Friday, May 15, 2020

Prisoners Of War | Lefsetz Letter

Prisoners of War – hulu

This starts out so slow and so violent that you may not make it over the hump.

But you should.

“Prisoners of War” is the Israeli series which inspired “Homeland.” But they’re not identical. Not that I would know, I’ve never watched “Homeland.” I don’t go for episodic TV, I control my appointments, I’m sick of Hollywood telling me how to consume my media. Kinda like Quibi, refusing to put its mediocre fare on television, refusing to allow it to be shared. And what did Jeffrey Katzenberg blame the failure of his platform on? Covid-19! Quibi was dead on arrival, but those with dollars who invested in this abortion are not savvy users of the internet, they did not know the paradigm had changed, they’re aware of money, but not human interaction.

“Prisoners of War” is about human interaction.

And so much more.

You see the three Israeli soldiers were gone for 17 years. They were just reservists, out on a weekend call. Kinda like “Gilligan’s Island,” but with much more intensity and much more meaning.

They’re fighting for their lives every day in Israel. The Arabs attack and they retaliate and…it’s endless.

The only thing we’re at risk of in these United States is Covid-19, unless of course you’re a minority, an African-American, Asian or Latino. Latinos are screwing our country by trying to cross the border illegally. The Asians? They’re to blame for Covid-19. As for African-Americans… You can’t even go out for a jog safely. You’ve got to be hyperaware at all times.

But the white people in the United States? They think they’re immune, that nothing can touch them, that they’re entitled to rule forever. To the point where nitwits strap on guns and mingle with their brethren demanding governors open up the nation so they can die. I kid you not. There’s a war going on in America, and it’s not against Covid-19. As a matter of fact, we already lost that one. What’s the first rule of warfare? Know thy enemy. Can you say those in charge knew the coronavirus? I think not. As for freedom…where does it end. Should you be able to shoot a black man because he peeked in on a construction site? Or if they’re just walking around and you’re scared? To fight Covid-19 we have to all be in it together. Actually, there was a story how in eastern Europe everybody locks down…because they’ve experienced so much hardship in their lives that they understand it. Hardship in America is not getting a trophy, or not getting into the college of your choice. Our perspective is way off.

Not that Israel has it all together. The religious right is oftentimes out of control. But what critics of the nation just can’t fathom is that Israel can only lose once, and then it’s over. The country’s sheer existence is on the line every damn day. And its citizens’ too.

Not that I want to make this an exploration of the Middle East at large. That’s a waste of time just like debating Trump. You see, the Israelis stole the Palestinians’ land and they’ve got to give it back. Forget the anti-Semitism lurking under all this, the truth is there’s been an ongoing campaign to sell this perspective, especially for the last two decades. To the point where Jews are threatened on college campuses here in the States. That’s right, we can’t get along here, never mind over there.

But all our causes here are external, it’s not us. We’re fighting for others. What if you’re fighting for yourself, what if your life is on the line?

“Prisoners of War” is not “Fauda,” certainly not the third season of the Lior Raz show. The first two seasons of “Fauda” ended with no winners. Illustrating the flaws of both the Israeli and Arab positions. The third was very much pro-Israel. But “Fauda” was all about action, whereas “Prisoners of War” has long stretches where there’s no action at all.

You see “Prisoners of War” is mostly about the internal, feelings, relationships… Kinda like those people who break up and say they’re over it instantly. They’re either lying, or sociopathic. That’s not how human beings work. We’re riddled with feelings. We have nightmares. But we rarely share them.

“Prisoners of War” covers so many issues of relationships. How you pine for someone for years, and then when you finally get back together…it doesn’t work. Timing is everything in relationships.

And humans are riddled with questions of loyalty. Did they do the right thing, do they have any friends, are friendships more important than..?

And just like the Israelis, the Arabs are people too, with their own complaints. But where is the baseline vis a vis the two countries. That’s another issue…do you have a future in Syria? Or…

This show is so well done that you cannot predict it. You think you know where it’s going, and then not only does it go a different way, but in a fashion you could not imagine. This is not American TV, all about the image with little about the soul. That’s right, if you want to know about the soul over here you’ve got to watch cartoons, literally. Like “The Simpsons” or “South Park” or a Pixar movie. They have more humanity than the blockbusters. Because human beings can’t speak their truth. And our high concept shoot-’em-up, comic book blockbusters are just what we want…mindless entertainment, so we can go back to advertising ourselves on social media and consuming.

