Frankly, in addition to seeing many of my friends being laid off (only some of whom were my co-workers at Verizon), the other people here at Hempstead Works appear to be highly motivated, intelligent and experienced. They can not, however, find a job. This is a ludicrous example of why lassez-faire does not work. Industry must, within boundaries, be regulated. There is no reason why CEO's should have salaries in the tens of millions (along with extremely lucrative bonuses for downsizing the workforce) while the Average Joe (me) has to scrounge about for a little change in order to get something off of the 99-cent menu at Wendy's (yes, I actually did this last night; I found that the MacDonald's had taken down their 99-cent menu from the drive-through, possibly because people were doing exactly what I did).
This feeling was further exacerbated by the job bank listings. A cursory examination of HotJobs.com will offer the viewer an interesting perspective. With eight million people looking for work, the employment postings are exceedingly stringent. They know they have the pick of the litter, and that they can pay peanuts because, well, to be honest, $6.00/hr is better than $0.00/hr.
I now know that unless a miracle occurs, I will be moving back in with my parents before the end of the month. My staunch position as an unrepentant atheist would imply that I have no hope. Unfortunately, I am still hanging on (as if for dear life) to the thread of hope that I may not have to sacrifice my apartment.
On the other hand, tomorrow at this time I will be lying on a beach in the Bahamas sipping some frozen drink with an umbrella in it. And even if I have to move back in with my parents, the arrangements will not be so horrible. I will have the basement in which I can set up my home theater (I might yet impress my mother with how Fleetwood Mac's Rumours sounds in DVD-Audio). If there is anything that the past few weeks have shown me about myself, I can live with less, but cinema and music are as basic to my needs as food, clothing and shelter. Luckily I have amassed a decent enough collection, and Blockbuster's DVD welfare program has offered plenty of distractions.
Some of my recent rentals have had some gems in there...
The Tailor of Panama stars Geoffrey Rush in the title role and Pierce Brosnan as an MI6 agent who uses the questionable information that Rush provides for his own ends. Jamie Lee Curtis is Rush's wife, and the film is very nicely shot in true anamorphic Panavision (none of that Super 35 nonsense) by Philippe Rousselot and wonderfully scored by Shaun Davey, whose work I am not that familiar with, but whose main theme is quite fun. This being a John Boorman film, the locations are colorfully chosen, and there is a spot of nudity here and there. The actors are obviously having a lot of fun playing against type (Brosnan, in particular, seems to be having a ball inverting his Bond image), and the whole enterprise is very entertaining.
Escape from Alcatraz with Clint Eastwood's immortal line, "Excuse me, do you think I could get another spoon? This one tastes like it's been up somebody's ass." Don Siegel directed a very taught suspense thriller that, if it is a bit short on character, is very good at generating tension.
The Manchurian Candidate is a film I had wanted to see for a very long time, and I had been watching as many John Frankenheimer films as I could. Except for Reindeer Games, which unfortunately was a little limp, there are few directors that can maintain the level of intensity that Frankenheimer can. I once thought his crowning directorial achievement to have been the detoxification sequence in The French Connection II, but now I must say that the two dream sequences in The Manchurian Candidate have supplanted it.
This is one hell of a thriller, at once a product of McCarthyism and also a sharp indictment of it as well. The three central performances are excellent; Frank Sinatra is suitably determined, Laurence Harvey manages to elicit sympathy from the audience while being a right bastard, and Angela Lansbury positively oozes evil from every pore (she has a perfectly-delivered speech towards the end of the film that will shock those only familiar with her in Murder, She Wrote and Beauty and the Beast). The top-billed Janet Leigh has little to do here, but James Gregory and John McGiver are fantastic as two senators at opposite ends of the political spectrum.
In addition to the aforementioned chilling dream sequences (in which the content of each shot oscillates between a New Jersey gardening club and an evil communist plotting - in different combinations), there are many sequences that command the viewer's attention. Lionel Lindon's sweaty black-and-white photography is perfect for this material.
I had wanted to see Enigma when it first came out, but the lackluster distribution that it had prevented that. I was able to catch up to it on the DVD, which has a great anamorphic transfer and rich 5.1 sound, but has absolutely no special features. This is a shame because the film, which is about the British code-breakers during World War II, is crackerjack suspense with strong characters and uniformly excellent performances by an enthusiastic cast, and it would have been nice to hear from director Michael Apted and/or screenwriter Tom Stoppard some of the creative process that went into it.
