Tag Archives: Hunger Games

The Great Cinema Binge Of Yesteryear

There was a time in the early to mid-2000s, when I regularly went to the cinema. I’m not sure that I’ve ever mentioned this on the blog, but it’s one of those anecdotes that does tend to come up if I talk about going to the cinema for any length of time.

The cinema happened to be not-very-far-away as the train flies, and I had the afternoon free from work on Tuesday, the cheap day. Saw a bunch of Orange Film Board commercials during that time, probably the most interesting promos about how mobile phones can ruin the movie-watching experience.

I would tend to watch 3 movies in a row. I’d have to plan start times and end times, and have to factor in running time. It was fun.

There were, if I recall correctly, a little more than 20 screens in the cinema. Some were straightforwardly small, with an aisle dividing the two sets of seats. Some screens were pretty huge, with a bunch of seats in front of a railing, and the seats behind the railing tiering upwards.

It was in one of these huge screens that I watched Star Wars Episode III, I was towards the front of the cluster in front of the railing, which was far too close to the screen to comfortably see the action. It was an evening screening, fairly close to release day, and was one of the only seats left. Also in one of these giant screens, I saw The Aviator. Afternoon, not evening, that showing was not very full. I sat just behind the railing, which tended to be a good distance for watching movies. It was perfect for that movie, I was grabbing the railing when the plane was crashing down into that house.

In the smaller screens, I developed a sense of about how far back in the cinema I wanted to be (action movie, there was no point in sitting in the front half). There did tend to be a spot just off-center of the screen that tended to be a bit extra reflective, that could just be the angle of the projector and my angle of viewing, meeting in an unfortunate manner.

There were times when there were a bunch of things I wanted to watch, and I didn’t quite catch them all, and some points where less looked immediately interesting, but I’d give some a chance. And there was an interesting mix, some I was less sure about I ended up enjoying (White Noise springs to mind), some that I was more interested in seeing turned out to be a lot less good (Alexander, Troy, King Arthur).

In addition to the movies themselves, for a large chunk of this time there tended to be a bunch of promotional materials given away. My wall at one point was covered in movie posters, and I had a stack of postcards. These materials had all kind of dried up by the time I stopped. I was pleasantly surprised when I went to the cinema the other day, to find a stack of posters for the film I was watching, in two designs. If it stops raining tomorrow, I can take the two Mockingjay Part 2 posters to the garage, and put them in the box with all the other film posters.

The chain did a nice promotion when Star Trek Nemesis came out: you could get preview tickets for that film, and you could also get tickets for The Wrath Of Khan, The Voyage Home, The Undiscovered Country, and First Contact (the even-numbered films, AKA “the good ones”), all shown back-to-back on a Sunday.

Too right I took advantage of that one. Just a shame Nemesis sucked.

So anyway, that was a fun experience for a couple of years. And don’t tell anyone, but I think I still have the ticket stubs in a box somewhere, I could find out what I actually saw then.

Mockingjay, Part 2

I hadn’t expected to see this film anytime soon. I saw the first movie in the cinema, the second on an ex-rental DVD we picked up, and the third on Amazon Prime streaming. Getting out to see anything can be awkward. But a friend was going to see it tonight, and invited our household along. Well, the grown-ups, at least. I think only my wife and I had seen Part 1, and she knew I wanted to see this one, so she suggested I take the opportunity.

I will aim to be as spoiler-free as possible, in talking about parts of the movie

We talked through the trailers (including Allegiant, Creed, and a new Julia Roberts movie), and settled down for the movie. I don’t think there were more than a couple of other people watching.

We had fun. Most of the time we were completely engaged with the movie, but there were a few points where we quietly commented to each other.

There was a point where a bunch of characters are sneaking around, and they hear some strange noises. One of the noises may have been a kind of whispered “Katnissss….” which did invite a “My Precious….” comment.

As far as I recall the book, the movie followed the book pretty well. There was a part of the book that I read a few times, not succeeding in following it very well. As the books follow Katniss’s perspective, I think the scene was intentionally confusing, it’s pretty chaotic and a lot of things were happening, so it wouldn’t be surprising for the character to find it difficult to follow all that’s going on. Still, it was nice to see it a lot more clearly in the movie. The scene in question is outside the presidential gates.

I found the movie as well-paced as Part 1. I thought Catching Fire was a bit squeezed into the movie, and rather a lot happens in the Mockingjay book, both movies based on it seemed to give the scenes enough room to breathe. I didn’t think anything seemed dragged-out. There were some characters who could have used a bit more time to help the audience get to care about them, but that’s a pretty minor nitpick.

