Hunger Games Movie Reaction

I’m a bundle of mixed feelings.

Part of me REALLY, SUPER LOVED the Hunger Games movie. The other part of me was extremely disappointed.

Now don’t go calling the Peacekeepers on me or anything, because I truly did think that there were some awesome parts of the movie, but there were also some other parts that were close to my heart and were left out of the film, and that bothered me. (Such as 99% of the ending, such as *spoilers* Katniss having to mess with Peeta’s tourniquet, and then admitting to him right before they get back to 12 that she only faked loving him in order to win the games).

However, for all that was lost in the translation from book to film, there were some great added scenes in the movie that I adored, especially the ones with Seneca Crane (although his amazing beard occasionally distracted me from what was actually going on, throughout that 😉 ).

The movie did make me cry, but not when *spoilers* Rue died. It was when I saw her father in District 11, reacting to her death.

The movie did make me laugh, but it was less for Peeta’s self-deprecating humor from the novel — which really only presented itself in one scene, during his pre-Games interview — as much as the dynamic between Effie and Haymitch (which is very humorous, let me tell you).

Honestly, I thought Haymitch was not nearly drunk enough throughout the film, the emotional scenes didn’t play out well because they didn’t vamp up the emotion but instead jumped from Low Emotion straight to High Emotion, and the ending was just plain messed up — and not in a “we ran out of time to do the ending properly” kind of messed up way, but like they thought the book ending wasn’t important enough to portray… which is what, above all else, really, truly bothered me.

I’m not mad… overall, it was still a good movie. And I’m not exactly disappointed, either… it’s more like I’m, well, grieving. All these months anticipating this movie, and picturing it in my head, and in the end it wasn’t what I was expecting it to be.

Which is, I guess when you think about it, to be expected.

So the Hunger Games movie wasn’t what I wanted it to be. Oh well. That doesn’t take away from the fact that it was a good movie, most of the acting was superb (although don’t get me started on Liam Hemsworth’s Gale, which was extremely shaky in the scene that he’s introduced, out in the woods), and the setting was spot-on and beautiful in the way that only a fully-contrived universe can be.

… Which basically leaves me back at square one: I don’t know what to think. Part of me loves the movie, part of me has no choice but to be disappointed. But either way, I’m glad that I got to see the midnight screening of it, and I’m glad that I’m getting to see it again this weekend — maybe then I’ll be able to think through what I think of it more and make a decision on it.

My reaction? A solid film, one of the best book-to-movie adaptions I’ve seen, and definitely worth the money to go out and see it (even if it’s only so you can swoon over Josh Hutcherson)… But be prepared to lose some of the depth from the novel, especially dealing with the subplot-character-relationships. I’m excited, now, to see how they’ll handle the second movie. 🙂

I’d give it 4 out of 5 stars.

A couple of shots of me in my Katniss costume before I left for the movie. 🙂

UPDATE: How to Make a Katniss Costume

~Julia

NaNo Day 21: Mockingjay – Part 1 Reaction

Spoiler-free part of my review:

So, I saw Mockingjay – Part 1 last night and it exceeded my expectations by far.

Of course, my expectations were low. I loooved Catching Fire–it would have taken a freaking incredible movie to top that–and after early reviews talked about how Mockingjay – Part 1 felt more like a prologue to Part 2 than an independent entry to the Hunger Games franchise, I went in expecting a pretty bad movie.

Mockingjay – Part 1 is not bad. At all.

It’s not a masterpiece by any means, of course. Part 1 has a lot of weaknesses. But I also really, really enjoyed it.

Movie (and book, if you are the one human being alive who still has not read the book nor at least been spoiled for it) spoilers below. (Additional Warning: This is about to be a very jumbled up mess of my jumbled up thoughts.)

We open a little earlier in the movie than in the book, in order to get some of the back story of what has happened since Catching Fire, which is a nice way of immediately grounding us in the world and situations at hand. Other significant changes I noticed include the addition of Effie as a key player (replacing Katniss’s prep team, along with inheriting some of Finnick and Plutarch’s lines), added scenes from Snow and Gale’s perspectives, added scenes from the district rebels’ perspectives, Katniss’s role within key conflicts became more active (especially in what became the climax for Part 1, when Gale and the others rescue the Victors) (thank God), and the disappearance of THE BEST SCENE IN THE BOOK (aka when Boggs makes the wonderful comment about seeing Finnick in his underwear).

While I loved having Effie back (Elizabeth Banks is incredible), some of her inclusion feels a little forced and I’m annoyed they cut the scene when Katniss finds her prep team basically being tortured in the bowels of Thirteen. It’s supposed to be the first time we realize quite how awful Thirteen can be, which is something we need to have in mind in Part 2. But hopefully they’ll have something to make up for that at the beginning of Part 2.

Making Katniss more involved in conflicts throughout the film was a much appreciated change from the book, in which people do things around her a lot while she sits there and cries. While that was probably a more realistic portrayal of her grief and PTSD, it’s important to remember that we aren’t talking about reality, here. We’re talking about a book/movie. And to keep the reader/viewer invested and on decent terms with your narrator, you kind of need the narrator to be involved in what’s going on. (Note: I love the Mockingjay book. I know I’m in the minority for saying that, and I don’t disagree that it has numerous shortcomings, but I still really enjoy it.)

Both Finnick and Annie seem like they’re a little, well, less broken here than in the book. Possibly all the characters do. But I like that. It feels like a more natural transition from where they were at the end of Catching Fire than the dramatic, sudden shift the books present. (Also, I reread up until the halfway point before seeing the movie, because that seemed like the most obvious point to split at–and yay, I was right–but then I made the mistake of finishing Mockingjay this morning and OMG I AM NOT GOING TO BE ABLE TO HANDLE SOME OF THESE DEATHS IN PART 2.)

(Also also, I hope they give more time to Finnick in the movie than the book, because Katniss doesn’t even register him as someone she knew well in the book when he dies, and THAT IS NOT OKAY. FINNICK IS YO’ FRIEND, MISS EVERDEEN. GIVE HIS SACRIFICING HIMSELF FOR YOU AT LEAST A MOMENT OF ATTENTION, PLEASE.)

