Tag Archives: The Hunger Games

Teen Films In the New Millennium – A Dying Art

12 Feb


I first discovered my favourite film genre when I was 7 years old and I went to see ‘Clueless’ with mother. It was rated M and ticket attendant warned my mum that it was a bit too adult for me and she should, as a responsible parent take me to see something else, like ‘Toy Story’. But as my mum has told me many times, she doesn’t believe in censorship so she took me anyway.

The brilliantly written ‘Clueless’ is an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma and is peppered with rich and authentic dialogue, that director and writer Amy Heckling had collected from actual classrooms in Beverly Hills . This cinema experience crowned ‘Cluelsss’ as my favorite film of all time and thanks to it’s timelessness and  a good helping of nostalgia, it remains in top spot to this day.

But Clueless wasn’t the only great teen film that I feel in love with during my youth. In fact in the year 1999, a bumper year for teen films, I welcomed these gems into my life: ‘Cruel Intentions’, ’10 Things I Hate About You’, ‘American Pie’, ‘She’s All That’ and the hilariously  twisted ‘Election’. That was also the year I developed a love of cheesy teen horror flicks and as such spent my weekends watching ‘Scream’, ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer’ and ‘The Faculty’.

Between 12 and 13  I spent most of my Saturdays at the video shop and finally discovered the master of the teen genre, the maker of Molly Ringwald, John Hughes.  He became my god and I had to see every film the man had ever made. ‘Pretty In Pink’, ‘Weird Science’, ‘Some Kind Of Wonderful’ and of course what some argue is the best teen film ever, ‘The Breakfast Club’. These films along with a back catalog of 90s favorites were the instruction guides by which I tried to navigate my adolescence.

I’d learnt so much, if only I could apply it. Unfortunately compared to the fictional paradises that Hughes created, being a real teenager is very disappointing. Popular boys don’t notice outcasts,  male best friends aren’t anywhere near as charming as Ducky from ‘Pretty In Pink’ and no matter how hard you try, you can’t create the perfect woman or man on your computer like ‘Weird Science’.  It was then I learnt the hardest lesson of all, teen films are way better than being a teenager. Yes it was a sad time but at least I had John Hughes to comfort me.

Recently after watching a terrible attempt at the teen genre, a little stinker called ‘The To Do List’, I wondered if that lesson still holds true or have teen films become so awful that being a teenager actually looks good in comparison. Sure there are a few films that capture that magic I felt back in the 90s, ‘Mean Girls’, ‘The Perks Of Being a Wallflower’ and ‘Easy A’ are brilliant additions to the genre. But on whole  the depictions of the teenage generation have really gone downhill.

Teen films used to be a place where emerging writers could cut their teeth, make a little low budget feature and if it was a hit, reap a a massive return. Take writer Cameron Crowe’s directorial debut ‘Say Anything’, a great script, some unknown actors,  a small budget and boom 20 million dollars and he can pick his next project. Teen horror films were another way to break in, ‘Kevin Williamson’ broke into the industry with a little script called Scream.

But now this way of breaking into the industry seems to have died and teen films as a genre have been almost entirely replaced with young adult novel adaptations. Films like ‘Twilight’, ‘The Hunger Games’ are reaping in the dollars with an already devoted audience, huge budgets and script writing guns for hire (whose real job is to condense 400 pages of well written young adult fiction into 120 pages of confusing plot and under developed characters).  Sure some of these franchises are better than others but they aren’t teen films. They are sprawling action epics.

Whatever happened to scripts written about the horror and hilarity filled place that is high school. Scripts that make tweens imagine there perfect teenage life and create a great escape for those poor teenagers trying to make it out alive. I can only hope that that they resurface in time for my daughter, otherwise unlike me, she’ll have no relief for the pain of growing up.


