Insurgent (3D)

Insurgent (2015) by Robert Schwentke

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I must confess that I gave up on the books 200 pages into the second volume. It all turned too much into some sort of Twilight with Four becoming more important than Tris. I hate when that happens and I’m still in awe of Suzanne Collins and the way she developed Katniss Everdeen into a real person instead of just arm candy for Peeta.

insurgent1Given, Insurgent doesn’t quite give me the same feeling, but it disappointed on another level – a level it shares with the book, no doubt. The plot is… still no more convincing. It actually got a little weirder and wilder and not in a good way.

Okay, let’s get back to what happens for a second:

Tris (Shailene Woodley), her brother Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and Four (Theo James) hide out with the Amity but are out of luck as the Dauntless are still hot on their heels. They are being found out and are just barely able to escape – back into the city. Tris’ only thought is that of revenge on Jeanine (Kate Winslet), Four is tumbling into a Family reunion with his abandoning mother (Naomi Watts), and Caleb leaves the two to follow his own beliefs. They bring him back to Erudite where he and Tris meet again when Jeanine insurgent3threatens to kill people if Tris does not surrender. She does and is forced to use her divergent powers to open a secret box that promises to either make things even worse or bring salvation to those hunted.

It’s a fast-paced movie with a lot of action and little time to ponder what is actually happening. Which is probably a good thing because not all of it is making sense. I find the big reveal quite questionable, probably because I never understood the faction-system to begin with. Or rather, I didn’t be lieve in its functionality, neither as  political system or as plausible post-apocalyptic basis for a plot. Well, I shouldn’t have worried, it’s just a smoke Screen. But what is revealed instead doesn’t make it any better, unfortunately.

insurgent2The movie is not all bad. But most of its story just doesn’t work for me. What still does and will always work, of course, is Kate Winslet. I love her portrait of evil Jeanine and am only sad that it’s come to an end now. I’ll miss her – or maybe I won’t depending on whether I’ll watch Allegiant.

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 by Francis Lawrence (2014)

mockingjay1.1The beginning of the end – but we’re already very familiar with this kind of thing, aren’t we? I mean the splitting of the last volume of a book series into two films. Potter had it, Twilight had it, and I don’t even want to know if Fifty Shades of Bad Entertainment will have it as well. But for Mockingjay, I feel it was the right decision, because part 1 is already amazing.

What happens?

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has been rescued from the arena of her second hunger mockingjay1.2games and brought to District 13 where the rebels have gathered to wage war against the capitol. Katniss’ home District 12 has been destroyed but Gale Hawthorne (Liam Hemsworth) has saved some people, including Katniss’ mother (Paula Malcomson) and sister Prim (Willow Shields).

District 13 is a military district that works from underground since it had almost been completely destroyed during the war. People there live on essentials. Katniss agrees to be the symbol of the rebellion – the Mockingjay – if the captured tributes, including Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), are rescued at the earliest opportunity and given immunity.

After a sucessful rescue, Peeta tries to kill Katniss – he’s been brainwashed.

mockingjay1.3What fascinated me most with this part of the series is the barren look. While I would have wished for a more plush trainee center in the first film, the sparse set in this film fits District 13 perfectly. And it’s not just the set, the clothes and make-up of the characters reflect the military status of the district. To see Jennifer Lawrence basically without make-up… it makes her acting that much more intense. And not just hers. Once again, Julianne Moore just takes my breath away with her acting. She’s perfect as Alma Coin, the leader of District 13. Her posture shows miliatry stiffness and strength but she’s also sympathetic.

I think my favorite scene – probably everybody’s favorite scene – is the one with the group of young people (among them Natalie Dormer as Cressida) at the lake. It’s a stark difference to the scenes in the underground facility, it’s more relaxed and peaceful than the setting of the forest in the hunger games, and then there’s the song that Katniss sings – and it’s perfect. Jennifer Lawrence has a throaty, raw voice and it fits the situation and the song perfectly.

