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The Hunger Games


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#41 Christian

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Posted 15 November 2011 - 10:00 AM


As a person who's heard a lot of the hype but has never set out to read the books, that trailer was pretty darn captivating. I'm sold.



A friend who basically reads all the books his teen kids read (including all the Twilight books-which he read because a co-worker begged him to) said these were some of the best teen fiction books he has read.

OK, gotta say it: I challenge anyone who thinks The Hunger Games is great teen fiction to read Sara Zarr's books. I realize the genres are different -- maybe I just prefer Sara's stories and approach to her material -- but the more I hear raves about The Hunger Games, the less interested I am in reading more teen fiction.

I have nothing against good stories well told, but I imagine The Hunger Games might be the equivalent of -- I don't know, Tom Clancy? -- in the teen lit world. Popular and with a strong fan base, but not necessarily great writing or storytelling.

I haven't read any teen lit outside of Sara's books and the Hunger Games series, so I may be wrong. But I'd love to hear from others who know more: Is The Hunger Games among the best teen lit?

Probably best to post replies to my question over in "Focus on YA Fiction" thread.

Edited by Christian, 15 November 2011 - 10:00 AM.


#42 M. Leary

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Posted 15 November 2011 - 11:24 AM

I have nothing against good stories well told, but I imagine The Hunger Games might be the equivalent of -- I don't know, Tom Clancy? -- in the teen lit world. Popular and with a strong fan base, but not necessarily great writing or storytelling.

I haven't read any teen lit outside of Sara's books and the Hunger Games series, so I may be wrong. But I'd love to hear from others who know more: Is The Hunger Games among the best teen lit?


Tom Clancy as a comparison is fair enough in that there is a point at which the YA genre becomes a Mad Libs enterprise. The first book of Hunger Games is the best by a longshot (the last two steadily declining in quality), but even it relies on gathering together the typical survivalist, competition, parental loss, and adolescent romance themes that are so common in the genre. I read a lot of YA fiction and also appreciate authors like Zarr, Green, Sachar, Zuzak pushing back against the ease of the genre's bestsellers. There is a lot of poetry in YA fiction if you look for it.

#43 Evan Day

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Posted 15 November 2011 - 12:11 PM

YA librarian here. M. Leary is correct. YA lit is just like adult literature: there's commercially popular lit and the more critically acclaimed stuff that gets awards. That's not to say award winning books don't sell well, they just don't have the pop culture presence of the Hunger Games or Harry Potter. Nor is it to say some award winning books aren't overrated. In addition to what Leary mentioned, My personal favorites I would recommend are Gene Luen Yang's graphic novel American Born Chinese, Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi, Monster by Walter Dean Myers, and Monstrumologist by Rick Yancy.

If you want a list of ALA's yearly acclaimed books, check out the Printz Awards. Also the National Teen Book Award, the one which Sara Zarr's Story of a Girl was nominated for.

Okay...that said, the trailer looks great! Honestly, they pull me in and give pictures to a lot of things that were vague in the book to me. I can definitely see this being successful. It's just going to be annoying to go online and have to wade through Battle Royale fans yelling rip off. Good night people.

Edited by Evan Day, 15 November 2011 - 12:19 PM.


#44 Anders

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Posted 15 November 2011 - 12:35 PM

It's just going to be annoying to go online and have to wade through Battle Royale fans yelling rip off. Good night people.


Ok, I won't then. But the word that was going through my mind when watching the trailer was "pastiche."

#45 Evan Day

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Posted 15 November 2011 - 02:27 PM


It's just going to be annoying to go online and have to wade through Battle Royale fans yelling rip off. Good night people.


Ok, I won't then. But the word that was going through my mind when watching the trailer was "pastiche."



Well to be fair, I was thinking of the book, guess I should have said that in the other forum thread. I certainly wouldn't deny the concept has been visited a lot, from A Most Dangerous Game to the Running Man (Collins herself refers to the myth of Theseus in interviews).

Regardless of the origins of book, the presentation of the movie could very well end up pastiche, we'll see.

#46 Tyler

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Posted 06 December 2011 - 04:41 PM

Danny Elfman is out as composer, James Newton Howard is in. He'll collaborate with T-Bone Burnett on the soundtrack.

Is it normal to not have the music already in place 4 months before the release date?

#47 Peter T Chattaway

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Posted 06 December 2011 - 08:33 PM

Tyler wrote:
: Is it normal to not have the music already in place 4 months before the release date?

I don't know about "normal", but it's not unprecedented. In fact, James Newton Howard himself took over the scoring of Peter Jackson's King Kong only TWO months before that film's release date (I blogged the news on that switcheroo here, here and here). That was an especially awkward case because the original composer, Howard Shore (who had also scored Jackson's Lord of the Rings adaptation), had already appeared in a production diary on the making of the music about four weeks before he left the project, and Shore even has a cameo in King Kong as a pit-band conductor.

There was also a famous case in which James Horner replaced Gabriel Yared on Troy after test-screening audiences reacted badly to Yared's music. (Yared had been working on it for over a year, whereas Horner reportedly whipped up his score in four weeks... though I can't remember how far off the release date was when Horner was hired.)

