CB Reviews “Watchmen”: It’s A Smiley Face Turned Upside-Down!

It’s really bad when the state of humanity hinges on a bunch of pseudo-sadomasochists parading around as costumed heroes who haphazardly decide to save the world for mere kicks and giggles.  This is the twisted sense of humor and entire point of the mystery adventure Watchman.

This 2009 American superhero film is based on DC Comics’ award-winning, limited series graphic novel (1986-1987) illustrated by Dave Gibbons. Zack Snyder, who is famous for the adaptation of the 300 graphic novel, directed the movie. And Lawrence Gordon (Die Hard), Lloyd Levin (United 93) and Deborah Snyder (300) had a hand in producing it.  However viewers should not expect the same level of cinematic beauty or the type of compelling storytelling in Watchmen that Snyder showed us was possible in 300. Instead, the long and needlessly drawn out film, which lasts a restless 2 hours and 43 minutes, has the audience wishing for their own superhero powers to teleport themselves out of the theater.

Watchmen begins in the year of 1985, and tells the tale of a group of former vigilantes who used to dress up as superheroes. Although the somewhat-counterfeit crime fighters have “retired,” a couple of them decide to pay attention to the nuclear threat (read: end of world scenario) and tension between the United States and Russia.

The stakes are high but the audience’s investment in the protagonists or their success is relatively low. This weak story drags on for a full hour and forty minutes and consists of confession after confession from weary and depressed individuals who must decide if they are really going to solve the weak mystery, which is somehow connected to the complete obliteration of mankind (for the remaining hour).

smile

And here is where this artificial set of superheroes is exposed. Aren’t most superheroes like Superman concerned with unnecessary violence and killing people? Don’t most champions of justice risk their lives to save others and humanity? And don’t all superheroes have a special power or two that us mere mortals could only dream of?

On these accounts, viewers could legitimately question whether the movie had any bona fide superheroes at all. The protagonists, with the exception of the neon blue Dr. Manhattan, actually lacked any “real” or perceived super powers. Manhattan (Billy Crudup) can see into the future and teleport himself all over the universe after a science lab mistake. Next to him, the other hero hopefuls are pretty laughable. Heck, all they want to do is fight for fun and stave off boredom.

And speaking of characters, there were only a few that are truly memorable. There was the demented and bloodthirsty Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), whose street name was Walter Kovacs. Although his journal accounts provide the framework for the story, the inkblot masked Rorschach’s killing scenes will make the audience wonder if the film was written or produced by Quentin Tarantino.

And then there’s Laurie Jupiter (Malin Akerman), whose action hero’s name is Silk Spectre II. She had only one bona fide power — her drop dead gorgeous looks that captured the attention of her fellow superheroes. Other than a decent left hook and a swift kick, she disappointed the audience who expected a more Wonder Woman-like performance due to their close resemblance achieved through casting, makeup and wardrobe. (more…)




More Kindle Love But Not from Stewart of “The Daily Show”

As many of you know (from an earlier post), I really want a Kindle. Although I’m a big booklover, I’d love to have my entire library at my constant disposal. Major Kindle bonus!! Well, Jeff Bezos of Amazon (& Kindle maker) appeared on The Daily Show recently to tout the Kindle 2. Jon Stewart couldn’t quite get with the idea of cozing up to a Kindle at night or the whopping $359 cost. (Oh yeah, and the electronic books cost $9.99). Nevertheless, I still want one. (Maybe graduation gift??) Check out the video.

Smooches,
The Caramel Bella

P.S. You can get one here.




CB Reviews: “Immigrants and Boomers”: An Enlightened View of Immigration & Demographics

immigrants-and-boomers

The current state of America’s priorities and challenges can be summed up by looking at one place: the negotiations surrounding the 2009 Obama Economic Stimulus package. This plan, totaling nearly $790 Billion, aims to help revive the struggling economy, while laying a heavy financial burden on future generations to pay for. Democrats and Republicans battled over which financial expenditures in the areas of education, technology, health care, energy and infrastructure, will likely yield the greatest number of jobs, fix the economy and secure America’s future.

These competing priorities are at the heart of the Dowell Myers’s book, “Immigrants and Boomers: Forging a New Social Contract for the Future of America.” In this treatise, Myers argues that a new intergenerational contract needs to be created between retiring Baby Boomers and newly arrived immigrants to solve our economic and demographic challenges. Myers describes it as a “social contract of intergenerational support,” which is “based in intergenerational transfers of resources through the mediums of taxation and social expenditure.”

