Hunger Games

Seabiscuit is lame!

Nevertheless, I accept that narrative is dead. I'm in the seventh stage: snarkiness.  
Reported on 9th of April, 2012

Look, Hunger Games is blandly entertaining enough – it’s not like it’s 2011 anymore – so why bother picking on it? I even forgive the fact, he said before he dug into it thereby indicating a lack of forgiveness, that it’s probably the first film ever made in the Fight To The Death genre where the main character doesn’t actually kill anybody.

I've said that directors don't make films, but this doesn't mean that they can't unmake films, something which Mr. Ross does with a knack verging on the uncanny.

No, I’ll give you your source material, and raise you one inexplicable CGI super dog; it’s for teens, who do not like choice to be a part of drama. I’ve seen all the Twilight films and I know that…actually no, I don’t remember a single thing. Which proves how crucial choice is as a part of narrative, something that you’ve already forgotten since I didn’t make it part of a story.

Nevertheless, I accept that narrative is dead. I’m in the seventh stage: snarkiness.

Hunger Games

28 March 2012 @ The Brighton Odeon

$1.50 or, if one must be quotidian, and one must... 
★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆


So even though Hunger Games is not especially dramatic, it’s vaguely fun to watch. The truth is, unlike Twilight, there’s some there there, or there will have had been some there there, post revolutionary apocalypse.

And there’s a bit of campy good fun to watch the other characters, writers, CGI dogs, TV producers and despots doing everything in their power to prevent Ms. Jennifer Lawrence from actually killing someone and thus facing an ethical dilemma which might hurt her feelings. Who can blame them? I mean, look at that ponytail!

And to be fair, there’s also a sense of a lived in world, with the details that go with it. The creepy sense of self-congratulations on the part of the show-makers felt congruent and complete. Like all satire, it’s not about the future but the now: a somewhat arcane version of our relationship with reality TV, whereby we don’t watch it to enjoy it so much as watch it imagine what the other people who are watching it are like.

So as much as I enjoyed the set-up of the film, and might have enjoyed its weakass resolution, it all soon falls apart under the guidance of the the supremely incompetent Mr. Gary Ross, formerly of the execrable Seabiscuit, from which I take the above title (this is a line from the film, which my friend Alyssa pointed out to me, and by pointed out, I mean screamed out loud during the screening. For future reference to all filmmakers, try to avoid bits of dialog that audience members can immediately yell back at the screen. Things like ‘This is taking forever’, ‘I don’t see how anything could get worse’ or ‘Inception is just shitty filmmaking. Why am I watching it?’ That last one is from The Bells of St. Mary for some reason. Also memorable: ‘It’s warm’. Yeah, you’re going to need to see Final Fantasy to get that. I apologize. And you’re welcome).

To be clear, Hunger Games could have been a perfectly serviceable night out. What Mr. Ross so ably demonstrates is why we should never let directors make movies. I’ve said that directors don’t make films, and I’m right, but this doesn’t mean that they can’t unmake films, something which Mr. Ross does with a knack verging on the uncanny. The best you can hope for in a director is that they not fuck something good up; the best you can hope for in a director is a kind of competent nothing.

Mr. Ross fails this deceptively simple task, desperate as he is to demonstrate that directors matter, dammit! As such, he must add his insight, of the ‘violence is bad’ variety, never you mind that we’re in the theater to see it. The best way to prove this thesis is by making it real, man, ond the best way to do this is by shaking the camera really, really hard.

This technique is used frequently by another realism buff, Mr. Michael Bay, who notes that the ‘Bayesian’ technique (his name, not mine) of blurriness and fast inexplicable cuts is an appropriate substitute for action. Technically, this is true; if we were on the set, we would see the camera man jumping up and down on an elliptical machine built out of miniature bouncy castles and say, ‘Hey, that is, from a definitional point of view, an action’.

Like watching a film about a TV show, this break between film and reality is not dissimilar to the game within the film itself, which seems to think an audience would watch something where the rules are changed at random, then changed back, then given CGI dogs for no reason. And then changed again. A reality show which breaks the covenant with the audience just so would become quickly boring, unlike the film we the audience are watching behind the scenes, which is boring for the same reason and because Mr. Ross can’t stop shaking the camera.

I look at this ticket and think: why didn't I remember to bring a spoon for the ice cream? The ones they give you are so small!

I look at this ticket and think: why didn’t I remember to bring a spoon for the ice cream? The ones they give you are so small!

The shakycam effect extends, almost comically if it weren’t for the attendant nausea, to the surveillance cameras placed in trees by the titular show, as well as the possibly interesting but spoilt bit where three characters are on tiny slippery platform above the aforementioned CGI dogs, a scene where a sense of space is crucial, and so, to Mr. Ross, must be made completely imperceptible. The only moment of respite is when the wide CGI cityscape shots come along. I imagine how frustrating it must have been to explain to Mr. Ross that they can’t ‘shake the camera’ in the CGI shot. I also imagine how long it would have taken.

And yes, I know that you can simulate the shaky cam effect in CGI, but Mr. Gary Ross doesn’t. And the longer he doesn’t the better it is for your currently vomit-free shoes. So…shhhh.

The exception to the feeling that your brain will explode are times when you’re being beaten over the head. Like the close-up of the never break glass in Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn, Mr. Ross shows us the apple, then Ms. Lawrence looking at the apple, then the apple again, then a man explaining that she wouldn’t shoot the apple, would she?, then a thought balloon with an apple and so on.

The last phrase of that sentence was an exaggeration, but when Mr. Stanley Tucci appears to explain that the bees with hallucinogenic venom may cause hallucination…as a hallucination, I am not exaggerating. It’s the kind of directing is either terrified that we won’t know what’s going on, or unwilling to show us what’s going on. Where’s the shakycam now, I asked?

Oh. There it is.

She was eating a cake, for Christ’s sakes! I had to make it real!

The Take

The trailer point is only sixty minutes in. That’s something.
The camp value of an ending where Mr. Donald Sutherland walks up the stairs…menacingly!
There might have been a movie there, if you could actually tell what was going on.
Total Profits
The hallucination of Mr. Stanley Tucci saying, twice, ‘Powerful Hallucination’. Or does that go under camp value?
The currency adjusted price of the Advil I took after. This is not a bit. This is just how much they cost.
The nagging suspicion that Mr. Ross is actually a genius, and has distracted me from the fact that, as it happens, there was no movie there at all.
Total Losses


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