#48 Tyler

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Posted 26 December 2011 - 10:06 PM

The soundtrack will include Arcade Fire, The Decemberists, and a collaboration between Taylor Swift and The Civil Wars.

#49 Joel C

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Posted 21 January 2012 - 12:36 PM

Is it normal to not have the music already in place 4 months before the release date?

Just saw this. 4 months is actually a relatively flexible amount of time for a composer. I can't find it right now, but in one of my film-scoring classes at Berklee, we watched a video of John Williams, in which Williams estimated his output at about three minutes of underscore a day. Say you're looking at a 70-minute score, and that the composer is working 7 days a week (which in crunch time is fairly common), and that's a little more than three weeks to write a score. While spotting for a score might overlap with production, the finished score is normally one of the last things completed in post-production. It's why you often hear temp-score music in theater-released trailers.

#50 Darrel Manson

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Posted 08 March 2012 - 10:32 AM

I didn't go to any screenings for this, so I can readily admit that. At press day for another film it was interesting to hear some there not talking about this film. Apparently the embargo is very strict - can't even say you've been to a screening. No one would even mention the name as they talked about it. "The Film That Must Not Be Named"

#51 opus

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 10:01 AM

The Playlist gives it a B+:

Complexity and understatement are two criminally under-utilized values in most mainstream movies these days, but they’re at the core of, and the chief reason for the success of “The Hunger Games.” Director Gary Ross, screenwriter of the proletariat presidential fantasy “Dave” and writer-director of the social-consciousness-as-sci-fi tome “Pleasantville,” has always engaged his subjects with a light and yet substantial touch, but his adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ acclaimed young-adult novel is a truly remarkable achievement: he turns escapism into a deeply emotional experience. Instantly razing comparisons – qualitative especially -- to other female-friendly series such as “Twilight,” “The Hunger Games” is the first film in a long time that deserves Hollywood’s instant-franchise ambitions because it appeals to genre fans regardless of gender by crafting a story that’s both epic and intimate, spectacular and subtle.

[...]

That said, the great thing about shortcomings like those is that they only further serve to highlight what a great job the filmmakers did otherwise bringing this material to life, and making it such an effective ride on its own terms. Ultimately, Ross hasn’t just successfully mounted an adaptation of a hot literary property, or even launched a film series that earns the right to be a franchise. He’s produced an engaging, thoughtful, populist piece of entertainment that transcends gender, genre or source material. The rare blockbuster that’s as smart as it is spectacular, “The Hunger Games” offers a full meal and still makes you want to go back for more.



#52 Overstreet

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Posted 16 March 2012 - 10:13 AM

Wow. All of a sudden I'm kind of excited about seeing this.

#53 SDG

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 03:52 PM

Thread for discussion about the books.

I'm early in the first book yet and my inaugural post raises some moral questions around the material and themes of the books.

So far no takers.

#54 Christian

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 04:27 PM

Wow. All of a sudden I'm kind of excited about seeing this.

Yeah, the recently posted reviews from the trades mentioned that Ross gets the look and feel of the material right, but skimps on the violence and the game/hunt stuff to ensure a PG-13 rating.

I couldn't have hoped for a better description of the final product. If he's got the environment right, he's about 80% of the way toward a good film.

#55 Rachel Anne

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Posted 19 March 2012 - 05:21 PM

Thread for discussion about the books.

I'm early in the first book yet and my inaugural post raises some moral questions around the material and themes of the books.

So far no takers.

I gave it a go.

#56 Tyler

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Posted 20 March 2012 - 02:55 PM

Too violent for preteens?

Too dark? (This one is from a father who plans to take his 8-year-old son to the movie.)

#57 SDG

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 07:32 AM

My review. (Note the parallels in the second graf below.)

Suzanne Collins says she got the idea for The Hunger Games while sleepily flicking channels between some reality-show game and footage of the invasion of Iraq until the images began to blur in her mind. What’s bracing about Gary Ross’ film of the first book in Collins’ wildly popular young-adult trilogy is that the topicality of the story’s origins still comes across. When was the last Hollywood science-fiction action blockbuster that felt like actual ideas about the world we live in were at stake? ...

Katniss is a soul sister to Lawrence’s breakout role Ree Dolly in Winter’s Bone: an impoverished, self-reliant child of the rural mountains of the Upland South (Katniss is from Appalachia, Ree from the Ozarks), with a dead father, a functionally absent mother and the responsibility of caring for a younger sister (Ree also had a younger brother). Both are even hunters who skin and eat squirrels. And both inhabit a barbarous culture that may snuff them out and not think twice, although in Katniss’ case it could happen on national television. ...

The material is disturbing, and should be. I’ve watched movies before about individuals taken prisoner and forced to engage in blood sport, such as Gladiator. What is the difference here?

