Have you ever heard of those Mommy Movie specials where movie theaters set aside a showing for adults to take young babies to and no one really cares if the babies cry or if you change them on the floor or whatnot? Well, we went to one today!
First, I want to say how offended I am that they're generally referred to as "Mommy Movie" days or whatever, because what, daddies can't drag along their infant to see The Hunger Games, too?
I'm proud to report that Animal was very good during his first movie (and his first trip to Brooklyn, his first stroll around Manhattan and his first inter-borough subway ride — well, except at the end there when he cried incessantly and we couldn't figure out what the deal was, until we realized after we got home that he was probably just really overheated in an unnecessary jacket and crammed against us in the carrier).
As for The Hunger Games, it was fantastic. Really well done. When we read the book I thought that it would make a pretty good movie, and they totally pulled it off.
I gather (because Jen said) there's been some discussion about the casting. When we first heard about it, I was surprised about a couple of the choices. While reading the book I pictured Stanley Tucci as Cinna, sort of half-reprising his role in The Devil Wears Prada (maybe that reveals something about me), and I thought Woody Harrelson was strange — that character I thought of as a rotund dark-haired man for some reason. But Woody Harrelson was great, and Stanley Tucci was good, too. And Jennifer Lawrence was great — such a strong character and she fit it perfectly.
(A word about the bizarre reaction to Lenny Kravitz' character and the District 11 characters being black — huh? I don't get it. The casting was smart in the way that it slightly evoked race and class in what seemed like was supposed to be a post-racial world; District 12 seemed like West Virginia while District 11 was perhaps Detroit or something; it worked.)
What I love about the story is how pitch perfect a Young Adult story it is. That the teens strugglie against adults in this tyrannical world is so smart. It reminded me of Robert Cormier's The Chocolate War, except Hunger Games was so much more awesome. The strong female character was so fresh, too, especially against that totally fucked up horrible relationship model in those vampire books.
What I also love about the story is the role of the underdog. (One thing I don't love about the movie is how they inserted a scene spelling that out so explicitly.) The earnest and non-ironic main character comes from an impoverished place where they are almost starving. She's thrust into a world of colorful urbane characters with expressive facial hair and high-speed rail. You can't not root for her. This makes the film sort of like a cross between Rudy, The Warriors, Platoon and My Fair Lady (give or take a few of those, I suppose).
What I also love about the story is the insane dystopian world the story inhabits, where teens kill one another for the television viewing pleasure of adults. It gets your attention. There was an asinine piece on the PBS NewsHour last week about the film where Jeffrey Brown asks his guest about the violence:
Q: Now, you said action. Of course, there's also violence.
A: There is violence.
Q: So, I've been reading. And that seems to be a question, about the level of violence. I mean, at the heart of this is a contest for survival involving teens killing teens.
Now, what kind of discussion has that elicited?
I think, certainly, parents seem to be concerned about this. You do have to ask yourself as a parent, is this a movie you want to take a young child to? And I think most parents would probably say, there — there is a PG-13 rating, so that's out there for you already.
But these are difficult questions, and I think the one thing that comes through from the beginning of the book until the ending is that Katniss is the main character, giving herself up as a sacrifice to save her sister. So there is deep love there, and she's doing this for a reason, that it's not like a video game, where people are just shooting each other for fun. There's a real depth to her story.
(An aside: Why do "serious" news programs love to have writers on? They kind of suck on television, which is probably why they're writing and not speaking in public to begin with. Is this some kind of fetish about "writing" and "the print media"? The whole thing is stupid.)
How about the point of the violence is to show how tyrannical a world they're living in? How about comparing it to the violence in a movie like Saving Private Ryan, which was to illustrate how horrible war was? How about noting that ABC decided to air the uncut version of Private Ryan because the violence was an essential part of the message of the film? And that NBC showed Schindler's List uncut for the same reason? But "she's doing this for a reason, that it's not like a video game, where people are just shooting each other for fun"? What the fuck? Figure it the fuck out.
So anyway, I get why young adults would like this Young Adult work. It's a great Young Adult work. What I don't totally get is why adults are so apeshit about it. Before you get all "upset" or whatever, I'm including myself in that.
I wonder if it, in part, has to do with the great black-white/good-evil simplicity of the story. I think it's a stretch, and simplistic, to look at world and political events this last decade and think that there's a tendency for our culture to crave good vs. evil storylines. I mean, I like that answer in the sense that it feels good to point to one thing and apply it to all of popular culture, but there's got to be something else going on.
Maybe adults harbor a latent desire to want to see the underdog prevail. Maybe they want to see good triumph over evil. Maybe there's nothing particularly "adolescent" about it. I think I still crave stories that focus on good underdogs triumphing over evil overdogs. Maybe I crave simplistic stories. Maybe that's why Blue Valentine left me so fucking cold.
Sitting there with Animal, it struck me that I think I want a daughter, if only so she could see a positive female character like the one in The Hunger Games.
One last thing — I kept hearing about this great soundtrack with all manner of wonderful bands. I only heard a few soundtracky songs during the credits. It turns out that only three of the songs on the soundtrack actually appear in the film itself. That is basically the stupidest goddamn thing I've ever heard of. Call me a fuddy-duddy, but isn't a soundtrack comprised of songs that you hear parts of in a film? I thought it was bad enough that television shows had soundtracks. This might actually be worse.Posted: March 29th, 2012 | Author: Scott | Filed under: Those Who Can't Do Review | Tags: A Totally Unprovoked Attack On The Film Blue Valentine, Give Me Back My Soundtrack!, In Defense Of Violence, In Which I Gush About The Hunger Games, Let's Rename "Mommy Movie" Something Along The Lines Of "Parent Pictures", Mean Old Daddy, Rising Up Against The Lionel-Industrial Complex, What Carson Kressley Hath Wrought, Woody Harrelson Come Home Indecent Proposal Is Forgiven, You Think That Snide Comment About The Twilight Series Will Just Slip By Unnoticed?