Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Hunger Games at Pixar

My Domestic Partner is a member of the Visual Effects Society, which hosts occasional film screenings at the Pixar corporation in Emeryville.

In a mysterious new sight, the company's small Greek amphitheatre has become the location for a Stonehenge-like sculpture, or possibly the setting for a game or movie.

Films are shown in a small screening room situated in the main campus building above. The room has a large screen, superb sound and shooting stars on the ceiling, which makes everyone ooh and ahh before the feature begins. Plus, there are no previews or ads or any of the other dreck that movie theaters are assaulting their patrons with these days.

We went last Sunday to see the latest girlie teenage blockbuster, The Hunger Games, and it was a perfectly satisfying experience.

I am a huge fan of the "young adult" trilogy written by Suzanne Collins about a brave, intensely hormonal 15-year-old girl in a dystopian future United States, who has to battle her way through a lethal version of the "Survivor" reality TV show. This is while becoming the face of the Revolution for the oppressed provinces against the decadent Capital which starves the outliers while harvesting their natural resources and labor. And since this was written for teenage girls, there's also the soap opera over our heroine's contradictory feelings for swoony, handsome Gale and kind, stolid Peeta.

The reviews of the film that I trusted were uniformly unkind so I went with exceedingly low expectations, but was happily surprised by the superb casting, especially Jennifer Lawrence as our heroine and Josh Hutcherson who conveys Peeta's goodness without any sappiness. Even the scenery chewing Woody Harrelson is perfect for his role as alcoholic mentor.

The main problem with the movie is its depiction of the decadent capital, where masses of extras look like they've just escaped from a Boy George Culture Club video and into a fascist future out of 1984. Instead of being disturbing, it just looks silly. The narrative isn't dumb, though, and its injection of a serious antiwar message in a wildly violent action movie for teenagers is a welcome relief. George Lucas and the boys down at Electronic Arts (just picked the worst company in America) are all about shooting and blowing things up, so this is about the only counterweight right now in popular culture. No wonder it hit a nerve.

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