I THOUGHT I HAD TAKEN EVERY precaution. No matter how many times the bank tellers ask me to insert my ATM card, I must always remind them I do not have one. Nor do I have a debit card. This was one of my decisions to protect myself. It is not that I think the bank has poor security protections, it is because I feel the passageway to get into their websites/portals is only protected by asking for my login and password. I chose not to do electronic banking, prefer instead face to face transactions at the bank. But besides banking, I did all the things that experts suggested one should do to protect their personal identity. I only use one specific charge card for any online purchases, and it has a security alert on it. The passwords I use are the ones that experts have suggested we use with upper and lower cases along with characters. I even pay bills the old-fashioned way with a paper check, envelope and stamp. With everything I do, I thought for sure it would be unusual for me to have any of my personal information stolen. Well, I was wrong because just recently I was the victim of identity theft. WHEN I RECEIVED THE OFFICIAL NOTICE that my unemployment benefits were approved, I was flabbergasted because I am still employed. Looking over the document, all the information was correct about my employer and my social security number. I decided to talk to my company’s HR department to find out what was going on. The next day with letter in hand, I happened to mention my situation to an employee who it turned out got the same letter. He told me several employees received the letter from unemployment and it was a scam. Along with the letter there was a debit card that needed to be activated. If I had activated it, the scammers would have known they scored, and I would have lost access to my savings. I could not believe how this happened to me, especially because of the things I denied myself as a layer of protection. The first thing I was instructed to do was to freeze my credit report. Next, I had to file a complaint with the FTC, the Federal Trade Commission. Filling out information on a government website for identity theft, I then filed a police report. When I walked up to the front desk of the police station, all I got to say was I had my identity stolen and the officer asked if it was the unemployment scam. It turns out they were familiar since they received multiple claims on it. Even with everything I did I still feel violated and vulnerable. Now having watched this action thriller, I am even more paranoid about my plight. UNBEKNOWNST TO LAWYER ROBERT CLAYTON DEAN, played by Will Smith (Gemini Man, Collateral Beauty), there was a reason why he was the target of a concentrated effort to attack and destroy his identity. With Gene Hackman (The French Connection, Runaway Jury) as Edward Lyle, Jon Voight (Midnight Cowboy, Runaway Train) as Thomas Brian Reynolds, Lisa Bonet (High Fidelity, Angel Heart) as Rachel F. Banks and Regina King (If Beale Street Could Talk, Ray) as Carla Dean; this film festival winner was a tense and thrilling film to watch. The action was exciting and intense as it set up a typical good vs bad scenario. The acting was fine for this type of picture; I totally enjoyed Gene and Will in their roles. Though there was nothing too deep in the script and character development was more of a bystander, this thrill ride of a movie was totally entertaining to me. And that is despite the subject being identity theft. I may have to revert to hiding cash in cans at my house.
