Friday, February 4, 2011

Completely Fascinated - Boardwalk Empire

The following is a short essay from my thesis blog:

Completely Fascinated - Boardwalk Empire

This video is an amazing look at the creation of the Boardwalk Empire set. Completely built from the ground up in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, this ‘boardwalk’ is so incredibly detail orientated and completely believable. I’m really interested in how these locations have been altered to convey such a tangible reality.

While the period of time this set is recalling is not one I have first hand memory of, it’s one that my grandparents do. I’ve spent days in Atlantic City in the mid 1990s, early 2000s and as recently as two months ago and there are still recognizable land marks and remnants of an aspiration to be “Time Square on the Seashore”. Culturally now there is still a dichotomy between extreme poverty and intense opulence, just in a more modern context. Both now and then, Atlantic City is a prime destination for adults. If you are under 21, it’s quite boring. You can’t gamble, you can’t eat in casino restaurants, all you can really do is hang out in the luxurious mall at Caesar’s waiting for the hourly ‘Dancing Waters’ fountain spectacular or troll the boardwalk looking at elderly people in interestingly patterned track suits. I turned 21 in 2010, and still the most enjoyable part of spending the day in Atlantic City is observing the passage of time. While there are beautifully designed new boutique hotels like Mucca’s Chelsea and theme restaurants like Buddhakan and The Continental nothing appeals to me more than walking down the planks to Boardwalk Hall. Built in 1929, the facade still manages to inspire that feeling of anticipated entertainment. When visiting places like the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, or The Asbury Park Convention Center (that’s a whoooole nother post) I can’t help imagining what it must have been like to be there in the past. Not just way back (Boardwalk Empire-esque past), but even just the mid 1980s. I can only compare the imagined images I have of this time to things I’ve discerned from family members, google image search, and Bruce Springsteen.

I’m so interested in how the passing of time effects ‘landmark’ places. No matter what, certain destinations remain on countless ‘must see’ lists. Is it because of the unique environment provided by said place? Boardwalks will always have the natural allure of the ocean, which has always held a power over people. The combination of flashing lights, melodic yet cantankerous sounds, salty smells, sweet treats and huge, wondrous man-made structures on the sea is somehow, magic.

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