Quite simply, Myers proposes a more enlightened view of immigrant arrivals and the challenges that it presents to America. Instead of thinking of immigrants in what he describes as a “Peter Pan” way, whereby they remain stuck in an infancy stage of assimilation, he challenges the voting public to consider a picture of immigrants who have evolved, developed and contribute greatly to society. It is these immigrants (in addition to the native born) that will become the taxpayers of the future who will provide the financial support to the elderly Baby Boomers. In essence, the immigrants of today will pay for the Social Security, pensions and health care of aging Boomers. Subsequently, it is in our shared best interest to invest in education and assist in the integration and assimilation of our foreign born entrants.

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New Wish List Item: Kindle 2

Okay… I want one – a Kindle 2, that is! If you haven’t noticed, I’m a bit of a tech nerd. I love technology, especially when it can improve my life. At first, I was really apprehensive about the Kindle, a wireless book reader because I love books. There is something wonderful about the smell of them and the weight of books (and magazines) in your hand. And the cost of $359 seems a bit pricey. Then, an author friend of mine told me the best benefit ever — the ability to take your library with you to the beach. That sold me instantly. I live near the beach and often wish I had brought a certain magazine or book with me during my many trips to gaze at the ocean. Engadget did this great post about the new Kindle (as did Fast Company).  Here’s the video.

Is the Kindle 2 on your wish list? If not, why?

The Kindle goes on sale February 24th. Get one here:

Smooches,
The Caramel Bella




CB’s Review: “The Devil’s Highway”: A Hellish Journey

devils-highway-2

Do you know what it’s like to be so excited about a story that you run to tell everyone you know about it? And in your excitement, you may repeat yourself a lot. Or you may tend to over-explain something that may be relatively obvious to others. Or perhaps, the story is so emotionally titillating that you relay it a bit out of order and in an incoherent manner at times. Or even worse, can you remember being so thrilled by your story that you even give away the ending first? Luis Alberto Urrea makes all of these mistakes in his zest to tell the story of the Yuma 14, the Mexican immigrants, who died in 2001 while attempting to cross the brutal Arizona desert in The Devil’s Highway.

Although delivered in a confusing and long-winded manner, author Urrea spends 220 pages describing the complex illegal immigration and border situation between the United States and Mexico through the story of the Wellton 26 (also known as the Yuma 14). Seeking to explain the multilayered, multifaceted elements of illegal immigration, Urrea, a reporter, presents a multitude of viewpoints and characters to reflect the complexity of the issue. From Border Patrol accounts to the walkers who braved the desert to the coyotes and guides who smuggled them across the border, Urrea haphazardly presents their stories, which are often left incomplete.

His kaleidoscope storytelling begs the reader to organize and assemble the facts and information on his or her own into a comprehensible and moving tale of the 14 economic migrants who died during their walk across the “Camino del Diablo” and the 12 others who narrowly escaped death.

Somewhere in Urrea’s attempt to provide a full picture of the tragedy of the Mexican immigrants who got lost in the Southwestern desert, he forgot that his readers understand the very meaning of the word “desert” – hot areas that receive very little precipitation. He repeatedly describes, and often over-describes, the Arizona desert and its harsh conditions. The only thing left for him to do was to provide additional maps throughout the book to correspond with the number of descriptions of the terrain. And yes, that would be overdoing it.

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Getting Organized as a Freelancer
Hardnick's Self-Help

Chris Hardnick's Self-Help Wall

Like many of you that read my blog, I am also a “freelancer.” The wikipedia defines freelancer as a “person who pursues a profession without a long-term commitment to any particular employer.” I would define it as a person who seeks an alternative workstyle based on their creative pursuits and talents, while marketing and selling those skills to a world market. This person is simultaneously an employee and employer/manager. That’s a big job. This year I am seeking to do a better job of managing my time in order to produce the best creative output possible. In other words, I want to become more organized!

So, with those intentions in mind (also: be on the lookout for a post about intentions), I read Wired.com’s “Diary of a Self-Help Dropout: Flirting With the 4-Hour Workweek” written by Chris Hardnick (of the blog Nerdist). Basically, Hardnick decided to test out the works of several organization and time-management gurus on behalf of freelancing individuals everywhere. He reviewed David Allen’s Getting Things Done, also known by its shorthand of GTD. He also checked out Julie Morgenstern’s Never Check E-Mail in the Morning, and Timothy Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek.  (BTW: Don’t you love Hardnick’s post-it wall!)

Although I don’t want to spoil the ending (because you should really read the piece), it appears as though freelancers have to create their own organization system that best suits our individual needs. I’m personally developing and redeveloping my own workflow and time-management system. It’s a dynamic process for me. I’m trying to incorporate new methods that not only bring out my best organization but greatest creativity as well.

I’m trying out new things like Julia Cameron’s The Artist Way’s morning pages, in which you write three pages in long-hand first thing in the morning. And thanks to my new twitter buddy @YMIB (the developer of a fantastic web site called YMIB.com), I am now writing down ideas that I have in the bathroom and in the bedroom in cleverly placed notebooks in those areas. (And it’s working!) I’m feeling more productive and creative. And better yet, I’m having an abundance of creative ideas, which goes along with my intention for 2009 (more on that to come).

