The Hunger Games: film vs the book

(I thought I’d published this a month ago but I forgot to, so here it is.)

My name’s Rowan and I’m a middle age fangirl. In the past I have been obsessed with (in no particular order): Buffy the Vampire Slayer, My Little Ponies, L J Smith books, Jem and the Holograms, Veronica Mars, Around the World in 80 days, The Chronicles of Fire and Ice, and most recently the Hunger Games. I devoured the books in a New York minute and was ridiculously excited to see the movie adaption the weekend it opened with my fellow fangirl and our respective other halves. I really enjoyed the film and thought it was pretty amazing. Jennifer Lawrence has some huge shoes to fill by taking on the role of Katniss and boy did she deliver. In short, the film rocked. But was it better than the book? Let’s use science* to find out! It goes without saying but spoilers ahoy!

*completely biased opinion.

The film is better

Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence can act. I mean I knew this from Winter’s Bone but she is amazing as Katniss. It’s a tough role given how much of Katniss emotions are held behind a stoical façade, but the emotional intensity she bought without saying a word. Loved it! Furthermore she’s hardcore. I haven’t been this into a strong heroine since Buffy and Veronica Mars and you know how much I love them. The contrast between her open hostility towards her mother and the sweetness with which she mothers Prim showed you exactly why she would volunteer. In a scene that actually gave me goosebumps.  Girl is going to get an Oscar one day, you can count on it.

District 12 vs the Capitol

The contrast between the downtrodden Appalachian District 12 with its muted colours staffed with Deadwood extras and the vibrant, glossy, modern Rome design of the Capitol was brilliant. I can’t convey how odd characters like Effie Trinket with her bleached brows, oddly coloured wigs and oversized shoulders look in contrast to Peeta and Katniss. It’s a perfect visual representation of the fin di siecle atmosphere of Panem.

That’s my fancy dress costumes sorted for the year now

Although an honorary mention goes to Seneca Crane’s facial hair. It makes me long for perfectly crafted topiary beard of my own. Except that would be weird. Shine on tragic Seneca you crazy diamond. (I digress but it was only in this movie that I truly understood the cleverness of Collin’s allusions to ancient Rome. The director highlighted these parallels with Seneca’s final scene with the bowl full of nightlock berries recalling the end of his poetic namesake. Well played Gary Marshall)

Caesar Flickmann

I love Caesar Flickmann, I love Stanley Tucci. He’s the perfect actor for flashy, vacuous, but very good, at his job talk-show host. I loved the way the film used Caesar and his Mogadashu sidekick  (seriously look at that hair) as expostion bots explaining the tracker jackers, commenting on who had died and the change in the gamekeepers tactic. The book is quite claustrophobic with it’s narrow first person focus on Katniss and although I wished the film had been more in the style of the Truman show, where we see Panem citizens watching the action inside the Hunger Games, I did appreciate the widening of perspective we did get.

District 11 uprising

Which brings me on to the uprising in District 11 as they watch Katniss sing a dying Rue to sleep then cover her dead body in flowers a revolution breaks out. OK, they may have cut out the scene where they send the bread, weep. But it effectively demonstrates how small actions in the arena can have a huge effect.

The sponsor scenes

In the book they seemed the ultimate deux ex machina of authorial intent. Uh-oh Katniss has got hideously wounded send down some medicine from her sponsors/god/me the author 🙂 But I minded it less in the book even if they did omit the scene where Katniss drugs Peeta to attend the feast at the cornucopia, where she can get medicine for him. Girl is cold and that’s why I love her.

The book was better

The ambivalence of Katniss and Peeta’s motivations

If I hadn’t read the books in the film I would assume that Katniss is actually falling for Peeta in the Hunger Games softens Collins satirical attack on reality show romances. I love in the book how mixed up Katniss’ feelings are for Peeta in her need for survival which contrasts completely to what she decides to do in Catching Fire. Also throughout the book she constantly doubts Peeta’s motivations: is he playing her for the cameras? Thereby justifying her actions. There seems no doubt in the film that Peeta loves Katniss, therefore the scene where we discover he has teams up with the Tributes is robbed from its power as we know he’s doing it for her. Unlike in the book where it casts real doubt on whether he was always pretending to love her? Only towards the end of the book do we realise that Peeta truly loves her in contrast to the film where it seems clear all along.  When Katniss reacts to the gamekeepers reversal on two tributes surviving, by drawing her knife of Peeta it makes her a much more complex and dark character than in the film. Effectively showing how much the games has warped her from the girl she was back in district 12

