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Everything I Know about NOLA Law Enforcement I Learned from The Big Easy

May 16, 2010

Char, shoot these chuckleheads.

The 1986 stellar police corruption thriller The Big Easy introduced me to Law Enforcement NOLA style at the tender age of 13. Here are the lessons I learned from spending the better part of my teens watching this here film.

NOLA has only one judge and his name is Jim Garrison

    It doesn’t seem to matter what kind of case is being tried – civil or criminal – but it seems Judge Jim presides over them all. If you have a fender bender or perhaps are accused of taking a powerful magnet, throwing it into a storefront window and somehow the magnet finds itself placed next to a surveillance tape of you taking bribes in the precinct property room, well Judge Garrison will be there to straighten the whole thing out. In his spare time Judge Garrison enjoys the company of friends and dressing as Earl Warren and restaging key moments in his own life while Kevin Costner plays him.

Being fun at Mardi Gras is both life saving and career saving

    Early in the film Remy McSwain stumbles into the squad room to find his captain – played by Ned Beatty – getting live with two of his detectives who have impounded a boat. When he asks Remy what to do with these assclowns, Remy suggests shooting them. Beatty considers it for a moment before saying, “I can’t shoot them. They’re too much fun at Mardi Gras.”

You can say mad snarky things as long as you call the person Chere

    It doesn’t matter if it’s a superior or the district attorney sent in to investigate your squad you just happen to have the hots for.

Solomon Burke doesn’t trust the cops and for good reason.

    Solomon Burke finds himself the center of attention not for his stellar musical talents, but because they’ve gotten him confused with a heroin dealer named Daddy Mention. Hopefully, Judge Garrison can sort things out.

Tipitina’s is a great place to have important police corruption debriefings

    They have great food and you can work up an appetite dancing to The Neville Brothers.
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14 Comments leave one →
  1. IndyM permalink
    May 16, 2010 1:50 pm

    “Char” is actually “chere”–French for “dear.”

  2. May 16, 2010 2:55 pm

    Sweet. I realize the French connection, so to speak. Nevertheless, you can’t really get away with using it up north. That’s a real shame!

  3. Kia permalink
    May 16, 2010 5:42 pm

    Yet another oldie but goodie that I watched the minute it hit video.

    I adored Dennis Quaid (and happily sat thru Innerspace and D.O.A so that I could get my fix) and expressly went to Tipitina’s because of this film. My jazz loving mom would be ashamed but the truth is the truth!

  4. May 16, 2010 6:01 pm

    and expressly went to Tipitina’s because of this film.

    Hello, are we the same person?

  5. IndyM permalink
    May 16, 2010 6:37 pm

    I always thought the “chere” thing was incredibly charming…

    Btw, Snarky, because of you, I am watching Treme, and I’m LOVING it. (I don’t own a TV, so I’m not very current on the latest shows. When I hear of something great, I look for it on online sites where I can watch it free. I haven’t watched any of Simon’s other work, but now it’s all on my list.) I’ve been reading several recap blogs after each episode so that I can learn more about NOLA culture, and it has been fascinating. Do you think “chere” is an actual part of NOLA speech/slang, or something particular to Cajun culture (Remy’s mom is Cajun, I believe), or something the filmmakers just exaggerated and threw in? I never hear it on Treme. I also don’t know how authentic the Big Easy was in its portrayal of NOLA (although I loved the movie passionately).

    Totally OT, but have you watched the UK series “Life on Mars” and “Ashes to Ashes”? I would be curious to hear what you thought of these shows.

  6. May 16, 2010 7:00 pm

    Do you think “chere” is an actual part of NOLA speech/slang, or something particular to Cajun culture (Remy’s mom is Cajun, I believe), or something the filmmakers just exaggerated and threw in? I never hear it on Treme. I also don’t know how authentic the Big Easy was in its portrayal of NOLA (although I loved the movie passionately).

    I’ve wondered about this too! I have only really seen it in films and usually the characters are “read” as white. I need to investigate.

    I think The Big Easy was probably better at portraying police corruption. familial clans and Quaid’s abs than being a lens into NOLA in the mid 80s.

    I have not watch LoM or AtA UK style, but I did watch an episode of the American version of L0M and found strong performances, despite being generally awful and woefully miscast.

    I keep meaning to check out the UK series because the premise intrigues me and it’s been my experience the UK does a better job with this kind of material than its American cousins.

  7. IndyM permalink
    May 16, 2010 10:40 pm

    Quaid’s abs LOL

    I look forward to hearing about your investigations re “chere.” I’m fascinated by language, and I myself am going to do a little digging, too.