Speaking of the translation from book to film: I really, really like where they chose to split the movies. It leaves enough plot for the second half to be more than just be an extended montage of the final battle while also giving Part 1 enough plot to work as a complete movie. While I agree that it does feel like it’s the prologue to the second half to an extent, the filmmakers have fit enough dramatic structure to make Part 1 work on its own.

The script’s decent. I love how many lines they took pretty much verbatim from the book, because wow, Suzanne Collins had some good stuff in this one.

The biggest things I took fault with were the inclusion of the random rebel fight scenes and the music.

The first because despite being beautifully shot and acted, they often felt random and we had no one specific to root for in them; they felt like these out-of-nowhere scenes spliced amongst the actual plot and characters. These scenes had SO MUCH POTENTIAL and they’ve proven they can do these sorts of inclusions well, like in The Hunger Games when we cut to District 11 after Rue’s death, but they were poorly handled.

The second because, like in Catching Fire, I felt like they reused too much music, to the point that a lot of it felt out of place and clunky and took me out of the scenes. (Also, because of the way they moved suddenly between silence and pathos-inducing sweeping score pieces, the music felt wayyy too manipulative to me.)

Those are ultimately minor things, though, and I’m yet to hear a single other person complain about any of the music in this franchise, so I think that’s just me.

Jennifer Lawrence is amazing, once again, as our Mockingjay. Holy crap. Can we cast her in every movie ever for the rest of time?

Josh Hutcherson does well with what they give him and I’m excited to see more hijacked Peeta in the next movie. I LOVED the way they did the scene when he attacks Katniss and him thrashing against the hospital bed with her watching at the end is haunting.

Liam Hemsworth has finally come into his own in this franchise. Maybe it’s because he finally had some real scenes to play with, probably it’s because he finally learned how to do an American accent, but wow. For the first time ever, I actually like Gale as a character. And I can’t wait to watch his relationship with Katniss fall apart.

Overall, the cast is great. I loved the new members and the returning actors all once again did great. They’re definitely the strongest point of the film.

Great use of special effects. District 12 was appropriately disturbing and really showed how the filmmakers are no longer scared of scaring off the audience, like in the shaky cam-obsessed scenes around the Cornucopia in the first film. The action sequences here are awesome and definitely show how much bigger in scale the conclusion to The Hunger Games is in comparison with the first couple. (Also how much more money they have. Lol at the first movie.)

WHAT HAPPENED TO JOHANNA? She’s in the movie for approximately five seconds, which makes zero sense after they used her in so much of the advertising. (Also, I wish some of the ads had been included in some way in the final film, because this movie had a brilliant marketing campaign.)

The propos kind of definitely made me laugh when they probably weren’t supposed to. I think it was the inclusion of Rue’s four note whistle. I’m just so used to it being used that way in the trailers for these films themselves that it seemed off to use within them. And now I’m not sure if we, as spectators, are supposed to be the Capitol or District 13.

Maybe this entire time we’ve been seeing the Hunger Games world from the perspective of the people in Thirteen–who in many ways resemble the Capitol citizens–and this has been the filmmakers’ big reveal. Or at the least, that’s who we are now.

Because no longer are we the complacent Capitol citizens who get amusement out of teenagers killing each other in the Arena; we’re rebels fighting alongside Katniss as she tries to figure out where she stands in a changing world.

Mockingjay – Part 1 is far from perfect, but it’s also far from bad. And I am both excited and terrified to see where they go from here.

Fire is catching, indeed.

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NaNo Update:

I’m supposed to write 7K today to catch up, but instead I finished rereading Mockingjay and caught up on things and did homework and talked to friends and now I’m about to spend my evening at a play. Oops?

Goal for today: 5,000 + Wednesday’s leftover 2,000 + Monday’s 2,000 + Sunday’s 1,000

Overall goal: 43,000.

Current word count: 36,123

~Julia

NaNo Day 22: CATCHING FIRE Movie Reaction

I’m warning you ahead of time: THIS IS FULL OF SPOILERS. I’m not going to white it out because if you haven’t read Catching Fire yet and therefore don’t know what the plot’s like, that’s your fault more than mine. But also, if you don’t want to be spoiled about the changes from page to screen, don’t read on, because that’s going to be a focus of this reaction post.

(If you want a faster take on reactions, here’s a link to the video Hannah, our friend Emily, and I made last night right after the movie.)

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The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Where do I begin.

I. LOVED. THIS. MOVIE.

If something was weak in The Hunger Games, they made sure to make it strong in this one. At first I was sad when they ditched old director Gary Ross for Francis Lawrence, but oh my gosh, Lawrence went above and beyond with Catching Fire. He took the movie in a direction I don’t think Ross would have, and I’m so glad he did. The cinematography was beautiful and he used just enough shaky cam to harken back to The Hunger Games, and THE SPECIAL EFFECTS!

The fake fire actually looked like they tried a little on it this time. The fog was thoroughly and appropriately frightening (and a whole lot scarier than it was in the book–I actually didn’t want to continue watching that scene partway through because it was so freaky, which means that it was also really well done). The monkeys were incredible, and I loved how they portrayed the force fields. A lot more money must have been spent on special effects this time ’round.

The entire cast shines in Catching Fire. I wasn’t even all that annoyed with Liam Hemsworth, who I thought was terrible in the first one. (His accent has improved so much! Still not quite there, but not so awful that I noticed it every time he spoke.) Every once in a while one of the actors did something or said a line in a certain way that didn’t quite work for me, but I mean, that’s always going to happen, so no big deal.

