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September 11, 2006 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2006-09-11

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Monday
September 11, 2006
arts.michigandaily.com
artspage@michigandaily.com

ART S

5A

HBO's 'The Wire':
A B'more love story

By Evan McGarvey
Managing Arts Editor
HBO's "The Wire" opened its
fourth season by narrowing its
scope to a group of four inner-
city Baltimore youths. The cusp
of manhood, family and friends,
burgeoning personalities - at
first it seems like so many other
nearly maudlin, barely enter-
taining documents of ending
boyhood. Except all the boys are
learning how to traffic crack.
It's a deliberately calculated
swerve; seasons one, two and
three were gradually punctuated,
almost claustrophobic decon-
structions of the Baltimore drug
trade. "The Wire" was distinctly
adult - slow, light-and-shadow
character studies of snitches, vice
officers and Nino Brown-like
drug demi-gods (Wood Harris).
A largely woman-less landscape
- save for Sonja Sonn's caustic,
world-weary Detective Greggs
- "The Wire" and Baltimore
become more than a brutal,
abstract landscape. The series
thrives in its specific moments
revealing how to install a wire-
tap, why exactly Baltimore's
churning, lewd "gutter music" (a
mash-up of the 2Live crew aes-
thetic and Brazil's baile funk)
fits its cyclical, post-industrial
strife (B-more is an easy analog
to Detroit) and what the working
life for a low-level crack dealer
really is like.
While they'll never get that
last one right, it's the presump-
tion of effort, the aspiration to
the documentary that makes
"The Wire" the finest contem-
porary American TV series. In
fact, it's the only TV series since
the first three seasons of "The
Sopranos" to feel like it was
exclusively designed for televi-
sion. "The Wire" explicates and
analyzes better than "The Sopra-
nos," though - its scope is much
larger that just one "family."
The show's ultimate loyalty
is to its subject: drug traffick-
ing and the humans who make
it possible. But instead of bird's-
eye pastiches that push morality
and "meaning," it's exquisitely
episodic. Even "small" epi-
sodes tick along like the object-
focused, singular chapters in
"Moby Dick." A movie could
never take single things - a
wiretap, a housing project -
unpack each and simply string
them casually together. There's

not enough time in 120 minutes
for such explication. In fact,
because "The Wire" so fearless-
ly takes its time - the camera
lingers in Section 8 courtyards,
the cramped interior of a stake-
out car - the series has become
the TV show most committed to
form.
Cinema attempts to compress
and edit - a world war in three
hours or an entire romance for
90 minutes. American television
is failing because, well, since the
death of "Seinfeld," no network
show has been able to reconcile
the twin tools of selection and
explication. There's too much
information forced into network
blocks.
"Scrubs" crams Zach Braff's
hastily assembled one-liners
and voice-overs (weepy diary
entries that reek of Hallmark
wisdom) into 22-minute boxes
already filled with static char-
acters and scene changes. The
show fails (especially in its later
seasons) because it can't use the
repetitive nature of the charac-
ter's path habits (read: medical
interns have a tight schedule)
to give us anything new. It's the
same montages and it's edited
with the same pace in every
episode, every season. We don't
get any new angle into the char-
acters' lives. They compressed
their characters, once round and
almost subtle, into one-note,
one-line, one-trait pegs. And the
same thing happened to "The
O.C." And "Entourage." And
"Desperate Housewives."
"The Wire" (and maybe the
stunningly soon-to-be canceled
"Deadwood") succeeds because
it expands and diffuses across
its subject, honing the camera on
everything-street lights, coffee
cups, the dismal, barely func-
tional lights in a courtroom, a
chalkboard - and feeding the
audience images and objects.
We fill in the tropes, we visu-
ally forage its wide-angle shots
and we've got so much visual
information to process that "The
Wire" simply never just strips
one narrative vein.
With this - essentially a re-
launch of the most respected and
ambitious show on television -
"The Wire" proves not only that
it's the most versatile and com-
mitted show in recent memory,
but that it's also the swaggering,
self-assured, straight-up beast of
television.

