Review- The Hunger Games

Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson in The Hunger Games (Lionsgate)

The Hunger Games, as many expected, was one of the most anticipated films of the year. It will likely go down as one of the top earners of the year as its early run totals rank amongst all time highs, and it’s a three-time box office champion. I wanted to read the books but never really did, I borrowed the first book from the library and got through half of the first chapter and didn’t get to renew it. Therefore, I had little foundation to go upon but found the film for the most part to be quite enjoyable and captivating.

The double-edged sword in this film is that the backstory of this world, this dystopian future where America is unrecognizable and not even named as such anymore, is not overtly told. The positive to that is that there are not really any overly-elongated and elaborate expository sequences and the negative is that at times you are left flailing about awaiting the next tidbit of information that will enlighten you. You eventually do get sufficient information to get by but you also get the sense that there are unplumbed depths that are likely the key to the book’s success.

The only other truly significant struggle this film faces is in the game itself Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is steadfast in her character but she only attacks her opponents when in a bind, which is admirable but there is much waiting, hiding and running. Essentially, it’s a slight editorial problem more so than a character flaw. Virtue is a positive and Katniss has it in spades there were just a few opportunities that are better off not presenting themselves if that is to be her approach.

Those minor reproaches aside there is a lot to like in The Hunger Games. Perhaps the best part of the film’s success is that now everyone can see just how awesome Jennifer Lawrence is. She already has an Oscar nomination that she was very worthy of, but it was Natalie Portman’s year, for which she was woefully under-publicized and Winter’s Bone is not the kind of draw that this film is. In a similar vain, I’ve known for quite some time that Josh Hutcherson would be a superstar and this is truly his breakout. Now, Josh has a long track record from the Journey series, to appearing in the Best Picture Nominated The Kids Are All Right, to his early days as a young performer that garnered him a BAM nomination for Bridge to Terabithia, however, here as Peeta, a character who knows the game better than Katniss at the start but isn’t as steadfast or strong-willed as she is, he brings his chops to a big vehicle. That could be the most impressive facet of the film; not only is there action and commentary but also room for performances. You should also look for Stanley Tucci’s great supporting turn.

Aside from the aforementioned concern in the Game the film’s pace stays rather brisk even if its running time tops two hours. The tale is a bifurcated one: before the games and the games themselves and they are distinctive sections of the film that are a bit different but they balance quite well. The before the games section builds up some good drama and anticipation and to an extent the game brings good sequences and tension.

The Hunger Games also presents a pretty interesting vision of a futureworld most vividly conveyed by the production design, which is amazing and also the makeup and costuming. Now the latter is not something I was not instantly enamored with but it was a bold and consistent choice and it is a class distinction that is a kind of interesting future-retro hybrid, as the exaggerated hair and makeup hearkens eons past where powdered wigs and ivory faces were status symbols.

The ending of the film foreshadows much larger hurdles and problems to come in the series that even teases it will grow outside just the insular world of the Games and branch out into the politics of this world. Perhaps the upcoming installments will fill in some of the nagging blanks.

When a film does a lot very well the few things that leave you wondering do tend to stand out a little more than they would otherwise but this is a very enjoyable, occasionally funny, romantic, dramatic and thrilling film.

8/10

The 83rd Annual Academy Awards

I decided that I would not write during what portion of the red carpet I did watch as attention must be paid. Overall, while in the end there was nothing that will likely go down as a historic Oscar look. It was one of the better looking overall displays I can remember.

I don’t know when this half-hour pre-show started (it wasn’t that long ago). I never really cared for it and it’s a little superfluous and just makes the show end later. Why does it still happen?

Begnini’s celebration is my least favorite acceptance moment. For the record.

You gotta love Steven Spielberg. Wiping the producer’s forehead and giving him water is classic.

Like the opening montage of best picture nominees. Why not the end shot from Inception?

Great opening with Anne Hathaway and James Franco. Great joke in the opening about James ‘appealing to a younger demographic.’ Glad to see the families get introduced.

Tom Hanks presents as Gone with the Windand Titanic get mentioned. Art Direction and Cinematography mentioned early in the show is a nice change. This was not a category I was looking for an upset in Alice in Wonderland takes Art Direction. Shocked.

First, applause of the night upon hearing Wally Pfister’s name called for Cinematography. Very well deserved award. Loved his speech in regards to Nolan.

