We’re Painted Red To Fit Right In

[Radioactive – Imagine Dragons]

This will be my review of Catching Fire, the second installment of The Hunger Games film series. Needless to say, this will be rife with spoilers, both plot- and theme-wise.

When I saw the first movie, the aptly titled The Hunger Games, I had just finished reading the entire trilogy within a week, so everything was fresh in my mind. It also meant that I was caught up in the whirlwind of comparing everything to the book, while still reliving the great feeling that I got from reading a dramatic and action-packed series.

Today, I saw the movie having not really come in contact with the fictional world at all for at least a year. I’ve had one night when I came across a trailer, and realizing that I forgot what that trailer was about, I went and had a small peek through the corresponding chapter of the book. But, for the most part, I was coming at the movie with a fresh eye. I mean, obviously I remember the major plot points and deaths, but I’d forgotten a lot of the small things.

Most importantly, I’d forgotten about the themes which Suzanne Collins was probably going for. So, instead of the usual review of a film on its visual and storytelling merits (which I will still do, albeit in a cursory manner), I’ll also talk a bit about the film’s success in drawing out the themes of the series. Note that I’ll be writing with the assumption that you know about the series, and so I’ll be minimally explaining the world.

First of all, I have to say, the film was extremely long. I didn’t exactly keep time, but it took what felt like at least 20 minutes before the ball drops – that Katniss has to go back into the arena. I suppose, though, that that particular ball wasn’t exactly dropping out of the blue, but say for argument’s sake that someone was going in without a single clue, and without having seen the previous film, nor the trailers, they would definitely be wondering if this film was going to go anywhere before they’re treated to the meat of the story. But, I guess that was to be expected, considering that Catching Fire is the transitory middle book/film, which was instrumental in moving the characters and their motives from the passive and oppressed Districts of the first book to the full-on, world-upending rebellion in the third. There is a lot of ground to cover for this – a lot of character development which had to happen to get the viewers up to emotional speed. I can’t remember well, but I’m sure they cut down on a lot of content, yet still had me leaving the theater with a sore bum from sitting for so long.

In Catching Fire, the results of Katniss’ actions in the first film became apparent. What she half intended to be a method or survival and half intended to be a middle-finger to the Capitol (more precisely, to President Snow), was interpreted as an act of rebellion, and encouraged everyone else to do so, too. The film was rather clear in portraying Katniss as a girl who was still stuck in the unwanted role in a publicity game that had become her life the moment she volunteered as Tribute. All she wanted to do in District 11 was to make people feel better, but it directly resulted in the execution of an old man. Katniss said it best when she cried that she didn’t mean for anyone to get hurt, but the fact was, someone did get hurt because of her. Her actions, her body, her life, was no longer her own. This is a theme that will continue even stronger in the next film(s). The film’s end alluded to this, but perhaps in a muffled manner – on the plane, or whatever it is, Katniss wakes up to see that Haymitch, Finnick (who at that point she wasn’t sure whether to trust) and Plutarch (who she definitely didn’t trust) were in cahoots. She was mortified that Haymitch betrayed her, only to be told that they’d all planned ABOUT her, WITHOUT her. This was somewhat overshadowed by the first realization that Katniss had also just lost Peeta, and then the secondary news that District 12 has been destroyed.

The idea that Katniss was no longer her own property seemed to have been a hit-and-miss in both movies, so far. The first movie, whether through time constraints or oversight, heavily omitted any explanation or clarification that the Games was a televised show. That, despite the grim and gory situation placed before her, Katniss was ultimately a contestant on screen, waiting for those watching her to love her and help her. In this movie, it became somewhat more detailed that everything she did, or had to do, was for the camera – that she was a symbol, not just a person. I think that Effie’s lines helped, always reminding Katniss that she had to smile, that she had to be in love, and that she had to convince people that it was all real. Katniss had a personal motive to pretend the love-story was real, but I think the film missed her intelligence in working everything out without having it spelled out to her, too.

And Peeta, let’s not forget that sweet boy who Katniss didn’t deserve. I suppose it’s too early for the film to really delve into it, but it is true that Katniss doesn’t deserve, nor in fact, want, Peeta. Katniss’ heart never went to him the way it went to Gale, but the fact was, Katniss needed Peeta, and ultimately (MAJOR SPOILER ALERT) that trumps her heart. Perhaps it’s a comment that in war, what we want isn’t what we should have. Katniss ends up with someone who she needed – a boy who loved and cared for her, even when he (ANOTHER MAJOR SPOILER) lost his grasp on any other reality. You may say that Katniss settled, but that’s not the point – Katniss, at the end of Mockingjay, needed to settle into something safe. Gale would never provide that, but Peeta could, in abundance. Again, this is something which I expect them to delve into in the following two-part installments, but it was nice to see them lightly touch on the topic in this installment.

