Saturday, October 14, 2017

Better Call Saul | Lefsetz Letter

That’s Bob Odenkirk.

Did I ever tell you I’ve never watched “Game of Thrones”? Apple announces it’s coming to iTunes and I’m not excited at all, I’d rather see Eddy Cue testify about the Warriors. I’m just not into fantasy.

But I do feel left out. We all feel left out, that’s the modern condition.

But I want to belong. Be part of the discussion. The only thing we have in common is politics, which has eclipsed music and tech to drive the culture today.

But then there’s TV.

No, not the sitcoms written for a market, with the innuendo and the eye-rolls, but the cable and streaming stuff, and to tell you the truth “Breaking Bad” seemed like something from basic cable until Bob Odenkirk came on.

That’s right, we’re digging in. We’re now eight episodes into the second season. And I was anxious about devoting this much time to it. Fifty hours? Come on, in a world where I’ve got no time?

And it’s just not that good. Best show ever? It wasn’t even in the league of “The Sopranos,” until tonight, when Saul Goodman showed up, i.e. Bob Odenkirk.

Now I’m familiar with the man. I never quite got into “Mr. Show.” He’s earned a living. I even saw he was in this show. But I expected him to chew a little scenery and disappear. Instead, he lit the screen on fire.

That’s the power of the individual.

That’s something the baby boomers have right and the millennials have wrong. The millennials just want to be part of the group, they don’t want to do anything that undercuts that status. They’re wary of excelling. And when they do they rally around their compatriots. Whereas baby boomers are all about reaching for the brass ring. Reveling in their achievement.

So what makes Odenkirk’s character work here is his malleability. He’s got a code of conduct, a morality, but it doesn’t align with the one in the Bible, he’s doing what’s right for him. Which is what our parents did, which is what we wrestle with. That’s the truth of society, if you’re not bending the rules, working the edges, you’re not getting ahead.

Unless you’re an artist. Where the same rules apply but underneath there’s an honesty. That’s right, artists bend the rules, break convention all the time.

In the pursuit of truth.

That’s what’s crap about most of today’s art. It’s made with the audience in mind. It doesn’t want to make people uncomfortable, it doesn’t want to test limits. But when you do, people can align themselves with you, you give them something to believe in, something to live for, because they know deep inside they’ve got the same viewpoint, it’s just that they’re unwilling to take the risk.

It’s kinda like politics, on the left side. If you don’t hew to doctrine, you’re excommunicated. You’ve got to pay fealty to all ethnic groups, you can’t make an off-color joke, you’re neutered. Meanwhile, the right is breaking rules left and right and succeeding, ever think about that?

So Saul Goodman changed his name from McGill, because criminals want a Jewish attorney. You can’t say that in public, but you can say that in art, art speaks the unspeakable.

And Saul is not a miracle worker, just an efficiency machine.

But Bryan Cranston and his compatriot don’t want this efficiency, it puts them in the crosshairs, so they take matters into their own hands and Saul…

Starts quoting “The Godfather,” the bible of the baby boomers. Their favorite movie. Drama and wisdom all wrapped up into one.

And what we’re all looking for is a godfather. Someone who will take control and make everything right. Someone who sees the landscape in a way we can’t, who we’ll align ourselves with and will save us. And it’s always an outsider, never a government official, never a member of regular society, not so much an entrepreneur but a fixer, like the Wolf in “Pulp Fiction.”

So now I’m a member of the club, albeit half a decade late. Now I see what makes “Breaking Bad” so magical. Now when someone brings it up in conversation I can testify. And it’s all because of this one performance, where shyster Saul takes control. It’s a masterful thing to watch. He appears a bozo, but he knows where the land mines are buried.

Shall we all have a Saul in our life.

And either you know what I’m talking about…

Or you eventually will. “Breaking Bad” is hiding in plain sight on Netflix. This episode was the best of art, fiction but more true than life. That’s why I gave up reading most non-fiction, it wasn’t true. But in a great novel you glimpse into humanity, feelings.

Shall you strive for such in your art.

And if you’re not a creator you’re part of the vast audience, just waiting to be touched by art, to make sense of this bizarre lonely life where everybody tells you they know the answers but they don’t.

But when done right, the answers are in art.

Don’t you ever forget that.

Oh, deep inside you already know.


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