Monday, December 2, 2019

The Five | Lefsetz Letter

He got what he wanted.

And he wanted me.

Some movies you never forget, like “Tell No One.” A French production of a Harlan Coben novel.

Yup, that used to be a badge of honor, going to foreign films, but now no one wants to read subtitles.

So I’m always looking for shows to watch. I like to dig down deep. I never watch movies on streaming services, I’ve even give up on them on premium cable, they’re just not satisfying.

And I can’t watch “Succession,” or “Ray Donovan,” or the rest of the shows people talk about on cable. That’s not how I watch TV anymore. There is no appointment, and then I fall behind and give up.

Now if the movies aired on TV day and date, I might just change my philosophy, but they don’t, and by time you can see them at home they’re no longer part of the discussion, they’re stale, there’s something new, in a world where it’s so hard to keep moving forward, I don’t want to go back, kinda like the Democrats who still think it’s 2016, who can’t see that we don’t want safe, we don’t want centrist, the problem wasn’t Wisconsin, or Michigan or Pennsylvania, it was Hillary and the DNC, the whole kit and kaboodle, there was nothing to believe in anymore, we were sick of business as usual. And sure, we hate Trump, but being against him is not enough, we need a leader who will take us into the future as opposed to the past. We don’t want dad, we want someone who will provide more than hope, someone who knows there’s no coming together, no kumbaya, we want someone with action.

But the media is afraid of action.

Actually, the media just tells you where you’ve been, oftentimes poorly. It’s not like the media could see the abuses of Facebook. It’s not like the media could see the entire internet revolution.

Which is overwhelming, right?

I just signed up for Apple News+. “New York” magazine wanted $70 for a year’s subscription, whereas I can get it on Apple News+ for ten bucks a month.

Along with a bunch of other magazines I’m interested in. And the fact that they all signed up for Apple News+, does that mean magazines are history? Yup, printed magazines are gonna die in our lifetime. Newsstand sales have already cratered. The outlets have all closed in L.A. The one on Cahuenga, the one in Brentwood, I don’t even know where you’d go to buy a magazine anymore.

But I love the information, I can’t get enough information, it’s my window to the world.

But the more you look, the more you miss, as in living. We don’t know what to do, pay attention or tune out. I mean what happens in D.C. is the story of our times, it affects our lives, but do we need to put our lives on hold to pay attention?

And then there are those who’ve tuned out who are uninformed.

No one’s at the wheel.

Which is why Trump got elected, at least one of the reasons, the populace wanted the trains to run on time, someone to make sense of the chaos.

But that’s impossible these days.

So society has devolved into tribal warfare.

I’m not talking about D.C., I’m talking about your own damn neighborhood, your own damn friend group. We’re all arguing all the time, because we feel both important and ignored, so we express ourselves, that’s what social media has allowed, the illusion that we all count, the sideshow of influencers…it’s no different from being on reality TV, you’re famous for a minute, if that.

Which is maybe why I like the nighttime.

Oh, I can switch my schedule, get up in the morning, but I hate it. Hate being exposed to the rat race.

And those people who wear the time they get up as a badge of honor. 4:30. 3:30. They want to get ahead of the game. But in today’s world, the days all run together, and you’re trying to beat the traffic and it makes me want to tune out, live in an alternative universe, the nighttime, when there are fewer cars on the road and the market and drugstore are uncrowded, when I get room to breathe.

Kinda like going to the movies during the daytime. Before mobile phones, never mind smartphones. You were in the dark, for hours, the rest of the world no longer mattered. It was like…

Bingeing series at night.

Somehow, it doesn’t work during the day. Kinda like how you can blow off everything on the weekend, but if you try to do so during the week you feel too guilty, like you’re missing out, you can no longer play hooky.

But streaming series are an investment. I do research, I want to know I’m not gonna waste my time. I’ve got no time.

George Drakoulias wants me to see Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story” at the Landmark. No can do. It’s not the money, but the time. I’ve got to drive over there, park, buy my ticket, get there early so I can choose a decent seat and not worry about missing anything.

Then there are the patrons. Who feel entitled to talk, look at their phones, no matter what the rules are. Have you noticed that, the rules no longer apply? I mean if they don’t apply to the President, why should they apply to me?

And by time I get there, I’m no longer in the mood, I’m not up for seeing the picture.

But when it gets to Netflix next Friday night… I’ll watch it then, I’m a big fan of Noah Baumbach, have you ever seen “The Squid and the Whale“?