All's not
quiet m
the west
By Sarah Schwartz
Daily Arts Writer
The stars were glamorous, everyone was
under contract and the studio was God. It
was the golden age
of Hollywood, and it
came with a dark side Hollywoodland
as grimy as its fame At the
was bright. Michigan
"Hollwoodland" Theater, Showcase
shreds to pieces any and Quality 16
notion of easy star- Focus
dom. Instead, it's a
cautionary tale with
the period shades of "L.A. Confidential,"
following private eye Louis Simo's (Adrian
Brody, "The Pianist") investigation into the
apparent suicide of TV's Superman, George
Reeves (Ben Affleck).
As Simo delves deeper into the real-life
case, he discovers Reeve's backstory and
life in Hollywood, though the two story-
lines, part crime noir and part tragedy, play
at times like two different films. In the end,
they both feel unresolved.
Historically, Reeves had a fairly success-
ful career. He landed his first speaking role
in "Gone With The Wind," but was always a
bit actor with eyes for bigger things. Even-
tually achieving national celebrity as the
small-screen Superman and with another
small part in "Here to Eternity," Reeves
had a career many with a Hollywood dream
would die to have.
Even Reeves's agent admits to Simo that
Affleck takes best
actor at Venice fest
Despite no pre-awards buzz, Ben
,Affleck took the best actor award at
the Venice International Film Fes-
tival this weekend for his turn as
George Reeves in Allen Coulter's
"Hollywoodland." The film opened
stateside this weekend in 1,548 the-
aters to a lukewarm estimate of $6
million. Elsewhere, Helen Mirren
won best actress for her portrayal
of Queen Elizabeth II in Stephen
Frear's "The Queen," and a politi-
cally divisive Chinese entry, "Still
Life" won top honors as best film.
The winners, with the exception of
Helen Mirren (a current favorite to
take the Oscar), reportedly caught
festivalgoers and critics off guard.
Imagine.
- Jeffrey Bloomer

He'd be cooler if he was wearing an ascot.
Reeves's career "should have been enough
for a life," but Reeves always continued to
look toward the silver screen.
Brody's Simo proves a big stumbling
block, coming off as both morally ques-
tionable and a complete stereotype, right
down to his over-the-top New York accent.
A divorcee and a distant father, he leads on
a suspicious husband so he can keep cash-
ing his check and even stages pictures with
Reeves's mother to get in the papers.
Reeves, meanwhile, makes up the bulk
of the other story, and Affleck is, surpris-
ingly, quite remarkable in fleshing him out.
Affleck's recent credibility has been dubi-
ous at best, but he and Lane light up the
screen together in a doomed affair with pal-
pable chemistry.

Lane's powerful Toni Mannix makes for
a compelling character in her own right, a
modern-minded woman in the conservative
'50s capable of simultaneously taking both
her husband and her lover out to lunch. But
Affleck stars as the one to watch, giving
Reeves the doomed countenance of a man
who knows he will only be around as long
as he can be of some use. His mysterious
death only deepens the sense of isolation
those closest to him felt.
Hollywood can be a dark place, and the
film portrays its underbelly in appropriate-
ly gruesome manner. Reeves felt the strain.
Whether he killed himself in desperation
or fell victim to someone else's hunger for
power, his tragedy is just one of the many in
Hollywood's golden age.

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Softball
Clinic TONIGHT,
September 11 at
7 PM
IMSB Contact Nicole
Green for more
information 764-0515
or nmgreen@umich

Soccer
Clinic
TOMORROW,
September12 at 7
M itchell Field

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DON'T FORGET!
Sign Up your Intramural Team
TODAY 11 AM - 4:30 PM at the
REC IMSB
SPORTS Soccer, Softball, Team Tennis, 3-on-3
INTR IAMURALS Basketball

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