A Book Review: “Outliers” By Malcolm Gladwell

The Outliers
Photo Image/www.oprah.com

Outliers, non-fiction, published in 2008, with great insight on how we as humans learn and become successful. It’s not about how to gain success, but explores how much success is about timing, and who you know. It has a timeless relevance because of how it lays out its idea as it debunks popular cliche’s and theories and focuses on how success really happens. It is a cohesive book even though each chapter is very different from the last, as it doesn’t flow like one might be used to when reading a book. Which is why this book is such an interesting read, as it jumps around and then travels back to points it was making earlier in the text.

It looks deeply at the causes and effects of how one is raised, and what the parents did to encourage the success with basically one decisive parental decision. As it also looks at others with similar backgrounds but didn’t have the same success or any success at all. Finally, this book get’s my vote for a tenacious and fascinating read about the complexities of the human experience and just how subjective success really is!!!

Big Eyes*

A. Adams as Margaret, and C. Waltz as Walter/image: variety.com

 Amy Adams is a very gifted actor with lots of little nuances about her technique which keeps her acting fresh. She can keep the audience invested even if the role she’s playing is somewhat weak, withdrawn, non confrontational, and lacks confidence. And in this movie she articulates this beautifully. She’s hesitant, restrained, and yet, somehow in your face all at the same time and makes this role Oscar worthy. It’s interesting when an actor can pull all this off, while convincing you she’s not acting. 

The Premise…

Margaret Keane's work/image: writtenignition.com
Margaret Keane’s work/image: writtenignition.com

Centered on Margaret, Adams, a young woman with a daughter that she takes with her, leaves her first husband in the early 50’s something that wasn’t very popular or looked very highly on if the woman was the was the one leaving. So in desperation she moves to San Francisco near her single girlfriend, DeeAnn, Krysten Ritter, for moral support. There she meets a man, Walter Keane, Christoph Waltz who is very chipper and a fast talking fellow artist. And as she seeks to reinvent herself they become fast friends and she begins to gain confidence to pursue her painting talents, by his urging. Then Walter asks her to marry him and begins selling her work, as he tries to sell his own, but the problem is he’s a fly in the ointment and not after her best interests but his own.

With the ubiquitous chauvinistic 50’s women felt pressure to have a man define them. And it’s intriguing to note how wolves know a sheep when they see one and pounce on it, and in this scenario, Margaret is the sheep and her future husband is the wolf. Which is a sad commentary on the 50’s since women were even more burdened down when they were a divorc­ée. So with that the story took off from there.

The Sum Up…

The real Margaret Keane now/image: usatoday.com
The real Margaret Keane now with Amy Adams to the right/image: usatoday.com

It was refreshing knowing that Tim Burton directed this movie and Johnny Depp wasn’t in it. It was unusual to not see special effects and eclectic costumes, which made you forget you were watching a Burton film, and I appreciated his restraint and maturity in his directing style. Keane, Waltz, was somewhat convincing as the fast talking, con man. But this movie was all Adams, she played this role in such a way that all you could think of was, less is definitely more. So my score for this film is, B ~ NOTE WORTHY, see either in theaters or on DVD but see it. The reason I didn’t give it an A is because, Waltz was too over the top and he seemed like he was acting and Tim should have used a different actor to play the single girlfriend, DeeAnn, Ritter was terrible, and thank goodness her scenes where short and few. No Safety Alerts here, but this movie is not for kids under 12. With good directing, and decent writing it’s a go see. This movie is rated PG13.

Nightcrawler** 2014

J. Gyllenhaal as L. Bloom/image: huffingtonpost.com
J. Gyllenhaal as L. Bloom/image: huffingtonpost.com

Jake Gyllenhaal has been type cast to play creepy withdrawn characters, and for the last several years he’s been predictable and uninspiring. Until this creepy withdrawn character, where his acting scale has gone up double fold and has shown off why they keep giving him leading roles. Finally, he got a role of a life time up to now since he’s fairly young and not only was he exceptional in the film but every cast member was, right down to the newscasters!!!

