Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Eagle vs. Shark - review

I loved this film. It's a quirky romantic comedy about misfits that neatly avoids getting sappy. It actually is a great character study. One thing that stands out about the film is it's honesty and childlike innocence, I think. The characters, while sometimes pretty weird, feel very real to life. Even the supporting characters are pretty strong and quirky. It's a film where what ever comes next is always unexpected.

I had a chance to attend a Q&A with the New Zealand writer-director Taika Cohen (Taika Waititi) and star Loren Horsley. They met, along with the other lead actor, Jemaine Clement, at a college and became flatmates and good friends, going on to collaborate on numerous projects including a short film, Two Cars, One Night (2003) , which was nominated for an Oscar. In that same year their script for Eagle vs. Shark was chosen for the Sundance Director's and Screenwriter's Labs, and production started soon after.

Loren Horsley and Jemaine Clement were really quite good. They played their roles very honestly with deep characterizations. Taika is obviously a very good writer as well as director.

Friday, June 1, 2007

The Evil that Banks Do

Premise: Banks are The finance industry is inherently evil.

They trade on temptation, a tool of the devil (if you believe in that stuff). Nonetheless, they are evil. People get into debt head over heels because banks make it so easy to do so. Then the banks come along and act like these people who can't or won't pay their bills are the dregs of society.

And so they collect and sell loans to collectors and resell, and each time tacking on charges and fees. So, if you started out with a $20,000 school loan it's quite reasonable, in our society by and for the money wealthy, that you could owe the lenders 400% in interest charges accumulated over the years, and the interest charges keep on coming.

The banks will seize your possessions, cars, homes, bank accounts. They'll attach your wages. They use underhanded, illegal tactics, especially with those who can't afford a lawyer, because people can't fight back and banks can get away with it.

They're ingrained into the law and the 'less than rich' man or woman has no recourse. No recourse, but to pay and pay the rest of their lives because the debt hasn't been paid off and the interest must, by all means accumulate. the interest must never stop. Not death, war, or gloom of night shall stop the interest charges from accumulating. In fact war is a profitable venture so, by all means, fund it, at an acceptable interest rate, of course.

And so bankers of the world are the evilest of people. The root of all evil, indeed.

But, you say, it's a responsibility. You get into debt and you have to pay it back.

All fine and good. But, let's say you're from the poor side of town, or even the not so rich side. You want to go to college. If you don't go, your fucked. Shit jobs the rest of your life. If you do go, no choice but to borrow, and once again you're fucked, because now the bank owns your ass and you get a job good enough to both live and pay back the debt or else the interest rate piles it on.

And so the cycle continues. One slip up in the fabric of your fate and the debts don't stop coming. You have the college and you make the bucks. But, the debt sucks that all up.

On the other hand if the family is doing well, paying back the loan is no problem; or maybe you don't need that loan. Mom and dad are there for you. Lucky you. Fuck me.

It's a world by and for the rich. Fuck the poor. That's the evil. That's wrong. It's beyond simple self discipline and self control. Things are complex. It's never as simple as the picture you paint.

Take Mr. Pennypacker in It's a Wonderful Life. Typical heartless banker.

Now, here's a pop quiz. What business sanctioned as legitimate by law is also very popular as criminal enterprise. Hint: it has to do with money. Hence, people in this business could easily move between criminal and legal circles of this industry.

What's the difference between a vig and interest on a loan?

Now, I never said there shouldn't be banks. Why be so extreme. I just said they're evil. They need reform. They already have very heavy government regulation, although there's a lot of corruption, as we can see with Enron, Anderson Little, and other corporate high crimes, in their accounting and banking practices. The reason there is so much regulation is because of the great opportunity and temptation to abuse having access to everyone's money. If that abuse didn't exist, the regulations wouldn't need to be there. So, it is recognized by law that banks are potentially corrupt.

A lot of people who appear well off are in the same boat. They may use credit to buy a house, car, etc. Then when hard times hit they have to sell out or be foreclosed upon. It's the temptation that banks put out there making it easy to get loans and easy for them to foreclose and collect.

