Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Simple Freedom Is Never Simple

It costs you, often in ways you'll never expect.  And sometimes the price is worth it.  And sometimes it's not.  And sometimes it doesn't matter because you will never know the actual price you paid.

Taxes, for instance -- always there, no matter what, and they HAVE to be paid or you go to jail.  Which indicates a choice of either or.  BUT...apparently you can just make a partial payment and then the IRS will bill you for the rest (charging an interest rate they will determine at the time).  All well and good, since that's what I'll have to do...or go to jail.  So...worth the cost.

Who you get to DO your taxes...well, take a hint.  Do NOT use H&R Block.  They charged me $355 to give me not one, not two, not three...but FOUR different amounts that I owed the government.  Five if you include the changes I made (though that would be unfair).  If you're going to have someone do them, get a CPA or just do the straight deductions.  H&R Block will mess you up.  Definitely NOT worth the price.

(As a side note -- my CPA in LA charged a hell of a lot less and I never had a problem.  Not once.)

In regards to the never known costs...that has nothing to do with taxes, really.  This is just a rather awkward segue into discussing a movie I watched on Netflix (whose main cost is dealing with occasional hiccups when streaming a video through them, thanks to Verizon's Fios being so crappy).

The movie was "Brick" (2005) and it was interesting in so many ways.  A cute conceit -- high school kids caught in a "Maltese Falcon" style situation with dialogue that's just as tough and in-your-face -- and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who was fucking brilliant in it.  With the social strata prevalent in so many high schools being part of the cause behind the whole criminal situation.  There were also a couple of nice visual moments.

But here's the unknown aspect of its cost.  The writer-director was only adequate.  He didn't know screen direction.  Couldn't frame a shot in a way that would add to the story.  Didn't even know how to present his story in a clear fashion.  And did not get about 14 absolutely necessary moments...what we used to call obligatory scenes in film school (the moment when JG-L actually sees the girl's body in front of the drainage pipe, for example -- anyone with any sense would have known that's a shot on the actor reacting, NOT because it adds all that much to the story but because it adds so much to our identification with him and the development of his character).  But the movie still worked.  He didn't HURT things any...and having JG-L in the lead saved his bacon in so many ways.  That guy was just plain amazing.

The unknown cost comes from how much better the movie might have been if a truly talented director was at the helm.  One who had poetry in his soul.  Who cared about his actors.  Who knew what was and was not needed in the film.  Who could tell the rhythm of it.  I think of similar movies like...well, "The Maltese Falcon" and "The Big Sleep" and "Chinatown" and "The Third Man."  All of them made by men who could tap into the heart of the movie and make it sing with beauty and grace.  I think this little movie could have reached those heights...and I'm sorry that it didn't.

After I finished "Casque d'Or" I watched some home footage of the cast at work in an early pivotal scene.  During the commentary, the narrator said that when Simone Signoret was asked what it was like to work with Jacques Becker, she said, "It was like acting in a state of grace."  And that showed in the final product.  "Brick" could have used some of that.

It's not bad.  I do recommend it.  But it isn't often I can actually think of how great a script might have been had someone else been making it with the actors that had been cast.  "While You Were Sleeping" is one.  "The Last Time I Committed Suicide" is another (though this one I will NEVER recommend because the director so totally fucked it up, it's criminal).

So...the cost of having the freedom to get this story told was, essentially, having it told by an amateur...and the unknown cost of that can never be known.  More's the pity.

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