The Premise…

Louis Bloom, Gyllenhaal, is an awkward loner who is a thief and a con man, but recently decides to go somewhat legit and looks to reinvent himself and his career choices. He also appears to have a mental disorder, that’s never mentioned in the movie by name but resembles a mild case of autism. Louis also does a lot of internet surfing and has educated himself about this new-found profession he’s fixated on and decides to buy a camera and become a freelance news cameraman. So with his already questionable moral compass, the story takes off with a bang and never looks back.

Most movies with the writer and director as the same person gives a movie a definite edge and makes a movie better and translates to the audience clearly. And here is the perfect example of this. Gyllenhaal’s character was clearly defined, you knew right away he wasn’t the warmest fella in Los Angeles, as he get’s progressively colder and more detached as the story develops. Gyllenhaal, is flawless here, with his very slim frame, and big sunken in eyes, so he looks the part, and he’s very convincing as a man with a mental issue. There is no question about why he’s a loner and what that means to people who he comes into contact with.

With his skewed philosophy, he does make a lot of sense about certain things, but it doesn’t help you empathize with him, and Gyllenhaal’s acting never lets the audience get in Louis’ corner. As there is something else very clear, the TV news business is a very dirty business, and morally what people do to get breaking news is extremely crass, and nasty, from the producer right down to the cameramen.

The Sum Up…

What I really loved about this movie was how well it articulated the story. Here’s a guy with a problem, which escalates him into a monster, who are all over the place, with very little morality and don’t care who is affected by what they do. And it’s really like this, right now in our society. Lot’s of sociopathic, unscrupulous people, who are then driven by money, what a terrible mix. So, this movie gets an A+ ~ THEATER WORTHY, see this in theaters it’s that good, for writing, directing, and acting. With a SAFETY ALERT for language, subject matter, and content. With an honorable mention of Rene Russo who’s character goes from one person to another by movies end. This movie is rated R.

As, The Raven, and The Pearl…Are AMAZING!!!

By Heart ~ You’re asked to recite a poem (or song lyrics) from memory — what’s the first one that comes to mind? Does it have a special meaning, or is there another reason it has stayed, intact, in your mind?

the pearl
Characters from the short story, The Pearl/image: glogstar.com

The first song that comes to my mind is As, By Stevie Wonder 1976, and the poem that comes to mind is The Raven, by Edgar Allen Poe 1845, and the story is the short story by John Steinbeck, called The Pearl 1947. These three classics made me as child catch my breath and effected me deeply. So much so that when I think about them now I get goose bumps. The poem, just seemed so sad, and yet so emotional, and the short story seemed like I was watching a movie as I listened to the teacher in 10th grade English read it. With each, it really shaped my life about what art was, and how important the written word is to the mind and how it affects us as we read or listen to someone sing it. These three, make me happy to be an American because all three are by very gifted American men from very different times.

Dear White People* 2014

dear white people
T. Thompson, M. Richardson and Black Activist cast/image: hollywood.com

Well, this movie was an interesting piece. It was very reminiscent of  Spike Lee‘s style of film making, but with a fresher and a more balanced viewpoint about the white and black sides of the issue of race among young people in American college/culture today. As it didn’t divide the audience like Lee’s movies tended to do. Have race relations changed much from the Spike Lee days of the 80’s? Perhaps, which is good but there are issues which still prevail in our society here in the US and Justin Simien addresses them with more humor and less anger which was refreshing and entertaining.

The Premise…

Sam White, Tessa Thompson, is a mixed race black activist and radio host for a talk show called “Dear White People.” Sam does the show from her college campus and as she speaks to different stereotypes white people might have about black people she calls them out about it on the radio. Sam also by the urging of her black activist friends and dorm mates, decides to run for dorm president. In the mean time she has secrets, secrets that are contrary to her activist radio show and new candidacy for office. And if the secrets were to come out she would be called out and discredited herself. 

The Ivy League cast/image: Ivy-style.com
The Ivy League cast/image: Ivy-style.com

Since Sam likes to call others out, she’s about to get her own comeuppance as some of the other black students are about to get their’s too. Then, with human contradictions running rampant everywhere like in life all the character’s have their own brand of hypocrisy going on. The acting here was top-notch and everyone in the movie was spot on for their specific archetypal characters. For instance, there was a black girl Colandrea ‘Coco’ Conners, Teyonah Parriswho was somewhat of a wannabe white girl with dark skin, straight hair weave, and blue contact lenses. Then there’s the white guy, Mitch, Keith Myers who tries to speak like a black guy but lives in a privileged ivy league fraternity house and is rivaling with Sam’s activist dorm and radio program.

