15 Brilliant wire moments

Posted in 15 Brilliant Wire moments on March 20, 2008 by sourcingit

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Season 1, Episode 3

D’Angelo tries to teach Wallace and Bodie the game of chess. ”This,” he says, kissing a piece, ”is the king pin, aiight? He the man.” The boys figure Avon for their King, Stringer the Queen, and the Castle the drug stash. ”These are the pawns, they like soldiers,” says D’Angelo. ”They be out of the game early.” All three boys are dead by series’ end.

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Season 1, Episode 4

Watching Bunk, chomping on his cigar, and McNulty methodically work a crime scene was one of The Wire‘s richest pleasures. In the victim’s kitchen, their whole dialogue is one variation or another on a most satisfying swear word. Actors Wendell Pierce and Dominic West, brilliant both of them, make it sound like Shakespeare. Suck on this, network crime procedurals.

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Season 1, Episode 12

Bodie and Poot, on Stringer’s orders, have to kill their friend Wallace. It’s a cruel death — all the more so because Wallace whimpers for the mercy of his friends — of a boy who made school lunches for the kids in his house and wasn’t fit for the corner. Wire fans were put on notice that their favorite characters were always vulnerable.

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Season 2, Episode 11

Frank, a ruined lion of a man, scrambles to make a wretched mess right. On his frantic nephew’s urging, Frank drives to meet the Greek under the bridge to strike a deal that will save his son. The scene cuts from Frank smoking a cigarette, to a crooked fed, to the Greek getting a phone call, to Frank’s walk to certain doom. Awful stuff.

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Season 2, Finale

The montages are what will keep you up at night. Every season ends with a jaw-dropper, but if forced to pick, you gotta go with this one, set to Steve Earle’s ”I Feel Alright.” From shots of the stevedores’ seal of brotherhood to drunken out-of-work men on the streets, from mournful Beadie to broken Nicky in the drizzle, it’s a killer.

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Season 3, Episode 11

Omar whistling ”A-Hunting We Will Go” down an alley at night is already magic. Cut to Brother Mouzone (or Bow Tie, as Omar calls him) appearing out of nowhere, ready for a duel. ”I admire a man with confidence,” says Mouzone. ”I don’t see no sweat on your brow neither, bro,” responds Omar. Men with codes.

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Season 3, Episode 11

Just a couple of old friends, brothers really, reminiscing over a good view and booze. ”I told your ass not to steal a badminton net!” Avon remembers telling Stringer when they were kids. The love flowing back and forth is really a goodbye, as Avon knows he’s setting his friend up. ”Us, motherf—er,” he says, hitting Stringer’s fist. ”Us, man.”

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Season 3, Episode 11

Omar and Brother Mouzone, now partners, corner Stringer in his building, where he was supposed to at last taste business credibility. ”I ain’t involved in gangster bulls— no more,” Stringer swears, not realizing how wrong he is. Omar informs him of Avon’s betrayal. ”Well, get on with it, mothe…” Stringer says, and the two men take him out.

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Season 4, Episode 8

Baltimore, from the accent on up, is every bit a starring character. When Chris and Snoop are trying to ferret out interlopers trying to take over their territory, he tells Snoop to ”ask a Baltimore question…like, Who Young Leek be?” Snoop doesn’t get his reference to local club music or the Big Phat Morning Show. ”You ain’t right, girl. The average Baltimore n—– gonna know all that s—.”

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Season 4, Episode 9

Bunny takes a few corner kids to Ruth’s Chris as a classroom reward. The kids, thrown off by the hostess and hushed conversation, by the waitress bleating about chanterelles, swing from preening exuberance to alienation. Afterwards, Bunny uses Zenobia’s wind-up Kodak to take a shot of the restaurant awning, but the kids no longer want to be part of the picture.

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Season 4, Episode 11

Fans can argue that a frustrated Carver beating his fists into his steering wheel is the real gut-punch. But the scene of him finding Randy in the hospital, stunned after the unnecessary death of his foster mother, will rattle your bones. ”You going to look out for me, Sergeant Carver?” Randy yells down the hall. ”You promise? You got my back, huh?”

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Season 4, Episode 12

Dukie, the lamb of the series, is ripped from Prez’s classroom, where he mastered the computer and depended on the teacher for sandwiches and clean laundry. To thank him, Dukie shows up to school with a Christmas present, a pen set, in a sad gift bag. Prez, powerless, realizes the boy is bound now for the streets.

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Season 4, Episode 12

Bodie, after working the corner since he was 13, realizes he’s an old man. The game has changed, and he can’t adapt his rules of behavior. ”Hell yeah, this is my corner,” he yells into the shifting night, knowing Chris and Snoop are coming for him. ”I ain’t running nowhere!” A soldier falls, with two shots to the head.

