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Boardwalk Empire – Book Review

The psychology of “Boardwalk Empire” [Nelson Johnson/Plexus/296pgs] shows the rise and fall of an American Town in flux. Written by a longtime resident who also serves in the judicial system there, the book is a dense macabre of the people who lived there, ruled and fell. While not an easy read at times and, as aforementioned, very dense, it gives a fascinating and comprehensive view of what made the city what it is today. Atlantic City’s original concept was as a beach village since alot of Abescon Island was swamp, populated with annoying horseflies and mud. The aspects of the bringing in of people from Philadelphia for day trips eventually built the town up. What is interesting is that these same elements hurt the city today, though the amount of people coming in from NY is a little bit more of a boon. In actuality though, most of the would-be customers are heading to Foxwoods in Connecticut. Other blights to Atlantic City recently in aspects of organized crime have been alleged in regards to the Borgata which has become the most hip spot in the arena. Thus the story continues to fascinate. The author does describe that what is needed to create a more national aspect which is a bigger airport with direct flights. This has been seen in first hand experience. The local arena still is thinking itself purely as a drive-in destination despite an obvious national angle. Vegas needs a true competitor (and not 17 hours away in Macau). All this of course needs to change for AC to evolve.

In terms of the book, the most interested proponent obviously lies in the history and personalities of Atlantic City’s interaction with organized crime and its specific use of the political system to make the money and power work. This way of business was born in many ways from Prohibition which is a really interesting story to tell. The rise and fall of Nucky Johnson, specifically detailed, is fascinating and is no doubt what sold Martin Scorsese to make the series in which he directed the pilot for HBO. However, the aspect of what led to Nucky’s assuming of power (specifically the directing of votes done not by intimidation but economic and social help to the black community) is a very distinct story unto itself which dates back to the Civil War. The angle of the African American equation into the building of Atlantic City is very intrinsic and shows its influx into today. Atlantic City was one of the only cities in the North after the Civil War where African Americans could get a steady job which they could move up in. Their votes were also essential (as indicated before) to the elections which the protection brackets used to make sure the city worked to their advantage, both on the surface and behind the scenes. The story is so rife with different characters that the epic of the progression should reap extreme benefits for HBO. This is a ready made prequel to “The Sopranos” with personalities galore. It also has the possibilities to generate the limelight for Atlantic City (if they can take advantage of it).

The later years of Atlantic City with politician extraordinaire Hap Farley into the 70s were not as eventful but shows the different structure of the econony within America as opposed to the War Years which truly shows how the military machine and its availability truly altered how the middle class approached their idea of a vacation. Farley was nowhere near as flamboyant as his predecessor Nucky whose trial is rife with exceptional drama and cinematic superlatives worthy of Al Capone. However, his use of the political system was even more intricate and detailed at times in terms of its control as well as the Federal Government’s more detailed analysis on AC’s dealings.

The most recent impact with the 80s and specifically the involvement of Donald Trump shows the different angle but even that possibility is starting to wane. As recently as two years ago before “The Great Repression” (as it is now being referred to) started, the aspect of some new players into the section were being implemented. As a thought, musician/magnate Jimmy Buffett was looking to take over the Trump Marina as the Margaritaville Casino because of its ocean access. However, that deal ultimately fell through. The future is yet to come also as the impact of the global economy sinks deeper with the Tropicana Atlantic City declaring bankruptcy before it was bought up by a Carl Icahn-led investment group.

“Boardwalk Empire” gives a historical and perceptive view of what Atlantic City is built from and where its possible future lies. Unlike Las Vegas, its evolution is mired in both complex and simple truths that require its political and resort backgrounds to evolve in tandem. Its livelihood is based in a changing equation that is both fascinating and, at times, dumbfounding in its presence. The book, despite its dense material base, gives a very comprehensive view of the business and sociological structure that colors this very specific Jersey landscape and provides a distinct road map within its unique yet compounded journey. Out of 5, I give it a 3 1/2.

A Boardwalk Story – Book Review

The essence of “A Boardwalk Story” [J. Louis Lampolsky/Plexus/488pgs ] evolves from its necessity to show how different situations or perceptions of actions affects someone’s mental growth or psychology. The setting of Atlantic City in the middle of The Great Depression would initially not seem to be the most prudent decision. But upon further time within it, its early “Goodfellas”-type structure maintains an innocence while still showing what is really going on. The age of the main protagonist almost skews too young at 15 which is fine for a novel but problematic at times for perhaps a movie adaptation. The idea of a kid with good ethics seeing a portrait of money brokering along with a balance of structure of organized crime is a neat angle because how he sees it becomes a conflict of paradise lost. The reason this story of  the main character of young Jack works is because of the balance of people around him. The reason Henry Hill worked as a character in “Goodfellas” is because you had Paulie and all the other characters around him. Now while there is a derative of that structure here, one has to take into account that this is set during the Great Depression in Atlantic City. There is sex and violence to be sure but within acceptable limits. In terms of the characters, there are many, with the most intrinsic being Benny James who almost strikes you as the pleasure model from AI who Jude Law played. He seems slightly out of time and that is what makes him work. His eventual angle of importance to the military tends to work well. Goren and Morris, two older mentor characters, play almost like different Jedi masters to young Jack while gangster Bobo definitely has the Dark Side working.