The Sum Up…

With very funny one liners, and a good soundtrack, and strong story, the movie manages midway through to become a better movie than it starts out being. The dialog is fast and spoken in current young people dialect so I admit, I missed or didn’t understand everything being said. (Wow, since I’m an early gen X’r, I don’t understand young people anymore or pop culture, and that’s unfortunate). The actors were very compelling and fresh and for the most part new faces to the movie scene. With a few older generation faces like,  Dean Fairbanks, Dennis Haysbert, to give the movie some weight so us oldies wouldn’t feel left out. The movie get’s a B ~ NOTE WORTHY, see either in theaters or on DVD but see it, as it also gets a SAFETY ALERT, for language, sex scenes, drug use, 2 dubious relationships, and subject matter. The movie started off kind of confusing and slow but sped up once the first act was over, and for that I would say it’s a movie to see twice just to catch all the dialog, especially if you have a comprehension problem like I guess I do. This movie isn’t for kids under 17, and this movie is rated R (limited release). 



The Equalizer* 2014

D. Washington as Robert/image: hitflix.com
D. Washington as Robert/image: hitflix.com

Denzel Washington, has never been my favorite actor but I’ve mostly enjoyed his movies, umm, expect for Training Day , that was a NO. Anyway, as he’s matured in age I’ve come to appreciate him even more as an actor and most of his choices of roles. (The reason I went to see this one is because of the trailer and one amazing scene I saw.) Except when he plays the guy who dates a woman half his age. That’s such a boring storyline and overused cliché I can’t watch ANY old male actor in this redundant movie troupe, it’s creepy to me. But I digressed, anyway this role he plays in The Equalizer was very multi dimensional and entertaining. Not to mention this is my favorite movie genre, I LOVE HIT MAN MOVIES!!!Read More »

What’s Really Going On, With American Cinema?

In the last decade or so, I’ve observed that more and more American films with American characters are mostly foreigners playing these roles. Some of the old familiar American faces have all but disappeared into digital movie static and I’m not sure what this is all about? Is it because we don’t have very good American actors available anymore or is American acting not convincing anymore? It’s very puzzling and there is definitely a deficiency in the American acting queue of late.Read More »

My Friend’s New Motor Home

fiesta 1
Fiesta 2003

Wow, how fun, a new motor home, I’m so happy for my friend Paula and her husband Bryan. I love rejoicing with those who are rejoicing ~ Romans 12:15. Always being faithful to take their extended family camping with them on their camping trips, and not just them but friends as well.

And when I say new motor home, I mean new to them, a Fiesta 2003. Having upgraded twice before, now they have one that’s even better than the other two and didn’t have to pay for this one. And why you might ask? Because they have been very generous with what they had in the past. It’s so nice to witness people being blessed for their faithfulness. And not just faithful in taking family and friends camping but in other ways as well.Read More »

Redwood Highway, 2013**

S. Knight/image: roguevalleymessenger.com
S. Knight/image: roguevalleymessenger.com

The Premise…

The movie starts out with Marie Vaughn, Shirley Knight a woman in her late 70’s walking, she looks like she’s getting exercise at first, then later you see her walking into a retirement home and you realize she’s unhappy there. Then it looks more like she’s getting in shape for something. The next time you see her, she’s visited by her son, Michael, James Le Gros, letting him know she is extremely unhappy in her current situation and she feels he’s responsible for it. As he gives her the news that her grand-daughter is getting married, she decides after he leaves to go to her grand-daughter’s wedding on her own to tell her grand daughter to be careful with this guy. So we go with her as she embarks on sneaking out of the retirement home, and walks 80 miles to the coast of Oregon, for her grand daughter’s wedding.Read More »

Wow, Really Robin Williams???

Understandably, he was really hurting, to commit suicide. However, let’s not skim over the fact that he committed suicide. I mean my goodness, this is a serious thing to take you’re own life, for any reason. It just seems like he could have done something very good with his life even though he might have struggled with Parkinson’s Disease. This was ABSOLUTELY the wrong solution to the problem. I guess people can chalk his life up to being a cautionary tale of what fame can do and how empty it can leave you.Read More »