REVENGE CAN BE THE perfect balm for scorned, hurt feelings. Before I grew up, give or take a decade or two, I was a master of revenge. Not having the insight to acknowledge my feelings or at least look unemotionally at the troubling event that initiated feelings of anger and hurt, I would immediately go on the attack; my goal was to inflict pain as quickly as possible on the person who “hurt” me, so they would feel as much pain as I was feeling. The beauty of revenge is that it floods the mind like a dam bursting open to wash away all of the brain’s thoughts. What replaces those thoughts is darkness and anger. It consumes the person, numbing their sadness. Plotting a way to hurt back the person who harmed you becomes a twisted pastime. Please keep in mind I am not referring to physically abusing another individual, nor am I promoting any form of physical pain on a person. My revenge experiences were more of a verbal and mind games nature. FROM FILM AND REAL life experiences I have seen a variety of ways people show their revenge. How many movies have we seen where two people in a car are fighting and one of them gets kicked out; at least I have seen this type of scene many times. There was a wedding I attended where during the reception a couple got into this huge shouting match. One of the combatants was making all of these derogatory remarks of a personal nature that made everyone around extremely uncomfortable. The two had to be escorted out of the ballroom. Another example of a person getting revenge can take place with couples in troubled love relationships. Let us say the issue is one of the partners took money out of their joint savings account to buy an extravagant item for themselves. To make up for the loss of funds the other partner may make an outrageous demand that would inflict some type of hardship on the “big spender.” I have always said if communication is not cemented into the foundation of a relationship, the life ahead will always be filled with landmines where feelings will get hurt and people may want to take revenge. The demand made in this biographical drama took everyone involved by surprise. WITH THEIR MARRIAGE IN trouble Deborah and Ron Hall, played by Renee Zellweger (My Own Love Song, My One and Only) and Greg Kinnear (Thin Ice, Flash of Genius), were at a crossroads until Deborah made an unusual demand on her husband. She not only wanted Ron to volunteer at the local food pantry, she wanted him to make friends with a violent, homeless man. Based on a true story this film also starred Djimon Hounsou (Guardians of the Galaxy, Gladiator) as Denver and Jon Voight (Woodlawn, Heat) as Earl Hall. The story was unique enough to keep me intrigued throughout the movie. I thought the cast did a good job, adding a certain chemistry of belief to the scenes. What bogged down the story however; was the heavy handedness used to force scenes to their emotional limit. The actual story was amazing, but what the writers and director did with the script was to make this syrupy, cloying emotional heaviness that did not sit well with me. I was not left with angry feelings by the end of the picture; it was more of sadness that such a good story, with a competent cast, was not treated well.
THE wait was not too long before the waitress brought us our orders. Similar sized plates were placed in front of us; mine had the food beautifully laid out with a row of shiny green vegetables stacked at one end and the main entrée sectioned apart to form a pinwheel effect. I am a visual eater which means if something does not look good to me I am not going to touch it. Keeping that in mind this is what I saw when I looked at my friend’s dinner plate. There was a mound of food in the middle that looked like it had partially melted. Globs of a white protein substance dotted the surface like oozing pustules. There were thin stringy noodles hanging down around the mound that reminded me of greasy hair. My friend took his fork and stabbed one of the white globs; I expected it to burst open like a pimple. I could not look at him putting it into his mouth. Instead I focused on my dinner, but was immediately told by him that I had to taste his dish. Explaining I did not like the look of it, he insisted and placed a spoonful of his food on my plate. Because I did not want it to contaminate my food and could not push it off, with his continued insistence I just tried it to shut him up; I closed my eyes and put it in my mouth. The flavor and taste was nothing I imagined; it actually tasted good. SURELY I cannot be the only one who looks at something and makes a decision based solely on its looks. If someone thinks sauerkraut looks disgusting, who is it hurting? But when this type of thought process is used to judge an individual, it takes on a whole different set of circumstances. Need I point out how many news reports have been showing violence against someone based solely on their looks? I may have an issue with how my food appears but it doesn’t affect anyone else. Seeing the amount of violence and hatred people have for other people is sickening to me. Having survived the taunts and abuse from individuals who did not like the way I looked has made me extra sensitive to being a witness to such things. This is why I had a challenging time watching this sports drama based on a true story. SMUGGLED out of his home in Iran Ali, played by George Kosturos (Caged No More, Christmas with the Karountzoses), found himself in a small California town just as the Iranian hostage crisis took center stage in the 1980s. How much safer would he be here? This film festival winning movie also starred Jon Voight (Heat, Deliverance) as Principal Skinner and William Fichtner (Black Hawk Down, Contact) as Coach Plyler. I found the story pretty incredible and started to believe George was the real Ali. As for the script I was disappointed at its predictability. It was written in a paint by number fashion where one could easily figure out what would happen next. As I mentioned earlier I had a hard time watching some of the action taking place around Ali; however, it kept me connected to the story since I could relate to it. Despite the predictability the message one could take away from this story is an important one. So much is done these days based on looks without taking the time to look inside.
2 ½ stars