I don’t trust anyone, not even myself.
First let me say, “Thank you” to you and Natalie for inviting me to be a guest blogger on The Moth Chase. I feel quite confident that I am the least academic writer that TMC has had. I have only one degree, and while I am very proud of it, I am sometimes worried that I will get a letter that says, “Mr. Reklis, after reviewing your college transcript, we have realized that you probably just faked it for about 3 and half years and then cruised through a light load in Communications. We are going to have to take your degree away.” Anyways, I am happy that because I joined in the chorus of boos (actually not so much “boo” as, “We’re disappointed in you! You can really do better!”) in the comment section of your and Natalie’s Dexter posts, I was invited to write about Luck.
One more thing before I dive into the pilot: I would consider myself under qualified to talk about David Milch and Michael Mann. I have not seen Deadwood (yet) and I have only seen Mann’s Public Enemies, which I thought was really good. Kathryn, I know that you watched and loved Deadwood, so I will defer to you for any comparisons to previous work (if that is something that needs to be covered).
Now, let’s talk about the show. I don’t know about you, but I know almost nothing about horse racing. And, I honestly don’t care that I don’t know anything about it. So, when I found myself extremely excited about watching the horse racing (especially the second race), I had a good feeling about this show. I think tagging us along with the gang of lovable yet damaged gamblers helped quell some of the confusion that comes from knowing so little about horse racing. The two less-than-intelligent members of the gambling crew keep asking questions like, “What’s going on? How’s he running? Who do we want to win?. Is the 2 drifting out or the chalk, now?” These guys make me feel good about being somewhat out of the loop. But, I also like how the show doesn’t seem to care that its audience might not know exactly what is going on. The storytelling and cinematography can carry your attention while you learn about this world of racing/gambling. And learning everything about this world, from the dark roller coaster ride that gambling addicts are on to the mafia style world that Dustin Hoffman seems to be returning to from prison, seems to be the point of the show. And, so far, I am intrigued.
So while I’m trying to learn about this world, here is a short list of things I need to learn/questions I have about horse racing/gambling:
– Jargon (both horse and gambling related. ie. what’s a furlong? What does drifting out mean?)
– How to understand a cajun accent.
– How to understand Escalante’s thick accent.
– If most jockey’s are very small men because of the benefits of their size, why aren’t their more female jockeys like the cute Irish jockey who convinces our rag-tag group of gamblers that that one horse is definitely going to win? Is it a sexist thing? Or do women just not like riding horses really fast?
– Where can I get one of the leather jacket’s with a star emblem on the back like Leon the cajun has? I could really practice my John Stamos if I had one of those.
I really enjoy how they showed that everybody is involved in the gambling. Obviously the career gamblers that win the Pick 6 are there just for the gambling. But, Escalante the trainer tries to rig the odds on his own horse, so he can win more money. The sports commentator that we see after the first race (played by real life columnist and a regular on ESPN Around the Horn, Bill Plaschke) talks about the Pick 6 in the booth. The security guard tries essentially launder money with the career gamblers. The agent (played very well by Richard Kind) has bets placed. It’s a good realization of how deep the gambling culture runs.
Another major part of the world is obviously the horses. And with horses and horse racing, comes horse euthanasia. About halfway through the episode, Nick Nolte’s character brings up a horse who had been put down. It felt like a warning, “Remember, horses die in horse racing. This is a show about horse racing. Horses are going to die on this show.” And then, 15 mins or so later, a horse breaks it’s leg (a moment that seemed inevitable, but still made me grab for my own ankle and cringe). Obviously, the scene was quite sad, but it didn’t feel like they were trying too hard. I thought the Sigur Rós song playing was appropriately dramatic while not being too sappy. And for as many shots of creepy horse eyes this episode had (and there were a lot), the shots of the horse’s eyes during the injection were not at all creepy, maybe even touching.
As we get to know more about all of these characters, I am sure that I will have more analytical things to say, but right now it seems like just trying to keep up while watching some really beautiful moments.
Great lines and other notes:
– The opening line of the show, “OK.” Dustin Hoffman to The Greek. What a great way to let you know the pacing of the show. It’s like they are saying to the audience, “Hang on, we’ll tell you the back story later.”
– “The Greek” it’ll take a while for me to disassociate this from The Wire.
– “For 2 million dollars, you got some plain head on you.” Escalante to a horse.
– “That cajun can pump.” Cute Irish Jockey (IMDB says her name is Rosie) about Leon. How’s that for double entendre foreshadowing?
– “How you gonna fuck him up? That’s what he eats.” Escalante to the Greek about feeding the horse.
– They addressed the reality of needing a new shirt when you rip off all the buttons in a fit of rage. Luckily, Dustin Hoffman has friends who supply him with a driver who will take him to a high-end clothing store through the back entrance. Who doesn’t have a friend like that?
– Jerry sings “America, the Beautiful” after they win the Pick 6. He is living his own personal American Dream. Why didn’t Obama mention that part of the dream in his State of the Union?
– The closing scene with Hoffman and The Greek had some wonderful POV shots with Hoffman’s feet just in the frame. I thought this was really cool. There is something about the way old men move their feet in dress socks that is kind of fascinating to me. It reminded me of Dad (for those who don’t know, Kathryn is my sister). Have you ever noticed this? Or is this some weird Freudian thing about following in my father’s footsteps that is coming to light?
– All of the racing shots were great. I am really curious on how you could plan out shots with so many racing animals.
Looking forward to hearing what you think!