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23 March 2012 @ 03:49 am
Hunger Games movie.  
Well, I saw the Hunger Games movie. I tried not to, because movie theater seats hurt me terribly and because I don't prefer movies with violence. I tried not to see it, but I could not stop thinking about it. I had to go, to get on with my life.

Really, these are very random. I'm not even going to aim for sense or order.

Overall, I'm not incredibly impressed. Crucial grain of salt: I'm not a movie person. That's enough of a reason for you to stop reading now! This book is an important book to me and I was hoping the movie would be, but it isn't. I won't be seeing it again or seeing the later ones. It was... fine.

An early joke (within the first five minutes) undercuts the notion that Katniss's family -- and by extension, the district people -- are hungry. Hunger is a prime thing this movie should be about. What a terrible time for that joke, and why was it there at all?

On the train and in the Capitol, the poshness -- food, linens, beds, but food most importantly -- doesn't seem tempting. Nothing looks lush and rich and delectible and desirable. It should: hunger is a prime point here, and the feeling Katniss has of getting to eat all this delicious satisfying food for the first time is utterly missing. This matters because politically, hunger is one central point of poverty and oppression. I feel like this somehow implies a romanticization of the poverty in the district: we see Gale give Katniss fragrant bread and she loves it, and then after that, no food in the movie looks good. The poshness on the train and in the Capitol seems icky and off -- including furniture and decor and food -- sometimes repulsive, sometimes merely unattractive and "meh" and unimportant. Sometimes alien.

Speaking of alien. Deborah and I had been discussing whether the portrayal of the Capitol would make its citizens seem too mild (not evil enough) or too strong (evil as a caricature, problematic because viewers won't relate to it and won't see it mirroring the aspects of ourselves that we should). In my opinion, it does both. I don't find the film to condemn the Capitol citizens very strongly; I feel like they seem more stupid and shallow and self-centered than truly a critical cog in an evil machine. (I predict that particular opinion of mine will be a minority.) At the same time, they're alien: they are absolutely lacking details that will make viewers see ourselves in them. I don't know movie crit well enough to coherently explain why I think this. I do know that Effie's makeup -- her entire asthetic design -- is evil being shown via foreignness. Her blatantly caked-on base, her colors, everything serve to show us how distant from "us" she is. She's the polar opposite of a visual suggestion to us to examine ourselves for our own roles in this kind of evil. She's Other; she's to point and laugh at. I had no respect for how she's portrayed. It doesn't feel useful to me. It's comic relief, and I'm not interested in comic relief in this story.

(Note: I might have been the only person who didn't laugh at all. I didn't find anything funny. I think I'm a Strident Humorless Something.)

We're never prodded to consider that Effie's a cog in a wheel we need to examine in our own lives.

One thing about Capitol citizens: their combos of hair design and clothing are alien in a way that seems a little queer-coded to me. Which makes me supremely uncomfortable. In the districts, people look like filthy coal miners with normative gender. In the Capitol, people look fancy and frivolous and posh with flibberty-gibbet colors that... I don't know. I don't know how to explain it. Their colorings and clothes and fashions seem queer-coded to me. I can't stand that. Maybe someone can explain to me whether that's really happening and the words to discuss it.

Soundtrack at the cornucopia at beginning of Games: perfect.

Rue is phenomenal. So is Cinna. They were my favorites by far, in acting, in scripting, in everything. Their acting didn't seem like "acting": I believed they were Rue and Cinna. I felt for them and I liked them. Cinna (surprisingly, happily) doesn't trigger the Magical Negro trope to me as I was expecting because, in the movie, he really doesn't have much special wisdom or mystical (or even useful) knowledge: he's a good guy with some common sense. This is a factor of some book details being left out, but still. Cinna is kind, and emotionally present, and that's what sets him apart from other adults. Please tell me if I'm misreading this.

The race issues are what I expected during that last post. Katniss being white makes everyone in it to help a white girl, which problematizes Rue being black -- though the answer isn't to make Rue white (duh), the answer is to have made Katniss a poc (yes, medieval barn doors, I know) or at least to have made fewer people white. Cinna being brown-skinned (his race is unspecified in the book) is a decision I adore, except that with Katniss white, it's part of the hierarchy of many people helping the white girl. Cinna exists as a character to help Katniss. Rue doesn't, but her death shows us Katniss's tenderness. So.

It seems like an oddly white movie. There are plenty of non-white people in some of the types of settings -- including the tons of technicians running the arena -- but I also noticed too much whiteness in general.

Disagreements and thoughts welcome. My physical recovery from sitting in movie seats is gonna be a doozy, so I might not be able to answer soon. Also please forgive typos in this post. I have a serious date with some icepacks.
Sanguinitysanguinity on March 23rd, 2012 10:27 am (UTC)
Queer-coded Capitol: omg yes, and no, I didn't like it, either. Also, yes, alien-as-evil coding going on in the Capitol, and yes, that's a problem. It all rather reminds me of the Persians in 300. (Which I didn't see, but blatant was blatant.)

