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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » The Hunger Games (spoilers)

   
Author Topic: The Hunger Games (spoilers)
Chris Bridges
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So, I like the books. Not great literature, not even up to the later Harry Potter books, but fun and quick reads and just enough social commentary to add some weight and, most importantly, the exact opposite of the Twilight series. And the movie trailers looked good and Jennifer Lawrence was a great choice for Katniss and I was excited to see what they had done. So much so that I braved the crowds to see a movie on opening night, something I do maybe twice a year.

And... I don't know. There were exciting scenes and moments I got misty and times I felt like cheering and when the credits rolled I felt mostly disappointed.

Part of it, I know, is the necessary cuts to cram the book into a movie. Even at that, it runs two hours and twenty minutes. And changes had to be made to show us what, in the books, Katniss tells us. I understand that. I just don't understand some of the choices made, especially the things that were cut that have deeper significance in the following books.

Part of it was the directing. The constantly moving camera was, frankly, annoying. When used properly it's a great effect to put you right in the moment. Overused, it just gives me headaches. Note the different in the use of the jerkycam between "The Bourne Identity," when it was used to great effect during fight scenes or chase scenes, and the use in the sequel when the director used it in every damn scene. Honestly, jerky focusing during a conversation in a diner doesn't make me feel like I'm there, it makes me feel like I'm having a stroke.

Similarly, scenes were cut short, constantly, It's not coincidence that the most gripping scenes where the ones where the actors were allowed time to act, and we were given time to process it. The Reaping scene. Rue's death. The cave. Otherwise scenes ended just as the last word of dialogue did, with no time for reactions or tone. That may have been due to the time crunch; maybe the scenes were shot but then pared down to save every last second. All I know is, it managed to feel rushed and lagging at the same time, which is kind of impressive.

And part of it was the score. This movie needed to feel epic. It needed to move me at the right times, and get out of the way when it wasn't needed. Nope. I should have felt grandeur during the parade, I should have felt more excitement in the forest, I should have been on the edge of my seat at the end, and I wasn't. A score makes a huge difference in a film, and this one was lacking for me.

I'm going to collect my thoughts and see if I can tell what was missing for me. Back in a few.

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Lyrhawn
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I felt a lot of emotions throughout the book, which I agree were enjoyable, but not great literature.

The only times I even got a little emotional in the movie were when Rue died, and when she did the three-finger salute to District 11. I felt like the robbed the impact of the salute in District 12. It didn't mean anything. We didn't really know what it meant. It was still nice, but it happened so fast and was over. Attached to Rue's death in the movie, it meant a lot more, especially when it was returned. I feel like we needed more stuff like that, because the emotional connection in the book was easier with Katniss sharing her thoughts and feelings with the reader. In the movie, it all came from the outside looking in, and her character was simply too hard on the outside for much of that to show. Left me a little disconnected.

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Chris Bridges
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Here's the stuff I would have liked to have seen included. Again, for all I know it was shot and got cut, but this is what the Armchair DirectorTM would add:

In the beginning, as Katniss is heading off to hunt (and why is she putting her sister to bed in the morning, anyway?) her sister should have kissed her fingers and waved at her. Katniss could do it back, then simply nodded at her mother. We needed to know it was an affectionate, nearly intimate gesture, so it means something later.

Her mom should not have been so lucid. Katniss should have had to bring her out of it a little, so we'd understand why she was snapping at her mom after the Reaping.

The pin was too random, so it had no emotional impact, and it has to. We lost the mayor's daughter scene so try this: when she trades in her bird, make the Hob more black market than flea market, and have the old lady treat her with the kind of sarcasm you only use with someone who's earned your respect. Later, after Katniss is being taken away, the old lady should contrive to press it into her hand, whispering "for luck."

No problems with the Reaping scene, or the heading-to-Capitol scenes, other than the jerky camera. We should have seen Katniss watching more old scenes, though, including some that looked old.

Loved Haymitch and Effie and Cinna. All of the casting was spot-on, in fact. And am I the only one who saw Josh Hutcherson (Peeta) and thought "Young Wash"? If they ever do a "Firefly" prequel...

Caesar worked for me, as did Seneca and the president. But the crowd scenes seemed too sterile, like the throne room scenes in "Thor." Everything was so shiny and the crowds were so contained, it screamed CG to me. And, sadly, the Girl on Fore costume simply wasn't as impressive as it sounded in the book. The parts that weren't flaming were supposed to be gently glowing, like old coals in a fire. They had on black jumpsuits with a flamey effect.

