Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Association

Now Playing: TTL - Deep Shadow (The Hunger Games trailer theme)

Like I mentioned on Sunday's post, I went to see Mockingjay Part 2 with friends on Friday night. And Friday was, as I also mentioned earlier, Cecilia's 16th birthday.

That fact didn't escape my mind all morning. I probably only stopped thinking about it until sometime before Silvia picked me up. (Probably when I was drawing and redrawing my face with that stupid eyeliner. Have I mentioned I still haven't figured it out? Damn quivering lids/hands). Then, right as I was watching Mockingjay, it came back to me. Today is Cecilia's birthday. Today she is sixteen.

Before I really talk about that, I figured I'd get all my negative opinions out of the way:

Story in General: 

This is a problem I've had with the book but I got a reminder last Friday. I think one of the biggest issues I have with the story (and it's something my dad also mentioned when he saw Part 1) is that. . .it kind of completely oversimplifies how people under an oppressive government behave.

The series in general has a problem of oversimplifying things. One of the reasons I could never fully get into it is because the books have a deeply rooted misunderstanding of the long term effects of starvation and extreme poverty, which I think is a very dangerous thing to get wrong. (Not to mention the series--despite what fans claim, for whatever reason--is much more concerned with a love triangle than with a rebellion. More than half the time, Katniss doesn't give two flying shits about the people of Panem).

But in this issue particularly, it's just weird how quickly people were willing to set an uprising. I guess that's also an oversimplification because it was decades of the hunger games before Panem rebelled, but that actual rebellion just seems to happen within a year. And totally by accident. All the districts, even those that are well-off, start to fight. And that's just. . .not how I think rebellions happen. We don't want war, we don't want to fight. Not when decades of brainwashing and oppression are already holding us down.

My second problem is in terms of scale. Because we finally got a good look at the Capitol and they kept talking about war and how the districts are united, I was so super mega confused wtf exactly the districts were fighting. Like, this wasn't a civil war exactly, it wasn't the North vs the South. It was an entire country vs a single city's soldiers and people.

I guess the explanation for that is that the districts had malnourished, poverty stricken individuals and next to no technological resources, and I understand that war isn't all about brute strength, but I don't think I was fully convinced the severity of this war and the opposing sides.

I don't know. Maybe there are actual revolutions out there that directly mirror this kind of thing and I'm just being overly critical.

Movie Only:

Massive spoiler discussion.

I need to seriously kick two people involved in this movie: whoever the fuck decided to make it a two-part film and whoever doesn't know to quit shaking the camera. (Do I kick the director? Cinematographer? Even if they do a good job 90% of the time?)

Most of my hate on these two points involves (again, massive spoiler) Prim's role in this movie. Specifically, Prim's death scene.

While the second part of Mockingjay feels solid, I'm still really annoyed at the fact that such a tiny book was stretched into two movies. Mostly because it meant Mockinjay Part 1 is full of pointless, overdrawn scenes that are trying to build atmosphere but feel mostly like overkill. I'm seriously tempted to one day try and splice the two movies together into a two and a half hour epic--the same way that some Tolkien fans got annoyed at The Hobbit adaptations and edited the three tiresome, stretched out movies into a single one as an experiment.

But while watching the Prim scenes, I realized why cutting that movie in half was a bad idea: I haven't seen Part 1 in a year--since it came out, basically. And while this next bit is debatable, I seriously think Prim's death is pretty much the center point of Mockingjay. At least, it is in the book and it should have been in the movie.

Instead, Prim is given two scenes, and in neither of which does she talk. The first one is pretty if a bit oddly constructed--just a moment where she dances with her sister. The second is her death scene, when Katniss sees her in the crowd, calls out her name, and then the explosion goes off.

I realize why Prim doesn't have any speaking scenes in this movie. The impact of her death is built up entirely in Part 1--which is why we have all those scenes of them talking, arguing, looking out for each other. But because it's all in a movie I haven't seen in a year, the actual death scene here felt weirdly rushed. I didn't forget Prim, and I didn't forget what she meant to Katniss, but it just doesn't feel like the moment was done justice.

Not to mention that the whole fucking thing is shaking. I thought they learned their lesson with the first movie--Hold. The. Camera. Still.

I get that the point was probably to capture the chaos of the situation, but in the book, though the death scene is quick and jumbled and chaotic, it's still much more focused than how it's done in the movie.

It's barely two paragraphs in the book. We're denied the chance to hear Katniss say her name. And it's powerful.
. . .Another flock of white uniforms sweeps into the opening. But these aren't Peacekeepers. They're medics. Rebel medics. I'd know the uniforms anywhere. They swarm in among the children, wielding medical kits.
First I get a glimpse of the blond braid down her back. Then, as she yanks off her coat to cover a wailing child, I notice the duck tail formed by her untucked shirt. I have the same reaction I did the day Effie Trinket called her name at the reaping. At least, I must go limp, because I find myself at the base of the flagpole, unable to account for the last few seconds. Then I am pushing through the crowd, just as I did before. Trying to shout her name above the roar. I'm almost there, almost to the barricade, when I think she hears me. Because just for a moment, she catches sight of me, her lips form my name.
And that's when the rest of the parachutes go off. 
In the movie? It's barely two minutes. Of course we hear Katniss scream her name. And it's still a fucking mess.

