Thursday, June 21, 2012

The foolish things of the world to confound the wise.

Minor spoilers for The Wire Season 5 and for Jeff Who Lives at Home.

Regarding psychological realism, Žižek makes a compelling case that by seeking to understand why the various citizens of Baltimore behave as they do, The Wire fails to truly capture the horror of the situation. He argues that an evil act is essentially non-logical, and so to best capture the nature of an evil act, one must present it as comedy. Evil must be farcical to be truely shown, because evil acts do not fit with the way almost all humanity agrees the world best works. Only comedy, with its constant skewering of expectations might concretely depict the plight of the citizens of Baltimore, Žižek argues. Elijah Davidson on Žižek's Wire lecture.

Ben and I often have similar tastes. Not here. Not now. Ben is very wrong.

Season 5 is the best season of The Wire. As I wrote before (on FB, I think), Season 5 works as a parody of and commentary on all that has come before. It is the blackest of comedies when McNulty's serial killer scheme initially fails to work. As the "killings" escalate, the story (and the actions that accompany the story) becomes more ridiculous, until homelessness becomes the issue that matters. Then, things change. Except that things don't change. The game's the game.

Focus on the press in Season 5 highlights and explores the line between telling the truth and tweaking the truth and manufacturing the truth. These are themes that were explored in previous seasons, but here the lens is turned on how The Wire itself has been presenting its story. The Dickensian Aspect.

I won't write any more. Maybe we'll get into it more when Jeff finishes the series or if Ben wants to push back on why Season 5 is worst of all seasons.


It’s a “Sword in the Stone”- type of journey near the parking lot of Kmart. For us, we’re probably never going to make a “Camelot” movie. This is our version of a “Camelot” movie. -Jay Duplass

What makes Jeff special to us is that he’s looking and he can see beauty and magic and mystery inside a package of doughnuts at 7-Eleven. And we have lost that, somehow. And while that is ridiculous and Jeff is kind of an idiot, maybe he’s not. -Mark Duplass

In Jeff Who Lives at Home, we are *maybe* far away from "psychological realism."

So, why does it feel more real than The Wire?

It is good to be shown the "beauty and magic and mystery inside a package of doughnuts at 7-11." Maybe the "ridiculous" ought to be our starting point, the eyeballs we're using to look out of a pair of Jason's patented poop-proof glasses.

Jeff Who Lives at Home is the successful cinematic demonstration of this simple truth, that the world is more fearsomely strange and beautiful than we dare to hope.

I want to suggest that Jeff at Home delves deeper in its realism because its near-mythical (or at least exaggerated) moments present the proper grounding for all else. When the film presents painful moments, they are genuinely painful moments. As Adrienne pointed out, this film, in its short running time and while it is focused primarily elsewhere, captures a realistic, convincingly unsensational authentic portrayal of a widow. It also authentically captures a couple in the act of decoupling and a loser who lives at home waiting for a meaningful purpose. Yet this film would never pass a Realism Exam.

Radically, amazingly, the Duplass brothers are brave enough to resolve these crises in simple (not simplistic) ways, bringing all things together in a satisfyingly happy ending. Thus, Jeff at Home joins the Strong Happy Ending Club of 2011. Le Havre. Damsels in Distress. The Guard. These are deep comedies. 2011 is turning out to be a Great Year.

Jeff Who Lives at Home deservedly, demonstratively, declares its proper place amid this fine filmic flowering of humbly humorous, hesitantly holy, humanism.

Alliteratively Yours
Jukin' Johnny

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