When she sees the forest in her window, Katniss should have unconsciously touched her pin. Mockingjay pin (at this point) = home.

During the Games, since we lacked the insight into Katniss' head we got scenes from other POVs instead. Which is fine, but if they had to do that, they didn't do it enough. We should have seen people gasping, people betting on the outcome, people lined up in the streets watching, people glued to the show in their homes and at work and everywhere else. "The Truman Show" did this perfectly, you really got the sense the whole world was watching, partly because they kept going back to the same people watching so each spectator got his or her own little story arc. We also should have other districts watching their children dying and mourning quietly with grim acceptance because what else can they do? So when Rue died, and District 11 watched Katniss treat their own with respect and love, we really understood when they snapped and rioted.

Say, when the other tributes were waiting under the tree for Katniss to come down, and one was throwing knives into a lizard, did you wonder why she didn't throw a knife into Katniss while she was climbing before? I kinda was.

Needed more mention of the mockingjay pin. Rue trusted her because of it. Since it's never mentioned in the entire Game in the movie, the point of Cinna sneaking it onto her jacket is wasted. Also more on mockingjays in general. Even a quick mention: "Oh, mockingjays. My dad used to sing to them, they said no one could attract them the way he could." We'll need that, later.

I may be remembering it wrong, but my impression from the book was that in the beginning of the Game she was fighting to stay alive. After Rue's death, she was fighting to get back at the Capitol. I missed that, in the movie.

Most of the rest of the Game I'd leave alone, except for this: We needed to be unsure whether she meant her affection for Peeta or not, and we needed to be uncertain how serious he was. And we needed to be uncertain exactly why she was going to eat the berries, but we should absolutely have believed she was going to. In the movie there was no suspense, no build up, no music to help build tension, and we knew right away she was faking it.

I also think having Peeta relatively uninjured at the end was a mistake, since you lose the Katniss-screaming-for-him-in-the-hovercraft scene that way, which is what clinched her in the hearts of the viewers.

When they arrived at District 12, I would have ended the movie with Katniss and Peeta smiling and holding their hands up high as everyone cheers, and I'd have rolled credits. BUT, I would have continued to show scenes alongside them, suggesting that the movie is over (happy ending!) but showing what happens afterward anyway, i.e. Katniss running to hug her sister, food and supplies being offloaded to the happy citizens, and Peeta truly realizing for the first time Katniss was faking it. Katniss would hug her family, hug Gale, look around and see... Peeta sneaking away. And that's where you end it.

There were so many places where emotional connections were made in the book that were missing here, and frankly I want 'em back.

Stuff I liked: The whole cast. District 11, and how filming it in North Carolina lent an authentic feel to the area. Katniss's authentic-looking archery skills. Most of the story. Cinna. I did enjoy the movie, but it could have been much more and I miss the movie it could have been.

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Lyrhawn
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I agree with almost all of that, I'd probably even add in a little more. But you're right, there were a lot of little things they could have done to add resonance to what actually was there. And most of it was simple stuff, like the mockingjays.

And I agree entirely about the love stuff. They really needed to do more to heighten the tension and doubt there. It went by too fast, too much of the cave scenes were cut out. The "is it real or are they faking?" aspect was cut entirely from the movie. There's no way someone who hadn't read the book could have figured it out except for the one little note that Haymitch passed her, but even that wasn't enough. I also agree he should have been injured. They rushed the ending way too much when important info was being dropped.

Lenny Kravitz as Cinna was spot-on casting. Actually, I think all the casting was spectacular. But he stood out for me among the peripheral characters. Cinna was a favorite in the book, and Kravitz nailed his sympathetic nature.

I also agree about the fire outfits. I thought it was cool for five seconds until they pulled away for the wide shot, and I was like really, that's it? It was supposed to be like a flowing cape of fire, not stubby little sparklers shooting out of their backs. That was another one of those small scenes that would have been good to have Cinna shout to hold hands, rather than making Katniss look cold at Peeta's hand grab.

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Carrie
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(Still haven't read the books)

I assumed the entire romance was faked. Is it not? And the mockingjay pin means something other than being a cute trinket from Prim?

Maybe I should read the book...

