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Clarke Peters (#110 of 11)

The Deuce Recap Season 1, Episode 8, “My Name Is Ruby”

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The Deuce Recap: Season 1, Episode 8, “My Name Is Ruby”

Paul Schiraldi

The Deuce Recap: Season 1, Episode 8, “My Name Is Ruby”

Even without considering its title, it becomes obvious that Ruby (Pernell Walker) will figure heavily in the season finale of The Deuce when we see her walk dejectedly through Times Square midway through “My Name Is Ruby.” Normally prone to holding court under the 42nd Street lights, she’s avoided by pedestrians as though she were a piece of debris. Her thoughtless murder late in the episode is heartbreaking precisely because after weeks of her amicable presence, it’s a shock to see her treated as a disposable thing.

Sundance Film Festival 2012: Red Hook Summer and Smashed

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Sundance Film Festival 2012: <em>Red Hook Summer</em> and <em>Smashed</em>
Sundance Film Festival 2012: <em>Red Hook Summer</em> and <em>Smashed</em>

It takes a little time to get used to the sprawling scope and the blocky dialogue of Red Hook Summer, director Spike Lee and co-writer James McBride’s follow-up to Lee’s own Do the Right Thing. In Red Hook Summer, Lee and McBride take the dialectical mode of discourse that Lee employed so masterfully in Do the Right Thing and explode it in order to create a unkempt but invigorating and deeply moving daisy chain of opposing ideas. The thematic preoccupations—gentrification, religion, familial history, love—of Lee’s breakthrough film are no longer phrased as an easy-to-delineate back-and-forth between two types of interlocutors; now the conversation is a mosaic. Lee’s not just talking about condos vs. projects, but about faith, self-discovery, fear of change, and a generational inability to communicate with one another. Lee and McBride have created a new microcosm of uncertainty and shaky hopefulness and it’s a shambling, wonderful mess.

The Parasite Is Killing The Host: "The Making of The Wire"

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The Parasite Is Killing The Host: “The Making of <em>The Wire</em>”
The Parasite Is Killing The Host: “The Making of <em>The Wire</em>”

[An audio version of the “Making The Wire” panel is now online at the Moving Image website. Click here to access.]

“When I was at The Baltimore Sun, there were 500 staff members there,” David Simon remarked. “Now, there’s 220. I took the third round of buyouts; they’re on round eight. The paper’s gotten smaller, but the city of Baltimore hasn’t. The Internet’s a great source of opinions, but it’s not producing journalism.”

It was an important observation on a topic familiar to many, and especially relevant to those who read websites like this one. The House Next Door saturates a film-nerd niche in a way that print publications have never before been able to do. For an entity with a low profile in relation to, say, Film Quarterly or Film Comment, THND enjoys a surprisingly large readership. Meanwhile, Premiere magazine no longer exists in print. The little guys are putting the big guys out of business.

The Wire Recap: Season 4, Episode 13, "Final Grades"

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<em>The Wire</em> Recap: Season 4, Episode 13, “Final Grades”
<em>The Wire</em> Recap: Season 4, Episode 13, “Final Grades”

“I feel old. I been out there since I was 13. I ain’t never fucked up a count, never stole off a package, never did some shit that I wasn’t told to do. I been straight up. But what come back?”—Bodie Broadus

Bodie (JD Williams) fills the silence as he sits with Officer Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West) in a plant sanctuary so peaceful he wonders if they’re still in Baltimore. His lament sounds like that of a third-generation factory worker abandoned by the town’s only industry, or any other middle class foot soldier forced to confront the American Dream. Bodie agrees to flip on his boss, drug kingpin Marlo Stanfield (Jamie Hector), to protest the business policy that it’s better to kill a corner grunt than chance a disruption in the trade. When Marlo’s minions surround Bodie’s post that night, he grabs a gun and starts blasting, shouting, “I’m right here!” as his crew scatters. Bodie knows it’s the end, but he’s going to meet it standing on the corner he built.