Individually, Jennifer Lawrence is, well, Jennifer Lawrence. There were a couple times when I thought Katniss should have shown how she was confused more, while Jen just sort of stood there and frowned into the distance (all she had to do was furrow her brow a little! come on). Overall, though, she is Jennifer. Lawrence. Fantastic job. She brings so much depth to the character in just the fact that she is so subtle about the majority of her acting (and then sometimes she makes faces like the one in the elevator when Joanna strips naked, and you’re reminded that this is also the girl who regularly talks about bodily functions in interviews, here). I can’t wait to see how she handles Katniss’s emotional journey in the next two films, because girl. can. act.

Josh Hutcherson‘s Peeta was SO MUCH BETTER in this one than in The Hunger Games, primarily because we actually got to SEE him this time. We got Peeta’s sarcasm and self-deprecating humor, and you could really see how much he cares about Katniss. (Also: I don’t know how they did it, but he seemed taller in this one. Or at least not-quite-as-short-in-comparison-with-Katniss.)

Sam Claflin is FANTASTIC as Finnick. I was a little bit scared going in to see how he’d do, but he was great. His accent was wonderful and he very much embodies Finnick’s vibe. I’m worried about how attached we’re all going to get to him in Mockingjay Parts 1 + 2.

Love the rest of the new cast members as well. They did a good job of making you fall in love with these new tributes in a short period of time. Whereas with the last movie you weren’t really supposed to like any of the tributes outside of Katniss, Peeta, and Rue, this time the moviemakers work for you to fall in love with or at least respect all of the others, which makes the entire thing so much more disgusting and heartbreaking. When I went to see The Hunger Games at midnight, there were a few moments when one of the antagonist-type tributes died and everybody cheered and applauded, just like the Capitol citizens. There’s none of that this time. The only cheers and applause in my theater were for when people rebelled against the Capitol. They took the theme of “remember who the real enemy is” to heart while making this. Good for them.

Great performances by the supporting cast, as usual, especially Donald Sutherland (Snow), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Plutarch) Elizabeth Banks (Effie), Stanley Tucci (Caesar), and Woody Harrelson (Haymitch). When Cinna (Lenny Kravitz) gets beaten to death–oh my gosh. I sobbed. That was such a well-paced scene, and exactly how I pictured it in the book, especially with Katniss then being thrust up into the arena right afterward.

Loved getting to see some of the old tributes again. The moment when Katniss goes all PTSD and thinks she’s shot Marvel again is chilling, not to mention seeing the projections of the tributes–seeming so alive up there above their grieving families–during the Victory Tour. It broke my heart. And RUE’S FAMILY. Did anyone else notice how it’s just her mother and younger siblings, because her father rebelled during the last movie and therefore, more than likely, is dead at this point? Just thinking through that made it so much worse. That family has lost so much.

For everything they cut, it was interesting that they added a character for this film–President Snow’s granddaughter, played by Erika Bierman. She was barely in the movie but was very good at being a sort of foil to Snow’s hatred for Katniss; she loves the Girl on Fire for the exact reasons her grandfather hates her. It’ll be interesting to see what happens with her character in Mockingjay. I’m hoping we get some juxtaposition between her and Prim.

Why was Buttercup so different? Like I get that you probably can’t get the same cat again, but at least try to make it LOOK like the same cat, you know? (HG Buttercup is black and white; this one is an orange tabby.) (Also, I was looking for pictures of the cats from both movies to prove that this is a real thing and I’m not just crazy for thinking they changed cats, and this popped up. I understand them wanting to make the cat look the way he’s supposed to in the books, but at the same time–you already messed it up, so why not embrace your mistake rather than trying to backtrack when it’s already too late? Weird.)

Catching Fire overall is very true to the book. Of course they left some things out (primarily: a lot of the stuff from the beginning chapters of the book, the way the mockingjay symbol has spread throughout the Capitol as a fashion symbol, Plutarch Heavensbee’s watch, and the bread in the arena). I think the movie functioned fine without all of it, though, and looking back on it I’m actually sort of glad they left out the mockingjay watch, because in the context of the film it would have been too obvious. In books, you can lay little clues like that and keep them muddled under layers of other storylines going on. In movies, because you can’t have Katniss’s here-and-now thoughts distracting you from the actual meaning behind something, every little thing seems much more deliberate and therefore easier to figure out.

Catching Fire really hits its stride once we reach the reaping. Ahead of that I thought a lot of the pacing was dodgy. Either a scene was too short or too long, half the time. But the pacing from the reaping, out, is perfect.

One of my very few disappointments with the movie was that they never watched any of the old Hunger Games, so we never got to see how Haymitch won the Games. I adore that scene in the book, and while the movie works fine without it, it still would have been nice.

One of my favorite lines is Effie explaining the new training center, because in the book that isn’t a thing–the training center and apartment and all that are the same ones throughout the entire trilogy. So I’m glad they chose to explain it instead of just doing it and leaving us to be confused. (And Effie’s line about “An entire room of mahogany” or whatever! What a great throwaway comment to use as an Easter Egg for fans.)

When Katniss hangs the dummy of Seneca Crane and she takes the time to paint on the beard–I practically had to stuff my fist in my mouth to keep from laughing, because nobody else in my theater did at that point, but wow. What a great detail.

The arena is gorgeous, and it’s because of that fact, in part, that it’s so horrible. Watching the trailers I kept thinking that it was such a beautiful location, it would be hard to be scared of it watching the movie. Nope. That place is basically scary as all get out and I was ready to get out the moment we arrived. I’m going to see this in IMAX next week and I don’t know how I’m going to handle it, because it’s going to be terrifying.

I was a little bit annoyed at first that we didn’t get to see an of the reactions back in the districts during the Games the way we got to in The Hunger Games, but at the same time I think NOT being able to see what was going on there was important for how the overall arc of this story played out.

One thing I’m a little, tiny bit iffy on is the fact that we got to see Peeta fight other tributes. He probably fights a bit in the book and I just don’t remember it, but it would have been nice if they’d made more of the point that Peeta is the only decent victor and the only one who probably cares more for others than he does about his own survival, since that’s such an important part to bring back in Mockingjay.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the musical score. They tried to remain very true to the score from the first movie, only the feel of this movie is so different from The Hunger Games, so it didn’t work as effectively as a score should. Not terrible, but it did pull me out of the movie every once in a while.

