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15 Years Later, The Wire’s Genre Filmmaking is Still Unmatched (Part 2)

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The Wire Genre Filmmaking

Season 3: The Western Comes to Baltimore

Many viewers would be fooled into thinking season three of The Wire is back to basics simply because it returns to the drug game of season one. One of the first scenes finds cops Herc and Carver (Seth Gilliam and Dominick Lombardozzi, playing the Rosencrantz and Gildenstern of the show) chasing a suspect to the tune of Isaac Hayes’ Shaft theme. It’s art imitating life imitating art, as these two goofballs ride around like they’re actually in a movie. It sets the stage perfectly for what’s to come: the larger than life hitting up against reality. Expecting a possible cancellation, David Simon and his writers embraced the show’s pulpier elements for season three to define some of its greater points, bringing in influences from the quintessential American genre: the Western.

Season three shifts focus to city hall to follow the politicians and bureaucrats that impact crime and drug policy. Two sheriffs emerge ready to clean up the streets. Tommy Carcetti (Aiden Gillen), an idealistic if flawed mayoral candidate, and Bunny Colvin (Robert Wisdom,) a shift commander sickened by the lack of crime progress, who sets up a secret zone where drugs are free to be sold and used.

Ultimately, the season is a battle of outsiders against the institutions that birthed them.  Action vs Inaction. Compassion vs Nihilism. It’s the thrust of all great Westerns. Do you take the law in your own hands to clean up your town? Where do you place your faith when your authority figures can’t save you? Homicide detective Bunk Moreland (Wendell Pierce) questions just that when he chastises stickup artist Omar Little (Michael K. Williams) for his complicity in the city’s violence, even as Omar robs and kills the very drug dealers Bunk wants locked up.

No greater scene illustrates this theme than the confrontation between Omar and Brother Mouzone, the show’s pulpiest characters. Omar is The Wire’s unsung anti-hero, a gay, shotgun wielding thief who sports a duster and whistles nursery rhymes.  Brother Mouzone (Michael Potts) is the show’s silliest and least defined character, a miniature Malcolm X who espouses that the most dangerous thing in America is a “n****r with a library card.” Their faceoff–after a messy meeting in season two–plays straight like a showdown at the OK Corral. Both stand at attention, yards away ready to draw pistols. You half expect a tumbleweed to blow between them. No bullets are exchanged however, as the two decide to team up to take down Barksdale consigliere Stringer Bell (Idris Elba). That scene plays like a classic ambush with the hired assassin and the outlaw cornering the second in command to the big bad boss.

This genre flexibility isn’t just for winking kicks nor is it a concession to drooling style hounds, rather it demonstrates a willingness to mythologize it’s setting and characters to make a larger point. Baltimore is the CITY, a stand in for all that has worked about America and all that has failed. It’s the closest the show gets to allegory. The season was filmed right around the invasion of Iraq and the writers go so far as to parallel the Barksdale turf war with that botched campaign. As Slim Charles (Anwan Glover) puts it, the validity of their beef is irrelevant. If their war is a lie, “then we fight on that lie.”

Season three was not the end of the show in fact. Two more seasons would close this saga, thus the season would become a transitional year. Like most Westerns, the conclusion finds our heroes hanging up their holsters, having done all they can but still outmatched. Bunny’s social experiment gets shut down and his pension stripped. McNulty gets the bracelets on Avon Barksdale, but decides to leave Homicide for beat duty, having sacrificed so much for the job. And out of the morass emerges Marlo Stanfield (Jamie Hector), the new  king of the streets and  a threat more fearsome than ever before.

PART ONE | PART TWO | PART THREE | PART FOUR

 

Shane Ramirez is a professional actor and videographer, as well as a budding filmmaker and novelist residing in San Marcos, TX. A life-long film enthusiast, Shane has written for everyonesacritic.net and examiner.com, and has produced his own short films. He is versed in the arts of cinematography, photography, and editing. His favorite directors are Andrei Tarkovsky, Terrence Malick, Christopher Nolan, Michelangelo Antonioni and Krzysztof Kieslowski. Contact Shane at ramirezs316@gmail.com.

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The Boys Season 2 Episode 3 Review: “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men”

The Boys’ marks an improvement and pays big dividends in an explosive, violently revealing hour.