Violence

I reread the books before watching the movie and the descriptions aren’t actually that violent. However, because of the difference in medium your imagination can fill in the gaps in a book in a way it doesn’t do in the film. And my imagination, likes blood and lots of it. Look I get why they made this film an 12 so that it would make more money. But it’s a film about teenagers killing each other for our amusement. I think we need to vicariously get off on the violence but be simultaneously horrified by it to understand the attraction-repulsion felt by the Capitol vs the Districts. The camera style made it incredibly hard to see what was going on in the fight scenes. Also cutting moments like when Peeta defects to the darkside and finishes off the girl that started the fire to show he’s part of the Tributes (and also we later realise to protect Katniss makes him a much darker character in the book).

Haymitch

Sorry Woody Harrelson but book Haymitch with his bitterness and anger at the Capitol is so much better than film Haymitch. I was really sad they moved his entrance in the film to the train and opposed to IMHO in the book where during the drawing ceremony he falls up the steps drunk showing to the world and Katniss and Peeta the complete lack of help they have in the games. In the book the vehement dislike between him and Katniss is great and the way they come to uneasy understanding that are both unlikeable survivors is really strong. Here’s hoping they ramp up the rage for Catching Fire because I know Harrelson can rock that out.

Avox

In the book the Avox are servants in the Capitol who have had their voice box surgically removed so they are mute. Katniss recognises her Avox as a girl she saw on the run in the woods of District 12. They only appear in the background of the film which is a shame as I think they encapsulate that there are worst things than dying in the arena.

The mutts

In the books the mutts are creepy mutations with the faces of dead tributes. The ultimate horror for Peeta and Katniss is that they have to defeat the people they just killed. Like a real life version of those horrible dreams you have when you are trying to kill somebody and they just won’t die. In the book they are ‘magically’ generated creatures. I know the Capitol a monopoly on technology but why couldn’t the dogs have rised from the earth in cages instead of appearing like flickery magical apparitions. It really took me out of the film. Not to mention the effects are awful.

The camera style

The handheld filming style made me want to be sick. I mean, I get it the lack of budget meant that filming around the effects saved a lot of time and money. But before I got used to the filming style I spent the first ten minutes of the film trying not to puke into my popcorn. Not the ideal start.

Result

5 vs 6. You win this time book. But only just.

In short see the Hungers Games and read the book. They’re both brilliant.

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Bridesmaids

I finally got to see Bridesmaids last night with my lovely friends Katy and Greg. And, dude it was really, really good.  I had high expectations (90% on rotten tomatoes) and they were thoroughly exceeded. The basic plot is this: Annie’s life is a total mess when she’s asked to be the maid of dishonour at her best friend Lillian’s wedding.  In this film men are at the periphery, Annie’s friendship with Lillian and how she feels supplanted by the younger, thinner, richer Helen is the focus. It’s hilarious from the speech-off at the engagement party to the posh bridal shop where all the bridesmaids get food poisoning. And Wilson Philips even turned up at the end! In short it was one of the funniest films I’d seen in years.

But it did make me think about how politically fraught the issue of choosing your bridesmaids is.

When I was three years old, my elder sister Sarah was a bridesmaid at my aunt’s wedding. She got to wear the most beautiful polka dot net dress with a pink sash and a floral wreath on her head. We where sat in the church and as she passed sprinkling flowers, my little heart almost broke from the injustice. She got to wear the perfect dress and the floral crown while I had to sit in the uncomfortable wooden pew. Lame! (Or whatever the three-year old equivalent is.) I decided to get up and join her. When my dad restrained me I threw a temper tantrum of epic proportions and had to be escorted from the church in disgrace. Looking back I think my dad, a heavy smoker then, may have encouraged me as he got to have a sneaky fag instead of sit through the service!