The idea of rebellion is an obvious theme in the films, yet the execution of such rebellion in different characters reached different levels of success. Putting side the overt riots in the Districts, I want to concentrate on the actions of two Capitol characters, Effie and Cinna.

Effie’s transformation from a self-centered publicity agent to a person who genuinely cared about Katniss and Peeta wasn’t aimed to be subtle. Elizabeth Banks did an excellent job during the reaping scene for the Quarter Quell – one has to realize that her character was in the midst of emotional turmoil; grieving, raging yet terrified (not for herself) at the same time, all while on camera – and in subsequent scenes. The way that she portrayed Effie really shone the character’s determination to let Katniss and Peeta know that she felt the indignation of the situation as strongly as they did, in her own little ways. Putting aside makeup, lighting, and camera angles (areas about which I’m not yet knowledgeable enough to comment), the writing of her character was simple, and the delivery succinct.

Cinna, on the other hand, disappointed me. The book Cinna was a crafty, intelligent and kind designer, whose pride and skill in his work outshone the tyranny of the reason for his creations. Katniss resisted and hated him at the start, only to be taught that Cinna did not do his job because he wanted to doll up the lambs for slaughter, but rather do anything he could to give them a fighting chance. Cinna wasn’t just some Capitol lapdog with a makeup brush in his hand – he was an artist who had his own ideas, his own feelings about the life that was being led around him. The Mockingjay wedding dress was the epitome of his artistry, his swan-song (if I may) of his thoughts. It was supposed to be an elegant, subtle and wildly dangerous message that Cinna sent in the best way he could. It was supposed to be a metaphor, for as the dress burned a bright beacon for the rebellion, so too did the dying embers signify the last remaining moments of Cinna’s life; as the snow white dress melted away, surely Cinna resigned himself to a painful doom. But the pain of that moment, when the camera fell on Cinna for his bow, was lost to me.

I feel that my problem was with the editing of this scene. The acting, the script and the camera was spot on, but the editing (or, I suppose, direction) drew attention away from the significance of the moment. Similarly, the sound editing drew significance away from a tragic irony later on in the film, upon Mags’ death. Not a few minutes before, Finnick said that the sound of the cannons was like music to his ears, because it meant one less person out there to kill him. But as the poison fog was rolling in, and Mags leaped into her death to save the others, the sound of her death cannon was drowned out by the music score and all the noise happening on screen. Then, with all the commotion happening later, one never really had the time to properly digest how horrifyingly ironic it was for Finnick to hear the cannon sound upon his mentor’s death. If anything, Finnick seemed more affected by the Jabberjay aftermath (which was a good subtle setup for later), telling Katniss almost indifferently that Mags was going to die, anyway. Perhaps I interpreted the scene wrongly, but his actions in caring about his elderly mentor should have suggested some more weight in his words when he dismissed Mags’ death.

(I want to take a separate moment to mention how great Mags was, especially in that short footage of her volunteering as tribute. When Finnick showed the smallest of weaknesses hugging Mags, she pointed fervently at the camera, reminding him that they were back under scrutiny – but more importantly, that his relief that Annie was saved was a danger to both himself and Annie. They’re the little things which I was grateful the writers had painstakingly put in.)

My take away of this review is that Catching Fire was rather temperamental when it came to its success in the portrayal of the themes. Where it triumphed in showing personal rebellion in Effie, it missed the mark with Cinna. Where it took note of the small tragedies and details of Finnick’s love for Annie, it neglected to do the same for his love for Mags.

Finally, and this is probably more nitpicking than anything: I hope for a better, more rounded portrayal of Prim and Gale for movies 3 and 4. Gale’s tendency for action and war was shown but not elaborated upon in this film, and the efforts to mature Prim to (EXTREME SPOILER ALERT) set her up to volunteer for and die as a medic in the final moments of the saga resulted in an overly aloof and distant girl. Obviously, this film was more of a focus on the gathering forces for a revolution, so little side-character developments aren’t of importance, but it would have been nice to see Prim act a little reckless as a foreshadowing of her seemingly forgetting Katniss’ first sacrifice.