If there was something in this movie I didn’t like, I don’t remember it anymore because there were so many good things to remember, most of all the great acting by everyone involved. Effie Trinket mockingjay1.4(Elizabeth Banks) without her make-up, stripped bare of her capitol attitude and desperate and vulnarable is such a beautiful thing. Philip Seymour Hoffman in his last role as Plutarch Heavensbee… The casting is just amazing in this series and it makes this movie in particular sparkle more from within, because the setting doesn’t.

This movie series is getting better with each movie, while with the books, I will always think that the first one is the best. It makes for a nice contrast – and I’m so gonna own these wonderful movies on dvd.

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Divergent

 

Divergent (2014) by Neil Burger

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Let me start by saying: I haven’t read the books (yet). They’re somewhere on that long list of want-to-read books I hope to get to in the future and watching the movie certainly pushed them up quite a bit.

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I’m intrigued by the concept of the story. But I’m also a little confused. Let’s look at the plot:

In a not too distant future in post-war Chicago, society is being sorted into five factions. When Beatrice Prior (Shailene Woodley) is tested for the special virtue that will decide which faction she might best fit in, she finds out that she’s divergent – she possesses multiple virtues which means she might not fit in anywhere.

Divergents are considered dangerous in the society she lives in and changes within the government lead to the systematic prosecution of divergents. Beatrice must learn to hide in her chosen faction to avoid detection. But hiding ceases to be an option when her parents’ faction becomes the target of a vicious attack.

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I guess it’s a little like getting into Hogwarts and being sorted into houses by virtue but then, of course, it’s not like the Harry Potter-series at all. There’s no magic, there’s technology. Nobody has a super power and having multiple virtues can actually paralyze the bearer.

As I said, the concept is certainly intriguing, but having only watched the movie, I feel that it was not able to convey the layers of the complex social system that lies beneath the story – at least I hope that something like this exists in the books.  Thus the movie left me a little restless to find out more – which is not bad in itself, it just makes the movie a bit dissatisfying.

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Something that cannot be said about the acting. To be sure, I watched the movie because of Kate Winslet. She is a singular reason that never fails to attract me and she’s amazing, and amazingly evil. I love her character, I love how she protrays her – and I love that I can usually trust Kate to star in watchable movies that rarely disappoint. The star of the movie, Shailene Woodley, doesn’t either. She’s vibrant, she’s a good actress, and it’s actually a little disconcerting how much she reminds me of a younger Kate Winslet. It was good to see Ashley Judd again – even in a rather small role, she certainly made an impression. The same goes for Zoe Kravitz and Mekhi Phifer.

I liked this movie, and not just because of the great casting choices. It’s interesting, smart, has great pacing. Beside the fact that I felt a little left out of the loop where background was concerned (I’m aware that the medium does not allow for delving into it too much or the pace would suffer), I feel that I could have done with less of the love story between Tris (Beatrice changes her name to Tris after chosing a new faction) and Four (Theo James). Some of the dialogue in these scenes was also rather corny. But apart from that it’s certainy watchable and I’m looking forward to reading the books and then (maybe) come back for the second film of the series.

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Queer Cinema: D.E.B.S.

D.E.B.S. (2004) by Angela Robinson

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Before it was a movie it was a comic and then a short film. I haven’t read the comic (there are glimpses of it on the dvd, though) but I vaguely remember having watched the short (after the feature) – so, if you’re so inclined there’s stuff to dive into after or before watching this gem. I’m calling it a gem because no matter how often I come back to this movie – and I have done so often over the years – it’s always a ride, it is always fun.

d.e.b.s.3There is a secret test in the S.A.T.s to establish a student’s ability to lie. If you’re good at it you’re invited to Jameson Academy for an education in the art of spying – that is if you’re a girl. Amy Bradshaw (Sara Foster) is one of the chosen few who studies at this institution and she is not just one of the lot, she is the perfect score, the one person who has hit all the marks in the S.A.T.s – the perfect liar. But Amy is not really happy with her life of spy-in-training which becomes perfectly clear when she falls for supervillain Lucy Diamond (Jordana Brewster). Lucy pulls her out of her every day life and shows her that there is something beyond everybody lying and people going through your personal files and a boyfriend who works for Homeland Security – there are dreams yet to be fulfilled. And when Amy is brought back, she finds out just how suffocating the path she had been chosen for really is. But there’s still time to change her mind.