The only things they left out I was really disappointed about were Cinna’s line about channeling his emotions into his work so that he doesn’t hurt anyone but himself and the fact that they never mentioned the baby again after the initial announcement in the Capitol. There were several instances when Peeta or Joanna or Finnick easily could have just let an off-hand comment slide about Katniss being pregnant, like in the book, but none of them ever did it. If you aren’t going to keep up the charade, what’s the point in starting it to begin with? Both of these things–Cinna’s line and the pregnancy–would have been so easy to include, I don’t know why they didn’t.

Lol at the pictures they chose for the locket. Aren’t those promotional shots from The Hunger Games, made to look old-timey? Effie gets the locket for Peeta, which means that it’s made in the Capitol. The Capitol has uber technology. Let’s think this one through, shall we?

I cried so much throughout this movie. Just every little thing set me off. I don’t know if it’s because I’m really stressed out about stuff right now, so I’m kind of high-strung anyway, or because the movie really is that good. But I cried SO. MUCH. There were more than a few points when just everyone in the theater was sobbing. Bring tissues if you don’t want to snot all over your neighbor.

There’s so much more kissing in this movie than last time! I was really annoyed in The Hunger Games when they were like, “Oh, yeah, we’re going to up the romantic elements!” AND THEN THERE WAS LIKE ONE GOOD KISS PERIOD. Rest assured, this one makes up for that deficit. (It’s hilarious when Katniss kisses Peeta right after Finnick gets his heart restarted because you can see a little bit of slobber action going on. This is great just because the cast talks so much about a take for that scene when there was spit hanging out everywhere and it’s like, “Yup. I can see how that happened.”)

Remind me to write a wildly popular novel set in Hawaii someday, so they’ll make a movie about it and I can hang out on set all day. What lucky ducks, getting to shoot there.

The costumes are magnificent. Some of them aren’t true to the books, but I love the interpretations. The wedding dress is gorgeous despite the fact that it doesn’t resemble the one from the books at all. It’s also interesting how they did the tribute uniforms different this time around–last time, the colors were different depending on district. This time they were all identical. Underlying message from Plutarch Heavensbee?

A couple random little things that they changed that don’t really matter, but are worth mentioning: The countdown only goes for ten seconds instead of sixty. Peeta can swim (and, apparently, fight in water). When Mags walks into the fog, Finnick freaks out about it rather than just going along with it more, like he does in the book (I partway like this, partway don’t–it’s nice to see how much he cares for Mags, but at the same time it made me question how much this interpretation of Finnick knows about what’s going on).

Loved the change in how the Peacekeepers take over District Twelve. When they bag the old Head Peacekeeper as he’s welcoming Thread to 12, it was so well-done. Great moment. (I feel like such a terrible person applauding their ability to portray evil in this film, but seriously, WELL DONE.)

When Katniss shoots the arrow into the force field at the end and then Snow goes storming out to find Plutarch and he isn’t in the control room, I threw my fist in the air like, “YES! You two have been talking about moves and counter-moves this entire time, and YOU JUST REALIZED YOU’VE BEEN PLAYED, SUCKAAA.” We never got to appreciate the full effect of Plutarch’s betrayal to the Capitol in the book, so that has to be one of my favorite moments in the movie.

The end with the hovercraft and Gale telling Katniss what happened to 12 is really powerful. It doesn’t pack quite as big of a punch as the ending in the book does, but it’s still fantastic. (And YAY FOR ACTUALLY FOLLOWING THE PROPER ENDING THIS TIME!)

While I’m here, on the topic of splitting Mockingjay into two films: A lot of people are upset about this, and I’ll admit, I am a bit too. I was a lot more, though, when they first announced it. This is because I recently saw an interview in which they talked about this decision–and remember how the Mockingjay book has kind of bad pacing, and the ending is rushed and confusing, and you see very little of what’s actually going on since you’re stuck in Katniss’s head? Yeah. Apparently they’re planning on trying to fix all of that for the movies. Which makes me hope doing two Mockingjay films isn’t entirely just a matter of getting more money out of fans and following the trend Harry Potter started, but also about just giving us a better, fuller experience.

Gahhh, I feel like I’m forgetting half the stuff I want to say, which is sad seeing as this post is getting insanely long. But this movie is SOOO GOOD! Let me leave off by saying: Go see The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. It is leaps and bounds better than The Hunger Games and was well-worth the year and a half wait since that one. The script is great, the cast is outstanding, the cinematography won’t make you throw up from dizziness, and it’s just. Wow. So good. It is sad and terrible and wrenching and funny and scary and beautiful and all the things I wanted out of this film.

When I gave The Hunger Games 4 out of 5 stars, I was being nice. This one, without a doubt, deserves its 4.5. I cannot wait to see it (and bawl my eyes out throughout it) again.

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Read my Hunger Games Movie Reaction here.

Find more information on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire here.

Buy tickets to go see the movie here. (Because, you know, you should. YOU REALLY REALLY SHOULD.)

Oh, and here’s a link to Jen and Josh being adorable. In case you weren’t already in love with them.

day 22

 

~Julia

Movie Reaction: People Like Us

So I wasn’t sure what I was going to do my blog post about this weekend. Drama camp ending? Grad party season ending? Theatre rehearsals not ending (and kicking my butt)?

What about the fact that I should never wear a smokey eye?

(I look like a racoooooooon!)

What about the fact that I never told you guys how I forced my parents into buying me a nasty gas station doughnut at 11:30 at night on National Doughnut Day a while back?

(Note to self: Never buy a gas station doughnut. Ever again.)

What about the fact that — Okay, I’m running out of goofy pictures I haven’t already shown you. (Oh, and heads up: I completely failed Camp NaNoWriMo, clocking in at only 22,766 words… all of which I wrote during the first week. Hurray?)

