Thursday, January 27, 2005

I don't have cable, and even when I did I didn't watch The Wire. I'd catch the odd episode here and there, and it wouldn't make any sense and I'd be bored. The thing about The Wire, the thing that'll probably cause its cancellation, is that if you only see one episode it looks like complete shit. It's boring and the acting seems bad and the look seems way too glossy in the office scenes and way too much like Juice or Fresh or something in the street scenes. But it's perfect on DVD. I've been watching the first season whenever Video Americain has copies in (not often), and I am so caught up right now. It really juggles all its interweaving storylines and protagonists with perfect grace, keeping everything simmering until it's time to bring out one of the mini-climaxes, a couple of which have left me speechless. And it bears mentioning how well it nails Baltimore. It's not like Serial Mom where Kathleen Turner is driving down Coldspring and then all of a sudden she's at Hammerjacks. It gets all the little things right: geographical details, nicknames for neighborhoods, accents (though McNulty sometimes does this pseudo-Irish burr thing that I've never heard an actual person do), East Side vs. West Side rivalries, carryout markets with bulletproof glass, takeout crab joints, the little mini-ghettos in the County, everything. Most of all, it's right that Baltimore is a fucked-up, dirty, violent city, poor and ugly and riddled with drugs. So far this year, there have been four murders within six blocks of my apartment, and I live in one of the good neighborhoods. Coke has pretty much decimated the local indie-rock scene over the last couple of years. There's a new pile of broken car window glass on my block's sidewalk every couple of days. One of my favorite shows of all time forever is Homicide, David Simon's first show, and it seemed like the realest, grittiest thing in the world when I was in middle school and high school. But that show painted a picture of Baltimore police as colorful, heroic, snappy Gen-X characters, passionate about their jobs and about doing what's right, rarely mired in corruption and alcoholism and an entrenched system of political favors like the one in The Wire. I don't know which one is closer to the truth, but I have my suspicions.

House of Flying Daggers is pretty much the perfect antidote to that little spiral of thought. It's light and beautiful and ethereal, taking place in some alternate universe where everything is always lovely, especially death. It's not grand and sweeping like Hero and Crouching Tiger; it's just a small love-triangle story, and that might be the best thing about it. I only had a couple of moments where I was like, "Wait! Who's that guy? What's going on?". And wow, those daggers got me bugging out like the breakdancing-across-the-floor scene in Ocean's Twelve, which probably just means I'm easily entertained but whatever.