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Season 5, Episode 9

Michael, realizing he’s fallen out of favor, pulls a gun first on Snoop. The woman, sociopathic in her bemused approach to killing, maintains the same composure in her final moments. ”How my hair look, Mike?” she asks, running a palm over her braids. ”You look good, girl,” says Michael, before he kills a woman he fears and respects.

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Season 5, Episode 9

You have to clutch any moment of triumph to your breast on this show. Bubbles, after suffering mightily for four brutal seasons, celebrates his year anniversary of sobriety. ”Ain’t no shame in holding on to grief,” he says. ”As long as you make room for other things, too.” Remember that when you gear up for rewatching The Wire on DVD.

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Down in the hole

Posted in Down in the hole on March 14, 2008 by sourcingit

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Down in the hole
Yes, just as it’s not possible to be a good, smart, uncompromising, idealistic human being and become president of this nation of thieving whores, so, too, is it impossible to spend more time with your kids and hold your tongue. There is no one on the face of the Earth who writes works of literary genius and has an ass like a basketball. Intensely creative geniuses do not answer the phone with a happy voice, listen with focus or even shower regularly. If you’ve read about people like this, people who are friendly and smell good and also write brooding masterpieces and have rock-hard glutes, you are reading works of propaganda, created by corporate publicity machines that want you to believe that you were born dumb, lazy and ugly and you can only buy your way out of it. Yes, it’s true, you were born stupid, slow and stinky, but so were the rest of us.

And even if it were possible to be good and brilliant and healthy and full of high-minded principles, you still wouldn’t get very far in this world, populated as it is by self-serving thugs and charismatic charlatans and oily tricksters and uninspired, beaten-down drones who experience talent and originality and bold, new ideas as, at best, an inconvenience and at worst a direct threat.

Just ask David Simon, creator of “The Wire”, which returns to HBO on Sunday night (9 p.m. EST) for its fifth and final season. In the dystopian vision of Baltimore that Simon depicts, personal responsibility and ethical standards are consistently crushed by the greed and thoughtlessness of high capitalism. If those with principles and talent ever manage to wriggle their way into the circles of influence, they’ll inevitably be exposed to countless indignities and insults until their most cherished beliefs and their strong commitment to public service are abandoned for the cynic’s weary sigh. In Simon’s Baltimore, self-serving politicians and careerist law-enforcement officials and scheming drug dealers are cut from the same short-sighted cloth.

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And maybe that’s a vision that’s a little too dark for most Americans, who prefer the manic cheer of morning shows and upbeat radio hosts, who chow down Happy Meals and forsake updates on the Iraq war for “Dance War: Bruno and Carrie Ann.” But for those who find almost every single aspect of American culture at this particular moment deeply disturbing, for those who’ve cringed as self-interested blowhards ran our once-at-least-somewhat-honorable nation into the ground in the name of “freedom,” Simon’s vision looks right on the money.

Now typically, self-righteous anger at the state of the world is more likely to yield a rambling, unreadable blog entry than it is to produce a work of art this nuanced and wise and brave and lovely. But in the show’s final season, Simon and his writers don’t just trot out a few new plot twists and wind up for a big ending. No. Every single scene of “The Wire” is meticulously scripted and dramatically riveting. In each scene, we witness a character experiencing a dilemma, infused with passionate impulses, conflicting emotions and inner turmoil. Whether we see a young drug dealer who’s rising in Marlo’s ranks become party to a crime that makes him disgusted with his life or watch a once-idealistic mayor struggle to solve budget problems without selling his principles up the river, Simon and his writers make big, uneasy problems feel intimate and personal. In our day-to-day lives, it’s not hard for most of us to skip the news item about the neglect of our public schools or the endless corporate takeovers threatening to all but eviscerate the richness of American culture. But Simon and his writers force us to look directly at the human face of what it all means, the price we pay in American lives for our sloppy, neglectful policy choices.