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The Boys Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men

Half bottle episode and half coming out party, “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” is a sneaky little showcase for The Boys, and just how big its world’s suddenly gotten in season two. Though ostensibly an episode designed around two events – the boys getting stuck on the boat, and Stormfront revealing her inner racist sociopath – “Over the Hill” navigates a number of brewing conflicts in fascinating ways, building and building until the violent explosion at the episode’s conclusion. With a nimble script and a game group of performers, The Boys‘ second season is turning out to be a distinct pleasure – albeit one heading down a gruesome, dark path I sure hope it’s capable of navigating.

“Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” navigates a number of brewing conflicts in fascinating ways, building and building until the violent explosion at the episode’s conclusion.

It does take a little while for “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” to get going; beginning three miles offshore with The Boys and the reunited super-siblings, the first quarter feels like it’s simply restating the stakes. It’s a nimble trick, though; led by Kimiko and Kenji, The Boys begins to feel like it is approaching a true moral quandary for the group. Which door descending into hell will they choose?

The Boys Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men

While The Boys often likes to posture its presenting characters with complex dilemmas, the show’s unnerving nihilism often upends any sort of nuance it looks for in its debates around “necessary” violence. Here, Kimiko’s presence throws a fascinating wrench into the proceedings; with most of the group’s members clinging to whatever mirage of family they have left (save for Hughie, who has… forgotten his dad exists?), even Butcher can’t deny having conflicting feelings about what to do with Kenji, and the deal that’s been offered to him if he turns him in.

Elsewhere, “Over the Hill” throws the brazen personalities of The Seven into their own little blenders, as Stormfront begins to sow discord through Vought, and abuse her powers to casually murder a lot of people – nearly all of them minorities, in a way that feels like an explosion of character, rather than an unpeeling of some complicated identity. Stormfront simply doesn’t give a fuck; and with her supernatural ability to manipulate feminist views (her speech to the reporters is magnificent, both in how it develops Stormfront’s character and nods to the simplistic ways in which the evilest people in society disguise themselves among the “good”).

While she’s kicking up tornadoes and electrocuting everyone that gets in her way, characters like The Deep and Homelander continue to benefit from the much-improved writing of season two. The show is still struggling to make Becca something more than the Ultimate Mother Protector trope, but Homelander’s warped sense of responsibility to his son is interesting, surely a bad sign for the upbringing of this world’s Superboy (will he also don a cool leather jacket and weird cyberpunk sunglasses? Who knows!). It’s clearly not going well; even he seems to recognize the danger in bringing his son’s powers to the surface, as its the first time in his life he’s facing a challenge as the world’s strongest hero (that is, until Stormfront doubles that total later in the episode, further frustrating Homelander’s attempts to hold domain over everything in his grasp).

The Boys Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men

It’s not going well for The Deep, either, as his slow descent into cult life is bringing his desperation for acceptance further to the surface. Like with Homelander’s stories, I wish The Deep’s story was a little tighter and more thoughtful (some of the body image stuff seems to be treated trivially, in a way that borders on insensitive and uninformed for the sake of easy jokes), but there’s no denying his character is infinitely more interesting this season, a test case for what a superhero trying to learn their own limits would struggle with. The Deep works best as a pathetic character, but not when it’s a pathetic character The Boys just kick around with bad punchlines; when he’s treated as a byproduct of a deeply flawed human being trying to find a path to good intentions, his fumbles and weak-minded rhetoric is much more amusing – and at times, the tiniest bit empathic (his sadness over Billy’s, well, butchering of his whale buddy was such an earnest, raw and twistedly funny moment).

The Boys has needed to accelerate its internal stakes for a while; the introduction of “super terrorists” to the world by Homelander, and Compound V’s reveal to the public might make the show’s world feel a bit smaller than intended – I think a lot about the “big” fight scenes at the end of Arrow‘s third season, where the ‘entire city’ is fighting, but there’s never more than six people around – The Boys does that on a narrative level sometimes. But as the stories of the show dig a little deeper into its characters – Maeve’s disillusionment, Homelander’s failure to emulate paternal behavior, A-Train’s desperation, it’s beginning to feel like the writers have a deeper understanding of its characters and world, and how to wield its inherent sadistic cynicism to more interesting ends. “Over the Hill With the Swords of a Thousand Men” benefits massively from that, setting up a number of intriguing dominoes for the back half of season two to knock over (in bloody fashion).