Jack’s adventures in maturation play ultimately to his reactions and violent possibilities although beyond his life altering interlude towards the end of the book, there doesn’t seem to be alot to explain his need to lash out. It is narratively pointed and works well but a more exposition on this point is needed. Granted most of his perceptions are in his head (but so were Henry Hill’s). The mechanism becomes a bit of a cheat but doesn’t slow down the read, though the retroactive perspective is never quite put in true structure. Nonetheless, “A Boardwalk Story” is an interesting view into a familiar world with some new characters to stir the pot. Out of 5, I give it a 3.

Finding The Spot: The 2009 AFCI Locations Trade Show


The AFCI Locations Trade Show in Santa Monica bridges the gap between tourism and film in a way that is becoming ever more apparent. The inclusion of resorts, food and entertainment within the context of a local economy is becoming ever more intrastructured with filming. With different states and countries vying for the elusive dollar or euro, the allure of uniqueness of visual capture and experience to imbue a production is all important as is the aspect of incentives.

South America made a big perception this year with the aspect of Colombia coming into view. While being only a short jaunt in all regards to Miami, it becomes a good aspect for East Coast productions searching for Old World and jungle settings as well as a balance of contemporary. Known to Americans as a setting for “Romancing The Stone”, the basis in Bogota also is highlighted by an interactive multi-use Americas Media Complex that can be integrated into production. The Bogota International Film Festival is also making itself more known which can act as a starting off point for integration. Film Brazil, based further down in the Continent out of San Paolo, offers a conglomeration of production companies to integrate with the local production teams. Peru on the West Coast also boasts the integrated city center of Lima with access to the Amazon.

Jumping over the Asia, there is a bevy of possibilities especially with alternative tropical and urban settings. The Phillipines seems to lead the charge with a diversity of production value and assistance in Manila which is bouyed by the Phillipines Tourism Board. There is also extensive possibility with Cinemanila and the Asian Film Market that highlights it in Pusan. Further in the Asian territories, Thailand with the richness of Bangkok to the sprawl of Isan to the paradise of Phuket offers an energy supported by the Thailand Film Office. The balance of the film festivals in Bangkok and Phuket as well help this along. With the advent of their very successful horror and sci-fi genre hits, South Korea is also becoming a leader in the world market with many of their locations highlighted and copied in American remakes but with most not comparable to the original vision. The aspect of the possibilities is bridged by the Asian Film Commissions Network and the Pusan Film Festival which is linked to the aforementioned Asisan Film Market.

Europe is made interesting by the extremes of structure of what is possible. Bruges in Belgium came out of nowhere with the surprise international hit “In Bruges” with Colin Farrell which completely highlighted the city. A boat ride through the canals to music featured as an extra on the film’s DVD is a glowing advertisement. Film London highlights the rich possibilities the city has and continues to have. Being the location home to the biggest films ever made, it is tailor made for anything that needs to be done. Film Tourism is also becoming a big aspect of the city since everyone seems to want to know its history which is only buoyed by Film London’s interaction with the London Film Festival.

Elsewhere in Europe heading into the East is the essence of Bavaria and Hungary which have become hotbeds for production in recent years because of their ease and economy of production and materials. Bavaria Film is quite known for their incentives and working with filmmakers while ITD Hungary is comparable in their pursuit of business development opportunities in this vein. They are buoyed by their production arm at Film Team which highlighs a bevy of studio, stage and location possibilities in the country.

Heading back towards North America, the Carribean has been getting its share of highlights. The Bahamas played host in the past year to both “Fool’s Gold” as well as “Quantum Of Solace” and has always been a favorite because of its close proximity to Miami. Their location is also buoyed by the fact of some of its famous residents including Sean Connery who helps heighten its visibility as well as the Bahamas International Film Festival. Elsewhere in the Carribean, the US Virgin Islands also makes extensive use of its tropical location and ease to the mainland.

Meanwhile, back on the mainland, in deference to the domestic film scene, some locations are making their presence know. While both New Mexico and Connecticut have been making their presence known as of late, Alabama is in the midst of passing a film incentive law that should be in effect by late October of this year which will be very helpful to filmmakers as the next big thing. Film Florida has always been a big proponent because of its tropical perceptions within a domestic setting which is now buoyed in Los Angeles by a working film liason located in the city. This in addition to their continued presence at film festivals such as South By Southwest and Cinevegas increasing their proximity to filmmakers. In specific, The Florida Keys & Key West, which have played host to films such as “True Lies” and “License To Kill” continues to be a big draw.

Further back on the East Coast, Kentucky is making their presence known and with an exceptional list of talent and backing, the state looks to be even more possible in what might be possible. Atlantic City, recently becoming even more accessible with train service from New York City, is building up its ranks. With exceptional food, a heightening film style and some great new hotels like The Chelsea and production centers it continues to grow and aspects of its outreach like The Downbeach Film Festival will continue to buoy the city. The last of the domestics which truly has made its presence known is Wisconsin, which was recently base and filming location for Michael Mann’s upcoming “Public Enemies” about John Dillinger starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale. It is an untapped area of the country with a definite vibe which was recently highlighted at the Wisconsin Film Festival in Madison.

The AFCI Locations Trade Show this year showed the increasing diversity of locations available overseas and domestically to the emerging and established filmmaker.

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