A last thank you to wire fans

Posted in Wire fans Thank You on March 12, 2008 by sourcingit

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It wasn’t for everyone. We proved that rather quickly.But episode to episode, you began to understand that we were committed to creating something careful and ornate, something that might resonate. You took Lester Freamon at his word: That we were building something here and all the pieces matter.When we took a chainsaw to the first season, choosing to begin the second-story arc with an entirely different theme and different characters, you followed us to the port and our elegy for America’s working class. When we shifted again, taking up the political culture of our mythical city in season three, you remained loyal. And when we ended the Barksdale arc and began an exploration of public education, you were, by that time, we hope, elated to understand that whatever else might happen, The Wire would not waste your time telling the same story twice.
This year, our drama asked its last thematic question: Why, if there is any truth to anything presented in The Wire over the last four seasons, does that truth go unaddressed by our political culture, by most of our mass media, and by our society in general?We’ve given our answer:We are a culture without the will to seriously examine our own problems. We eschew that which is complex, contradictory or confusing. As a culture, we seek simple solutions. We enjoy being provoked and titillated, but resist the rigorous, painstaking examination of issues that might, in the end, bring us to the point of recognizing our problems, which is the essential first step to solving any of them.The Wire is fiction. Many of the events depicted over the last five seasons did not, to our knowledge, happen. Fewer happened in the exact manner described. Fiction is fiction, and it should in no way be confused with journalism.But it is also fair to note that the problems themselves — politicians cooking crime stats for higher office, school administrators teaching test questions to vindicate No Child Left Behind, sensitive prosecutions and investigations being undercut for political motives, brutal drug wars fought amid a police department’s ignorance of and indifference to the forces involved — were indeed problems in the recent history of the actual Baltimore, Maryland.
Few of these matters received the serious attention — or, in some cases — any attention from the media. These problems exist in plain sight, ready to be addressed by anyone seriously committed to doing so. For those of us writing The Wire, a television drama, story research involved dragging the right police lieutenants or school teachers, prosecutors and political functionaries to neighborhood diners and bars and taking story notes down on cocktail napkins and paper placemats. To be more precise with their tales? To record it and relay it in a manner that can stand as non-fiction truthtelling? Yes, that’s harder to do. But there was a time when journalism regarded that kind of coverage as its highest mission. The true stories that The Wire traded in are out there, waiting for anyone willing to take the time. And it is, of course, vaguely disturbing to us that our unlikely little television drama is making arguments that were once the prerogative of more serious mediums.We tried to be entertaining, but in no way did we want to be mistaken for entertainment. We tried to provoke, to critique and debate and rant a bit. We wanted an argument. We think a few good arguments are needed still, that there is much more to be said and it is entirely likely that there are better ideas than the ones we offered. But nothing happens unless the shit is stirred. That, for us, was job one.If you followed us for sixty hours, and you find yourself caring about these issues more than you thought you would, then perhaps the next step is to engage and to demand, where possible, a more sophisticated and meaningful response from authority when it comes to such things as the drug war, educational reform or responsible political leadership. The Wire is about the America we pay for and tolerate. Perhaps it is possible to pay for, and demand, something more.Again, accept our sincere thanks for making the commitment to watch a show as improbable and problematic as ours and for considering the arguments and issues seriously. We are surprised as you are to be here at the end, on our own terms, still standing. As a cast and crew, we’re proud. But the credit is not all ours. It’s yours as well for believing, year after year, in this story.David Simon
Baltimore, Md.
March 10, 2008

Wire Buzz

Posted in Wire Buzz on March 12, 2008 by sourcingit

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Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter (center) hosts cast members Brandon Young, Clarke Peters, Jermaine Crawford, Michael K. Williams, Clark Johnson, and Christopher Mann at a screening of the season finale of ‘The Wire’ at Philadelphia’s City Hall.

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Dominic West and Sonja Sohn celebrating ‘The Wire’ season finale at a party at Tao Las Vegas last Saturday night.

Michael’s departure comment

Posted in Wire Tap on March 12, 2008 by sourcingit

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With the final episode of ‘The Wire’ airing on Sunday, Tristan Wilds — who plays soldier Michael Lee on the show — finds himself saying goodbye to his cast mates all over again. The young actor told TV Guide about the hardest parts: “The scene with me and Dukie [Jermaine Crawford], when he’s getting out of the car, and the scene with my little brother [Bug, played by Keenon Brice] were tough. And the scene with Snoop [Felicia Pearson]. I had a real problem with that. I know I’m an actor, but Snoop was like my big sister and it felt weird for a while. I had to swallow my pride and become Michael, but that was really hard.

Hanging up “The Wire”

Posted in Hanging up the wire on March 10, 2008 by sourcingit

Last night “The Wire,” HBO‘s critically adored but commercially anemic drama, ended its five-season run with a long whimper. The finale wasn’t confounding in the same way that David Chase‘s smash-cut to black at the end of “The Sopranos” was, but it’s likely to polarize the show’s fan base in a similar fashion, pitting those who found it an appropriate, characteristic ending against those who felt short-changed. Both positions have merit.

It’s easy to see how a loyal fan could have been let down by the final season as a whole. “The Wire” is still way out in front of anything else in its medium, even at its worst. But by its own standards, season five felt inert, and a few of its subplots strained believability. The first sin is forgivable, but the second is not, considering that the show’s dedication to credibility is what has allowed it to cram its scripts full of street jargon and provide little in the way of helpful exposition. It also didn’t bode well that despite its populous tableau of characters, the plot lines ambled along as though it were business as usual, as if each episode weren’t one part of a truncated 10-installment final season. But the eighth and ninth episodes accelerated, and it appeared that the show might be nearing a finale in which loose ends would be neatly tied, even though “The Wire” had never been in that habit before.