… So, all weekend I’ve been wondering and worried and unsure about what I should do this blog post about. There were a lot of different topics, but none of them really seemed post-worthy. (I mean, come on: How long can you discuss the weird looks you get from going out to California Pizza Kitchen in the middle of the afternoon with a deep purple smokey eye and vampiricly white skin?)

But, then, I went to see a movie last night with a couple of my friends. And it was called People Like Us. And it was one of the best movies I’ve ever seen. I actually found myself looking for things to critique about it, because usually there’s some really obvious flaw in ever movie that annoys me to no end throughout the entire thing, because I’m a total movie (and book) snob… and I couldn’t find anything on first glance (although, looking back, there are definitely some contrived plot points that take it a notch below perfect).

Watch the trailer:

This movie combines everything I love about big budget films with all the lovely elements of independent films: There are long conversations that teach you about humanity, and artsy camera angles, and great acting — but there are also amazing shooting locations, the image quality is gorgeous (so that was definitely not a cheap camera they were using)…  Overall, it was just a whole lot of awesome, all rolled into one.

I loved the score, and I loved the script. The movie made me laugh, and it made me cry, and it made me contemplate what it truly means to be family… And, in the end, People Like Us felt just like what its title promises: like it was about People Like Us. Real people. Not just a bunch of fabricated characters on the screen, actors reciting lines. (Speaking of the actors — it starred Chris Pine and Elizabeth Banks, who you can also see as Captain Kirk in the 2009 Star Trek movie and Effie Trinket in The Hunger Games, respectively, if you’re wondering who those two are. Which you shouldn’t be. Because they are both BRILLIANT actors.)

This film is gorgeous in every way, and I definitely suggest going to see it. It’s the sort of movie that you can chew on and talk about for hours afterward, and I haven’t been so pleased with a non-action-packed movie as I am with this one in years. (Like, probably not since Marley and Me — and you know I enjoyed it if I’m comparing it to Marley and Me.)

I’d give People Like Us 9 out of 10 stars.

(Now off to see The Amazing Spider-Man at midnight this Monday!)

~Julia

NaNo Day 22: Home Stretch

Another day, another excuse for not putting up my Mockingjay – Part 2 gush-rant. I’m not getting to start this post today until close to 11:30 PM and I want to make sure it goes up before midnight, so my movie reaction post will have to wait, once again, for tomorrow.

In the meantime, though, my (shorter and more organized) review of the movie is now up on [art]seen! Check it out here.

After the play last night (it was a murder mystery dinner theatre; very fun), I ended up getting a little over 1k in on NaNo, which actually did ultimately bring me up to my goal for the day of 36,000 words, thanks to my binge-writing on Wednesday. I meant to write a bunch today to get ahead again, but homework and work-work and life in general got in the way, so I only got like another 1k in. (Totally not a problem, since I didn’t have any writing scheduled for today anyway. But yeah. I had been hoping to push ahead to 40k.)

We’re in the home stretch of NaNoWriMo now, with only eight days to go. I have 13,000 words left to write. Fingers crossed, but as long as nothing comes up, I should be able to finish by Sunday as planned (leaving Monday–the last day of November–as my contingency writing day).

NaNoWriMo so far this year has been a lesson in being a human mule (as in: it takes a lot of stubborn determination to slowly jog towards a goal over time, rather than sprint for it all at once).

Here’s to the last week. Let’s make it a good (aka productive) one.

Goal for Today: 0 + 5,000 (from yesterday)
Overall Goal: 36,000
Current Word Count: 37,027

~Julia

NaNo Day 20: What Katniss Taught Me [TWNP Blog Chain]

Normally I ramble about big YA film adaptations the day after I see them, but today I’m holding off on my Mockingjay – Part 2 post for a couple reasons:

  1. I promised the lovely Kate Gold that I would participate in her Today’s Word Nerd Ponderings blog chain today.
  2. I owe a review of the movie for [art]seen (the blog I write for here at U of M) and I should probably get that shorter and more organized post up before I write my gushy/ranty/super unorganized one for here. (Hopefully I’ll get a chance to spew my feelings all over you tomorrow, though?)

What I will say though is that–as pretty much always–this movie left me a bundle of mixed feelings. I have such a love/hate relationship with this series of adaptations. But overall Mockingjay Part 2 is very good and you should very much go see it.

Still, in the meantime: TWNP blog chain! This month’s prompt is:

This prompt centers around the theme of valuable lessons, especially that we have taken away from books. You might answer:
What is the coolest thing you have taken away from a book you have read? What sorts of things have your characters learned, as embedded in a story you have written? Or, what sort of message do you want to share with others, either in writing or through your own life?

All three options for this prompt are really good questions, but I think I’m going to answer the first one. About, well, The Hunger Games*.

I’m not sure if it qualifies as like the “coolest” thing I’ve ever taken away from a book, but one of my favorite parts of the Hunger Games trilogy is the fact that life DESTROYS Katniss. Repeatedly. And she somehow always finds a way to keep going.

Katniss is a really interesting example of the traditional “strong female protagonist.” I adore her. She’s one of my favorite characters ever. But this is less because of her physical strength as much as the way she deals with things emotionally. Katniss endures SO MUCH, yet she keeps going. Even after she falls apart, she finds the strength to keep going.

Katniss taught me that even someone who is broken can pick up the pieces and find the strength to continue on.

I’ve heard so many complaints about how Katniss reacts to things in Mockingjay, and I HATE THAT. People are convinced that to be a Strong Female Protagonist, characters aren’t allowed to break. This POV is harmful. Katniss isn’t strong because she physically survives the Hunger Games. She’s strong because she mentally and emotionally does.

Yes, she breaks. Yes, she’s selfish and hysterical and numb and HURT. But she finds her way back to being human again. And THAT is what makes Katniss so amazing.

A strong female protagonist is someone who tries her best despite her circumstances and flaws. Being strong isn’t about being invincible; it’s about moving forward, doing your best, while knowing you’re not.

It’s about looking at a world as screwed up as the one the Hunger Games series takes place in, and not losing hope for a better one.