If this sounds altogether too serious, too mundane then that’s my fault d.e.b.s.5because D.E.B.S. is everything but these things. It’s trashy, it’s colorful, it’s fun. Is it deep? No, not really. But do we really always need the tearful lesbian drama? No. A lesbian comedy is a rare thing and it needs to be cherished, at least if it’s as good as this one.

Robinson assembled a talented cast to shoot this persiflage of espionage movies: Jordana Brewster is well-known now for her role as Vin Diesel’s sister in the Fast and Furious-movies. Then there are Devon Aoki, Holland Taylor, Michael Clarke Duncan, and Jimmi Simpson in supporting roles. And they’re all wonderfully quirky and fun to watch.

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When I say the movie’s trashy, I want understood that I do believe that’s a good thing. It’s a rare occasion when a big studio produces a movie that centers around a lesbian love story but to make something that looks so good and at the same time cheap and cheesy… it takes some really talented people to do that. From the evil lair over Holland Taylor’s fabulous impersonation of vain Ms. Petrie to those short plaid shirts, the jokes hit the nerve. The music accompanying some scenes fits just as well.

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Is it all good? No, but as I said – it’s fun and sometimes that’s the best thing you can get. Will it be your new favorite movie? Probably not. It will probably not even be among your favorite movies but there will be those days you look through your dvds and come across it and be glad it’s there.

Back to tv: Supernatural

Supernatural (2005 – ) created by Eric Kripke

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If you spend any amount of time on tumblr – or more specifically tumblr fan blogs – you will have to fight the temptation of starting to watch a new tv show pretty much every day. I’m not kidding. If you’re a fan and you’re following the blogs of other fans they will lure you to watch the shows they love and that you not yet share. And that’s why I bought the first season of Supernatural.

It is probably one of the most well-loved shows on tumblr (beside Dr. Who and Sherlock, perhaps) and so every now and then a half-naked Jensen Ackles will pop up even on my female-feminist-lesbian-centered blog. I’m not complaining (Ackles certainly can pull off the half-naked look), it’s part of being a fan on tumblr. And another part is to give into temptation and start watching shows, even though you already have a problem with keeping up with the shows you’re currently watching.

That’s the tumblr-issue.

supernatural1The Supernatural-issue is another.

The show is about two brothers, Dean (Ackles) and Sam Winchester (Jared Padalecki), who are searching for their father John (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who had gone missing monster-hunting. And while they’re searching they do what the men in their family set out to do ever since the boys’ mother died: kill monsters. It’s a path of vengeance and righteousness until the family is finally reunited. But evil is never over.

One comparison is unavoidable – and even perpetuated by the show’s creators it seems: the one with Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Because Buffy set the standards of modern monster hunting, popcultural references and fast-paced dialogue. And as far as I’m concerned, Buffy is still leading in all those categories. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t like Supernatural. I find the closer look at folklore and urban legends very interesting. Buffy was not a one-trick pony but her focus was mainly on vampires – whether it was the search for enemies or boyfriend-material. Supernatural broadens the scope and fights all (evil) supernatural powers.

Having two brothers fighting evil is also something new. Usually the premise of supernatural4a show – that is not a family show – starts with bringing together a diverse pool of people. Sam and Dean are different, sure, but they’re also family and engage in their share of family drama. Their absentee father brings a third angle to the discussion – even when he’s not present.