For years afterwards I would try on Sarah’s dress, the epitome of early 80’s style, and dream. Who cared about getting married when you could wear a pretty party dress and got to sprinkle flowers behind the bride. I knew my life would not be complete until I was a bridesmaid. My uncle got married but neither me nor my younger sister were asked to be a bridesmaid. Which was a bit of a relief as there would be nothing worse than if my younger sister was a bridesmaid and I wasn’t! Another uncle got married and had no bridesmaids. I was older by then, entering the turbulent waters of adolescence, and over the whole bridesmaid thing. Friends got married and none of them asked me to be their bridesmaids… bitches. (Joke)

When I got engaged, remembering my three-year old self I knew I had to approach the bridesmaid’s issue with sensitivity. Young fragile hearts might get broken, if they didn’t get to carry my train 🙂 After we got engaged I asked my two sisters straight away if they would be my bridesmaids. Lauren my younger sister had shared my never- a-bridesmaid pain and was delighted. (I am slightly worried by her promise of dirty strippers at my high-class hen night. But she has been warned. She’s younger than me and whatever she metes out will be returned threefold when she is wed. (Our sisterly bond is held together by a potent mixture of bribery and blackmail. (I heart parentheses!))) When I asked Sarah she said, and I quote:

‘But, I’ve already been a bridesmaid, I suppose I could do it again for you.’

Salt meet wound. I almost rescinded the invitation there and then!

All kidding aside, I am so excited to have my sisters, my womb mates, my best girls by my side. Who else would be there with cake and sympathy when the going gets tough and have the balls to tell me when I need to STFU about the stupid wedding 🙂

I must admit watching the movie last did give me a little pang, as Lillian had loads of bridesmaids. Originally I wanted my sisters plus my best friends but I just couldn’t make it work. With my friends back home, we come as a package deal. Unfortunately my best friends is fighting a serious illness and I didn’t want to put any additional pressure on her. Another would have to be excluded on account of him having a penis (sorry Greggers). So I chose to just have my sisters.

What I’ve learnt that my three-year old self did not know is that whether  you’re picked to be a bridesmaid (or not) is not an indication of how much you are loved. If I had everybody I loved as my bridesmaid there would be nobody to witness our wedding! On the day whether at my side, or in the crowd, whether drinking a toast or a two to our happiness or dancing their arses off to Hold On, my girls (and guys) have my back. Whether they are wearing fugly taffetta dresses in matching fuchsia or not.

Jennifer’s Body and the feminist horror movie

I wanted to love Jennifer’s body, I really did. It had a lot of things worked for it: the title, the horror-comedy premise, written by Diablo Cody (who I know infuriates a lot of people but I adore), starring Amanda Seyfriend aka the gone but never forgotten Lily Kane. But why was it such a hot mess?

First the casting, I love Amanda Seyfried but she was frankly miscast as the dowdy  Needy. Come on she’s beautiful. Megan Fox was not as bad as I thought she would be in this role.
However Jennifer and Needy as frenemies has very little chemistry let along enough to justify the tacked on faux lesbian stylings. Adam Brody as the devil worshipping hipster was knock-it-out of the park amazing

But the main issue I had was with the shallow, poor plot. The scene in which Jennifer is sacrificed to the demon is genuinely frightening and horrifying scene. The parallels to sexual assault make it almost too awful to watch.

But then Jennifer starts killing innocent boys. Why after this traumatising incident does she not go after the people who did this to her. The film could have easily explained this away by giving her no memory of what had happened to her or some prohibition against taking down the boys. But there was no explanation as to why this hugely powerful creature would take her vengeance. This film tried to examine the nature of female friendship, teenage girl as demon, small town woes and as a result didn’t really look in depth at anything.

I couldn’t help but feel that inside this movie there was a far more interesting subversive film fighting to get out. The closing scene over the titles is admittedly awesome. I literally cheered as the blood splattered over the screen. Yes, finally I thought, but by then it was far too late.

She’s a pistol


I’ve had a good weekend. But now I’m deep into the Sunday blues that even a three day week can’t alleviate. Bleurgh.

I went back home for the weekend. The Boys mum and dad are moving to my home town and we went for a look round their new home. Its gorgeous, high ceilings, beautifully finished and with its only mini temple in the garden. Then I went up on the hill to see the folks.

Today, I just lounged in bed and indulged in my new obsession, Veronica Mars. Veronica is the daughter of a PI, an outcast and a former member of the 09ners the rich kids that rule the school. Her best friend Lily Kane was murdered and her father the former sheriff was discredited after going the father of the Kanes. The show is brilliant Veronica is approachable, feisty, interesting, but never smug. She’s like the new Nancy Drew. The shows funny and sad a little bit twin peaks, a little bit buffy. Go watch it, go watch it now!