Other thoughts/observations:

  • Look, I’m bummed how the Kenji character played out; he was such an interesting character, an examination of everything horrible about what power and war can do to a human being. It’s sad to see The Boys dispose of such an intriguing presence, especially as its a death of a minority character in service of mostly white-related stories – however, with such a hateful, nasty character like Stormfront waiting in the wings, it is easy to see how the writers found their way down that path. (like, she could’ve killed Black Noir and this show would’ve literally lost nothing… just sayin’).
  • Can A-Train just collapse or whatever, so we can get this storyline moving? We’ve been doing this since the second episode!
  • Why haven’t we seen any reaction to Becca seeing Butcher in person at the end of season one? She hasn’t mentioned it or even had a longing look off-screen to violin music.
  • Man, I’m so glad they cast Aya Cash as Stormfront.
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The Best Golden Girl is Sophia Petrillo

Sophia Petrillo was a legend in her own mind who always had her way and like Mighty Mouse, always won.

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Sophia Petrillo The Golden Girls

A seemingly harmless little old lady with curly white hair, oversized glasses, and an innate ability to tell a great story shows up on her daughter’s doorstep when the retirement home she was put in by said daughter burns down. With a simple, “Hi there,” the world meets Sophia Petrillo. For seven years on NBC’s The Golden Girlsa show about the senior set—Sophia lived with her intelligent and extremely sarcastic divorced daughter Dorothy Zbornak and her two roommates, sexy, eternally horny southern belle Blanche Devereaux and sweet but dim-witted Minnesotan Rose Nylund. Each is memorable in their own way, but it’s Sophia, “feisty, zesty, and full of old-world charm,” that stands out the most.

When TV was full of generic, sweet grandma types, Sophia was anything but. Sure, she looked the part with her bifocals, pearls, and now iconic straw and bamboo-beaded handbag, but Sophia was always trying to make a quick buck. She conned Rose into going into a sandwich-making business that pit them against the mob, faked being paralyzed to try and collect insurance, and constantly “borrowed” money from Dorothy’s purse. Instead of helping Dorothy, Blanche and Rose get out of jail when they are mistaken for hookers (don’t ask, just Youtube it). She stole their tickets to go to a party and meet Burt Reynolds. She also stole Rose’s car, worked at a fast-food restaurant, and won a marathon. Not bad for a woman in her eighties. Sophia had a sharp wit and an acerbic tongue, blaming her stroke for leaving her without the ability to self-censor. She was always ready with a zinger or a comeback, some of which she saved for her very own daughter.

Sophia Petrillo The Golden Girls

Sophia Petrillo is the Secret Star of The Golden Girls

That’s not to say she’s all schemes and insults. Beneath her tough exterior is a kind woman with a big heart who loves her family and friends. Viewers don’t often get to see her softer side, which makes the moments they do seem that much more special. One of the best Sophia episodes showed her reaction to the death of her son, Phil. She put up a wall of anger which Rose was finally able to break down in the final moments of the episode, revealing Sophia’s true feelings of guilt over Phil’s cross-dressing as she bursts into tears. Another favourite was when Dorothy expressed concern about her mother not doing enough with her days. We then get to see exactly what she gets up to sticking up for her friend and causing a scene at the grocery store while claiming to represent a fictional senior citizens union, volunteering at a sick kids hospital and later, conducting a senior citizens jazz band. Meanwhile, Dorothy, Rose, and Blanche do next to nothing except sit around and eat. When she’s asked what she did all day upon her return, she simply says she bought a nectarine, and Dorothy, Rose, and Blanche are none the wiser.

But if Sophia has one claim to fame, it is her colorful old-world tales about Sicily, which often as not, contain a pearl of wisdom or embellishment of some kind. We would have loved to have known her during her “picatta period (a wedge of lemon and a smart answer for everything),” when she was the most beautiful girl at a resort and all the men fought over her (so beautiful, in fact, that she had “a butt you could bounce a quarter off of”). She was also once painted by Picasso and was best friends with Mama Celeste. But I digress. Sophia Petrillo was a legend in her own mind who always had her way and like Mighty Mouse, always won. Her hunches were never wrong, and rarely, if ever did she meet her match. Sophia was, in short, a one-woman show. And thanks to re-runs and fan appreciation, that show will never be gone.

  • Dasilva

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published under our old brand, Sound On Sight.

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30 Years Later: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

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30 Years Later: The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
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