Saturday, April 14, 2018

Better Call Saul | Lefsetz Letter

Sometimes things don’t work out.

I can’t watch TV once a week anymore. Can’t make an appointment, can’t set the DVR, can’t even fast-forward through the commercials. I know, I know, there are some great shows on network and cable, but I don’t watch them, they don’t fit my schedule, which is overbooked, but there are times I want to go deep and I fire up Netflix and go for a marathon.

I was late to “Breaking Bad,” I’ve already acknowledged that. And to tell you the truth, I’m late to “Better Call Saul.” But after finishing “Breaking Bad” I fired it up on Netflix and watched two seasons and stopped there. The new episodes weren’t even on On Demand on my Spectrum system, and I certainly wasn’t going to buy them. Ownership is passe. Whenever you hear about someone building a collection, tune them out. They’re inured to the old ways. They believe a person is judged by what they possess. Then again, the future is so confounding, I get why people cling to the past. But the past is history.

And in the past I was addicted to the movies. I can’t say I was addicted to television, my mother wouldn’t let us watch during the day, we had to go out and play. And we couldn’t watch at night without finishing our homework first and she judged what we watched to boot, she didn’t stop giving me a hard time about “My Mother The Car,” but when you’re young and impressionable, everything hits your funny bone.

But my mother got deep into the movies in the late sixties and there was unlimited money if you wanted to go to the flicks. It wasn’t seen as escapism, but character building. These were the humanities that are pooh-poohed today. But math and science won’t tell you how people feel.

And I felt lonely and misunderstood but when the theatre darkened and the image came up…I was whole.

Almost didn’t matter what was on screen, it was about the experience.

But then there were some greats. Like “The Godfather.” Which I saw at an 11 PM screening at the new multiplex in Orange. I didn’t know there’d been lines, it had opened weeks before, I was in college, experiencing a media blackout, there was no television other than one snowy network channel, no DVDs, one movie theatre and…

When I got back to Connecticut I went to the movies every night. Literally. It was part of my schedule, I caught up. I’m a completist. That’s what I hate about media today, you can’t grasp it, you can’t see all of it, you don’t know what’s going on, nobody knows what’s going on, we’re all living in our little verticals being sold a bill of goods.

And I stopped reading reviews. Because the writers believe their essence is to reveal all the plot lines and then judge them. I want it to be fresh, and unexpected, and I almost never see a movie twice, just like Pauline Kael, that’s not the experience I’m looking for, and there’s so much I haven’t seen, so much you haven’t seen, and especially now that the moving image is not scarce.

So I marinate in the story. I fall in love with the characters. I think if I can just concentrate and bond with the flick, my life will work out. Kinda like with music, but music’s different, film is about story, music is about life. When you get the right record it penetrates you in some bizarre way to the point where you think if you ever met the person who made it not only would you fit in, all your problems would be solved. But this was back when musicians admitted to having problems.

Like Jimmy McGill.

I read that the third season of “Better Call Saul” was finally on Netflix. I’d read that it was one of the best shows of last year. And to tell you the truth, you’ve got to get into the rhythm of Vince Gilligan. It’s slow, and sometimes there’s no buildup, no peak, but it’s the little things in between that make all the difference.

And when Jimmy, spoiler alert!, loses his license to practice law…

Nothing works out.

I know people who read self-help books. Please stop. You can’t learn lessons from somebody else because you’re not them, your only hope is to be you. And our entire society is based on winners when the truth is we all lose, each and every one of us, some constantly, some unexpectedly, some are their own worst enemies, but it’ll happen to you, I guarantee.

Sure, it looks like some get the breaks, but then they don’t make partner, they get squeezed out, their spouse leaves them, their kids have physical or mental problems, no one escapes, and this is what we look for in art, a vibration, a connection, we need to recognize ourselves, no lesson is necessary.

But we keep being told we’re inadequate.

Have you ever tried to get a job and been unable to?

I certainly have.

My driver in Rio sent 130 resumes, he didn’t even get a response.

You think everybody’s got it easy, that if you jump through enough hoops the gates open. And maybe that’s true, but it never happened for me.

And now I don’t see myself on the silver screen. Everybody’s more fabulous, or much worse, or a superhero. No one is broke down and busted on the side of the road wondering how they’ll go forward, even though they eventually do.

And what exactly is the relationship with Jimmy and Kim? Are they friends with benefits or more than that? And how come they can’t pool their money?

And you’ve got to serve somebody, every does, that’s what Bob Dylan told us, and Nacho is under the thumb of Salamanca, and he can’t say no.

That’s modern life. I run mine differently, to my detriment. Everybody thinks I have stock in Spotify, that I’m paid by them, but then how could I be trusted? Sure, maybe you don’t trust me anyway, especially in a world where everybody’s sold out.

Except the artist. The artist must be free.

But our world is one of favors. And if you take one, you’ve got to give one. That’s the essence of the #MeToo movement, it’s not just a boys’ club, no one wants to blow the whistle on their boss, because not only will the boss fire them, will his hand-picked board defend him, but none of your coworkers will fall in line behind you. The artist always walks alone, never forget it.

So I can’t handle the frustration of getting hooked and waiting a week. Especially in our on demand culture. I’d rather not watch at all. But if you give me all the episodes at once, I want to dig down deep, turn out the lights and watch.

And movies aren’t long enough, even though they think you’re paying by the minute, like musicians they need to fill up the CD, keep us sitting there for two plus hours.

But television can go on forever, except when it doesn’t. They stop in the U.K., if it’s making money over here it continues, even though the kids have beards and babies and the thrill is long gone.

I’ve been to Albuquerque. I’ve known people who’ve dealt drugs.

But “Better Call Saul” is really about the personal relationships, brothers who can’t get along and big swinging dicks who are suddenly challenged and the truth is we live in a society where unless you’re working by the hour, for a wage, on a contract, everybody’s duplicitous, shaving points, working the edges. Come on, believe me. When you go to buy a car they want to sell you one that’s there, and they want you to pay as much as possible. Everybody’s a mark, now more than ever, when life is tough and you need a lot to get by.

And sure, there’s humor in this series. And revenge too. Just like life, it’s not one long flat line. But you return to the norm. Just when things are flying high they crash, it’s the human condition.

And it’s in “Better Call Saul.”


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