I don’t know much about anime, but I think Cowboy Bebop is one of the fundamentals. The only animes I can name are this, Sailor Moon, and Hello Kitty, so I figure they’re all equally famous. A friend of mine who’s not even into anime is unashamed to wear a Cowboy Bebop T-shirt. He told me it’s good. I believe that he believes that, but I don’t have much interest in finding out for myself. Like sports, James Joyce, and reality TV, it’s a gap in my cultural literacy I can live with.
But I’m about to change that. Continue reading →
The dirty little secret about hate-watching is that you’re not just doing it because you hate a show. That’s certainly part of it, but it’s not the main part. If you simply hated the show, you would stop watching. But what none of us will admit, and what drives all of us who hate-watch, is the secret hope that the show will get good again. That it will show some sign, even a glimmer, of what made us watch it in the first place. We call it hate-watching so we don’t feel dumb for watching a show that’s no longer good. But really, there’s no such thing as hate-watching. There is only hope-watching.
And sometimes it pays off. Continue reading →
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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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 →
One of the cases to be made for Better Call Saul being better than Breaking Bad is consistency of tone. Breaking Bad frequently strayed from family soap opera, to hard-hitting crime drama, to wacky character comedy, to drug cartel intrigue. You could argue that was one of its strengths, because it allowed for episodes like the one with the fly and the magnet heist. Breaking Bad went wherever it felt like going. From Mr. Chips to Scarface, as Vince Gilligan is on record as saying. But with multiple layovers.
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“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 →