Goal for Today: 1,000
Overall Goal: 31,000
Current Word Count: 34,514

~Julia

PS. For anyone who has seen Mockingjay Part 2: WHAT IS WITH THE ASIAN BABY?

*If this looks familiar, it’s because I’m essentially plagiarizing myself off a rant I did on Twitter back in June. #Oops

Fashion Friday: Katniss Everdeen Costume

Okay, okay, okay. I know. No more posting except for on Wednesdays. But it’s October Break and I don’t have Spanish again until next Thursday and I’m getting super psyched for Halloween, so here we go: I’ve been getting a ton of hits lately on my Hunger Games Movie Reaction post by people wanting to dress up like Katniss Everdeen for Halloween (I went as her to the midnight showing of the movie last March), so I figured I’d do a quick post to help y’all out, with where I got all my costume pieces and all that. I purchased my entire costume over the course of about an hour, flitting in out of these fantastically high-end, expensive, costume-oriented stores like Meijer and Target. All in all, it came out to about $75, which is a huge bargain when you consider that I can also wear all of it (minus my Mockingjay Pin) just in every day life, as well.

(By the way, a huuuge thanks to Emma of Nose in a Book for tagging my post in her post. Thank God my roommate isn’t home right now, because I started freaking out really bad.)

Anyway, here we go: How to dress like Katniss Everdeen of the wonderful, beautiful, amazing Hunger Games trilogy.

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To start, here are some pictures of my costume:

Also, check out Detroit Metromix. You can see some great photos of fans dressed up for the midnight showing, including me and a girl dressed as Effie Trinket, and me and another girl dressed as Prim. (Now, for all you creepers out there, please take note that NO, I do not live anywhere near that movie theatre, so you can think twice about stalking me through it. Kibosh on your plans.)

Next up, the Clothes:

Black V-Neck:

Target, $8.00*

Black Jacket:

Target, $34.99

Green Cargo Pants:

JC Penney, $11*

Brown Combat Boots with Buckles:

Meijer, $35.00*

Lastly, the Accessories:

Scholastic’s Gold Mockingjay Pin:

ebay, $9.99**

Katniss’s Braid:

If you’ve got time, here’s a fancy Youtube tutorial so you can do your hair EXACTLY like they did in the movie.

Or, if you’re lazy like I am, here’s how I did it:

Step 1: The day before you want to wear your Katniss costume, don’t brush your hair after showering. Instead, twist it back until it’s wound as tightly as possible into a bun, and have it dry that way. If you have any sort of curling products, like curling cream, use it before putting your hair up. Make sure you have your part to one side. If the bun begins to fall out at any point in the day, take down your hair and twist it back again. Keep it in over night, and the next morning. The main thing is that you want it to be as curly and messy as possible by the time you want to put your braid in. (Note that this only works if you have straight, fine hair, like I do… if you’ve naturally got curls, just skip this step, you lucky human being you.)

Step 2: Once you’re ready to put your braid in, finger-comb your hair until it’s manageable although still poofy and messy, and then spritz it with hairspray (the weakest hairspray you can find–you don’t want extra hold on this; you just want it to maintain its body).

Step 3: Katniss’s braid comes down her shoulder on the side closest to her part, so go to the opposite side and pick up the hair closest to your face through the hair above your ear, and do a couple loops of a regular braid with it, pulling it back as you go. Make sure to leave some hair out on either side of your face–Katniss has side bangs.

Step 4: Grab the next clump of hair, now directly behind your ear, and add that to one portion of your braid, and then continue doing this as you loop it back around your scalp, angling it horizontally down, towards the nape of your neck. (Technically, this is not the proper way to do Katniss’s braid–she has a Dutch braid, which is basically an inverted French braid–but remember: this is Katniss Hair for lazy people. This is a much simpler way of getting a similar look.)

Step 5: Once you reach the back of your other ear, take your remaining hair and add a part of it to each of your three clumps of hair. Then do a regular braid down, and tie it off at the bottom with a thin hairband the same color as your hair.

Step 6: Bask in all your Katniss Everdeen-impersonating glory.

Nails and Makeup:

I don’t think I should have to tell you not to wear any jewelry other than your Mockingjay Pin, but nails and makeup are another thing. In the book, Katniss has flames painted on her nails. In the movie? Not so much. I ended up choosing just to do a simple clear polish.

As for makeup, go for minimal and natural: I wore some dull (i.e. not glittery) gold eyeshadow over my eyelid, a thin line of black eyeliner above my eye and in the outer corner of my bottom lash line, along with some natural-looking mascara (so it lengthened and thickened my lashes without looking like I was coating them in tar). I also had on light pink-tinted lip balm (it gives you an air of very Katniss-like innocence), concealer, foundation, and a little bit of blush on my cheeks, but all in all, wearing makeup with this costume isn’t necessary. I just really enjoy putting it on. But if you don’t, then you don’t need to.

If you’re interested, here are links to the products I used:

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Well, that is basically EVERYTHING I can think of to cover the Katniss Everdeen costume. If you can get your hands on a hunting bow or an orange backpack, those are obviously some useful props to have as well, but don’t sweat it if you can’t. The braid alone should make it pretty obvious who you’re dressing as.

If you’d like to send me pictures of your costume once October 31st itself rolls around, feel free to email them to me at: jbyerswriting@aol.com.

Good luck, may the odds be ever in your favor, and happy early Halloween! Talk to you on Wednesday!

~Julia

*Not the exact product I bought, but the closest I could find. (Also, as far as the cargo pants go: If you can find a pair of legitimate cargo pants instead of cropped ones, please let me know, because between looking in March and looking now, I haven’t been able to find any.)

**This isn’t the version of the Mockingjay Pin used in the movie–at the time, the bronzier-looking movie pins were way more expensive than the original ones Scholastic produced to promote the books. However, at this point, you can get a movie-version pin for about the same as a book-version, from places like ebay, Amazon, and Hot Topic.