The last few scenes were especially important to get right, and I think the filmmakers did well enough.

Creature design was interesting. Shades of Alien, but it’s kind of hard to not evoke that, with that combination of head shape and posture. Different colour, evoking more the Alien/human hybrid from Alien Resurrection. Maybe Venom from the Spider-Man cartoons, minus the tongue.

Having read the book, there were definitely some moments of anticipation for things I knew were coming up. And I didn’t feel disappointed by anything.

All in all, I think the movie series treated the books pretty well. I’d still say the books are worth the time to read, but wouldn’t turn my nose up at the movies.

Sat nine rows back in a pretty small cinema, which was good for the most part. Only one actiony sequence was hard to watch. Not enough to make me wish the director had been forced to watch the movie from the front row at a big cinema screen.

Many years ago, I started collecting the MPAA numbers that are (usually) at the end of movies. I’d noticed them for a while, and it has kind of been an on-again off-again project. Complications with making them out, in the VHS days, and scrapping the project one time when I encountered some major inconsistencies between the number and the movie’s copyright date for a chunk of movies. Now I get screen grabs off the DVDs, when I can. Anyway, for a while now, I’ve been expecting each movie I see to break 50000. Mockingjay  2’s number was 49995. Maybe Star Wars?

Musings On the Hunger Games: The Books And The First Three Movies

When The Hunger Games was pretty new in the cinema, I was treated to go and see it. My sister-in-law took my wife and me. I knew next to nothing about it.

I enjoyed it. Then I went and enjoyed all three books.

Watching a movie before reading the book is one thing, watching the movie after reading the book is another.

Seeing Catching Fire, then, was a different experience. It fairly faithfully depicted the events of the book, point-by-point, but the movie was stuffed to bursting with these things, and there wasn’t really the space to flesh things out that needed fleshing out, or to enrich the environments or the story. I was a bit disappointed that it didn’t really seem to bring anything new to the table.

Of course, it already had the odds stacked against it in that regard, as the story of Catching Fire isn’t terribly different from the book/movie before it.

Ultimately, it wsn’t a bad film, let’s say it achieved a rating of Adequate rather than Great.

Last night, I finally got around to watching Mockingjay, Part 1. Saw the Hunger Games at the cinema, and Catching fire on DVD (ex-rental). I put the DVD/Blu-Ray combo of Mockingjay Part 1 on hold at the library a few months ago, but I guess the queue’s moving really slowly on that one, it hasn’t come through yet. It’s been on sale a couple of times on Amazon, but I haven’t bit the mullet and bought it yet (usually saving up for birthdays and Christmas). Who knows, Black Friday is soon and we usually pick up some DVDs cheap that day.

Mockingjay 1 has been free on Amazon Prime streaming, and so my wife and I watched it last night, during the eternal wait for Youngest to go to sleep. Who knows when it will disappear, I fairly often hear of things disappearing from Netflix.

Again, I enjoyed it. The movie was well-paced, it didn’t drag. This one had room to breathe. It’s been a long time since reading the book, and so there were things I remembered, things that were familiar, and things that weren’t. I don’t know that this means they added anything, but I felt a lot better about this movie than the previous one.

I liked some of the music in this one. The tune of The Hanging Tree starts a bit before Jennifer Lawrence sings it, and it’s introduced as a violin piece that to me was reminiscent of “One Will Fall By The Way”, a tune from the miniseries of the Stand. As originally broadcast, the violin kicks in at the end of The Stand Part 3, as the four heroes leave on their walk to Vegas.

There’s still rather a lot that needs to fit into Part 2, so I hope they manage to maintain the pacing, and the space needed for the story.

A big theme running through the stories, is Agenda.

The Capitol’s agenda for enslaving the Districts, and living a pampered lifestyle off the backs of their productivity.

The Capitol’s agendas for oppression and entertainment, putting the Districts’ children in the lottery for The Hunger Games.

Getting more personal to Katniss, who has been affected by all of the above impersonally until her sister was selected, and she volunteered in her place, Katniss becomes subject to the agendas of the production staff, particularly Effie, who want to put on a good show.

In the arena, first time round, Katniss is largely free from the pressure to act a certain way (she’s a bit busy fighting for her life), but she does still get some notes.