If you’ve ever been to Israel, you know that they don’t dress up. That’s another thing that will stun you, no one’s wearing a suit at a bar mitzvah. It’s too damn hot and what you wear doesn’t represent who you are. In America, if you put on a fancy suit and drive an expensive car you’re immediately seen as a winner, even though you’re oftentimes not. And, even if you make all that money, you’re not immune to heartbreak. Come on, how many of the winners still have the same spouse? They keep trading up, as if there’s an ideal they can get to. They don’t have to put in the hard work to sustain a marriage, because there are endless opportunities. Oftentimes, their main characteristic is bravado. That’s right, they can brag, but they never cry. Unless they commit a faux pas and have to go to rehab. Ain’t that America, if you go to rehab all your sins are washed away.

So the people in “Prisoners of War” are riddled by memories. That’s one way I envy the youth, it’s all new to them. As you get older you get worn down, you’ve had too many losses, you’re not willing to take the risk.

And what do you do to keep yourself whole? What do you invest your time in so you don’t have to look inside, at your little life.

And do you have a constitution, and do what’s right, or do you do what’s expedient? Because your whole life could go by while you’re doing what’s right and…

You see there’s no map in life, no playbook, no guarantee. You work your whole life to retire and then you die of a heart attack mere weeks after you’ve stopped working. At this age, I don’t count on a single plan, I’m always prepared for something to go wrong. If you can’t pick yourself up and soldier on… You’re gonna get in a car accident, you’re gonna have health problems, there’s nothing you can do to avoid bad things happening to you. Stay at home, and you’ll slip in the bathroom.

Have you missed your life? Have you kept yourself in a straitjacket because you did not want to make the hard choices?

You dream of something for years, and then when it arrives…now what?

You think if just one thing happens you’ll be saved.

You think that the rest of the world doesn’t matter. If you don’t go there, it did not happen. But then the Saudis kill Khashoggi and then invest in Live Nation. You can’t escape it.

The scenes in captivity are brutal. You can barely watch them. Which is just the point. And we’re just that brutal in the U.S. We waterboard people. We’re two-faced. We abhor torture, cry foul and then we torture. Huh?

We’re all just people, trying to get along. Can we rely on others? Do they lie to us? How do you keep on going in a sea of duplicity?

The horrors they experience in this show are far beyond the ones we experience here. Oh, we have school shootings, but the answer for many is more guns! Don’t address the issue, look to its causation, just up the ante! But if a loved one dies in one of these senseless situations, you never ever get over it, you’re a member of the walking wounded, meanwhile there are people who deny the event ever happened! What next, you weren’t even born?

Now the reason HBO and streaming eclipsed network were because they employed a different model, Netflix most especially. When you try to reach the broadest number of people, you end up with something homogenized that most can’t even relate to. We have the same problem in music. Once the business people get involved, you’re screwed. If they could create the art, they would, but they can’t, so they lord it over you, the creator.

So, at this moment in time, if you want to feel human and connected, you’ve got to watch a TV show.

Hell, “Prisoners of War” nailed my divorce better than any other piece of art I’ve ever experienced. You see once you stop living together, your lives diverge. Sure, some people can get back to the garden, but most cannot. It’s just too hard, it doesn’t work anymore.

So the reason I even bothered to watch “Prisoners of War” is because it was rated the #1 international show of the last decade by “The New York Times.” Take a look, the vaunted “Killing Eve” is only #9. Fleabag is #13. “Money Heist” is #21. “Broadchurch” is #27! Wouldn’t you be interested in checking out #1? I mean what kind of show can top all of those?

One not like any of the above, even though some are great.

Yes, it’s subtitled. And as I said earlier, it can be unbelievably slow and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a television show with more violence. But you stick with it and it becomes part of your life. It’s no longer entertainment, you’re invested in the outcome. You can tell yourself it’s just a TV show when you get too scared or too anxious watching it, but it doesn’t work, because you care just that much!

So, “Prisoners of War” is a commitment. Don’t tell me you tried a few episodes and you think it’s crap. This is not hit and run, this is something more serious, you’ve got to dedicate yourself to the show, and when you do it’ll pay dividends.

Just like life.

“The 30 Best International TV Shows of the Decade – The 2010s saw a radical shift in the trade balance when it comes to television series. Our critic counts down the finest imports, from ‘Fleabag’ to ‘Strong Girl Bong-soon.'”


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