Saturday, April 14, 2012

Movie Review #18: The Hunger Games

From the announcement that this book would be transformed into a movie, I have been on pins and needles awaiting its release. But lo and behold, March 23rd eventually came and I found myself at the midnight showing, nearly hyperventilating in excitement (ok, not really). But I am beyond pleased to say I was not disappointed. Gary Ross, who unfortunately has recused himself from directing Catching Fire, did a phenomenal job creating the starting point for the series, but making sure the film held its own. I'm bummed he won't be coming back for CF, but I'm not surprised. And I think that having different directors for each movie would be a good way to create the individual flavor that each novel has. But, back to the film.

When Jennifer Lawrence was cast, I was slightly skeptical. I had not seen her in anything else, and it's hard to picture someone as a character that they in reality don't look like. But as soon as I saw pictures of her with darker hair and her representation as Mystique in X-Men First Class, I was sold. Overall, I believe this entire film was phenomenally cast. Liam Hemsworth is extremely talented at being dark and brooding as Gale. Josh Hutcherson as Peeta was to me a miscast at first, but I think with the first film he got his foot in the door, and I'm ready to see what he can bring to the next two. Elizabeth Banks was amazing as Effie (more on her later), Lenny Kravitz as Cinna was brilliant, and I called Woody Harrelson as Haymitch. No joke, when they announced it was in production, I pointed my bat to the stands and said him. You cannot imagine the laughing fit (and proud moment of course) when I was right. Even the tributes were well cast. Amandla Stenberg was cast as Rue, and OMG I just want to hug her. She is so adorable! But now to the actual film.

Because I have read all the books, and am such a huge fan, this is going to be nitpick time. I think that as a whole, the film was amazing. It complemented the book wonderfully. That being said, there were certain things I think could have been changed. Right at the beginning, the film portrays Katniss getting the mockingjay pin and giving it to her sister, who then gives it right back to her. This completely cut out the character Madge, the district mayor's daughter who has an unspoken friendship with Katniss. Obviously, I get why Hollywood eliminated her. She isn't really plot relevant. Second nitpick: the breakfast scene on the train. This scene in the book in one of my favorites because it's how Haymitch realizes he could actually have a chance at some good tributes. District 12 is notorious for having weak tributes, but both Peeta and Katniss immediately let it be known they are in for a fight. In the film, Katniss has her moment, but Peeta does not. It bothered me because Peeta's character in the book is friendly, but will be violent when needed. The scene on the roof "I'm sure I'll kill when the time comes..." that isn't really backed up like it is in the book based on his previous don't-screw-with-us moment on the train. The movie portrays him too much as the nice boy with the bread. And the movie doesn't do much to show his rougher, can-kick-ass-when-need-be side. Third nitpick: the chariot. In the book, Cinna tells them to hold hands, and Katniss doesn't fight it. Much better than her aggressively pulling away from him like in the film. Which seemed cold and bitchy, while in the book is distinctly a power play move in her regard and she goes with it. Fourth nitpick: tribute stash of supplies & Rue's death. While Rue is dying, she says "Did you blow up the supplies?" They didn't know it was booby trapped, and Katniss doesn't discover this until she sees the hoard for the first time. So, how can one comment on bombs if it was an unknown? Plus, when Katniss hold up her fingers to Rue's district, that is not the time they rebelled. District 8 begins rebellion then, but 11 is still intact for district visits in CF. Fifth nitpick: the cave scene. This is me being sad that my FAVORITE scene in the book was so maladapted. I understand time requirements for films, but couldn't you have put another two minutes to show them stuck in the cave, rainy, and sickly. C'mon. Sixth nitpick: the mutts. This is not so much a nitpick, as a disappointment. I was REALLY looking forward to seeing the mutts as their representation of the dead tributes, especially Glimmer's mutt who has shaggy blonde hair. Kind of a let down. Seventh and last nitpick: the relationship between Peeta and Katniss at the end. There was kind of a moment in the film where Katniss at least lets it be known she's unsure of the future, but it isn't established that she played it all up to win the games. The end of the book is their arrival at home and them having to attempt faked romance when he's pissed as hell at her. I will be interested in how this issue is tackled in the next film. Personally, I can see them having it start off on the way to district visits. But now that the nitpicking is done, I will expound on all the stuff I thought was done really well.

Firstly, the reaping was done perfectly. I am not ashamed to admit that I welled up when I saw the movie the first time, and flat out started balling when I saw it the second time. The scene captures the raw emotion of a girl believing she's going to go die, and an older sister's despair at the same thought. Brilliant. Secondly, the cornucopia. Personally, whenever I read about it I always pictured a giant wood one, like Thanksgiving. Which is obviously not what it would be. But I was so impressed with the film version. Thirdly, the way violence was handled. This book is violent, it's about war. It's about kids killing kids. The fast camera movement helped dispel some of the tension. There was still one moment when Cato snaps the neck of the male district from 5. And I jumped. I literally freaked for a minute. Fourthly, the whole games. In the book, you have the understanding of the technology involved in the games, but not an in depth look at how it works. The film gave a couple scenes that allowed the viewer to understand the effort and technology involved. And it was awesome. Fifthly, the odd little moments of humor. This is a sad story, but that doesn't mean it can't have a little bit of levity in it. Granted, I might have been the only person laughing, but still, it was nice. Lastly, Rue's death. I balled during this scene both times that I saw the film, and at least once while reading it. Amandla Stenberg was amazing. So much emotion. It's such a poignant moment because it captures the essence of THG. This is a child who would still be alive if not for the unfortunate reason of being picked to die for sport because of a rebellion and treaty from 74 years ago. So in conclusion, even with all my nitpicking ways, I give this film and 8.5 out of 10. I really believe it did a great job portraying the book. And I can't wait for the next installments. The director Alfonso Cuaron, directed HP3, is in talks and I think he would do really well. But there are few others I would be ok with. Personally, I really really really want Kathryn Bigelow to direct Mockingjay. That one is primarily the war, and even though I haven't seen the Hurt Locker, I think she would be brilliant.

