It was almost impossible to ignore the swirl of controversy exploding on the internet a week ago when rumors leaked that Gary Ross, the wizard who magicked the film version of The Hunger Games into the world, would not be taking the helm of Catching Fire the second film in the trilogy (or four-ogy, if you count the two-parter ending). While it was tempting to become mired in the drama, I patiently set it aside, determined to have a productive and happy weekend.
Giving in to rumors has been a bad habit in the past.
Sadly, even after petitions and trending-twitter-tags and a great effort on the part of the fandom, Ross announced he really, truly is leaving the franchise on the grounds of “not enough time to write and prep the movie I would have wanted to make because of the fixed and tight production schedule.” I mean, what a lame excuse right? J/K ya’ll. This is serious business.
Gary Ross is suffering what I like to call The Catherine Hardwicke Effect. No, I’m not suggesting her as the next director. Her campy, lulzy take on Twilight and super sexed up Red Riding Hood were a bit too strange and not emotionally charged or serious enough for the content of Catching Fire.
Not only 24 hours later and the internet is already abuzz with rumors or judgments about who should take the helm. Since absolutely no one has asked my opinion yet, I will give it to you anyway.
Here are my top 5 picks for a new HG director (in no particular order, mind you):
Is this movie better than the book? Very few movies are. The book really needs to be bad and the movie really needs to be good in order for this rare occasion to present itself. It’s the unfortunate mishap of film. It’s never long and full enough to capture all the scenes, nuances and character development allowed in the text of a novel.
Does The Hunger Games the movie capture the several moods and moments within the book that make it what it is? Yes. It does that. And more, it adds elements lacking in the story because of the limited first-person narrative.
The acting here was solid and the casting, though contentious in some circles, was ultimately spot-on (though I will always have a different Peeta in my brain). The costuming was exquisite and some of the set pieces insanely iconic. Specifically, The Reaping scene. Each time I watched it, it inspired chills and horror. The entire mood evoked by the score, the lighting and the focus of the camera was ultimately somber. I wouldn’t say the audience leaves the theatre with a feeling of “wasn’t that so awesome?” but rather, a feeling of having witnessed something horrific and, like the main characters, survived. Like Katniss, we’d like to forget some of the more disturbing aspects of The Hunger Games.
Unless you count a few unruly audience members during the first and second viewings of the movie, there wasn’t much to complain about here. The 2.5 hour run time seems to breeze by in 45 minutes (unless you have a full bladder). The few complaints I have seem silly and could be said of many movies or many adaptations, so they’re almost not worth uttering. I would have rather eliminated a few of the “behind the game-makers scenes” and done with some more moments between Katniss and Peeta. Or with Katniss remembering Gale. Or Katniss remembering Prim. OR fully drawing out the bread scene.
Shaky cam within the first 15 minutes really distracted me. When you are trying to orient yourself in the beginning of a film, so much shakiness is almost painful to bear witness too. But, the shaky cam and quick cuts added to the heightened emotions and documentary/reality feel that made the Reaping so powerful and memorable.
Jennifer Lawrence effortlessly carries this film. I’ve been so wrapped up in The Hunger Games mania for the last few months, it didn’t even register until after the second viewing that I was sitting in a theatre full of people of all ages watching a film centered on a female protagonist who is not overly sexualized. Sure, the full figure of Lawrence is clothed in a few tight-fitting outfits during some scenes, but there are no heaving chests and thigh-high slits. Even the romantic angle was tamed and given heroic threads – her love for Peeta was wrapped up in healing and protecting him.
Audience members of all ages, genders and races are turning out to see Katniss, regardless of her gender, race and age. That’s a pretty awesome phenomena, no matter how you feel about the content. Yes, I will address you Battle Royale parallelists – the concept of people forced into death battle for entertainment existed before Battle Royale. It’s ingrained in Western culture from Greek and Roman times up through stories/films like Running Man and No Escape.
It’s easy to get lost in the hype and forget about the foundation making this story so moving and engaging. Luckily, the film doesn’t stray far from these themes and it’s seemingly impossible for the audience to ignore them either. The Hunger Games is about the tragedy of oppression, kids killing kids, and the horrors of excess when so many are feeling want. There is a conversation about the nature of humanity and what we are willing to do in order to survive.
There’s important content here, and my greatest fear is it will all be lost in the rush of a $153 million opening weekend and attractive box office stars. Indeed, I had some small hope Lionsgate would use the opportunity of the release of “The Hunger Games” to combat hunger. You know, address the themes present in the art.
Maybe that’s just my brain constantly crying out for social justice on some level, but I was disappointed there was no effort to collect extra funds for food banks or to even invite local food banks to collect donations at theatres. Is it weird my mind should go there? I don’t think so, not given the story being told. My greatest complaint is that the entertainment industry missed an opportunity to do more than just collect millions of dollars in cash. It could have connected the dots in a more profound way.
