Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Meyerowitz Stories | Lefsetz Letter

What is a life?

I miss the past. Believe me, I know the present is better, technology is a boon, but when I look at pics from way back when I’m enamored of the development process. Like skiing, I spend tons of time researching skiing online. And when I see the old straight skis and leather boots I remember how there was an arc, from off the radar to the mainstream to maturity. That’s right, skiing is now an upper class sport, with high speed lifts and shaped skis and there are still innovations, but few breakthroughs, kinda like music. And tech.

We went from transistor to stereo. From 45 to 33. From mono to two channel effects. And the music changed along the way. No one was prepared for “Sgt. Pepper,” or Hendrix. It’s like they came down from the stratosphere and engendered imitators who splintered off into something new. Where did prog rock come from? Forget the shunning of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, prog was both a breakthrough and big, ever since that Jann Wenner bio we have to reevaluate the past. Then again, he or she with the printing press controls reality and perceived truth. Isn’t that how we got into this mess, the web? We didn’t foresee this, we thought the internet would solve all our problems, but now four corporations dominate and everybody’s got a megaphone and we’re manipulated and no one believes in truth, hell, some right wing bozo sent me an e-mail about Hillary faux pas and when I linked him to Snopes he said he doesn’t trust the site, what next, no trust of science? Oops! We’re there! The left doesn’t trust medicine and the right doesn’t believe there’s global warming and you and me sit here and wonder not only how we got into this mess but where we’re gonna go.

I used to go to the movies. Constantly. Every night at one point. And then came the video revolution, where you could view history in your home as opposed to needing to go to the revival house. And now there are so many flicks I don’t know where to start, I don’t go to the theatre because the flick doesn’t start when I want it to, which is immediately, we live in an on demand culture where no one wants to waste any time. And the movies they promote have monsters and superheroes and special effects when I’m most interested in reality.

“The Meyerowitz Stories” is about reality.

And you can watch it right now, on Netflix. Everybody’s got an account, or access to one. And don’t e-mail you don’t, that you’re too broke for ten bucks a month, why do people feel better about themselves if they’re poor, or that you don’t believe in it, if one more idiot e-mails me they don’t have a smartphone…just imagine, a hundred years ago, you would have been the person without a car, how does that feel? People get worn out, they’ve got future shock, and then they die.

It’ll happen to you. But you don’t believe it. And then you do. When achievement no longer seems possible, when the book of your life has been written, when your world gets smaller.

You don’t want that to happen. Fight with your greatest strength. Don’t let your world get small. Did you read that “New York Times” article about dying alone in Japan? Gonna happen to the boomers, who were so busy striving for fulfillment, believing in their hedonistic ways, that they too might end up alone.

But once you were together. With friends. Arguing, putting each other down, laughing, and then some moved away, others died, you got wrapped up in your world and suddenly you found yourself alone.

It’s the human condition.

I like to watch movies about the human condition.

What if my parents were different? What if they supported me instead of tearing me down? What if I was not the middle child? What if my father had been a regular guy? We’ve evolved to the point where those considerations don’t matter. Famous people can cry, but the truth is you’ve got to appear together at all times, the Instagram culture, perception is more important than reality.

So Dustin Hoffman plays an artist who didn’t make it. Not someone who gave up the dream, but pursued it and didn’t reach the brass ring. Most people give up, like so many on the borderline, he taught. And he thought he was better than everybody else when deep inside he knew it was all a cover-up, a way to make himself look good in the few moments people were paying attention.

Adam Sandler is a man-child, never growing up, wearing his shorts every day. Oops, I do that, it’s one of the perks of living in Los Angeles, of being in the entertainment business, I have contempt for those in expensive suits, am I no different from Adam Sandler? I hope not.

And Adam has never worked, he just lives in the shadow of his dad, who doesn’t even realize the dynamic.

As for his sister Jean, she escaped, but not really. We see this in many families, someone moves away and has limited contact, they’re busy saving themselves, but Jean cannot help but do the right thing, she’s a good person. Those who’ve been abused are the most compassionate, they know what it’s like to be on the losing end emotionally.

And Ben Stiller looks like he’s together yet he’s not, he too is traumatized by his father. We know so many people like this, if you scratch the surface you’ll learn money doesn’t salve the wounds, they’re as untogether as you are.

You’re either crippled, or making up for it or both.

That’s what “The Meyerowitz Stories” is about.

Although it hearkens to the past, it’s positively new in its distribution, it opened theatrically and on Netflix simultaneously. This is the future, we’ve realized it in the music business, film is still learning. The enemy isn’t piracy, but obscurity.

I am a fan of Noah Baumbach, who’s an auteur, more like Woody Allen than Brett Ratner. Even Spielberg, his movies look good, but they lack heart, authenticity, which isn’t about getting the images right, but the emotions. Ever since “The Squid and the Whale” I’ve paid attention. Loved “Frances Ha” and “While We’re Young” and this is not to implore you to watch any of these films, I’m not saying you’ve got the same taste as I do, but once upon a time, prior to “Jaws,” this is what cinema was. You couldn’t make that much money, the focus was on art, on story, on truth. Film drove the culture.

Film doesn’t drive the culture anymore.

Certainly not music.

Nor even tech.

When you eliminate the humanity you’re left with a husk of what was. What we’re looking for in our art is not titillation so much as truth, truth lasts.

So “The Meyerowitz Stories” is sticking with me.

In the old days I would have gone on a Sunday afternoon.

But now it’s there, ready for a click.

And what the other people making these movies don’t realize is by doing it the old way they’re working against themselves. “Lady Bird,” ironically directed by Baumbach’s girlfriend, mumblecore superstar and now mainstream presence Greta Gerwig, is one of the best reviewed pictures of the year, but damned if I’ll go to the theatre to see it, it’s hard align time and mood, and when it finally gets to television there’ll be something new to see. And now the oldsters will crap on me but that’s not the point. I embrace the now and the future, can’t the past merge with them?

Streaming is fantastic. Having the history of music at your fingertips for ten bucks?

Same deal with Netflix.

But the oldsters decry them.

Something is lost in the march forward, air conditioning eliminated vent windows. But the present is better.

And the present means in some cases our heart’s desire is available at our fingertips.

We’re never going back, some people have to be dragged into the future.

And now I’m mixing my points. But that’s what happens in a free exchange world, people excoriate you constantly. I hate the anti-technology voices, you fix the future, you don’t go back to the past.

But life never really changes. We’re all human, with our own stories, more losses than victories, more conundrums than solutions.

And “The Meyerowitz Stories” evidenced this which is why I liked it.

“A Generation in Japan Faces a Lonely Death”

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