‘On The Spectrum,’ ‘The Wire’ and the book burners

Silver television remote control being pressed by thumb with out of focus screen background (Illustrative) (photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Silver television remote control being pressed by thumb with out of focus screen background (Illustrative)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
The Israeli drama series On the Spectrum, about young adults on the autism spectrum, is running on YES VOD and Tuesday nights at 10 p.m. on YES Edge. It’s gripping television, both sad and funny, with more suspense than you would imagine, as you root for the characters as they make halting forays into the world outside their living room, with mixed results. On the Spectrum won the top prize in April at Series Mania in France, one of the world’s most prestigious television competitions, and you’ll see why.
If you missed The Wire when it was first on or if you’d like to see it again, you can catch it starting on June 3, Sunday to Thursday, on HOT HBO at 10:50 p.m. and on HOT VOD. It really is as good as everyone says it is: moving, epic, addictive, and revealing about the tragedies of American society.
The stars of The Wire have gone on to great heights since then. You may or may not recognize a very young Michael B. Jordan (who starred in the movies Creed, Black Panther and Fantastic Four) as the dealer Wallace in Season 1. And Jordan is now starring in the new HBO movie Fahrenheit 451, based on the Ray Bradbury novel. It will be shown on HOT HBO on May 26 at 10 p.m. and is running on YES VOD and on HOT VOD.
This dystopian fable, which was previously filmed in the 1960s by Francois Truffaut, about a world in which books are banned — and burned — has been updated for the digital era. Everyone is wired into an uber-Internet called The 9, and rebels or illegals, called eels, surreptitiously upload books (called graffiti) to The 9 whenever they can. Everyone’s house has an overarching operating system, much like the one in the sci-fi show Extant from a few years ago, that calibrates eye drops that keep them drugged. The look of the film is reminiscent of the Blade Runner reboot, with giant videos constantly projected onto huge buildings. It’s supposed to be chilling, but it feels more tired than scary, although it does capture the always-on social media overload that has come to characterize contemporary life.
The rhetoric spouted by representatives of the regime — that books are dangerous because they express too many opinions, which makes people go insane — is meant to remind us of the current anti-intellectual climate in the US.
Certainly, fewer and fewer people want to pay for the printed word these days, but the government doesn’t impose ignorance on the public, people choose it. This became clear when few were upset by Trump’s use of the catchphrase, “America First,” since they had never read about the America First Committee in the early 1940s, which was filled with anti-Semites and opposed America’s entry into World War II.
In Fahrenheit 451, Montag (Jordan), a young member of an elite book-burning squad, has a tough supervisor (Michael Shannon), who, we learn early on, secretly writes his thoughts. It seems only a matter of time until Montag rebels and starts reading. Jordan doesn’t have much to do but look worried and pensive.
It’s ironic that Jordan, who executive produced this film, which seems to censure movies and television, was among the cast of one of the greatest television dramas ever made. David Simon’s brilliant conception of The Wire and the wonderful writing on that show created a series that can be compared favorably to almost any work of literature written this century.
Some of the best of recent movies are coming up at the end of May. James Franco’s The Disaster Artist, which is showing on HOT VOD Movies starting on May 25, is a bizarre and often hilarious look at a strange man who created what is considered to be one of the worst movies ever made.
Call Me By Your Name, a love story about a gifted young man’s sexual awakening at his family’s summer home in Italy, directed by Luca Guadagnino, starts running on YES VOD on May 25. James Ivory won a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for his literate script, based on Andre Aciman’s novel.