    I’m a fan of the UK’s LoM and AtA; however, the sexism, racism, police brutality, etc. are really jarring. I know they’re portraying a time period, but it’s still very shocking. (And re the police brutality, there is often an undertone that suggests that things were better in the ‘old days,’ when ‘men were men,’ and conflicts were decided with fists and vigilante justice.) But you’re right: the UK does do this sort of drama better. It’s not of Simon’s caliber by a long shot, but the shows are often entertaining and intriguing.

    I kind of liked the US LoM, and I didn’t think the casting was off. The story lines were often hokey (as were some of the characters), and I often found myself rolling my eyes, but I enjoyed the way they recreated the feeling of that era in the show. I also agree with you re the strong performances. I would love to hear your take on the casting–who did you think was well cast and who was not? What parts bothered you about the show, and was there anything you liked aside from the performances?

  8. May 16, 2010 11:18 pm

    US LoM:

    I loved the Jason O’Mara. He was memorizing and I did really like Lisa Bonet. But Gretchen Mol, who I never think is good in anything, definitely drove me away, despite not being in every scene. I didn’t care for Michael Imperioli or Harvey Keitel, both whom for some reason feel a bit too much for the small screen of late. I think in Imperioli’s case it was more fatigue of having him follow me around from network to network and us definitely needing a break from each other.

    Keitel didn’t sell me on his Gene Hunt and felt like he was just drawing on his role in Thelma & Louise or DeNiro in Copland. In either case it wasn’t the right tone. Plus, American television producers just struggle with cheekiness and often their attempts sail past cheeky and land directly on top of smarmy. I think more than anything, that was the biggest problem for me.

  9. Kia permalink
    May 17, 2010 7:03 am

    I often chuckle at the number of things we have in common snarky. I even have a couple of New England winters under my belt.

    I’ve been thinking about watching the original version of Life on Mars, after sticking through the US version up until the last few episodes. I never seem to be able to watch a show knowing that it has been canceled, the same thing happened with Life which I like a lot more.

    Harvey Keitel was a major stumbling block for me as was the ever wan Mol. I loved Imperioli’s performance. Probably because he was a perfect embodiment of the outer borough law enforcement types I grew up around and still exist today, swapping out his wide tie and bells for an Ed Hardy shirt.

    I’ve never heard of Ashes to Ashes, so many shows so little time!

    And Treme is fantastic. I think a second season is already a definite, but one of the great things about HBO is that you are assured at least a whole season of something. I’m out of step with most of America so if I like a program that guarantees it will be dumped with back to back episodes on Fri & Sat nights.

  10. May 17, 2010 8:33 am

    And Treme is fantastic. I think a second season is already a definite, but one of the great things about HBO is that you are assured at least a whole season of something. I’m out of step with most of America so if I like a program that guarantees it will be dumped with back to back episodes on Fri & Sat nights.

    What do you think of Zahn’s character on Treme? I’m having a real hard time with the mofo so I’m definitely looking for the perspective of others.

  11. May 17, 2010 9:23 am

    One more thing I learned from The Big Easy: stay away from warehouses full of giant Mardi Gras float ornaments because that’s where all the dead bodies are stashed.

  12. IrishUp permalink
    May 17, 2010 10:28 am

    Best.Calf.Kiss.Scene.Evar!

    I’ve been to NOLA twice, and things I’ve found out:

    1. The corruption there is truly in a league of it’s own. The first time I went, I wound up hanging out with a man who was a big-time developer. Really interesting fellow. We spun around on the revolving bar at the Monte-Leone for a few hours. At the time, the Harrahs Casino on the river front was just being started. He told me he had gotten out of that project early because, by his calculation, the graft, skimming, payoffs, and legit debt meant the casino would have to run at >90-95% of planned capacity for 7-10yrs before any actual profit could be seen. He said this was like DOUBLE what is usual.
    2. Warm water oysters are softer and sweeter than New England oysters. And you really shouldn’t eat them in months without an “r” – in NE this is more of a myth than a true infectious risk.
    3. There is no such thing as a Band Geek in NOLA. Being in the band is cool. This has been corroborated by every native of NOLA I’ve met.

  13. Kia permalink
    May 17, 2010 11:21 am

    I find Treme’s Davis to be both incredibly annoying and cannily authentic.

    I have a lot I want to say about him but need time to really sit & work it out.

    But I do have time to put some fluff on the table. The PeoplePC kid f**king (is that ok in its entirety here?) made me feel old & Rob Brown from Finding Forrester has growed up real nice. I’m a sucker for a horn player, real or imagined.

  14. May 17, 2010 1:05 pm

    Kia, you can get your curse on here at Fry Butt, otherwise I wouldn’t be here either. Rob Brown indeed done growed up real fine!

    Yeah, the problem with Davis for me is the character being played by Zahn who I have NEVER enjoyed and cringe when I see his name in the credits of anything.

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