And therein lies my issue with the show. While the monster-hunting and dark look of the show are great, the family drama gets a little boring at times. The search for their father is a necessary one but the discussion of family issues is repetitive. And, at the risk of repeating myself here, I just don’t find male drama all that interesting. The patriarchal narrative is alive and well in this story. Women fill the void of sometime-girlfriend and evil fiend (and sometimes there isn’t even that much of a difference between these stereotypes because, as we all know: evil is hot). While woman fulfills sinner and saint-roles, the man is engaged in a constant pissing contest with brother, father, male adversaries.

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Am I too harsh? I am. I knew that I would have issues with a story that is centered so entirely around male characters but I still started to watch it because… fans are so really good at making you share their fascination. And the show is not bad and I might yet watch more of it. It’s just that I don’t feel that culture has anything new to tell me about the adventures of the male profession. And I don’t even think that it is me who is so focused on the issue of gender, here. It is perpetuated by the makers, it is shoved down my throat, that male adventure is just different from female adventure, that the male will always be more interesting, more engaged in the extraordinary. There are still people who think that this holds true despite the evidence to the contrary. But I’m not buying – sometimes I’m renting – into this franchise. In the end, your gender is irrelevant, the only important thing is the story you tell me.

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As part of an obsession: Camp

Camp (2003) by Todd Graff

camp1You may have noticed a slight change in the look of my blog, the header is different. This has something to do with my current obsessions: Pitch Perfect and everything Anna Kendrick. And when you’re obsessed you make poor choices – one was watching this movie.

Camp is about just that – in both meanings of the word. A summer camp full of music enthusiasts meet to hone their talents in acting, singing, and dancing. And these kids are certainly talented. But the story that is being told has little to do with what goes on on the stage. Vlad (Daniel Letterle) is kind of an oddity: he’s straight and he still likes to flirt with his gay roommate Michael (Robin de Jesus) sometimes. Michael is thrown because Vlad is cute but also very active with the ladies in the camp – especially Ellen (Joanna Chilcoat) who has some insecurities of her own and is coincidentally Michael’s best friend.

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There are other kids as well, of course. One is Fritzi (Anna Kendrick) and Fritzi has a crush on Jill (Alana Allen). But Jill is a bitch and uses Fritzi as her personal doormat until the younger girl cracks and starts to sabotage the pretty girl who gets all the good parts just because of her looks.

The problem I had with this is rather simple: why make a movie with multiple queer characters, that is called Camp of all things, and then make the biggest part of it about the budding romance between Vlad and Ellen? There was potential there and it was certainly hinted at. But Vlad’s bisexuality never really materialized, he’s more of a tease than an experimental guy. And the makers took the conventional way out. Another thing: while the gay male teens are positively (if stereotypically) portrayed, the lesbian (if we can call Fritzi that) gets the weirdo treatment and then turns mean… certainly, she is talented but look at that temper! Oh, please. Her sexuality is more of a fetishized wet dream than part of her personality.

camp2The acting all around wasn’t as good as it could have been but the story is the major let down of this movie. While it is willing to promote queerness in teens it still pushes heteronormativity down our throats via its two main protagonists and when even Michael jumps onto the bandwagon (if only for one night) things get a little out of hand. There’s an ambiguity at work here that makes me admit: yes, these are kids, their sexualities aren’t set into stone, experiementing is a healthy thing… and I certainly agree with this take, however, it seems that the queer teens are lured into straight experiments more than the straight teen into gay experiementing. The ambiguity is actually a double-standard.

A word to Anna Kendrick: she was amazing. Her role isn’t very big but her character is certainly the most memorable and I was blown away by her performance of Ladies Who Lunch from Sondheim’s Company – the man makes a guest appearance as himself by the way. You should check it out on youtube, it’s a killer. The movie is not, though.

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Pitch Perfect

Pitch Perfect (2012) by Jason Moore

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(Okay, I decided to do this new thing – snapping pics of my tix and posting them with the review [these are only this year’s Pitch Perfect-tickets; I have another one from last year]; just for fun, y’know. And yeah, I’m aware that’s an ugly background, it’s my carpet; I will try to find a new one.)

