Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Scam

I was the target of an IRS impersonation scam. A female robot called me to inform me that I was the target of an IRS invesitigation, and that if I didn't call them right away, I might be subject to arrest. I heard a local phone number, repeated twice. So I called it.

An E. Indian/Pakistani gentleman answered the phone. He told me that I had been the subject of a fraud investigation, and that, after my taxes had been audited for the years 2008-2011, that I had underpaid taxes, and that there would be late fees and other penalties associated with the original underpayment. I asked why I had not received a letter from the IRS. He explained that, in cases of fraud, the IRS never sent out letters. He said if I didn't pay right now, an arrest warrant would be issued, and I could do jail time.

My response: "BULLSHIT"

I've made mistakes on my taxes, I've received letters within months of the screwups that I owed money, and I paid promptly. This is how I know - they don't wait seven years to audit you, they go after you the moment you slip up.


So I asked him who he was, and he responded, "My name is John Anderson, my badge number is 95105". Again, this is a guy who sounds like Apu from The Simpsons. John Anderson, really?

Of course, my memory not being perfect, the first thing that sprang to mind was Neo from The Matrix (his real name was actually Thomas A. Anderson, not John). Checking IMDB, I find out that I'm not far off, John Anderson is listed on Neo's "file" as his father. So I was close.

I reported this to the Federal Trade Commission, and I've tried to report it to the IRS, but their reporting form has a cgi-lib bug, or they don't know how to tell you to only use letters or numbers in a particular field. I suppose if I really want to report him, I'll have to call the IRS and wait through an endless voice jail.

Welcome to Wednesday!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Top 25, or, How Dumb Have We Become

This is not meant as a pejorative, or if it is, it's meant in humor, but what the heck has happened to us as a community of filmmakers? What do we value, or what are we hoping to create?

Here's where I'm coming from: on Real Time with Bill Maher last week, he made an interesting point, and one that no one on the panel wanted to talk about (including director Kathryn Bigelow) - the all-time champions in top-grossing movies (adjusted for inflation, that is) are adult-themed films, with a few blockbusters thrown in for good measure. They include Gone With The Wind (still number one!), The Sound of Music, Doctor Zhivago, and so on. Yes, Star Wars is in there, as is Avatar, but when you consider that Gone With The Wind was released in only a few theaters at a time, and played for an entire year at most locations, that's pretty darned impressive. Of the top-25 films of all time, unadjusted for inflation, all but one or two have a wizard, an alien, a robot, or a superhero in them. Titanic is one without any of the above, and yet still manages to take a true event and add an a-historical, poorly-written romance novel over a plethora of potentially more interesting true stories. But I digress.

Yes, the potential audience plays a part in what we create. The times, also, play a large part of what we go and spend money on. Theater tickets are more heinously expensive than ever. And, in some ways, it's wonderful that Marvel is having such a great run for their money. Nerds have generally had to settle for what are often the cheesiest versions of their childhood heroes (anyone remember the direct-to-video classic, Dollman, featuring Tim Thomerson?). But at the same time, all these movies with blockbuster costs are causing many other movies to end up relegated to the streaming market, or direct-to--dvd. Great, so-called "small" movies have to fight for eyeballs, fight for box-office. Movies like "Selma" get relegated to the TL;DR pile, practically before they're released. "Too serious" is a major flaw...?

Personally, I'm really happy that Takashi Miike is remaking old classic samurai films, and may create new original samurai classics - he certainly knows that genre really, really well. And David Simon's efforts on HBO are always welcome, since he treats me as if I have an attention span, and the ability to remember things.

You know, like an adult.