the hunger games (film)

I have read the trilogy before (please don’t read the last two links if you haven’t read the books), so to refresh your memory about the first installment:

Katniss Everdeen lives in poverty in District 12 in the country of Panem, which was once North America. During a dark era in Panem’s history, all thirteen districts rebelled against the Capitol, Panem’s seat of power. District 13 was obliterated, and the 12 other districts were subdued. To remind the districts of the Capitol’s might, the Hunger Games is conducted every year. Every year, two tributes from each district – a boy and a girl – is sent to an undisclosed area to fight to the death.

That year, Katniss’s young sister’s name is called, and she steps forward to take her place. Thrown into the arena with her is Peeta, a baker’s boy, who has once done her a kindness.

Would it be strange if I told you that I wished the film was longer? This film adaptation was able to give us a complete sense of the weariness and poverty in District 12 and the grandeur and greed of the Capitol without being too heavy-handed in the dialogues, but failed to make us care for the supporting characters in the bloody competition. Plus points for the shaky camera work, the close-ups, and the haunting hum of the soundtrack (the camera following the doomed children, the focus on Katniss as she scrubs herself for the Reaping, the silence as Effie Trinket unfolds a paper with a crisp and final note – all beautiful and perfect); minus points for not even introducing us to the other contestants. I couldn’t even remember their names. They might as well not have names. “I will get you Person Number One! Bob something-or-other!”

I understand that this is an introductory story, but one scene where they could have done this in an economical manner was during the Tribute Parade. I plant a palm on my face for this missed opportunity. Introduce the tributes per District, talk a little about the Tributes and what they are wearing and what the costumes mean, and move on to the next. End scene! Was that so hard? It will take up time and perhaps cost more money (but then the costumes are already there, why not focus the cameras on them a bit?) but it will make us care. When a cannon booms through the speakers it will make us sit up and wonder who has died this time,  instead of just leaving us fidgeting impatiently on our seats.

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Usually, when I review prose, I review anthologies, full issues (if a magazine), or a novel. But I’m making an exception for  Ken Liu’s brilliant novella, “The Man Who Ended History: A Documentary”. It appeared in Panverse Three and is available as a PDF download here.

It is a time-travel story, but it has the most unique, most intriguing premise among all the time-travel stories I have encountered so far: Chinese-American Dr. Evan Wei, along with his wife, Japanese-American experimental physicist Dr. Akemi Kirino, develop a controversial technique that will allow people to travel back in time and experience history firsthand. Wei demonstrates this by traveling back to 1940 Harbin, to witness the atrocities committed inside Unit 731. Unit 731 is a research facility of the Japanese Army responsible for fatal human experimentation during World War II. Wei gets hit by critics for bringing relatives of the Unit 731 victims instead of professional historians. The critics contend: How effective is a firsthand historical record if the events are witnessed behind an explosively emotional screen?

In any event, the relatives, being untrained observers, did not make great witnesses. They failed to correctly answer observational questions posed by skeptics (“Did the Japanese doctors wear uniforms with breast pockets?” “How many prisoners in total were in the compound at that time?”). They did not understand the Japanese they heard on their trips.

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In Awake, police detective Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs) survives a car crash. In the car with him were his wife, Hannah, and his son, Rex. After the accident, Britten realizes that he is now living in two parallel worlds. In one reality, his wife Hannah survived the crash, but Rex is dead. He goes to sleep, and he wakes up in another reality, where Hannah is dead, but Rex is still alive. To help him “remember”, he wears a red rubber band when he is with his wife (and consequently the scenes in this reality have summer colors: warm reds and yellows) and a green rubber band when he is with Rex (the scenes here have cool colors: blue and green, like they’re underwater). In both realities, he is seeing a psychiatrist; in both realities, he is solving a crime. Britten still cannot tell which world is real, especially when certain details start to cross over from one parallel world to the other.

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Jaykie talks about Jeremy Lin.

…getting assigned to defend Lin pales in comparison to getting assigned to write about him, because there’s very little one can say about him that hasn’t already been said.

You know all about that, right? Odds are you’ve followed the Linsanity, the SNL skit, the missteps regarding race, et cetera. Otherwise you would have likely bolted as soon as statistics came up. So, since you’re still here, bear in mind that I won’t be writing about any of that stuff (nor will I be engaging in Lin puns, of which there are several). Rather, I’ll be taking a look at Jeremy Lin’s rise to success from a fan’s perspective.

And our regular Online Finds.

In defense of Lana Del Rey

Lana Del Rey received a lot of flak after her “disastrous” Saturday Night Live performance, but hell, bad publicity is still publicity. I have not heard of Lana Del Rey before news spread about what happened over at SNL, but it got me curious. I watched her SNL performances on YouTube and checked out her other live performances as well. I didn’t think the performances were as horrible as other people have described online, but when I finally got the chance to listen to her album, I saw what the critics meant. You can’t help but compare. Compared to her recorded songs, she sings at a lower register and drops notes she should be sustaining when she performs live. She also appears to be very nervous.

Read more on bleepthisblank (“Ear Candy”).

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About the Site

bleepthisblank contains reviews of anything that catches the authors’ fancies. Consider this a space for recommendations: watch this show, try this restaurant, read this book, play this game. Bleep this blank.

About the Authors

Eliza graduated from UP Diliman in 2007 and now works in Makati. She has won two Palanca Awards, and her fiction and poetry have appeared in various publications here and abroad. She loves the Oxford comma, is ambivalent toward the semicolon, and hates the ellipsis.

Hates it.

Jaykie is taking up a masters degree in Applied Mathematics (Major in Actuarial Science) in UP Diliman. If you are in need of an actuary, you’ll know who to contact. He enjoys gaming, be it tabletop, online, board, or card (esp. Magic). If you are in need of an actuary and a dungeon master, you’ll know who to contact. Could make for a very interesting game.

They met sometime in 2009. Together they enjoy watching films and TV series, drinking on weekends, and playing a round or two of the Game of Thrones boardgame.

Contact

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For our first post:

With Peter Berg confirming that a Friday Night Lights film is in the works, we think it’s high time that we revisit this series.

We just finished watching all five seasons of Friday Night Lights, which certainly deserved all the praise it got in its five-year run. It is set in the fictional town of Dillon, Texas, and concerns the struggles and victories of its football team, its football coach, Eric Taylor, his family, and the close-knit circle of the football players. It is heartwarming, engaging and sincere, and we’d recommend it to anyone, football fan or not.

Personally it got me interested in watching football, though don’t ask me to explain the rules to you. I’m actually planning to watch the Super Bowl for the game, and not just the halftime show.

Anyway. FNL makes for excellent television, but it’s not flawless. It has plot holes large enough for Smash Williams to charge through, and the show has the tendency of dropping character arcs and characters just like that.

If you haven’t seen the entire series, stopSPOILERS!

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