Dougray Scott is suitably expressive as the protagonist, and Kate Winslet is surprisingly mousy in her unflashy, but assuredly intelligent role. Jeremy Northam, however, as an intelligence agent, conveys competence along with a smarmy sleaze. Saffron Burrows is suitably sexy. John Barry's score is somewhat familiar but appropriate, and the production design by John Beard is instrumental in placing the viewer in the time period depicted. Mick Jagger and Lorne Michaels are, surprisingly, named among the producers.
Incidentally, this is a recent film in which Nic Raine orchestrated the score for John Barry. I guess that should put to rest any questions that people might have regarding how Barry feels about the series of albums of his music that Raine reconstructed and conducted for Silva Screen.
I can't help but also mention that the other night, I had a discussion with one of my professors about Sir Richard Francis Burton, and I came home and watched Mountains of the Moon. Why this film is so unknown can only be because of a lack of enthusiasm from Carolco and Tri-Star in promoting the film. What does it not have? Burton was certainly a larger-than-life person, but he was a real human being (much of the film is narrated by his actual journal writings, revealing him to be very much a man ahead of his time) whose exploits should be the stuff of movie legend. Indiana Jones has nothing on this guy. Furthermore, the film has elements of an epic adventure, a love story, a buddy film, a drama about loyalty... the list goes on.
I have heard people espouse the opinion that the film had faulty casting, but the amiable Patrick Bergin makes a fine Burton, in my opinion (and he looks like him, too), and Iain Glen is a most effective Speke... yes, he is a dandy, but he is also very competent (it is not to be forgotten that he hired Sidi Bombay). Delroy Lindo is fantastic as the sage-like Mabruki, as is Paul Onsongo as the loyal guide Sidi. The sequences in England take advantage of the ever-reliable stable of British stage actors, including Fiona Shaw as Isabelle Arundell (another uncanny resemblance between the actress and the historical person she plays), Richard E. Grant (How to Get Ahead in Advertising, Gosford Park, Withnail and I) as Speke's publisher, Oliphant, Peter Vaughan (Brazil, The Legend of 1900) as Burton's staunch ally Houghton and of course, the wonderful Bernard Hill (Drowning by Numbers, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers) as Dr. David Livingstone.
The film was director Bob Rafelson's dream project for a very long time, and in addition to its exceptional cast, it also has colorful photography by Roger Deakins, Michael Small's most lush and diverse score (which incorporates actual traditional music of the area, as performed by expert musicians) and production design by Norman Reynolds. The filmmakers were careful in the depiction of the native African cultures (Burton was the precursor to the modern anthropologist, remember, and stressed in his writings and many addresses to the Royal Geographical Institute the need to understand indigenous rituals and customs), and one of the film's many pleasures is seeing elements of now-extinct tribal practices.
Of course, it is, above all, an epic adventure with men being tested to the limits of their endurance.
The Artisan DVD (I have noticed that my copy, which is in widescreen, has been replaced with a full-screen edition which, since the film was hard-matted, crops plenty of information from the sides, which cuts in to the effect of many of the trek scenes and African vistas) has an anemic Dolby Surround track and is not 16:9 enhanced, and the only extra features are the trailer and a short featurette. This is a shame, because in addition to wanting to hear how Rafelson realized this project that he'd been planning for so long, both the trailer and the featurette feature sequences that were not in the final cut of the film that look very interesting. The film is relatively unknown, as I said, so the chances of a decent remaster would seem distant, although it was a dark horse release from Live Entertainment towards the waning days of the laserdisc format. Hopefully, one day we'll see the film released on a proper DVD, in anamorphic widescreen and with a 5.1 soundtrack (the surrounds are mostly dormant on the DVD, which is a shame given that the film's audio track displays all the elements of a state-of-the-art adventure film), and hopefully with a commentary track and deleted scenes.
Chalk it up to another wonderful DVD package I would design, should anybody be interested.
Hmmm... these typing tests are not necessarily the best method for gauging how well a person's output on a computer is. I just took another here, at Hempstead Works. Of course, they are all based around teaching somebody to type flawlessly on a typewriter, and as a result, I plan to copy one of these programs and hone my skills. If I can average about 55 raw WPM, and about 35 adjusted WPM, I think that with a little application I can bring my accuracy up, which would allow me to approach the speed I want.