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The Hunger Games

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Yesterday's NYT had an interesting dialogue between Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott that covered similar ground to that mentioned in the last two posts.

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The Huffington Post -

With some economic forecasters predicting that a full recovery may not happen until 2018, America's younger workers are witnessing their future economic infrastructure collapse around them. One could view the ritualized "killing as entertainment" of the tributes in The Hunger Games as an allegory about cashing in on the next generation's future hopes and dreams. Add our deteriorating education system to the ongoing financial hard times, and we have a perfect storm of social and economic problems that could easily tip the balance toward social unrest on a scale not seen since the late 1960s. Without a healthy economy where a more all-inclusive segment of the population can depend upon a livable wage, we all lose, since everyone lives in and depends upon the same unstable system. And the powers that be can't keep expecting people to accept an economically unbalanced system that's simply no longer sustainable.

... It's true, Harry Potter had its somber moments, but even in its most harrowing scenes it was set in a fantasy world full of wizards, witchcraft, and just the right amount of thrills and chills. In The Hunger Games, the stark images of kids dying on the field of televised battle, in a future dystopian United States where a decadent power elite rule the masses, seems a little too close for comfort. Politicians vainly scream out "class warfare" and "socialism" to fuel their followers when people rise up in protest, but a bold vision put up on screen lets our culture know what's really going on.

In the same way Orwell wrote about 1948 and titled his novel 1984, one can ask whether The Hunger Games is a reflection of our current world or a warning of horrific things to come. Is the tip-off also in the title? Aren't we all hungry for a world where innocence doesn't have to be needlessly killed off, much less where blood sport as entertainment sinks down to appeal to younger and younger audiences, becoming more real as it continues in a downward spiral? In the meantime, The Hunger Games poses the question: Is all of this the inevitable result of Winner-Take-All Capitalism?

Edited by Persiflage

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FWIW, box-office-wise, in the based-on-a-hot-teen-franchise stakes, this movie is kicking just about everybody's butt right now -- but only in North America, at least so far.

The $340 million it has earned in North America is more than any of the Twilight films (the champ so far: Eclipse, 2010, $300.5 million), and more than all but one of the Harry Potter films (only Deathly Hallows Part 2 -- the last one, the 3D one -- grossed more, earning $381 million in 2011).

However, overseas, The Hunger Games has earned "only" $194 million, which places it behind all eight Harry Potter films (the lowest earner overseas was Prisoner of Azkaban, 2004, $547.1 million) and all four of the Twilight films released to date (the lowest of which is Twilight, 2008, $199.8 million; after that, the next-lowest is Eclipse, 2010, $397.9 million).

So, globally, The Hunger Games is currently at about $535 million, which puts it behind all of the Harry Potter films and all but the first of the Twilight films (the first of which earned "only" $392.6 million globally).

Oh, and The Hunger Games is now the first film to be #1 in North America for four weeks since Avatar.

Timothy Zila wrote:

: I can't think of another film that makes such annoyingly disorienting overuse of close-ups. With all due respect, what was Ross thinking?

I'm one of those who think Ross was trying to establish an aesthetic that would "allow" him to skirt around the violence, once the games actually begin in earnest. If Ross had established an aesthetic that gave us good, clear looks at everything, then it would really stand out if he DIDN'T give us a good, clear look at the violence later on.

Incidentally, there have been some really interesting posts at HogwartsProfessor.com about this film, e.g.:

- - -

Gamesmakers Hijack Story: Capitol Wins Hunger Games Again

First thought: Lionsgate director Gary Ross (with a heavy assist from actor Donald Sutherland) hijacked the satirical edge of Hunger Games to write movie makers into the story (1) as heroes martyred to the Capitol-ists they are beholden to in order to have the money they need to make films and (2) as victims of an oligarchic government who punishes them for telling a story ‘against the grain.’ The film means something quite different from the book; it’s ultimately a different story message than the original, and, as you’d expect, it’s one much more sympathetic to Hollywood and the filmmaker’s art.

Second thought: The almost uniform delight of readers, serious and not-so-serious, with this dumbed-down adaptation that is only the narrative shadow of the novel, is evidence that they have been “hijacked,” too, by the altered story Those readers who have read the finale of the Panem Saga know that “hijacking” here doesn’t mean stealing airplanes in transit but having your minds and memories re-shaped and altered via moving screened images. Hunger Games book-fans who believe that the movie is a great adaptation as true to the original as a medium jump like this allows, I’m afraid, are, ahem, Mutt-readers whose memories of their reading experience have been scrambled and re-oriented by the powerful Capitol tracker-jacker serum of film mixed with TinselTown hype.

Watching the movie, in other words, especially watching it repeatedly, all but obliterates many readers’ former understanding, which brain washing effect of movies and television, of course, is a major point or theme of the Katniss Everdeen Saga. . . .