So I was planning to hike, but it was raining. And in the forties to boot. I know, I know, I could join a gym, but I’m not that kinda guy, if it’s not fun, I don’t want to do it. But I do want to be in shape for ski season.

So it was verging on nine and it was time to stream a series, which one?

Well, somebody e-mailed me about “The Bureau.” Gets great reviews online. But you’ve got to buy it, or subscribe to Sundance streaming, neither of which I want to do. Why in hell would I want to buy anything? I don’t want to own anything, like the millennials I just want to know it’s available when I want it.

As for paying another streaming service…that’s an insult. I mean they’re bleeding me to death already. And if I didn’t get them for free, there’s no way in hell I’d sign up for Apple TV+ or Disney Plus…can’t they bundle all the content together?

Not like the old cable systems, with fifty seven channels and nothing on…but just quote me a price for everything, like Spotify, make me an offer. And if you’re smart, make the price low, so people won’t think of unsubscribing.

Now every week the “New York Times” has a column “What To Watch.” And I don’t think we’ve got the same taste. Too often the titles are light. I like heavy, I want to sink my teeth in. I’m not looking for escape, I’m looking for reality, truth, I want that visceral hit, unless it’s a comedy, I’m down for that too.

And this week they suggested “The Five.” On Netflix. Based on the Harlan Coben book.

Just like “Tell No One.”

They think we’re addicted to the channels.

But we’re addicted to the creators. We want to believe, we want to follow, we want to invest. Do something great and we’ll hang in there for quite a while, because we’re looking for more.

And “The Five” delivers more.

You see Jesse disappeared. Twenty years ago.

Do you believe he’s still alive? Are the older kids who abandoned him responsible?

And “The Five” is just like “Tell No One,” it’s fast, there are blind alleys, and once you think it’s all surface, pure entertainment, there’s wisdom, depth.

Like Pru, whose finance bro husband wanted her and got her. But is that what she wanted? People have this power over others. If they want you bad enough, the desire is hard to resist, even though after they’ve caught you they’re frequently not that interested.

And who is guilty, and who is innocent?

And do you dedicate your life to bucks or service. That’s one thing they don’t tell you. Oh, they’ll tell you sand is gonna run out of the hourglass, but they won’t tell you that as you’re circling the board game of life, getting the diplomas, building the relationships for your career, getting married, buying a house and starting a family, you might be going down the wrong road, and get in so deep that there’s no turning back.

Regrets, that’s what you don’t want to have.

Most people can’t follow their dreams, it’s too daunting, they give up. Success is hard. And usually the biggest victory is its own trip into the wilderness. Kinda like those people trying to create winning apps today…that era is over, lock in to what’s next. You can’t see it. But the innovators can.

So these foreign shows, “The Five” is English, are so much better than their American counterparts. Everyone is not beautiful, they’re oftentimes dark in image, not only plot, they somehow seem more real. In the U.S. we venerate Meryl Streep, who we can’t separate from the role, she’s so studiously into the character…no one would try that hard, not even the people the role is based upon!

But in the U.K…in Europe. You don’t have to be beautiful, and many are classically trained and know how to fit in the background, not fight for screen time, not everybody can be up front and center. And the truth is you can be in the background and be a star, you just have to be happy in the role.

Jesse’s parents still have hope he’s alive. You can ruin your whole life waiting… It’s kinda like that John Lennon quote, how life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. But also there are psychological barriers, you can’t get over that breakup, you can’t get over your family of origin, you get defeated, you get blindsided, and you can’t pick yourself up that fast. Meanwhile, the years keep ticking by.

There’s never enough time anymore. I flew back from Australia for over fourteen hours, finished one book, read another from start to finish, got deep into one more…but there still wasn’t enough time, I wanted the flight to go on forever, so I could be in the cocoon, in suspended reality, able to go deep into what I wanted without feeling left behind, like I do every damn day.

So I don’t want to give anything away. I don’t want to be like those reviewers who think their duty is to recite the whole damn plot. What I like most about art is the surprise. Which is why I only watch movies and read books once. Once you’ve seen the trick, it’s never the same.

Isn’t that life? Aren’t we all looking for that adrenaline hit of something new?

Tonight I recommend “The Five.” Watch two episodes, you’ll be hooked or you won’t.

But don’t answer your phone, don’t even look at it, pay attention.

Attention pays dividends.

Harlan Coben’s The Five


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