Partly, I guess, it’s simply that the combatants are teenagers — and that Panem is culturally more proximate to our own world than ancient Rome. The Capitol is a futuristic freak show, but the architecture and clothes in District 12 would be at home in a rural American landscape in the early 20th century. Technology, from trains to television, looks like our world. It’s hard to accept the complete eradication of Christian moral sense, not to mention faith, from a world like this.

Another problem is that many of the tributes, particularly from the wealthier districts, eagerly embrace the barbarism of the Games, not in a ruthless struggle for survival, but because they think it’s honorable or even just fun. Even in pagan Rome gladiators were generally equivalent to slaves (often criminals or prisoners of war) or little better. Very occasionally citizens and even emperors voluntarily fought in the arena, though to do so carried a risk of stigma and loss of status. The idea of wealthy tributes regularly volunteering, not for an evenly matched contest, but for a 1-in-24 chance of survival, is hard to square with human nature.

Even before the rise of Christian opposition to blood sports, Roman approval was not universal. For instance, Seneca wrote to his friend Lucilius advising him to avoid the games, which he said disposed the viewer to “greater cruelty and less humanity.” Where is the ambivalence in the Capitol? Well, I guess there’s Katniss’ stylist Cenna. That’s something.

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.

Certainly there are praiseworthy themes along with the problematic. In addition to being perhaps the most engaging action-movie protagonist in recent years, Katniss is a selfless heroine who courageously risks her life to protect others, including Peeta and a young combatant named Rue, not to mention her sister Primrose. In a touching sequence, Katniss honors a fallen competitor by arraying her body with flowers, in the spirit of the seventh corporal work of mercy. Others also act in noble and selfless ways.

Am I glad I saw The Hunger Games? Yes. But I’m not eager to see it again.



#58 Thom Wade

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 09:52 AM

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...

#59 Tyler

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 10:06 AM

Overstreet's conversation with Hannah Notess has been posted at Response.

#60 Nick Olson

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Posted 23 March 2012 - 10:14 AM

Excellent review, SDG. And that's a nice tidbit about what inspired the author's material.

***SPOILER ALERT***:

I saw a late showing of the film last night and a few things stuck out at me:

-Overall, I thought Ross did an excellent job of capturing the novel. He was mostly faithful to the material, while also cutting parts effectively. He captures the tone of the Capitol perfectly, and I thought the film did a great job of providing perspective outside of Katniss'. His use of the "announcers" and, particularly, the fellow who played the interviewer, worked really well. In short, the lead-up to the actual games was spot-on for me all around.

-When the games begin, I think the film does become a bit disjointed, but it's still ultimately satisfying for a while considering the material that Ross was working with. Often times, I felt like Ross was even elevating the material to a degree. However, I feel like the wheels really start to come off when Kat comes across Peeta hurt and camouflaged. I would say that part of it was the teeny-bopper audience I was with, but I still think the film botches the cave/love triangle thing. Up until that point the film didn't at all feel like the Twilight preview that came before it (talk about cheesy! How about the one line from that teaser: "I didn't expect you to seem so...you." Ok maybe it's not that bad, but in the theater disconnected from any context it was hilarious). Which is a shame, because I don't think the fellow who plays Peeta is that bad of an actor, but he's not given that much to work with at that point. And, notably, this was the teeny-boppers favorite part of the film (if not when Rue's death finds vengeance-fulfillment!).

-Regarding the film's "ethical dilemma" (kids killing kids and the film qua entertainment and all of that): there was a moment toward the end of the film that was striking for me as a critic/fellow audience member. When Caesar is interviewing Katniss and Peeta after the Games are over, I thought the whole scene was kind of brilliant. The whole thing felt so much like an "after the final rose" episode from the Bachelor. What was striking and ironic is that much of my audience reacted to it in the same way that the Capitol audience did--almost simultaneously. Granted, maybe it was the screening I went to, but I had two take-aways from this: 1. The film's subtle mockery of our penchant for mindless entertainment was reinforced and solidified and yet 2. the film's hamming up of the love triangle that comes before the scene almost undermines the brilliance of this scene in a way by serving up the mindless entertainment. The film definitely takes the love triangle to a place that the book doesn't. Perhaps it was prep work for sequels (I haven't read the second and third books). Either way, it didn't work for me. Anyway, regarding the ethical dilemma, I do think the film (and book) fairly consistently has a serious enough subtext/moral subtlety to undermine potential problems with the kids-killing-kids for entertainment, but I also think for many moviegoers it is and will be what people fear it is.

-And, yet, what stuck out for me is that the film emphasizes something that is important to a discussion of the ethics of the material--namely, the last thing the Capitol wants is a martyr. In the narrative, this is what they fear could most undermine the dystopian regime. And I think this is noteworthy. I'm just not sure if some of the most important lines are as important to some moviegoers as they ought to be (like not "losing one's self" in the Games or becoming like the Capitol). I'm not saying it's lost on people, but sometimes it sure felt like I was watching THE HUNGER GAMES with the Capitol.

-Lastly, I thought Lawrence and Tucci were good, but, man, do I love Woody Harrelson! :)

Edited by Nicholas, 23 March 2012 - 10:58 AM.