As you can see, I haven’t been to the movies lately – money is hard to come by these days. But I didn’t want the world to end without having watched Pitch Perfect, so, this was the first movie since July I indulged in (I’m not especially sad to have missed most of summer’s blockbusters). As so many others I watched the trailer and just knew it was good – and for once, I am able to say that I was not disappointed by the product that was put out.

Is the story innovative – hell no! But who cares:

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Beca (Anna Kendrick) is pressured by her father (John Benjamin Hickey) to attend college although she would much rather move to L.A. to become a DJ. Her roommate Kimmy Jin (Jinhee Joung) hates her, and the only person paying any attention to her is this guy Jesse (Skylar Astin) who obviously just wants to get into her pants. Campus has four a cappella groups, among them the all-boys Treblemakers and the all-girls Barden Bellas. They are declared enemies but as life – or Shakespeare (Romeo and Juliet much?) – has it, Beca ends up with the Bellas, while Jesse joins the Treblemakers. Hilarious ensues, the girls get their shit together and finally win the nationals, everybody wins – and Jesse gets into Beca’s pants (it is indicated, fortunately, we only see them kiss).

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As I said, the story isn’t really innovative, the love story’s kinda boring but it’s not the center of attention which is good. The main attraction is young people singing a capella and trying to be cool doing it. Yes, it leans heavily on Glee but it also makes fun of the show (the shower scene with Beca and Chloe wasn’t only hilarious, it was professedly gay – and a female rip-off of all the times the gleeks sang in the shower).

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Anna Kendrick is a wonderful lead, she is talented, she is captivating, she rocks this movie – and so does her cleavage (and if you tell me you weren’t as distracted by it as I was you’re lying). And then there’s Rebel Wilson playing Fat Amy. How do I explain Rebel Wilson – she is flawless… if you haven’t seen her in anything yet make sure you watch her in Pitch Perfect – she rules this movie, she is badass, and I am saying this with the utmost respect for her and all her abilities. She’s funny.

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With so many women packed into one group, gay ensues. I wasn’t entirely happy with the obviously gay character Cynthia Rose (Ester Dean) (and it wasn’t a surprise that with all the white girls in the Bellas, she was one of the few women of color) but then there was the chemistry between Anna Kendrick and Brittany Snow. And it’s not just about the shower scene, the first time these two meet, Snow is eye-sexing Kendrick so obviously that even I saw it. And it wasn’t the only time either. With all the things being said between these two during the movie, I actually scratched my head at the end of it when Beca kissed Jesse – I had quite comfortably leaned back into my head-canon and assumed that the two girls would end up together. Well, Hollywood says no and all the fans start writing BeChloe fanfiction.

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Update: I have now watched it four times and that’s only at the movies – and it still rocks. I’m actually rather obsessed with it and count myself as one of those fans who write BeChloe fanfic… what can I say: I love those awesome nerds.

Snow White and the Evil Queen

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) by Rupert Sanders

I am not sure what Hollywood’s current fascination with fairy tales is all about. Two Snow White-movies and Little Red Riding Hood, not to mention other mythical creatures that haunt us since Bram Stoker… I would like to blame it all on Stephenie Meyer but I guess that would be too easy.

And the premise (or the trailer) of this one was quite good: Snow White as independent amazon-like figure who will fight the evil queen with a sword – and looks awesome in chain mail. Who didn’t want to see it after the first glimpse of the trailer. And then, of course, tumblr was all aglow with bits and pieces of interviews with the female leads – who flirted shamelessly (with each other). After that the rest of the world (or was it only the lesbian world?) was enchanted and rushed to the movie theaters.

So did I. And as mostly everybody else I was disappointed. It actually has me believe that Hollywood should just produce trailers and leave the actual story to our imaginations. Then we can use platforms like these to talk about our various versions of a movie and not complain about an actual production – because let’s face it: that happens more and more often.