The Wire Recap: Season 4, Episode 12, "That’s Got His Own"

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<em>The Wire</em> Recap: Season 4, Episode 12, “That’s Got His Own”
<em>The Wire</em> Recap: Season 4, Episode 12, “That’s Got His Own”

“You and your wife, you don’t have children, do you?” Assistant Principal Marcia Donnelly (Tootsie Duvall) coyly asks Prez (Jim True-Frost) after he strenuously objects to the promotion of Dukie (Jermaine Crawford) to high school. “Not yet, no,” Prez admits. “Well, have some,” she advises.

Prez, a first-year math teacher, has lavished attention on Dukie, providing him with showers, clean laundry, and lunch, none of which he gets in a home with the utilities shut off. Ms. Donnelly, though sympathetic to his impulse, lays out the practical boundaries of their mission. “You do your piece with them and you let them go, because there’ll be plenty more coming up behind Duquan.” Over lunch, Prez gamely tries to convince a dejected Dukie that he’s ready for the next level, offering continued access to the middle school’s showers and the class computer Dukie’s had to himself for a special project, but they both know his departure marks the end of the arrangement.

The Wire Recap: Season 4, Episode 11, "A New Day"

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<em>The Wire</em> Recap: Season 4, Episode 11, “A New Day”
<em>The Wire</em> Recap: Season 4, Episode 11, “A New Day”

“You’re telling me how I can’t do it, not how I can,” freshly minted Mayor Tommy Carcetti (Aidan Gillen) snaps at a city accountant who lists the impediments to giving the police a raise. Carcetti ambushes the offices of Baltimore’s various public works departments (one lounging around to the sounds of Men At Work) and orders respective remedies for an abandoned car, a playground hazard, and a leaky hydrant without disclosing specific locations, sending panicked city employees scurrying in search of a problem. He shows up at a police roll call to personally announce a pay hike and the termination of meaningless monthly quotas for arrests and citations (unlike the other city workers, the beat cops remain undeterred by the mayor’s eminence, pelting each other with verbal spitballs and sassing the new initiative’s staying power). Col. Cedric Daniels (Lance Reddick), tapped by Carcetti to make over the homicide division, joins his girlfriend, Assistant State’s Attorney Rhonda Pearlman (Deirdre Lovejoy), in addressing the detectives with the promise of “certain enhancements” and an ear for new ideas. “A new day,” Sgt. Jay Landsman (Delaney Williams) muses with a twinkle of skepticism as his colleagues swarm the new bosses with congratulations. “They make a nice couple anyway.”

The Wire Recap: Season 4, Episode 7, "Unto Others"

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<em>The Wire</em> Recap: Season 4, Episode 7, “Unto Others”
<em>The Wire</em> Recap: Season 4, Episode 7, “Unto Others”

“Why do you care?” Assistant State’s Attorney Ilene Nathan (Susan Rome) asks Detective “Bunk” Moreland (Wendell Pierce) as he chases her down a staircase to petition a transfer to protect Omar Little (Michael K. Williams) from a jailhouse bounty. That same question lingers right around the corner from any character on The Wire caught between the competing impulses of empathy and blinkered indifference. The job title may dictate how a guy like Bunk is supposed to deal with a guy like Omar, but Bunk still has the chance to stamp his personal code on the institution he serves.

Omar robs drug dealers, many of whom he now shares space with in the Baltimore lockup after being framed for murder. In the opening scene, Omar thwarts a sneak attack in the breakfast line, but his odds for survival remain poor given the number and gumption of potential adversaries, bounty or no. To clear an old debt, Bunk agrees to listen to Omar’s predicament, but sticks to the script. “If this one ain’t on you, another dozen probably are,” Bunk rationalizes, “and if this one goes to court, you can tell that jury how wrong it is.” Omar spells out the consequences of Bunk’s pose. “I’ll be seeing God long before I swear to Him on a stand.” On a personal level, Bunk knows the charge is suspect but holds his ground against stepping out for Omar, until Omar reminds Bunk that his role-playing gives a free pass to the real killer. Omar punctuates the injustice with the running theme of their relationship: “A man got to have a code.”