I think they did a half-decent job of double-coding the Gamemaster as a "decent guy" and a mostly-willing cog of evil. (I'm not expressing that super-well.) I'm conflicted about the berries at the end, though: if he faces death for not being an effective cog, then that undermines what had until that point seemed effective double-coding.

Rue's death: I can't tell you how happy I am that Katniss didn't get cookies airmailed to her for showing minimum standards of human decency about a POC character's death. I had been dreading that moment. (Or is my memory of the book wrong?)

Cinna was wonderful and kind, and the racial/queer coding around him was much better than I had feared when I was watching the trailers. Not anything like perfect, of course, just: better than I had feared.

Yes, oddly white.

The cuts to Gale whenever there was a romantic scene between Katniss and Peeta: GAH HATED THAT. There's a huge issue in there that we have only the camera's POV during these "romantic" scenes where Katniss is, under threat of her own death, trying to scam the camera into believing a romance is happening. So the coercion/no-consent issues aren't in our face, like I would really want them to be. And not only are they NOT in our face, the camera keeps cutting to GALE, as if GALE'S pain over Katniss kissing someone else is the thing that matters. The thing that should matter is not what Gale thinks/feels: the thing that matters is that Katniss has to engage in sexual activity to stay alive.

...and I've got other thoughts (if I can stay awake to make them), but I think I'd rather do that in my own post, than spam yours with them?
Bethkid_lit_fan on March 28th, 2012 02:40 am (UTC)

I think they did a half-decent job of double-coding the Gamemaster as a "decent guy" and a mostly-willing cog of evil.

I thought they did that well with Caesar Flickerman, or Stanley Tucci did. He seemed to realize that he was a cog in an evil machine, but to be happy to be that cog rather than starve.

diceytillerman said: An early joke (within the first five minutes) undercuts the notion that Katniss's family -- and by extension, the district people -- are hungry. Hunger is a prime thing this movie should be about. What a terrible time for that joke, and why was it there at all?

I missed the joke. Not as in "I didn't get it," as in "What joke?" I didn't notice that it was there.
Rebecca Rabinowitzdiceytillerman on March 28th, 2012 02:50 am (UTC)
Katniss is about to shoot a deer, and Gale scares it off (seemingly intentionally), and he grinningly says (this is paraphrase), "What would you have done with a deer anyway?" I couldn't bear it, because game is food, and when it's not direct food, it's to sell for other necessities (like, um, other food).

Someone pointed out to me today that Gale said to Katniss that she wouldn't have been able to sell it with the reapers in town. I missed that line myself (I didn't hear it). So that takes care of the joke and deer-scaring-off on the most literal level. But I thought the interaction was a major undermine of the critical premise that Katniss and her fam are HUNGRY and game=food.
Beth: Food Pornkid_lit_fan on March 28th, 2012 02:49 am (UTC)
And yes, I fully agree, not enough food. I mean, there was PLENTY of food, they set a groaning table of colorful things, and the rare roast, especially, looked luscious, but we never got to see Katniss essentially drool over it, or wish she could take some to Prim and to Gale's family. I sort of hated the moment where she got upset and left the table. I noticed that Peeta said "I'm not hungry" and she said "I'm done, too" rather than repeating that she wasn't hungry, but stuffing herself on Capitol food was both something she couldn't help and a strategy to survive the Games.

Heck, I actually had lamb stew with dried plums before seeing the movie because it was practically another character in the book, and it was never mentioned nor even seen in the movie. I was really expecting a lot more to be made of food.

Of all the missing lines, Rue's "I never had a whole leg to myself before" was the most egregious cut, in my opinion.
Rebecca Rabinowitz: House You Pass On the Waydiceytillerman on March 28th, 2012 02:52 am (UTC)
Plus, the groaning tables of food didn't look appealing, IMO. The should have looked appealing, because to Katniss, they were. She's never had food so bountiful before.
Ayelleayelle on March 24th, 2012 01:35 pm (UTC)
I'm sorry you were/are so physically uncomfortable while watching! I still haven't totally forgiven the first Harry Potter movie for the blinding migraine I got from the flying/Quidditch scenes particularly. We were much too close to the screen (front row).

For this one we waited an hour in line to ensure good seats and I told my companions I preferred/needed to be as far back as possible, esp since this one uses a lot of quick cutting and handheld (shaky) cam. My friends, who were let into the theatre before us, took that to mean almost exactly halfway up, or maybe that was their compromise, but that was still way too close for me -- literally I'd have preferred back row. I almost went and sat by myself, but persuaded myself our seats would be okay, but half an hour in I was digging in my purse for medication regretting not having moved. Oh well.

I did still love the movie, as it turned out -- though while I might try to qualify some of your critiques (if I wanted to debate, which I don't), I mostly wouldn't substantively challenge them. If you didn't like it you didn't like it, and the book is still the book, which is the important thing.