(And quick, last negativity: in both the book and the movie, Katniss only gets burns from the explosion. Bull. Shit. Her internal organs should have been liquefied from the force or something--she was standing way too close).

Anyways. Didn't realize it till later, but there's a very specific reason I was so obsessed with Prim and this scene.

The Positive (And Concerning Cecilia):

While I was watching Mockingjay,  I wrote down reasons I'm still drawn to the movies despite being so critical of the story.

They definitely do what I think adaptations are supposed to do--for the most part. Which is they improve quite a lot of things. I'm glad that this is one of the few book-to-movie adaptations that includes zero narration and trusts the audience to understand what the hell is going on on their own. It tries to be a movie first without changing too much of the content. It elaborates on side-villains and it also lets the acting carry the characters.

But weirdly, it's also the framing. Like. . .the actual shot framing. These are beautifully made movies in my opinion.

That was one of the things I wrote mid-viewing--there's something about the way Katniss is framed in certain takes that really hits me. Like when she's put square in the middle, facing away from the audience, with the camera either trailing her or lingering for a bit. It's probably nothing special (I'm not a filmmaker so I'm most likely just fixated on something silly and inconsequential) but it stays with me.

I think I started paying attention to it when I saw this promotional poster for the first movie.

Which I realize is not uncommon in movie posters--like some of the Star Trek: Into Darkness and Captain America: The Winter Soldier posters had something like this, and it was also done with Mockingjay: Part 1.

Nonetheless, I find the composition of that first poster really beautiful (even if a bit cluttered). I can't help but notice when the movies do something similar.


That's one reason I feel oddly drawn to the series. This is the other one.

When the first Hunger Games movie came out, I was sixteen, Cecilia was twelve.

We'd been friends for about a year at that point, maybe a year and a half, writing together, talking constantly. We'd both already read The Hunger Games trilogy by then, and though I started to pull away from it and become more critical of it, she was still a fan. We obsessed over the trailer and talked endlessly about the story before and after watching the movie.

I'm a negative person (if you couldn't tell), so I had some issues from, like, pre-production days.

One of the things that's always annoyed me about Hollywood is the way in which they approach casting--you lose a lot of impact when you take 20-something year old actors and cast them in the roles of teenagers, which I think is especially applicable to The Hunger Games. Not that they didn't get fine actors--they certainly did, and if anything, I like Katniss as a character better when she's played by Jennifer Lawrence than when I was stuck in her head in the books. I still think seeing someone older in the role is a bit of a drawback.

That said, they did good by keeping the younger kids young. I was very happy--back then and now--that both Amandla Stenberg (Rue) and Willow Shields (Prim) were close to their character's ages when they filmed the first movie. One tiny, random thought passed by my mind the day I watched the first Hunger Games movie: Oh. I'm Katniss's age. And Carpathia (her nickname back then) is Rue's. And Prim's).

Tiny random thought that I remember well. For no reason at all.

Last Friday, through Twitter, Cecilia kept retweeting messages from her friends. It was all kinds of sweet  "happy birthday!" posts along with pictures of her--pictures of her with friends, alone, looking pretty, looking amusing, and mostly looking happy. Most were recent, some were older. Every now and then I saw pictures of her at the age of eleven and twelve--when our friendship was new but at its strongest.

The weird thing is, I hadn't noticed till recently how much she reminds me of Prim. Like her and the character/actress remind me of each other or something. Especially when they were both near the age of twelve or thirteen.

They don't look exactly the same--if I could post pictures maybe it'd be easy for an objective party to disagree--but my mind's already made that connection. Whenever I watch the Hunger Games movies and Prim shows up, I think of Cecilia.

It's not just appearances, of course, but what it is exactly, I don't know. They don't behave the same way. They don't sound the same. There's nothing about a situation or a moment that should make me link the two of them.

So on Friday, I was half concentrating on the movie, half thinking of Cecilia. I was thinking of our friendship and how it didn't get to grow along with us. I understand--as I understand in all friendships that have faded--that we are somewhat different now. I don't even know how to explain it exactly, because I still like her, still think her a great person, still wish her the best, but I realize already that who we are and what we had has changed and gone.

She hasn't gone anywhere and nothing's happened to her. (Thankfully). I'm very lucky that I have a way to check in on her well-being and still be a part of her memories--if only because of my online presence. But I still deeply miss her and I missed her a lot more while watching the movie.

I don't know what it is about this association. Or really, any kind of association. Maybe it's just as simple as, "when these movies were coming out, we were friends." I don't think I'm alone in linking people to movies or books or a song or a phrase.

As Mockingjay was closing up yesterday and Katniss was delivering the final monologue, it really twisted up my heart in a way I couldn't explain. I cried wayyy too much at the last Harry Potter movie, but that one I can explain, that one is deeply personal in a way that's completely logical. This one doesn't seem to make all that sense to me.

Although again, maybe it really is just simple. Maybe I miss that blip of 2012 when we both saw the trailer and talked for ten minutes straight about the whistled tune at the end.

Art's just weird in that sense. It stays with us in ways we sometimes don't expect.
~Becky

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