Why The Hunger Games are Important

Just try to put out this fire.

Just try to put out this fire.

The young-adult fantasy series translation from page to silver screen movement has become one of the most profitable propositions in pop culture over the past decade.  What started with the kid-friendly Harry Potter (whose films contained an admirable Disney-dark magic to them that began to wear off and bore me by the fourth entry) and crested into communal madness with Stephanie Meyer’s malarial Twilight series has become a go-to cash cow for Hollywood.  When I first heard about The Hunger Games, I thought, “Oh, here we go again.”  But then I read up on what they were about – a kind of Atwood-lite dystopian future, pop-Vonnegut if you will, spiced with The Running Man with a dash of Battle Royale.  Finally, a young adult fantasy series with very little fantasy, a dash of satire, and magic replaced by futurist woe and real violence.  And cast in the lead role was Jennifer Lawrence, the most talented young actress of her generation.  And whaddya know, the first film was typically mega-blockbuster flawed but pretty good.  And it was J-Law as Katniss Everdeen who changed the game.

Boys’ fantasies and hero-worship have been catered to forever.  In this day and age they have Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Ender’s Game, as well as the typical swarm of comic book films and sci-fi flicks featuring superheroes and manly men saving the world and getting the girls.  What have girls and young women had to dream about in similar fashion?  The occasional animated Pixar heroine?  The toxicity of Twilight, which when you strip away the sparkly emo-boyband vampires, teaches teenage girls to stay in abusive relationships?  “Yes, my dear, if you love him hard enough, maybe YOU can change him. You gotta stick by your man no matter how freakish and horrible he is, stick by him even if he kills you.”  Beautiful message, isn’t it?

Well, thank the pop culture gods, because into the modern mythos has stepped Katniss Everdeen.  Continue reading

Our Idiot Brother

Like, wow, man, can't we all just get along, man?

 
Is there a more amiable guy working in comedy today than Paul Rudd?  Whether playing a cynic or a sap, he always comes across as the guy you want to have a beer with.  Easily gliding amongst bigger players in the cutting edge works of David Wain, Judd Apatow and Adam McKay – the men who have redefined comedy in the past decade – Rudd has emerged as the most likable, easy-going and authentic of the lot.  In Our Idiot Brother, a film designed around his incalculable charms, Rudd shines in his first film where he is the sole headliner. Continue reading

A Review of Oliver Stone’s “W.”

CAPTION:  Both Stone and Bush entered Yale in the same year.

Waiting for the final ball to drop…, 18 October 2008
8/10
Author: David H. Schleicher from New Jersey, USA

With his “in the moment” biopic W. the normally volatile Oliver Stone wisely saves his judgments for history when hindsight will be 20/20. Achingly subdued and slightly satirical, Stone plays it straight and to the bone. Here he presents us with the early years of our current lame duck president, showing Dubya rushing a frat-house at Yale, meeting Laura at a barbecue, living in the shadow of his father and brother, his troubles holding down a job, his failed bid to become baseball commissioner, and his defining moment when he gives up drinking and becomes born-again. All of which leads us to his first term and the Iraq War quagmire, where Dubya honest-to-goodness truly believes “God” wanted him to become president and that Iraq did have those rascally WMD.

In the lead role, Josh Brolin is an endearingly bumble-headed Dubya, and Stone presents him as a simple-minded man with good intentions who has been crippled by his “daddy issues” and has surrounded himself with the most cynical, self-serving, and corrupt administration in modern American history. The supporting cast is a hoot, with highlights including Thandie Newton eliciting big laughs just with her facial expressions as a wicked and moronically faithful Condi Rice, Elizabeth Banks giving a winning portrayal of Laura Bush, and Richard Dreyfuss playing Cheney as the most insipid megalomaniac American politics has ever seen.

Stone accomplishes three major coups here that should surprise those who expected a one-sided liberal smear job. First, he humanizes George W. Bush. The director does this with savvy editing showing the back-story of why Dubya does the things he does (i.e. why he uses nicknames for everyone or why running three miles every day is so important to him), and then juxtaposing that with the inane decisions he has made as president. By utilizing actual transcripts from press conferences, news coverage, and meetings, Stone and scribe Stanley Weiser allow Bush and his administration to speak for themselves, and it’s both comically cathartic and occasionally frightening to see it dramatized so well. Second, he redeems the presidency of George “Poppy” Bush (a somewhat miscast but still effective James Cromwell) by showing what a restrained and thoughtful Commander in Chief he was compared to his naive and too-eager-to-please son. Thirdly, he redeems the legacy of Colin Powell (a surprisingly good Jeffrey Wright), who is shown here as the only person in the administration with any hindsight or foresight, and the only sane voice who questioned the motives for entering Iraq, though he eventually caved in and played along. His “f-you” to Cheney towards the film’s final act is priceless.

As the actual presidency still has a few months to go at the time of the film’s release, Stone’s biopic was never written a true ending, leaving us with a symbolic image of Dubya looking up to the sky in center field waiting to catch a ball that will never drop. It may be another twenty years before we can pass any accurate judgment on Dubya’s legacy, and likewise, Stone’s film will have to wait. It’s going to be a long time before anyone catches all those balls George W. Bush’s administration threw up in the air.

Originally Published on the Internet Movie Database:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1175491/usercomments-46