So, check out Chris Hardnick’s piece on Wired.com. And start working on your own personal workflow to create more organization, time-management and productivity in 2009. Please send comments, suggestions and what’s working for you. I’d love to repost them!

Smooches,

The Caramel Bella




“The Secret Life of Bees” is Sticky Sweet

A meaningful glimpse into the racism that haunted the prejudicial times of the 1960s manages to permeate the sticky sweet The Secret Life of Bees. Adapted from Sue Monk Kidd’s 2002 bestselling novel of the same name, the film transports the viewer to South Carolina in 1964, only days before the Civil Rights Act was passed.

The movie begins with 14-year-old Lily, played by Dakota Fanning, awakening from a flashback memory of accidentally shooting her mother. Lily’s life is pretty dismal. She lives with her abusive father, T. Ray (Paul Bettany), and her only real friend is the hired help (read: mammy), Rosaleen (Jennifer Hudson).

The Secret Life of Bees is a story about self-discovery and the complicated nature of love. Tired of being abused and seeking answers about her dead mother, Lily with mammy-in-tow, heads to Tiburon, South Carolina, to locate clues about her mother’s past.

In the small Southern town, Lily and Rosaleen uncover information about Lily’s mom and discover the world of three beekeeping sisters, August (Queen Latifah), May (Sophie Okonedo) and June (Alicia Keys) Boatwright. It’s a world that Rosaleen later described as where “the outside don’t come in.”

Safe from her abusive father, Lily finds comfort and love with August and the other Boatwright sisters. Lily says, “I feel like this is where I’m supposed to be.” The somewhat idealized matriarch, August, gives Lily her heart and a couple of lessons on life, love and beekeeping. She tells Lily: “Don’t be afraid. Don’t be an idiot. Don’t swat the bees. And to send the bees love because everything wants to be loved.”

The need to be loved and the power of self-discovery are strong themes throughout the movie and encapsulate Lily’s story. “After bringing the outside in,” several characters, even Rosaleen, undergo transformation through self-discovery and the love of others.

The honey-sweet plot isn’t completely predictable and provides a look into the racism and prejudice of the 1960s. While many of the movie’s problematic racial incidents were solved a little too easily, Bees aptly showcases the complicated relationships between blacks and whites, the help and the helped.

Dakota Fanning’s performance as Lily is captivating—bringing to life a character that is simultaneously endearing, sad, hopeful, openhearted and a bit naïve. Fanning’s portrayal of Lily has the audience rooting for her character to solve the “mother puzzle” and get some love. Queen Latifah, as August, uses her best and most believable Southern accent. Yet, as a matriarch, she’s almost too perfect. Alicia Keys, playing a stubborn woman who almost let love slip away, and Sophie Okonedo, portraying the most challenging sister, May, whose big heart causes her to suffers emotionally are both stellar.

As the title reveals, Lily discovers herself, love and life’s stings. And while uncovering the love of her dead birth mother, she gains the love of three mothers in the Boatwright sisters.

Although the movie is a little “honey” sweet at times, it outshined its sappiness with great acting, heartwarming scenes, memorable writing and an vantage point into the troubled times of the 1960s.




Bad Economy = Big Book Bucks

Perhaps there is one silver lining on the Wall Street financial crisis. According to a recent Associated Press story, books about America’s big money troubles are making the big bucks.

Nancy Sheppard, the vice president of marketing at Viking publishing told AP: ”When the world seems to be ending, people still turn to books for help.”

Viking published the Amazon best selling Bad Money: Reckless Finance, Failed Politics, and the Global Crisis of American Capitalism by Kevin Phillips. Like the title implies, the book discusses a new phenomenon called “bad money” in which the U.S. is dependent on the global economy and makes a series of risk miscalculations with financial products. Does this sound familiar?

Another Amazon best-seller is Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. Her book talks about the economic policy decisions that politicians were able to pull off because of natural disasters, wars or other catastrophic events. Hmmm….

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My Maltese puppy; lazy Sunday mornings; a day at the Beach; Yoga; breakfast anytime of the day; my gurls (and you know who you are); my family (I’m a daddy’s girl); making new friends; Los Angeles & Washington, DC; ocean views; Anguilla; healthy foods that don’t taste healthy; politics; "greenie" things; meditating; natural curls and movies.

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  • profileCARAMEL BELLA: This is my place to write about my adventures and mis-adventures in this thing called life. I discuss my passions: the environment, politics, art & culture, writing as well as yoga, health and spirituality. The one thing you can expect from this blog is that it is not what you expected. Thanks for reading! To reach me email thecaramelbella at gmail.

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