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Corwin
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You definitely should. I kept filling in for certain parts with what I remembered from the book.
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Icarus
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Eh. I loved the books, but I think they did a terrific job with the movie. I'm inclined to chalk this up to the impossibility of a movie affecting you as profoundly as a good book can.
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FoolishTook
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I loved the movie, but I also agree with most of Chris Bridges's points. I did not like the shaky camera work, and I'm glad critics are pointing that out. Maybe filmmakers will stop doing it. It's not as cool as they think it is.

I didn't have high expectations for the film, so I was surprised at how authentic it felt. I loved Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss, and I was not disappointed with the other casting choices.

I loved the scene with Rue. I felt as if it were taken directly from my head and put on screen. Brought me to tears.

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Icarus
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I didn't particularly notice the shaky-cam, and I'm usually extremely sensitive to (and nauseated by) that technique.
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umberhulk
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It was excellent. Everything after the start of the game was TIGHT. And Woody Harrelson is awesome in it. Extremely well done use of shaky cam and editing, up there with The Shield and The Hurt Locker.

I wish it told us more of events that preceded, though, and had more characterization for the badguys, particularly the contestants.

Spoiler:

My only real disapointment with the game, was the very beginning of it, because Harrelson implies that most of them will die of the elements, but half of them get slashed within two minutes. And I thought the whole scramble was a little unsatisfying, partially because of the way it was shot. That was my only problem with any specific shaky cam, but I also didn't like the unrelenting frequency of it, but I thought most of the specific shots/edits were perfect.

Also, I'm glad they didn't over exploit Harrelson's passive agresive contempt for the game. They used him perfectly.

Musing: Did the host/gamerunner integrate those wasps after Catnis(sp?) had been trapped?

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AchillesHeel
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Wow... I just went to a 10:30am showing that was already full and the next five or six showings were sold out in advance. I can wait.
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Sala
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Umberhulk: One thing about the book is you slowly realize that the destitute setting of District 12 is a far cry from the ultra-high technology of the Capitol. Mockingjays, tracker jackers (the wasps), the beasties at the end, are all results of high-level genetic modifications during the war 70+ years before. The mockingjays were modified to parrot back to police what people were planning, then they got out into the wild and mated with mockingbirds. I don't think the host added the tracker jackers after Katniss got trapped. I think they were just part of the landscape.
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The Pixiest
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I want the Chris Bridges cut of this movie.

Not that the one in the theatre isn't fine. It is. Just Chris's would be that much more awesome.

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Darth_Mauve
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What I find interesting is how both political sides are trying to use the movie.

A Fox Movie Reviewer described it as a tale of the evils of Big Government.

Indecision 2012 is asking people to separate Tea Party quotes from Hunger Game quotes.

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El JT de Spang
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I agree with most of Chris's points, and will add that my main two problems were that I didn't think the directing was very good (WAY too much shaky-cam), nor the editing (hard to tell who's responsible for not showing stuff we should've shown).

I also, believe it or not, didn't like the casting for Katniss. The girl has the physicality down, but Katniss is supposed to be a cold, distant misanthrope. I liked this Katniss from the first instant, and I'm not supposed to.

I also had a hard time believing Peeta was big and strong when he's clearly smaller than Katniss.

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Chris Bridges
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I don't think that was the casting, I think Lawrence was directed to be a bit more likeable than the book version.

Which may have been a wise choice, as without her internal monologue there's very little to like from her actions, and the audience needed someone to follow. But I think they could have handled that differently.

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Samprimary
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I have no idea how I'm not supposed to have liked katniss from the start in either book nor movie. Internal monologue from a rightfully flinty person assured that.
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Chris Bridges
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Since they never really gave the actress much time to react to things before rushing to the next scene, letting her act out her internal struggles was impossible.

That said, I'm in the process of changing a screenplay from one that uses lots of voiceovers from the protagonist (as the original book did) to one that uses almost none, and it's extremely difficult to keep the tone and the layers of meaning without that crutch.

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lem
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I agree with pretty much everything Chris said, however I did not like Woody as Haymitch. It must be bias, but every time I see Woody Harrelson in a movie I see the actor and not the character.

In the movie Haymitch seemed drunk then fine. He needed to be more drunk more often, and then they could have shown he was scarred because he saw so much death and didn't want to bond with anyone.

My biggest complaint is that "hunger" was absent in the movies. In the books it is a weapon of control. In the games it is a cloud that overhangs everyone who is not a "career." I didn't notice any desperation for food before the games or during the games.

When Katniss came back with game, they could of easily shown gratitude that she brought more food. Maybe she could of shared with someone starving on the street.