First Thought: The Star of this Show is Seneca Crane. Katniss who?

The first scene of the film is a Caesar Flickerman interview with Seneca Crane, the last is of President Snow who has just forced Crane tocommit suicide. A story is largely about how it is framed — and this story is about the choices and fate of the Gamesmaker, Seneca Crane.

Look for the shiny edge of your memory of the first book and ask yourself: “Real or not real?”

Not real.

Seneca Crane is not a player in the book from which this film is an adaptation. He appears only in name in Catching Fire as the late Seneca Crane and his importance lies in how Katniss uses him in her ‘art attack’ on the Gamesmakers during her Quell mock execution of same. So why did this not present figure become at least as important as the Girl on Fire whose fate he holds in his hands?

Because the Gamesmakers of Hollywood — the establishment of Hollywood directors, writers, and studios — don’t see themselves as the willing agents of the Capitol but the great artists who suffer under the boot of their patrons, the Capitol-ists and government. So the movie meaning shifts to Seneca, the director, and the evil of President Snow, rather than the hijacking power of screened images. . . .

John Granger, HogwartsProfesser.com, March 27

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First Thought: The Star of this Show is Seneca Crane. Katniss who?

Maybe that's why I confused Crane with Plutarch Heavensbee, the game maker in Catching Fire, who is more of a presence in the book.

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Unintended Consequences: Hunger Games Hurts Television?

Forgive me the morning ‘grin and giggle’ here, but I had to chuckle at the Reuters report that ‘“Hunger Games” success spells trouble for TV ads.’ What’s so funny?

The books in the Panem Saga have teevee programming right in their target sites. Television is a means of the power holders and their Gamesmakers to bend and shape the thinking and will of the Capitol’s citizens and the enslaved Districts. If anything, the attacks are over-the-top in portraying the hijacking quality of screened images; no one, it seems, has the ability to resist the ‘Propos’ produced by either side so control of the air waves becomes the means to victory almost as much as armed conflict in the Mockingjay Rebellion,

The first movie, however, largely hijacked the hijacking, anti-teevee message of the books, which, sadly, had to be expected when the Gamesmakers are asked to make a film about the evils of Gamesmakers. Even many serious readers of the books have been hijacked by the movie’s counter-narrative message that it is government, not movie/teevee makers, that are the wrong-doers (in the cinematic Catching Fire look for Plutarch Heavensbee joining the rebels in order to revenge the martyr Seneca Crane…), which, sadly, only makes the author’s point about the dangers of the medium.

Now we learn that the movie’s novel means of promoting itself = through fandom online promotions and word of mouth buzz rather than through saturation television advertising — may strike a real financial blow to the industry that even the books’ satirical acid couldn’t have hoped to work. . . .

John Granger, HogwartsProfessor.com, May 5

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

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"Even many serious readers of the books have been hijacked by the movie’s counter-narrative message that it is government, not movie/teevee makers, that are the wrong-doers (in the cinematic Catching Fire look for Plutarch Heavensbee joining the rebels in order to revenge the martyr Seneca Crane…), which, sadly, only makes the author’s point about the dangers of the medium."

Um, I'm pretty sure the book is stridently anti-totalitarian and anti-war as well as anti-media. Half the point of the story is the way news, media, entertainment, propaganda, and government are all bound up together preserving the unjust power structures of Panem. The movie makes Seneca Crane into a real character who doesn't seem lie such a bad guy, but he's still the one running the games, sending the fire to almost kill Katniss and the dogs to attack at the end. So he's not exactly a martyr, just a guy who's not as evil as his masters who ends up being crushed by the system just as surely as the kids in the games. He's an example of what happens to anyone who gets out of line just a little, even when they are essentially loyal. And he's mostly used by the filmmakers to explain the working structure of the government and media complex, and how the games are run, not to make him a hero or displace Katniss.

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Aside from all the hand held stuff, which was startling at the beginning and took away from the action at the end, I was immersed in this film. Didn't know what to expect going in other than the fact that many of my adult friends really liked the film and the books.

I found the build-up to the games better than the actual games themselves, and I dug the political context that seems to fire from Panem to the heart of the good ol USA today...

It made me want to track down the trilogy and give it a read. And I can't wait for the next installment....

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I've now read the trilogy and gone back and watched The Hunger Games.

I love this story, but especially in the books. I think the film accurately portrays a lot of what's in the first book, but wow, there is a LOT missing in the film: Madge, Peeta's dad, the relation between the Mockingjays and the Tracker Jackers, the relation between Katniss and her stylists, the mutts at the end of the film (their eyes in particular), and the invisible sort of body armor Cato was wearing at the end, which lead to a death shot by Katniss that could only be seen as compassionate.