The Wire Recap: Season 4, Episode 3, "Home Rooms"

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The Wire Recap: Season 4, Episode 3, “Home Rooms”
The Wire Recap: Season 4, Episode 3, “Home Rooms”

“What happens when you ain’t around to translate?” Bunny Colvin (Robert Wisdom) asks Deacon during this week’s episode of The Wire after they meet with a pompous university professor who is considering Bunny as a research partner for a clinical study of repeat violent offenders. Bunny’s claim not to speak the language of the social scientist belies his 30 years as a Baltimore policeman, during which he negotiated with groups of drug dealers and manned the podium at COMSTAT meetings while the upper brass hounded him over crime figures. Deacon (Melvin Williams, the real-life Avon Barksdale of the eighties) shrugs off the call for an interpreter. “Don’t play ignorant on me, Bunny. You can back and forth with any of these guys.”

Bunny needs the work, having lost, in succession, the full pension due a retired police major, his golden parachute running security for Johns Hopkins (both casualties of his experiment, “Hamsterdam,” to legalize drugs in his district, which yielded both a 14% drop in violent crime and a massive political shitstorm), and his security job at a downtown hotel (the result of his failing to give special treatment to a “friend of the hotel” who beats up a hooker). The academic is Dr. David Parenti (Dan DeLuca), who seeks a liaison to the corner, his own training being insufficient for navigating, as he calls it, ” the urban environment.” Go alone, Bunny agrees, “and they sell your tenured ass for parts.” Parenti’s project aims to study rehabilitation options for criminals ages 18 to 21, that is until Parenti interviews an actual 18-year old in custody and encounters a level of menace that sends him scurrying from the room. “Look,” he bargains, “I’m ready to acknowledge that, um, 18 to 21 might be too seasoned.” Hoping to sidestep the cycle where the subjects only spark the outside world’s attention after they enter the justice system, Bunny steers Parenti’s project to Edward J. Tilghman Middle School, where they might find subjects more receptive to a little social engineering.

The Wire Recap: Season 4, Episode 2, "Soft Eyes"

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<em>The Wire</em> Recap: Season 4, Episode 2, “Soft Eyes”
<em>The Wire</em> Recap: Season 4, Episode 2, “Soft Eyes”

Marlo Stanfield has maneuvered to the top of the West Baltimore drug trade, and he’s executing a broad campaign to stay there. Early in the second episode of Season Four of The Wire, Marlo (played with ominous elegance by Jamie Hector, above) takes a tour of the neighborhoods to show concern for his constituents, in this case clusters of children wringing one more week from summer. His deputy approaches a group, reminds the kids they’ll need new clothes for school, and hands them each a pair of bills from a stack of hundreds while Marlo stands by the vehicle, acknowledging their cries of thanks with a regal nod. As he climbs into the backseat of the SUV to head to the next stop, posters on the wall behind him advertise candidates for city council, state’s attorney, and mayor, but the most influential position in the neighborhood belongs to Marlo. His deputy, Monk Metcalf (Kwame Patterson), turns around from the front passenger seat and affirms the value of what they’re doing. “Your name gonna ring out, man.”

