That’s who representative Effie Trinket chooses out of a glass bowl to see who will play in the futuristic, titular 74th annual Hunger Games. It’s the nightmare scenario for the girl bearing that name (Willow Shields), as well as for her sister, our heroine Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence), because the former will be too young to survive the bloodbath that comes with these games. Imagine if the neon lights of “American Idol” have younger and more homicidal contestants. But let’s get back to the real issue – this representative looks so ridiculous that I didn’t even know that Elizabeth Banks was playing her. It’s as if Nicki Minaj apparently is the face of the future, one of the adults from Panem’s Capitol – the seat of power of a futuristic version of North America – who all look like anime villains. And I haven’t run out of metaphors and references – as if Zac Posen and the now-defunct Heatherettes’ palettes puked on Stefano Pilati and Viktor and Rolf’s otherwise perfect tailoring, these futuristic designs fitting within the uber-capitalistic society, the latter’s flag looking like an Aryan bastardization of Rome built in the Rockies. It reminds me of what Walter Benjamin said about how France under Napoleon emulates Rome. And it’s not just because science fiction stories, by nature, are pretty much ideas and fashions and designs from the present day set in titanium. Present and future societies will always repeat their past. And these games are a reminder of the past, Effie repeating the words of the video she shows to the district about how the games are the Capitol’s way of giving peace and fear, indoctrinated that her messed up world is perfect.
I also noticed the differences between the people in the Capitol and Katniss’ peasant-like District 12, where pastel and steel are separated from earthier tones. She’s her family’s provider but when she volunteers as the district’s female tribute to replace Prim, she transforms. Her earlier ‘masculine’ habits of hunting are still intact. I never imagine her in a beautiful dress, as I’m supposed to, but there she is wearing a red number in her publicity tour as one of the tributes. She even twirls and shows off her ‘fire’ for the audiences. I saw this as a change from awkward, unsightly adolescence to full-blossomed adulthood but that binary is complicated that she’s one of twenty-four chosen while the rest of the people in many districts are stuck without ‘growing.’ But then again that seems more realistic, that the glamourous adulthood of our imaginations can’t come true for everyone. And even with being chosen she still has to compete with twenty-three other youths to ‘have it all.’ It’s like what Panem’s President Snow (Donald Sutherland) says to the man presiding the games (Wes Bentley), that this kind of entertainment brings false hope to the masses. Dystopic sci-fis are really great in bringing up these issues in exaggerating present day conundrums and it’s really to Suzanne Collins’ – who wrote the original novels and co-wrote the movie’s screenplay with Billy Ray and the movie’s director Gary Ross – credit to have created such a detailed world.
And Lawrence, playing a younger version of her Ree Dolly in Winter’s Bone, is one of the foundations that make this world more solid, especially with the contradictions within her character. Her full cheeks masks her eyes’ rage and curiosity. She’s awkward – during athletic/publicity training she asks her designer Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) how she can make people like her. Effie criticizes her for being ill-mannered after many conflicts against the sponsors and her co-tribute Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). But this young woman eventually finds and protects her new family, inadvertently becomes the face of a new rebellion and rides out a semi-fabricated story that she and Peeta are the games’ star-crossed lovers. That the characters, Collins and Ross’ final and cynical word on their love feels subversive for a young adult narrative. Although at least some of their love is real, Katniss bringing him medicine and both saving each other’s lives during the games.
If there’s anything I’ll strongly say against this movie, it’s that Ross and cinematographer Tom Stern bring their camera too close and fast, especially in its opening sequences. As much as I would like to be acquainted with these characters – the shaky cam replicating her perspective as she walks and runs through her journey – I also want to see the world where they belong. The Bourne-style quick-cutting also doesn’t help with the violent scenes. Seeing those deaths, admittedly, was part of the sadistic fun and it kind of sucks that the audience doesn’t get to fully experience this. The cast also includes Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson and Alexander Ludwig. Image via Villagevoice.
Amanda Seyfried and “Gone”
I wanted to start out with how after watching War Horse, I had many choices that night (a good movie or a movie I worked in) but instead I chose to see Gone, because I’m good at decisions for which I don’t have to pay. That I highly disliked Amanda Seyfried because she, sober, can only get roles that Lindsay Lohan would when she’s constantly intoxicated and that I miss Lohan and I’m glad that she’s back. That how Seyfried obtusely chooses movies so terrible that Kristen Stewart selling her soul seems dignified in comparison. Or how she talks, in interviews, the way an intoxicated person would when you’re sober. The movie itself isn’t bad, but it is a hot mess.
In Gone Seyfried’s character Jill starts out just on the edge of normalcy, suspicious walks to Portland’s Forest Park and all, until her sister Molly (Emily Wickersham) is nowhere to be found, not leaving a note nor without a change of outside clothes. She reports this incident as a missing persons case to the police like Det. Pete Hood (Wes Bentley) who hears this news while clouded by the knowledge that she’s also an ex-kidnap victim two years ago and believes that her abductor has been taking the other young women who are missing in Portland and is out to kill her because she was the one who got away. She has also been diagnosed and mentally institutionalized for a year before her sister has taken her home.
Her police report is a crucial scene, at first revealing the details of what her memory says what has happened between the last time she has seen Molly – which is before she left for her night shift at the diner (I guess that despite her mental state she has to take what she can get, or that this could have been her job when she was ‘normal’) – and the present. She talks meticulously, like a paranoiac who remembers every detail for when something bad happens to her or to her only family.
One of the movie’s contrivances is that the police is hell-bent on ignoring her at the price of her life and her sister’s. They show their doubts, revealing other cases when ‘responsible’ women become ‘wild,’ and that’s when Seyfried stops sustaining her arc and starts yelling uncontrollably at them. Maybe she needed a better director to guide her to when she’s supposed to be belligerent or calm. But whatever she does for the rest of the movie – lying to her neighbors or ‘interview subjects,’ pretending to a couple of twelve-year olds that she can get them backstage passes to a Justin Bieber concert, toting a gun and finding Molly and the killer herself – will be marred by how she behaves during her worst. It’s too early for her ‘crazy’ scene either way, which is also the fault of the structure of the screenplay.
But the script, between car chases, isn’t that bad, portraying the vernacular of these characters in their private lives. Molly tells Jill that they should get fat together. A police officer tells his female partner that ‘when a man hits a woman a second time, she’s an accomplice.’ A skateboarder tells Jill that his girlfriend thinks that another man – sorry if you had to follow all of that – has ‘rape-y’ eyes. We hear the way women talk to each other, men talk to women about other women and women telling what they really think of men. It’s the whispered prejudices pasted into two hours or less of a movie, along with its leading actress who tries her best and the Craigslist-like meeting she dives into in the end, that are this movie’s saving graces. 2.5/5