There is also something added into the film, which I thought was a great way to turn this book into a movie: Seneca Crane, who doesn't even make an appearance in the trilogy except by name, and even then it is in the second book, Catching Fire. And I can't wait to see how Katniss makes a representation of his death in the next film - it was a great, great scene in the book.

A couple of things. First, from the Mockingjay Part Two thread.

I understand the money angle, but there's a big length difference compared to the other split-movie books:

Mockingjay-400 pages

Breaking Dawn-756 pages

Deathly Hallows-784 pages

There is sooo much that is left out of the film The Hunger Games, mostly due to the book's first person present tense writing. While I thought Jennifer Lawrence did an outstanding job as Katniss (and really, has she missed a beat yet?), the interior on display is what captures the reader's full attention, bringing all kinds of emotion to the story. It's her story, her thoughts, her mixed up feelings about being a martyr, or a hero, or a challenge to the Capitol. It's her mixed up feelings about the boys she likes, and not fully knowing why she likes either one, or what the depth of liking those boys even entails.

I felt like the film could have been twice as long in developing some of this, especially once they hit the arena. The relationship between Katniss and Rue, for instance, feels about four minutes long in the film. It seemed to have a lot more depth - due to the first person present tense story telling - in the book.

Catching Fire felt to me like a lot of rehashing of the first book. But Mockingjay is explosive, and so much happens there that I can easily see it being made into two films. In fact, I had the knowledge that it would be two films in my head when I read it, and I actually couldn't figure out which one of the natural places they would split it in half, because so much happens that there are a number of places where a cliffhanger could be made.

This basic issue is further complicated by two moments toward the end, both involving the heroine. (Spoiler warning.) In one scene, she puts an arrow into a horribly dying opponent to ease his passing. There is also a suicide-pact theme that is more problematic in the film than I understand to be the case in the book, where I gather it’s more apparent than actual.

I get why the second situation is problematic...but I am confused as to how it is a problem to ease the suffering of a person who is about to ie. Is it really more life honoring and respectful to let the horrible person suffer more before they die? I cannot really see her action as murder if the character was dying already...

This is especially true when you learn from the book that Cato had been tortured by the beasts and eaten for nearly a day before she chose to end his life and put him out of his misery. He had a kind of body armor that was preventing the beasts from being able to fully break through for the kill. He was tortured all night long and the next morning before she finally put the arrow in him to end it.

The role of Plutarch Heavensbee will be the most interesting character now to watch. He is the next Gamesmaker, and due to the game he makes and what happens at the end of Catching Fire, I think it would be fun to follow his moves from the game booth (which of course we are only privy to in the films), without knowing his full intent until the very end.

I find this entire story to be completely moving. It is about a people trapped in a system, with nothing but death all around them, trying to carve out not only a way to survive, but a way to live honorably with each other. Compassion is huge here, but so is trust, and the character of Katniss is a study in balancing the high wire act between the two. You cannot trust everyone in Panem, much like here in the modern US, and you certainly cannot trust those who are in power above you. When you learn to build that trust toward your neighbor even in this rotten communist system, you grow in your own character, you become who you were meant to be. Katniss will time and again reject the idea of what she is to be, what she is to represent to the people of Panem, because she knows that when she fully embraces her role it sets a chain of events in place that will lead to many deaths, many martyrs, many battle scars and minds lost in the war zone. It is out of compassion for her mom, her sister, her district, that she continues to move forward. In a way, it's exactly who she was when she originally volunteered to take Prim's place, and we see that play out its fullest over the course of the rest of the story.

I miss reading these books, regardless of people on this very thread that will call me brainless because I loved them. I am really looking forward to the next two films. I think this is a great example of sacrifice in the midst of the storm. There are so many tender moments here, really, at times the whole thing brings me to tears.

Edited by Persona

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Spots for the DVD release are appearing now, and I realize that I scarcely remember a thing about this movie. Not a good sign.

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Really? I was a big fan, although I saw it in its second run, just a month or so ago.

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Strangely, the parts that stick with me most are the ones that aren't in the book (Seneca in the control room, Haymitch schmoozing to get sponsors for Katniss and Peeta, citizens watching/reacting to the games).

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I'm with Beth. The movie has pretty much evaporated from my memory. Feels like it's years old already.

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I haven't read many other reviews or even really thought much about it up until this point, but I finally had a chance to watch it recently and -- without expectations of any kind -- found it enjoyable but, as previously noted, forgettable. I was mostly bothered by the fact that the movie was clearly trying so hard to be a loyal adaptation that it hardly felt like a film, because I felt like I was constantly being reminded that what I was watching was originally a novel aimed at young adults, and my mind was constantly trying to work out whatever 'gaps' must have been left behind for the sake of a film adaptation.

So, I guess there's not very much to appreciate about this film unless you're already familiar with the story via the books. Which I'm not overly concerned to start reading any time soon.

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SAWland!  Fun and dismemberment for all ages!

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