Tragedy

September 5, 2012

Simplistic TV: The Wire, Season Five

The Wire, Season Five – Bravo

*Spoilers Ahead*

After watching four seasons of “The Wire” in about the span of three weeks not only was I heavily invested with what would happen to the Barksdale Crew, Jimmy McNulty, Bunk Moreland, the New Day Co-Op, and Omar Little, but I was getting mentally exhausted.  All the shows run a full hour (more on the season openers and finales) and the show-runners pack so much in each episode that I hit information overload at certain points.  However, regardless of how much is is crammed into each show, I couldn’t get enough and needed closure, and I really wanted some good to come out of the whole shitty mess that is West Baltimore (I got some, but I mostly got kicked in the nuts).  This brings me to Season Five of “The Wire,” the final season, and an excellent conclusion to a series that you could call “The Standard for all crime dramas.”

Released in 2008, (season four finished up in 2006, so for those who were watching season-to-season, there was almost a 14 month waiting period between the end of four and the start of five) we shift to the magical land of journalism and the offices of the Baltimore Sun.  As in real life, the written word is on the ropes and newspapers are slowly becoming obsolete so writers are becoming more desperate and trying anything to cling onto their jobs, similar to the drug trade in Baltimore, which is shrinking as crews are falling and the Stanfield Crew has monopolized the market.  Desperation is a major theme for this fifth season as McNulty starts a new “crusade” to finally put an end to Marlo Stanfield’s crew, newly-elected Mayor, Tommy Carcetti, wants a “serial killer” who is targeting the homeless caught, and the clock is ticking as job cuts at the Baltimore Sun are starting to affecting employee morale.  If people weren’t desperate in Baltimore before, they certainly are now.

The one gripe I could find with this season are how the plot lines are tied up. You could tell that HBO was ready for the show to end (not because the show was bad, but when it comes to business, its all about ratings, and during the original run of the show the ratings were lacking), and the plot lines had to be cleaned up as best they could.  Season Five was also the shortest season (ten episodes).  However, I will say everything came to a satisfying end and watching the ending montage made me feel happy, mad, frustrated, hopeful, but most of all, in awe.

Watching “The Wire” made me realize that TV isn’t dead.  To be honest with you, it took me watching this show to really get back into watching TV and wanting to see if I could find something that could really top “The Wire.”  There are a few shows (funny enough, most of them are on HBO) that can really hang, but I will include “Justified” and “The Shield” in that grouping (funny enough, both on FX), but I think I’ll be hard-pressed to find another show on TV that really gave me everything I wanted (and ironically, didn’t want) from a TV show.  “The Wire”……bravo……

Fun Fact:  Dominic West, who plays Det. Jimmy McNulty, directed the 8th episode of Season Five, “Took.”

August 20, 2012

Elephant

Elephant – Earnest

I normally write reviews on this site based on what I like and I normally don’t like including any types of politics, social commentary, or the such in my reviews (it’s just not my style to push that type of agenda down anyone’s throat).  I also realize that this review might be about four weeks overdue, but you know what they say (really, you should know the old saying).

Since the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO back in 1999, gun control, along with media and parental responsibility, has always been a hot topic issue, yet little, to nothing, has been done.  I’m in no way against taking away people’s guns, or telling the media how to cover sensational stories, or even how parents should take care of their kids. Maybe one day I’ll look at it from a different perspective once I’m a parent or, heaven forbid, a victim of a similar tragedy, but in the meantime I will continue to watch violent movies and play violent video games, but I refuse to watch shows like “Keeping Up With the Kardashians”or “Jerseylious”that is just cruel and unusual.

It wasn’t until July 20th 2012 that all the talk started again about gun control and media responsibilty with the Aurora, CO tragedy during the midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” where 12 people were killed and numerous others were wounded.  Yes, between Columbine and Aurora there have been other mass shootings (Red Lake, Virginia Tech, Ft. Hood) but to open fire in a crowded theater during a movie that many peoplpe might have been waiting their whole lives to see, it’s really hard to comprehend what would drive someone to such an insidious act. What really went on in his mind before, during, and especially after, all the bullets had been fired, and lives destroyed?  What drives us to our actions? What shapes us into the people we become?  How can be avoid these tragedies in the future?  While it might not answer all the questions we have, Gus van Sant’s “Elephant“allows us a glimpse into the anatomy of a crime and what we might be missing when it comes to the modern teenager.

Yes, many of you might be saying “Elephant, what a boring piece of crap!” or “Jesus, that movie had nothing to say about anything, it was just a bunch of kids walking around a school.”  Yes, I will admit there was a lot of walking, a lot of tracking shots, a lot of high school kids being high school kids, well, that is the point!  If you know anything about “Elephant”you know what happens at some point during the movie, there is a school shooting, reminiscent of the Columbine High shooting.  But its the lead up to the eventual shooting that makes this film all the more complex.

Van Sant does a great job of turning the mundane into something captivating, and there is always a payoff after each vignette involving the student(s), and the earnest way of dealing with the mundane fills you with dread if you know what is eventually going to happen to the students, and the school.  While the film does focus on the shooters, and details their motivations and frustrations, what you see with the non-shooters is almost as horrifying.  From homophobia, bulimia, apathetic teachers, and drunk parents, these are all the “elephants” in the room that no one wants to talk about and could be contributions to student behavior, but apathy breeds apathy until tragedy occurs.

“Elephant,” while not the most interesting character study, gives an earnest portrayal of teens in a post-9/11, post Columbine environment, and the scary part is that much hasn’t changed.

“Fun” Fact:  Many of the actors used in the film had their real name used as their character name.

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