I don’t want to go into the details of why I think Hollywood produces so many bad movies right now, let’s discuss instead why Snow White and the Huntsman is one of them.

Fairy tales do not easily adept to feminism, that is a basic truth, as mostly these stories were there to scare women off. Not just off seeking a different aim in life than marriage (because marriage obviously makes a princess out of any girl) but off seeking an independent sexuality. And I am not talking only lesbianism here as you might think, I am also talking about women wanting to experience an orgasm… women were there to fulfil male sexuality not establish an own sexuality. Women who tried that were deemed witches (not just in fairy tales but in medieval Europe as well). This is what the beginning of Snow White and the Huntsman tells us as well. Ravenna (Charlize Theron), the evil queen, gets married to Snow White’s dad (Noah Huntley) and poisons him in their wedding night. But the poison does not kill him, Ravenna does as she plunges a knife into the man.

Let’s talk about the obvious symbolism of this act. Wedding night constitutes the first time man penetrates woman. Ravenna turns it around (literally as she flips her new husband over and straddles him) and penetrates him instead – with a knife to his chest. She explains this to be her feminist manifesto against the injustice of women having to be beautiful while man only having to have a penis.

Of course, there is some truth behind her reasoning. But it is so obviously done as if to say: look, we make women in fairy tales feminist and strong women now, we are not sexist, men do understand woman’s need for independence (the makers and shakers of the film are mostly male). Yeah, well, and no! Especially since they make the evil queen not just a feminist, they make her a lesbian – and quite deliberately so. You think I am delusional?

So, during the wedding night, Ravenna penetrates her husband – put in here one of the early sexolgists, and you have the typical penis envy scenario. She keeps a beautiful young girl (Kristen Stewart) prisoner in a tower, not killing her (and if you wondered what her brother [Sam Spruell] has to do with the story at all, why not see him as her male alter ego so that she can watch Snow White…), she sucks the life out of young women with a kiss (yes, I know, they finally refrained from executing the kiss but what do you think it stands for? CPR?) – this takes us back to 19th century “lesbian” literature that protrays lesbians as sucking the life out of young (and straight) women using a higher social standing (hello, queen) to seduce them (the vampire myth is linked to this, as well). The queen wants the heart of the fairest of them all – do I really have to point to the symbolism of the heart? Ravenna coaxes Snow White into sharing her first kiss with her – in the guise of a man but still… why not just plunge a knife into her (also note that Ravenna never actually kisses the king but she kisses his daughter – what does that tell us?)? And finally: Snow White’s last words to the evil queen – ‘I can’t give you my heart’ – in a movie that is so forceful with it’s many symbols… I guess, this last line seals the deal.

So, here we have another dead lesbian, a witch, an evil woman. Sure, they try to build a little story around her vanity and her strangely symbiotic relationship with her brother but that is more confusing than anything else. Just because your mother tells you that your beauty is your only worth, does not make it right to suck the life out of female citenzry and land.

But let’s come to our damsel in distress who is also more of a fake feminist and more of a virginal (and Christian) standard. The girl has been in a tower for a decade, no one knows she’s alive and no one (especially not the audience) knows why she’s still alive. Maybe so that the queen’s brother has someone to peep at other than his sister (that guy creeped me out). Her beauty does not just stem from her lovely red lips, the black hair and the white skin, it is mostly an inner beauty (here they went all out with the beauty-comes-from-within-message that Hollywood sells so well…). Albeit the fact that she has spent the last ten year in a prison cell, she is in pretty good shape when it comes to escaping the castle (I especially like the sliding into the… medieval canalization thingy). Make no mistake, she’s a feisty one but she is also not quite the amazon princess the trailer makes her out to be. ‘Cause her main fighting skill is a move the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) shows her early in the film and, of course, it is the way she finally kills the queen (this is foreshadowing waving at you).