(If you can’t tell, I’ve always viewed Prim as a supreme idiot by the time of her death. I mean, it was a beautiful stroke of irony on Collins’ part, but it made me so frustrated.)

When I have the time, I’m going to go back and re-read the books again. I think it would give me fresh perspectives on both the films and the books, and then maybe I can do a re-write of this review if I deem it necessary (which I know it never is, because no one reads these).

Alex.

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Moonlight Would Provide The Spark

[Three Cheers For Five Years – Mayday Parade]

Serena brought it to my attention that I never finished this post.

As this was two years ago and I’m not bothered enough to check back, I’ll do them all now. I actually have a post in draft for the last few days that I didn’t write, but since I have to sleep within the hour, this might be faster.

Day 01: Your views on death, how you cope, etc. – If I answered this already, forgive me. I guess my answer will be different now. Since then, I’ve come across two deaths, one close but not extremely close to me, and another in my own family. Both were very sad but not in the shock tragic way. The former is definitely very upsetting, since it was my friend who battled cancer for eight years, and who ultimately lost to it. The thing is, the whole family knew it was coming, so they had time to prepare, to spend time and to smile and laugh. Her last days were spent in the company of her friends and family, so all things considered, it was pretty beautiful. The second death was my own grandfather, and it was a bit of a shock, but he was old, he lived a full, happy life, and there were no prolonged pain and suffering. He left my grandmother with a place to live, money to spend, and they had a lifetime of memories together. So my views? Death sucks, obviously, since it’s the ending of an existence, but I’d prefer to think about them when they lived, and how good they lived, and in that way they can continue existing in a sense, and positively so.

Day 02: How you introduce yourself to new people. – I try to be myself, but for the most part I gauge the situation. It’s easy to create a public persona, a funny, slightly inappropriate jokey, kind of persona, and just let that take care of the social conventions. But let’s be honest, we all do that. It’s how society is made for us to survive in, and instead of condemning it, think about the kind of people in your life around whom you could drop your public persona easily. It makes times with them even more special.

Day 03: What you think about love. – Judging by the time stamp, this was initially written just before I met Amelia. June 2011, I was pretty into someone else, and it wasn’t requited. I would have been a bit naive, hopeful but ultimately cynical about it. Now, I think it’s probably at the stage where I think love is definitely something which can fix someone, but also an elusive something which you may never know you’ve had, because who knows what love is? How can you tell you’re in love, and not just deep infatuation? And more importantly: does it matter? If you’re happy, and they’re happy, and your sex drive is VERY happy, then does it matter if it’s not really “love”?

Day 04: Write about someone you love. – Please see previous posts about Amelia. SORRY I just have to sleep very soon.

Day 05: A list of things you fancy doing. – Lately, I’ve been working more, so I do appreciate down times when I can read a good comic or book, or watch some shows while playing Jetpack Joyride, or reading about cool new techie things. I also really, really enjoy cuddling Amelia’s dog Meg.

MEG3

Day 06: Recommend some books to read. – This might just show my immaturity and taste in literature, but a few books I’ve been recently reading that I really enjoyed:

Perfume – the Story of A Murderer by Patrick Suskind (yes, I saw the movie first)

A Song of Ice and Fire (the series Game of Thrones is based off of) by G. R. R. Martin

Repotting Harry Potter – A Professor’s Book-by-Book Guide for the Serious Re-Reader by James W. Thomas (a wonderful way to also read through the series itself as you go along)

The Casual Vacancy (Where Rowling shows she really, really understands how people work) by J. K. Rowling

White Fang (literally one of the first adult English books I ever read, and I fell in love with it) by Jack London.

I’m also going to recommend some comics which I like.

Saga – Image Comics. The illustration is astonishingly beautiful, and Fiona Staples conveys emotions so artfully that some panels are laugh out loud funny, because of the way she’d draw the characters. The story is also compelling, but now that I’m waiting monthly for them instead of consuming them in one go, I feel like it’s so slow!

Chew – Image Comics. I have a thing for Image. Chew is funny and then punch-you-in-the-guts heartbreaking without notice. It takes quite a lighthearted approach at a really, really morbid theme, and it’s so fun to see where everything is headed.

Rising Stars – Image Comics. This series ended a while back, and I blew through it in one day. I’d wanted to savor it slowly, but before I knew it, it was pitch black and I had a sore butt, but I was just sobbing at how things turned out. It’s like Heroes, but better (which isn’t saying much, I guess).

