Topics

Looking For Art’s Response to “The Challenge of Our Times”? You’ll Find It in Mainstream Pop Culture

By

“We are in the midst of hard times now, and it feels as if art is failing us,” writes New York Times film and cultural critic A.O. Scott in a piece titled, “Is Our Art Equal to the Challenges of Our Times?” His essay, bemoaning a lack of contemporary Great Social Art, laments the absence of Dickenses and Steinbecks, the Zolas and Arthur Millers of yesteryear, even as it introduces a roundtable about art and current affairs featuring artists as diverse as J. Cole, Patricia Lockwood, David Simon, and Ken Burns.
…Read More

What ‘Mockingjay–Part 1′ Misses by Glossing Over Katniss’ Trauma

By

Throughout much of Mockingjay, the third novel in the Hunger Games series, the unraveling of Katniss Everdeen’s mind takes over the page. Even from the beginning, she strokes a pearl that Peeta found in the arena in Catching Fire and often repeats variations of her mantra: “My name is Katniss Everdeen. I am seventeen years old. My home is District 12. I was in The Hunger Games. I escaped. The Capitol hates me. Peeta was taken prisoner. He is thought to be dead. Most likely is dead. It is probably best if he is dead.” Later in the book, she plays a game with the recovered but mentally unstable Peeta, “real or not real?,” as his mind comes back from the brink.
…Read More

‘Mockingjay—Part 1′: The Somber ‘Empire Strikes Back’ of the ‘Hunger Games’ Films

By

The most noteworthy divergence between Mockingjay—Part 1 and its predecessors in the Hunger Games series is the somberness of its tone. It’s not that the first two pictures were exactly laugh riots — they are, after all, chronicles of bloodthirsty oligarchs demanding children murder each other for their amusement. But the (now-de rigueur) splitting of the final book of the YA franchise into two films means that this half is, by necessity, less about big action bits and more about mood, more setup than payoff. And it features some of the grimmest imagery of the series to date. It may be the franchise’s third movie, but it plays like its Empire Strikes Back.
…Read More

From ‘Mockingjay’ to Narnia: Fantasy Series Conclusions, Ranked

By

In preparation for Mockingjay-mania, here’s a look back at seven popular fantasy and trilogy series and an evaluation of their endings, from “perfect” to “meh” to “garbage.” Doubtless, you won’t agree on all of these (or any of them, maybe) but I think we can all come together and acknowledge that it is an incredibly difficult feat of world-building, writing, and pacing to wrap up an entire series in a satisfying way, paying tribute to the moral stakes, the characters, and our desire for a happy ending at the same time.
…Read More

District 13 Revolutionaries Stare and Brood in New ‘Mockingjay’ Posters

By

Be thankful Lionsgate is doing such a great job coming up with propaganda-inspired Mockingjay — Part 1 promotional materials, because if it weren’t, we’d already be sick of this stuff, over three months before the film’s premiere. Back in June, the Capitol’s oppressive regime offered us a stunning series of posters celebrating the districts they exploit. Now, secret rogue territory District 13 has issued its response, in the form of these portraits of its heroic leading revolutionaries, doing what revolutionaries do (brood, stare dreamily into the bright yet frustratingly far-off future). While you won’t spot the Mockingjay here, there are plenty of other familiar faces.
…Read More

Beautifully Terrifying District Propaganda Posters for ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay’

By

It seems like just yesterday that we watched Katniss escape the Quarter Quell’s clock of horrors, but the countdown to another Hunger Games movie — Mockingjay: Part 1 — has already begun. With the premiere almost exactly five months away, The Capitol has produced a stunning series of propaganda posters depicting the heroic workers who populate its districts. While beautifully composed, the images also have a creepy coldness to them that befits the darkness (not to mention the escalating tensions in Panem) to come.
…Read More

Will November’s Diverse Blockbusters Kill Hollywood’s Teenage Boy Obsession?

By

It was a very big Thanksgiving weekend at the American box office. In its second weekend, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire brought in $109 million, beating the five-day Thanksgiving record set by Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Meanwhile, Disney’s debuting Frozen did a bang-up $93 million in the same time frame, itself setting a record for the biggest Thanksgiving opening ever (a mantle it nabbed from Toy Story 2). Neither record comes as a surprise; these were big, widely marketed movies from a tentpole franchise and cinematic brand name, respectively. But they had something in common: both were films with female protagonists, and their massive grosses were driven by female moviegoers. “That’s box-office Girl Power,” notes The Wrap, and if the word choice is cringe inducing, the sentiment is spot-on.
…Read More

What Are Right-Wing Pundits Saying About ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’?

By

A blockbuster film trilogy based on a bestselling book series in which 24 teenagers representing 12 exploited, impoverished provinces fight to the death for the entertainment of a wealthy, debauched capital city was always going to inspire plenty of political commentary. In fact, The Hunger Games has already moved a “coalition of fandom leaders and members” to raise awareness about poverty, hunger, and economic equality in the US. But it isn’t just progressives who have found support for their views in the series’ political subtext; as Jason Bailey pointed out last week, Tea Party types might well interpret the films as pro-states’ rights. Which raises the question: just what have right-wing publications and pundits been saying about Catching Fire?
…Read More

The Fascinatingly Flexible Political Subtext of ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’

By

Catching Fire, the second film adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy (a trilogy which, true to their current style, Hollywood is adapting into four films), arrives on screen with the confidence of a film that knows it’s going to gross a bajillion dollars. It is a brisk, exciting, well-acted entertainment, and those elements, in addition to the built-in audience of Collins’ voracious readers, are the most logical explanation for the franchise’s massive popularity. But in viewing the two films back-to-back this week, another theory seems worth mentioning as well: the series’ political subtext, which is present and potent, yet flexible enough to latch on to the ideology of your choice. The Hunger Games is “political” without actually having to stand for anything.
…Read More