Don’t get me wrong, Kristen Stewart sells this girl well and, I guess, compared to Bella Swan every girl is a feminist but still, the message does not sail. Why? Snow White is a virgin, stays a virgin to her death, is awakened by true love’s kiss (from the Huntsman), and, as far as we know, stays a virgin until she is crowned (I must say, though, that this crowning scene had me a little confused – and not just because of the head-nodding at the very end – but she is wearing red and she and her huntsman have a little bit of an eye-shagging accross the entire room… this could mean that they have been intimate, but the fact that she is crowned and not married at the end of the movie could also mean that she will be one of those “virgin queens” history has invented as another means to suppress woman’s sexuality).

On the whole the movie overdoes it’s showy feminism when it is about beauty but forgets about setting female sexuality free. It also mixes too many mythical tropes. I mean, we knew there would be dwarfs (because, hello! it’s Snow White!), but then there were fairys, and then there was a shiny white stag (if it had started speaking at one point, I would have left the theater), there was witchcraft and then there was Snow White, reciting a Holy Father in front of her fire place while holding voodoo dolls (or something). And this already freaked me out after half an hour. It was just overdone.

And don’t get me wrong, the movie was visully stunning, it looked gooooood. But other than that… and this is especially sad when you look at the acting. I mean, KStew was great, she really was, but even Charlize Theron, who I consider a very good actress, overacted. At some point in the movie I stopped thinking of her as evil queen and thought of her as the drama queen…

There are still so many thoughts in my head about this movie: what they did well, they overdid (like slowmo… why did they need it 1.5 hours into the film to tell us that, yes, Snow White is the heroine?!), what they screwed up, they really screwed up (that whole brother figure was a disaster!), and then they put a quasi-amazon village into the film and neither did these women help Snow White hone her fighting skills nor did they show much resistance against a handful of guys raiding their village in search for Snow White… the only good thing about that was Rachel Stirling as the amazon queen (or whatever you want to call her) – I actually sat in the the theater and said: is that Rachel? (the guy next to me probably wondered if I was talking to him, who Rachel was and why he always had to sit next to crazy folk at the movies…).

So, there you have it. Another movie which could have been great but wasn’t…

Book vs. Film – The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games (2008) by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games (2012) by Gary Ross

It’s been awhile since I read the book and I read it in two days – the following two days I read the second book. Which is to say that my memory of these four days that happened sometime last August are vague at best. Also, these four days immediately followed me writing my bachelor thesis… wow, I just remembered that. I am amazed that I  remember reading The Hunger Games at all.

I loved the book – the first one, that is. It is well-paced, it is exciting, it is captivating. Katniss Everdeen is not a likely hero, sometimes she is not even likable. But she is practical, and I think this is one of her best characteristics. It is what makes her effective, leave it to Peeta to be likable.

The story is not simple: Thirteen districts fought against the Capital in a war  about 74 years ago and they lost. That is why “The Hunger Games” were invented. Each district – except 13, because 13 has been wiped off the map – sacrifices 2 of their children to these games where only one will survive. A cruel concept, kids killing each other off and this concept works much better in the book than it does in the movie.

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) from District 12 volunteers to participate after her sister Prim has been chosen. She and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson), a baker’s son, travel to the games. Katniss makes an impression with the judges when she shoots an arrow at a roasted pig they are about to eat while she is performing. She is considered to be a strong fighter but also a high risk by President Snow who fears an uprising of the 12 districts.

And he is right: Katniss’ behavior in the arena defies standards. She becomes a recognizable face who cares for others. She becomes the underdog everybody loves – including Peeta who has been in love with her since forever. It is this love that sponsors and audience crave and the organizers of the games use it to their advantage. But in the end it is Katniss who challenges everybody and wins – but the price for this victory might be high.

The movie follows the same storyline. Katniss Everdeen has been well cast with Jennifer Lawrence. The fighting is amazing, the supporting cast is great with young and older actors/actresses that show great performances. Still, I did not enjoy the movie half as much as those two dazed days I read the book.