Bechdel Test: “The Hunger Games” features more than two female characters with names who converse about something other than men and therefore DOES PASS the women test, DOES PASS the men test and features more than two minority characters who have names, but do not speak to one another so it DOES NOT PASS the race test.
I’ve only been to San Diego Comic Con once. In 2010. At the time I remember how insane it seemed to purchase tickets in September 2009 for an event taking place in July 2010. But it was an exciting life goal to cross off my list. My spouse and two closest friends were in attendance. We booked hotel rooms together and spent the weeks before planning out itineraries and scouting out the convention center. Or maybe just I did. Yeah, I think it was just me.
It’s a great experience. Not only is there a chance of spotting or chatting with your favorite writer, artist or celebrity, but you end up meeting all kinds of cool people in epic hours-long lines with the same kinds of passions and enthusiasms as you. Magic happens when people with like interests meet. I’m still Facebook friends with a couple we met in line for The Avengers panel, wherein we hugged random strangers afterwards because there was so much joy and love in the room.
Once in a lifetime was enough for me. Especially since topping The Avengers panel is pretty much impossible.
There was a moment in 2010 when we were standing in line to register and looking at the booth set-up for purchasing 2011 tickets. I almost dashed over and bought a ticket a year in advance. I thought better of it.
I don’t regret the decision. As much as I loved my San Diego Comic Con experience, there were parts of it that never jived well for me. The near-crushing at the WB booth, standing in line for hours to get some crappy trinket I wouldn’t buy with my own money (SWAG!), and the cattle like approach to meeting people you’d admire where the seconds-long interaction is a blur.
ALSO: The relentless product whoring and Hollywood inundation was stifling and frustrating. Everywhere you turned some movie or television show was jammed in your face. You essentially pay money and wait in long lines to be advertised to, all for the promise of exclusive content with leaks to the internet within days or hours anyway. You pay for the privilege of being a test market audience, radiating the promise of future box office profits to pleased investors. There is a seedy element to the manufactured fun at SDCC I never enjoyed.
Check out my review here on The Hunger Games Fireside Chat website, and while you’re at it – browse around their page. They have awesome tidbits about the books and upcoming movie, as well as a fantastic podcast every Monday evening!
There were too many great links this morning to pick only ONE for ye old Facebook. So here they are, collected into a nice happy digest. Enjoy!
Those links are straight from The Mary Sue, which is a great female centric nerd blog you should already be following on FB, Twitter or through some other social media venue.
The perfect spoof and mash-up of the songstress everyone loves to hate + the increasing hysteria surrounding The Hunger Games.
I predicted this! A Neko Case song kicks off every one of my Hunger Games playlists. She already has so many great songs to choose from, it seems strange that she would need to record another. Ah well, I guess that’s how these soundtrack thangs work. Along with tracks from Arcade Fire and The Secret Sisters, this is absolutely going to be a must buy. Looks like there will be two separate albums – the actual score by T-Bone and James Newton Howard. And then another full of conventional songs inspired by The Hunger Games. It’s going to be released March 20, 2012. Om nom nom.
Funny, we were just remarking about this last night after receiving the San Diego Comic Con catalog where Peter Parker and Mary Jane are posing front and center. I was in the “looks alright to me” camp, and Dan was in the “I like the web-shooters” camp. Our buddy and current house guest Troy who is easily the more Spidey-obsessed seemed a bit “meh” all around and was much more excited about the potential new Star Trek series.
We already re-capped the nerd highlights of 2011, and as the new year is nearly upon us, it’s time to start getting excited about what it has to offer. Here are 12 nerdy movies (in chronological release date order) that we’re looking forward to.
#1. Underworld Awakening: January 20, 2012.
A total guilty pleasure. Yes, I own all the other Underworld movies. Yes, I watch them on an annual basis. Come on. Kate Beckinsale in tight black leather. Cool werewolf/vampire hybrids. It might not be Oscar worthy, but it will be fun.
#2. The Hunger Games: March 23, 2012.
#3. The Cabin in the Woods: April 13, 2012.
Joss Whedon. Drew Goddard. Chris Hemsworth. Scary movie. Where do I sign up?
Back in 2008 I posted this piece railing against the status of women in conventional Hollywood films, especially in comedies and comic book adaptation flicks. Over the course of my blogging tenure I’ve bemoaned the lack of female roles in flicks, books, TV and comic books.
But lately I’ve felt…content. Perhaps it’s a natural response to the process of actively seeking out materials in these mediums which represent women, but something shifted for me last month and I’ve been ruminating on what magically altered my viewpoint about Girls on Film (as a system of naming the lack of female roles in entertainment in general).