The lack of hunger seemed like a fundamental flaw with such a simple fix. I had to remind myself that Katniss was starving, not some stalker in the rain, when Peta gave her the bread. That should of / could of been built up so we appreciated his sacrifice.

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MrSquicky
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quote:
The girl has the physicality down, but Katniss is supposed to be a cold, distant misanthrope. I liked this Katniss from the first instant, and I'm not supposed to.
Isn't one of the points of the trilogy that Katniss is extremely charismatic and likable, and that she doesn't realize this about herself?
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Lyrhawn
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Is it?

My impression was that she was actually rather cold on the outside, but we're supposed to disregard it because we see in her inner thoughts that she's quite likeable.

It's only through extreme coaching from Cinna that she's able to win people over.

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MrSquicky
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***SPOILERS for the whole series***

Peeta, Gale, and Haymich all comment on how "she doesn't know what effect she has on people" when talking about why people do things for her/follow her. Most of the people who deal with her who are not specifically out to manipulate her, like her stylists or the soldier for district 13, come to really like her. Plus it's hard to miss that she's the symbol of the revolution.

[ March 30, 2012, 02:21 PM: Message edited by: MrSquicky ]

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Raymond Arnold
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Throughout the book she is used as a marketing tool, and the ways she is (and isn't) likeable are pretty important.

Naturally, she's obnoxious and offputting. (some) people like her anyway because of her honesty and other good qualities.

Through coaching, she becomes a cute postergirl for the Capitol.

They ATTEMPT to coach her to become a rallying figurehead for the rebellion in the third book. But this fails. What succeeds is letting her act on her own, and speak from the heart. Which gets you the rugged, unlikeable but brutally honest and inspiring side of her.

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umberhulk
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GOAT character.
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Lyrhawn
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There's a revolution?

I've only read the first book.

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MrSquicky
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Sorry, I was taking the spoilers to mean for the whole series, but that wasn't really warranted. I'll mark my post appropriately and again, sorry about that.
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Lyrhawn
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No that's fine! I wasn't meaning that to be a snarky comment. Spoilers mean spoilers.

I was actually asking. I don't particularly care about being spoiled on the big plot stuff for the last two books.

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MrSquicky
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Who doesn't like Katniss? She doesn't seem to particularly like herself, but I can't think of a character that isn't directly opposed to her who doesn't like her. And, as I said before, it's openly remarked on several how effective Katniss is at getting people to do things for her.

For me, the achievement of this through the first person narrative was one of the technical things that I really enjoyed in the books.

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Lyrhawn
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I guess now that I think about it, I can't come up with any specific people that don't like her. It was just the impression I got. Maybe I fell for viewing things too much through her eyes.

She did have to significantly modify her behavior at several points though, in order to win people over.

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Liz B
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She had to figure out how to be believably fake in a two-minute interview in order to get people she had no respect for to like her enough to give her the expensive gifts she would probably need in order to survive in the arena.

Throughout the series, she's pretty bad at being fake.

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Lyrhawn
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Throughout the entire actual Games she continually played to the crowd with Cinna or Haymitch's thoughts in her head.
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Liz B
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Yeah, but that's still winning over the people from the Capital. She was aware the whole time that the Games are a show, and that her survival depends on her playing it that way. It's not enough for her to be able to feed herself and fight other tributes--she also has to adjust her actions to be likable to people who see the death of 23 teenagers every year as the best kind of entertainment there is.

The characters we're supposed to like appreciate Katniss for who she actually is. She doesn't understand why they like and admire her--she tends to attribute it to her association with other people whom she sees as likable--Prim, her father, Peeta.

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JesrinOngorvad
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My question is this: Why is Gary Ross directing the Hunger Games Trilogy when, clearly, Chris Bridges should be doing it? [Smile] But it is what it is, I suppose. Can't do anything about it.

Personally, I disliked the movie for several reasons.

1. The camera was nauseatingly awful. I had to move to the back of the theater with a friend of mind (who was having the same problem) to keep from passing out. I wanted to actually SEE what was going on, but it was difficult to do so with the camera only a few inches from the characters' faces.

2. What happened to the musical score? It looks like the composer for this film just threw a few songs in here and there on a whim. There's no purpose to the music that accompanies this movie, and, devoid of that purpose, the movie lost any emotionality or drive that it could have had. Where were the pounding drum beats and frantic violins during the first Cornucopia scene? Where were the melancholy orchestral movements when Rue died in Katniss's arms? I understand that music isn't the ONLY medium for emotional expression, but it still is an important one. And, being a musician, the lack of powerful music made the movie far more disappointing for me than it probably was for others.