Of course, there is always the premise that the book is considered better, more elaborate. The story has more space to reveal itself, we learn more about the characters, a new world opens infront of our eyes. But it is not only these undeniable truths that pretty much work for every literary adaptation. I felt that the movie lacked a lot of the warmth the book holds. Katniss is a loving person, even though she is not the most show-y when it comes to affections. She cares deeply. The movie shows very little of this. It seems the movie makers readily sacrifice the warmth of the book for the Twilight-look, as I would like to call it. Well, with vampires this might work but The Hunger Games is about human beings – even though some of them have a twisted sense as to the definition of entertainment.

A lot of the coldness of the movie derives from the sterile settings. From the book, I had the sense that everything in the Capital would be luscious, overly plushy, kitschy. But many of the settings were bare. The scenes in the training area are especially disappointing, metallic, and, yes, cold.

This, of course, does not a bad movie make. I am usually not someone who builds too many expectations but I was still disappointed. The movie in all was entertaining but not something out of the ordinary. The best aspects were the great cast, and seeing some of the more memorable scenes of the book unfold – though the whole storyline with Rue (Amandla Stenberg) was… again, disappointing.

I have already mentioned that the aspect of kids or young adults killing each other is more difficult to put into a movie than a book. Although the book was quite graphic, it was not visual. The killing of that small curly-haired boy (was he from District 5?), for example, was gruesome. The premise of The Hunger Games is, of course, this same cruelty, the unfairness, the paralysis of the parents but actually seeing these young people killing others their age (and some of them even enjoying it) is disturbing, especially considering that many among the audience are the same age as the youngest that are being killed here. I am not exactly a prude when it comes to violence in the movies (horror after all, is one of my favorite genres) but this was harsh… maybe because it felt real.

The love triangle is certainly something I could have done without – book and movie. Considering the book, I always hoped that the girl who gave Katniss the mokingjay-pin would reappear (she was the mayor’s daughter but I don’t remember her name) and I totally would have shipped them. But she was cut from the movie (which made for an awkward mokingjay-pin exchange with Prim as a token that was not really a lucky charm). Just like in the book, I found movie-Gail much more appealing than movie-Peeta, so, I guess, you can put me down for Team Gail (Liam Hemsworth).

On the whole, the movie was okay, entertaining, with a great cast. But make no mistake – the book was AWESOME.

Book vs. Film – Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go (2005) by Kazuo Ishiguro

Never Let Me Go (2010) by Mark Romanek

Yes, I have written about this movie before but now I have also read the novel. And let me tell you: it is just as good. Actually book and movie are not that different. And this is quite an accomplishment if you consider that the book is written by I-narrator Kathy. Ishiguro has written the screenplay together with Alex Garland and they succeed in telling the same bittersweet, touching, and complex story.

Obviously, the novel takes a closer look at the feeling of the narrator, the reader learns more about the issues of the homes and the kids that are to donate.  But Kathy and her peers seem just as naive as they are in the movie. Miss Lucy tells Tommy that things are not explained enough and this holds true even in the novel. Sometimes it gets a little tiresome to have Kathy explain things repeatedly but it works well within the context of the story, Kathy’s wish to preserve memories.

I wrote in my former post that I read some subtext into Ruth’s feelings for Kathy. This also holds true for the novel. Ruth does not seem to care much for anybody, at least not romantically, yet she is bound to Kathy not only by acquaintance, or the coincidence that they grew up together. And one has the feeling that she always fights Kathy more than is necessary…

The book tells us more about Miss Lucy’s story. She is a key character in both versions but the book explores her more thoroughly, is giving her more time with the other characters – especially with Tommy. Tommy’s dilemma with his art and creativity is further elaborated on which is good because this aspect of the movie seemed rather confusing. In all, the novel fills the gaps that the movie cannot fill. It is also well-written. If you find the time, put it on your reading list, it certainly is worth your while.