Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Hunger Games

Well, the first Movie Event of the year was The Hunger Games, and good for it.  I did the whole thing--bought advance tickets, got to the theater an hour early to wait in line, cried a bit.  Overall, I thought the movie was a fully faithful to the book and contained stirring, engaging performances.

The first thing I noticed as I waited in line was the span of ages.  Sure, roughly half of the audience was under the age of fourteen--and that's fine.  After all, the novel IS a young adult book.  Still, there were older couples, older teens, twenty somethings without kids--it was all in all a pretty diverse audience, age-wise.  The next thing I noticed was that even among the younger audiences, girls only outnumbered boys by a little.  To me, that's just fantastic.  The Hunger Games may not be for everyone but at least we don't have to hear complaints that it's just for girls.  A strong female protagonist naturally engages more girls than boys, while a strong male protagonist is more likely to appeal to both.  Maybe The Hunger Games is showing a turn of the tide.

On the other hand, maybe I'm giving it too much credit.  Perhaps we'll see.

As far as the film itself goes, what is there to say that hasn't been said already?  Jennifer Lawrence was fantastic.  The Capitol was callous and gorgeous.  I really enjoyed the added scenes--the small snippets we didn't get in the book.  Of all characters, Seneca Crane probably benefited the most by these additions.  President Snow will get his chance in future movies, as will Haymitch.  But between scenes with these two characters and the Gamemaking room, Seneca (and his beard) really comes into his own in a way he didn't in the books.  I also liked the addition of the District 11 scene.  Having the book from Katniss's perspective made the action more immediate, but the movie had a little room to breathe and took advantage of it.

As I said, there's little to more I can add to the discussion of The Hunger Games--so much has already been written.  But I must say, I'm on a winning streak for movies this year.  Even those which I liked a little less than others were still not bad.  Here's hoping it continues.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


Shakespeare is meant to be seen, not read.  This was more clear than ever to me with Coriolanus.  While I like to say I understand Shakespeare well when I read it, the action and visual with it just makes it so much better, so much clearer.

Overall, I recommend this movie.  There are moments about which I am unsure but as a whole, it's a compelling and pointedly well-acted movie.  I was universally impressed by the performances, with Vanessa Redgrave's standing out even above the rest.

I'm not familiar with the original play, beyond a few lines here and there, but still found the plot and motivations easy to follow.  If you are the kind of viewer who requires a purely good, easy to cheer for character, this may not be the film for you.  While every character had a logical motivation, it was hard to wish for one to succeed over the others.

The citizens of Rome are certainly not shown in a great light, but then, neither are the soldiers.  Every character wants what is best for him or herself under the guise of what is best for everyone--but not one character (save perhaps Brian Cox's Menenius) is able to consider what is truly best for all.  The citizens, demanding their share, cannot accept a leader who does not respect their needs.  Coriolanus thought the citizens well below him, which is not exactly an admirable trait in a leader.

This story is rich with political intrigue and questionable themes, but even then I can see why it's not one of Shakespeare's more well-known stories.  Some of its characters are rather shallowly drawn and not a single one is purely likeable.

I must question one decision.  Without spoiling a 400+ year-old story, I have to say that the last shot (not the last scene, but the final shot itself) was an odd choice.  The end was clear in the second-to-last shot, which was framed much more memorably and beautifully than the last.  And perhaps the choice to end with an awkward shot was meant to have a deeper meaning, but I still have to question it.  The pentultimate shot was, in my opinion, a much better ending.

Still, Fiennes' modern twist to an old Roman story grounds it in an interesting way, and as I said the performances are universally riveting.  It's not a movie for everyone, but it's certainly one that's well done.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Artist

This year's Best Picture winner was the silent film The Artist.  I haven't seen enough of the nominees this year to make a decision over whether or not it was the right choice, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.  It was clever and "artsy" without being too out of reach.  I can see why it will never be a blockbuster hit, and that's alright.  Not every movie should be a blockbuster.  How dull would that be?

My favorite parts where those where the film almost became self-aware; George's dreams about suddenly getting caught in a "talkie" and his fixation on the cop's moving lips come to mind.  I suppose "meta" could be the right term here.

I can't say the film was subtle, exactly--then again, what silent film is?  The opening lines of the movie included its silent star proclaiming that he'll never talk--words that become more and more significant as the film goes on.  He and his wife can't ever communicate.  His strongest relationship is with his dog, and even that never requires speaking.  His film audience loves him, and he never says a word to them.  Even the film posters ("The Thief of his Heart" and "Guardian Angel," for example) reflected what was going on on screen.  While the film never quite spells out the subtext, the subtext resonates pretty strongly throughout.

 Still, I recommend the film.  It was emotional and evocative, artistic without being overbearing, and featured a very strong lead performance from its Best Actor Jean Dujardin.  Thumbs up.


I saw this movie nearly a month ago, and it has taken me this long to write about it.  I actually enjoyed almost all of it.  I think that the end was a little too big, but I loved many elements of it.

First, I really enjoyed that it seemed like exactly what seventeen-year-old boys would do if they suddenly found themselves with superpowers.  They push themselves, they have fun, they don't bother to try too hard to figure out what was causing it. 

In every scene, the stakes rose higher and higher, so I suppose the ending was really inevitable.  I just found it...overblown, perhaps.  The only real issues I remember having, both in watching the movie and in thinking about it later, occurred within the last half-hour of the movie.  I don't wish to go into too much depth for the sake of anyone who hasn't seen the movie yet, but while the narrative doesn't fall apart, its tonal shifts are pretty serious.

On a more positive note, I really enjoyed the found-footage aspect of the film.  For one thing, it mostly made sense (though the addition of the video-blogger girl seems pretty forced).  For another, it allowed for some truly gorgeous camera angles, which is generally unusual in this style of filmmaking.  The floating camera work was intriguing and engaging and really well-rendered. 

Overall, I recommend the film.  I enjoyed it well enough to overcome the problems I have with it.  I found the performances engaging and the special effects enjoyable without being overwhelming.