In late June/early July I watched this quiet, independent film titled The Poker House starring Jennifer Lawrence, Selma Blair and Chloe Moretz, written and directed by Lori Petty and David Alan Grier. Yeah – I’m not joking. That’s some serious estrogen-laced girlness right there. It was expertly acted, painfully real and belied all reserves I’ve had about JLaw as Katniss Everdeen. Even more so than Winter’s Bone.
I can’t, can’t, CANNOT recommend this film enough. It does have a rape scene in it, so please proceed with caution.
But it sort of shook me out of my funk and the narrow lens with which I’ve been eyeballing all types of entertainment and art in the last year or so. Strangely, this funk shaking had an adverse effect, and I’ve spent the better part of this month ruminating and taking notice of the goings-ons around me with new eyes.
I like what I see.
LADIES – this is the revolution ya’ll! We are DOMINATING entertainment. It’s big screen and it’s small screen and it’s quiet and it’s loud but we are doing it. Sistahs are doing it for themselves.
And it’s so refreshing to watch something, to read something and hear a voice you recognize. To see a person you recognize. It makes you realize how rare it is that something in entertainment resonates with you – as a woman. How hard it is to relate to so much that is dominated by white males. And then you see it and you’re like “fuck yes!” I didn’t even know I was missing it. But there it is. Like falling in love all over again.
No one seems to know where this rolling wave of womanhood came from, but it’s certainly reaching the shore at this moment and depositing a shit ton of lovely pearls on the beaches for us to pluck up and admire.
– Female centric book series which appeal strongly to the masses (male and female) like The Hunger Games
– Females are even making their mark (and occasionally passing the Bechdel Test) in male-centric material like Sons of Anarchy. I absolutely love Katey Sagal in this series. She has some of the very best lines in the entire show. It has some problematic issues around race – but that’s a subject for an upcoming blog entry.
Here are the first two in case you forgot. 🙂
The tempo here stays pretty consistent with the mood of revolution and war. Until around song 13, when the entire book changes. At least for me. Probably for you as well. We all know what happens. So yeah *spoiler alert* for this entire playlist.
ALSO: Made some alterations to the Catching Fire list and added a few songs. I blame this entirely on So You Think You Can Dance for introducing me to the Turning Tables song by Adele. Then I started scouting up applicable Adele songs – and found some excellent Florence + The Machine tracks.
Here’s the last video:
Which some of you will note there are TWO of in this particular playlist. This breaks the cardinal rule of creating playlists – you should not have multiple songs by the same artists. Really though – should I be blamed if they make awesome and fitting songs? Don’t think so.
Katniss returns to District 12. Again. *Many of you will have noted a Neko Case song kicks off every playlist. Firstly because she’s awesome. Secondly because her haunting country-twang fits the coal-mining District 12 so aptly. Thirdly, she will be in town in early July and I will be there with bells on. That is all. 🙂
Peeta is revealed to be alive in the Capitol.
Katniss agrees to become the Mockingjay (really, does she have any either choice?)
Katniss participates in rebellion.
Peeta’s mind is hijacked by the Capitol. Attempted murder and angst ensues.
*This video is quite disturbing* But pretty in-line with The Hunger Games in a lot of ways. And this song echoes Katniss sentiments of being free from the Capitol.
The best things come in threes, and these Hunger Games playlists are no exception. Dan finished up the second book yesterday so I have the immense pleasure of posting yet another playlist.
This is for the second installment in the series – Catching Fire. As you might be able to tell from the song selection, the overall tempo and tracks are ramped up a bit more than the first playlist The Hunger Games, because the threat from the Capital is greater and the revolution is really starting to kick off.
Again, it flows chronologically with the progression of the book and offers up different perspectives along the way. Sometimes referencing specific passages, sometimes just capturing the emotional landscape of the chapters.
After spending a lot more time with this playlist, I’m starting to think it’s the better of the two. Which means the third will probably be that much more awesome.
Here’s another YouTube video:
Katniss returns to District 12 and attempts to resume life. Much melancholy ensues.
President Snow makes a visit.
Post-visit and the victory train lap around Panem. Lots of snuggle time with Peeta.
The sense of unease grows and the noose tightens around District 12.
Katniss makes her decision to rebel. Again.
Peeta and Katniss snuggle fun time. Again.
He started the first book on Wednesday and is now half-way through the second. I put together a playlist of songs at his insistence and we listened to it in the car on the way to the beach for Father’s Day yesterday. We drove my parents in the Prius and since we were all raving about the series, my Dad wanted to listen to the first audiobook.
So yeah – my house is currently inundated with The Hunger Games madness.
Thought I’d share the playlist I put together for the first book. I can’t reveal the second and third until Dan is done with those book because he claims I will include spoiler songs. Which is probably true.
Here is a YouTube video with three clips of the audio tracks. I wanted to include them all, but YouTube and the copyright lawyers took a shit. So, this is my second best option:
THE HUNGER GAMES PLAYLIST: