Monthly Archives: March 2012

How The Hunger Games Film Set Up a Big Problem for Catching Fire

Contributed by Alex Rabinowitz

Two guards walk Seneca Crane to an ornately decorated Capitol room. In the center of the room is a decadent, goblet-like bowl. The guards close the door as they leave and Seneca begins to realize his fate. He walks towards the bowl and the camera reveals it to be filled with Nightlock. The rest is implied.

Of all the beautifully handled scenes in The Hunger Games film, this had to be one of the best. It’s one that does so much with so little, at once moving plot forward while informing us on the irony-loving cruelty of President Snow and the Capitol. All that and it’s not even in the book. Katniss, who serves as the first person narrator on paper, tells the reader that Snow surely executed the incompetent Gamemaker, but showing exactly how is something she’d never be able to do.

And therein lies the problem that Gary Ross and company have set themselves up for in Catching Fire. So much of Suzanne Collins’ twisty second book relies on what Katniss doesn’t know. [BOOK 2/3 SPOILERS AHEAD] Readers who have finished the series are aware that by the time the first book ends a rebellion is in motion. Much of its inner-workings happen then outside of Katniss’ grasp before and during the second book. She gets hints of it from Plutarch and scenes on television, but never really puts it all together. Katniss goes into the Quarter Quell with a limited set of information and is largely surprised at the end by a dynamic rebellion-led rescue. The reader is therefore also somewhat surprised and even confused along with her.

Ross and Collins made a very bold choice to fill in the viewer beyond Katniss’s knowledge in the movie version of The Hunger Games. The riot in District 11, private conversations between Snow and Crane, the Gamemaker’s control room, all enhanced the story immensely and made it a better film. There’s no reason this enhancement shouldn’t continue through the series, after all there’s only so much Katniss can tell us. Unfortunately, Catching Fire relies heavily on what Katniss doesn’t know. Is the ending going to be as effective if we already know there’s a revolution brewing and some of our main characters are in on it?

What results is a conundrum of sorts. Frequent Danny Boyle collaborator Simon Beaufoy is penning the adaptation of Collins’ second book and he has a choice. He can either stick with the precedent Ross has set and expand the point of view, or he can buck the trend and bring it back to the first person. Limiting the perspective may end up feeling inconsistent in the overall scheme of things; it could also jeopardize the extra awesomeness the creators can bring that Collins didn’t put in her book. Fans who cried foul at the significant changes made by Ross and company in the first film may lean towards the latter but it could confuse and upset the greater audience.

Thankfully, Beaufoy is a proven talent and will likely figure it out. He had this to say about adapting the book recently, “With this one I had to be a lot more faithful, also because there’s a fan base who are more than usually keen that you get it absolutely right. ‘The Hunger Games’ fan base are passionate beyond anything I’ve ever come across and I’d fear for my life if I get that adaptation

. If I do too free an adaptation than I shall get firebombed. So I’m being really careful about that.” (Crave Online) Sounds good for die-hard fans, just glad that I’m not the one having to adapt the sequel to The Hunger Games.

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Amanda Knox’s Ex Gets A Book Deal

Amanda Knox may have her own $4 million dollar book deal, but now her ex-boyfriend has one too. Broken up or not, Knox’s ex, Raffaele Sollecito — the Italian student she dated while studying abroad — will forever be associated with Knox. They both served four years in Italian prison for the murder of Knox’s roommate, but were ultimately acquitted.

And now Sollecito’s putting that popular-by-association status to work, by writing a memoir for Gallery Books. According to this article by The New York Times, details of the deal have not been disclosed. But Presume Guilty: My Journey to Hell and Back with Amanda Knox is set to be published sometime this fall. And publishers have no doubt that it will be successful, as Julie Bosman reports.

“Raffaele Sollecito is a young man who spent four years in prison standing up for a woman he had known for a few weeks,” said Jennifer Bergstrom, editor in chief of Gallery Books. “I’m fascinated by his story and I think readers will be too.”

Bergstrom makes a good point. Not to mention: you put “Amanda Knox” in the title of anything, and people will be sure to read it.

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Review: A Mother’s Song

Recap: A story about following your heart wherever it may lead, A Mother’s Song by Michael Finaghty is an engrossing read. The book tells the story of Ruby Penfold, an orphan, brilliant pianist, and peace activist from Australia. It follows Ruby’s life — from her mischievous days at the Christian orphanage in the 1960’s to her teenage years with foster parents Captain and Connie O’Grady, and finally to her adult life in Melbourne and London.

At 18-years-old, Ruby meets her first love, Phillip, who is soon ripped from her by the Vietnam War. When this happens, Ruby’s passion against the war grows more intense. It’s a rocky period in her life, as she searches for and locates her mentally-ill biological mother. She later learns that her mother went crazy after she lost both her parents in the Blitzkrieg during WWII.

Despite Ruby’s efforts to remain part of Phillip’s and her mother’s life, she realizes she must move on. She journeys to London with her best friend, Chloe. There she meets her new love, Andrew. She continues her peace efforts by joining local peace groups. Her passion for music and the piano also remain. But after she enters the world of family life with Andrew, 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan follows. Soon, her activist lifestyle takes over.

Analysis: While reading the novel, I kept interpreting the title A Mother’s Song — which mother does it correspond to? Ruby’s biological, sick mother or her foster mother, Connie? And what song? The obvious answer is the opera song that Connie loves and shares with Ruby  (“I too recall how long ago, my heart was joyful and tender; love spread his wings around me”). But Connie is an activist. And Ruby’s biological mother succumbed to illness after war destroyed her childhood. So in essence, Ruby’s song is one of peace — a song passed down to her by both of her mothers.

There is something beautiful about the way three different wars have affected three different generations. The Blitzkrieg’s effect on Ruby’s mother, the Vietnam War’s effect on Ruby, and the Afghanistan War’s effect on Ruby and her younger activist friends. The battle for peace becomes an heirloom that’s passed along from generation to generation.

Interwoven into the story about war and peace is also a story of love — love lost and refound. Ruby comes full circle in way that has both romantic and political impact.

MVP: Ruby Penfold. At a young age, she’s already dealt with a substantial amount of pain and loss. That continues to follow her into her adult life. But her ability to throw herself into her music and her activism helps her cope with everything. She’s a little lost and confused. But she is passionate. And that steers her toward becoming a romantic do-gooder.

Get A Mother’s Song for your Kindle for just $5.80.

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Movie vs. Book: The Hunger Games

Contributed by Sam Smink

At one time there was an uprising in the post-apocalyptic country of Panem, and one of 13 districts was wiped away against the force of the Capitol. To remind the districts of the cost of an uprising, 24 “tributes” are annually shoved into an arena of deadly surprises until only one comes out alive in the Hunger Games.

The film version of The Hunger Games does a great job at establishing the relationship between its heroine, Katniss, and her younger sister, Prim. We witness the first difference from the novel early on. In the movie, Katniss gives Prim the Mockingjay pin to protect her. In the book, the mayor’s daughter, Madge, gives Katniss the pin. But a Madge-less movie makes little difference, especially since it allows us to witness the closeness of Katniss and Prim, further developing their relationship.

Another difference in the movie is that there’s very little setup regarding the District 12 “strategy” that Haymitch develops — a love story between its two tributes, Katniss and Peeta. I wish the film had done more to set up the fact that this was Haymitch and Peeta’s plan from the beginning, particularly since the strategy is what causes Katniss and Peeta to fight at the end of the novel. Therein lies another difference. The movie needed to delve more into Peeta’s anger at the end when he realizes the “love” was all a ruse on Katniss’s part.

There also wasn’t enough background established with the Katniss, Peeta, Gale love triangle. Many of us have been asking ourselves Team Peeta or Team Gale but here, I felt no personal connection to either.  In actuality, Peeta’s love is true, selfless and heroic. Here it just seems like any other crush for those who haven’t read the books. They also needed to establish more of a friendship between Gale and Katniss.

As far as the Hunger Games themselves, I sat on the edge of my seat, holding my breath throughout the entire games, despite knowing the outcome from the books. Brilliant film making. The style of the games was shot realistically, so you felt like you were there yourself. Not to mention, the Hunger Games is like a reality show, so the shaky one-camera style fit perfectly. They also did a nice job of showing the violence without overexposing it. The PG-13 rating certainly didn’t diminish the quality. You saw people die; you just didn’t see it thrown in your face.

We learn after the Games that Katniss has put herself in a very dangerous position because her actions throughout the games are seen as rebellious — the start of a revolution. But the film shows us the revolution starts even earlier. After the death of Rue, the movie reveals that District 11 starts an uprising against the Capitol. This is a piece of information that, in the books, is not revealed until Catching Fire. The choice to include it in the first movie in the trilogy, however, is a smart move because it needs to set up for the sequel.

Another difference: Seneca Crane. He was only briefly mentioned in the book as Gamemaker. But in the movie, he gets a pretty decent part. He’s used as a mechanism for describing the evil and power of the people in the Capitol. I think we could have seen a little less of him. Stanley Tucci’s Caesar Flickerman did a well enough job of providing commentary for those not familiar with the story.

All in all though, fantastic work. The actors could not have been better cast, and all the right ingredients were there. It was moving, it was exciting, it stayed mostly true to the book. Everything worked. I’d even see it again, especially since there’s still another year-and-a-half until another Hunger Games. But until then, may the odds be ever in your favor.

