship. Apparently, the secret to a happy, healthy adulthood is learning early on to deal with disappointment and developing character traitspersistence, curiosity, conscientiousness, optimism, and self-control—to surmount it. Tough mines the literature and powwows with scientists, high school principals, and a middle-school chess team to show why it's likely these "noncognitive" skills, not measures like IQ, matter most.

This review originally appeared in our September/October issue of Mother Jones.