Direct Wha?

I’ve about had it with my temporary employment agency. I just got the hard copy of my pay stub today, which was direct deposited last Friday. In the envelope was a notification that they will be discontinuing direct deposit after the next pay date.

Um, excuse me? Bah!

Update: Well, the good news is I called the office and it turns out that this is only temporary while the company switches banks.

The bad news is I misread the notice and it turns out that paycheck was the last one to be direct deposited, so I’ll have to take the one from a few days ago to the bank. Since I wasn’t here on Friday when it came, I still currenly have almost no money in my account. Also, what kind of notice is that? Why is it so hard for them to switch their accounts? And why did the notice make it sound like direct deposit was permanently ending? Sigh.

Adaptation redraws line between fact and fiction

I’m not sure how much I can say about Adaptation. It’s an extremely bizarre film that mixes real elements with imagination in a way that makes my head spins. There is some description of the plot, but I don’t think there are really spoilers. However, if you prefer to go into this movie without any idea of what it’s about, please don’t read any further.

Charlie Kaufman is a real screenwriter. His brother, Donald, is fictional. Susan Orlean is a real author, and she really did write The Orchid Thief about John Laroche, another real person. There is even a weblog about the movie on Orlean’s web site, written by Jason Kottke, a real guy who does not appear in the movie whatsoever.

It seems that Kaufman was actually hired to write a screenplay of The Orchid Thief and found himself in the same quandry that appears in the movie. This was mentioned in several reviews. The resulting film is not entirely unexpected from the author of Being John Malkovich.

Parts of the movie reminded me uncomfortably of myself. The Kaufman portrayed on screen fumbles through life, unable to reach for what he really wants. His self-doubt drives him crazy. He speaks of how nothing really happens in life, something I found depressing because I currently feel like it’s true.

That feeling aside, the movie makes some rapid turns thereafter that show Kaufman that quite the opposite is true. He thinks that no one in the book is changed, but that is because Orlean did not put the whole story in her book. Kaufman turns to his brother for advice, and Donald arrives in NYC to help him with the screenplay. Masquerading as Charlie, Donald decides that she is not telling the truth and leads Charlie on a madcap pursuit to uncover the real story. From there, the movie gets even weirder.

Adaptation will provide you with no end of food for thought. It is operatiing on so many levels that I cannot begin to process it right now. The only thing I am sure about is that now I want to read The Orchid Thief. I can’t quite say why, but I suggest you watch the movie and see what you get out of it. Maybe write back and tell me. ;)

White Oleander blooms beautifully

There isn’t a whole lot I can say about White Oleander. I think that it upheld the spirit of the book very well. One of the DVD featurettes indicated that the author was involved in the production of the movie, so that would probably explain that. Michelle Pfeiffer, Renee Zellweger, Robin Wright Penn, and Svetlana Efremova were great as Astrid’s “mother” figures, and Alison Lohman did a stunning job portraying Astrid through her journey to free herself from her mother’s pull and discover who she is. She manages to convey a huge range of emotions and span years of Astrid’s childhood.

It’s a fairly depressing book and the movie is no different, but it ends on a note of hope. If you like that kind of thing, be sure to pick this movie up.

Birthday Girl holds a few surprises

I was intrigued by Birthday Girl when I first saw it advertised, but I wasn’t sure if it would really be any good, so I didn’t see it in the theaters. I did rent it recently, though, and I liked what I saw.

Nicole Kidman was haunting as a Russian woman who speaks no English when she arrives in England to meet Ben Chaplin’s complacent and sweetly foolish Englishman.

Birthday Girl was dark, funny, and had a bit of a twist in the end. It’s not the most profound cinematic experience ever, but a solid piece of entertainment. I didn’t quite expect the depth of entaglement that resulted, but it was a nice surprise.

The Matrix Reloaded

We saw The Matrix Reloaded last Wednesday, the day before its supposed opening. A curious move on the part of the studios and theaters, but one that works for me!

It was not as unique as the first film, of course. That was a one-time shot. Aside from a couple over-extended fight scenes and the disappointing choice of brand placement in the car choice, I was highly entertained.

Spoilers, of course, may will follow.

On the Road

From the Huh? Department:
Deathwish Piano Movers

From the Wishful Thinking Department:
Billboard for the new VW SUV that said “What potholes?”

From the Ain’t English Great? Department:
Road sign at the NJTP toll plaza: Reduce Speed, Get Ticket
Slogan on a Paul Arpin truck: Creating Customers for Life

The Emperor’s Club: No club, but lots of ethical dilemmas

When I first heard about The Emperor’s Club, I figured it was just a rip-off of Dead Poet’s Society. It takes place in a similar setting, club versus society, come on! However, I decided to rent it anyway and was pleasantly surprised with an extremely thought-provoking movie about ethics, morals, and virtue. I’m still wondering about the title, though. It’s based on a novella called The Palace Thief which doesn’t make a whole lot more sense to me, but “thief” seems to go with the movie better. There was no discernable club in the film, only a class, so I’m left mystified. However, there is much more to this movie than the title.

The main character, William Hundert, is a teacher at St. Benedict’s Academy for Boys. He is asevere, upstanding man, devoted to Greek and Roman history and “molding the character” of his young students. That is, until Sedgewick Bell comes along. Bell is amischievous, yet charismatic, slacker, attending the Academy on his father’s merit as a United States Senator. Hundert sees intelligence and potential in the boy and attempts to foster it by encouraging him to study for the Mr. Julius Caesar academic competition in western civilization. In this endeavor, Hundert compromises some of his ideals.

These compromises spark an investigation of the slippery slope our nation is headed down, with particular emphasis on polititions. Bell and his father are of the school of thought that the ends justify the means. This is in contrast to the Academy’s motto, “The beginning determines the end.” I like the juxtapostion of those two statements. Is it true that cheating and lying are okay if you get what you want, or will being acheater and liar ultimately lead you to what you deserve. More to the point, even if the former is better for personal gain, and the latter isn’t really true, since life isn’t fair, how do we want to live our lives? We aim for high ideals, but are so often distracted by temptation.

The rest of the review may contain spoilers. You have been warned.

My only real problem with Kevin Kline’s character is the pompous accent that he takes on at times. It seemed a bit overdone to me. Luckily, the overbearing properness of his character is tempered at times, such as the scene in which he plays baseball with the boyss and hits the ball through the headmaster’s car window. The look on his face as he decides to follow the boys in running for cover is classic. On a more serious note, Hundert’s flaws are also revealed, which relieves some of the overbearing nature of his character.

I was left wanting to know more about his revelation to Martin Blythe that he gave his place in the competeition to Bell. That decision was the major compromise to his integrity, since it was the one that he chose all by himself. Ignoring Bell’s cheating in the first competition was at the order of the headmaster, who was more interested in the funding that Bell’s father was providing. Ignoring Bell’s cheating om the second competition was more a realization of failure and an interest in protecting the library that Bell’s gift would provide. Allowing Bell to enter the competition, even though he knew that Blythe had the better scores was a private judgement and one that haunted him for the rest of the movie. I wasn’t sure that he would confess to Blythe, and I think that knowing Blythe’s opinion of his professors’s mistake would have been important. It seems that Blythe forgave him in the scene where he drops his son off at school, but I would have liked a more detailed response, given the significance of Hundert’s action in his life.

Livejournal User plugin

I wanted to make a macro that would detect ljuser:foo and change it into the pretty little thing that Livejournal does that gives you a link to the user’s userinfo page and journal. Unfortunately, I’m clueless about regular expressions, so instead, I copied the asin plugin and hacked it into a plugin that does what I want. See corvus.