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Mad Men Reading List

Every once in a while, two of my favorite things combine and make me a very happy girl. In this case, it’s books and Mad Men. With the show’s 5th season set to premiere this Sunday (my God, FINALLY!), I thought it would only be appropriate to post a list of books referenced in the series — the Mad Men Reading List.

Compiled by the New York Public Library, the list includes each book that’s referenced in the show, in which episode, with links to the library’s site so you can get yourself a copy.

Though I don’t always read the books that my favorite TV shows or movies reference, I firmly believe that all literary references represent deeper meaning in much of what’s happening in the storyline of said show/movie. The literary references tend to draw crucial parallels and can be excellent foreshadowing techniques for a show or movie.

It was brilliant of the NYPL to put this list together, and I hope you find some goodies on the list like I have! Who knows? Pick up a copy of something and you just might feel inclined to wear a skinny tie and sip some scotch at work tomorrow.

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Making The Hunger Games Your Bible…Literally

In case you haven’t heard or read enough about The Hunger Games in the last two weeks, here’s some out of the ordinary Hunger Games news for you. A Bible study group from North Carolina has been hosting Hunger Games-themed Bible study classes.

That’s right. According to this article by The Huffington Post, two reverends, Andy Langford and Ann Duncan, say they’ve found a number of parallels between The Hunger Games and the Bible, like selfless love and sacrifice. Since January, about 80 people have attended their sessions called “The Gospel According To The Hunger Games Trilogy.” The pastors say they felt this would be a good way to relate to teenagers in their churches, as Duncan explains.

“We’re not trying to make [the series] something that it’s not, but we’re trying to find themes that we as Christians can relate to,”Duncan said in a press release.

The study is available as an e-book on Amazon, as a means to reach people outside of their North Carolina community. So what do you think? Does The Hunger Games have religious undertones? Is this a good way to get people talking about religion?

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Review: The Girl Who Was On Fire: Your Favorite Authors on Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games Trilogy

In this smart, witty book about the entire Hunger Games trilogy, 16 young adult authors join forces to analyze the series that set one heroine on fire: Katniss Everdeen. The Girl Who Was on Fire is a collection of essays — analyses, literary criticisms that look at every aspect of the trilogy and either explain — in better words than you or I could– exactly what you were thinking when you read the books or completely change your point of view about them.

From essays like “Did the Third Book Suck?” to “The Politics of Mockingjay” to “Crime of Fashion,” the compilation covers each thematic aspect of the trilogy. It’s the perfect book to read right before or after seeing The Hunger Games movie this week. And so, I give you a sneak preview of some of the most interesting points made in this amazing book. You’ll quickly realize that if you’re a Hunger Games fan,  you’re going to need to get a copy or else I’ll send you a white rose…

1. Team Katniss — Whereas many of us readers, particularly the women, focused on the Team Peeta or Team Gale romantic subplot in the series, we bypassed the more integral player: Katniss, herself. She’s a difficult character to unravel and understand. But as The Girl Who Was On Fire explains, we don’t know Katniss because she has no desire to be known. But we do know everything she does is for either her survival or her family. So we should be focusing on those aspects of the novels, not who’s the better boyfriend.

2. War and The Hunger Games — Yes, the fascination with reality television — or manufactured reality — is an obvious theme in the novels. And while we often find ourselves comparing the books to competition reality shows like Survivor, it’s also worth noting there’s a bit of actual war news mixed in. Suzanne Collins herself admitted to coming up with the concept for the books from reality TV and the war in Iraq. And what’s more — as another essay points out — virtually every character in the series suffers from PTSD, another sign of war.

3. Characters Who Mattered More Than You Think — Each author who contributed to the book seemed to have a different idea as to who fueled the rebellion. Was it Katniss? What is The Capitol for allowing Katniss to take charge? But some of the lesser characters also played crucial roles. For instance,  Cinna, who made Katniss catch on fire in her bridal-gown-turned-mockingjay costume in Catching Fire. He may have made the costume, but he also defied the Capitol publicly by doing so, and quite literally turned Katniss into the mockingjay, the symbol of the rebellion. There was also Gale, who another essayist points out, was always the “doer” between he and Katniss. (Even in the beginning, Gale would talk about running away from District 12. Katniss would just listen.) And he refused to give up on the rebellion, pushing it along no matter who it — or he — hurt along the way.

There’s so much more I would like to say about The Girl Who Was On Fire, but I’ll leave you with this. If you’d like to know what caused these authors to draw comparisons to Marie Antoinette, V for Vendetta, The Real World, and Ancient Rome, you should probably just get a copy.

Now you can get it in paperback for $9.93.

Or get it on your Kindle for just $4.49.

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