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Hungry For More
By Gloria Diaz
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Fort Wayne Reader
Over the last decade, I’ve felt a little left out when it came to movies. I am not into wizards or vampires, so the whole “Harry Potter” thing and “Twilight” phenomenon meant I didn’t know what anyone was talking about. I was really excited when Sex and the City came out, but I hadn’t really watched the series until my last visit to Puerto Rico (my father’s 68 year old cousin was a huge fan) and didn’t know what to expect from the film.
But even though I’d never read The Hunger Games, I was eagerly awaiting the film. I hadn’t been this excited about a movie since, oh, E.T. The Extraterrestrial. Then, as now, Lorie Christoffel was at my side. Back in the day, she had a Walkman clipped to her belt. Today, it was an iPod Nano. She cheerfully offered to clue me in if I had any questions.
So did the movie live up to the hype? Does it have parallels with today’s society? Is it a stunning advertisement for feminism? Yes, yes and HELL YES.
The movie starts out with a reaping ceremony. Once a year, two tributes from each of the twelve districts of Panem are selected to participate in The Hunger Games, an extremely sick reality show where kids aged 12-18 fight to the death. Katniss Everdeen’s younger sister, Prim, is selected. Eerily, she had a dream the night before that her name was called. Katniss volunteers to take her place. To support her family, she hunts with bow and arrows, a skill that will come in handy during the games.
Food figures large in the movie. The tributes are taken to the Capitol, to get a taste (hah!) of the good life if they win the games. It’s a modern city, with all sorts of technological marvels , and has tables groaning with food. One of the odd things about the movie is the technology — for all the hidden cameras in the combat arena, and the virtual scoreboard that tallies the games’ fallen tributes each night so the survivors can see who is still around and who isn’t, the tributes’ names are pulled out of a fishbowl during the reaping. A fishbowl! Considering that the privileged Capitol dwellers’ clothes and maquillage are over the top (think 80s fashion and makeup on steroids AND cocaine) you’d think the fishbowl could be a Dale Chihuly creation, but no.
The tributes reach the Capitol, and they are paraded before the public then spend a few days training. With all the emphasis on sponsors, I half expected to see parachutes with cans of Red Bull being dropped into the combat zone, with hologram commercials proclaiming “Red Bull: Official drink of The Hunger Games, because hunger is bullshit.”
Instead, I remember one parachute being dropped with a container of some super-charged skin ointment, and, later on in the movie, a bag of the same stuff, no doubt placed in the arena by some underpaid Hunger Games staffer. The continually inebriated mentor of the District 12 tributes, Haymitch Abernathy (played perfectly by Woody Harrelson) does send a tin of soup via parachute, but only after Katniss gives her fellow tribute, Peeta, a kiss on the cheek.
The parallels between the games and modern society are obvious. Children take guns to school and kill each other over unfortunate nicknames. Ask anybody who’s ever had to worry about the draft, and they can probably identify with being one of the “chosen ones.” Reality shows distract us from government evil doers and stupid politicians.
However, Katniss is a refreshing heroine. She is her own woman, and is reluctant about sucking up and charming total strangers in order to gain sponsors. In this woman-hating season, Katniss is Everywoman. She has mad survival skills, and will kill if she needs to, but would rather not have to do it. She saves her sister’s life by volunteering for the games. Because of a rule change by the powers that be, it enables her to form an alliance with her fellow District 12 tribute. Because the game masters are absolute evil bastards (they create a forest fire to drive Katniss back from the edge of the arena) they change the rules back. At the movie’s climax — well, as Katniss says to Peeta, “trust me.” I won’t give away the ending, but bear in mind this is a trilogy. Ever read Romeo and Juliet? The end of the movie is like that. Sort of.
The casting was superb, with Stanley Tucci as the flamboyant host of the Games, Harrelson as a former Games victor and coach to the District 12 Tributes (and looking “beautiful” as Lorie so aptly put it) and Wes Bentley as the guy in charge of the Games. I first took notice of him as the calm, seemingly creepy, but sympathetic next-door-neighbor in American Beauty. Wes is delicious in an almost psychotic, but civilized way. Wes and Woody were absolute eye candy, and while the two young studs from District 12 were good looking enough, Bentley and Harrelson positively smoldered.
So yeah, for me at least, The Hunger Games delivered. Post-apocalyptic young adult fiction? I am SO THERE. Pour me a cold Coke and melt that butter for the popcorn. I avoided reading the book for fear of a Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason fiasco, but I’ll be buying the book soon.
The only real annoyance I had with the film was all the hand-held camera work. Big thumbs down for that.
I also wanted to take care of the kids in the theater who were laughing during all the serious scenes. But unfortunately, I left my bow and arrows at home.