Sadomasochism and ‘The New Twilight’

5 Apr

Went to see ‘The New Twilight’ aka The Hunger Games last week and left equal parts bored and horrified. I was bored by the character of Katniss, which is almost ironic considering she is a character designed for girls like me to applaud. She is strong, independent, resourceful and can still look great in a ball gown. But, in the film version at least, she has no depth and no flaws. It seems as though in their attempt to create a character that is a good role model for young girls they forgot to actually create a character at all.

I was horrified by this film because of the extreme violence toward children. Thinking about it afterwords I realised I was mostly shocked because this film is so mainstream- designed for pure pleasure. Since when is watching the brutal slaughter of little kids become popcorn entertainment?

The Hunger Games has been compared endlessly to Twilight in it’s box office results, book sales and attractiveness of its leads. In Lisa’s review below she calls Bella a ‘whiny submissive’ which is all together true. But I think therein lies the magic of Twilight and why it appeals to so many. It is incredibly masochistic. And not just Bella- all the central characters of the film and books are obsessed by pain, both physical and emotional. In this world of masochism, Bella is in fact the most dominant. The two male leads fawn around her, constantly feeling the need to endure intense pain to serve her. It’s awesome.

It’s interesting that this is so often compared to The Hunger Games, a film which trades completely on sadism. Within the film, ‘The Hunger Games’ themselves are a sadistic television broadcast, communities gather to cheer as one kid maims another. Even we the audience go into the film looking forward to watching a bloodbath. So, Twilight v The Hunger Games? I guess you’ve just got to decide, as far as Tween blockbusters go, is Sadism or masochism more your cup of tea?

The Hunger Games: Not as good as the book but isn’t that always true

1 Apr

So I actually did quite a bit of research before this review. I wanted to see ‘The Hunger Games’ film but I decided that I needed to read the book first. I knew I would totally regret it, if I saw the film loved it and then decided to read the book. All the good bits would be given away and I would spend hours wading through the book with only half the enjoyment.

So a couple of weeks ago on the way back from seeing my current abode in Sydney I bought the book at Sydney airport and started reading it on the plane. I finished the book within 2 days. The book is beautifully written, with a great eye for intriguing details and the ability to completely absorb you in another world. The love triangle is perfection and completely confusing as all love triangles should be and most importantly it is nothing like Twilight.

“What critics predict will be the new Twilight”, this is all I’ve heard since the movie adaptation of the book was announced 2 years ago. I know they think they are making a selling statement but for a lot of us it wasn’t. Glitter vampires and whiny sub-missives aren’t that great people. I will confess I have read all the books but still, it’s not that big of a selling point. Knock offs of Twilight are all that the book stores are filled with these days and it’s super irritating.

Now the film lacked the beautiful details of novel and the intricacies of the universe but in most other ways was very faithful. The character of Katniss was cast perfectly and Liam Hemsworth actually sold me on the appeal of Gale. Peeta was accurately if not attractively cast and the rest of the cast particularly the characters of Rue and Haymitch very convincing. Cato the brutal tribute was a low point because he was too much of a pretty boy. I think the best scene for me was ‘The Reaping’ when Katniss volunteer’s as a Tribute. That scene was as stirring if not more so than the novel.

The film was far too long and yet I felt it didn’t have enough of the details from the book. I think this proves that adapting a novel for the screen in incredibly tough and it’s very hard to please people. The film had information that wasn’t in the book and this I felt was an excellent idea giving the fans more than what they already know. This was given credibility by the fact that Suzanne Collins was one of the scriptwriters. I as an audience member felt like I was being told more background from the lips of the writer not just an easy storytelling fix from the screenwriter.

Unfortunately one of the downsides of reading the book is I can’t look at the film objectively. I know that I love the film but I can’t tell you if I’d love it if I hadn’t read the book. The film failed to capture some of the key emotion scenes for me and some of the intricacies of Katniss’s character were also lost but I filled in the blanks for myself. This film was very satisfying for a fan of the series but I can’t guarantee it will be for everyone. So I won’t recommend the movie, but I will recommend that you read the book, it is excellent and may even change your mind about the film if you didn’t like it.