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.
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.
Here I am, finally watching The Wire. How long has it even been? How long did I miss out? How long have I had to endure people prattling on about how good The Wire is? Ten years? Twenty years? Who knows. I saw a pager in the title sequence and my mind shifted into “okay, now you’re watching something from the 90s” mode. It certainly has the cinematography and the aspect ratio of the 90s. To think we used to watch TV is a narrow square box. Then there’s a scene with McNulty and an FBI guy about how the feds have been “getting out of drugs” since the Towers fell. Oops, okay, not the 90s.
My mind’s 90s mode explains why I thought the kid who plays one of the drug dealers looks like Michael B. Jordan. He does a thing where he knits his brow while he licks his lips, and then pulls his lips in, like he’s thinking really hard about something. Just like Michael B. Jordan does. He also has a funny bit where he points out that Alexander Hamilton was not, in fact, a President even though he’s on the $10 bill. And this from a time when most people associated the name Manuel with a Panamanian dictator instead of a Broadway sensation. Then the credits roll and, hey, it is Michael B. Jordan! Well, yeah, that’s about the age he would have been ten years ago, when The Wire began its run. I guess this is the dawn of TV getting good enough to have actors worthy of being movie stars. And there’s Idris Elba, who I used to think of as the guy from that British TV series about vampires. That’s how most people know him, right? From Ultraviolet? Or was it this Wire thing that really kicked his career into high gear?
See what happens to your perspective when you go twenty years not watching The Wire.
I own an unwatched copy of Barry Lyndon because it came with a Kubrick collection I bought a long time ago. I didn’t buy it because I felt the need to own a Kubrick collection. I bought it because it was cheaper than buying 2001, Full Metal Jacket, and Dr. Strangelove separately. Those are two movies I love (half of 2001, half of Full Metal Jacket, and the entirety of Dr. Strangelove is two movies worth of movies). Clockwork Orange is quaint for how it was once considered scandalizing and for the synth Beethoven. I didn’t appreciate The Shining until recently. Eyes Wide Shut is like that scene in The Shining where Shelley Duvall sees two furries having sex, but drawn out into a full movie starring movie stars instead of furries. Like everyone else under 80, I’ve never seen Paths of Glory.
There. Now you have my Kubrick bona fides. Continue reading →
“Did you ever hear about this alligator who went into a restaurant?” Lamar Thigpen took them by the neck and drew them close as lovers.
“No, I didn’t,” said the courteous engineer, though he had. Jokes always made him nervous. He had to attend to the perilous needs of the joke-teller.
–Walker Percy, The Last Gentlemen
Two minutes into this excruciatingly long ten minute video, I’ve seen all it has to show me. But I’m still watching it because my friend thought it was funny. “Oh, let me show you this,” he had said excitedly, typing the words “nightclub mashup” into YouTube.
Instead of telling each other jokes anymore, we show each other videos. Continue reading →