Friday, March 19, 2010

"The HBO Auteur"

David Simon, above, with cast and crew members. Photo: NY Times Magazine

I had heard friends rave about The Wire for years, but didn't start watching it until this past September, when a neighbor graciously loaned me Season 1. I finished the final season, 5, a few weeks ago.

Go rent it. Seriously. Or buy it. I don't care. Just watch it. You really won't regret it.

A recent NY Times Magazine article proclaimed The Wire creator David Simon as "The HBO Auteur."

The Wire fires on all cylinders. It exposes us to a slew of complex, affable, developed, and intriguing characters as it "[builds] a vivid portrait of urban America as seen through the prism of its institutions and professions — the police department, the drug trade, the dockworkers, the local government, the schools, the press."

The article continues:

"By the time “The Wire” reached the end of its run, commentators went from posing the coy question, “Is ‘The Wire’ the best show on television?” to making the bold statement, “ ‘The Wire’ is the best show on television”— boldness that soon seemed spineless once seemingly everyone defaulted to calling it simply, “The best show in television history.” In the two years since “The Wire” concluded, a pitched battle of ongoing praise has upped the comparative ante. If likening Simon repeatedly to Dickens and Dreiser, Balzac and Tolstoy and Shakespeare hasn’t proved adequately exalting, Bill Moyers lately freshened things up by calling Simon “our Edward Gibbon,” while the literary critic Walter Benn Michaels went so far as to suggest that the beauty and difficulty of watching “The Wire” in English — the multifarious 21st-century English of Baltimore detectives and drug dealers — compares with that of reading Dante in 14th-century Italian. It should go without saying that Duke; the University of California, Berkeley; and, next term, Harvard, are offering courses on the series, seminars focused not merely on the sophistication of its storytelling but also on its sociological and political perspicacity."

On April 11, Simon's new show Treme, makes it debut on HBO.

"The Story Lines in Treme begin three months after Katrina, and they follow a diverse group of characters as they rebuild their lives in a city torn apart, a city in which tens of thousands of houses are abandoned, in which only 50 percent of the population remains, in which neighborhoods are still without power. The main characters in “Treme” aren’t the overburdened cops, spiraling addicts, ruthless dealers, struggling dockworkers, corrupt politicians or compromised journalists of “The Wire.” In their place, for the most part, are musicians, as the show’s title sneakily suggests: “Treme” (pronounced trih-MAY) is the New Orleans neighborhood where jazz was born. And even though it adjoins the French Quarter, few tourists visit Treme, where generations of the city’s musicians have lived.

As much as crime of every kind was central to “The Wire,” music is the focus of “Treme.” New Orleans-born and Juilliard-trained Wendell Pierce (William “Bunk” Moreland in “The Wire”) plays a trombone player looking for any gig he can get; Steve Zahn plays a feckless singer-songwriter with an allergy to paying work. As in “The Wire,” many nonactors, in this case professional musicians, have been cast in “Treme” in leading roles: the violinist Lucia Micarelli plays a street musician; a charismatic local trumpeter, Kermit Ruffins, plays himself; and dozens of other musicians — from Dr. John to Elvis Costello — appear in smaller parts. The cast is different from “The Wire,” however, because a number of more famous actors are part of “Treme.” John Goodman plays an English professor-novelist enraged by federal and municipal post-Katrina intransigence; the Academy Award-nominee Melissa Leo is a civil rights attorney with a soft spot for starving artists; and Clarke Peters, the distinguished stage and screen actor memorable in “The Wire” as the miniature-furniture-making detective Lester Freamon, plays an independent contractor and a Mardi Gras Indian chief."

Not sure I can wait for this one to come out on DVD.

"Do You Wanna" Clip Trailer: Day

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