Another pleasant surprise and the first standing ovation of the night as Kirk Douglas is introduced.

Douglas’s shtick may go down as one of the moments of this year. Also, I have to see Animal Kingdom. It has been decided.

I stand corrected Leo’s speech.

“I’m Banksy”
-Justin Timberlake

Awesomely amazing line.

I said it previously I would be rather happy if The Lost Thing got animated short. Congratulations.

Toy Story 3 wins Best Animated Feature. I knew that already.

Didn’t really like that Screenplay got the short shrift in terms of presentation. No excerpts or anything. Surprised but gladdened by the win for The King’s Speech. I also think that winners should realize there are 23 other winners who all deserve their time to do their thanks and shouldn’t risk taking some time from others.

I want to see In a Better World but am a little surprised it won. It’s the 3rd Danish winner and surprisingly the first since 1959.

Am I the only conspiracy theorist who thinks clips are based on one’s chances of winning? That was not the best scene for Mark Ruffalo at all.

Best part of Bale’s speech was his saying he’d dropped the F-bomb enough already. Oscar-winner or not he’s had plenty of other wonderful and worthy performances not the least of which is the one that launched his career many years ago, Empire of the Sun. All roads lad to Spielberg.

I’ll bet the theme from E.T. has been played at the Oscars every year since 1982. It always makes the closing medley.

OK, so does Trent Reznor and Atticus Finch winning mean that the trend away from composers towards current/former recording artists is going to stick?

First, winner I was extremely geeked about in a while. Sound mixing goes to Inception. And there goes another sweep in the sound categories. I wish I had stats for it but I bet it happens a lot. I have also enjoyed how everyone is thanking Chris Nolan first, almost as if they are trying to subtly point out his being snubbed for Best Director.

I really wish that more time would be spent on the technical awards maybe a special after the earlier presentation. Some really awesome technology gets kind of glossed over.

I need to look into the other Make-Up nominee that I hadn’t heard of, The Way Back. Looks sweet.

Leave it to President Obama to have the best choice as best Oscar-winning song. I’m a little tired of these categories that flex their nominations between three and five. Pick a size. Really, only four songs were nominated? Why? The process is intricate but music is where you can add to your appeal if you’re looking to boost ratings. I was floored when “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” won that scored high enough to be nominated and win but yet this year songs by Eddie Vedder, Alanis Morissette and Justin Bieber didn’t?

Kudos to Luke Matheny not only on the win but on plugging all the nominees who are iTunes. They were great.

The best, most entertaining part of the night was the musical montage.

Inside Job wins and now I never want to talk about Banksy again.

Billy Crystal comes on for a bit. Always glad to see him back.

Inception wins visual effects and stops Alice’s unthinkable streak.

Jude Law and Robert Downey, Jr. should do something together that’s not as “Holmesy” that was pretty funny stuff.

Listening to the other nominees actually got me rooting for Randy Newman for the first time in years. Some sleepy stuff in there.

Complete and utter failure this year in the “In Memoriam” montage. Firstly, with the lives singing people who were shown didn’t get their due applause like they did in previous years and first the SAG Award show excluded Corey Haim and now the Oscars did too. I assure you he is missed by many film fans and is exclusion is a joke.

Tom Hooper wins for The King’s Speech. Dare they split it?

Best story told by a winner tonight has to be Hooper’s tale about how his mom found out about the play and said “Tom, I just found your next film.”

They were at it again. Kevin Brownlow is a man who has more than earned his Life Achievement award. For all intents and purposes he pioneered preservation and restoration of films and brought many silent films back from the dead. Here is a link to Kevin Spacey’s speech about him at the Governor’s Ball.

I also found it a little humorous that they said Jean-Luc Godard was sorry he couldn’t be there.

This congratulatory intro to lead acting categories is also making it take a lot longer than it has to.

It looks like there’ll be no surprises in the acting categories.

Congratulations to Colin Firth for his win. It’s his first but it shouldn’t be. If you haven’t seen A Single Man you most definitely should. It’s good to know that some people do get their due.

Listing the previous winners and nominees in the Best Picture category is a great way to lead off the Best Picture montage.

The King’s Speech wins Best Picture and now I can rest comfortably.

The finale was a fanastic and needed addition to the show. It was either ending on a jubilant note or a down one based on where my rooting interest were. if they keep this up it’ll be a fantastic close every year. Great job, P.S. 22.