I can go on at length about the difference between reviewers and critics. Seriously, don’t get me started. Suffice to say, one of them makes a worthwhile contribution. The other is just kind of there to little effect, hardly more than another number stirred into an aggregate. I know which one I hope to be, but I also have enough healthy self-doubt to suspect which one I usually am.
So Review is particularly relevant to me as a mean-spirited jeer at the futility of evaluating experiences in isolation instead of actually experiencing them in context. This Comedy Central series just wrapped a third and supposedly final season earlier this year. But is it any good?
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It is a dark and stormy night. You wake up among a pile of bodies in the bottom of an open pit. You have no memory of who you are or how you got here.
You have a ring of keys. You have a Zippo lighter.
You find a gun. It’s loaded. A woman throws a rope down to you.
The woman is gone. There is a house in the distance with the lights on. You hear people talking inside.
GO TO HOUSE
You are at the house. The front door is unlocked.
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From watching The Sandbaggers, I have come to appreciate two things. The first is Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace. Matthew Holness and Richard Ayoade’s ode to bad British genre TV from the 70s is hilarious even if you don’t know bad British genre TV from the 70s. What else would it be with Holness, Ayoade, the incomparable Matt Berry, and the even more incomparable Alice Lowe? But now that I’ve seen Sandbaggers, which has the same style, tone, and production values that Darkplace lovingly mocked, I get the joke even better. So this is what it was like to watch TV in the UK!
But then there’s the second thing I’ve come to appreciate. Continue reading →
I’m not sure what I expected, but it wasn’t this. I thought the first season would feel like a complete experience from A to B to Z. But just as I think it’s wrapping everything up, it instead resets everything. It goes from A to B to A-point-one. The situation has not changed substantially. Some of the characters’ lives have certainly changed, but the overall situation might as well be a reset to the beginning of the season. Continue reading →
“This is me, yo, right here.”
The epigraphs in The Wire are a great way to call attention to a moment without, well, calling attention to it. I read it, it goes out of my head as I’m watching, and then when the line pops up, I go, “Oh yeah!” This episode’s epigraph suggests Wallace felt his return was inevitable. It implies a certain fatalism. But he made the choice to come back. He made the choice to ask to get back into “the game”. He made the choice to demur when D’Angelo nudged him to follow through with his earlier plans to go back to school. When he says the line in the epigraph, it’s basically a credo. Even an epitaph. Continue reading →
Hey, The Wire, I’m cool with some ambiguity about the characters I like. So McNulty’s an asshole, D’Angelo’s morally crippled, Bubs is a junkie, Prez is incompetent in the field, Daniels is supposedly “dirty”, and Omar is a cold-blooded murderer. All that’s cool. I can work with that. But once I’ve decided I don’t like characters, stop making me like them. Continue reading →
Goddammit. Continue reading →
I don’t know how much drug dealers make, but I wouldn’t have guessed a million dollars a month. It’s certainly not the kind of number I imagined while watching Barksdale and Stringer Bell closed up in the office above the strip club. A million dollars a month seems like Scarface money. But this is inner city Baltimore.
As Freamon unfolds the extent of Barksdale’s operations, Daniels asks something else that didn’t occur to me.
“So where’s it all go?”
Freamon is nonplussed. Barksdale doesn’t have fancy houses, cars, or jewelry. He owns business fronts and property. And he makes political contributions. Substantial political contributions. Legal political contributions. Freamon also mentions the senator’s limo driver caught with a bag of cash. The implication is that there are also less than legal political contributions.
As Freamon explains this, the camera pushes in on Daniels, lost in thought. And then a shadow passes across his face. Not a figurative shadow. A literal shadow. Continue reading →
The Wire is about what it’s about largely because of one character. Without this character, McNulty would be just another homicide detective, Avon Barksdale would be peddling drugs unsurveilled, Omar would rampage unchecked, Bub’s hat collection would be minus one bright red hat, and residents of the projects would have easier access to a payphone. Furthermore, without this character, there are now two points when the investigation would have come to a halt.
In other words, The Wire would have been a much shorter series. Continue reading →
All right, I know this is kind of petty, but I’m going to have to get it off my chest sooner or later. And I might as well lump in a couple of reservations I have about this episode. I figure there’s going to be enough effusive praise on down the line.
So let’s have a little naysaying, handwringing, and moralizing. Continue reading →
What do you show and what do you imply? What do you spell out and what do you leave to the imagination? What’s in the frame and what’s outside the frame? These are questions a filmmaker constantly considers. Every single moment is an answer to those questions.
The Wire has some interesting answers this episode. Continue reading →
In bad movies, the villain tells the hero, “You’re just like me!” The hero tends to disagree, or at least get upset about being in a movie with moral ambiguity. Now the hero is less of a good guy and/or the bad guy is less of a bad guy. Now the moral ambiguity is laid out for everyone to see.
The better way to imply moral ambiguity is what The Wire is doing. Continue reading →
“This case is nowhere near anything we’re doing,” McNulty complains to his partner. They’re getting ready to investigate the scene of an old unsolved murder case. But we know he’s wrong. We know it’s directly adjacent to what they’re doing. We know the murder was committed by the very same person who put into motion everything that has happened.
Baltimore is a city with one of the highest murder rates in the world (one out of every 2000 people in Baltimore has been murdered this year), and yet McNulty and Bunk have been randomly assigned the one murder that relates directly to everything else they’re doing? I’m not sure how I feel about such massive coincidence in a procedural. But I know how I feel about the investigation scene that’s about to happen. Continue reading →
Chess has been around for well over 1000 years. It’s been played out as a metaphor in stories where people are trying to outsmart each other. Let’s call a moratorium on chess metaphors.
Oh, wait, I think we can hold the door for just one more.
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I could watch a full hour of Lance Reddick giving a briefing. And then I could watch another full hour of him at home being debriefed by his wife. He listens as she walks him through the dilemma he’s in. “You can’t lose if you don’t play,” she explains. For an officious hotel clerk in John Wick and a sinister government agent in The Guest, it takes an actor who can listen as well as he can tell.
Okay, this is really dumb, but I might as well get it off my chest before it fades into technological obscurity along with phone cords, typewriters, and Crown Victorias. All of which appear in The Wire, by the way.
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