A couple of other important THG related things have happened since the movie came out. First, there was an onslaught of negativity directed at the African American actors from the film. One tweet in particular that made me nauseous "Rue's black? Suddenly not so sad she died." Based on the descriptions in the books, these characters were either going to be African American or Middle Eastern. What the Apocalypse happens and that means all the African Americans die? C'mon people. Get your heads out of your asses! I think every single African American actor cast was awesome, especially Amandla. Hopefully she gets really wealthy and can tell all the haters to suck it! Secondly, there has been a great outpouring of criticism against these amazing books, claiming them anti-ethnic, anti-family, and violent. Ok, the violence part, I understand. But anti-ethnic? This book to me is a great equalizer of race. Proving the power of money to bring people of different backgrounds together to protect themselves. And especially the anti-family sentiment? Are you kidding me? It's all about familial sacrifice. What would you give up to protect ones you love? If that's not about family, I don't know what is. Third and lastly, I follow Elizabeth Banks on her website. She's awesome and funny. But as put on a previous blog post, my bff Rachel and I created a super awesome map of Panem. We used the series, the webs, and a kid's book of the USA as our logic and justifications for choices. Well EB was having an art contest and I submitted the map. And I won. Cue the awe at winning something EVER. I'm just one of those people who never wins anything. I got to submit a guest blog to her website:

Best birthday present that ever existed! Cannot be topped! So anyway, in conclusion: movie rocked, people still suck, and map nerds rule!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How Mad Men Reminds Me that We Haven't Come that Far

The double edged sword of sexism was also a possible title for the blog post. I've recently renewed my interest in the fashionable television show Mad Men, which gives an in depth look at the dynamics of the advertising world in the 1960s. I'm currently half way through season 4, trying desperately to catch up to the current season (5th) because I hear it is awesome.

So, I'm calling spoiler alert NOW. If you have not seen the 4th season, I'm going to be giving a bit away. Not anything that is hugely plot related, but still. If however, you have seen the 4th season, or simply don't care about spoilers, then by all means, read on.

Two of the main female characters of the show are copywriter Peggy (Elizabeth Moss) and office aide/secretary/keeps-the-entire-operation-running-sometimes Joan (Christina Hendricks). In the episode "The Summer Man," a young, freelance copywriter Joey (played by Matt Long *yum*) starts casually dropping sexual insults at Joan. After a scolding from her, he blows it completely out of the water when he draws an offensive cartoon of her engaging is a sexual act with another male employee. Peggy sees him drawing it and tells him to stop, but Joey finishes it and tapes it up on Joan's window. Joan's reaction is to tell them that when they all get drafted and sent to Vietnam, she won't care if they die, because she never liked them. They are all astonished she would say something like that (personally, I would probably say the same). Anyway, Peggy goes to Don, who doesn't like the cartoon but won't do anything about it. He tells her it's her problem and to fire Joey if she doesn't like it. Peggy fires Joey. Later in the elevator, Joan and Peggy are discussing the cartoon. Peggy says she fired Joey. Mad that Peggy went over her head, Joan says, "So all you've done is proved to them that I'm another meaningless secretary and you're another humorless bitch."

Joan's point is that while she knows there is nothing in particular that she can do, she makes it known that she doesn't give a crap about them. She can't fire them, but she can make their lives in the office a living hell if she wants to do so. She's bluffing her authority, and they believe it. By Peggy firing Joey, Joan is still just a meaningless worker bee. She could still make their lives horrible, but what's the point since other people have higher authority than her? Peggy doesn't like the cartoon, and truly she's right in firing him. So in reality, they both have valid points. And that is why the situation sucks, and is still relevant.

I used to be the kind of girl that had a lot of guy friends, but as I have grown up and matured, I've realized that guys are not all that great to be around sometimes. Being around guys (at least, the immature ones), when they make an offensive comment and you call them on it, they immediate chime in "It was a joke, chill out." So you pipe down. But if you say anything more, you're too sensitive and can't take the humor. But obviously this is a common "humor" for guys, so you hear it a lot. So you have to take it or you're too weak to handle it. Ok, here's my enormous issue with this: instead of me having to listen to you degrade women, how about men just don't degrade women? Shocking, right?

Mad Men is set in the 1960s, and yet I still deal with crap like this today. After repeatedly saying a sexist comment and following it with "I'm joking," umm no!, eventually you're actually just being yourself and making excuses. And it's bullshit. But unfortunately, there is no clever denigrating term for me to use against men. Granted, that would just bring me down to their pathetic level, but sometimes my immediate instinct to just fight back. But to be the better person, I have to choose my flight instinct over fight and walk away. Which is why today, I have more friends that are girls than friends that are guys. And the few guy friends I still have, know better than to say sexist crap with me around. And if they did, the situation generally goes like this:

Guy: Stupid, sexist comment.
Me: *menacing glare*
Guy: Sorry.

And any guy that reacts differently around me, probably won't have me as a friend much longer. Because I refuse to tolerate or deal with sexist humor. It's not a joke. It's just offensive. And that's why unfortunately, not much has changed since the 1960s.