American Vampire – Vertigo. Ever since reading Preacher (which is also good, but I won’t put it on my list), I thought Vertigo would come out with weird-ass things (just like Hellblazer too), but American Vampire’s story really SUCKED me in, even considering the fact that it had time jumps and deviations in protagonist focus. The world which Snyder created is so engrossing I wish they could make a bigger thing of it.

Fables – Vertigo. Also a surprisingly not weird series. It’s like Once Upon A Time but not so whiney. The reason I got into it was because I read a review for Wolf Among Us, which is the Telltale Game’s prequel to Fables. The game sounded fun, and the comics did too, so I gave it a go. Great decision, cannot wait for the game now.

Numbercruncher – Titan Comics. This was one of those random new comics recommended by Comixology, and I gave it a go. It was strange to start with but then the premise really grabbed me, then it continued being extremely awesome, and it’s something I’d totally re-read slowly while contemplating the idea behind it.

The Bunker – Hoarse and Buggy Productions. Yet another random digital-only recommendation, which turned out to be very time-travelly mind-bendy stuff. It’s slow in picking up and just started, so it’s not built up to much yet, but the creators are promising something huge, and I hope they deliver!

Day 07: Write about the arts (music, art, dancing). – Obviously, these things are all around us and we don’t realize it. It feels like these institutions have been built to such an elitist state that, if you’re not AMAZING AND TOTALLY ACE at it, then you’re relegated to “sucking” and “keep it as your hobby”. I mean, for most people, it probably is a hobby anyway, but they don’t need you to tell them that. I wish I was good at all three, because musicians/artists/dancers are sexy, but I think I’m okay with just writing and storytelling.

Day 08: Write a poem. – I once took a creative writing class where one of the assessments was to write a poem. I think poems are also built to be something more than it needs to be. Poems are meant to be a gathering of words in a way which draws beauty and instills thought and emotions into the reader. Just because you didn’t write it in a bloody sonnet format doesn’t make it any less special. A limerick isn’t any lesser than a haiku. A kid who wrote an acrostic poem using the word “MOMMY” and writing about how much they love their mother means a lot more to that mother than anything Hemingway could have come up with, because poetry isn’t about how poncy you are, it’s about the emotion behind it. In other words, I can’t really be bothered writing one right now.
Day 09: Photo of your favorite pillow. – I only have one pillow, and it’s light blue. Unless you want a photo of Meg again?

Day 10: How you wake up in the morning. – I tend to wake up more often to alarm clocks than not, then I take 10 minutes to scroll through my overnight Twitter feed, especially for interesting news, then I get up and do my stuff.
Day 11: Write about your sibling(s) or what it’s like to be an only child. – Being an only child can be lonely sometimes, and also your parents pressure you a lot, since they only have you to make them proud. But, you get lots of stuff, so whatevs, right? It’s getting late and these questions ask too much of me!
Day 12: Your relationship with your parents. – I think this is a bunch of worms which need to remain in the can for tonight.
Day 13: Write about what you believe in, be it God, yourself, etc. – I believe in finding happiness, and one’s innate right to be happy, no matter how. Of course, if being happy means you absolutely need to go on a killing rampage, then maybe you shouldn’t be happy, or even alive. I’m not really one for all-life-is-sacred, because in the end we have about 6 billion on this planet, (I’m the only one with the uncanny ability to be awesome,) about half of them is in a constant state of poverty and probably dying, and the other half cares that a deranged gunman not get a death sentence? Again, let’s keep those worms for another day. My point is, being happy is all you should aim for, because once you die, who knows what else comes after?
Day 14: What you do for Valentine’s Day. – I’m not allowed to celebrate this day because Amelia hates it.
Day 15: Write about the best gift you’ve ever received. – It’s hard for me to pinpoint the best gift, since I constantly want and get tired of new things. I think that a photo album that a friend gave me when I left my old school was probably the most heartfelt and sweet thing, though.
Day 16: Write another poem, about the weather. – Roses are red, the sky is blue, the rain is gray, brown is poo.
Day 17: Post your favorite gif.