The bank concept is a good one in theory only. In practice it is to the bankers' advantage to see people get in over their heads so they can be foreclosed upon. They have an incentive to do that to people. It's money. Banks get to have the people pay on loans and when they can't they can resell the property for a nice profit. You could be paying a car loan and have one payment left, but if you can't make that one payment the bank will repossess it and resell it at a nice profit. They don't want to work with people.

Banks also will fee people out the ass. If you bounce a check, the bank may have a policy to re-post the check 3 more times to see if it will be paid. If it continues to bounce they charge a $30 overdraft every time. So, one bounced check will rack up $90 for the bank. Then if the person has other checks out, their account becomes too low to pay those checks and each one racks up another $90. Nice work for bankers who do nothing but sit on their fat asses and collect.

Why do I have an issue with banks? They have their greedy fingers in everyone's money. No other industry has the power to deduct a bill or fees directly from your own bank account without so much as a notice. Whether the charges are legal or justified is besides the point. People earn money and should have the right to decide when and if they want to pay someone, including their own bank. They should have the right to question and refuse to pay someone if they disagree with the bill. But, with bank fees there's no recourse. The banks take it out of your account and may as well say 'fuck you sucker, we're taking this fee' while they're at it. This is morally and constitutionally wrong.

In the case of poor people or someone who has gotten into a bind, they are the ones who suffer the most. Banks operate on the premise that everyone has money in their accounts so a few little deductions here and there won't matter. They can't fathom the concept that some poor guy might be down to his last ten dollars before next week's paycheck and that ten dollars might be the difference between buying food to survive for another week or not. No bank would give a flying fuck. They let the guy die rather than asking before they deplete his money.

Banks and people in the finance industry live in a world of oblivion to life itself. To them everything is based on money. They have the power and sometimes the law and so they don't care who gets hurt. They take what they feel is right with complete disregard.

Networking: How to kiss up your way to nowhere

This whole networking thing is really kind of an obtuse way of doing things, isn't it? I mean, you're just haphazardly meeting people and making friends and some like you, some don't, some don't care or know you from Adam - most in fact. Talk about a crap shoot.

Even successful people don't stay successful based on just networking. Certainly it helps to know people. But, you're only as good as your last film. If that's a flop, then networking is a liability. Better to stay low.

I saw a biography on Brando recently. He didn't network. He just went to dance classes looking for girls. People came to him because he was talented. He didn't network. Didn't have to. End of story.

How about if you're not all that hot. You're just another mildly talented writer. You can cut the mustard, but nothing to have a ticker tape parade over. So, you use networking as your crutch to just happen to be at the right place, at the right time. It could work.

So, that's really it, isn't it? You're too lazy to get good and get noticed for being talented and you think hanging around the right people will get you a consolation prize. How many scripts have you written? Five, ten, twenty? How long have you been at it? Two? Five years? Try ten. That's the going standard. Try writing a hundred screenplays. Try being worth something and not just another kiss up wannabe.

From what I've seen and read about truly successful people is that they're talented. That's why they're successful. That's why networking works for them. In fact, it's people who clamor to network with them, not the other way around. It's also true that they didn't get there by networking. They got there by working their asses off and learning how to write, act, direct or whatever. 99% perspiration. Networking. Ha! It's the symptom, not the prescription.

But wait, you say. You've been networking around for years now and it finally did pay off. You made friends along the way and eventually just by knowing people you got better and better jobs, and now you finally got that big one. Oh but you were also working your ass off all those years getting better and better at what your do, nurturing your talent, getting mentored. So then, what was it that made you a success, the networking or the hard work?

What happens when you're down? How about if you develop a drug habit? Is all that networking going to save your ass? Maybe some close friends will help. But, mostly people will avoid you like the plague. Back to Brando. He got full of himself at one point and no studio wanted to touch him. The networking was a liability. Everyone knew he was a hot head and wanted nothing to do with him. But, then Coppola came along and did a screen test with him for the Godfather and Brando was suddenly reinvented. Back on top. How? Networking? Coppola? No. It was talent. When you look at that screen test you see his awesome talent, like no other actor could ever pull off. Talent. That's what you need and what you need to develop.

Networking means nothing more than who you know. Everyone knows people. Six degrees of separation. If you're good at something, Kevin Bacon will hear about it and the world will be at your door. Build a better mouse trap.

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