***I honestly do not recommend this eyeliner, because it runs and smears like crazy, but for some reason I keep going back to it. Anyone got suggestions for another twisty-crayon-style eyeliner that’s cheap but doesn’t smear as bad?

Wordy Wednesday (“Nisus and Scylla”)

After going to see The Hunger Games a second time, I must amend my previous statement: While I still maintain that it left out a lot of the subplot stuff from the novel, the movie in itself was really good, and I’m glad I got to see it again because now I’m sort of in love with it. 🙂

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a short story I wrote for mythology class last semester called “Nisus and Scylla” — it’s a retelling of the classic Greek myth. 🙂

 

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Six months. It had been six months since the Cretans first arrived in the port of Megara, and six months since Scylla first laid eyes on King Minos as he leapt off the side of his ship, straight into the frothing blue ocean waves. Six months since he and his men surged towards her kingdom’s walls, and her people screamed and hid in their homes, and the Megaran soldiers sealed shut the gates.

Six months since the war began. Six months since Scylla had last been free.

Scylla hadn’t loved King Minos at first. No, definitely not. At first, he appeared to her a foreigner; frightening and exotic. But over time, frightening gave way for intriguing, and exotic became something unique to behold rather than to evade. Being shut up in the small kingdom with the Megarans for those six months had made them seem drab in comparison and only fostered her growing feelings for the invading king.

But what to do about these feelings? Scylla wondered. The Cretans had made no progress in the breeching of Megara’s walls and Scylla’s father King Nisus didn’t seem the least bit worried about them.

Sighing, Scylla leaned back against the tall stone pillar from the base of which she watched King Minos. It reached up from the walkway atop the outermost siege wall as if whatever ancient Megaran who had built it wished to reach the heavens with his creation. What freedom must there to be had up there in the sky?

Freedom. It had been six months since Scylla last was free.

She tilted her head and held her slender fingers against the sun, squinting in the direction of the invaders’ camp beyond the walls. Once again, King Minos and his men could be seen making and breaking and making and breaking their plans to bring down the siege walls. He seemed so intelligent, shouting out orders to the soldiers and drawing diagrams in the damp sand along the shore, but none of it would help him.

As the daughter of the great King Nisus, Scylla was privy to the knowledge that the Cretans failed to conquer the kingdom simply because of a magic purple lock of hair that grew from her father’s scalp. If it were to be lopped off, whoever possessed it would take Megara without folly, but for as long as King Nisus still had it on his head, he would never lose his throne.

It will be difficult, Scylla reasoned, to gain King Minos’s affection while locked up here in Father’s kingdom. She already was as close as she could get while the gates were closed, huddled atop the massive walls where the archers often stood during battles. She shivered despite the sun.

Because Minos cannot reach me in here, I must find a way to reach him beyond the walls… but how can I gain his trust? The king of Crete is not likely to receive the princess of Megara well if I should invade his camp, she thought to herself. And once again, I’ve led myself back to Father’s hair. She bit her lip.

For weeks Scylla had considered the various ways she could gain the trust of King Minos, and always she came back to King Nisus’s magic purple hair. King Minos would be delighted to have the chopped hair, because it would mean a near-spontaneous victory over the Megarans. But she couldn’t take the hair from her own father, could she? The man who had raised her?

But Scylla was drunk with love, and no matter which way she looked at her problem, the only obvious answer seemed to be to take her father’s hair.

Okay, she decided, getting to her feet and brushing the sand dust from her elaborate gown. She glanced once more down upon the Cretans and felt her fingers weave themselves into knots as she thought of what she was about to do. Okay, I’m going to finally do it. Tonight, I will steal into Father’s bedchamber and cut his hair.

 

Midnight came all too soon for Princess Scylla, but she had made up her mind, and so – when the fires burned low and the kingdom was quiet – she took a knife from the kitchens and scurried up the stairwells to her father’s room, careful not to alert the servants to her presence.

Scylla was a ghost as she practically flew up and down the halls, around corners and through passageways. Her heart thudded with fear, so loudly she was afraid it would alert her father to her presence before she could even reach him, but the sound was only in her ears, and despite her fear, Scylla felt freer in those moments than she had since the gates first clanged shut six months before. There was a certain wildness in the feel of the cool, damp air rushing against her cheeks and the clamminess of her palms.

Six months. Freedom. A life after this with King Minos, as he will surely be pleased with my offering.

These were the thoughts that kept her from stopping and turning back. These were the thoughts that made the uneasiness dissipate.

Finally, the princess reached her father’s chamber, and she pushed the door against its hinges, as gently and slowly as she could. As she slipped through the doorway, the softly burning candles in the bedroom caught her in their light, throwing her sleek black shadow across the grand bed of King Nisus, and Scylla stopped, horrorstruck. Her blood pounded in her ears. Her knees knocked together beneath her splendid dress.

But the old king did not stir.

With her last ounce of courage, Scylla pulled the knife from where she’d hidden it amongst her skirts and held it, shaking, to the glittering lock of purple hair that splayed out across her father’s pillow. One sharp snip and the hair fell free.

She stepped hurriedly back, half expecting guards to rush in and bind her hands, to put her to death for her treachery, but no alarms sounded and no one took notice as she slipped back out of the room and away from her home.

Still dark. It was still dark as she raced up the steps to the walkway along the top of the walls and ran for her favorite stone pillar. She quickly tied a length of ribbon she had brought from her chambermaid’s sewing things and lassoed it around the pillar. With frightened fingers, she tied the noosed end into knots, and without testing it to see if it should hold, she took the other in her hands and slid her feet over the barrier, so that they dangled over the edge of the wall, over the beach. With her back to her kingdom, to her home, she pushed off.

The night was silent as she fell from the siege wall, ribbon tangled in her hands and the whistling wind tangled in her hair. The ribbon ran out a length before the ground, and when she let go the beach raced up to meet her.

Scylla lay there for a moment, coughing the sand from her throat. Well that was an unpleasant landing. But when she stood, she found she was not injured, and the confiscated purple hair was still safe where she’d hidden it.