{Does anyone know to cut and hide things? I really want to rave in detail about certain books and shows without spoilering them for friends}

Less of a recommendation more of avoid this if you don’t want to be a little bored. We’re watching the mist at the moment which is filled with people jostling for the position of ‘Too-stupid-to-live’ from the religious freak lady, unbelieving attorney, callow youth etc. Its not quite as bad as cloverfield (30 minutes of drunken party footage, 1 hour and a half of running and screaming with unlikable stupid characters) but what is? Anyway you can tell how interested I am in by the fact I’m surfing the internet instead of watching the damn thing. Although interesting ending

Example 1 of how hypothetical situations ruin relationships I was not too impressed that The Boy just remarked ‘why is he going back for his wife’. Hmmm

My friend joey has joined the blogging revolution with his friend leo. Go and check out their film review blog over here

Blade Runner Final Cut

Last night I went to the late night showing of Blade Runner Final Cut. It was showing at one of the best cinemas in my city, a small independent cinema that shows an esoteric range of films from indie, mainstream, and cinema classics. They also sell alcohol and home made cakes (last night I had chocolate tart – yummy).

I first watched Blade Runner late at night on TV, not only was it the old version with the cheesy voice over and the last scene was of them driving in the sun (because its all OK, kids!). It also had a couple of key scenes edited out for TV, in particular all of the eyeball scenes, I guess because of the violence. In this early version it was clear Dekkard was the good guy, and the replicants were the bad guys. Later I watched the far superior Directors Cut (not to be confused by the Final Cut :)) on dvd, but last night was the first time I watched Ridley’s Scotts remastered version.

So not only was I watching the film last night with these ghost versions showing in my head. I was also rewatching the film from a completely different perspective. Blade Runner came out the year I was born, and I think the first time I watched it I must have been 12 or 13. It was my introduction to noir films. I hadn’t yet watched Metropolis, Chinatown or The Maltese Falcon. I had never read any Philip K Dick, Isaac Asimov or John Wydenham. I didn’t yet know why Blade Runner was such a good movie because I hadn’t read or watched the canon of movies that inform it. I just knew that it was brilliant.

Watching the film last night was like returning to a place you once loved, everything was the same and everything had changed. From the opening sequence with the shot over LA and the pouff of the flames erupting from the power station to the last scene with the origami unicorn. Watching it now having seen and read a lot of exceptional sci fi (and some extremely dire sci fi) added to my appreciation of the film.

At the moment I’m obsessed by editing, how making a seemingly minuscule change can influence the entire tone, plot, feel of a book. So it was interesting to look at how this works visually. The main change (from what I can remember) is the removal of the cheesy voice over. This serves to make Dekkard’s motivations much more opaque and his character more amoral. Sort of like changing a story from first person to third limited perspective, the voice over helps you identify with the character, by removing it allows you to make up your own mind. I think Ridley Scott also rejigged the chase scene at the end with Roy and Dekkard to up the tension. Of course now I want to go back and look at the two earlier versions and see if I can spot the cracks!

I always feel sympathy for the replicants: the desperate need to meet your maker and seek recompense for the flaws of your creation is fertile ground (see Frankenstein et al). The brutality with which Dekkard retires the replicants is too close to the violence they inflict on those that come across their path.

The little details intrigued me, the advertisements for the off world colonies, the fact that real animals were too expensive and replicants were cheaper, the fake memories, and asian advertisements. And there were eyes everywhere, the golden hue of the replicants eyes, the eye man, Priss spray painting over her eyes, Roy boring out Tyrell’s eyes. A good use of a motif for a film obsessed with our perceptions of reality.

The boy said that he found the noir elements overpowering. Like a rich meal the shadowy lighting, the incessant rain, the beautiful decrepid settings were a little much for his pallet. I loved it, of course. The lighting, the sets, the costumes. even the characters – everything was used, dirty, jaded.

Afterwards there was the eternal debate about whether or not Dekkard is a replicant (for the record I think its a yes the photos, the unicorn dreams, and Grak leaving the unicorn at the end (Oh Adama how I love you!) all seem to point to this. Although the film is ambiguous enough to not answer the question conclusively).

I’m so glad that I got the chance to see the film in the cinema