Cry3I used this reacting to when Amelia said that we were no longer in the honeymoon period.
Day 18: Your plans for tomorrow. – I work 8 hours.
Day 19: Write about something you fear. – I’m scared that Amelia will find being with me too tiresome as times goes on, because we either have to hide it from our families forever, or come out and face the consequences. We’re both bi, so I’m worried she’ll end up finding it easier just to be with a guy who she can be public with. But that’s silly, because she loves me, and her dog has basically imprinted on me so it will take too long for it to love someone else.
Day 20: What did you eat for dinner last night? – Dad fried up some Spam and we ate it with burger buns and he also made soup.
Day 21: Your favorite thing to drink. – SO I HAD MY FIRST WET PUSSY (well…”second”) TONIGHT AND IT WAS DELICIOUS AND I LOVE IT.
Day 22: How you take your coffee or tea. – I usually have a latte with one sugar, but I used to do double shots with one sugar as well. I take tea black with one sugar, unless it’s green, then no sugar.
Day 23: Your favorite thing to wear. – I like wearing hoodies because they feel like mobile blankets.
Day 24: Another poem, about the shoes you wear most often. – Roses are red, my shoes are purple, some bits are black, so black and purple.
Day 25: Write about where you live. – I live on a street predominantly white, and we used to have a problem with some kids down the road, who would ding-dong ditch us, and they escalated to kicking our trash over, harassing my mom when she’s working in the front yard, and once egged our house. They’ve stopped recently, though.
Day 26: Your favorite smell. – Amelia! Also bacon. OH IMAGINE IF AMELIA COOKED BACON!
Day 27: Your thoughts on the internet. – I don’t see a problem with the internet itself, I see a problem with people. It’s like guns. Yes, guns are bad things and they kill people, but honestly, a gun sitting there by itself wouldn’t be that scary, but you put a pair of hands on it and WOAH it’s a problem. It’s the same thing with the internet. It’s a great way to connect things that are otherwise unable to be connected, but once you put a human behind the mouse and….
Day 28: Write about how you feel today. – I’m a bit annoyed that I spent all day watching TV and not doing some writing, but it is my rest day after all, so I should just be happy I got to rest. Next week is a tough working week, but I’ve got Pokemon Y to look forward to on Saturday!

Let me ask, would you like that?

[Diary Of Jane – Breaking Benjamin]

Day 01: Your views on death, how you cope, etc

Clearly I forgot to do it yesterday.

I haven’t really been faced properly with death that affected me personally and on a great level, so I really can’t say – the only deaths that I’ve been near were the deaths of a friend’ father, and my maternal grandmother when I was 7, so the emotional ties really weren’t strong.

I’m not religious enough/at all to believe that there is a heaven after death, and even after watching 6 seasons of Supernatural which straddled between cynicism and Christianity given your interpretation, I still don’t think there is a heaven after death. But do I think that when the heart stops beating blood and the brain stops firing off electrons, there marks the end of something? No, I think that a life goes on even beyond the clinical death – but I do mean that in a symbolic way. Any sentence beginning with “Remember when Rod…?” or “As Rod used to say…” is a continuation of that life.

I would like to think that there is a plane where the consciousness goes after death, but what is consciousness I cannot begin to define. Or fathom. I cannot even imagine being dead – I think of that last moment right before, when I become certain that I am going to die. I think if I will regret it, “Oh the things that I will never experience”. But why would I regret it? If my personal consciousness really is going lights out in the next moment, I won’t exactly go on to notice all the things that I’m missing while missing it. My “legacy” lives on through the connections I’ve made whilst alive – the experiences that I “have” are for their own spiritual satisfaction and benefit, I personally wouldn’t and couldn’t care less. If my consciousness reaches another plane – whether that be whatever my own equivalent of heaven is (because I am not going to the Christian Heaven that’s for sure), or reincarnation, or I haunt the crap out of all those people spiritually benefiting from experiences I will never experience, I doubt I’d be in a position to envy, be aware of, or care about those experiences.

As to how to cope – I honestly cannot answer that without having to cope with a personal death myself.

But any loss is something difficult to get over, isn’t it? Whether it be a close and horrific death, or something comparatively trivial – the feeling of loss hurts all the same.

So how do I deal with loss? I suppose I can fool myself into believing that “they’re in a better place now”, or living happily as a much loved puppy dog, or simply watching me wonder if their consciousness is okay. Or I can focus on myself – which I do most of the time, anyway. I can tell myself that they are gone from my immediate reach, and that sucks, and I’m allowed to be very sad about that for a while, but at some point I should manage that sadness into healthy respectful doses, and move on with my life, spiritually satisfying myself by doing all the things that the person now can’t.

Alex.