As a Victor, there’s a public face she is compelled to put on. Peeta’s quick thinking forced her into a certain role, President Snow makes threats for what might happen if she doesn’t comply, and of course the production staff like Effie are still trying to put on a good show.

By this time, Katniss is thoroughly allergic to being subject to other peoples’ whims. Her friends forge alliances for her, to help her, and the others, to survive. She’s likely to resist the plan if they just explain it to her, so they try to break it to her gently. and, naturally, she doesn’t appreciate being manipulated.

And she’s none too happy when she finds out why she was saved: her friends and supporters want her to be the face of the rebellion against the Capitol, be the symbolic mockingjay that will galvanise people to the cause. Her attempts at the scripted promos betray her dislike of being manipulated, even when she’s consented to it.

Haymitch is very astute when he asks which Katniss moments made the others in the room feel something, and the answers reveal it’s when she’s free, undirected.

Assuming the next film follows the book, there’s some more we see of how Katniss reacts to being subject to someone else’s agenda, and what she does when she’s finally able to go her own way.

President Snow is also very astute, and though he sucks at trying to control her, he knows very well how to get under her skin. He asks if she can trust the people she’s working for, and it’s clear she doesn’t really.

I heard a talk a while ago about youth work, and among other things it mentioned the popularity of The Hunger Games series. It resonates so well with kids and teens, because they similarly feel subject to the agendas of so many other people.

That talk is downloadable and streamable here.

Dystopia

I came across the thought that dystopian fiction was popular among teens these days, because it reflects their reality.

The example used was The Hunger Games. Katniss starts off as a regular subjugated citizen, already testing the borders (that become more strictly enforced before too long). As an entrant in the Hunger Games, she’s a pawn in someone else’s agenda. As champion, she’s coerced into keeping up a front, in service of the President’s agenda. Then as Haymitch and co try to find her allies in the arena in Catching Fire, she pushes back against their agenda. As she becomes the Face Of The Resistance in the last book, we can understand her reluctance to assume the role.

I found some similarities in the Softwire series. JT and the other children of the Renaissance soon find themselves slaves, moving between owners over the course of the books. And their owners aren’t the only ones who are trying to use the kids for their own ends.

I think I can see why kids would identify with this.

At school, they’re pushed through many tests,and if they’re being “taught to the test”, as we so often hear, as opposed to really understanding the material, then they’re there to make the school or the teacher look good.

We see and hear parents say something along the lines of “you must go to a particular college/university, because I did and it was the Best Thing Ever”, or try to push the kid down a particular career path from a young age, without finding out if the child was particularly suited to, or interested in, it or not.

We hear of Scotland appointing state overseers for every child. And everywhere else in the Western world, the state acts like it owns the children before the parents do.

Case in point: while we were in England, we decided to not take Oldest for a developmental check (we knew he was fine, and going anywhere in the day is hard when you work nights). When the State decided it Really Needed To Meddle in our lives, it got used against us and we were made to take him for the development check (spoiler: he turned out to be fine. What do you know). When the State-sent busybody was whining about it, I ran through the list of all the things we’d taken him to, vaccines he’d had, and all that. “Those are optional” she whined, unconvincingly. It was obvious that if we’d declined any of that other stuff, and gone to the development check, that check would have been labelled “optional” and the other stuff not. Anyway, while she was whining about the development check, I pointed out that Oldest was fine. “But we don’t know that.” Yep, the State thinks it owns your kids.

You hear politicians and talking heads going on about the things we “must” do, “The Children!” are always an easy excuse to do it. No matter that it usually won’t help them, just another drudgery added to the burden they’ll have to carry when they’re of age.

School already felt like a prison to many, back when I went, these days we see, in some places, that they have to go through metal detectors and the like, just to get into school, each day.

Kids are told what they can and can’t eat, all with the best intentions, I’m sure. You hear stories of kids not allowed to bring packed lunches to school, or having the contents of such scrutinised, or being chastised when they share it with a hungry friend.

The list goes on and on, and I’m sure I don’t know most of it. But thinking about it, it’s not a surprise that they identify with stories set in dystopic societies.

They live in one.

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult. To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.” – C.S. Lewis – I’ve seen it variously as from “The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment” and “God In The Dock” – I haven’t checked.

I believe that where I heard about The Hunger Games reflecting the experience of kids today, was in the talk “Systemic Abandonment, “The World Beneath,” and Postmodern Adolescence”.

“We must dissent.” – M. Godwinson.