Monday, August 14, 2006

HBO's Deadwood

The visceral nature of HBO's Deadwood (2004-2006), created by David Milch and crew, may shock at first, but its strong character development, story line, and inherently numerous conflicts make it the best Western I've ever seen. The series ends in August, 2006, but there will be at least two follow-up movies to tie up loose ends and follow the surviving characters into new realms (slated for 2007).

The strong language stands out -- in fact, I've never seen any series or movie with so much foul talk, made all the starker when intertwined with flowery nineteenth century phrasings. There's little doubt that it's a realistic mix. It was, after all, the Wild West.

The mix of primary and secondary characters is compelling, too. Because of the serial nature of Deadwood, we can enjoy a range of characters and plot developments.

Al Swearengen (Ian McShane) is the kingpin, the equivalent of Tony Soprano from that other killer HBO series. McShane is spectacular. His sidekicks are strong, too, especially Dan Dority (W. Earl Brown), who would be a stock character in traditional Westerns but who is nuanced and interesting in Deadwood. Likewise, Trixie (Paula Malcomson) is compelling as she moves between Swearengen and Sol Star (John Hawkes), yet another good character.

I find the Seth Bullock (Timothy Olyphant) and Alma Garrett (Molly Parker) characters less interesting and their attempts to be "good" in such a dreadful place as Deadwood almost funny in its earnestness. There's something about Parker I don't like (it could just be her Alma character that annoys), though she is interesting playing opposite Peter Sarsgaard in Center of the World (2001).

Mr. Wu (Keone Young) is a strong player, and then there's Joanie Stubbs (Kim Dickens), especially worth checking out in Things Behind the Sun (2001), directed by Allison Anders.

Let's not forget Doc Cochran (Brad Dourif) and Cy Tolliver (Powers Boothe), both veterans of a film that should be released in digital format -- Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones (1980). Powers Boothe is perfect as Jim Jones, of course, with his "touch of the jungle fever." Dourif is equally good as Hazel Motes in the Flannery O'Connor/John Huston film Wise Blood (1979), along with the always interesting Harry Dean Stanton. This is another flick that should be released in digital.

Viva Deadwood!

Today's Rune: Defense.


Anonymous said...

Why do they always have to say "Cocksucker" in Deadwood? It's always cocksucker this and cocksucker that. Gets to be tedious after awhile.

ZZZZZZZ said...

great post erik! I don't have HBO anymore sadly... :o(

Tikilee said...

Helllllllllll Yessssssssss!!!

I love Deadwood. I find it's the only Show I really keep up with as I seem to be watching less and less TV (and the new season of the Contender). You failed to mention the lovely Calamity Jane. Very funny Character as she can be very crude, but has a heart; as displayed in her acceptance and friendship with the "colored folks", caring for the plague sickened, and telling frontier tales to the school children. Did you know that Doc Cochran (Brad Dourif) is the voice of the doll slasher Chucky from the Childs Play movies.
I love the series and am happy they are ending it rather than dragging it through several more seasons just because they can. So many series are nearly destroyed just because their popularity can make a lot of $$$. The stories can eventually get drowned out, or repetitive: Enter Cousin Oliver to spice things up.

Al Swearengen is one of my favorite film characters of all time; Tough guy Saloon owner, but really sympathetic at times. He walked away looking like the Angel of Mercy when he put the poor priest out of his misery in season one, his compassion for his sister Jewel (he'll always clean the blood off the floor when she can't, but he wont do anyone else’s jobs for them) My favorite is his Therapy sessions, when he talks about his mother abandoning him as a child while getting a blowjob, or when he seeks council from the Indian head he keeps in his closet.
Great character. I'm wondering how he'll end up.

Great post you Dirt Worshiping Heathen.

Al Swearengen

Tikilee said...


I'm wondering if you know the name of a movie I've seen a while ago. It was filmed in black and white I think, and I'm pretty sure it was a foreign film, possibly French.
I caught half of it a few years ago but never got the chance to see it all and still want to. It's about a woman who I think house sits (or apartment sits) for her sister while she is out of town. While the sister is away the woman slowly begins to lose her mind (at least that’s what I think happens) and the walls and the house itself represent this as certain things break and crack and then go back to normal then break again. I think she hides out in the bathroom to escape. I'm not sure how it ends up. The sister comes home, everything’s fine, but I think the woman is totally crazy, or crying, or zombie like. I can’t remember the ending that well. Does it sound familiar?

jbwritergirl said...

I like your perspective on Deadwood, but somehow I just can't wrap my mind around the language. If it was the Soprano's I could accept it because you associate that language with the mafia.

Tikilee said...

In defense of the language used on Deadwood.

The language used on Deadwood is appropriate to the time and situation. The city of Deadwood was built in the Black Hills of South Dakota during the gold rush of 1876. At the time this park of America was uncolonized and was owned by the Indians. Despite the possibility of striking it rich, Deadwood also appealed to many who were wanted by the law. Criminals and murderers who risked having their heads scalped by the Indians were home free if they made it through the black hills. That was the appeal of Deadwood: No Law. The harsh language seems appropriate seeing how it’s coming from the mouths of murders, criminals, and rapists. And for everyone else, it was hard to be a so called gentleman (or gentlewoman), you had to be a son of a bitch or else you’d get your ass handed to you. I despite it would be no different today if a part of America claimed to have no law, you'd get the worst of the worst.

Erik Donald France said...

Hey all, thanks for the comments! I agree, Lee (Al/Wichita Lineman)! Exactly. Language is colorful and doesn't bother me in the least -- graphic violence disturbs me far more, and I've had more Mafia "SURPRISE, you're not CAPTAIN, you're DEAD!" nightmares than others I can recall. I've never had a single nightmare about foul language ;) I appreciate all the comments.

Let's see, Lee, not sure about the movie, a variant of Swimming Pool (in color), Persona, and Last Year at Marienbad. It may come to me. Maybe someone else knows the answer right off.

Cheers! ~~~Erik

p.s. I also agree with you about Swearengen and his special moments. Brad Dourif is inherently creepy in his roles -- Chuckie voice included.

Anonymous said...

Great post, Erik! Can't wait to read more.