Remembering her mission, she took one last glance back at her kingdom walls, and then darted away towards the camp of the Cretans.

She disappeared into the night.

 

“What did you do?”

Scylla could not understand why King Minos’s handsome face was flushed with rage.

“I brought you the key to winning the war against my father, my love!” she exclaimed, giving him her most radiant smile. While that smile could win over the heart of any man back within the safe walls of Megara, it had a vastly lateral effect on the foreign king. With an anger so fierce and indifferent Scylla could not understand it, he lashed out at her. Her cheek stung from the blow.

“Do not call me your love, you filthy vermin,” he spat. Her smile faded. “This is treachery, and I will not win a war by treachery! I’ll win it by skill and determination. How else should it be known that I am the better king?”

“But my love –” she began, but then bit back her words. “King Minos, you could not win without my help. The purple hair is magic. While my father possessed it, no one could take his kingdom. Surely you must be grateful.”

“Grateful for a spineless fool who cheats and then thinks she deserves a reward?” he growled. His dark eyes flashed and Scylla involuntarily took a step away. She knocked into the cloth side of the tent and a whimper escaped from her lips as Minos approached her again.

She had never felt so trapped.

“Get out of my sight, you arrogant princess of Megara.” He said it with contempt. “I will win this war my own way.”

“Well it’s too late,” Scylla was in tears, “because I’ve already given the magic hair to you. No matter how difficult you try to win the war by your own cunning, it will now be impossible. It’ll appear as sheer dumb luck.”

“Fine then.” King Minos turned to where his advisor stood cowering in the corner. The poor old man looked nearly as afraid as Scylla felt. “We take the kingdom at dawn and then leave to go back to Crete at sunset.”

Crete, Scylla thought to herself wistfully. The exoticness of it all still haunted her. How lovely it would be to travel to that faraway place. “Please, sire!” she found herself bursting out. “Please, take me with you! I love you!”

The glint in Minos’s eye was murderous. He looked down upon her like she was a poorly behaved dog that he wished to beat. “There is no room for love in war.”

 

Scylla was crying. She knew she should keep quiet, if she should be able to sneak aboard King Minos’s ship, but she could not help herself, and the tears came and came.

She loved him. She loved him so. For six months, she had been trapped and she had loved him, and for what? The handsome king scorned her. Hated her.

But Scylla would rather his hate than his indifference, which she was sure to receive if she remained in Megara.

With light footsteps, she journeyed across the sand and, wiping her tears with her trembling hand, grasped onto the side of the ship. She meant to pull herself onboard and to sneak into some nook or cranny where she could hide until they were too far out to sea to send her back to her father’s now burning kingdom, but it wasn’t to be.

“I see you there.” King Minos spoke in a deadly calm cadence as he stared down at the princess, clinging to the side of his vessel. “Get off before I have a soldier slice you off with his sword. I promise it will be the one we used to kill your father.”

That hit her then. Father? Scylla thought. Father is dead? I didn’t think that would happen… I didn’t think they would do that… Surely they could have allowed him to live on as a beggar, at least!

But in her heart, she knew they never would have. Leaving the old king alive would have shown weakness on their part.

The Cretans never would have taken the kingdom if it weren’t for her treachery… Oh! She truly was unworthy of Minos’s affections! She had been so blinded by love that she had caused the death of her own father!

The weeping commenced again, and unable to stand it any longer, King Minos shook his head and left her there to cling to the side of the ship. “If she’s still there when we reach Crete,” he shouted to his men, “feed her to the palace hounds!”

She continued to snivel. “Father, oh father!” she whimpered.

Scylla was so lost in her misery that she was unaware of the great eagle swooping down towards her until his talons clenched around her shoulders and ripped her from the side of the ship, and then they were flying up, up, and up. Down below, the soldiers shouted and pointed, but now Scylla and the eagle were too high up to be properly seen.

She was numb, then. Locked away. Unsure what to do or how she’d gotten to where she was. All she was aware of was the way the setting sun flashed in her eyes, temporarily blinding her, and then, as the eagle’s wings flapped and they swooped away from the sun, the way she could just make out a stilted purple feather that grew twisted among the shining brown and grey plumage.

A purple feather that was shorter than its neighbors, stunted like a lock of hair fresh chopped.

The realization came into her mind all at once. The gods most have made him this eagle when they saw him dying by the Cretans’ hands! They had saved him!

“Oh father!” she shrieked with joy… but the eagle that once was a king was not there to rescue her. With a sound like laughter emanating from his beak, he opened his talons and released his daughter to the air.

She was so far up in the sky, she could see to the edge of the sea.

I am going to die, Scylla thought as she fell. I deserve to die, because I sinned. I sinned greatly.

“But princess Scylla,” the wind seemed to be saying, smiling, whispering to her as she fell like a rock, “you sinned only because of love, and one may be forgiven for mistakes made in the heat of affection.”

Involuntarily, Scylla felt her arms lift up, then, battle against the air rushing all around her. She would not die. She flapped her arms like wings, attempting to gain air resistance and slow her fall. The water grew closer and closer. And then something miraculous happened. The more Scylla flapped, the more her arms worked, until she was genuinely gliding along the blue waves on feathered wings. Looking down at her reflection in the last rays of sunset, she saw that she had become a bird also.

Panic first seized her heart, but then the wind caught under her wings and lifted her up, up, up, and she found herself soaring. It was breathtaking, up there in the sky. Such freedom.

One glance back at the eagle that was King Nisus told Scylla that he would never abandon his quest for revenge; he would always chase her, no matter if she was a human or a bird. But in that moment, she did not care.

For six months, Scylla had been trapped. For six months, she had not been free.

But at least now she would always be free, for forever more.

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What sorts of things would you all like to see in future Wordy Wednedsays? More short stories? Poetry, novel excerpts, songs? Let me know in the comments!

Also: I’m going to be on vacation this weekend (spring break whoohoo!!), so I might not be able to post until next week. My apologies if that happens!

Love you guys!!

 

~Julia