What’s been the best film of the century so far (okay, the last seven years)?
I wouldn’t be alone out there in video-store-geek-land by declaring my choice....
"THE WIRE" (2002-2008)
That’s the epic HBO series told in five seasons (1-4 are available on DVD and number 5 begins airing this week) about the workings of inner city Baltimore. It seems to be mostly centering on the police work and drug traffic, but it also branches out into the politics, the dockyard unions, the public schools, the newspapers and occasionally the prisons, the churches and the rib shacks. For some being engulfed by this story, and it’s all-consuming, is like moving ton another planet.
Hey, that’s not a movie! Some may sneer. Fair enough.
Maybe I should of asked... “What's been the best Novel of this century?”
Because like a novel each season plays out slowly and tightly, it’s about the small intricate details and how slowly they interweave into each other.
This is the show for anyone who prefers, say The Day Of The Jackal (Zinnemann 1973) to the Mission Impossible films. I remember seeing a Mission Impossible flick when the American heroes pull up to the Vatican in a van to begin their mission, I remember wondering, I’d like to know how they went about renting or stealing that van. And when they’re done, what will they do with it, how will some low-level flunky cover their prints etc.
The Day Of The Jackal (Frederick Forsyth’s book and the film) was about the little pieces to make the big picture happen (an assignation).
So if you prefer the wam-bam to the small details of procedure maybe stick to CSI or whatever. The Wire is about the small, deliberate details and so much more.
So far, in the first four season, The Wire has probably introduced at least 100 characters and what’s most incredible is they all have different shades, no one is JUST a cop, a criminal, a drunk, a thug, a junkie, when you think you know someone, you learn more and are surprised.
In comparison to other good shows I would call fairly complicated...
“The Shield”, a blast, usually an adrenaline rush, but even a show where the hero can be just as rotten as the crooks or “The Sopranos” where the criminals and goons are also sensitive and self conscious. They got nothing on the depth of the challenge and the rewards The Wire offers.
There are no stand-alone episodes. I remember being frustrated often by “The Sopranos” , when plots would developed and never gone back to (usually with a supporting character) and episodes that cold be (dropped into) a part of any season (remember that lame Rap Music episode?), where nothing is added to lead to wherever we are being taken. Often on “The Shield” they may get involved with a crime that gets wrapped up in forty minutes and mean anything to the over all story-arc.
The Wire is truly a serial, It is one giant continuing avalanche that slowly gathers more rocks and builds up more steam (I’m a bad writer there is a better comparison then an avalanche). The Wire has no stand-alone episode. There are no stand-alone minutes that don’t support the whole.
And unlike other HBO shows...
(I believe) The Wire has no dream sequences. You know, those cheap devices you often see to explain a characters inner-self and give the director a chance to get his David-Lynch on. “The Sopranos” and “Six Feet Under” used ‘dreams’ too often either to explain characters or as a gimmick to tease the audience.
Offhand the only dream sequences in a non-experimental films that I ever found absolutely necessary were in Rosemary’s Baby (Polanski 1968) and Audition (Miike 1999). Non of that bullshit in The Wire.
Okay. Let me stop yelling at you!
The Wire is an incredible ride.
It’s closer to a novel then a movie.
But unlike some novels, it’s candy not homework.
Sometimes a supporting character in a early seasons becomes a main focus of season four (Roland 'Prez' Pryzbylewski or Maj. Bunny Colvin ). And the main guy in season one is a minor part of season four’s trajectory
(I have no-doubt that say, McNulty will regain more plot time in season five).
It like an on-going investigative newspaper series that just gets more and more detailed.
Actually the closest I’ve ever seen to The Wire in print, is perhaps “Land Of Opportunity”, William M Adler’s study of The Chamber Brothers, the dealers who basically created the crack era in Detroit and became a bigger employer to the city then Ford or GM.
Also Richard Price’s amazing novel “Clockers” about the inner working of the drug trade (the Spike Lee film version of the novel is watchable, but so lightweight in comparison to the book). Price’s follow-up novel “Freedomland” detailed the back scratching of urban politics much in the same tradition as The Wire but I would add not as entertainingly.
Actually Richard Price has since gone on to write a couple of episodes. Here’s part of a conversation between him and the show’s creator and main-man David Simon on video.
Read what folks much more articulate then me have to to say about The Wire...
- Time Magazine’s James Poniewozik offered his take (I swear I jotted this my rant down, before I knew about his piece (we appreciate a few of the same things)
- The NY Times gave a taut recap of each of the first four seasons.
And coming to Rocket Video on January 24th
Interview and to sign stuff
As Cedric Daniels on The Wire
We will have more on this Rocket Event later this week.
But this should be interesting for any Wire fan and any time fan, he been all over the tube for years, including “Law And Order”, “Oz” and Sidney Lumet’s short lived "100 Centre Street". He also has a vast theater background on Broadway in Angels In America and last year in the acclaimed revival of August Wilson's Seven Guitars.
And he’s a nice guy who knows where the coolest place to rent movies is.
Extra Lance -shout out.
Check out this clip of him.
On The Wire his Daniels is stoic and sometimes tortured by the choices he faces and the political game he finds himself having to play.
(between you and me, I think of him as tall and wiry, now I don’t wanna seem too gaga, but seeing this clip, besides being a great actor... the guy is in shape, man. He coulda played Batman or something! I'm gonna ask Jeff to ask him if he does sit-ups and shit.)