But the resolutions were anything but pat. Detectives McNulty (Dominic West) and Freamon (Clarke Peters) are finally taken to task for having created an imaginary serial killer to route funding to a drug investigation. Their police careers are ended, but both dodge criminal charges thanks to a cover-up spearheaded by Mayor Carcetti (Aidan Gillen), who wishes to avoid a scandal during his ultimately successful gubernatorial run. Marlo Stanfield (Jamie Hector), the Big Bad of the past three seasons, was set free, while his chief henchman Chris (Gbenga Akinnagbe) pulls life in prison for dozens of murders. Improvisational journalist Scott Templeton (Thomas McCarthy) is upbraided by McNulty, his partner in faux-crime, but escapes punishment from his superiors at the Baltimore Sun, while his morally centered editor Gus (Clark Johnson, who also directed the episode) and fellow reporter Alma (Michelle Paress) are demoted for trying to turn him in.

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It would take several more paragraphs to detail the trajectories of every character, but suffice it to say nearly every character received some kind of sendoff, though some—maybe most—were less than satisfying. The supersized 93-minute episode was ultimately another day, another dime, but “The Wire” was always a character-driven slice of life, so it was perhaps unrealistic to expect the show to morph into a bullet train hitting one plot point after the other.

But if the mark of a series finale is the degree to which it captures the essence of the show, then “The Wire” succeeded in its final episode. The finale was peppered with Charm City montages, random shots of skylines, local attractions and average folks. And “The Wire” has always been a show about the city of Baltimore, about taking an honest look at the city in a way that you can only if you love it unconditionally, as the show’s creator David Simon clearly does. The finale also captured the agony and the ecstasy of being a fan of the show. “The Wire” was always a bit like a bad relationship. It required an inordinate amount of commitment and emotional investment. Some of our friends didn’t get it, and we thought less of them as a result. It broke our hearts over and over and we crawled back for more. But when it was good, whew … it was so good.

Seasons Finale

Posted in Season's Finale on March 10, 2008 by sourcingit

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Havrilesky:“It does have a certain charm to it. They manufactured an issue to get paid. We manufactured an issue to get you elected governor. Everybody’s gettin’ what they need behind some make-believe.” — Norman Wilson

And so one elaborate game of make-believe ends, and another one begins. In that first scene of the finale, when Carcetti and Daniels and Rawls and Pearlman are all speechless, cringing and staring at their feet, and then Wilson cracks up? That’s when we know that this last chapter may have a lighter ending than we expected. In fact, after a brutal season where it looked like everyone would be going straight to hell, our favorites have been largely spared: McNulty and Freamon retire and forgive Greggs, McNulty looks ready to be a good husband and an upstanding citizen again, now that he’s no longer haunted by his work (I guess I was wrong about police work being his reason to live!), Carcetti is elected governor with that sleazy Rawls as his State Police Superintendent, Daniels leaves the force and becomes a lawyer again, Pearlman becomes a judge, Bubbles gets a job, stays clean, and joins his sister at the dinner table, and Donald gets a ride home to Baltimore with McNulty. Cut to the Baltimore skyline, and that smooth first-season theme song.

It’s true that the kids on the street are facing a less promising fate, but hey, this is no Disney movie: Dukie is the new Bubbles, shooting up junk and hitting up a disappointed Prez for cash, and Michael is the new Omar, sticking up Vincent and his two men. But weren’t you afraid that was Dukie, sprawled out dead on the pavement in that quick scene where Greggs and Bunk are back on the job? And isn’t it a little tough to feel all that sad for Michael, since he could’ve just as easily ended up killed by Snoop or stuck working for Marlo indefinitely? Because we love Omar, we’re privately thrilled to see Michael try to fill his shoes.

While there’s something to be said for the freeze-frame ending of “The Sopranos,” I love that David Simon and Ed Burns and the other writers delivered a truly satisfying, clear-cut finale. Even with Marlo out of jail, Levy continuing his evil deeds, Templeton winning prizes and Rawls riding Carcetti’s bullshit train to the statehouse, anything less would feel like a lie. At least we got to see Cheese hit the ground, with even less fanfare than Omar.

I’m really going to miss this world and the unnervingly authentic characters who lived in it, from the most malevolent to the most kind-hearted. I’ll miss greedy Stringer Bell and idealistic Bunny Colvin and earnest Bubs and world weary McNulty and courageous Omar. I feel lucky to have spent time in David Simon’s Baltimore. We’ll all feel even luckier if one day we stumble on another show with half of the intelligence, integrity, and soul of “The Wire.”