3. I want to find the three year old who edited this film and give him a scolding! [Smile] There are far too many awkward cuts and jerks in the movie, and while some scenes MIGHT have warranted them (that is, those scenes with plenty of action or combat), many did not. When Effie Trinket is announcing the male and female tributes for District 12, we DON'T have to switch back-and-forth between twenty different closeups, thanks very much. [Smile]

4. We didn't get to spend enough time with the characters. Without the relationships that are formed prior to the Games, the Games themselves don't mean anything. Tension and conflict are only given meaning when the people involved (and even, to some extent, the audience) have something to lose. We had nothing to lose. Or, at least, I had nothing to lose. But I wanted to feel the immediacy and fear in the Games. I wanted to feel Prim's sorrow as her sister, Katniss, leaves for the Capitol. I wanted Katniss and Gale's final moment together to elicit tears. I wanted there to be real emotion when Katniss sings to Rue under the umbrage of the trees. Maybe I'm just being fastidious. But honestly, I wish I had had more of an emotional connection with the characters in this movie. The Games would have meant so much more if I did.

End rant. [Smile]

Now, was it just me, or did you guys feel empty when the credits started rolling at the end of the movie? I don't really know how to describe it. I don't know if it was disillusionment or shock from all the crazy cinematography or what. But seriously, though, I'd like to know what your thoughts are on it. Maybe I'm not the only person in the world who felt this feeling. [Smile]

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Dr Strangelove
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Surprisingly I really liked it. I normally notice things like overuse of jerkycam, or bad score, or awkward cuts, but for some reason I didn't here, though I trust that it existed from the general consensus about it.

I do think it could have been a lot better though. Particularly, and maybe I'm misremembering this from either the book or the movie, but isn't she supposed to hold the berries up at the end? She does it to show everyone what they are, but the vibe I got was that it was interpreted as a public, overtly revolutionary action. She basically says, "Death is better than giving in to their games", which is what in many ways triggers the subsequent riots and really would have worked perfectly with Snow's little speech about hope. In the movie though it seemed like she made it a much more private gesture, robbing it of much of its defiant nature.

I felt like there were several examples of situations like that where if done right, it could have really put the movie into "Excellent" territory. As it was though, it remains (in my book) quite good. Most of the changes they made, I was perfectly fine with. I felt like they recognized the difficulties and limits inherent in adapting a first-person narrative to the big screen and adjusted accordingly. It wasn't perfect, but it was a lot better than numerous other remakes. Maybe my expectations were low, but I was not at all disappointed.

Quick edit: I do have to say that I thought the casting was fantastic, especially with the other tributes. And the final scene with Cato... I loved it.

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Scott R
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(Haven't read the book)

I didn't notice the jerkycam either, except when Katniss was fighting the girl from District 2 and when she and Peeta were fighting the District 1 guy on top of the cornucopia.

I didn't care for the dress during her interview with the purple-haired guy. I thought it looked pathetic.

I *did* wonder about Peeta and Katniss' relationship; I figured she didn't love him, but she didn't want to kill him either.

I enjoyed the music direction. To be specific, I enjoyed the use of silence.

I thought Hunger Games was an excellent film but not one that was particularly pleasant to watch. At least for me. The film manages the very difficult task of never letting you forget that the society and people who support the Hunger Games are EVIL. Not for one instant is this film charming or delightful...perhaps not even entertaining. It is full of dread, anxiety, tension and revulsion.

I recommend it, but with some serious reservations. It is not the most violent film I've seen, but the violence is intensely personal. Let's face it: this a film and a book that deal directly with children trying to kill other children. The violence is not glorified; nor is it a particularly gory film. But it extremely intense and disturbing. As it should be.

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Dr Strangelove
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It's funny, Scott, I was talking to someone yesterday who felt that it was almost too restrained. She wanted it to be more intense. She wasn't criticizing the adaptation or anything, she just felt like it would have been more powerful if it had focused more on the violent aspects of it.

I recommended she read Battle Royale (I assume the film is the same too, though I haven't seen it).

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aspectre
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Katniss Barbie
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AchillesHeel
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When I grow up, I wanna kill people for public entertainment just like Katniss.

Just to counter the idea that we should teach kids even more positive things about murder, there is also this really heart warming barbie even though she is not allowed to be Barbie, they call her "Barbie's friend."

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