This tableau recalls the nearly identical physical trappings of the scenes from this season’s premiere of Councilman Carcetti (Aidan Gillen) campaigning for mayor (right down to the seating arrangement in the SUV), one of many occasions on The Wire when pairs of characters from different worlds strike an eerie resemblance to one another, if only for a moment. While Marlo and Carcetti massage the citizenry, Assistant State’s Attorney Rhonda Pearlman and Officer “Herc” Hauk each navigate internal office politics wildly complicated by unexpected events. Herc (Domenick Lombardozzi), once a narcotics detective, now reports to the mayor’s security detail as driver and bodyguard, an assignment short on action but a pipeline to promotion. Hoping to make the next sergeant’s list, Herc rationalizes the soft duty to his new partner, admitting, “Shit, if you can make rank the right way, I’ll still be working Western drugs.” All the waiting around gets to him, though, so he wanders through City Hall looking for his shift lieutenant and some work, opening doors in increasingly indiscriminate fashion until he stumbles on the mayor catching a blow job from his secretary. Spooked by the career ramifications of this jackpot (“Fucked in the ass with a pineapple,” is how he puts it to his ex-partner) and in over his head about how to play it, Herc seeks the counsel of Maj. Stan Valchek, a veteran chit trader who sees the upside immediately. Valchek (Al Brown) tells him to say nothing and act like the whole thing never happened. “It just lays there like a bad pierogi on the plate,” he envisions, “both of you pretending it ain’t there.” Once Herc demonstrates the requisite amnesia, he writes his own ticket. “Oh, what I wouldn’t give to be in your shoes right now,” Valchek chortles with such relish he can barely get the words out. “Kid, careers have been launched on a hell of a lot less.”

The Wire Recap: Season 4, Episode 1, "Boys of Summer"

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The Wire Recap: Season 4, Episode 1, “Boys of Summer”
The Wire Recap: Season 4, Episode 1, “Boys of Summer”

On The Wire, everyone’s in school. But when it comes to learning, Baltimore’s cops, teachers, street hustlers, politicians, and students all have at least one thing in common: they reject instruction they deem irrelevant to the job at hand. A sequence early in Season Four’s premiere, “Boy of Summer,” bounces between training seminars for public school teachers and police officers, who listen impatiently as droning bureaucrats with slick slide show graphics offer news they can’t use. The teachers and cops, fed up with the charade, pelt the speakers with real-world problems and derisive wisecracks about the value of the lessons. At the precinct house, when the government envoy prattles about emergency procedures in the event of biochemical agents, Sgt. Carver (Seth Gilliam) interjects a dose of perspective. “Them al-Qaedas were up on Baltimore Street planning on blowing up the chicken joint,” he volleys to guffaws from his fellow officers, “but Apex’s crew jacked ’em up, took the camels and robes, buried their ass in Leakin Park. Least that’s what I heard.”

Those who bring the specialized knowledge to deal with a complex environment, on the other hand, engender quick respect where it might not otherwise be forthcoming. Early in the episode, a group of 13- or 14-year old boys gather in a vacant lot to try to capture what they think is a white homing pigeon, which they hear might fetch several hundred dollars from Marlo Stanfield, an emerging drug kingpin with a bird habit. They’ve tied a string to a stick that props up a box over some food, and the bird they desire comes near the bait but flies away when a bottle breaks nearby. The boys accost Dookie, the runt of the group who threw the bottle to squash a bug, and batter him with insults. When they walk away, Randy (Maestro Harrell) stays back to give Dukie a chance to explain himself. Dukie (Jermaine Crawford) tells him that their prey wasn’t a homing pigeon, and when he elaborates by describing the metal band around the leg of actual homing pigeons, Randy’s posture shifts from one of disdain to pride that his friend possesses such valuable information. Elsewhere in the neighborhood, Snoop (Felicia Pearson), one of Marlo’s assassins, shops a hardware store for a more reliable nail gun, which she uses to board up her victims in vacant houses. She describes the drawbacks of her current tool to the salesman, who patiently details the merits of various nail guns until Snoop knows which one best suits her purpose. Hearing that the price is $669 plus tax, she peels off eight hundred-dollar bills from a roll and tells him to take care of the sale and keep the change. When the salesman, flummoxed by her generosity, hesitates, she declares, “You earned that bump like a motherfucker.”