If I didn’t mind everything to appear as orderly as they really aren’t—I would call this roundup, August: The month of half doing everything. I did not particularly go crazy about anything I watched, read, or listened this month. It was deeply saddening because it seemed like I was wasting my time while running away from wasting my time, especially in terms of my book choice, Caramelo. Next, I began watching The Protector(or ‘Hakan Muhafız’, 2018) a superhero series, but with a Turkish twist. The big screen was rather safe with a late catching up with The Lion King (2019) and a re-watch of an all-time favorite, Coco (2017), at home. I cannot recommend Coco enough; I cry every time I watch it. Lastly, The Red Sea Diving Resort(2019) was a painfully lifeless movie to watch; the plot wasn’t tragic but the movie itself was.
Caramelo, Or, Puro Cuento (2002) by Sandra Cisneros
The Vancouver Public Library has an amazing system that asks about your intermedia favorites and comes up with an extensive list of books just for your taste. I was recommended this sweet book about a Mexican family that lives in Chicago. They take one of their famous trips to the awful grandmother’s house in Mexico, where the literal definition of a whole family meets every summer. The book is written from the views of Lala, the young girl who watches her mother and grandmother’s power struggle, her quiet father, funny uncles and tormentor cousins. She seems lonely and out of solutions in the middle of it all. She becomes our eyes in the family and navigates through what seems to be a map of family history and shows us why things are the way they are.
Now that you have an idea about the plot, let me tell you about all the reviews I read prior to picking up this book. The readers preach the award-winning author’s poetic way of storytelling and especially Mexican readers, state that they have found a piece of home in it. I am writing this review because I could not get past the first 150 pages of Caramelo. Cisneros is, indeed, a master of words, and you can tell that it comes easy to her. She is extremely descriptive, but it becomes overbearing and unnecessary at times; it even spoils the story. The point she is so eager to make so beautifully diminishes as she runs on different tangents. The chapters are very short, they can be called short stories which have a hard time to intertwine. With all due respect, I am a stranger to such a different literary approach to storytelling. I tried to love Carameloand really wanted to relate to the enthusiasm of the other readers—It did not work. Hence, I do not recommend it. If you read the book, let me know what you think below.
Stan Lee’s Alliances: A Trick of Light (2019)by Stan Lee and Kat Rosenfield
A Trick of Light was the very first audiobook I ever listened; as you might know, I am more of a paper person. Hence, it caught me by surprise to hear Yara Shahidi’s excellent narration. Her voice is very neutral and timeless yet keeps the story exciting. It is also the door to Stan Lee’s world. In A Trick of Light, we follow the origin story of Cameron who accidentally gains super-techno-powers. He, then, meets Nia, a hacker who is overly protected by her father. They take on a journey to find what happened to Cameron’s lost father. On a side note, while the plot builds up toward a love story, we never really get one.
While Stan Lee’s brand is within this book, I have a bit of a hard time believing he has more than a small touch on the details. I believe the story is very timeless because it embodies the long for human connection in an internet-connected world. However, it does not go very far from Ernest Cline’s book that inspired Spielberg’s Ready Player One(2018) in terms of setting up the story and its characters. It is very far from the Marvel plots we are used to in terms of its softer tone and action scenes. Overall, a good little book to listen to when you cannot read a better one. It is a mediocre story though, which makes me refuse to believe that Lee had much of an influence in A Trick of Light.
The Small Screen
The Protector (2018)
Review based on the episodes 1-3
Before I dive into this review, I want to remind you, the new readers, that I grew up watching Turkish tv series. If you are one of the viewers who watched The Protector with a dub, now you know that it is produced and filmed in Turkey. I find this bit of information very important because while there is an Oriental feel to The Protector, the Netflix team was able to add a global touch to it. Or, was it Joseph Campbell? (I’ll link an article here about The Hero’s Journey if you haven’t heard about it yet. In essence, it is a global approach to myth-building).
While The Protector can appeal to viewers from different backgrounds, it is highly predictable. We have an orphan good lucking guy who was adopted by a good man. The man turns out to be a member of The Loyals who would give their lives to help the protector. Then, the good lucking guy turns out to be the protector; he leaves his ordinary life to fulfill his destiny. Not only with its plot but through its cinematography, The Protector is a Netflix prototype. We follow Hakan (the protector) as he walks through the grand bazaar to his job, saying hello to the fellow workers. We see the camera looking up from the ground as Hakan fights the strong chick who soon becomes his teacher.
It is everything old, but with a new wind sense of the Oriental traditions. One could even compare it to Marvel’s Iron Twist, with less professional production work but more… Turkish. So far, I have mixed feelings about this show, and it is because I haven’t seen a plot twist that doesn’t feel familiar yet.
The Big Screen
The Red Sea Diving Resort (2019)
I recently read a quote that more or less says, “you can never have a bad movie based on a real-life event”. The Red Sea Diving Resort proves whoever said this wrong because it is that bad. So far from originality, the film imitates a typical Tom Cruise plot (however, has younger Chris Evans to do this), has the recruitment sequence of Oceans(2001-2007) series, and it may even be tapping into the White Savior Complex. So, the question emerges—Packing so many audience-pleasing qualities, why don’t we like this film?
As I mentioned, The Red Sea Diving Resort is based on the 1980s Operation Brothers (a joint name for Operation Moses and Joshua), that moved Ethiopian Jews from Sudan to Israel by the Mossad Spy Agency. Along the Red Sea, the Mossad begins running a resort to cover up their rescue mission, and the story is not so loosely, but ineffectively based on this compelling event.
While we can’t talk about effective storytelling or character arches for this film, we can talk about bad casting… and maybe, just one vague character arch. Our savior, Ari Levinson (Evans), recruits a group of team members in a George Clooney fashion. Unlike the Oceans, members’ do not have specific skills to contribute into the operation, they do not seem passionate about it nor are they characters that drive action. They mindlessly listen to Ari as he talks about the importance of their mission throughout the film. What do we get for a result? Meaningless motion pictures of Chris Evans really trying to force meaning to a poorly written plot. A plot written to fit one character only, far from history.
On second thought, I do not have one reason to like The Red Sea Diving Resort.