Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Year-End Hoo-Hah

Here's my Top 10 of 2004 (and those of the other highly reputable contributors to culturevulture). Don't take it too seriously; I didn't. The top 3 or 4 probably would have made my list any year, the middle group were solid contenders, and the bottom few were basically pulled out of a hat. I decided not to sweat it too much, since every year I look back at my previous years' lists and am consistently baffled by a few of the choices. For me, the fifth season of The Sopranos, the third season of The Wire and the Red Sox/Yankees ALCS were all more satisfying visual narratives than anything I saw in a movie theater, but I don't make the rules.

More year-end stuff to follow. Or maybe not.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

My Christmas present to you? Some free advice - don't see Fat Albert.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

The management of Moonshine Mountain is fixin' to travel east for the holidays, so you can all look forward to tales of irritating travel mishaps in the near future. Meanwhile, if you're looking for a last-minute stocking stuffer, my endlessly fascinating tome Hick Flicks: The Rise and Fall of Redneck Cinema is hot off the presses and now available from Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble. Oh, the smiles you'll see on Christmas morning.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

The Aviator

Beyond the Sea

Wednesday, December 15, 2004


If you’re one of the seven other people who watches HBO’s The Wire and you haven’t yet seen this week’s episode, read no further – thar be spoilage ahead. More than likely, though, you don’t watch the show, which has not yet been renewed for a fourth season; this Sunday’s season finale may be the series’ swan song. Or maybe not – this is HBO, so theoretically ratings aren’t as important as they are to the networks, and besides, they’re already losing The Sopranos and Six Feet Under after one more season each. Even that freakin’ Carnivale is coming back, so there’s a chance The Wire will live on.

If it does end this weekend, though, it will be going out at the top of its game. I groused a bit here after the first few episodes of the current arc aired a couple months ago, but I should have known better. The show’s m.o. since the first season has been a novelistic approach, slowly building up a head of steam throughout the 12 or 13 episodes as the details accumulate and paying off big in the end. I probably would never have gotten into the show in the first place, if I hadn’t happened to tune into a marathon of the first 5 or 6 episodes, by the end of which I was thoroughly engrossed. If anything, this is a show tailor-made for the DVD box set era, which probably goes a long way toward explaining why the week-to-week ratings aren’t so hot. In the guise of a cop show, it’s actually the story of a city from top to bottom, the intertwining relations of dozens of characters from cops to politicians to dock workers to drug dealers, and the ways in which these different levels of society affect (and often corrupt) each other. It’s a commitment.

I wasn’t really making that commitment early this season, so the episodes seemed slow, the plotlines disjointed, the new characters unfocused. Once the main arc of the season emerged, I went back and watched the first few episodes one after the other, and sure enough, it all fell into place. David Simon, creator/head writer of The Wire, isn’t shy about making big claims for his show, most of which are justified, and he’s upfront about explicitly stating the theme of each season. (I’m wondering exactly how he pitched the second season to HBO; he describes it as being about the death of the working class in the American city, but surely he found a sexier way to sell it than that.) This year that theme is “reform,” and Simon and his crack staff of top crime novelists have explored that idea on canvases big and small.

The big one, and the main arc this year, is Hamsterdam. That’s what the drug dealers dub the free zones set up by Major “Bunny” Colvin, a soon-to-retire cop in Baltimore’s western district who, faced with pressure from City Hall to lower the crime rate, decides, “What the hell, let’s legalize drugs and see how that works out.” Simon and the other writers could have taken any number of angles on this idea, but instead they’ve taken on all of them, or damn near. It would be tough to come up with a perspective on Hamsterdam that hasn’t been voiced or visualized this season. Some characters think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread, others think it’s Hell on Earth, and every politician who knows about it is scrambling to spin it to his advantage.

Reform also emerges in the concept of “going straight,” as it is pursued by two different characters in very different ways. Cutty, a former drug soldier just released from prison, flirts with his old ways, then realizes he doesn’t have it in him anymore. He genuinely wants to go legit, to start a new life teaching inner city kids to box. By contrast, cold-blooded drug lord Stringer Bell’s desire to go legit is purely pragmatic; he wants to keep getting rich, but reduce his profile in the eyes of the law. His partner Avon Barksdale, fresh out of the joint, disdains Stringer’s grab for corporate respectability. “I’m just a gangster, I suppose.” Their relationship fractures, and by the start of the penultimate episode, it’s clear that one of them has to go. Each turns on the other, but while Stringer turns to the law, Avon responds to the code of the street. While Avon may still fall in the finale, it is Stringer who can’t escape his past. By the end of the hour, he’s a man without a world – as Avon predicted, he’s not smart enough for the business world and not hard enough for the streets. Stringer pleads for his life as the show’s two most flamboyant gunslingers, Omar and Brother Mouzone, confront him at the top of his dreamworld – a condo under construction. Stringer had ill-advisedly tried to play these two supervillains against each other a year earlier, and now they aren’t having it as he proclaims that he’s “not in that gangsta shit no more.” The code of the street prevails, and now - unless HBO renews it – only one hour remains.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Cool freaky thing.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Time-Wasting Bullshit

You Are a Snarky Blogger!

You've got a razor sharp wit that bloggers are secretly scared of.
And that's why they read your posts as often as they can!

Your Porn Star Name is: Big Al Rod

Your Penis Name is: El Presidente

I guess that about covers it.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Hey look - it's my official press release. Am I rich and famous yet?